Common Courtesy

Another brief trip down memory lane…

Exactly seven years ago this month, most days seemed endless and extremely boring. I was in the early stages of living life without gainful employment and even though I would often grumble about the daily routine of work, it does give a purpose to each day. With typical dull, cold and wet British weather, I had little incentive to venture out of doors, thereby exacerbating an already strenuous situation. Almost daily, my life was taken up with searching for new employment. For anyone not over familiar with this task, it is an extremely time-consuming and wearisome occupation, endlessly scanning the plethora of job sites available on the internet. One of the most frustrating things I discovered was that jobs were not classified under sufficient headings, so in order to find potential opportunities, it was necessary to search under almost every category. Once the slowness of page downloads was taken into account, the hours of the day quickly passed by! Of course, this was in the days before ADSL broadband connectivity was widely available!

In order to try and numb my boredom, I participated in the National IQ Test 2003 via interactive television. This was the one bright spark in a gloomy month… Normally, I’m not one to blow my own trumpet (perhaps that’s where I have been going wrong in life!) but I achieved an IQ of 136 which compared very favourably with the national average of 105! This was also in a period when the average IQ had been falling.

With only twelve days of employment remaining, it was very evident that certain people were keeping their distance. It never ceases to amaze me just how many individuals see a person for what they do rather than for who they are; indeed, inconveniences such as a period of unemployment (through no fault of my own, incidentally!) can prove to be a real test of true friendship.

Looking back, I made one of my final day trips to France. This was predominantly for the purpose of stocking up on some cheap booze…I anticipated being in need of copious quantities to drown my sorrows! There was also time to enjoy some of the local scenery in close proximity to Calais and the weather was fine, in marked contrast to that in Britain at the time. I stated that it was one of my final day trips for several reasons. Firstly, the costs of such day trips are now much higher since the abolition of cheap day ferry tickets. Secondly, the cost of alcohol in this country is now comparatively lower than several years ago, and thirdly, I no longer live within reasonable travelling distance of Dover for the short crossing to northern France. The trip from my local port takes in excess of 6 hours and lands in Brittany!

A final word on the subject of seeking new employment. I found it both frustrating and extremely discourteous that companies seemingly ignored applications and correspondence. Even jobs applied for via e-mail failed to generate a response, despite the fact that it takes but a few seconds to acknowledge a communication with minimal cost. Incidentally, nothing has improved with regard to replies from companies as recent experience will testify. Perhaps I am old fashioned and expect too much from people, but if more common courtesy was extended between human beings, then the world would be a far better place.

Customer Is Always Right

In January, back in the depths of winter, which really isn’t that long ago, I purchased an item of clothing from that well known fashion emporium trading as Marks & Spencer. As is often the case when I make a purchase, it is not always worn immediately, partly because it may not be suitable at the time, and also because one needs to purchase items in advance lest they disappear from the shelves! That was the exact scenario regarding this particular item.

With the advent of slightly warmer days, I decided to bring the garment into use a fortnight ago. It still had the stock label and description attached proving to anyone who might examine the item that it had yet to be worn. Upon making a comparison with a similar shirt already in my possession, it did appear that the item was somewhat larger. Naturally a slight variance in size is to be expected but this appeared to be considerably larger than others in my wardrobe. When trying it on in readiness to go out, I was almost swamped!

Closer inspection of the well-hidden size label confirmed my suspicions. Now I invariably fit into a size medium in the M&S range and the tag attached to the garment clearly showed it to be size medium. It was therefore a surprise to find that the inner garment label stated that it was large, and furthermore the stock code number was completely different from that shown on the tag, which incidentally is scanned at the point of sale. This meant that I had to return the item to the store but needless to say the original purchase receipt was nowhere to be found. To compound matters, M&S changed their once legendary refund policy about 18 months ago and now one only has 35 days in which to return any unwanted or unsuitable items.

It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that the approximate time between original purchase and planned return fell way outside the company parameters. However, at the earliest opportunity and not to be deterred, I ventured into the store and dutifully queued at the Customer Service desk until an operative became available. I duly explained the situation, pointing out that the description tag and garment label were in conflict with each other. After examining said item, the assistant said that I could have a refund of £7. Well, I nearly exploded on the spot… the item had originally cost £35! The assistant’s explanation was that the item had been put into a sale and that was the last price at which it had been sold. As I am fully aware, having previously worked in a retail environment, the mark-up on fashion is collossal, and I knew that at £7 the company would not be making a loss.

However, I digress! Without deviation or hesitation, I rejected the offer of £7. Politely but firmly, I told the assistant that the item had been purchased in good faith as per the affixed tag. It was therefore the fault of the company as they mis-sold the garment. Sadly the assistant was having none of it so I had to play trump card number one. I insisted that a member of management was called, to which the assistant disappeared behind the scenes. After what must have been a five minute wait, she returned and agreed that I could have a full refund. As a gesture of good faith on my part, I accepted a credit note which apparently can be spent in dribs and drabs and is valid for 12 months!

Now, had trump card one failed miserably, trump cards two and three were literally waiting in the wings. My next course of action would have been to write direct to the outgoing chairman of M&S, naturally criticising my local store for their error and inflexibility. The other card would have been to tell the world via Twitter just how I had been treated. Thankfully, neither action had to be implemented on this occasion. I left the store a happy bunny and the company can rest assured that I will continue as a customer so essentially a victory on both sides. It does pay to stand one’s ground and to be firm, but polite, in these situations as the customer is always right!

Forget the Election…

Below is some worldly advice to pet owners should they ever risk doubting their local veterinary surgeon…

A concerned animal lover took a very limp duck into her veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird’s chest. After a few moments, the vet shook his head and uttered the words “I’m sorry, but your duck Cuddles has sadly passed away.”

The distressed woman wailed “Are you sure?” to which the vet replied “Yes I am sure. Your duck is dead”.

The woman continued to protest saying “How can you be sure? You haven’t done any tests on him. He might just be in a coma or something.”

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. A few minutes later, he returned with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck’s owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table, and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. The dog then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and led it out of the room. He returned a few minutes later with a cat, which promptly jumped upon the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, miaowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet turned to the woman and said “I’m sorry, but as previously stated, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck.” He turned to his computer terminal, and with a few keystrokes, produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck’s owner, still in shock, took the bill. “£150!” she cried… “£150 just to tell me that my dear duck is dead!” The vet shrugged “I’m sorry, but if you had simply taken my word for it, the bill would have been £20, but with the Lab Report and Cat Scan, it’s now £150.”

A possible moral of this story is… if in doubt, say nowt!