General

How to lose customers

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nottingham_exterior_img_060115In recent months at home we have been having quite a lot of work done to make the house more pleasant. This has involved dealing with various tradesmen and retailers. I like to think that I choose both carefully, but as experience has shown using the ‘market leader’ isn’t always the best approach…

I have established a relationship with an excellent plumber, a small builder and a kitchen installer. All 3 are great to deal with and do a first rate job – they are also sole traders.

I am not sure why but we decided to use John Lewis (JL) for flooring, curtains and blinds, the flooring has been done in 2 stages; Stage one was the kitchen, it wasn’t totally pain free but the job was completed well (more down to the self employed fitters). But I did have issues with J L and they paid me compensation – enough said.

This week my living room floor should have been laid – it’s timber and needs a fitter to install it. Initially we were told fitting would be 4 weeks from order, but then when we accepted the quote it became 8 weeks! That was also after they found the flooring they had sold us wasn’t actually made any more…A conversation with JL got fitting down to a more acceptable 5 weeks, which was up this week. All should therefore be fine – except it isn’t.

The flooring has been delivered but the fitter couldn’t actually lay the floor as it needs a levelling screed – something that JL should have checked (but didn’t) when they quoted. The fitter was great about it and we are now being fitted in a couple of weeks. But, JL initially wanted me to pay for the screed that they missed – suffice to say after a ‘conversation’, they are now paying for it!

This isn’t our only issue with JL in recent weeks though, we have also had problems with the curtain and blind orders. The process has dragged on for at least a month longer than it should have done due to initial sample requests not being processed and then the order papers not being sent through to the booking office from the shop. Again not what you expect from JL.

So all in all a fairly poor performance from JL, not according to them what they aim for in customer care, but as they say – three strikes and you are out. They won’t be getting any big orders from me in future, I will use local traders and retailers who are recommended to me.

The Christmas advert….

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The ‘big’ Christmas advert is now well established as a part of the festivities, the big stores all now try to out do each other. Last years winner was without doubt the Bear and Hare advert done by John Lewis. I don’t have a problem with the concept of doing festive big adverts, they can add to the festive feel.

JL-Xmas-Advert-2013-End-Frame

Normally they are fairly predictable and involve snow, party scenes and various celebrities – you can normally guess the store by the celebs they use, every so often we get a weird or wonderful advert. John Lewis seem to fill this quite well, last years was lovely and cute (so I am told), this years with the penguin is just plain weird to me – but harmless.

Last night I saw the Sainsbury’s advert, and I have to say I thought it was poorly judged. If you haven’t seen it yet this links to it. Now they have done ‘the right thing’ and it is in conjunction with the British Legion and raises funds for them – which is good.

My issue is with the subject matter, yes there was a Christmas truce in the first year of the First World War, and it is something special. But is it really the right thing to use the bloodiest war in history to sell a retailer? I don’t thinks so, to me it feels wrong and just badly judged, Sainsbury’s are using the 100 year anniversary for the wrong reason. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is as more people see it…..

Remembrance

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2014 has been a momentous year for events to remember the start of the First World War, I have heard people voice their concerns that it has been ‘over done’ – not something that I would agree with, and I can’t imagine how you could over do something to remember something quite so awful…

PA110504I had hoped to get over to France this year to visit some of the WW1 sites, we did it as a family a few years ago (2007), it would have been good to do some of the cemeteries and sites that we missed first time around – sadly we didn’t manage it this year, but we have seen some of the amazing events taking place in the UK;

The most impressive of these has been the poppies at the Tower of London, I saw these a month or so a go, and at that time they were probably three-quarters complete and already very impressive. If you have the chance to see them before Remembrance Day I would strongly recommend it – it is quite something.

However the thing that has made the greatest impression upon me this year has been the wooden crosses at Salisbury Cathedral – they were actual grave markers put up during the battles and then at the end of the war brought back by grieving relatives. They represent a tangible link to 100 years ago and consequently are ‘very real’. The photo I took (using a nifty filter on my new camera) is I think with the single red poppy quite powerful…..

A once in a lifetime event

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This summer saw an event that probably passed by a large part of the UK without being noticed. You had to be an aircraft fan to be aware of it – but if you were, it was momentous!

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) will be known to most people from its regular appearances at memorial events and airshows. It includes a number of Second World War aircraft including Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber – it is this last aircraft that was the source of my excitement this summer.

My Dad with his crew (third from left)
My Dad with his crew (second from left)

My late father never flew in anger in the Second World War, but he did learn to fly with the RAF (in Florida!), then on his return to the UK he transferred onto Lancaster bombers. He was training up on them when the war in Europe came to an end. Consequently I grew up with a man who was always moved when the Lancaster flew over. So he would have loved this summer when the only other airworthy Lancaster flew over from Canada (an amazing feat itself) and displayed all around the UK with the BBMF Lancaster!

A photo from Duxford
A photo from Duxford

To see them flying together was therefore to be somewhat of a personal pilgrimage for me. My task was not helped by the visit taking place during August when I was away for two weeks in Ibiza. However an early September display at Duxford was finally confirmed and despite large traffic jams a great day was had. It was fantastic to see in the region of 200,000 people stand and go silent as the two aircraft displayed, it was really quite moving.

A week later I visited RAF Coningsby to see both planes in their hanger and get up close to them, again an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

My Dad would have approved.

Posh camping

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The wife and I have been known to venture into the great outdoors in a tent over the last few years. I find it really relaxing and great to get back to the countryside. There are a few pre-requisites to a weekend away however – it needs to be warm, not raining, and the campsite needs good facilities and a pub within walking distance! Most of these are easy to achieve in the UK now (and especially in Derbyshire which is close by) with one exception –  the good weather!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo our recent visit to Wiltshire for a few days was ‘upgraded’ to a glamping weekend! I had seen various sites on the web with ‘pods’ when looking for campsites, but had never experienced one first hand. So our first attempt at glamping was going to be a great adventure!

And, having now ‘glamped’ for two nights in a wooden ‘pod’ at the Stonehenge Campsite (highly recommended by the way) I can confirm that it is without doubt the way to go!

The pod was large enough to contain a proper bed, a cool box, a comfy chair and even an area with a kettle and toaster! Most importantly it had a heater and electric lights and was consequently amazingly comfortable and warm. The site even has WIFI so we could keep in touch with the World if we wanted to without difficulty.

And the best bit – you don’t get woken by the sun coming through the walls of the tent at 5am! Thoroughly recommended for a few days away with a difference!

Almost World Class

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This last weekend the wife and I have been on what could be described as a bit of a personal pilgrimage (for me) – we have been to Wiltshire. More accurately we have been down to the area around Salisbury and Stonehenge, this is where I was born (Salisbury, not Stonehenge) so the area has a certain draw for me still. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things I was looking forward to from our trip was seeing the new Stonehenge visitors centre (and the ‘improved’ area around Stonehenge itself). I was not disappointed by the new building, it is quite something, and quite ‘out there’ as far as buildings used by English Heritage go. It has some great features and somehow ‘fits in’ to the open landscape that is Salisbury Plain. Stonehenge is without doubt a World Class ‘attraction’ – it is after all a World Heritage site, so it is up there with some fairly impressive competition – The Pyramids at Giza, The Taj Mahal, The Vatican – you get the idea. So I applaud what has been achieved here, the centre is amazing and the improved landscape around the stones created by closing and removing the road past has made it feel much more ‘rural’. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever I get the feeling that English Heritage just aren’t used to running such a high profile site. As I have said the building is great, but the staff (who are all dressed in their corporate uniforms) just aren’t enthusiastic – or dare I say it – friendly and polite. Also there is a ‘land train’ that takes you the mile and a half down to the stones themselves. This is very slick and comprises three carriages pulled by a Land-rover, which somehow feels just right for the location. But, although there is a full PA system in the land train it isn’t made use of it to tell the visitors about the site and build the moment before it comes into view (the new visitor centre is well away from the stones). If this was an attraction in the USA the trip there would be used to set the scene, not just to inform you the trip will take 5 to 7 minutes and not to open the windows! Yes there is an audio tour you can take, and the audio visual in the centre really is first class. But for an adult ticket at £14.90, (concession £13.40, child £8.90 and family £38.70) I personally expect just a bit more?

Car update…

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Mercedes Service neon sign.jpgMy Mercedes has finally made it into Mercedes Nottingham for the next 2 to 3 day’s. I have been shown the list of checks to be made on the car whilst at the dealers and it is about 10 pages long! It is nice to know that this is being done, but the results then have to go to Germany and then I assume we wait…..

While I am on the subject of waiting (which you tend to do a lot of at certain car dealerships) I would love someone to explain to me why the ‘premium’ car brands believe that greeting you and then sitting you down to wait for ages before you get dealt with is ‘good service’? Previous experience at ‘lesser’ dealerships was far quicker and less stressful – Marshalls Volvo being a classic example, quick, friendly and efficient.

Yesterday it took 40 minutes for me to drop off my car and collect a courtesy car – the dealership wasn’t busy, so what was going on behind those closed doors while I was waiting?