The Good, The Blog and the Ugly

Over the last month or so, I have had three very different retail experiences.

The Good

As I revealed in entry #65 (‘Blog. Blog. Need. Blog’), Ollie is currently collecting Euro 2016 stickers, and we are using this to reward good behaviour.

Sadly, such is my addiction to collecting the stickers with him – which I pathetically disguise by pretending the obsession is his – he is now being rewarded for the most trivial of reasons: eating most of his dinner, going to bed without screaming, and putting his dirty clothes in the wash basket, to name but three. The thing is, if we had stuck to our initial promise of only rewarding him for exceptional achievements at school, or impeccable behaviour when visiting family and friends, he’d still be stuck with half the Albanian side, a random Ukrainian no one has heard of, and three swaps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Even with this extremely lenient rewards policy, Ollie is still struggling to complete his book (simply because there are so many stickers to collect), and he is desperate to ‘do swaps’ with as many friends as possible.

This is where WH Smith (sort of) came to the rescue.

Every Saturday afternoon, they have started doing a ‘Euro 2016 Swap Shop’, where kids (or, more accurately, Dads who pretend it’s for their kids), can pop along for an hour or so and swap stickers.

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This has been running for a few weeks, but it wasn’t until last Saturday that we were finally able to attend.

Ollie had been to a birthday party, and didn’t get home until just after half 1, so we dashed into town to try and catch the end of the meet – which was due to finish at 2pm. I did warn Ollie that there might be no one there by the time we arrived, but he was so eager to make some new friends – and hopefully complete the England squad – that he didn’t listen.

Sure enough, we arrived with around ten minutes to go, and the ‘Swap Stand’ at the front of the store was deserted. Ollie’s little face crumbled, and my heart went out to him. I tried to reassure him that someone might still turn up before 2pm, and we could have a wander around the store in the meantime, but the look on the shop assistant’s face told me that he didn’t hold much hope.

He then took me to one side and admitted that, not only had no one turned up at all, but this was the third week they had run the event and they still hadn’t had a single participant. In short, Ollie’s chances of making some new friends and swapping stickers were virtually zero.

I let him browse around the shop for a bit, glancing back to the stand every now and then in the hope of spotting someone, but 2pm came and went, and I had to accept it wasn’t going to happen, so I started to break the news that we would have to leave.

Then, just as his bottom lip began to wobble, the young shop assistant came over and explained that he had spoken with his manager, and she had let him open two packs himself, so that he could swap with Ollie.

Not only did this entirely unnecessary act save the day, but the lad managed to open a packet with one of only three England players that Ollie still needed (Chris Smalling), so within a few minutes Ollie had gone from despair to elation.

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It doesn’t matter that I then repaid their kindness by purchasing a few more packets by way of thanks. What matters is that, even in a big national chain, there are still people who would do something like that to make a little boy’s day.

Take a bow, WH Smith.

The Bad

If WH Smith can take a bow, then Argos can keep bending all the way over and turn around, so that their arse is primed for a damn good kicking.

We have been trying to find a suitable sofa bed for our spare room for ages, partly so that we can invite guests to stay overnight, but mostly because it means I don’t have to sleep on the sofa when I get into trouble (joke – she makes me sleep in the dog’s basket).

Then, a few months ago, we eventually found what we wanted on Argos’ website, and ordered one for home delivery. Look, I know Argos’ furniture isn’t fancy, and we could have spent more elsewhere to get better quality, but it’s only for the guest room (and for when I’ve been banished), so we were more than happy with our purchase. We even managed to time the delivery for when her parents were coming to stay at Easter.

As is often the way with Argos, unless you want to pay extra (and I think we have already established that we didn’t), the span of the delivery slot is ludicrous. They might as well just say it will be ‘at some point between midnight and midnight’. I’m not even exaggerating. As far as I am concerned, the only time you should ever be expected to get up that early, is on Christmas morning or if you are going on holiday, and the only time you should ever be up that late, is on New Year’s Eve or if you happen to fancy watching The Super Bowl one year.

There is only one thing more annoying than waiting in all day for a delivery, and that is waiting in all day for a delivery that doesn’t bloody show up. When it finally got to the point where I felt Argos were taking the piss more than they already had, I contacted their delivery centre to be told ‘Oh, yes, we had to cancel the delivery because we didn’t have any in stock. Did we not tell you?’

When my initial rage had partially subsided, I took a deep breath and mentally narrowed down my response:

  1. My first thought, was that I could explain which of his body parts I would remove and mail to his family if I ever caught him;
  2. Since it wasn’t really his fault, and since I had no imminent plans to visit whichever country his call centre was based in, I could instead describe what vengeance I would personally bring upon Argos’ headquarters;
  3. Realising I had no idea where their headquarters were, but since it was probably down South somewhere, and I couldn’t be arsed travelling, I could alternatively outline what damage I planned to do to their Crewe store;
  4. Remembering that their Crewe store already looks like it has been ram-raided / blown up / closed down anyway, and since I am after all British, I could put my anger and frustration into a strongly worded e-mail to their complaints team. Yes, I would do that, just as soon as I put the phone down on this muppet. That’d bloody show ’em.

So, having explained precisely how nasty my e-mail to his company would be, (and in doing so realising that his accent might in hindsight have been Welsh, but it was too late to reconsider my vengeful destruction plot now), I took great pleasure in slamming the phone down. Well, I would have, but our home phone is hands free – so I had to press the red button really, really hard instead.

That’s right, Argos, don’t fuck with me.

Within the next few days, I sent an e-mail to Argos of such venom, that I briefly felt remorse for the recipient. It was so hostile, there should have been a requirement for two people to hit ‘send’ simultaneously, like when the President orders a missile strike in 24.  I even used the phrase ‘I am extremely disappointed in you’.

Clearly my words had the intended effect, as not three weeks later, I received a heartfelt automated apology from their complaints department, with the promise of a, wait for it, £20 gift card. The consumer wins!

Naturally I didn’t mind the three further e-mails that I had to send over the next month, to ask where this gift card might have got to (suggesting at one point that it was perhaps glued to the bottom of our elusive sofa bed), because I had claimed the moral victory and, better still, the bed was back in stock and at a reduced price.

Without learning our lesson, and blindly believing Argos would have taken steps to ensure such a colossal error would never happen again, we re-ordered the bed and paid extra for a delivery slot in the evening, so that we wouldn’t be restricted to my wife’s day off work.

Needless to say, that re-arranged delivery date has also come and gone, and our spare room remains very much bed-less, although at least this time Argos did have the decency to warn us in advance that it was still out of stock. Seemingly, despite it being of comparatively low value, our sofa bed is being handcrafted by Tibetan monks, and will be delivered to the UK on some kind of bespoke yacht.

As a final twist of the knife, within a few days of our new delivery date passing us by, I got an e-mail from Argos asking if I would like to review my recent purchase.

Even though I was fuming with anger, I still extended the courtesy of composing a review for their website, but apparently ‘unless it’s fucking invisible, you dozy bastards still haven’t sent us one, have you?’ is in breach of one of more of their review guidelines. Shame.

The Ugly

Not strictly ‘ugly’, so much as ‘laughably insulting’ (but the title ‘The Good, The Blog and the Laughably Insulting’ wouldn’t have worked as well), is a recent encounter I had with supermarket giant, Tesco.

I am well aware that Tesco have their critics, partly because they seem to be taking over the small part of the world that China don’t currently have their sights on, but I happen to rate them, their products, and (generally speaking) their home delivery service.

Not only does it work out cheaper – and considerably less stressful – than driving to their nearest store in Crewe, but they do a far better job than I ever could of remembering what stuff we like to buy. So, as long as I stick to the ‘Favourites’ section on their site, perhaps adding in a few extra items here and there, not only does it narrow down my shopping and make the whole process quicker, but I can’t browse, and it therefore saves me from overspending on unnecessary snacks.

I have also found their ‘if you like that, you might like this’ suggestions to be rather helpful in the past too – and considerably more accurate than the equivalent tool on iTunes (“If you like Def Leppard, you might also like The Pussycat Dolls”).

That is, until about two weeks ago. I was happily completing our weekly shop, when I noticed the ‘Favourites’ section was not only suggesting items we hadn’t bought for ages, but items we only purchased once.

Then, to make matters worse, it was using those rarely bought items to suggest entirely inappropriate substitutes, and I realised Tesco were trying to tell me something.

It started with ‘Sorry, we’re currently out of Haribo Jumbo Halloween Bag (no shit) but you could substitute this with….. carrots.’

Excuse me, what?

Then, on the next page, ‘We notice you have previously bought KitKat Chunky 4 Pack. You might also like….. cucumber.’

Ok, Tesco, I get the message, I’ve put on a bit of timber.

How fucking rude. And ugly.

 

 

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