Call me Mr Grumpier then ever

I think this self-isolation is getting to me. I seem to be in a permanent state of pissedoffnia. Today’s rant is about retailing. I know it’s difficult at the moment and we all have to be patient and all that but sometimes I bloody despair at how some things are being handled.

First up queuing; it’s a given now at any supermarket and I think we all accept it pretty much uncomplainingly. Here’s a couple of shots at the length of the queue at Waitrose earlier today:

I must have been about 40th in line when I joined the rear of the queue but it’s a lovely sunny day so no biggie, right. Now yesterday I walked down to Tesco’s and the queue there was a little shorter. As I approached the very cheery Tesco lady on the door she repeated to me what I’d heard her telling everybody before me; that if I had a Tesco loyalty card (which I did) I could register it at the scanner bank, then take a scanner around the store with me, scanning purchases as I popped them in my basket, which would enable me to go straight to the self-serve payment machines without having to wait for a free check out lady. So I wouldn’t have to queue twice. Fair enough I thought, so that’s what I did.

I completed the shopping and went straight to the self check out point (which I normally do anyway) where another lady asked me if it was my first time with the scanner. Yes I said. Ok point your scanner at the barcode on the screen. Now stand back because I have to double check that you’ve correctly scanned everything. Eh? What was the point in me doing it and registering and faffing about. It would have been easier for me just to get my 5 items and scan them at the pay-out machine as usual. Yes but there might have been a long queue for the machines she said. But there wasn’t and you’re only letting 10 people or so in at a time. Yes but now we have you registered too. I’m already registered with the loyalty card and with delivery schedules service. How many times do you need my data for goodness sake? But it will be so much easier for you next time she implored. This is all for your benefit. Really? She looked at me like I was Brackley’s version of Victor Meldrew. Sigh. I left without saying a big thank you to Miss Joyful at the door.

When I got back I felt a little curmudgeonly to be honest – the staff especially are really doing a great job and I shouldn’t carp at a young lady being enthusiastic, even if the new process really didn’t seem that useful. So in a slightly lighter mood I looked up the website for United Biscuits. A few days ago Carol bought a packet of a new range of biscuits from McVitie’s – the chocolate digestive Thins. We do like a biscuit with our midday cuppa and these seemed to offer all the great taste of the ultimate digestive just in a slightly healthier format. We’d opened the packet and each of us tried one to find the taste was completely stale. Wwurgh. They really were inedible. We checked the use-by date and it was 5/11/2020 and the packaging was all intact when we opened it. Now ordinarily I’d take the packet back to the store but I didn’t have a receipt. And queuing up for another 30 minutes just to make a complaint didn’t seem like an attractive idea. So looking at the packaging it said that in the case of any issues with the product contact United Biscuits website and follow the complaints procedure. So that’s what I did.

The site advised me to send details of the complaint to a particular email address together with full details of my address, the use-by data, where we’d purchased it and when which I duly did. I even took a photo of the sell-by data and attached it to my message. Here’s the image I attached:

I said that we were unhappy with their product obviously and asked for their thoughts. I’ve reached the point in life where I hold companies to account if they get something wrong. It might be a pain to complain but why should we let people off the hook – this is a foodstuff after all.

I got an automated response back straight away saying:

Dear Consumer. Thank you for contacting us via email.  I would like to reassure you that our Consumer Services Department is operating as usual and we will continue to provide the level of service that we always aim for, however, during the current situation with (COVID-19) and the precautions in place it may take us a little while longer to answer your query.    

We thank you for your continued support and for bearing with us during this difficult climate. 

The personal details that you have submitted will automatically be logged with your contact details. Please let us know if you do not wish these details to be retained. We also invite feedback on our service. Please let us know if you do not want to be contacted for this purpose. Your details will not be used for marketing purposes or shared with any 3rd party. Our office hours are Mon – Fri 9-5. Please note that we do not work during Bank Holidays. For any urgent out of hour enquiries please call 01530 253209 and we will try our very best to get someone to get in touch with you sooner. You can find out more about how we use personal data at

I figured nobody would get back particularly soon but blimey fairly quickly I got a response from UB’s Consumer Services Co-ordinator M asking me to give her details of my address, the sell-by data, where we purchased the biscuits and when, so that she could deal with the issue thoroughly. Eh? I sent her a message back asking if she’d actually read my earlier message as I’d already sent her all those details. But just for the record I answered every point again and sent another photo image through. And basically just said I’m a bit hacked off with her response – either send me a voucher to cover the cost of my purchase or don’t bother me anymore.

I then got another automated response just like the one above. Sigh. Then another message from M saying she couldn’t read the data from my photo. Really? You are opening the attachment? I asked in response and with some annoyance gave her the details in type format. I got another automated message just like the one above. Sigh.

It’s just too hard sometimes to follow your principles.

Finally a tale from the delivery process. Carol managed to get a delivery slot from Waitrose a little while back which duly arrived 3 weeks ago. Several of the items she’d ordered hadn’t been in stock and they’d sent through some replacements. Carol didn’t want these and the delivery lady said no problem, I’ll get your account re-credited as soon as I get back. Well we had an email from Waitrose confirming the delivery but no sign of the re-payment. So Carol sent an email explaining that we’d like the money back. She got an automatic response saying her issue will be processed as soon as possible, please bear with us during the current pandemic. Umm.

No news after a week so Carol sent another email and got the auto response again, sigh. Again the issue is do you queue up for 30 minutes and try and have a conversation with an advisor in the local store from a distance of 2m or plough on electronically. Carol sent a third message a week ago. Today we had confirmation that our account had at last been re-credited.

OK it’s a strange time but 3 weeks to pay us back? Umm. I just sense the retailers are doing a great job but playing a bit fast and loose with us at the moment. I bet your average weekly spend has gone up as there are no in-store promotions are there? (they don’t need to discount as whole shelves get cleared out almost immediately). We’ve had to visit 5 places over the last few days just to try and get a bag of flour, which we did in Lidl this afternoon. And I haven’t seen pasta for weeks. I’m sure you can relate more examples.

I like the whole public-spiritedness but it is starting to get a bit challenging don’t you think? Or maybe I’m just a grumpy old git. This isn’t a vote…






high streets

Have you nerticed  the quirkyness of English? Not the people; the language.  It’s the most significant on the planet and yet it is just about the most irregular, polyglot, rapacious (in its ability to borrow), adaptable, frustrating and evolving language mankind has ever known. Despite its influence it is almost certainly one of the hardest to master because of its many peculiararities.  And we speak it every day and rarely trouble ourselves with its intricacies. But as regular readers will know that’s a dead cert subject for me to reflect upon. The Eurozone’s in crisis, austerity beckons and yet I  about words when I ought to be hard at work.  Take that word ‘work’. It’s innocuous isn’t it? As we all know it means to toil or be employed. But have you noticed how it is pronounced – like werk?  Nothing funy on the face of it but look at a host of other words spelt the same way like pork, cork and fork. In dozens of cases it’s an ‘or’ sound in the middle. Why is work pronounced differently? Don’t you find it odd? And here’s something odder; there’s already a word beginning with a and pronounced like ‘pork’ but it is spelled ‘walk‘. Interesting, the letters ‘al‘ as in ‘pale’ or ‘talc’ or ‘real’ are pronounced as ‘or‘? Is this what they mean by perfidious Albion?  How on earth do foreign students ever grasp our language? But they do with seemingly apparently ease, and yet after 5 years in Italy, which has an almost perfectly constructed language, I probably know no more than 10 phrases and 100 words, sigh.

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