First let’s tackle the enraptured audiences, not literally of course, that would be counter-productive. I can’t really vouch for the ‘enraptured’ bit but I have been hither and yon regaling unsuspecting history groups, U3As and the like, with tales of the past. Great fun as ever, even if ridiculously horrendous traffic did mean that we were almost late for one booking. ‘Almost late’, in my world, means we weren’t there half an hour before the start time!
Barefoot on the Cobbles is now a few thousand words longer. Just as well really as my deadline looms ever closer. Since my field trip, aka writer’s retreat, to the soft south, I have been leading my heroine round the streets of Torquay. There is no way that I would have been able to write this convincingly without walking in her footsteps. I have already made good progress today. It was one of those great days when you wake up at 5.00am (normal sort of time for me) with fully formed sentences rushing round your head There’s only one thing to do, abandon all thoughts of granola and yoghurt until you have put fingers to keyboard and captured the words before they drift in to oblivion never to be retrieved. It isn’t just writing of course, or the geographical verisimilitude (yep, that dictionary was very tasty thanks), I am obsessive about portraying the historical era accurately. So, by 8am this morning, I had discovered that my heroine would not have purchased a powder compact in 1918, nor would she have bought it in Woolworths, at least not in the town I am writing about. All this to get one sentence historically correct! I have however found a suitable contemporaneous department store but I do have to come up with an alternative for the compact.
Then the sad saga of my run in with the well known electrical goods chain near me. Some of you have been following my social media rants on this one. I once taught GCSE law (ok it was sort of by mistake but I did) I can quote consumer rights acts. Said rants, along the lines of, ‘if not illegal, your policy is most certainly not ethical and to the total detriment of your customers’ and ‘deplorably poor customer non-service’, did bring responses but not resolutions. In short (and believe me you don’t want the full version) here is the sorry tale. An item that I paid for in store on Boxing Day got lost between their warehouse and their store, where it was supposed to be available for me to collect from 3 January. 9 January I send my personal shopper to collect said item. He was told it had been delayed, I would get an email. Slightly irritated by the fruitless 32 mile round trip, I waited until 18 January and having heard nothing, attempted to telephone the store. If you are ever similarly tempted, make sure you have a good half hour to spare and that is just the time it takes to get a real person. ‘Can I have the direct number for the store?’ I ask. Oooooh no, the temerity of my innocent question, these are closely guarded secrets, never to be divulged to mere customers. I am put through to the store who will investigate and ring me back – so far so good. They even do ring back and Barry (I think it is was Barry) says the item has been mislaid but if I don’t mind having a different colour (I don’t) they can replace it. Although I ordered it in store it counts as an online order raised by them on my behalf. ‘All’ I have to do is ring the number I first thought of, listen to how important my call is to them (but not important enough for them to answer) for another half hour and change the order. Oh and they might try and charge me another £50 because the price has gone up now the sale is over. Like **** they won’t thinks I.
After prolonged effort to speak to a real person, drawn out by the fact that the automated system put me through to the wrong department (I definitely pressed the right number) meaning that I had to start all over again, I ask to change my order. Ah no. This is not possible. I have to wait until the mystery of the missing item has been investigated before they can replace or refund. I could write pages about this conversation, which was somewhat circular and less than amicable in nature but I will summarise. The call handler was obdurate. I was furious. He was adamant that ‘their policy’ would leave me hamstrung until their investigation was complete. I ask to speak to someone above his pay grade. Allegedly there is no one. Clearly the MD of a major retailer has nothing better to do than answer phone calls. I ask to whom I should make a formal complaint. He’s the man apparently – what a multi-tasker, give that man an employee of the year award. ‘Right,’ say I, ‘I wish to make a formal complaint.’ Ah no, I can’t do that until the magic week of investigation is up. This ‘investigation’ is clearly something big, are Interpol involved I wonder?
I scrape myself off the ceiling and take to social media. They ‘understand my frustration’. Believe me they really don’t but they toe the party like, ‘it is our policy not to refund or replace until we have investigated blah de blah.’ 20 January dawns, the sacred week is up. I can’t bear the thought of more pressing this that and the other, so I type away to the jolly types who have been responding on social media. Apparently now it takes a fortnight for these investigations. My reactions are unprintable. Finally, yesterday I get an email to say that ‘as your item is out of stock we will be posting you a gift card within the next 3-5 days.’ Another saga, which I don’t have the energy to relate but they are within their rights to refund in the form of a gift card. Due to circumstance beyond my control, that was how I was obliged to pay in the first place. Not a single word of an apology for their total incompetence, or my inconvenience. If you wish to avoid patronising this store and believe me you need to steer clear of it like the proverbial Black Death, think popular Indian dish and you have it in one. I was going to say rant really over but of course I haven’t actually got the gift card yet!