So, time for another Tesco complaint as I asserted my consumer rights again! I know how popular Tesco posts are so here we go.
Last year, there I was opening my bag of Tesco risotto rice and found an insect. Eugh. Unfortunately my natural instinct was to kill it, before thinking it would have been better to film it running freely round the rice. I named him Phillip after Phillip Clarke Tesco CEO. Seemed apt somehow.
So after finding something else to cook, I complained to Clarke. Without boring you with the details here are some snippets:
“… I was horrified to find a live insect crawling through the rice. I killed it, shame but I didn’t want it getting away. I have attached a photo. Obviously, as you will know this breaks the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) as the product was far from satisfactory quality and it was not fit for purpose either! I didn’t want to cook an insect. I’m sorry that I don’t know what kind of insect it is, but as the paella was packaged in Italy perhaps the packers there can tell you. … someone tweeted that they had found an insect in their Tesco rice.. This leads me to think that it could be a serious issue and concern for Tesco…. How many other insects are crawling around the rice packaging area? Unidentified object in the bagging area” takes on a new meaning don’t you think?
So, I have emailed you before, you may recall that I emailed you earlier in the year, but Tesco staff and you did not reply and I took Tesco to court. I won. I emailed you a couple of years ago and you ignored me then too. However, I’m hoping that someone in the Executive Team may be concerned…….who wants insects in their food? Not a vegetarian certainly.
I trust that I will hear from someone (it would be nice if you had the courtesy of responding, it would make a nice change)…” etc. etc.
Well. They asked me to take it back to the store. Nah, a) effort and b) how do we know it wouldn’t get “lost”.
So I said I would post it. I also kept some rice just in case it should get “lost” the insect had after all been crawling through it. This is the parcel:
I got offered £30. Make of that what you will. In the scheme of things not very much given that I could have taken it to Trading Standards and if I was dishonest could have said I’d eaten another one and had been ill. But as I have said many times, I don’t lie and I don’t complain just for the sake of getting pay outs. It is always about the principle of the thing.
I also asked what investigation they were undertaking to prevent this happening again. You’ll be pleased to hear that they did contact their supplier. Perhaps not so pleased to hear that the supplier has many checks for pest control. The poor old beetle was confused. I kid ye not. “On examination of the pack and rice returned we identified the insect as a confused flour beetle.” The report also went on to state that it could not discount the possibility of cross contamination occurring in the distribution chain or storage at home.” Now, given that actually I had taken delivery of my shopping that day and the bag had gone straight from bag to (clean!) work surface we can throw out that possibility. So, the company said it had had no other complaint. So, are we left with the assumption that it is cross contamination? Watch out for those beetles in your flour or anything else given that they apparently get confused easily.
Couple of weeks later I found another insect in rice! Unfortunately I couldn’t remember which bag of rice the previous one was or I would have gone to Trading Standards stating there was a clearly a problem!
So what extra protein have you ever found in food?
I love going to court. Odd as it may sound. If it has got to that stage because the other party has annoyed me that much it is a pleasure to carry out that threat “If I am not fully satisfied with your response I will seek redress in the Small Claims Court.” Companies think you won’t bother or in the case of Tesco just ignore you. I go to court when I’m pretty certain I’m going to win because a Law has clearly been broken and in the case of Tesco the other party has simply not done what it said in black and white it would do. You can’t get much nearer to being 100% sure you are going to win! But people are using this process less and less and this number is expected to fall given the changes.
The Observer Wot I was In On Sunday I was in The Observer in an article about Small Claims Court fees going up. (If you are here having read the article then you might be looking for the Tesco court story. You’ll find that here, the update here the end here, my first post about Tesco here some fun with Tesco here and here, another story here and reasons why you should not let companies to get away with even tiny amounts of money here with another Tesco story to come in the next couple of weeks! 🙂 )
Not sure what I think of all this media coverage for just carrying out my mantra “It’s the principle of the thing”. BBC did hair and make up and the radio no-one sees me so that has a preference over the paper I think! Although you never know what the paper will actually say of course so in a way just as nerve racking as live stuff! Harriet Meyer was lovely and the photographer Antonio Olmos, well considering I can’t have been nearly as interesting or quite as frightening as most of the stuff he does he was very nice to me. Well other than refusing to Photoshop my picture because he is a professional and my son being disappointed when he went to the door knowing that “Antonio” was coming that he wasn’t actually Gold Power Ranger. The Bull and I were quite pleased with how the kitchen looked!
So, the fees?
In yet another blow to consumers, the Government after having slashed legal aid has now increased the costs for the Small Claims Court. Find them here. (I’ve noticed that many money websites have not been ahead of the game and although the fees go up today (22nd April) have not updated their sites. So be warned follow that link for accurate information as it is the Court site! Update court fees went up again in 2015.
What will this mean for consumers?
The (in my opinion) wrong decision has been made as is often typical on short sighted thinking. Costs of running the court go up so lets put fees up. But, as The Observer reported cases going to court “…slumped by more than 50% in the past five years, with 29,577 hearings in 2013, compared to 53,248 in 2007. So just watch the cases going to court continue to drop as people don’t risk the higher fees. It’s false economy. Increasing fees does not encourage anyone to use the services so it is bad news for consumers and probably staff because watch the redundancies follow as not as many staff are needed.
For cases over £1000 the costs are rising significantly. It is a sliding scale depending on how much you are claiming and for claims ranging from £3,000 to £5,000, there is a near doubling of the fee to £205. It is obvious, at least to me that this will put people off going to court.
There is help for people on low incomes etc. But get through a 32 page document first!
Not a lot. With Trading Standards budgets slashed consumers are left more vulnerable and that is a postcode lottery again. Contacting them is a possibility. Citizen’s Advice, again budgets slashed so they are limited in what they can do. Mediation is a cheaper alternative worth considering.
You have the Financial Ombudsman for financial products, free service but still takes time and CISAS for member telecom companies. I have used both (as you would expect). Won both times with FO and with CISAS against Virgin. The second time with Virgin and CISAS the complaint was partially upheld. I believe that the mot recent one (judgement in last few weeks) was only partially upheld due to appalling administration. I may write up a post about this. But for now be warned make sure you have everything as you want it when you send it through. Despite forms saying that you CAN add to evidence and directing staff to that form and quoting it you may get refused, like I did even though it was sent just five minutes after the ‘phone call saying it was ready. The adjudication is probably fair and timely but getting it there can be stressful. I found it far more stressful than taking Tesco to court due to the inefficiency. There are other ombudsman services covering various sectors.
Do everything you can to avoid going to court. Don’t physically or verbally threaten. Write following these Top 20 Tips. Do some Internet searching on the individual or company and see what other people have done, any CCJs against them already to help you make a decision. (Small charge)
What to consider if thinking of going to court
1) It takes ages. From start to court hearing was 6 months. The process is relatively simple but not always completely clear and changes, so don’t be caught out if you have been through the process before.
2) If, like me you are thinking of taking a large organisation like Tesco to court the chances of you being paid when you win are of course high. I really wanted to not be paid in time so I could send the bailiffs in and I didn’t get paid but it was just the usual poor internal communication. 🙁 But seriously, if you take a rip off builder to court for example, consider the chances of being paid, the potential further costs of enforcing the judgement, and the builder going bankrupt.
3) Whether you can take on further stress knowing that the whole process will take 6 months and a fair bit of your time putting evidence together and undertaking the court paperwork. (I did not find the court paperwork cumbersome but putting evidence together can be).
4) The likelihood of winning.
Tips for going to court
You have looked through all the Small Claims Court information and have decided to proceed. So how best to do it?
1) Be objective don’t use any emotive language.
2) Be polite and precise.
3) When using appendices (I had numerous!) number them and refer to each piece by the number in the explanation in order. Make it easy for the judge.
4) Clearly demonstrate how the Law has been broken e.g. “The photo of item in appendix x shows described fault..”
5) Use good English!
6) Check deadlines for court processes.
7) Check and double check through your paperwork and unless you are absolutely sure it makes perfect sense, get someone to check through for you.
8) Make sure you use the online process, it is cheaper.
9) When at court be respectful and allow for them running late!
10) Don’t forget to claim for court fees and any out of pocket expenses for going to court.
A little while ago someone tweeted me to say that ao.com’s customer service was really good. Me being me tweeted something like “I bet I could find fault!!!!” Next thing I knew I was being invited up to Bolton from London to see round the place for myself. All my train tickets and accommodation were sorted and off I went. In the meantime the Post Office didn’t pick up the tickets to send me. Quick as a flash I was telling them what to do to get some money back but I don’t think they needed me to tell them! James, the Customer Services Manager gave me a tour round and have to say I was impressed. One of my Top Ten Tips for companies about preventing complaints in the first place is about ensuring that staff are well trained, equipped and looked after. Look after your staff and they will look after your business. It’s common sense and appears to be the CEO’s ethos.
How does AO look after staff?
Now, frankly, free chocolate always available has got to be a winner in my book. They keep it in the fridge though which is the wrong temperature for chocolate and I wouldn’t want to wait for the chocolate to reach room temperature. (Told you I would find a fault, took me ten minutes.) But actually they do do more than that. Days out, subsidised cafe, a Starbucks, with hairdressers and therapies and a bar to come….! The days after I went a member of staff tweeted that they had a massage at their desk. Not happy about that either, they could have done that when I was up there! There’s even a team dedicated to organise this stuff! “Creator of Happiness” is the job title of one member of staff. The Daily Fail would call that a Mickey Mouse job title. She and her team spend all day cooking up ways to make staff happy and enjoy working at AO. I’m sorry, but this is not rocket science. It is obvious that if staff are looked after they look after your customers which means they pay money and stay loyal and spread the word. Yeah well common sense is seriously lacking. As you may have seen on the picture on my Facebook page “Common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone’s garden”. Many companies could learn from the continuing success of AO.
They train staff for 8 weeks before they are really let loose on customers. That’s more than most customer call centres methinks. Nice that the call centre is in Bolton and not India too. Staff are supported if it is felt that they could do something better and staff turnover is minimal, again saving costs! Interestingly, their HR department is small, another saving.
Staff are put on a Performance Improvement Plan if their customer service needs support. This focuses on call quality, effectiveness and feedback levels, key areas in customer service. I met one member of staff who had been on this and spoke highly of it. Rather than seeing it as a method of getting rid of poor staff he said he had learnt a lot from it and was really glad he had gone on it. That’s the theory behind such schemes in the Public Sector but they don’t work as well funny enough…
AO is the 4th (second year running) best place to work in the UK according to The Sunday Times. But although I could be tempted to work there if I actually liked people, I couldn’t. Too many happy smiley people. Before going freelance I worked in the public sector, all this smiling felt a bit alien to me. That and having to be nice to people complaining, being idiotic and the like. *shudders.
Met the CEO. I liked him. (I know, it’s a rarity but it happens). Why? Well firstly anyone that says publically that they would rather stick pins in their eyes when asked to meet David Cameron because he has no interest in meeting a politician who does not care about making things better for everyone and not just the rich, is of course onto a winner with me! I bet Phillip Clarke from Tesco has/would. But then Clarke doesn’t respond to customers because he doesn’t care about them, only profits. A foolish short sighted approach but then you know my thoughts on Tesco! The CEO of Currys of course is one of Cameron’s mates. See how happy their staff are! (just Google “Unhappy Currys staff” you don’t need links from me!) Compare that ignorance and contempt for staff with John Roberts who invited me up to Bolton, paid for the travel and hotel (I reviewed on Trip Advisor!) and spent over an hour with me. Could have chatted for ages especially about the foolishness of this Government in not putting money into preventative services for children and young people which costs dearly later but that’s another post…! Compare Clarke ignoring his customers so much that they end up taking Tesco to court with John’s approach. When I went into John’s office there was a pile of letters that he was signing, personally. A couple of apologies following up complaints and loads saying thank you to people, staff and customers. He certainly feels it is important to treat each customer individually. The company empowers staff to make decisions regarding how to resolve complaints and believes that the customer is always right. Not in that trite ridiculous way but they do do what the customer wants to have any issues resolved. Dedicated staff in all areas with good internal communications (yep that other thing I keep banging on about) means that they get good comments on their Facebook page. Unlike certain other retailers….
The cost of ignoring customers
Quite a fresh approach. Like I said, it’s not flipping rocket science but it is rare in my experience of being a customer…. It’s obvious and common sense to me. Why? Simple. When I complain and don’t get results I escalate. Now when that escalates it has cost the company far more than if they had just dealt with me properly in the first place. Let’s take Tesco as an example (Surprise!) In my case which led to taking Tesco to court, the first few emails were responded to but then they didn’t honour their promise. I involved the Twitter team. Nice people, they tried but poor internal communication lack of training and empowering them meant that they made the situation worse. I only wanted my money back that they had promised to give me! Off to court. Their legal people got involved, made an offer, I refused more legal people time. I won. I wrote up the post it’s there to stay. How much did that cost Tesco? In real terms far more than if they had just paid up in the first place. Look around the blog and you will see lots of examples of my contacting a CEO, sometimes this gets passed down to the Executive team (happens in Tesco sometimes if it isn’t ignored) sometimes as often with Sainsbury’s, the CEO responds. Isn’t it obvious to a company that that costs them more than if staff at the frontline were equipped to deal with complaints properly? I’m loathe to say this at risk of people trying it on with AO, but they even pay out when it is doubtful that then customer is telling the truth. This would irk me I have to say, “IT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING” I would yell! But you can see the reasoning behind it. A low percentage of people are dishonest so therefore a low percentage of paying out. Very few complaints get escalated leaving the more senior people to get on with other things.
(Well, currently putting together a few questions about irons sent from someone with a different name and I’ll be testing knowledge, with any luck I’ll be able to complain about something). So far it would appear that in the North “pants” are ironed…
Back at the nearby hotel I had a lovely meal thanks for asking. The view was wasted on me though but the food and drink wasn’t!
CEO With Common Sense. AO use them!
Look after your staff and they will look after your business. It’s common sense and appears to be the CEO’s ethos.
I emailed James and asked for the emails of everyone I had met so I could thank them for their time. He wouldn’t give me John’s email. Some things are still the same whatever company you look at. It was of course no matter that I didn’t get the email address from James. I sent my email directly to John later that day. Obviously. I am The Complaining Cow after all.
You know what annoys me? Ah hmm fair enough, the Internet isn’t big enough for the list. Ok, one of the things that really annoys me in customer service is downright incompetence.
Last year, we bought two new ovens. One of the oven’s instructions (on the oven) was in German. Under the Sale of Goods Act I would say that was not fit for purpose, given that I don’t speak German.
So I telephoned the company where we bought the ovens from and started my spiel. At this point I just wanted to reset the thing into English so I could turn the thing on! So no actual need for a full refund, just someone to tell me how to change it. So they just said they would contact the supplier to send out an engineer. Nope, I was pushed from pillar to post, you know, customer services helpline, switchboard, AEG and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Now, good old Uncle Tom was indeed employed by them. His advice was great. “Can you use the other oven and follow the instructions on the one in English?” I kid you not, he expected me to use the other oven, counting the times I selected each electronic choice whenever I used the oven! Idiot.
This was one of the very rare occasions I didn’t keep on at the retailer, mainly because I didn’t want a refund. Eventually I got an engineer out from Electrolux who seem to own rather a lot of companies. (Strictly speaking you know they are technicians not engineers). Meanwhile I was trying to register the ovens on the AEG website. Now, on the site one can select the model number then put in the serial number. I did this with a couple of items and then tried the ovens. It wouldn’t process. So I sent a complaint through the web form. I got an email back stating that they needed the model numbers. I think Uncle Tom Cobley had changed jobs because there in front of him was the model number! I pointed out that this had been sent. A week later I wrote again and Uncle Tom’s sister emailed asking for the model number. So I emailed a screen shot with the model number in it! I didn’t get a response.
Meanwhile! The clocks were out of sync so I tried to get this sorted too. I wrote to the CEO (you can find contact details for CEOs at ceoemail.com) regarding the issues. I had a reply from the UK Head of Customer Care who wanted to ‘phone me to discuss. As you know I hate doing that so insisted on correspondence by email.
Then! After the “engineer” arrived and said two new clocks were needed and left paperwork stating that he would be back the following week in the AM, I received a text a week later saying he was coming in the afternoon. Oh no he wasn’t! I emailed the Head chappie again and told him what time the “engineer” would be coming! Funny enough I was right…!
Got everything sorted as you would expect and again the chappie asked to telephone me to discuss redress. I loathe doing this and I’m glad I refused because I would never have asked for the £250 I got!
Then! This happened! Something happened to the lining. The oven is nearly a year old by this point, so they could argue a repair and change the lining possibly. (One could argue about how long the lining should last would be my point and still fight for full refund/replacement!) That’s what the Bull thought but you’d think he’d know me by now. I got my new oven. A newer model it would appear. Great. But it would appear that I am having trouble registering the oven on the website……………….