12 Top Tips of Christmas Sales!

12 Top Tips of Christmas Sales!

Out to the sales? Are you really buying a bargain? What can you do if you change your mind? What if the item is faulty? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results shares her 12 top tips for ensuring you know your rights when shopping in the sales.

Budget carefully
1) Have a price in mind for the amount(s) you are prepared to spend on an individual or total items. It is easy to get carried away especially in store as retailers put out items to entice you to spend more and that’s when you are most likely to buy things you don’t want or need! Keep an eye on your list of items and prices!

Make a list
2) Start a list of things you want and/or would consider buying and add to it as you think of things. Have a list of likely stockists and current prices. Use comparison websites to find these. This preparation will stand you in good stead even if you hit the stores as well as shopping online.

Change of mind
3) Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds when buying something not on the retailer’s premises. There are some exceptions to this such as bespoke items. Check the terms and conditions for returns though as you may have to pay return postage if the item is not in breach of the CRA.

4) You are not entitled to a refund if you simply change your mind when purchasing items in stores although many of the larger retailers will refund or exchange.

Price matching
5) Remember that some stores have a price promise but this doesn’t always mean online as well, it could be just in store. For example, John Lewis will not price match online only retailers or mail order companies. But price promises should include items in a sale in another store.

Know your rights
6) Under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015, the item must be of satisfactory quality, match the description be fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.

7) You have 30 days to return for a full refund, after this time you may have to accept an exchange or repair. This is the same for goods in sales unless the fault was pointed out a point of purchase. So for example if a kettle was marked down because it had a mark on it you couldn’t ask for a refund, if however, it has a mark and it doesn’t work you can!

8) These rights also apply to digital goods although the 30 day rule does not apply to non tangible digital goods such as downloads.

Spread your risk
9) Sometimes shopping early will get you some fantastic deals, but as some stores start, other companies may follow suit and match price or reduce prices further so there is no ideal time to buy! Give it a week and what you’ve just bought will either be sold out or reduced further! So spread the risk and buy some things now and wait until later for others.

10) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

11) You are entitled to any out of pocket expenses if the company don’t turn up when they say they will, such as recompense for time taken off work.

12) Your contract is always with the retailer to whom you gave the money. It is NOT the courier unless you have paid your money directly to the courier. Always insist on redress from the retailer company, IT can get the money back from the courier!

Who else wants to get back those bank charges?

Banks & building societies
Banks can charge you, should you go into the red. However it is worth complaining if you feel that it is unfair, for example if it was only for a couple of days and you transferred money as soon as you realised. I have done this a few times over the last 25 years. It has always worked. The only time it didn’t work first time was a couple of years ago and I then wrote to the CEO outlining my loyalty as a customer and I then got the money refunded.

moneyRemember that the bank does not have to give you this amount, I just feel the charges do not reflect anything like the extra administrative time the matter might take. The ease with which I have had the charge refunded in the past I believe shows that if you are seen to make the effort that will be acknowledged. My examples were all genuine mistakes where I had forgotten something leaving the account or, had miscalculated! Don’t be afraid to admit to making a mistake as this also goes a long way to a friendly customer services representative being understanding.

Banks don’t pay out refunds of charges as easily as they used to, but they are obliged to treat customers fairly so it is worth writing to complain. You can go back 6 years. Unlikely that you have the statements but you can look online at your account for information or you can request a list of transactions for the last 6 years. Don’t ask for statements as the bank could charge you £10 per statement!

If you are in financial hardship, complain about more than one unfair charge over the years and threaten to take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman it is quite possible that you will receive a goodwill gesture. All cases where the Financial Ombudsman thinks treatment has been unfair will be looked at and the service is free so it is worth going further.

Generally speaking if the charge exceeds the amount you are overdrawn or you get stuck in debt because of the cycle of continuous charges you could take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman.

In response to your complaint banks could:

Refund in full.

Refund in part. Banks should deal with your case sympathetically so if you feel that the offer is not fair, contact the bank again with an amount that you think is more appropriate and negotiate.

Ask you to fill out a form. The bank may want more information regarding your financial hardship. In this case fill out as fully as possible and return speedily as this shows that you are serious.

Require the refund be used to pay off debt. If it was just the one charge it is likely that the bank will just refund the amount into the account. However, if you are claiming for the past 6 years it may be a figure into hundreds of pounds. If your account is in debt you should accept this offer. However, if you have other debts such as utility bills or mortgage arrears incurring higher charges contact the bank and explain  the situation.

Reject but offer to help in other ways. The bank may accept that you are in financial difficulties but not offer to refund the charges, choosing to do something else such as not making charges for the following 6 months or offering a repayment plan. You could accept this offer, but if you are not happy then write again.

Reject out of hand. The bank may completely reject your request. Some banks may do this automatically for all claims as a matter of policy as many people will not pursue the matter. In this situation write again (I’d go to the CEO at this point) explaining your disappointment with the decision and threaten to take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman. If the claim is rejected again then proceed with the Financial Ombudsman. You have nothing to lose.

For more information and advice on complaining about financial institutions and others and template letters see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Christmas shopping all wrapped up with Ten Top Tips



Christmas shopping can be a stressful time – who to buy for and what to buy them? Where are the bargains? What to do if the recipient doesn’t like what you have bought? What happens if you change your mind? What can you do if there’s a delay in an order?

Here are my Top 10 tips for ensuring you know and use your rights when shopping for Christmas presents and in the sales!


Change of mind
 1) When purchasing something as a gift, get a gift receipt. Stores do not have to take anything back and give a refund or exchange just because you changed your mind (or in this case the recipient doesn’t like it) but many do and are more likely to do so with a receipt (or any proof of purchase). Many shops will also need this for an exchange too.

2) Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds when buying something not on the retailer’s premises. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions.

3) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest no more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

4) You are entitled to any out-of-pocket expenses if the company don’t turn up when they say they will, such as recompense for time taken off work. See here.

5) Your contract is always with the retailer to whom you gave the money. It is NOT the courier, unless you have paid your money directly to the courier. Always insist on redress from the retailer company, so that IT can get the money back from the courier!

Faulty goods
6) Your purchases are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and you have 30 days from the date of purchase to demand a refund if the item is not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, doesn’t last a reasonable length of time or match the description. After this time the trader can offer a repair or replacement. So you can check the item or give a gift receipt with the present.

7) These rights also apply to digital goods although the 30 day rule does not apply to non tangible digital goods such as downloads.

8) Your rights remain the same in the sales unless a known fault was pointed out at the time of purchase.

Christmas meals out
9) When you have a works or office Christmas meal you also have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Your meal should be of satisfactory quality and of a similar price to a comparable establishment. If you are not happy with it don’t eat it and take photographic evidence should you need to complain later. You can refuse replacement courses and claim a refund. More here.

10) When you have made a booking for a hotel/restaurant for a Christmas “do” you are entitled to that booking! If it isn’t honoured speak to the manager about immediate compensation, such as free drinks, whilst you wait for your table. If this can’t be done and you have to make alternative arrangements, the establishment is liable for any out of pocket expenses you may incur.

If you need to complain follow these Top Tips.

And see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results, for load of advice, information, tips, templates and your consumer rights!

Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards

Ofgem Standards of Conduct
In August 2013 Ofgem put new Standards of Conduct into place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. They cover three broad areas:

suppliers must behave and carry out any actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.

suppliers must provide information (whether in writing or orally) which is:

  • complete, accurate and not misleading (in terms of the information provided or omitted);
  • communicated in plain and intelligible language;
  • related to products or services that are appropriate to the customer to whom it is directed; and
  • fair both in terms of its content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence).

the supplier must:

  • make it easy for the consumer to contact them;
  • act promptly and courteously to put things right when they make a mistake;
  • otherwise ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent.

Four “core” tariffs per fuel (electricity and gas) will be the limit that any supplier can offer. This will apply to each payment type. Suppliers will be allowed to offer these tariffs to collective switching schemes. They will also be able to offer extra fixed term tariffs into schemes that meet their criteria.

Standing charge and a single unit rate for all tariffs and suppliers can set the standing charge at zero if they wish

Dual fuel and online account management discounts remain. They will not be considered as “core tariffs” but as a discount. They will be simplified and will apply uniformly across all tariffs as £/pence per year. For example, a supplier would be able to offer a direct debit customer a choice of no more than four electricity and four gas tariffs. The customer could then choose a dual fuel discount and an online account management   discount.

Existing, expensive “dead tariffs” (i.e. tariffs that are no longer marketed) – customers must be transferred onto the cheapest variable rate. A supplier will only be able to keep consumers on dead tariffs if they are cheaper, or as cheap, as the supplier’s lowest standard or evergreen tariff.

Ban from increasing prices on fixed term deals or making other changes to fixed term tariffs (except trackers or structured price increases set out in advance which are fully in line with consumer protection law).

Ban from rolling forward household customers onto fixed term contracts without their consent.

42-49 day window before customers’ end date of their fixed term tariff for them to decide if they want to stay with the supplier or switch.

Requirement to give all customers personalised information on the cheapest tariff offered for them. This information will appear on each bill and on a range of other customer communications.

All information suppliers send to consumers is to be simplified, more engaging and personalised to them.

Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) – all suppliers’ communications to provide “at a glance” information to help customers compare tariffs. The TCR will be similar to the APR comparison rate used with credit cards. Ofgem is also requiring suppliers to provide personalised estimates which take account of a customer’s usage to enable them to compare tariffs more accurately when switching.

Tariff information label will set out key terms and conditions as well as relevant information to help consumers compare across suppliers.

Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards
The Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards are guaranteed standards of service levels that must be met by each distribution company. The Direction was made by GEMA and took effect in October 2010. These standards have been set to guarantee a level of service that is reasonable to expect companies to deliver in all cases.

If the distribution company fails to meet the level of service required, it must make a payment to the customer subject to certain exemptions which are:

  • severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply
  • strikes or industrial action
  • you’re out when the energy company visits and you knew they were coming
  • you cancel an appointment.

Payments under the guaranteed standards compensate for the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They are not designed to compensate customers for subsequent financial loss.

Ofgem monitors and enforces the guaranteed standards relating to quality of supply.

The guaranteed standards cover 12 key service areas, including supply restoration, connections and voltage quality, and for the consumer cover situations when:

  • you report a faulty prepayment meter to your supplier and someone is not sent to repair or replace it within a specified time
  • the supplier doesn’t arrive within agreed time slot for a visit to your  home
  • the supplier doesn’t respond to your written enquiries within a certain time limit gas supply is interrupted because of a fault – you may be entitled to a compensation payment, depending on for how long it is off. It must be restored within a specified time depending on the weather and the number of homes affected.
  • the supplier does not give two days or more written notice when an electricity distributor plans to interrupt your supply (example here)
  • a gas transporter digs up your garden or driveway and any damage caused by the work is not made good within ten days
  • you are on the Priority Services Register and your gas supply is interrupted but you are not given alternative heating and cooking facilities within four hours.

Back billing
Energy suppliers are signed up to Ofgem’s back-billing principle. If the supplier is at fault for not sending you a bill for more than a year, (and this could be for a number of reasons including, not dealing with requests from you about a faulty meter or account and subsequently allowing a large debt to build, failing to process a direct debit or just failing to send you a bill) then you do not have to pay. There are some reasons when this doesn’t apply, such as if you make no attempt to make a payment. Should the company not honour this principle then follow their complaints procedure.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For more details about complaining to energy companies including advice, tips and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!




Tesco takes flak in the battle of the Christmas adverts

Christmas adverts
I loathed the John Lewis one, it was truly awful. Stuart Heritage wrote a piece in the Guardian that summed it up quite well. Have to say I do like the Aldi Mickey take though! And as you will see from the link, I’m not alone, oh how the mighty have fallen JL! It’s almost as if the makers of previous John Lewis adverts did Sainsbury’s this year because that one does bring a smile to your face. It’s familiar to anyone who grew up with Mog or has children and it is a great story. You’ve got to love the dogs in the Asda adverts, then who can even remember some of the other supermarket adverts and then there’s Tesco…

Followers of the blog know that I like picking on supermarket failings. Tesco in particular (see the history of various posts including taking them to court for the uninitiated). And well, I haven’t done one on Tesco for a while and there seemed so much to talk about with their adverts so here we go….
The reality of Tesco adverts

Earlier in the year Dave Lewis said ‘You can’t advertise your way out of problems you’ve behaved your way into’. Yup.

The Tesco adverts
What do you think? Not seen them? You can see the first two here. Well, apparently according to a survey of 700 consumer OnePulse showed that 66% agreed that the new ad was “really funny” and 76% recognised the adverts’ stars from their previous TV appearances. In The Grocer Lewis was quoted as saying that Tesco’s personality was one of the three key factors in his plan on top of improving service and revitalising the “Every Little Helps” mantra. “The thing that Tesco has always had historically is the sense of humour that its customers have understood,” said Lewis. “If you want an example of that, go back to Dudley Moore, go back to Dotty, go back to some of those campaigns.””

OK, now, I’ve met Dave, I think he’s got a good sense of humour (he happily chats to me, so that’s either a good sense of humour or he’s bonkers… or both). So, he may well have a good solid background in marketing and I have zilch, but hey when did lack of experience stop me having an opinion or as in this case asking for a load of others too?

In my newsletter, on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, I asked people for their opinions on the advert. It would appear that we can challenge the OnePulse survey figures.

Tesco’s research
I am reliably informed that Bartle Bogle Hegarty undertook lots of research in the form of focus groups. Lots of ‘em, I’m led to believe. Participants were asked what they thought of supermarket adverts, Tesco generally and they found that people had liked the Dotty adverts of the 80s so they thought they’d put a modern spin on that. The same focus groups were shown early drafts of the adverts and a series of polls were also undertaken. I know, you do wonder how, when some of us follow Tesco and the like and what they are up to and do we ever get asked? Nope. Apparently all well received. People liked them.

Tesco Statements
Well, if you look at various pieces about Tesco and their thoughts on their advertising in Marketing Week (and here and here!) and on their own site here you’ll see a lot of back patting about how much better they are getting and how fabulous their adverts are! It’s all rather premature if you ask me.

The failings of surveys and focus groups
Firstly, let’s ask some questions of the surveys and responses (although I don’t have the answers!!)
1) What questions were asked in the survey? Were they leading questions?
2) Xx agreed with yy statement were all the question closed like this putting an idea in people’s heads?
3) How many times did each person have to see the advert?
4) Were they all Tesco customers?
5) In any focus group were people led by others in the group?
6) Did the respondents feel that their responses were 100% confidential or that they may lose their place at the table where they might get rewards for their answers?
7) What percentage of respondents couldn’t care less and just filled out anything because they had to do something?
8) What percentage of people couldn’t actually be bothered to speak in a focus group or ticked any old thing in a survey for speed and/or just to get the voucher or whatever they got as a thank you for being involved.

9) What things were not suggested, but had they been everyone in the group may have agreed with?

With that in mind, I asked one open question. “You know those Tesco ads with Ben Miller? What do you think – full and honest opinions please whether you like or don’t like. Amuse not amuse? What do you think of the characters. I’ve seen the headline feedback that Tesco got and I wonder if we differ so share your thoughts please for a future blog post.” With a link to the ads for those who hadn’t seen them.

So, although I didn’t get 700 responses, more like around 100 but they were from people who willingly gave their opinions for nothing in return. What was the most important to them about the adverts?

The results?
Well! There was an overwhelming cry of “annoying”.
Tesco survey said 66% agreed that the advert was really funny.
Our survey on Facebook (the place that starts more arguments than any other) 7% said funny at first then get annoying. A further 7% said nothing positive or negative and the other 86% said “annoying” “irritating” and/or “boring”.

I asked a few times on Twitter. A few people were really rather rude about the adverts! They made me smile but I try and be professional and not swear on here so they can’t be repeated! 15% thought they were funny and the other 85% couldn’t find a good word to say about them. Actually I didn’t need to ask, just look at the Twitter feed on “Tesco advert”. Even the social media team gave up for saying they would feedback for a while. There was also a thread on Mumsnet criticising the adverts, asking why didn’t they create a real family? And various others! This one (AdTurds) even gives the words people are putting into searches about the adverts! Seems nearly everybody hates them! Then there’s the comments on one of the adverts on Youtube. Can’t find anyone who actually finds them funny.

On LinkedIn I asked the same. Well 100% didn’t like them although to be fair one person did have some positive comments:


When a few more adverts came out I asked if people thought they had got better or worse. Short answer worse. Longer answer – well someone said:

Tesco wasting money on adverts

Well, actually Chris thinks wrong! The contract is worth £110 million according to many a media report earlier in the year when Tesco moved its advertising contract to Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Tesco adverts waste of money

The questions raised some really interesting answers though such as:

The message
People who don’t shop in Tesco didn’t always understand the message about Tesco Brand Guarantee. They either thought that it was just advertising the fact that there was a Tesco Brand Guarantee, they didn’t realise it was taken off at the till and one thought you had to know the prices from another store. The message doesn’t appear to be getting across to non customers. Although everyone who understood the message or who knew it already was very positive about the actual issue. (Me too!) What hasn’t come across though is that no-one picked up on the fact that Tesco has stopped price matching own brand goods, it is now only price matching branded goods.

Overwhelming consensus on this. An example of a few of the comments:


Identifying with the family
Respondents were asked what they thought of the family. No-one identified with the characters. In fact, far from it. Whilst some people liked the actors, many said that they did not identify with them. Phil in the LinkedIn comment above mentioned about the Tesco demographic and non-represented people and that has been said in different ways by many others. On Twitter people mentioned about the son being a similar age to his parents, questioning choice of actors and the way they apparently shopped. I couldn’t find any views from people that thought of them as a family and that they were well cast together.

I read somewhere that the mother is supposed to be a headmistress. Well the fact that she is meant to be a headteacher should mean that the advert needs to be showing the store at the most busy of times or very late evening because no head teacher is shopping in Tesco at the quiet day times!

Incidentally my Mum, who unlike me is a nice person, (and we all knows Mums are right) said, “Who is the dreadful actor that plays the idiot and why are they paying the others which is a waste of money which I think could be better spent on savings for customers!”

Others had some interesting views:

tesco 8


Sexism and harrassment
Some people had even more to add about the adverts. Sexist – insinuating that women do all the shopping and that’s why the mum knows about the Tesco Brand Guarantee but the dad doesn’t, implying that men are arrogant and stupid when coming to shopping. A lot of people were particularly critical of the harassment of the son and a female shopper.




tesco adverts sexist

Women on a blog site shared their thoughts:

Complaints about Tesco

1) People do not identify with the family
2) Sexist
3) Advocating harassment in the Tesco stores
4) Even if they found funny the first time, this feeling does not last
5) Patronising
6) Old fashioned, trying to capture “Bisto family” appeal but failing, as people don’t identify with the family
7) Modern spin on Dotty? Really? With the ageing population and increase of elderly people on their own one could argue that the old advert was more realistic and more appealing than the nuclear family?
8) Uncreative, with an emphasis on style over substance

9) Majority of people seem to dislike the adverts but so much so large numbers are talking about them, perhaps now quite in the wat Tesco envisaged, but I suppose they say, no such thing as bad publicity!

What do we know?
Well as followers of this blog know, I often say what do I know, I’m just a customer? And in this instance have no experience in marketing or advertising as well as no experience working in the private sector! That goes for you too of course, you are “only” customers of the supermarket. You aren’t being paid a fortune to come up with trite, old fashioned, lazy, poorly thought out adverts. But here’s the thing, we are the customers, so who better to tell Tesco how they should be advertising? Even more importantly what about the people who aren’t Tesco customers, shouldn’t they be telling Tesco how to advertise?

Oh look, more independent research shows just where Tesco comes in the popularity rankings of the Christmas adverts. Poor show Tesco!

Possibly this?

Tesco advert

So, here are my thoughts, feel free to add your comments below on what you think about them and add yours. There will be trouble if anyone nicks any of our ideas of course!

1) If Tesco has to stick with this unrealistic family which don’t go well together, show them at home with pets. The UK is a nation of animal lovers and that’s where you really get the humour and the “aw” factor that people can watch repeatedly. Think YouTube hits and TV programmes where “animals doing the funniest things”.
2) In the same vein, when at home introduce young children, although Tesco will have to get around the fact that the kids were in nursery/school when the headteacher was shopping… many of us WILL pick them up on that!
3) Points 1 and 2 give opportunity to have many a short clip on cute kids and animals, the sort of things that go viral. It’s free advertising.
4) The family need to meet people in the store who aren’t white middle class couples…?
5) Stop being sexist in so many ways.
6) Come up with original ideas about “the family”. Oh and if you are promoting gluten free products how about acknowledging other allergies such as nuts, milk and eggs?
7) If you really want to bring some humour in, remember that Tesco has a long way to go in reclaiming its top position in the supermarket rankings. How about using Yazz’s “The Only way is Up” as background music about what changes that Tesco is making. Those of us who are old enough to remember the track probably spend the most in the stores?
8) And a bit of humility wouldn’t go amiss either now, would it?