Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Colour problems and the inflexibility of procedures

Recently we have been in a battle of wills with John Lewis online. This was thanks to a rash decision to purchased some replacement bar stools for our kitchen. For some reason we had decided to opt for the ridiculously embarrassingly over priced original Bombo stools. The JL web site only gave an option for a 5 day turn-a-round service, which basically means that they will deliver in any one of the the next 5 working days but won't tell which. It ends up being a bit like a lottery, albeit a fixed one, as I'm sure the Delivery Drivers are instructed to wait around the corner till you pop out for 10 seconds and then stuff a "failure to deliver" note through your letterbox..... This is fine if you are at home all day and can sit by the door but not so good if you happen to have to work for a living in order to pay for over-priced stools. On the balance of things I decided it was easier to have them delivered to my work address. All good so far. They delivered on the day I was out of the office but I collected them the following day, so not the end of the world. It was only when I got them home and opened them that the fun started.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, when you pay top dollar for a product you expect to get what you pay for. So when you purchase said product in black you expect not just black but jet black - in fact a midnight black, a black so pure that when you look at it, all hope of ever seeing colour again is lost (Did I mention that these were ridiculously overpriced?). The sort of black that makes other blacks feel so inferior that they slink off and change their whole colour perspective, perhaps relaunching themselves as off-white. When I unpacked them and installed them in the kitchen I was gob smacked. These were not the "so far beyond black that light tried to take a restraining order out on them" as was displayed on the John Lewis website. These were a horrible light grey, the sort of grey that you wouldn't accept even if it was offered for free. I left them for Mrs B to see and hoped that I would get used to them. Mrs B was not impressed and her initial reaction was that her dimwit of a husband had ordered the wrong colour. I dug out the order confirmation and started proceedings to clear my name. While I might be a dimwit at times, this was not one of them.

What is says on the box is not
always what you find in the box

In what universe is that black

We decided to sleep on it and left the stools in place overnight (noticing that even the cats, who normally gravitate towards anything new, like moths to a flame, were giving them a wide birth). The pure new light of a beautiful summer's morning brought home to us that while time might be a great healer, a thousand years would not improve the colour of these babies. It was time to take drastic action - the return of the product. Now I hate returning things - what should be a simple matter always ends up being such a palaver. I called JL and explained that they had delivered the wrong colour. I also felt that as it was their error they should make life easier for us with the replacement. Not a bit of it.
They had standard operating procedures and they were going to stick to them. They did agree to pick the stools up from home but would not deliver the replacements there at the same time as they had to be sent to the original address. I tried to explain that it would be easier and cheaper for them to pick up and deliver at the same time. The problem was the conversation we were now having had gone off the standard call centre script and since redelivery to a different address was not in the delivery procedures I was getting nowhere.

At about the same time that the stools were being picked up from me at home the replacement stools were being delivered to work. Imagine my delight, but not my surprise, when I picked them up the following day and found we had just replaced one set of dull grey stools for another.
Yippee. Another call to JL's call centre.

Basically the same phone conversation as before, only this time with me interjecting "This is the second time that you have sent us the wrong order!"

Call centre woman - "We can offer the 5 day guarantee to be as inconvenient to the customer as possible delivery service."

Me - "Yes, yes, the same service you offered for the previous two deliveries. Don't you think you should make an effort since you have already inconvenienced us twice?"

Call centre woman - "That's the only delivery service we offer."

Me - "So despite the fact that you have sent us the wrong delivery twice, you can't do anything for us?"

Call centre woman - "We have to go through the 5 day service."

Me - "Well you can hardly call it a 5 day service, it's been over two weeks since we first put our order in."

Call centre woman - "Would you like to speak to my supervisor?"

Me - "Sounds like a plan."

Call centre woman - "I'm afraid he's on a break at the moment."

Me - "Sigh...."

Call centre woman - "He will call you as soon as he gets back."

Four hours later and no phone call, around 2pm
Me - "Hi, I was told that your supervisor was going to call me back"

Call centre woman - "I'm sorry he's on his lunch break. I can assure you that he will call you back as soon as he returns"

Me - "Please make sure he does."

Another three hours later, still no phone call
Me - "Could you put me through to the call centre manager?"

Call centre woman - "My supervisor is available."

Me - "No thanks he had his chance."

I get through to the Call centre manager (it was probably the same guy using a different name) He obviously had a slightly extended script as he was going to arrange to have the stools swapped over from the same address and on a day that suited us. Unfortunately he needed to bring in the "Sorry we inconvenienced you twice, investigation team" before he could do anything. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!!!!!

Three days later and they were still investigating, only now they were the "Sorry to inconvenience you three times, extra special investigation team". I decided it was probably time to cancel the order.

All we need is for the stools to be picked up and we can get our money back. We shall instead be getting some cheap knock-off Bombos. They might not last as long but at least we will get the colour we ordered.....
well, fingers crossed anyway.

L2B 2006 (Part two) – You’ll like this, but not a lot…
The lovely Mrs B does an impression of Debbie McGee

The training for the London to Brighton started to go a bit Jade Goody. I was eating all the wrong foods and doing everything to avoid any of that tedious exercise stuff. I devised a scam, to avoid actual riding, which was to spend valuable time tinkering with the bikes. I invested in more comfortable saddles for us both. Mine looked a little like a Chesterfield sofa * (If I hadn't made it to Brighton I could have always slept on it, while I waited to be rescued). The next stalling procedure was to add some toe clips. Now, for most people, this would be a simple case of adding them to the existing pedals. Not for me, however. Our bikes seemed to have had the only pedals in existence that had no holes to attach the clips. Ok, fine. New pedals it was. Couldn't be that hard could it?. Two hours, two cans of WD40, two sets of spanners and loads of cursing later, and I had managed to slightly shift one of the bolts holding one of the pedals. Another half an hour, a hammer, various chisels and lots more cursing and I had two pedal free bikes. This was much more like it. No chance of any of that irritating riding malarkey. My fears that I had failed to break the bikes with all that hammering and cursing proved true and two "35% new" bikes emerged from the garage -like Frankenstein's monsters. It was just lacking thunder and lightening to make it a truly dramatic moment.

* I have to check, before we set off for each ride that the cats aren't hiding behind the cushions I'd probably be able to work it out if McG has stowed away (large heavy, been on a diet since he was six months old, ginger moggy), but I'd hardly notice Mischief (small black, nondescript moggy) .

My bike, with the heaviest aluminium frame
known to man. Not so much a cross bike more
of a bloody furious one……

Having run out of excuses, but not having enough time for a longer ride, Mrs B and I set out to explore some of Bishops Stortford's murkier corners. We enjoyed ourselves, connecting up parts of the town that we did not know existed and having a good old look at houses that we'd only seen for sale in the local paper, when disaster struck. After stopping outside a huge house in a leafy avenue, Mrs B made the fateful mistake, as she prepared to cycle off, of saying "This is fun, I'm really enjoying this." I turned around and Mrs B had vanished, I looked up and down the road, nothing. It was only when I glanced towards the pavement, that I spied, amongst a sprawl of frame, saddle, wheels, pedals (with shoes and feet still attached) and other odd bits of metal that passed for our bikes, was the missing Mrs B. She gave me a stare that said "laugh and you're dead chummy" I swallowed hard and just about managed to keep a straight face. Fortunately, 20 minutes later Mrs B looked across with a huge grin and said "That was funny; I'm surprised you didn't crack up". But even I have a in-built survival instinct**.

** Besides, I was still on parole from the time when we were riding horses in the Cotswolds. Mrs B got the top of her riding boot caught on a gate post. As her horse moved on, she gently slid down its flank and ended up hanging upside down from the post. Our friend Diane was off her horse and helping her down within seconds, while Andy (Diane's husband) and I were rolling around on our horses, with tears streaming down our cheeks***. And that was over 10 years ago.....

*** To this day, I swear, we were crying because we were upset, and those laughing sounds were gasps of fear****

**** And no, Mrs B doesn't buy it

The off road wheels that were
clearly holding us back – Yes
that is real mud, purchased
from a local farmer to give
them that almost used look

My New bike Computer –A rather
handy function tells me when it
needs to go to bed ….


  1. Its bad news. Occasionally it turns out we have gone through our lives so far under a great big misapprehension. Here's one for Mr B: Stalls: for standing horses in, seats in the theatre, unexpected engine failure. Stools: (2 meanings) 1. Seats to rest your bum on with no back support OR Poo out of your bum (couldn't make it up). Makes marvellous reading Mr Black...and once more, made my day - don't you dare to change your piece its fab!

  2. Sorry Skipper I have a contract with Mrs B, once she has done the edit it gets corrected. She has her own reputation to maintain. I'm glad I have made your day, perhaps I could send you early drafts to satisfy your lust for the BlackLOG in its most pure form.

    Rather then being disappointed that I have corrected the text, you should be happy that I gave you a heads up to get in early before it changed. Don't forget your comment will stand as testament to my abilities to mangle the English language. I did have a quick look on the internet and discovered that I am not the only one with the magical ability to use the wrong word. I think my true gift is the inconsistent way that I mange to switch between the two words. Hinting that half of me thinks it knows the correct word while the other half is not so sure and so likes to cover all basis. There is probably a medical term for it. Something like Stoopidassimilation.

    Hope the menagerie are all doing well

  3. Oh no! You changed it! Bring back stalls, I loved them. All quiet at coal mines today owing to glimmer of sunshine for several consecutive days. Soon have suntan at this rate.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your stool problems...I happen to agree that gray and black are two different things entirely...I mean, who could possibly think those stools were black? Not me. I LOVE black, but I do not dig gray at all...bleech.

    And thanks for stopping in to my blog by the way! :)

  5. Cindy Welcome to the BlackLOG and thanks for following the link back - In reference to your Blogging Princess post - actually taking the time to check out people who have commented on your blog is also nice.


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