Friday, 28 November 2014

I Want More!

When it comes to loyalty cards, I’m a serial collector, as many a blog post has demonstrated. It’s little surprise then, that when I heard about the Morrisons’ Match & More card, I just had to grab one and find out, well more.

Strictly speaking, this is not so much of a loyalty card as a price match tool. When shoppers get their card swiped at the checkout, the grocery spend is compared with Tesco, Sainsburys’, Asda, Aldi and Lidl – a selection of supermarkets that just sent the automatic spellchecker on my computer into meltdown!
Always looking to save valuable pounds!

If you would have spent less at these stores, then the difference (with an added zero) is converted to points and put on your card. My first shop with the card could have theoretically been 54p cheaper elsewhere (despite the fact that I targeted offers), and so earned me 540 points. Once I have accumulated 5000 points I will qualify for a £5 voucher.

When I first heard the details about the card, I was unsure whether the benefits would be worthwhile, but considering I’m already a tenth of the way to getting my first £5 following a relatively small grocery shop, it could prove quite handy.

In addition to the ‘match’ points, I’ve spotted a few items in store for which extra points are awarded and you also get 10 points for every litre of fuel that you buy at a Morrisons’ garage.

But what really struck me when I picked up my new temporary card and accompanying leaflet, was that Morrisons actually provide customers with a choice of ways to register – either online, by post (postage paid) or by dropping off the completed form to a box in store. Following previous posts bemoaning companies that only expect customers to communicate with them online, this was a breath of fresh air. After all, there are still people (some of my more elderly relatives included) that either do not have or cannot use the Internet. Well done Morrisons!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What Price An Opinion?

I was absolutely incensed to see, when I turned on the TV this morning for a spot of news, a couple being interviewed after being ‘charged’ for writing a review about a hotel in which they had stayed.

The review in question had been somewhat negative, but listening to the report, it would appear rightly so. The couple had experienced a number of problems with their room, which they had reported, but had not been solved. Disgruntled with their stay, they consequently wrote a review commenting on their experience, which I believe they were perfectly within their rights to do. OK, so they didn’t pay a premium rate for their room, but it should still have been fit for purpose.

However, the hotel still had their credit card details from when they had paid for their room, and apparently helped themselves to a payment of £100 in light of the comments the couple had made. They justified this by saying it was in the small print (very small print as it appears) that anyone writing a bad review would incur a charge. How ludicrous!

This case throws up a fair number of important issues.
We shouldn't pay for others shortcomings

Firstly, I believe that as consumers, we should all have the right to speak as we find. If we receive bad service or shoddy goods, we should firstly exercise our right to complain to those concerned (as the couple in this case did), but if our grievances aren’t resolved, we should be able to warn others of the shortcomings, to prevent others having to repeat our bad experience.

A second, connected point is that we should all be able to exercise freedom of speech, with the exception of the use of abusive or threatening comments.

Thirdly, it should not be, to my mind, legal for anyone to take further payments from a debit/credit card just because they were once given the details as part of a separate transaction. I believe this is just another breach of consumer rights.

Of course, this whole subject is close to my heart, as I regularly write reviews on goods and services – good and bad – and believe I offer a service in doing just that! If businesses want to avoid getting bad reviews, they should, quite simply, ensure that they maintain basic standards and that the goods and services that they supply meet all health and safety regulations, and are fit for purpose. Where mistakes are made or standards are lacking, they should endeavour to rectify the situation promptly and with good grace – this can turn a potentially bad review into a more positive one!

On the other side of the coin, it would appear that some people threaten to write damning reviews unless they are offered a discounted price. This is equally wrong. Just as we expect to be treated respectfully by companies, we should act responsibly as customers. Reviews need to be truthful in order to be helpful to others, sticking to the facts and be made in order to put across a fair point, as opposed to seeking personal gain.

Reviews of products and services can be beneficial to all – potential customers and businesses alike – so let’s protect our right to speak out when things are wrong, without the threat of being ‘fined’ for so doing, as this just rubs salt into already painful wounds!

What do you think?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Say No To Plastic Carrier Bags

There’s no doubt about it, we’ve become a nation of plastic carrier bag dependent shoppers. Why are so many people so reluctant to make use of more permanent, reusable shopping bags?

When I was a child, everyone seemed to go shopping armed with a collection of bags in which to stow their groceries. For those who preferred not to use this option, supermarkets tended to keep a healthy supply of cardboard boxes close to the checkouts, which were certainly handy to transport heavier, bulkier items.

Over the years, however, it has become more the norm for shoppers to expect plastic carrier bags to not only be supplied, but to be provided free of charge.

In my teens I had a Saturday job at Fine Fare (there’s a blast from the past) who at that time made bags available (some early bags were paper) but at a cost. But as time went on, supermarkets introduced a limitless supply of plastic carrier bags – and all for free!

Some supermarkets do offer incentives to reuse bags, in the form of points for loyalty card holders, but this it would seem is not sufficient encouragement to induce shoppers to break the habit.

Now there are calls to charge for all plastic carrier bags in shops, a move with which I wholeheartedly agree. What’s wrong with reusing bags, which can be bought very cheaply in the first place, thus reducing the impact that all of this surplus plastic is making on the environment.

The proposed charge is 5p per single use plastic carrier bag, thus mirroring a system already employed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Hopefully, this will discourage their use at least to some degree, reducing the estimated 60,000 tonnes of plastic carrier bags used per year. For those who still opt to use the bags despite this move, the hope is that the money raised can at least be diverted to ‘good causes’. Ideally, I would hope, more environmentally friendly incentives.

Cloth bags are a stronger option, which are not too bulky or heavy, and prove no hardship to take with you on a shopping trip. Yes, you do have to remember to take them in the first place, but it’s just a question of learning a new habit!

Where do you stand on the plastic carrier bag debate?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Oh Dear Asda!

Personally, I do not opt to purchase my food shopping online – I’m much too fussy a shopper to elect someone else to make specific choices for me! However, there are many customers that find this a convenient way to shop.

My daughter often buys her food shopping online, as she has a young son and relies on public transport, so having at least the heavier items delivered can be a big help. Buying groceries from Tesco using this method had proved reasonably reliable. Although the occasional item was missing from the delivery, the shopping did at least turn up and mistakes rectified where appropriate.

However, she recently decided to try home shopping with Asda, which in her case turned out to be a big mistake!

Online shopping may not be the key
Despite receiving two confirmation emails relating to her order, stating the delivery time slot, the shopping never arrived. After waiting a suitable amount of time (sufficient to allow for unavoidable delays), she contacted Asda. The first customer service adviser that she talked to was somewhat brusque, intimating that the order may not have been properly confirmed, despite the receipt of two emails.

She was then passed on to an adviser in store, who at the outset appeared more helpful, but did not go on to fulfil this promise. Despite their assurance that they would track down the relevant order and inform my daughter as to what was happening, they never did get back in touch. And the shopping never did arrive!

My daughter contacted Asda again the following day, when she was told that they would not take the money for the shopping! Did they think they were doing her a favour saying this? They can hardly charge for something that they’ve literally not delivered!

When my daughter expressed her displeasure at the whole debacle, the adviser decided to offer her free delivery on her next order – as if she was going to trust Asda again in a hurry.

I relate this tale as an example of what I consider to be appalling customer service. My daughter was left without vital shopping (including milk for her young son), no explanation has ever been made for the error, and their half-hearted apology doesn’t go far enough!

I was so incensed that I contacted Asda myself via Twitter - a method that has had favourable results with other companies in the past. Although Asda did respond, it was all a bit half-hearted, only providing me with the suggestion that she spoke with the store in question. Not very clever, when I'd mentioned that she'd already done this! Asda home shopping is definitely not an experience that I would recommend.

What online shopping disasters have you experienced?