Not such an Easylife customer service

I often get asked about the last complaint I made and I always say  it is about the principle of complaining however much the amount.  I complained about less than a fiver on behalf of my mother. Here’s the story!

The order

On the 12th January she ordered from Easylife: gloves at £14.99, boots at £14.99 and a wallet for £9.99, making the total £39.97

She had a voucher for free P & P if spending over £30. However! After ordering and payment taken, she received an email with only the boots and wallet with p and p added totalling £29.97. When she queried this on the 12th January she received a response 4 days later on the 16th January at the end of the day to say that the order did not include the gloves because they were temporarily out of stock. However, there was no explanation for why my mother was not informed of this before submitting the order. Breach of Consumer Rights Act 2015. Easylife is not allowed to make changes to an order without agreement by the customer.

Processing payments

On the 12th January £9.99 plus a further payment of £19.98 total £29.97 was taken from my mother’s account. On the 23rd January my mother emailed Easylife to say that she had been to her account where it said that the items should be dispatched within 5 days. It had been 11 and that the tracking system was not working. On the 24th January my mother received a reply to say that the wallet was out of stock and the items would be despatched together. Interesting that Easylife could process an order for one item that was out of stock and not another. Breach of Consumer Rights Act 2015 for not providing services with reasonable skill and care. This was demonstrated further as on the 5th February my mother emailed to say that she had actually received the wallet but not the boots! She requested a refund for the postage and packing and clarity regarding the other item given that Easylife incorrectly said that the wallet had not been dispatched.  On the 6th February a further £9.99 was taken from the account, making a total of £39.96. In effect Easylife has charged my mother for all three items but not sent them. This is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and is fraud if Easylife has no intention of actually sending the items as it would appear it doesn’t. Easylife has not provided services with reasonable skill and care. Easylife did not have the courtesy of even sending a standard response to my mother’s email of the 6th February. On the 8th February she found that £14.99 had been put back on her card. No-one at Easylife has had the manners or common sense to send any correspondence as to what this referred.

Still with me?

So after advising her on how to complain I had some fun.

The Complaining Cow complains

Ok, ’twas time for me to step in, ‘cos….

The administrative errors, lack of undertaking services with reasonable skill and care and the absolutely dire communication which was downright rude, annoyed me. Won’t have my mum receiving treatment like that thank you very much.  So I wrote to the CEO, addresses at CEOemail.com – In short, I requested that my mother received all her items within 5 days. I also expected something for the inconvenience and stress that they had caused.

I forgot to add my mother’s account details and so actually sent another email straight after. (That’s important to remember!)

hands in gloves Easylife making customer service difficult

Two weeks later, I’m not sure how or why I waited that long, was very busy! I had had enough and sent an email with “Email before action” in the subject line. I told the CEO  that I had not received an acknowledgement never mind a satisfactory response. Told him that I was on BBC Breakfast, ITV News and Channel 5 News the previous week regarding customer service and complaints. I was asked in one of these programmes about the importance of complaining and I mentioned this story. I informed him of legal action and that he may like to resolve the matter and provide a comment for my article on the issues. It was also likely that the story would feature in the next book “The Worst Customer Service Known to Man”, in addition to a couple of conferences I would be speaking at the following month.

That is the first and only time I have ever used my persona The Complaining Cow. Too near the “Do you know who I am?” kind of rubbish. But here it was good to mention that I had actually used the story in the media because their service was so bad!

The response

Two hours 35 mins later I got a response from Customer Services! A useless one but a response. I was told by, let’s call her Sarah, that she had written to my mother and that if I had any further questions to contact her. I did, so I did. Meanwhile my mother told her to deal with me!

Sarah said that she had checked with their bank and could see that my mum had been charged and refunded and then charged again for the Boots, but the item has not been dispatched. She had checked with the warehouse and the item was no longer available. Therefore, she cancelled the order and refunded her for the item. They were hoping to source the boots and send them to her free of charge. (To date this has not been successful). The gloves were removed from the order as they had run out of stock and they had no date for replenishment. However, this should not have been done without my mother’s authorisation, so they sent these out to her free of charge.

Sarah refunded the postage cost of £4.99 and additionally a generous £10 for the inconvenience caused.

I noted that she blamed most of the errors on systems. However, she did not say that my mother should not have been charged the postage and made no reference to the human who told her that the amount was correctly charged. Why would a member of staff give the reason that they did? Although I put this to Sarah I did not get a response. I also asked why, when I emailed the CEO, Mr Caplan two weeks previously, twice I got no response but this time I got a reply within 3 hours. Was it the mention of court? The media? Conferences? Next book?

The chase

I didn’t get a reply so a few days later I emailed again. I told Sarah that I gave a short presentation at an awards ceremony on complaint handling and included this story. I was discussing how, if a company can’t even get these basics right, the CEO ignores correspondence regarding breach of consumer law, provides appalling service and it takes threats of legal action to get anything done (albeit a response lacking in substance) how can it possibly do things right for more vulnerable customers as that is where the challenge is for most decent companies, ensuring that they respond to all not the most damaging. I said “They are here tonight….” that got a good laugh round the room. So thanked her for providing me with material for future conferences.

I gave her until 9.00am on the Monday to provide a comment.

The next response

Despite specifically saying only correspond in writing, they tried to phone me. The Head of Customer Service, let’s call him Jarvis, emailed after I refused to answer the phone. I told him that I would only deal in email and please could he have the courtesy of answering my queries. The response was almost comical. It included the following:

“The order was received via an order form and owing to it containing credit card information was securely shredded immediately upon completion, therefore I accept in good faith that the order was requested for 3 items:

5921 gloves £14.99

9566 boots £14.99

6535 wallet £9.99”

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? They don’t keep records of orders? Who believes that? Anyone?

Women's feet with black ankle chunky heeled boots

“It would appear that the agent” (“Agent”?  A secret one perhaps?) processing the order saw that the arthritis gloves were out of stock with no restock date and, in the agent’s belief of enhanced service, removed the gloves as they believed these would never be fulfilled. As already acknowledged, this was an error on the agent’s behalf and this has been addressed with the agent and the entire order form placement team.

This resulted then in the order falling below the free postage & packing offer, hence an additional £4.99 was charged. Unfortunately, our order processing system was not updated with the arthritis gloves and to anyone subsequently looking at the order it would appear that £4.99 was indeed chargeable for delivery as there is no reference to the gloves that would have taken the order above £30.

I acknowledge and apologise for the delay in response you received from your original email, that would be due to Mr Caplan being on holiday since 3rd Feb. However, even then he does forward (and believed he had in this instance) all necessary communications to relevant parties to handle. In this instance it appears that forwarding failed” (twice remember) “and hence no response was received by yourself. As to why [Sarah] was handling your query is quite simple: she is the most experienced within the head office team across all aspects of account management and hence does the investigations where errors occur and responded directly as neither Mr Caplan nor I were available.” (Remember she ignored many queries).

“With regard to payments made and received:

  • Your mother has been charged and refunded for snow boots twice
  • Has been charged and refunded for postage
  • Has been charged for aluma wallet
  • Been credited a goodwill payment of £10

= net £0.01 in [her] favour.”

Yup he’s actually pointing to the fact that she is 1p in credit. How generous. In addition if they can get the boots they will send them to her. Still not arrived. She actually received the gloves so she is in credit for more than 1p but honestly how bad is this company?

There was no comment provided for the blog post, so make your own mind up!

Not such an Easylife huh?

If you are struggling getting redress for faulty goods, poor service etc. see Top 20 tips for complaining effectively.

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Flying in the face of poor customer service

As we enter the holiday season we know there will be the inevitable flight delays and fobbing off by airlines and tour operators. Remember the BA and Ryanair debacles last year and in the case of Ryanair quite a lot this year too!? Those events certainly kept me gainfully employed informing people of their rights! But there are other things that can go wrong with flights and you still have rights when they do!

aeroplane in air photo from under

The following is a case that I dealt with recently.

The booked flight

Paul booked a holiday to Cape Verde through Thomson with his partner. Paul also booked champagne and chocolates for the flight (£34). Paul paid extra to booking seats and to get seats with extra legroom. (£54) Oh, and he paid for a taxi transfer too (£64).

Checking in

All fine and dandy huh? Nope. Why? On arrival they checked in at the airport check-in desk on their reservation (remember pre-booked/paid for seats) with no issues or problems. The pre-booked seat numbers were 16A & 16B.

Departure gate

However, at the departure gate when their boarding tickets were scanned, the scanners flashed ‘Red’; for both Paul and his partner Alex. They were extracted from the aircraft boarding gate queue by departure gate staff/security which was very embarrassing for them. The departure gate staff checked on the computer screen and advised them that the seats they had pre-booked and checked in on were no longer their seats. AND no one apologised for this error. Appalling!

They were then given different seat numbers, sat separately on different rows and again with no apology.  When asked why this was, when they had pre-booked and paid for their seats (and more) and had checked in on these seat numbers with no issue, as the boarding passes showed. They were very rudely told that there was nothing they could do and that either they took the alternative seats or not board the aircraft, again with no apology. Not board? The cheek of it! Having been faced with the embarrassment of being extracted from the queue boarding the aircraft, the abrupt and rude attitude of the departure gate staff, they decided that they would prefer not to travel and asked for their luggage to be removed from the aircraft.

Incidentally, for future reference, they would have been legally entitled to a full refund at this point and compensation for bumping them off the flight in effect because they were not giving them their booked seats. I wonder if the staff were aware of this too? Why do I think that? Because their treatment got worse.

Taking off the luggage…

The aircraft dispatcher had arrived, in quite a state of panic, as the aircraft was already around 45 minutes behind schedule. (Boarding had started around 45 minutes late). The dispatcher advised the departure gate staff that the aircraft hold had already been secured.  One of the departure gate staff ‘phoned someone at Thomson.  Whilst this was happening, the other member of the departure gate staff and the dispatcher tried to rudely pressure them to board the aircraft. However, for reasons already mentioned they held firm on their decision not to travel.

The dispatcher said that he would try and get their cases off the plane. After around 15 minutes, the dispatcher came back and said that two passengers had offered to move seats on the plane and would they now board as they were “ruining every one’s holiday”. Despite being so appallingly treated by all the staff involved they decided to board the plane. Upon boarding the aircraft, the passengers on the aircraft started booing and hurling insults at them! Any idea why given that they were the wronged party? Read on…

Take-Off

Shortly after take-off, the number one flight attendant asked for their boarding cards which they handed to her. She didn’t ask anyone else for theirs and nor did they hear anything back from anyone about comparing these with the apparent “other same boarding cards”. So we can only assume that she required them to destroy the evidence. However, despite this, they had the proof that they had the seats 16A and 16B. Because they felt very intimidated by the atmosphere and the non-stop insults on the aeroplane they asked a member of the flight crew to give the two
passengers that had moved, their pre-booked and paid for champagne and chocolates. The flight attendants did nothing to prevent or diffuse the situation on the aircraft and were actually equally as hostile. At no point did anyone apologise or indeed thank them for giving them their paid for drink and chocolates away. It should of course have been Thomson which gave the people who moved a “thank you” present and Paul and his wife an apology gift.

Landing

They were obviously glad when they landed to get off the plane. At passport control they were informed by the border officer that they had not applied for a Cape Verde Visa. Paul advised the officer that he had, via the Thomson website, and showed him a copy of the application. They were instructed to leave the desk and go to the visa desk. After waiting about an hour the visas were processed and they were charged 50 Euros for the privilege.

Due to the visa delay at the airport the coach transfer had left, meaning that they arrived at the hotel a considerable time after the coach and so therefore the upgrade to the taxi transfer was a complete and utter waste of time and money.

The hotel stay

During their whole stay at the hotel they were ‘blanked’ by other passengers who were on the same flight, despite trying to engage in conversation. However, towards the end of the holiday they did manage to talk to two passengers who had been on the same flight. They were outraged to learn that prior to them boarding the aircraft, a flight crew  member had made the following announcement: ‘‘There are two passengers refusing to board the aircraft unless they sit together and until someone moves to allow them to sit together the aircraft will not be taking off’.

Bear in mind that they had actually said they wouldn’t fly and were told that they could as people had moved, plus the facts that the errors were with Thomson and the fault did not lie at their door. This announcement led passengers to believe that they had not paid for their selected tickets. In addition there was no apology or explanation from Thomson for the initial delay plus the delay which it had caused failing to process them correctly. Passengers were led to believe that it was their fault they were so late in taking off.

Having heard this statement, Paul explained to the two passengers exactly what had happened and following this they could not apologise enough. They, along with other passengers, were led to believe that they had not paid for their pre-booked seats. They informed the Thomson’s Holiday Representative exactly what had been said on the aircraft prior to them boarding. They also offered to provide a statement for Thomson when they complained on their return and also for use in the Small Claims Court, if they decided to take Thompson to court.

Paul then made a complaint to the representative, who made a report and also refunded the 50 Euros for the visas.

window of aeroplane looking out to wing "What to do when you have a flight problem"

Complaint summary:

1)      They paid for selected seat tickets which they did not use.
2)      They paid for legroom tickets which they did not use.
3)      They paid for chocolate and champagne which were not used.
4)      They paid for a taxi upgrade which, due to more errors, was a waste.
5)      They received appalling service from Thomson ground crew and flight crew.
6)      They were pressured into boarding the aircraft which legally they did
not have to do because Thomson had not provided the service for which they had paid. The staff were abrupt and wholly unprofessional.
7)      Staff were extremely rude, which was very stressful.
8)      Due to the way staff handled the situation and the inaccurate
announcement made on the plane they had a foul intimidating 6-hour flight, receiving abuse throughout, which the crew did nothing about
9)     Staff did not give the people who chose to move any compensation.
10)   The announcement resulted in passengers on the same flight being rude to them on holiday, so the holiday was also spoilt.

The Rights!

Thomson (now TUI) was in breach of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 Regulations 12 and 13 regarding alterations in the package holiday. (Note that from 01 July 2018 The new Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018  came into force). It was also in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for not providing services with reasonable skill and care. It is also in breach of the ABTA code for not providing high standards and fair terms of trading.

Therefore, I expected full refund and redress for the following:

1)       Pre-selected seats: £54
2)       Taxi upgrade: £64
3)       Chocolates and champagne £34
4)       Loss of enjoyment of flight and holiday, stress and upset caused by staff at 30% (of the remaining £1186.40) £355
Total £507

Then I threatened all the usual; ABTA, posting on review sites and Small Claims Court.

As readers of this blog and my book know, I always advise going for more than you think you will get.

This isn’t for the sake of greed, it is to allow the company “wriggle room” to negotiate. You must go for the legal minimum to which you are entitled. In this case the out of pocket expenses came to a total of £152.

Loss of enjoyment is subjective and could be argued in court (the actual outlay was pre-paid seats one way, champagne and chocolates and the taxi, as there is evidence for this). So, when considering how much to go for on top of legal minimum, think of how much of your holiday was spoilt and take this as a percentage of the whole holiday cost. In this case, the flight of what should have been 6 hours was ruined as well as extended, plus the atmosphere in the resort spoilt their time there. We thought 30% was an appropriate amount to go for because no company is likely to give you 100% of a subjective claim.

The redress

Thomson offered £252. And, as Paul Lewis says in his review of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results, “She never takes yes for an answer.” So we went back a second time and got a further £100, making a total of £352. That was £200 for loss of enjoyment. In all, a 26% refund on the whole cost.

Further help

Look out timber frame on a beach "researching, booking and complaining aabout holidays and flights. Tips, ideas and your rights"

 

 

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

 

 

 

If you don’t get success with complaining about an airline you can take your case to an ADR scheme. Most airlines are members of a scheme but  not all. With those that do belong to a scheme, you may have difficulty with AviationADR. See Landing in court with Ryanair for information and links to Which? and The Independent articles and research.

See Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively.

Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For loads and loads of consumer laws, advice, information, stories and template letters for complaining about most sectors, GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!