The Advent of Folly

Zoella 12 day advent calendar and others and legal rights



The Zoella Advent Calendar has gone on sale, priced at £50.

£50 for crying out loud… Now, to be honest, when I heard about this I had to look her up on Google. She’s a beauty vlogger for teens. Anyway, the cost is ridiculous. Guess what you get for £50? You never will so here’s the list:



candle 130g
cookie cutter x 2
jotter pad
key ring
room spray 30ml
stickers and
a votive)

I thought it was bad enough that it cost £50 when I thought it was 24 or 25 days but it’s only 12! Half a calendar! HALF. Many people have costed out the items and it comes to less than £20 if you bought the items from places like Primark and eBay.

Twitter is an amusing place. Put in #Zoella and there are some very amusing and poignant tweets and masses of them.

Boots is a respected brand. It should have thought twice about this before joining up with Zoella to con, for that is what it is, kids, young people and their parents out of so much money.

Half a calendar
So 12 days huh? Someone can’t count. Or indeed doesn’t understand the word “advent”. The Oxford English dictionary describes it as “The first season of the Church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays”. (One could argue that other advent calendars with only 24 or 25 days may not have 4 Sundays but actually very few say “December Advent calendar”! So no-one has to start on the 1st December you should actually start on the 1st day of advent. Anyway, I digress…).

But it may be good to share this little idea. Perhaps all the customers of the Zoella advent calendar might like to return theirs with all the contents and demand a refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because it is not as described. It is not an “Advent” calendar. Go on do it and let me know how you get on!

Other advent calendars
Many other advent calendars are available. But see if you can beat the advent calendar at Fortnum and Mason. This gem, priced at £165, plays music when you open each of the doors. But….. it comes unfilled!!

Sad really, seeing the development of commercial advent calendars. (Remember the days when you loved the 24th because that day it was a double door nativity picture?!) Then there’s the WH Smith “calendar of erasers”, an advent calendar filled with rubbers. Just why?

Andy Webb from asked and hasn’t yet found an answer, although this was my favourite response:

I suppose some little kids love collecting them. But everso slightly unimaginative?

Even Greggs are coming out with advent calendars! But the Greggs calendar isn’t filled with yummy chocolates, it’s filled with paper vouchers to exchange for pastries and sausage rolls!

I suppose there is the line “Never miss an opportunity”, but it’s not clear yet whether those vouchers equal more, less or the same as the amount they cost yet! Much as I love pastry and cream cakes and much more so than the next person, do I really want to be encouraged to go to Greggs every day?! The walk won’t burn off the calories!

Really the only good one has to be the Aldi 24 days “bottles of wine” advent calendar for a penny less than Zoella’s half advent calendar. It’s already sold out though…

The advent alternatives
1)    Consider making your own advent calendar for your offspring. You may like to do what we are doing in our household, which is the Reverse advent calendar. It’s a campaign supported by UKMoneybloggers where we put some food or toiletries each day in a box and at the end of the month give it to our local foodbank. Perhaps Boots might like to think about donating a whole load of beauty products and toiletries to all the food banks local to their branches?

2) You could also try Cass Bailey, Frugal Family blogger’s Alternative Christmas Advent Calendar. I absolutely love this idea, It’s about making your own traditions and doing something for yourself/family/friends etc. You can put in your own ideas, it is great. Check it out.

3) I’ve just printed a Kindness calendar from Eileen Adamson Your Money Sorted They are such easy simple little things that are just lovely.

Frankly, I find the rise in beauty product advent calendars and their prices staggering. That’s maybe because I need more than an advent calendar’s worth of products to make me look human. But that aside, I think consumers need to consider very carefully what’s inside these things before buying. Seriously, Google “beauty advent calendars” it’s shocking and in these days when people are struggling to feed their families, sickening. Looking around, it’s clear that Zoella’s isn’t the most expensive, although it may be the poorest value.

One 5 star review of the Zoella product surely has to be sarcasm. SURELY? “So I bought this for my 7 year old daughter and she loves it, she had hours of fun with the star cookie cutter and don’t forget the confetti and its cheap as well really helps a single mother!” Seriously? I’m just donating a box full of Play-Doh stuff to the charity shop, loads of cutters in there, probably cost you a few quid!

Superdrug has excellent reviews on their same priced make up calendar whilst Boots are dreadful! Go look! Lots are being reduced too so clearly aren’t selling well. It took rather a lot of condemnation on social media and the media to get Boots to reduce this one for another reason. Apparently, as of a few hours ago today (14/11/17) Boots responded to the criticism of the calendar:

“We are sorry to hear that the price of the Zoella 12 Days of Christmas Advent                          Calendar has disappointed a number of customers, we always listen to feedback.”

a spokesperson for Boots told Digital Spy. Maybe they thought half price because it is HALF A FLIPPING CALENDAR?!

The Zoella’s advent calendar review
This amused me. If you don’t mind swearing and can sit through an 8 minute long review, this is brilliant. Let it be a lesson to anyone else wanting to rip off kids, young people and their parents! An honest review of everything inside, have a look before you are tempted to buy!

I think I’ve only subscribed to a couple of consumer organisations on Youtube and no-one else. Today I subscribed to JaakMaate‘s channel. His witty sarcasm is right up my street!

My favourite is his review of number 8. Obviously. If you want to take on his idea for number 8 see Tips and if you want to write to the Boots bosses the contact details are here

Zoella response
Here is Zoella’s video response to the criticism. Please don’t torture yourself by watching it all I have set it to go from her response to the criticism of her half advent calendar. You will see that Zoella says that she only had input regarding creativity on “great products” (remember many of these products are available in Primark and Wilko for less than £1) and worked on it for a year and had nothing to do with the pricing. Here are my thoughts on this:

1) She has ownership of the brand name, so why would she allow a contract to go ahead where she has no say in the pricing which reflects on her brand?

2) She’s made quite a bit of money in the past, are we to believe that she doesn’t know how business works?

3) No business, Boots and hers included, would discuss development of a product for a year without talking about projected sales and profits.

So, either Zoella doesn’t have a clue about business and is only making £1 a calendar or her response is just everso slightly disingenuous?

Boots response
I asked Boots to comment on the 12 days and on Zoella’s claims in the above video. Boots failed to comment on this and a spokesperson for it added to the above with only…

“We will be offering the product at half price during our Christmas promotion, where             the calendar will be on sale for £25.00 from Thursday 16th November.

The Zoella lifestyle advent calendar is full of 12 exclusive treats which are all clearly               listed on and cannot be purchased separately.”

Have you bought her product? Are you happy with it? If so, you must have more money than sense. Hopefully, if you were happy, you are now outraged that not only was she part of a campaign to fleece children, young people and their parents, she is now trying to wriggle her way out of it by pretending she knows nothing about how business works.

Show us the contract, Zoella. Put your not so hard earned cash where your mouth is.

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Make Light Work of Black Friday

Black Friday is coming around again, that day in the calendar which marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday is 24th November this year, but are there really bargains to be had? Last year a Which? investigation into Black Friday revealed that 49% of products on offer were actually cheaper in the months before or after Black Friday and the prices it checked last year showed that only 8% of the Black Friday deals were actually the lowest prices. In September Argos was lambasted for its 3 for 2 toy offer where many of the toys worked out cheaper if you bought them the day before.

So how careful do we need to be of Black Friday? Are there really bargains to be had or is it all hype?

1) Write a list! Write down all the things you need to buy. This can include: the people for whom you have to buy presents, possible ideas and a budget. This will help you not go over a budget if you are easily carried away with possible bargains and gives you choices.

2) Do your research. Armed with your list, look up the likely stores for those people/items. Make a list of the prices that you find.

3) Use comparison websites. Do an Internet search on specific items and use sites which will compare prices. You may find that there are other stores which stock the items you are after and some may have a better deal regardless of Black Friday!

4) Get right ahead! Put items in baskets! Go online and put things in baskets and don’t checkout. Make a note of what stores you have done this with! Then when Black Friday comes take a look at all the online baskets and see who has what for the cheapest. This way, not only will you have done all your research but you’ll be ahead of others shopping that day for popular items likely to go out of stock!

5) Black Friday isn’t just about gifts for others! Often people will say it’s only a bargain if you need it. Twaddle. We don’t need half the clothes and shoes etc. that we own, but if we see a pair of boots reduced it makes the purchase far more attractive. So, have an idea of what items you would like for yourself, if they are reduced.

6) Check for further discounts. Internet search your items with phrases like “discount codes” “discount offers” and “vouchers” to see if you can get more discounts. There are a number of sites that provide discount codes for numerous stores.

7) Check out Zeek*. You can buy and sell gift cards on Zeek. Choose from a range of monetary value gift cards for hundreds of stores with varying discounts.

8) Black Friday is not just for Christmas. Many retailers spread their deals over the month and others throughout the year. The idea is that consumers will spend the same amount over a year whether the majority is across all year or concentrated over a few weeks. So don’t just look for bargains on Black Friday. There will be Cyber Monday and places like Amazon have daily deals which also need to be checked. Use the Camel Camel Camel website which is a price tracker that provides price drop alerts and price history for products sold by Amazon.

9) Emails and social media. Sign up to newsletters now. You can always unsubscribe later but often newsletters are the best way to be the first to learn of any discounts and offers. “Like” Facebook pages and follow on Twitter as many retailers will announce their offers and discount codes through these methods too. Follow money bloggers who will frequently share discounts and deals. Join forums and money saving groups if you really want to get everything going and check with others if so-called deals are really deals. You could set up a separate email account for all these emails and then allocate some time each day to look at just the deals!

10) Store versus shops. If you intend to go to the stores on Black Friday take your list with you and check the online prices either with that or on the phone. Then you have the double whammy, as sometimes items are in stock online only or in store only.

11) List upcoming events. Think of future, parties etc. You can pick up some bargain toys for children’s parties that you know you will have in the year and just put them away. (But remember toys will be discounted a lot in the run up to Christmas and after Christmas sales too).

12) Avoid the mobs. Possibly impossible?! Certainly if you are setting out early for certain stores! But this is where you need a) your list so you don’t get carried away and b) to be sure that that store will have items you want. Remember too that offers written on doors are often just a way to get you in and there may be limited stock!

13) Take care on seasonal items. Things like Winter coats are likely to be in the sales and discounted further when retailers want to get rid of their stock and Christmas decorations will still cheaper after the event!

14) Use Cashback sites. Sites like Topcashback*, Quidco*, Free Fivers*, Kidstart* (Kidstart cashback goes to your nominated child’s bank account). Others that I’ve not used are  Imutual, Give or take and there are others. They all provide cashback when you go through their sites and make purchases from the stores listed. Check them all, as they have different retailers and different percentages! Do this before filling your online baskets so you’re all set to go! Most have apps so you can do this whilst out shopping when you see a bargain and can order and get it delivered instead! Don’t rely on this though as there may be terms and conditions that you miss (such as using vouchers) negating the cashback.

15) Make sure that a promise is a promise. Some places have a price promise which is great. But read the small print! Some stores such as John Lewis won’t match an online price, for example. Others will only match the price if it was on sale that exact same day and most, if not all, will tell you it has to be exactly the same item/bundle. So, exactly the same colour, make, model, free gift, warranty etc. (Although remember your consumer rights provide more protection than any “free warranty”).

16) Check the model. Black Friday is usually good for getting the latest technology, but check the release dates for the next model. Will you still want that ‘phone or laptop if the newer version comes out a week later?

17) Stay up late! If you have done all your preparation, be ready to go online just after midnight on Black Friday morning, so you get your bargains before things go out of stock.

18) Security. Check that the site is secure and bona fide to prevent any fraud. Don’t just click on the first site that comes up in a search engine query unless you’re sure where you’re going.

19) Add ons. A lot of the items may need additional things such as batteries. Don’t get these at the same time, you will more than likely get these cheaper when you do research on that at a later date!

20) Articles. Every so often Google “Black Friday offers 2017”! This will bring up store pages and online newspaper articles which reveal where some of the best bargains are.

Remember your consumer rights are just the same when buying items in the sales.

Should you have need to complain see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!



How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!





*Referral links.  I’ll get a few pounds if you sign up once you’ve made more than whatever their minimum is. (Topcashback is the one I really use and that’s £10) Depending on when you click on this link you should receive a bonus too but that depends on the offer on at the time. You can then use your own referral link and send to friends too! Free money!

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How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

The One Show today covers Terms and Conditions. Who reads them? Would you follow them if told?

There are pages and pages of small print. How many of us tick the box that says “Agree to terms and conditions”, only to fall foul later when we need to complain?

The Government thought so too and there was a call for evidence from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills for consumers to provide feedback regarding their experiences. The open consultation ended on 25 April 2016 but there is still no response. I’ve requested details of when this will be forthcoming but as yet not heard anything.

So what can you do in the meantime if you feel that the terms and conditions you agreed to actually turned out to be unfair? Don’t worry, all is not lost!

Consumer Rights Act 2015 and unfair contracts
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) creates a ‘fairness test’ to stop consumers being put at unfair disadvantage. A term is unfair if it tilts the rights and responsibilities between the consumer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. The test is applied by looking at what words are used and how they could be interpreted. It takes into consideration what is being sold, what the other terms of the contract say and all the circumstances at the time the term was agreed. There is an exemption for the essential obligations of contracts – setting the price and describing the main subject matter – provided the wording used is clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs)

For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he or she would not have made had he or she been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.

The regulations prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices covered:

A general ban – on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith).

Misleading practices  a practice misleads through the information it contains, or its deceptive presentation, and causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision specifically; general misleading information, creating confusion with competitors’ products or failing to honour commitments made in a code of conduct.

Aggressive sales techniques using harassment, coercion or undue influence– significantly impairs, or is likely to significantly impair, the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence – and  thereby causes him to take a different transactional decision.

31 specific practices (that would be two long boring pages of  post! It is pretty thorough though and all of them are listed in the book ). 🙂

How to use
Say for example, your mobile ‘phone is constantly losing signal and you can’t use it like any customer would want to, that is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because it has not supplied you with services carried out with reasonable skill and care and you have every right to terminate the contract. If however, the company tells you that in the terms and conditions of the contract that you signed, you can’t break a contract early under any circumstances, that’s a breach of the above laws, because they have not kept to their side of the bargain! In fact, the telecoms sector is downright awful for customer service so here is some more advice on them. All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers.

Another example. You were told that you could have a free cup of coffee and cake for giving your email address. You signed up. You had your coffee and cake they then tell you that in the terms and conditions you have to clean the floor. You argue that you didn’t know but they say “It’s in the terms and condition”. Tough. For them. Under the CRA it could be an unfair contract, because cleaning the floor could be considered as worth more in payment than the coffee and cake (maybe it would depend how big the floor was?!) But under the CPUTRs it is a big fat breach. You would argue that you were misled into giving your email address.

When you complain use the Top 20 Tips.

To keep up to date with the latest information about consumer rights sign up to the newsletter. You won’t be bombarded with emails because I can’t be bothered to set up all those automatic weekly things trying to sell you Stuff! I probably only get round to doing a couple a year!


For more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters covering the majority of issues you might incur with most sectors  GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!





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Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon

Press release

Rail passengers will soon get their long-awaited Rail Ombudsman, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for disgruntled railway users across the country. An Ombudsman provides an independent escalation process, beyond the railway company, to make decisions on passenger complaints.




Consultation closing soon
The Office of Rail and Road has said that it will introduce an ADR scheme in the rail sector. As this will require changes to rail companies’ Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs), it is consulting on these changes. The Rail Delivery Group , (working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

The consultation on this important issue closes on the 7 November 2017. Yet there has been no coverage in the media nor any push from Government to ensure the general public see this and are given a chance to respond. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! welcomes the consultation but is dismayed at the lack of coverage. “Nearly every commuter has had reason to complain about at least one train journey in recent years! But at the moment very few even know their rights never mind how to take their complaints further!”

Current situation
In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost nine in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed.

Dewdney says that there are other legal rights for complaints in the rail sector but even fewer people are aware of these than those around delays.

“The rail companies all have a passenger charter which links to the National Rail Network guidelines. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to rail travel from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services which must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress. Things for which you may gain redress under this Act are:

  • overcrowding
  • not able to use a booked seat
  • claim for consequential losses

If you complain and you think the response is unsatisfactory you can take the matter further. If your journey was outside London then you go through Transport Focus For London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground) contact the London Travel Watch  but decisions made by them are not binding on the rail companies.

Proposed scheme
The proposed Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme would be binding on the rail companies that joined. This means they would be obliged to act upon the ombudsman’s decision.

Marcus Williamson the editor of consumer information website, who
has been monitoring private ADR schemes since 2014, said “If a Rail Ombudsman is to be effective it must be truly independent and its performance closely monitored by Government. Those running it should have passed a ‘fit and proper person’ test and be fully accountable to the public, as well as to the rail companies.”

Williamson and Dewdney wrote the June 2016 report “Ombudsman Omnishambles” where a number of issues were highlighted regarding the regulation of Ombudsmen. They are concerned that whilst these issues have still not been addressed or resolved by the relevant regulatory bodies, the proposed Rail Ombudsman system could mean that consumers are put at risk again.

What can be done to rectify it?

  • A “Fit and proper person” test, as already required in many business and public sector environments, should be introduced for the trusted “Ombudsman” role and  ADR providers.
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) must implement ongoing monitoring of ADR bodies, rather than rely on an annual review. This should include checking that statements made in the media are true and that the company’s accounts properly reflect the ombudsman’s performance.
  • CTSI, Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or Ombudsman Association (OA) should provide a means by which the public can lodge complaints about ADR providers and develop procedures by which the relevant body can take the necessary action.
  • The rail ADR/ombudsmen schemes must be established appropriately, effectively and properly.
  • It should be compulsory for rail companies to join the ADR/ombudsman scheme.


Further reading for information on misleading consumers, business and the failure of the regulatory bodies:

Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

The Retail Ombudsman is no more

ORR Response to consultation by Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney




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Your rights when your hotel overbooks

So you have booked your hotel and you’re looking forward to your stay and then disaster. The hotel contacts you and says it has overbooked or even worse you get to the hotel to find that it has overbooked. What are your rights and what should you do?

1) If your accommodation was booked with a UK travel company, then your contract will probably be with the hotel. But it could be that if part of a whole package then the contract it with that company. Your contract is with the business to which you paid the money.

2) The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. Clearly if the hotel has overbooked, this is not the case!

3) If you have to go to a different accommodation due to overbooking then you can claim from the hotel for breach of contract. This would be what a court would deem as reasonable and could be the difference between the cost of the booked hotel and the new accommodation. So for example, a hotel in the area but of a similar standard, but if you can’t book due to the late notice then you should evidence that you tried to book a similar hotel but couldn’t and claim for the difference. You might also claim for extra travel expenses incurred due to the overbooking.

4) If you have booked directly with a hotel not in the UK then you will need to deal with the laws in that country. However, if it is in the UK you will be able to quote EU laws see How to complain when booking a service based in the EU. The UK European Consumer Centre should also help with any claim.

5) If you have booked your hotel as part of a package quote the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992. Regulations 12 and 13 refer to alterations in the package holiday. You are entitled to redress including:

Loss of value, the difference between the cost paid for the holiday and the one received.
Out-of-pocket expenses incurred reasonable costs as a result of the breach of contract
Loss of enjoyment, compensation for the disappointment and distress caused by things going wrong.
Personal injury, compensation for any personal injury incurred abroad (specialist legal advice is thoroughly recommended here).

6) Follow these Tips when complaining.



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