Holland & Barrett going bag and brainless

I work 4 blocks from Holland & Barrett’s Victoria branch and yesterday, like every other week, I went to the store to stock up. 2 large bags of cashews, 2 large bags of dried banana, 2 large bags of brazil nuts, 3 protein bars and 2 500gr Manuka honey jars. Enough to fill a few bags. Which I did not carry.

Following what I consider their new ill-advised policy (more below), the sales associate asked me whether I wanted a carrier bag. I looked at him and told him that of course, then he replied that I “should by a 49p bag” otherwise I couldn’t carry my shopping. What? I told him that if I had to pay for the bag, I would leave the shopping, and so I did.

Having lived in Southern Africa for a while, I am no stranger to bagless shopping, but there are some things that they have missed with their new year’s resolution of stopping giving free bags to customers.

  • In Africa, a blank plastic bag costs you a few pennies. These were the ones logo-free plastic bags they gave before 2010 for free at H&B and now they moved to 4/5p paper bags WITH their logo. Do they really think we HAVE to pay for the dubious right to advertise their brand? That is ludicrous. That’s adding insult to injury or squeezing the customer in the wrong direction.
  • Their Victoria station branch is in a station (duh!), people come and go, that branch is NOT a destination store. It is more of a convenience store and they just turned it into an inconvenience store. I used to do my monthly shopping there because it was convenient and could use just a few minutes from my breaks. Now I have to plan ahead and bring career bags from home, to work, and to the shop? Think twice.
  • My purchase was worth close to £50 and their sales associate solution was asking me to purchase a 49p bag that I did NOT need and would bin straight away. 49p out of £50 is 1%. Are they insane? What do you think the effect on sales would be if Sainsbury’s charged a 1% bag fee per purchase? Imagine a £10 bagging fee after spending £1,000 in Harrods?

I wish them luck in the future, but I can only see a dark fate in the name of green mindless strategies.

Mr-Greener-than-Thou at Holland & Barrett, just to let you know that your “green” decision to get rid of plastic bags has made you lose a customer. Me. Or perhaps we are more? There are better ways than kicking your own nuts.

Beware! Barclays doesn’t know when your card is being used!

Is the second time in four weeks that Barclays blocks my access to my and my company’s accounts online. Or do they?

I have a couple of savings accounts with them and a current account where I receive a small amount every month. This amount goes straight to the savings account every month, so I only use the debit card to access my accounts online, no shopping, no ATM use (and apparently that qualifies as not using the card regardless of how many times you use it per day to access your accounts online).

A while back I already wrote about the inconvenience of their PINsentry invention, and how the ill-thought experiment cost me more than my share of stress for the sake of security (from their own incompetence, I guess.) They don’t even count the forced used of your card on their PINsentry as existent.

Two unrequested debit cards were issued from our business account and this created a problem too difficult for their little brains to handle.

My personal debit card was blocked (hence I couldn’t access the accounts online), I received a business debit card and no PIN for it, so I couldn’t access online banking.

After several calls with as many useless customer service assistants as I could speak to, they told me I had to go to the original branch where I opened the account to ask “why” they had block my personal debit card. Needless to say, living now 50 miles away, I refused to do a 100 mile round trip just for their incompetence.

I walked down the local Barclays branch and the manager couldn’t figure out what had happened and told me to call customer services again.

After a week without solutions, someone at business customer services told me that my account seemed duplicated, and they had blocked my personal account (even though we never asked for debit cards to be issued from our business account). The lady on the phone told me that she would try and fix it, but she couldn’t told me when. “Keep trying” she said. But if I tried more than 3 times, my online access would be blocked automatically, so I told her I could not do what she was asking me to. Her solution?  “You will have to call every now and then to see whether it has been fixed.” (!!!!)

After a week, I tried at an ATM and the card was working again.

Fast forward to last December 31. Same problem as above. Don’t try to sort anything over new year’s, so I just called them again.

Same thing but this time around, dealing with India. Duplicated account, expired card (true, but never got a replacement) and manual block of the card from the branch were I have to go personally. I refuse again and they told me to go again to a branch and try to find out. I asked to speak to someone who would tell me why business debit cards were issued without our consent and why my personal debit card was blocked and not replaced and she tried to put me through with the complaints department!! That’s how they solve problems, pass it on to complaints department.

I went ballistic and when I asked her why she was putting me through with the complaints department when I didn’t have any complaint (yet) I just wanted an answer, the lady on the phone told me that “that’s just the name of the department but they deal with it.” Ludicrous.

I am now waiting for the local branch to open and start all over again. Ridicoulous.

On my BlackBerry 9000 Bold diary of crashes and misdemeanors

Hobbes, you must know by now that my crackberry addiction (1, 2 and 3) keeps me off Nokias, Samsungs, SonyEricssons and Motorolas (well, in this case is just Motorola who keeps me away from Motorola), but since I am a bit mad at RIM trying to play cat and mouse with the wrong crowd (BB Storm for the iPhone-lovers and the Pearl 8220 for the SonyEricsson lovers of the world). You already have a niche product! Don’t lose focus just to increase turnover!

Anyway, since RIM doesn’t want to come up with updates to fix the Bold… I will just tell you what my potty Bold tells me…

2009/09/21
I think I was wrong. Battery life after update has dropped substancially to about 12h stand-by time  (aprox 1h30 on calls.) As I said yesterday, the Bold came up from the update with full-on 3G signal. As I commented in the past, using the 3G+2G signal option will drain your battery completely before you can say “Perhaps an iPho…”

I changed it over to “2G only” and regardless of that the full battery didn’t last 12h.

I am trying with a spare battery I’ve got. Just in case.

2009/09/20
I received yesterday an email informing me that a software update for the Bold was available. I downloaded it (it only works with Internet Explorer…), backed up everything on the phone (we’ve been down that road before, losing all the info) and went for the 30min-long update.

It might just be me, but my Bold seems… I don’t know, happier? Full-on 3G signal (never seen at home before), perceived longer battery life and speed.

2009/07/13
As always, I have no idea why it happens, but since I had to deal with it at least 9 times in the last three months, I’ll tell you anyway. The battery runs out specially fast, but the worse is when I go to bed. I lay down, switch the Bold off and, when I wake up and try to turn it on… nothing happens. For some reason the battery is completely worn off to 0%. I have to recharge it completely and even then it takes about 5 minutes to respond. With the battery completely drained, when the Bold gets back to life, even the time on the mobile was reset to 0:00 (and that goes without saying that, if you are in a hurry… you are screwed because it will take you about an hour to fully charge it).

2009/04/19
Since it seems I cannot surprise you any more, I thought of bringing this one up when you tried to browse the internet: “Input System Error. The System is being restarted”. You will have noticed that nothing was being restarted for a few minutes and only when you took the SIM card out and put it back in I started working (although the specially long time it took me to restart freaked you out again, didn’t it?). Continue reading

Barclays going at it again. Account on credit, and returned cheques

I don’t normally insult or use swear words, but I think Barclays deserve to be called Bastayrds out loud.

The reason is no other than the fact that the Bastayrds did it again. A while ago I had a go for their twisted ways of playing the hours in a day and poor product knowledge at a branch level (On Barclays profiteering…)

Back then they told me that a pound paid in on a day at 0:01AM didn’t count towards paying direct debits that arrived that same day, as they said the money should’ve been in the account the day before. They direct me to their account’s T&Cs and somehow unsuccessfully tried to tell me that there was nothing they could do as the direct debits were run from a different company.

Fast forward 10 months later. Lesson learnt, we paid a supplier with two cheques, one for £500 and another one for £1,219.50. To make sure there were funds in the account on September 2 we transferred into the business account £1,719.50 from the Bastayrds savings account. If you want to follow the story, you can check the bank statement below:

BarclaysStatement

So by the end of September, there were £2,300.85 in the account. The bank statement above shows so, but for some strange reason, the cheques that on September 4, appeared as paid, today appear as unpaid even though there were funds in the account.

Now, again I haven’t got the slightiest idea why this happened. The supplier hasn’t contacted me yet (it’s currently Saturday night) but I know we are at it again.

As you can see, today is September 5 and there is a standing order for £90.02 due on Monday. Guess whose standing order this is? A Barclayloan.

Am I allowed to think that since we don’t have an overdraft facility, they cancelled the returned the cheques to make sure that THEY were getting paid?

I am mad, very mad. Again.

Again I have to waste emotional energy in trying not to shout, not to get angry, not to swear at a Barclays brainless staff member because, after all, they ARE brainless. Someone told me once that they train their branch staff “not to make decisions.” Urban legend? I don’t know, but it surely fits my picture of reality. How long am I going to waste on this? Any second is too long. And I still haven’t seen their returned cheque charges.

.calvin

On Vodafone and how to live off a brand name and nothing else

Calvin Ltd. has had a small business account with Vodafone for a few years now. We tried first with Virgin, then T-Mobile but they proved pretty deficient in terms of service and signal coverage, so in the classical crowd wisdom, we signed up with Vodafone. Surely a mammoth of telecommunications would know how to do business and treat its customers, surely…

Few years have gone by, and the amount of problems we have had to deal with has been so extensive and bizarre (from having to challenge a £17,000 charge that wasn’t ours to four new 8310 BlackBerry Curves in 2 months), that  I finally decided to write another diary, similar to the one I have been keeping on my BB Bold.

So please, enjoy and do not doubt to join in, as no matter how much time, effort and money I waste dealing with them, they never call back, apologise or explain what happened. We are playing the better the devil you know that the devil you don’t, but quite frankly, we are really tired of sending complaints to Vodafone.

Enjoy our misery:

(38) September 1, 2009
It has been a while since I had to spent longer on the phone to Vodafone than with my wife, mother and old friends together. But today I received the bills for July and September. For some unknown reason, they stopped (again) to send the call breakdown. We have been down this road before, so if I can gather enough strength tomorrow morning, I will call them before going to work.

(37) April 16th, 2009 at 9:34am
I finally got the patience to personally deal with Vodafone’s incompetence. I called customer services and it took me 13′ to get to speak to a human being (the usual “lines are busy”, I wonder how bad it is for normal customers, not business customers). I explained to Tracy, from Team 18 the situation with the USB Modem invoice and that I had been told last month that it wouldn’t happen again, but that it HAD happened again. She disappeared again for 3 minutes.

When she came back she said that she didn’t know what had happened, she apologised for the inconvenience and blamed the “brand new system”.

It was then, 18′ down the phone call when I asked her whether sending the invoice had been a mistake and the £14.15 were still outstanding. Silence. She rushed to say that the £14.15 were still outstanding (and due on March 31, by the way) but rushed to say that “as a goodwill gesture” they would credit our account with that amount.

“It won’t happen again”, she said, and I requested written confirmation. She asked for our email (what type of business doesn’t keep the email of their business customers?) and said that she would email it. I hope nothing. Continue reading

On working for the NIGAZ. Another marketing blunder

nigaz I know I might wake up a bit late, but after thinking that Microsoft Poland’s advertising savvy was one of the worse ever, I just heard of Russia’s Gazprom and Nigeria’s NNPC joint venture. The baby’s name? NIGAZ.

Unbelievable, you may say, but thinking heads of two continents couldn’t even get this straight.

I just finished James Dyson’s great autobiography (Against the Odds), and he moans and bitches about the advertising, PR and marketing community all along. He may have a point… I remember choosing marketing as major out of not knowing what to do with my life. I even got a Masters degree in market research and despised the idea of “creating needs to the customers” (what translated to me as selling people things that they don’t need by making them think that they do.)

It was interesting to learn how they trick us, but the NIGAZ thing is at least, hilarious. Did anyone get paid to come up with the name? I bet so. I have no doubt that Russia’s far right would have loved to do the prank, but I don’t think of them as a cheeky comedians who kill journalist for a laugh.

In any case, Nigger is nothing but a derivation of the Latin word niger, meaning colour black. Instead of finding the term offensive, black people could call us Albus, the Latin word for white. Both true and ingenious, but I am pretty sure that some Caucasians would be offended by that too.

After all, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

.calvin

On why a multiethnic Europe is nowhere near. Microsoft does Warsaw

So this is what Microsoft Poland (or they advertisers) considered a bit too much for their consumer base:

Error_publicitario_Microsoft

Lacking a better word, doesn’t it look glorious?

At least, they were tactful enough to do a poor Photoshop job… but come on, couldn’t mighty Microsoft Europe spare a few thousand euros to do a Poland-rated version of the ad?

But see, I learnt something today (it was worth waking up this morning then). First, Poland is as much a racist country as any other country in the world. Nothing bad with it (we are talking civilised racism here, not Hitler or Apartheid style racism discrimination as the UN chart calls it), but they are realistic about their market.

Second, apparently in Poland, if you are going to be different, you can be Asian, but not black (something to do with Polish builders, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen moving to Western Europe and being replaced by Chinese I have heard…)

See, I am as racist as the next, and I do have a network of global friends. Asian, Caucasian, Latino, black, and the like. I’ve got good German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Black and Coloured South African friends (yes, they come in even more versions.) Also Moroccan, Nigerian, Japanese, Filipino, French and some other flavours but we talk of races as what they are, points of anatomical and anthropological difference, not something to stigmatise or never speak about. We are all open about it, and we all agree that being tolerant is the key, reality can never be superseded by good intentions, affirmative actions or bill of rights.

No, it is not representative of the sports fun base to have women sports presenters in the UK. Just go see a game.

No, it is not representative of the estate agent crowd to have a black presenter in Location Location.

No, no matter what you say, Jennifer Lopez doesn’t speak Spanish or represents the Mexican-Americans (but epitomised the American dream).

No, call it what you want but a 45 year old black South African cannot have a degree in engineering because under the Apartheid regime they couldn’t go to uni (as much as I despise it, it is true.)

No, no matter how fast you run, if your family tree has been based in Beijing or Dublin for the last ten generations, you will not overrun a black athlete on the 100m.

No, you can try to bake yourself as much as you want and you will still look like a lobster if your name is Andrew McCain and you like the tanned colour of a Thai man.

And, I have never been to Poland, but I would bet my hat that chances are, one out of three Poles is not black or Asian.

When will we all accept reality as what it is real?

.calvin

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