International Year of Cooperatives

Apparently 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives. Unfortunately, after a small error of judgement with my Christmas shopping in December, there’s one cooperative which won’t be on my Christmas list next year.

The Co-operative Electrical Shop claim that they…

“…pride ourselves on our high standards of Customer Service and want you to be happy with your purchase.”

So, being keen on good customer service, I decided to pay marginally more to buy from them. This was a Christmas present, so I wanted to avoid any problems. Things didn’t get off to a great start when this arrived at the door…

Just to clarify, that’s not the state it was in after opening any packaging. It arrived like that, completely unpackaged with an address label on the bottom! The other tiny problem with the lack of packaging, aside from looking like it had been kicked all the way from the warehouse, is that the intended recipient was the one who answered the door. Lucky it wasn’t a surprise gift or anything then!

Oh well, not a great start, but I’m sure a company so keen on customer service will only be too happy to rectify the mistake. I was feeling a little more optimistic after phoning their customer service line; there was no argument over a full refund and they arranged a pick up for the next day, since I was already going to be working at home waiting for another delivery. What could possibly go wrong…

One thing that could go wrong, and did, is no one showing up to pick up the return! When I phoned to find out why, it appears that they managed to miss off my house number when booking the parcel company pick up. So, two mistakes. Unlucky. They pride themselves on customer service though, so at this point I’d expect some serious effort to put things right.

I was disappointed. I wasn’t able to work at home to wait for another attempted pick up the same week, and despite explaining that a shorter time slot than all-day-maybe or at least a Saturday might be a good idea having been messed about so much already… the computer said no.

At this point I’d like to point out that eSpares managed to deliver 1 minute in to a very specific one hour delivery slot at the same time of year, and they got the order right first time! I mention this because it’s nice to point out that I don’t always complain… and because they gave me a recommend a friend code!!

So, to cut a long story short, they did eventually pick up the ‘parcel’, and they did eventually refund my money, but I’d call that grudging just about managing the legal minimum of customer service, and certainly nothing to be proud of. I wrote to point this out but unsurprisingly no one bothered to reply. Not even a stock, we got your letter and are basically going to ignore you, response.

I won’t be making the mistake of using the Co-operative Electrical Shop again. I’ll be sticking to these instead:

  • By appointment to Jo and JT. Purveyors of home appliances and more, John Lewis. John Lewis have been getting worse recently. Not as bad as Ikea but I’m unlikely to be using their electrical department again.
  • By appointment to Jo and JT. Purveyors of spare parts, eSpares.

Updated: I haven’t got round to posting about John Lewis yet but they aren’t as good as they once were. (19 November 2012)



It’s been a bit quiet here the last few months as we finally got to the end of the grand moving plan! We actually moved a couple of weeks ago but the new house came without telephone or broadband… or mobile signal or TV aerial!! Today our new found productivity looks set to come to an abrupt end with the installation of a shiny new internet connection. And this is not just broadband, this is fibre-to-a-green-box-just-400-meters-away-and-same-old-copper-wires-the-rest-of-the-way broadband.

That isn’t the internet I was looking for either: I had pretty much decided to go for fibre-optic-cable-provider broadband. That wasn’t the only last minute change of plan, so to ease back in to blogging, this is the first in a series about the companies supplying our new house. In most cases I’m reluctant to go as far as recommending companies because, as is often the case, your mileage may vary. It may help someone though, so it’s no coincidence that communication provider is first up…

By appointment to Jo and JT. Purveyors of telephone and broadband, BT.

BT did well to snatch this one from Virgin Media. I’ve been looking forward to a new phone company for longer than a new house, and judging by the increasing flood of post from Virgin Media, they’re pretty keen to get new customers. Adding to the temptation, the new house was already with Virgin. I phoned them to sign up. In contrast to their cheerful letters requesting the pleasure of my custom, I got through to someone who must have previously been a doctor surgery receptionist. Partly because of the price and partly because the overwhelming impression things would not go smoothly, I changed my mind.

Eventually, after trying several other companies, I ended up picking  BT Infinity. Only time will tell if that was a good idea or not, but they’ve been ok so far. It did take them a long time to actually connect us, and it would have been nice if they could prioritise customers with no service at all over upgrades, but what I liked is that they did what they said, when they said they would. @BTCare were also very responsive and helpful, and were able to provide BTOpenzone access to keep us ticking over, which was great.

I’m much more optimistic than I was with our previous supplier- TalkTalk even seem to be messing up closing our account, so they’ve managed to keep up their terrible customer service to the very end!

…and BT Openreach.

Take one router to connect to the internet? Now I just have two boxes to power! One quirk of BT Infinity is the separation of VDSL modem (owned by BT Openreach) and Homehub (provided by BT), which even means that the engineer brings one and the other gets posted separately. I can’t imagine there’s a technical reason not to have everything in one box, but Power over Ethernet might be nice to keep the tangle of power cords under control. I was wondering how they would cope with a master socket behind the front door with no power, but luckily the new (huge) master socket is behind the TV. (Must find the Current Cost IAM to see how much power the two boxes are using.)