Archive for The Blog

Calling Last Orders on the Milk Round – Expensive & Poor Service

About a year ago, I watched a TV programme that was all about promoting locally sourced produce and ‘helping the British farmer’, so I took on one of the suggestions and I got myself a Milk Man. I went to the Milk and More website (owned by DairyCrest) and opened an account to have fresh milk delivered to my door step on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – these were the days available for the rounds in my area.

I got monthly invoices to email, which I looked at for a while (first few months) but then over the months they were always about the same so didn’t inspect them too closely.

Then last Monday morning, my other half was leaving for work and she shouts upstairs that we Milk on the step.  So I log into the Milk and More website to see my delivery dates have changed to Monday, Wednesday and Friday….   I check my email and having nothing other than the previous invoices (nothing in my Spam folder also), so I assume they have not notified me – which, to me, is just rude if they can’t even notify you that your entire round will change.

I then ring their customer service number and after navigating through the options get through to a lady, sounded Foreign (was difficult to place) – and I ask the question “was I notified of the change, and if not then why not?”  I then get lady replying to me with every other word is ‘sorry’ and she’s already becoming frustrating as she says something about my delivery days being Mon, Weds, Fri…  and I had to correct several times telling her that Yes they are Mon, Weds and Fri NOW, but only 3 days prior they had been Tues, Thurs and Sat.  We closed the call with her agreeing to contact my local distributor to ask about the change.

A couple of hours later my mobile rings, I was on a conference call for work so let it go to Voicemail. I listened to the message after my call and this time heard from a Indian sounding guy and the message left me even more confused…  I found it difficult to understand him, but he seemed to have confused himself because it sounded as though he said “your regular guy is on holiday and your delivery will resume to Monday, Wednesday and Friday once he returns”

At this point I’m annoyed that I’m both wasting my time while also getting frustrated over bloody milk!  So I ring DairyCrest head office and explain to them what I’d experienced and played the lady on the phone the Voicemail, which she couldn’t understand either. She promised to have someone from customer services call me back, but end of the day can I actually be bothered…   I took out the Milk Delivery as goodwill to help a local farmer, but on reflection it’s turned into hassle and frustration.

I had a call back within the hour from a manager of the Customer Team at Head Office who explained that the local Dairy / Dispatch unit should have been responsible for leaving a note with one of deliveries advising of the day change the week before. I also played her the voicemail and she advised me that all their customer calls are answered in Manila (in the Philippines, if you didn’t know) and that they had moved the work abroad in 2009 to lower costs, but she acknowledged that the message was unclear and she’d look into the quality of the staff and training of their call centre.  I then asked her about price, because on comparison my milk delivery was substantially higher than Supermarkets and Corner shops, to which she advised DairyCrest had overheards, were competitive and that if I wanted to save money I should consider the ‘poly bottle’ instead of Glass – which makes no sense to me, because Glass is washed and re-used where-as plastic is melted and recycled, but even so their Poly options was merely pennies cheaper. These are my calculations based on prices as of 1st March 2014:

I had analyzed my invoices for the past year and seen the cost of a pint milk with DairyCrest has gone up 14%. It started at 61p a pint in March 2013, then went up to 66p around July, then 70p per pint this month.

Did you know we’re paying 20p more a pint from the Milkman?
And infact at 70p a pint, 2 pints being £1.40   you can buy 6 pints from Tesco for £1.48
which means 10pints a week, 52 weeks a year (I know we do have the odd holiday… but) that’s 520 pints a year, on a pint for pint that would a £104 saving with Tesco.   Or if you get the best value possible, it would 70p a pint with Milkman £364 a year, vs 4pint bottles from Tesco £130.   That’s a different of £234.

 

So, to the end the story, following my first call with Head Office at DairyCrest I’ve heard nothing further – I gave it a few days, heard nothing else back. So have cancelled my Milk Round and have been buying 4 Pint bottles from the Supermarket, and for the past week two of the main Supermarket players have been selling 4Pints for £1 and 3 x 4Pints for £2.   As this has demonstrated, as a paying consumer  – expect good value, and if you’re not happy with the service you receive then don’t be afraid to move to another provider.

The Lobster Room in Reading, Berks – a poor choice for dining

As you’ll see the old Reviews Blog has been a bit dry of late, mainly due to time (I’ve been a busy boy) and because the majority of my restaurant visits over the past year have been via the Mystery Dining Company I work for part time, so considered it a conflict of interests to survey and then blog them.

But this time round you get the my full attention about The Lobster Room, in Reading, Berkshire in Blog form because A) I’ve received tweets and pings asking about my experience following my FourSquare check-in and B) my experience was poor so I’m letting others know…

I’d seen the venue under the banner ‘The Lobster Room’ advertised, it’s in a location opposite Forbury Gardens in Reading, just out of town. The building has had a fair turn over of dining experiences, but due to the location I don’t think it attracts that much passing trade.

My other half is an avid Groupon user and decided to treat us to a Fishy Dining experience at the Lobster Room because we both enjoy seafood and I’m always up for a night off cooking and a good meal out.

We had a table booked for 8pm on a Friday (10th Jan 2014) and arrived on time. The entrance foyer contained just a empty sandwich fridge & counter and we had to walk down stairs to get to the restaurant, which should seat approximately 50-80 diners, but for a Friday evening it was less than a third full, with only a handful of tables occupied.

We were seated and given menus and our waiter (a gentleman in his 30’s, olive skin complexion, who spoke broken English) who then wandered off and we waited for about 10mins for him to return and we placed our drinks and meal order together – we were not offered any table water. While ordering, I made a specific request that the Lobster Main course was NOT served with Mixed Peppers or garnished with chilli / paprika as my other half has an allergy… and I spoke very slowly and repeated several times “no red, yellow or green pepper, no chilli and no paprika – nothing that is a bell pepper” he nodded and confirmed. Yet despite my request the Half Lobster was served on a bed of Red & Yellow Peppers…  meh.  So to save time (and avoid ruining the Lobster) we begrudgingly lifted the Lobster off the plate and the waiter took the Peppers away and returned with a handful of thyme seasoned boiled / part roasted potatoes.  Anyway I’m jumping ahead of myself… back to the Starters.

 

The Service was slow and for Starter we had Scallops in Pancetta and Calamari . The Scallops were nice, well cooked & moist but the sweet seasoning / dressing was slightly over-powering, but it was a tasty starter and well presented. The Calamari however wasn’t good as the batter wasn’t crisp, it was soggy, the Calamari was a little chewy and it was served on a white plate with a slice of lemon – some mayo, seafood or tartar would have been nice.

Scallops_Lobster-Room

Scallops @ Lobster-Room

We waited for atleast 5 minutes to have our starter plates collected. There were two waiting staff on and despite it being rather empty it just all seemed so slow. The waiter took our plates and didn’t ask how the food was, or engage us in any way it all, it all seemed a lazy laboured job.

We then waited for another 15mins or so for the mains to arrive. I’d ordered the Crab Tagliatelle in addition our other main of Half Lobster. As mentioned above, the Lobster didn’t arrive as requested but aside from the momentous cock-up with the Peppers, the Lobster was nice, a good size, well cooked & seasoned.  The Crab Tagliatelle however was served on a plate with the Crab Shell and legs, but I’m not sure if this was to try and convince me that the plate contained any actual crab, because it seemed as though I’d been given the shell and not the meat…  the small bundled pile of undercooked tagliatelle didn’t seem like fresh pasta and digging through the pasta with tomato sauce, there were no pieces of crab meat to be seen, so either it’d been put through a blender and whizzed so finely that it was unrecognisable or it simply wasn’t there. It didn’t particularly taste of crab and the seasoned tomato sauce was the prominent flavour.

Crab-Tagliateli_Lobster-Room

Crab-Tagliatelle @ Lobster-Room

After eating what I could manage of the poor attempt at a main course and trying to extract what little Crab meat I could from the bits of crab carcass left on my plate, we waited once again for the waiter to return to collect our plates and again there was no attempt to ask how the meal was, he simply picked up the plates and walked off.  He did return a few mins later with a dessert menu but at that point I was happy enough with a coffee at home so asked for the bill, paid for our drinks and the supplement for the Lobster, which wasn’t covered in the Groupon offer and left.

Overall, a very disappointing experience and I’m very glad we didn’t pay full price. Some of the food was nice, but then other parts were really bad. The service was slow, un-engaging and they couldn’t understand or adhere to a basic dietary requirement, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend The Lobster Room as venue to enjoy good seafood in Reading, Berkshire.

 

And I do feel a little guilty, as a friend who saw my FourSquare check-in asked how it was…  I said ‘poor’ before remembering she’d brought her husband Groupon vouchers for the same place for his Birthday… Opps.

Are we all getting a little too Social?

If you have a count right now, how many social networks are you on? And how much information do you disclose to those people you know and those people you don’t. Or how much information did you forget that you disclosed or didn’t think is visible to all the world.

On my last count I have probably signed up to more than a dozen “Social networks” over the years, where I’ve been asked to disclose personal information about myself. Some of these I still use and others have closed, been merged with other organizations or I’ve chosen to no longer use or delete. These include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySPace, Flickr, Digg, FourSquare to name only a few and the more well known.

All these sign-ups seem to try and justify why they’re asking for your personal data, including for ‘Security’ purposes to secure your account, to enhance your experience of their site, to share with other social contacts and the final one (which is normally hidden in the small print); to disclose / sell to the marketing department, associated companies & third parties so they can farm everything they can about you, then stalk you, advertise to you and try to sell you stuff!

In-light of the latest Google Privacy Policy from earlier in 2012, which in summary means that Google can share all the data it holds about it’s users across all platforms & products it has, where-as previously each product Google released came with it’s own T&C’s which totaled approximately 70, but meant just because you G-Buzz’d, G+’d, Emailed, watched on YouTube or searched for things, it could only keep that data within that arena to push advertising to you or share with it’s authorised associates. The new Policy now it means if you’re logged into your Google account and search for something, it can be stored then used to show you an advert in any of the platforms about that same subject, or if you search for YouTube video it can store that search or watch history and use the information to advertise to you within Google.com of the Banner in your GMail.

It’s all a bit Big Brother and Stalkerish. Google will justify it as a way of enhancing your online presence and experience, others will say storing that much information by one company is a fraud waiting to happen and I agree that with online identify theft & fraud growing, simply having all your eggs in once basket can be a dangerous thing. Companies don’t express the need for Users (that’s you and I) to ensure their password is difficult to crack and that their computer is protected so isn’t susceptible to Malware and Virus’ that disclose your details to someone who wants to take over your account. We’ve all seen the papers previous giants like Sony got hacked and more recently Yahoo, is anyone really safe!?

Google don’t readily advertise that you can disable some of these feature, the easiest is disabling Web History so they can’t store everything you search for on Google.com https://www.google.com/history/
The other option is make sure you’re not logged into your Google account when searching Google.com, use an alternate search engine, or install a 2nd browser i.e log into your Gmail with Chrome and surf the net Firefox.

Now, I’ve talked about Google alot, but there are other culprits Facebook has been in the news for it’s more recent advertising campaign of telling you what other people you know have liked to encourage you also Like it. Or Facebook will analyze what you like or information that identifies where you’ve been, such as a Check-In, location that a photo was tagged of you or even who you’ve messaged or commented on and will suggest new Friends. It’s all a little creepy, especially when people you knew from School from 20 years ago pop-up! Though in most of my cases if it was a someone at school who I didn’t care to stay in touch with, I sure ain’t fussed about giving them a ‘Poke’ or sharing stuff with them now… but that’s just me!

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and always question why something is asking you for personal information then you’ll either get knocked back and not be able to enjoy all that many services, because they make telling them your life story mandatory to let you in… or you tell a lie, create a false account or submit partially false information and you become one of the 83 million Fake Facebook accounts reported a month ago in various news sites.

Either way, people have various reason they want to have some anonymity. The bad people that just want to Troll and Abuse other users, which I whole heartedly disagree with…. if you have something to say / have an opinion, then say it to someones face and with an identity, don’t hide behind ‘RantyUser69’ or some other stupid alias.
Or the not so bad people like Me who know the value of personal privacy, have worked in sectors where I’ve been required to locate people and in one case had the tables turned and got a rude awakening from a bad/rogue client.

Also I feel I shouldn’t be forced to expose myself (not physically lol) to 3rd parties who I haven’t chosen to deal with – I don’t buy the small print of ‘we may share your information with our subsidiaries, partners or selected third parties’. Same as I hate when you innocently purchase an item from an online retailer and they suddenly assume they can spam you with product updates despite having no marketing opt out option on their website / checkout process. It really annoyed me recently when having to go on the annual hunt for car insurance and on a number of websites the Opt-Out buttons were not clear and you had to click on a drop down to display the options to Opt-Out and if I hadn’t have carefully scanned the small print I would have missed it.

Also tip for all if you – get your own domain name and within that domain name have your main email address and the option to create delivery address’. You can add a delivery address within a few simple clicks – i.e carstuff@50percent.co.uk, use the address for it’s purpose to get quotes. Once you’ve chosen your supplier you can give them your Normal address and delete the delivery address – so all those companies that try to spam you, the deleted address just bounces and you don’t hear from them again until you choose to contact them. I like this way of working and it saves having to go through the process of signing up for a brand new email service ever time. I can add as many delivery names as I like and all the emails get delivered to my inbox then I can also use rules to filter them to sub-folders if I want.

That’s enough from me for this time… any questions or comments about data disclosure, data protection, and tips of protecting your personal information feel free to drop me a line or select one of the social network options on the right hand side.

Why can't buying a mobile & getting support be easy!?

For those that know me and those that have read my blog, or seen posts on my new 50Percent Facebook page, I do like my tech & gadgets.

Following about 6 months of frustration with my Nokia E6, which on the plus side had brilliant battery life (approx 3 days), fantastic build quality, lovely keyboard, amazing 8MP camera, nice looking operating system. But on the negative, the Symbian operating system is slugish and did lock-up sometimes, the twitter/facebook app was poor, No Spotify app and I find apps continue to run in the background and keep data open when not in use.

I had brought a Nokia E6 offline, so was now due an upgrade with my network provider, Vodafone UK.
When it comes to phones, I’m in the minority where although I like to have the latest tech, improvements in speed, screen clarity, picture quality, sound quality and a qwerty keyboard, a thousand different Apps don’t interest me. I have basic requirements but I want my phone to do them well…

I can tell you what I want in one sentence all the boxes my phone must Tick: Qwerty keyboard for Email / Text, Phone, good Camera, a good battery and can run a small number of Apps incl; Spotify, Twitter/Facebook, FourSquare, a GPS SportsTracker and if possible a built in Sat Nav.

It would seem the Market to meet my requirement is rather narrow as everyone nowadays is going for bigger, better and brighter screens… which you either need a man-bag to carry, or it looks like you have a semi if it’s in your trouser pocket!
Anyway, moving away from the phallic references, after looking around at what was available in my local Vodafone store, I’ve always preferred the hands on approach, I decided I’d give the Blackberry 9900 a go. I liked the Nokia E6’s combination of the Touch Screen and Qwerty and I’d heard some people rate the newer Blackberry OS, so thought why not.
The specs read quite well; 1.2ghz processor, 8GB onboard memory and space for a microSD, 5MP camera which can record in HD, Qwerty keyboard, Touch screen and it’ll run my basic requirements of Apps.. So I ordered one. It was the usual hard-slog of a trick having to go via the Vodafone retentions team and asking very nicely for the best deal while leaning on the fact you might leave them… and I was fortunate the nice lady took kindly to my charm, gave me a free handset on a tariff that they’d normally want a £99 handset charge, on an 18month contract! Though it still annoys me that A) they’ve abolished 12month contracts and B) that you HAVE to ask for the best deals, why can’t they just look after me, their loyal customer whom they love so dearly and want to keep….

The first handset failed to materialise after a package on the courier van carrying it exploded and covered all the other packages, including my phone, in a toxic liquid. I only found this out because the package didn’t arrive, I chased the courier, who advised me. I then told Vodafone who did nothing about until 24hours later I rang them again to ask where my replacement was, to then be told… “oh, I see your note, let me ring the courier and check…” I hung around on-hold and was then advised my new handset would be dispatched shortly. I did ask the customer service agent why I had to chase them instead of them acting on my phone the previous day, to be advised that he was sorry, he’d feedback my concern, la la la… the usual customer service bullsh*t to get you off the phone.

The day then came when my handset arrived. I got home from work Friday to a package containing the little black box and my new Blackberry Bold 9900. I unpackaged it, put in my sim card, MicroSD card and turned on the device. After it had finished loading I went through the Set-Up process, selecting a BB UserName etc and attaching one of my email accounts to the device. At this point the battery was around 70% and I proceeded to set up my Twitter & Facebook accounts, along with Spotify and FourSquare. I had a look on the Blackberry App store for a Tweetdeck type tool but couldn’t find one, but while looking around the phone discovered “Social Feeds” which had automatically associated my Facebook & Twitter accounts to it, when I logged into them via the pre-installed Apps. I then added a few other of my favourite Apps including LastPass, GoogleMaps & WordPress. I noticed that in the hour or so of using my phone the battery had dropped by over 25%.

I then explored the phone and made some commonsense tweaks, like disabling the Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS, lowering the screen brightness, putting the phone into 2G (not 3G/2G) and also disabling the polling & notifications on Facebook. I noticed almost immediately that Facebook had ignored my notification settings as I was getting told that people had “liked” and commented on my status about the new Blackberry… I continued to try and tweak this but it ignored my request, so the only resolution was to go through the profile and disable the sound on Facebook, to remove the annoying pinging! Looking on google this seems to be known issue…

I charged the Blackberry full that evening and went to bed around 2am.
I woke Saturday morning to find that the battery had decreased by around 25% in 6 hours!

I tried to make further tweaks and changes over the weekend and despite hardly using the handset on Sunday and the phone being in a state that was less active than a student on a weekday morning, the battery was almost dead after about 7 hours, which is frustrating, confusing & disappointing that considering Blackberrys are renowned for their long battery life, mine couldn’t even manage half a day!

So I charged the phone again over night and unplugged the handset at around 8am this morning.
I received 2 short calls and read no more than 3 emails on the Blackberry, yet by half 9am, the battery had decreased by 12%, which by my calculations, even in a dormant state the charge wouldn’t last til 5pm!! So I called Vodafone UK and spoke to a member of their brainless (yes, you’ll see why) technical support team.
The first guy I explained the problem to said he wasn’t aware of a battery problem with the Blackberry Bold 9900, I asked him if he’d ever heard of Google and the million+ results when you search for Blackberry 9900 battery problems…  I then explained all the settings I had tweaked and I mentioned the facebook notifications, he decided I needed a software / firmware update. He checked on the Blackberry page and told me that version 7.1.0 was available and I should install the Blackberry Desktop manager and update! I had already seen articles about this update in the USA / Canada and that users had comments it improved the battery, but I’d also seen another article from mid January from a UK user saying the update had yet to be released to the UK. I asked the technical support guy 3 or 4 times, whether he was sure this update was available to me and he said Yes.

So despite my better judgment, I downloaded the 117MB file from the Blackberry website, backed up my phone, clicked Update, to be advised that I was on the most current version! I was now rather p*ssed off.

I rang back Vodafone Technical support, asked for a Manager and was advised none were available, but I could have a call back within 24hours! Which I declined and brainless Techie number 2 asked what the problem was… he read the notes of the previous guy, then decided that I had a faulty handset or battery and would send me a new one! I did explain that there were hundreds & thousands of articles online about this issue, which he refused to acknowledge and said that Vodafone had sold over a million Blackberry Bold 9900’s and this was not an issue affecting other customers!!

By this time I was fed up with the Vodafone Tech departments ignorance and narrow-mindedness so just agreed to swapping the handset. However I wasn’t done with accepting a swap was the only option and while scouring another Blackberry Forum I found a thread between a few users that said they believed the in-built Social Feeds was the cause of severe battery loss.

SO, I thought f*ck and decided to kill two swans with one monkey wrench and deleted both Facebook, with it’s annoying ignorant notifications, along with Social Feeds! And would you believe it, in the 2 hours that followed, I received a couple of phone calls, read a few emails and lost only 3% battery!

I rang Vodafone UK back to tell them they were morons and was put through a Manager on the Tech support desk, a foreign lady (had a very strong accent that wasn’t British) who reviewed the notes, apologised a lot and accepted that I found out more in 3 hours of research online than the Tech support desk at Vodafone knew!! She spent the entire 20min conversation telling me she’d address the problem with the individuals line manager as a training issue… but as I repeated several times, I spoke to more than 1 Techie and they were both using the same Vodafone Tech knowledge database! So why after releasing this handset 6 months, were they not aware of this problem, why are they ignorant to the Blackberry online user forums, why was I being mis-informed & wasted time downloading computer software and why were Vodafone wasting their own money sending out a handset that wasn’t required!

Needless to say, the conversation ended with the Vodafone Technical Support manager thanking me for identifying this issue, would pass my feedback to the rest of the team and she credited my account with a month’s free line rental!

I’m also happy to advise, that it’s now almost 9pm, my phone has been on for almost 13 hours and apart from a 15min window around midday when I plugged the Blackberry into my Laptop to back-up and check for updates, the battery is at 64%! Which is a massive improvement.

So the Tip at the end of this blog. Always question Tech Support, don’t take what they tell you as absolute correct, do your online research on user forums, a group of users is more than likely trial & error correct.
And if you have a Blackberry Bold 9900 that drops battery quicker than I drink rum ! (which is quick) then along with lowering the power consuming settings, delete Social Feeds and Facebook! Facebook can be accessed through a web browser on http://m.facebook.com which means no annoying notifications and it can’t snoop / steal your contacts on your phone either!

Incase you’re in any doubt, here is a pic with the offending App Highlighted: