Wednesday, 31 October 2012

October Blog Review

This month’s blog postings have ranged from complaining to saying ‘thank you’, misleading price labelling to using the NHS, with Christmas gifts and Half Term Holiday ideas added for good measure. I even had the opportunity to feature apologies from Sainsbury’s and Greggs regarding poor service complaints.
However, there is a bit of an addition to the Greggs saga. I was pleased to receive three ‘free lunch’ (and I thought there was no such thing) vouchers from the company by way of an apology. I was a little disturbed, however, to see them presented in a laminated card folder, obviously produced en masse, containing the words ‘We’re sorry that we didn’t come up to standard.’ Does Greggs make a habit of poor service then?

The rising charges of the Dartford Crossing also featured this month, and we duly invested in our Dart Tag to cut the cost (£1.33 per crossing as opposed to £2). My husband is overjoyed, not only does he save money, but also he doesn’t have to open the car window to pay in the wind and the rain!

Amongst reviewed and recommended products this month, I looked at beauty buys, cleaning products, hair care items and budget wine.

On the subject of wine, I happened to be shopping in Tesco on the day that particular blog was posted. I picked up a bottle of their Australian Red, £3.84, which I enjoy and had recommended, when a fellow shopper with a pronounced Australian accent asked, “Is that any good?” I proceeded to relate to him the casserole saga as told in my blog ‘Don’t be a Wine Snob”. So there you have it, Tesco Australian Red – as recommended to Australians!

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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Autumn/Winter Meals Made Easy

With the weather getting colder, we start to fancy warm, filling meals and comfort foods. Casseroles, stews, roasts and hot puddings beckon, but can be fiddly to prepare. So here are a few ways to make short cuts with the food preparation, without losing out on taste or nutrition.

No-Peel Veg
Frozen vegetables offer great nutrition, with the vegetables retaining their vitamins and nutritional value due to the methods involved. Sainsbury’s Stewing Vegetables (1.49 for 1kg)) are a great addition to any stew or casserole, with no preparation needed. Buy two bags of selected sliced Sainsbury frozen veg, (stewing veg included in offer) for £2.50.

Easy Potato Products
Peeling and chopping potatoes can be another tedium, so once in a while let the work be done for you. Try Tesco Spicy Potato Wedges, 59p for 750g, to add interest to your meal, or if you prefer something plainer try Sainsbury’s Jacket Wedges £1 for 1kg. Also from Sainsbury and a tasty addition to any meal, are Crispy Potatoes (a sort of cross between a chip and a mini roast potato), £1 for 750g, and both these Sainsbury products are included in the 2 for £1.80 chip and potato deal.

Time-Saving Tins
A few handy tinned ingredients are great to keep in your cupboard, whether it be as a standby or to speed up preparation of the odd meal. Try:
Tesco Red Kidney Beans in Water (no added salt or sugar) 49p for 210g, great for chillis, casseroles and soups.
Tesco Green Lentils in Water 65p for 410g, good filler for soups and stews and a great basis for a veggie chilli.
Hartley’s Fruit Pie Filling, £1.09, is great for popping in pies and crumbles, or use the apple variety to make Eve’s pudding. My favourite though is the Black Cherry. Mmmm!

What time-saving products do you use? Email

Monday, 29 October 2012

Rethinking Pain Relief

From time to time you may reach for a pain relief tablet to treat a headache, twinging back or toothache, but perhaps you should sometimes think twice about reaching for the pills, and try one of the alternatives available.

Some types of pain respond well to heat, like those in the neck (just the physical not the proverbial kind mind you) and back. Try using an adhesive self-heating pad, which you can attach to your clothing and feel the soothing warmth that lasts all day – I find these a great comfort. Try Curaheat pads, £3.85 for 3 at Boots, or just as good Wilko Heat and Relief 99p for two at Wilkinson. I’ve recently noticed heat pads that you stick directly onto your skin appearing in the shops, but have yet to try these. They tend to be pricier than the version for clothing: Boots Direct to Skin Heat Patch, £5.90 for 4 or Curaheat Direct to Skin Back Patches £4.99 for 2. If anyone has tried these do let me know

Still on the subject of heat, a herbal heat pack may be more to your liking. These resemble small pillows and are heated in the microwave and applied to the affected area. Try Wilkinson’s Wheat and Lavender Heat Pack, £4.

For a nasty headache or migraine, a cooler soothing approach may be what’s need. Try Migraine Kool ‘n’ Soothe, £3.25 for 4 at Boots, or Boots Cooling Headache Pads, £2.89 for 4, adhesive strips that you apply to your forehead for cooling, pill-free relief.

If it’s toothache that’s troubling you, then a more traditional remedy may be to your liking. I recommend clove oil, applied directly to the troublesome tooth with a cotton wool pad or cotton bud. A 10ml bottle of clove oil for £2.99 is available from Boots.

Of course, should you still decide that a pain relief tablet is what is required, then do choose wisely. Supermarket brands tend to be much cheaper than big brand names but have identical ingredients (it’s the active ingredients that you need to check). 500mg of paracetamol is 500mg of paracetamol, whether packaged as Tesco’s own or costalotalol.

Let me know your pain relief tips. Visit

Friday, 26 October 2012

When the Heat is On

It may be getting chillier outside but things are hotting up indoors as shops, offices and homes turn the heating on to combat the cold. This may be all very warm and snug, but it can leave us feeling far from fresh, whilst drying out our skin too. Here are a few products to help combat these unwanted effects.

Fresh - but extreme!
Mitchum Advanced Control Roll On for women, available in Powder Fresh, Shower Fresh, Unperfumed and Waterlily (my favourite) varieties. A pleasant, long-lasting, high-performing deodorant - a must in a potentially sticky atmosphere. `normally retails at £2.89, but currently £2 'price drop' at Tesco. Also available in aerosol and men’s ranges.

Simple Moisture Boost Hydro Mist (£5.99, Boots) is a moisturising spritz containing lotus flower extract, which you apply to your face to combat dehydrated skin. It can be sprayed directly over make-up, so you can use it anytime, anywhere.

Body Sprays have come of age – they’re no longer just the sickly smelling variety reminiscent of the girls’ school changing room. Many perfume lines now offer co-ordinating body sprays, such as those from M&S, Avon, Yardley and Charlie. Alternatively, you can match your body spray to your shower/bath products to maximise freshness. I love Fenjal body spray, £3.46 at Boots.

To stop your lips drying out choose from one of the range of Vaseline Lip Therapy tins, £1.79 at Superdrug. Choose from the original formula, Aloe Vera, Cocoa Butter or Rosy Lips with rose and almond oil.

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Half Term Holiday Part III – The Inside Story

In my final episode of the Half Term Holiday trilogy, I look at a few indoor attractions to visit and home-based activities to keep the kids amused.

These have changed so much since my childhood, with many now offering organised activities, quiz sheets, dressing-up corners and ‘hands-on’ exhibits and many are free! I recommend:

The National Railway Museum at York, admission free. A really impressive collection of railway engines from different eras and parts of the world. Not just for railway fanatics – I love the story of the Royal Mail and the Royal train carriages – and between 27th October and 4th November you can join in ‘Fun with Paddington’.
The Natural History Museum and The Science Museum, London, admission free. Highly recommended are the Dinosaur Gallery and the interactive Earth Gallery at the Natural History Museum, whilst the Science Museum has some great interactive exhibits and games in its Launchpad area.
Lancaster City Museum in Lancaster (there’s a surprise) admission free. Small but beautifully put together, houses some great exhibits and offers the chance to dress-up.
York Castle Museum, York (this blog is starting to sound like the War of the Roses), admission £8.50 adults (ticket valid for a year), children free. This is a great museum with the highlight being its Victorian Street – soak up the atmosphere in this recreation of Victorian England, a real gem.
Time & Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth, admission adults £4.90 (or £4.20 if part of family group), children 4-16 £3.60. Lots of activities to have a go at on the way round, plus a recreation of traditional Yarmouth Row Houses (real ones of which can be visited in the town and are run by English Heritage).  

Of course, many towns and cities have local museums that you can visit for little or no cost, so do check out your area. Strangely it is often the attractions on our own doorstep that we ignore. Libraries often hold activity workshops and story-telling sessions during school holidays so do be on the look out for these too.

Staying at home? Put away the computer games for the afternoon and revert to some more traditional pastimes: gather together all the old card, paper scraps, material oddments etc that you can find and make a colourful collage or fun model; bake or buy a batch of plain fairy cakes, then see who can come up with the most fun and creative topping; dig out the old board games for a change - don't have any? - visit a car boot sale and snap up bargain old favourites. 

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

How To Get The Most Out of the NHS

Have you ever left your GP’s surgery feeling that you didn’t quite get the outcome you’d hoped for? Don’t despair; there are ways to get the most out of those precious few minutes with your doctor.

- Be clear about your symptoms in your own mind and jot them down so that you remember to mention them all.
- Include the things that ease or worsen your symptoms, such as warmth relieving pain and certain movements increasing it.
- Think of any questions you may want to ask and jot them down too.
- If your GP suggests tests, be sure that you understand them and check how long the results may be expected to take.
- If medication is prescribed, ensure you understand how and when it is to be taken and that you know why you are to take it.
- If you are given a hospital referral, be sure about which department you will be seen by and what outcome is hoped to be gained.

If after your appointment you feel that you have forgotten to say something important, or are not sure about everything that you were told, then ring the surgery to request to speak to your GP (a later telephone appointment may be arranged) or write a letter requesting that symptoms you forget to mention be added to your notes – I have done this myself and it has worked.

Should you be really unhappy with the outcome of an appointment, you can seek a second opinion by requesting an appointment with another doctor at your surgery, or get advice from NHS Direct at or call 0845 4647.

If you are referred to a hospital consultant, you will probably be given a ‘choose and book’ letter, telling you which hospitals you can opt to attend. When making your decision don’t just consider the distance you will need to travel, but also research the hospitals involved and talk to anyone you know that may have experience of them. With this booking system you are able to agree to a date and time that suits you, so do have your diary/calendar available when you call to arrange your appointment.

Prepare yourself for your hospital appointment in much the same way as you did to see your GP, noting down points to raise and questions to ask. If your are unhappy with the result of this appointment, you can return to your GP with your concerns or consult the Patient Liaison team at the hospital you attended.

You can always think laterally! Some NHS departments now offer a self-referral system, for example my local authority offers physiotherapy via self-referral (Medway Community Healthcare 01634 821560). As a former patient of my local physio department, I presented myself there with back pain (having had a disappointing consultant’s appointment) and was offered acupuncture, which started within 24 hours!

So, to get the most from the NHS, be precise about how you feel and what you would like to be done, but also be prepared to help yourself and explore all the options available.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Christmas Gifts Episode II – Return of the Shopper

Christmas cards and wrapping paper, boxes of chocolates and festive goods have been in the shops for weeks, but now the gift guides and catalogues are hitting the shops too. I recommend that you arm yourself with a good selection, in order to get ideas, compare prices and cut down on the time that you spend trawling the shops.

Some stores are having introductory Christmas gifts offers, last time I mentioned Tesco, which has a 1/3 off gifts until 29th October, but Superdrug is also offering 1/3 off in store until 30th October.

Choosing xmas gifts can be a prickly business
3 for 2 offers are back in Boots, which can work out a good deal, depending on precisely what you are buying, but beware. Are you buying 3 items just to make up the numbers or is that offer swaying your choice? Depending on what you are buying and the quantity you really need, cheaper prices can sometimes be found for individual items elsewhere. For example, Charlie Enchant Gift Set costs £8 in Boots, but just £5.50 in Wilkinson.

Wilkinson are also selling selected Dove, Nivea and Olay gift sets for just £5 each, or any 3 for £10. This offer includes the Dove Silk Indulgence duo, which retails at £6.50 in Boots.

So get collecting those catalogues and hunt around for the best deals, to ensure that you keep to your Christmas budget.

I’ll be back…

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Half Term Holiday Part II – Back To Nature

Wildlife Parks
When I was a child zoos often housed animals in cramped conditions, with minimal greenery and little provided for them to resemble life in the wild. All that has changed, with large, leafy enclosures and many wildlife parks operating breeding and conservation programmes to save endangered species.

Africa Alive, Lowestoft, Suffolk, admission: adult £15.95 child (3 - 15) £10.95. This is a great place with a superb lion enclosure complete with viewing balcony where you can watch the male lion with his six lionesses – much more akin to a pride in the wild than is represented in some zoos. Great African animals, many that you have heard of, and some that you may not. A 25-minute land train ride around the park is included in admission. Half-term week (27th October to 4th November) is ‘Un-myth-able’ week, check out their website. Their sister park Banham Zoo, Norfolk, adults £15.95 children (aged 3-15 years) £10.95 is also worth a visit.
Colchester Zoo, Essex, adults £17.99, children (3-14) £11.50 has so much to see. Their viewing tunnel where you can get right underneath the sea lions is a great favourite and there are opportunities to feed some of the animals. It made my day to feed a giraffe! Half-term week (dates as above) is Shriek Week.
Drusillas Zoo, East Sussex, individual adults and children £16.50, and family rates from £31 to £77.50 depending on family size. Specialising in smaller animals this has great lemur and meerkat enclosures and a bat house. To wear the kids out while you’re there, there is a huge play area, which they’ll love. 27th October to 4th Nov is Halloween Shriek Week.

Note: All of the above accept Tesco Days Out Vouchers, so you can visit for FREE.

Country Parks
Weather permitting these are great places to get rid of some energy, with many offering added activities.

Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, Nr Ringwood, Dorset. There is no actual admission charge, but you do pay for parking, with charges ranging from £2.50 for an hour, to £8 for over four. This makes a wonderful woodland walk with the added fun of a play trail, various play areas and a tree top trail. Definitely worth the parking charges.
Dalby Forest, Pickering, North Yorkshire. £7 per car until end of October, from November to February £4. Great walks and popular place for bike-riding, two play areas and toilet facilities available.

There are bound to be country parks local to you, so have a good look round for something that is offering the type of activities that you are looking for. Many have visitor centres, cafés, play areas, designated trails and display boards so that you can identify wildlife. Many also run activity sessions for the children during school holidays.

Conclusion of Half Term Holiday Trilogy follows in a few days.

Any more ideas? Email

Friday, 19 October 2012

Half Term Holiday Part I – Key to the Castle

With half term holidays looming here is the first of a three-part look as to where and how to prevent boredom turning your lovely little angels into tiresome little devils. In the first of my half-term related blogs, I look at castles. What child (or adult for that matter) can resist a castle, whether they fancy themselves as a knight or a princess, there are many great ones to visit.

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, quite pricey this one, but there are ways to visit for less than standard price. Standard prices: adults £30.60, children £25.80, family of four £107.40, family of five £132.00, but by purchasing your tickets online in advance, you can get cheaper tickets so do check out their website. Even better, exchange your Tesco Clubcard Vouchers for Warwick Castle Entry Vouchers (£5.50 in points vouchers per ticket) and go for FREE. In addition however, there may be an extra cost for certain exhibits inside, like Merlin’s Tower, but obviously it’s optional as to whether you visit such attractions When we visited we didn’t do any of the charged extras but still had a great day. It's a beautiful castle, with costumed characters roaming the grounds and plenty of places to explore. My son loved the Royal Weekend Party, as he was introduced as a lord with us as his servants, and watching the firing of the trebauchet was another highlight.
Dover Castle, Kent, adults £16.50, children £9.90 and £42.90 for a family, but FREE for English Heritage Members. Membership really is worthwhile, as it enables you to visit all English Heritage properties free of charge. The Great Tower involves quite a climb to get to the top, but gives you a stunning view of surrounding countryside and the English Channel. Inside the furnished tower you can meet characters in Tudor costume, including Henry VIII himself. Then for a change in era, visit the World War II tunnels where you can follow the story of Operation Dynamo and tour the Underground Hospital (maybe a bit much for the smaller children).
Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, adults £8.20, children £4.90, FREE to English Heritage Members, as above. Stunning ruins that the kids will love to explore, and a furnished gatehouse and formal gardens, which make this a good all round day out.
Cilgerran Castle, Cardigan, Wales, adults £3.20, child £2.80, family £9.20. Great value for money, a smaller castle, but stunning setting. Kids will love exploring the ruins and enjoy having a picnic in the grounds. When we visited a few years back, we were handed a key to the gate to let ourselves in. It was a great novelty to have the ‘key to the castle’, perhaps anyone who has visited recently will let me know if this still happens.

Any more ideas? Email

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sainsbury’s and Greggs – The Responses

Thank you to both Sainsbury’s (poor service) and Greggs (managers good and bad) who have now replied to my comments regarding poor service when I visited their stores. There have been some encouraging comments, which I’d now like to share with you.

It only took one letter to Sainsbury’s to receive a reply, which was encouraging, Their letter agreed that the service I’d experienced was not up to standard, stating, “We want our customers to enjoy their visit to our stores and restaurants and it’s disappointing that this wasn’t your experience on this occasion.” Specifically referring to the haphazard way our meal was served Sainsbury’s Customer Manager declared, “All meals should be served together, be neatly presented and of the highest quality.”

The letter ends with the reassurance that the feedback will continue to be monitored and that, “Feedback helps us to improve our products and services.”

Greggs weren’t quite as quick off the mark to respond, but did speak to me in on the telephone this week. One letter, two emails and over a month after the event, an obliging Area Manager rang with an apology and a promise to look into the matter further. He admitted that Greggs’ ‘without butter policy’ is confusing, saying technically butter is not included with a roll (charged at 15p per tiny pack), but they may like to rethink this one, as other cafés and restaurants where I have made a similar purchase include one pack in the price – you only pay extra for additional ones.

However, I was assured that my experience was not one of which they were proud, and they hoped I would not be deterred from visiting Greggs in the future. Meanwhile, the matter is being looked into further, to establish why I had received such more service and what could be done to improve it.

Remember: As customers we need to point out when products are service standards are poor, this way we can hopefully get them improved.

October’s Random Thoughts

I’d like to start a campaign to bring back Spangles. I particularly used to love the Old English and Fizzy Cola flavours. Who else was a Spangles fan?

I’m really quite perturbed that one of my local branches of Superdrug is now selling alcohol – well I suppose you can at least shop for hangover remedies and dark circle concealer in the same place!

Why in this electronic age does it take so long to clear a cheque?

Do businesses such as credit card companies and insurance firms have shares in shredding machines? The amount of time my name and address appear on any one mailing of theirs, I think they must somehow. No way their 'junk' mail can go directly to the recycle bin.

I wish people wouldn’t text me using capital letters – I feel like I’m being shouted at.

Let me know your thoughts, email

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Misleading Price Labels

Have you been taken in by large labels reading ‘50p’ or ‘1/2 price’ only to later discover that they’re not what they seem at first glance?

On several occasions recently I’ve homed in on a label displaying a low price only to find on closer inspection, that there is small print accompanying it saying ‘save’ (50p), with ‘save’ being a fraction of the size of the ‘50p’, or a large ‘reduced by 75p’, in small print ‘now £1.80’.

Even Marks and Spencer are at it. On a recent trip to my local branch, I saw a large sign hanging over the toiletry department shouting ‘1/2 price’, which on closer scrutiny whispered ‘buy 1 get 1 (1/2 price).

Now I’ve learnt to check and double-check these signs and labels, having been caught out in the past. Indeed, I have seen others questioning a price at the till only to have the small print price pointed out to them.

But how many shoppers have picked up an item, believing the large print figure displayed to be the cost, not a reduction, and not noticed the higher price at the till? How many of you actually check your till receipts before leaving the store? At this point you could still return to customer services to get a refund if you don’t want to pay the unexpected higher price. But how many more of you never realise that you have paid much more than you intended?
A good example of price labelling, price is clearly displayed 

Is this what the manufacturers (sometimes the price has been labelled at source, as with magazines for example) and stores really intend? Are they hoping you will believe that you are paying a lower price, therefore enticing you to buy under false pretences? Pretty underhand if they are.

I expect that they would say that they are trying to highlight the saving to consumers, so in that case here’s a little tip from me. Use print of identical size for every part of the phrase “Save 50p, now £1.50” for example as opposed to “save 50p now £1.50”. No small print, no confusion. 

Let me know your experiences of misleading labelling email

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Don’t be a Wine Snob

I enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, as many of us do, but have discovered that you don’t have to blow the budget buying top label wines at top prices to get something worth drinking. Here are a few of the wines that I’ve discovered to help you to enjoy the odd glass on a low budget.

Tesco Australian Red Wine, £3.84. I originally bought this as a cooking wine, but tried a glass and really enjoyed it. It’s now a close call as to whether it’s me who gets the last drop, or the casserole.
Tesco Simply Zinfandel, £4.49. If you enjoy a smooth, fruity rosé, then this is for you. A great accompaniment to almost any meal, it’s a good all-rounder.
Sainsbury’s House Sweet White Wine, £3.89. If you’re a lover of sweet wine this is a great option, not over-sweet like a dessert wine, but fruity and refreshing. If you prefer your white wine in a dry (£3.99) or medium (£3.89) option, these are also available.

Remember!  These cheaper label wines are often found on the bottom shelf of the wine display as you are guided to buy the more expensive ones at eye level.

Though not a wine, I would really recommend Jeeves, a less expensive alternative to Pimms, £6 at Tesco. Serve with lemonade and slices of orange, lemon, lime and cucumber to rediscover summer in a glass, even on a chilly day – very refreshing.

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Monday, 15 October 2012

Things I’m Loving This October

The Healthy Bears ‘teddy-shaped’ bread, £1 at Asda. Not only does it have a cute look, it really tastes good too.  Made from a mix of wholemeal and white flour, it’s soft and tasty and doesn’t have too thick a crust. Attractive to the kids, but just as tempting for the adults, why not give it a try?

Yeo Valley Greek Style (organic bio live) Yogurt With Honey. Creamy, tasty and good for the digestion – yummy goodness, 4x120g pots currently on offer at Tesco, £3 for any two packs (other flavours are available).

My new Falmer Heritage hooded cardigan from Matalan (£25). A snug knit in a natural shade, with a bit of dark blue fair isle design for good measure. Looks great with jeans, an autumn must-have. 

Snuggling up in front of the TV watching favourites such as Downton Abbey, New Tricks and Have I Got News For You whilst eating peanut butter on crackers (great topped with banana).

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @shoppersjoy

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Hair Care Bunch

Bouncing Curls
After years of fighting the natural wave in my hair I decided to not only go with the flow, but to positively enhance the curl, and can recommend a couple of great products that do just that. Umberto Giannini Flirty Curls Scrunching Gel has a light texture and pleasant scent and delivers more curl less frizz (200ml £4.79, Boots). If you’re working on a tighter budget, then Superdrug Expertise Curling Cream (£2.49 for 150ml) will leave you with soft, silky tresses.

Falling Flat
What has happened to Timotei Shampoo? Not only has it been repackaged, but I have been unable to find my favourite variety in the new line.

I love the Shimmer Shine Shampoo and Conditioner that came in 300ml bottles. Containing rose oil, pearl extract and raspberry vinegar, it has a gorgeous smell, which reminds me of fruity chews, and leaves my hair soft and bouncy.

However, most of my local Timotei stockists are now displaying the new design bottles of shampoo (250 and 400ml) and conditioner (200 and 400ml) in Vivid Colour, Golden Highlights, etc, but not Shimmer Shine. Prices of the new bottles seem to range from £1.49 to £2.99, but I’ve made a great find!

Savers stores have come to the rescue, and are selling 300ml of Shimmer Shine Shampoo and Conditioner for just £1 each. I’m certainly going to be stocking up.

What hair care products would you recommend?

STOP PRESS! Wilkinson are currently selling lots of products for 50p, including Timotei shower gel.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Saying Thank You

Last week I focused on ‘How to Complain’, but this week I think it’s time to look at saying ‘thank you’ to those who do offer a good service, value-for-money products or just bring a smile to our day.

I was brought up to send thank you letters for birthday and Christmas presents, etc, and still try and thank people who go out of their way to help me or provide exceptionally good service. Even when I make a complaint, I often try to balance it with a good point, however minor.

Shops and organisations are making it easier than ever for us to comment on helpful staff members and outstanding customer service experiences.

How many of you have received a printout from Boots asking you to complete their online survey? You may initially groan, but this does give you the chance to have your say about the good and bad, as well as to name a particularly helpful member of staff. If I feel that I have had particularly good service on a visit, then I make sure I fill this in.

My local Health Authority, Medway NHS Foundation Trust, operates the ‘WOW!’ awards scheme. Patients and visitors are able to nominate outstanding healthcare professionals via a printed form or their website, so that these hard-working individuals and care teams can get the praise they deserve. Look for similar schemes in your area.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a form, invitation to complete a survey or specialist scheme to highlight good service or helpful individuals. Perhaps we should all make the effort to write the odd thank you letter, as well as those we write to complain, just to remind those who do a good job that we really do appreciate them.

Don't forget you can nominate people/organisations for the 'cheers' section of my website  

Thank you for reading.

Let me know you experience of outstanding service email

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Christmas Gifts – The Saga Begins

I know it’s over two months until the big day, but everywhere you turn there are displays of Christmas cards, gifts and wrapping paper. It’s true that by starting your Christmas shopping now you can ‘be prepared’ rather than get caught in that last minute rush, but more to the point you can make use of some offers that may be here today and gone tomorrow!

Avon Brochure 16
Avon has started selling gift sets and novelties for you to put on your Christmas present list.
Avon Treasures Collection £8.99 (will be £15) is a gift-boxed set of five perfume sprays (10ml each), so that you can change your scent with your mood.
Prepare To Party Gift Set £10 (normally £20) consists of a handy clutch containing lipstick, mascara, eyeliner and an eye shadow duo – a complete makeover then.
USB Robot (possibly one for the boys) £5 (will be £10) a 4 port USB (ports are in the wheels) with light-up eyes.

Note: Don’t forget to buy your Avon’s Breast Cancer Crusade pin and nail file, £1.50 each, with 100% of proceeds from the pin and 25% from the file going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Tesco has gift sets reduced by 1/3 until 29th October, definitely worth a look.
Extracts Body Butter Trio, currently £4, a basket containing three tubs of body butter – lemon and bergamot, pomegranate and rosehip and mango and nectarine – leaves you feeling soft and smelling gorgeous!
Nivea All About Mini Treats, now £3.33, a boxed set of mini moisturising cream, shower cream, roll-on deodorant and lip balm – life’s little essentials.
Dove Men Plus Care Gift Set, currently £4, a boxed set of body/face wash (250ml) and a deodorant (150ml), to moisturise the man in your life,

To be continued…

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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Easy Clean

Let’s face it, on the whole we clean our homes not because we enjoy the process, but because we like to live in a clean, fresh environment. Therefore, products that give great results with minimum effort are always popular. Read on …

Sainsbury’s Antibacterial Total Cleaning Surface Wipes (£1.15 for 40) and Antibacterial Floor Wipes (£1.15 for 15) are available with a fresh apple scent and are great for cleaning dirty marks and splodges, whilst leaving your kitchen smelling fresh – all with very little effort. As you dispose of them afterwards, there are no bacteria-harbouring cloths left lying around either.

Hob Brite (300ml £1.52 Wilkinson) is suitable for cleaning ceramic, electric, halogen and induction hobs. Apply with a dry cloth (I use heavy-duty kitchen roll, Regina Blitz is excellent), rinse off with a damp cloth (ditto) and dry to a shine. Little effort involved, but amazing results.

Oz Kleen Bath Power Spray, 500ml (£3.80 at most supermarkets, but do look out for offers that appear from time to time), spray and leave for a minute, then wipe away, cleaning off soap scum, grubby marks and limescale in its wake, leaving a light, citrus smell.

STOP PRESS! Ariel Excel Gel (888ml) is currently selling for just £4 at Tesco!

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Rise and Rise of Dartford Crossing Charges

On Sunday, 7th October, the cost of using the Dartford Crossing rose from £1.50 for a car, to £2.00. Bearing in mind we were once promised that the day would come when it would be free, this is not generally well received.

The original tunnel opened in 1963 (coincidentally the year of my birth, although I understand I’m more cost effective), with a second being added in 1980 and finally the QEII Bridge becoming the new Southbound crossing in 1991. At each stage we were told that once the crossing had been paid for, it would become free to use. However, as time goes on, far from becoming free, charges continue to rise, with another bringing the cost for cars to £2.50 planned for next year.

In certain circumstances, crossing fees can potentially be suspended to ease congestion. According to the Highways Agency website, “The conditions are that there has been or is likely to be an emergency situation; where continuous queues of stationary or slow moving traffic travelling under 10 mph extend back - or have the potential to extend back - to the junctions 4 or 28 of the M25 or beyond; and where the suspension of the charge would ease the congestion and assist in managing the emergency situation.” Glad that’s clear then.

A ‘free-flow’ system is planned for 2014 – we will still have to pay, just not at the point of crossing.

Until such a time the agency does a u-turn and abolishes charges, there are ways to save on crossing costs and there are also some exemptions from the charges.

By purchasing a Dart Tag, you ‘only’ pay £1.33 to cross by car instead of the new £2.00 charge. If you are a frequent user then this is a preferable way to pay – you can apply for a tag online, or download an application form to send off with your card details or cheque.

For those resident in the Dartford/Thurrock Council boundaries, a £10 yearly registration can be paid, enabling the holder to make 50 crossings at no extra charge, with journeys over this amount costing just 20p. In order to apply for this you have to be able to prove both car ownership and residency details.

Registered disabled drivers who do not pay Vehicle  Excise Tax are rightfully exempt from charges.

What are your views of the Dartford Crossing charges?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Greggs and Iceland Partnership

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been a bit put out with Greggs and Iceland of late, but I would like to give each a little positive comment, which I hope heralds more improvement to come from both.

Not fattening if you only look
The Iceland Bonus Card recently faired quite badly (Loyalty Cards – My Ratings 15th September) in my loyalty card comparison, but in the last week Iceland has started to give me more worthwhile vouchers when I shop. The latest was a free Gregg’s take-away hot drink with any purchase (I chose cappuccino costing £1.89, with apple danish, paying only 74p for the two). OK, not a big money offer, but a welcome coffee break.

For those of you wondering, no I did not go to the branch where I was treated badly by the manager, but a different, friendlier local branch, where a lovely lady with a big smile served me, so I do not want to tar all branches of Greggs with the same brush.

Regarding my previous not so pleasant experience of Greggs, I am pleased to report that I should be receiving a call from the Area Manager this week and hope to report a favourable response.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @shoppersjoy

Friday, 5 October 2012

Women and Chocolate

I read this week that Cadbury is introducing a new low-calorie chocolate bar aimed predominantly at women, called Crispello. It’s a kind of chocolate, wafer and creamy centre combo – not sure that’s particularly original.

Strangely the packaging is resealable, so that you can ‘save some for later’ – as if! How many of us stop eating a chocolate bar until we have polished off the lot?

So what is it with women and chocolate, supposedly? I admit to being a chocolate-loving woman, and know of many more, but I’ve heard of others who detest it! And do we really hanker for it any more than men? My hubby relishes a large bar of Dairy Milk.

Well, time for the science part. Phenylethylamine, (nickname ‘love chemical) is found in chocolate and triggers that feel good, ‘falling in love’ sensation, which gives us a sense of pleasure and well-being. Opinion is divided as to its effectiveness when sourced from chocolate as opposed to its naturally occurring state in our brains; so let me know your thoughts.

Crispello apparently has 165 calories, so what’s so low cal about that. I love a Galaxy Ripple at 174 calories not much worse, and a fun size bag of Maltesers is only 99 calories! Anyway, chocolate for me is a pleasurable treat, not a calorie counting exercise (despite knowing these statistics).

Of course, I will have to sample this new product for the good of my followers, so watch this space.

Let me know what you think, email

Thursday, 4 October 2012

This Week’s Beauty Buys

If you need to stock up on facial skincare items, Superdrug is currently selling selected Garnier skincare products half price in store. Cleansers, Toners, Face Washes and Facial Wipes from the Fresh Essentials (with grape extract), Soft Essentials (with rose extract) and Simply Essentials (unperfumed) ranges are included in the offer.

I love Simple Kind To Eyes Revitalising Eye Roll-on, a refreshing, moisturising gel formula containing cucumber extract, which helps to combat puffiness. It’s easy to apply with its massaging roller ball applicator and is currently just £1.99 at Savers.

Stock up on Palmolive Naturals shower creams and gels for all the family at Wilkinson where they are now only 50p.

Don’t forget to use your £5 off No7 skincare and £3 off No7 make-up vouchers at Boots by 7th October!

Remember: visit my website

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

How To Complain

As consumers we can be a funny lot, some too ‘polite’ to complain, even when service is appalling or goods are faulty, whilst others shout and swear about next-to-nothing, losing the point amidst their angry tirade. So just how and when should we complain?

Firstly, let’s look at the when. As a customer you are right to speak out when service is unusually slow or poor, assistants are rude or unhelpful, goods are faulty, products are not fit for purpose or you feel that you are being treated unfairly. If the service you have received has left you feeling upset, dissatisfied or inconvenienced, then you should not feel that you are being ‘a nuisance’ by making a complaint. The trick is to do it properly.

You should initially complain verbally at the point of service, if this does not resolve the problem then ask to speak to a supervisor, and/or the manager. If this does still not get results, then you should request the details of head office to write a formal letter of complaint.

When making a verbal compliant –
DO – state clearly what the problem is
      be firm, but calm and polite (even if the response you get is anything but)
      smile, or use a little humour, as this can ease tension, resulting in a better response 
 DO NOT – shout, swear, or make offensive or personal comments
                apologise for complaining, it is not you who is at fault
                waffle on about unrelated issues

If you need to follow up a complaint in writing, try to get the name of the person that needs to deal with the complaint, or at least address your letter to a specific ‘position’ e.g. Customer Services Manager, Managing Director etc.

DO – be concise, keep to the point
      include relevant names, times and dates
      state what you would like the outcome to be
       include a little humour where appropriate
       keep a copy

DO NOT – run to several pages, keep to one side of A4, typed or neatly written
                deviate from the point
               include offensive comments 

Remember! It is not wrong to complain (standards of service may improve as a result), but there is a wrong way to complain.

Let me know about your experiences of making a complaint, email

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Basic Supermarket Brands

Supermarkets have been introducing an increasing range of budget brands – Tesco Everyday Value, Sainsburys Basics, Morrisons M Savers, Asda Smart Price,  Marks and Spencer Simply ranges and so on.

Many of these have been recently revamped, in some cases re-working the packaging to be a little more attractive and/or improving product quality. Budget buys are often situated on the lower shelves of supermarket displays, however, with more expensive, bigger brand names at eye-level to entice shoppers. So don’t be afraid to dig deep for that bargain – it can do wonders to the cost of your weekly shop.

Of course, you may not find that all budget products are to your liking, but why not try a few and see for yourself?

Amongst my favourites are:

Tesco Everyday Value Garlic Bread, twin pack 64p
Morrisons Savers Raspberry Sponge Sandwich cake 58p
Sainsburys Basics frozen Berry Mix £1.29
Tesco Everyday Value Fromage Frais 42p
Sainsburys Basics Wrapping Foil 15m, 54p

It’s also worth looking at budget label fruit and veg; often the taste is as good as other varieties, though the size and shape may be a bit irregular.

To recommend your favourite supermarket budget buys, email me at

Monday, 1 October 2012

This October Why Not …?

Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month – look out for events in your area. Be sure to visit Asda for their ‘Tickled Pink’ range, including T-shirts starting from £6, with £1 from each purchase going to their ‘Tickled Pink’ charities. Also be on the lookout for Avon Pink Ribbon Products.

Revamp your autumn wardrobe with soft-to-the-touch fabrics in jewel and berry shades. I recommend 'Yes' Supersoft Skinny Jeans (£19.99 at New Look), which are super snugly to wear and come in a selection of warm, autumnal shades. Matalan is also worth a trip for their seriously soft, cotton modal long-sleeve tops (£5), great for layering with their snug knitted cardis and jumpers.

Indulge in some cake (in moderation, remember those skinny jeans). I love Marks and Spencer’s range of sponge rolls (2 for £2), particularly the Peach Melba and Cappuccino Chocolate varieties. Have a slice with a cuppa, or serve as a dessert with custard. Yum!

Use leftover chicken from your Sunday Roast to make “Henhouse Pie’. Soften a chopped onion in olive oil, add a dessertspoonful of plain flour and brown, and then gradually stir in half pint of vegetable stock (vegetable Oxo is fine). Add chopped leftover chicken and leftover veg too if you fancy. Simmer for 15 minutes before transferring to an ovenproof dish. Top with mashed potato (home-made or ready-made) and brown in the oven for 15-20 minutes, Gas 5, 190ÑC.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @shoppersjoy