Thinking of shopping at IKEA? Think again…

A cautionary tale about buying a kitchen from IKEA

In the last two years we have had a significant amount of work done in the house.

The last lap, the very last job on the list was the kitchen.

We shopped around (as you do) and eventually we decided on a particular kitchen from IKEA.

Similar, but not exactly identical to this one:

IKEA Kitchen

IKEA Kitchen

The IKEA planner came to the house, took various measurements, and advised us what units and cupboards we could have, and where we could have them.

It was a done deal.

We booked.

The fitters would take one week, we were told.

On Monday 12th June the kitchen fitters rocked up, as planned, and began work.

By Wednesday evening, the old kitchen was piled up outside the garage (completely blocking the car-width doorway, but hey ho, it was only temporary, right?).

The kitchen fitters (a company called Lakers, sub-contracted to do the job for IKEA) told us that they wouldn’t be in tomorrow.

Or Friday.

They had to go on a course.

So we were going to have to endure not having a kitchen for nine days, instead of five?

Yes, that’s right.

Hey ho, it’s only temporary, right?

The kitchen fitters returned on Monday and, by 4pm Tuesday 20th June they had finished.

At 8am the next day (Wednesday 21st June) we discovered water.

The fitted mixer tap was defective, and leaking.

We called the kitchen fitters who turned up that day.

They said we needed a new tap and not to use the old one.

It’s a kitchen tap!

A mixer tap.

In the kitchen!

We are not to use either the hot or cold water tap in the kitchen?

Yes that’s right. Until the new one is fitted.

Hey ho, it’s only temporary, right?

On Thursday afternoon we got an email from IKEA to tell us that the new tap will be delivered to us at home, and that delivery could take up to 10 days.



So the kitchen that was started to be fitted on Monday 12th June is not likely to be completed until after Friday 7th July?

That’s a total of 26 days, from start to finish.


Twenty six days without hot and cold water in our beautifully expensive IKEA kitchen?

The same kitchen we had paid thousands of pounds for?


So next time you see a stylish IKEA advert on the television, just remember how your shopping experience could end up.

Can’t Get Wood



Since it was installed (early summer), the log burner has become an integral member of the family.

Whenever the temperature has been forecast to drop a little, we’ve looked for every fire-lighting opportunity, and indulged ourselves often.

Thanks to sound advice from a colleague, I switched from buying seasoned softwood to seasoned hardwood some time ago.

In a more recent discussion about fuel with the aforementioned colleague, it was suggested I buy in bulk, instead of buying small bags from B&Q.

Other outlets of small-bagged firewood are available.

I searched extensively (on Google and eBay), and eventually found a supplier local who could delivery 1m3 of seasoned hardwood for a reasonable price, and deliver it for nothing.


I did the eBay ‘buy it now’ thing and sat back and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Eventually, bored of waiting, I dropped the vendor an email.

After four days of stony silence being delivered to my inbox, common sense told me I was barking up the wrong tree.

I called the mobile number listed on the vendor’s website and eBay shop.

Voicemail greeted me, so I left a cheery message.

Two days further down the line my voicemail remained, sadly, unanswered.

So I contacted eBay and explained.

A few days later eBay acknowledged the lack of comms with the vendor, and refunded the purchase price.

This means my search for a supplier of bulk seasoned hardwood logs in the Nottingham area must continue.

The trouble is, that same vendor is still all over eBay and most of the rest of the Internet.

Ripping off the NHS patients

Here’s a thought.

As an in-patient, I was only able to access Internet services via the WiFi provider that the hospital partners with.

The 4G signal being somewhat patchy.

It is right, frankly, that neither the wider NHS, nor the Nottingham University NHS Trust/Nottingham City Hospital provides this kind of service.

They need to concentrate on their core activities.

But Internet services are fundamental, in this day and age: access to the Internet has even been judged a human right.

There needs to be a review of the current Internet Service Provider to patients at the Nottingham City Hospital.

WiFi Spark, ISP ripping off NHS patients

WiFi Spark, ISP ripping off hospital patients

WiFi Spark charge their captive market £6/day for an advertised download speed of 1Mb.

But hang on, VirginMedia charge me an equivalent £1.58/day for an actual download speed of 200Mb (and 20Mb upload).

So WiFi Spark charge four times the price that VirginMedia charge, whilst the so-much-cheaper VirginMedia deliver a service that is actually 200 times faster than WiFi Spark promise to deliver?

Yes, so it would seem.

Anyway, because I had no alternative, I bit the exorbitant bullet and paid £9/day to WiFi Spark.

And yet never once, in that 24 hour period, did I get anything above 250Kb download.

Sometimes, I barely got over 100Kb download, and seldom got above 25Kb on the upload.

So the service levels that WiFi Spark advertise are nothing more than made up numbers?

So it would seem.

And let’s look at those prices.

Not an actual price of £6/day, but a true cost of £9/day for two devices.

And if you have three devices, then the true cost is £12/day (which doubles the advertised price).

£12/day for shockingly awful levels of service.

My phone tried to do an OS upgrade, and in 18 hours it still hadn’t downloaded the upgrade pack.

18 hours!

OK, so these are terrible levels of (paid through the nose) service, but that isn’t this point which has got me so (non-medically) inflamed.

That there is no alternative.

And presumably, because this has been allowed to continue, the NHS Trust that runs the hospital has never carried out a value-for-money service review?

I doubt it.

This is what has angered me.

A full service review needs to happen, else the patients are just going to continue getting ripped off.

And ripping off a bunch of people who are not only captive, but who are seriously unwell, is beyond unethical.

It is a scandal.

Blogathon 14/15 – 50 shades of Europcar customer service

Hours away from having to begin transporting things from A to B, and thence to C, and having an incomplete towing assembly to not do the job with, I needed to sort out an alternative.

I googled ‘van hire Rugby’.

If you do that search, top of the list that google returns is ‘Europcar, Rugby’.



I clicked on the link to the Europecar website, selected the type of van I needed, when I wanted it from, and how long I needed it, and ran a search.

The Europcar website said ‘Yes, we’ve got one of those, it will cost you this much to rent for 24 hours’.

Marvellous again.

I called the 0371 telephone number that the website offered me.

I tried not to let my heart sink when I actually couldn’t understand what the person who answered my call said.

I carried on regardless.

Me: Hello. I would like to book this van, and pick it up from your Rugby depot in about two hours time

Europcar: I’m sorry sir, could you spell that?


Spell the whole fucking sentence?

Me: No. It’s a very long sentence and I have no intention of spelling every word. I have searched your website for a van of this size. That I want to hire. From your Rugby depot. Today. And return it tomorrow. The website says you have one available. I would like to confirm this.

Europcar: One moment please Sir. I shall check our systems for you.


Europcar: Yes Sir, there is a van of that type available in our Rugby depot. I shall book it for you.


Me: I’ll get down to your Rugby depot in about an hour and a half to pick it up.

Fast forward a little under ninety minutes.

My hired taxi arrived and transported me down to the Europcar office. I hired a taxi because I didn’t want to leave my car outside the Europcar office overnight.

I rocked up to Europcar.

No actual public-facing reception as you or I would recognise it.

Very strange.

Oh sure, there was a sign that said ‘If reception is closed, please ring the bell’.

But there wasn’t actually any reception.

Just a door in to an office-type building.

The door was locked.

I had a choice of bell-pushes.

I pushed them all.

A couple of minutes later a chap in a Europcar uniform unlocked the door.

Me: I’m looking for Europcar reception?

Him: That’s me.

Me: I’ve spoken to your call centre. I’ve come down to pick up a van that I want to hire for 24 hours.

Him: Ah. We don’t have one.

Me: *face*

Him: I’ve got a couple, but they’re going straight out in the morning. When do you want to bring it back?

Me: Tomorrow lunchtime.

Him: I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing available.

Me: But I’ve spoken to your call centre about this.

Him: Yes, they don’t seem to understand how it works.

Me: Guess how many times I’m going to use Europcar in the future?

Him: I’m sorry.

I walked away thinking dark thoughts about call centres.

Blogathon 13/15 – 50 shades of Bosal customer service

Some time ago I arranged for someone to come and fit a towbar to my car.

The towbar fitter duly arrived at the appointed hour on the appointed day.

While I made him a cup of tea, he ferreted (it’s a technical towbar-fitting term, trust me) about beneath the rear of the car for a few minutes.

Then he came to see me.

TBF: “You’ve already got one”

Me: (eyeing the towbar hitch-less rear of the car) “Erm”

TBF: “No, really. You’ve got the frame. And all of the electrics are fitted, for a removable towbar”

Me: “Erm”

TBF: “It’s made by a company called Bosal. If you google them, you should be able to get them to supply a replacement detachable neck for the frame”


So the next day I  followed the TBFs suggestion.

Bosal relieved me of a fair lump of money, but it was still cheaper than having to get a new towbar fitted.

Today I came to use it.

I picked up the box that the towbar neck had been delivered in, strode purposefully out to the car and ripped the packaging open:

  • Removable towbar neck
  • Dust cover
  • Cotton gloves (that’s a nice touch, I thought), and
  • An instruction book printed in half a dozen languages

This being me, I read the English section of the instruction book. Then I read the Spanish section, and corrected the grammar.

Then I looked for the locking key.

You know.

The locking key that the instructions say I need to lock the assembly in place with, once I’ve fitted it to the car?

That locking key.


The locking key that wasn’t included in the things that Bosal had sent down.


So next week I’ll be back on the blower to Bosal.

I suppose I should have checked everything when it arrived.

But you don’t, do you?

Or at least I didn’t.

Breaking down and getting fixed up

Thursday (I think it was Thursday) I was jollying to work on the Ninja.

I’d just left the M6 at junction 2, and dropped down from 6th gear to 5th gear, to maintain speed but add a bit of extra power to the back wheel (for that left-right-left and then the join on to the M69 for three hundred yards before the roundabout).

On the change down to 5th gear the clutch ‘clunked’ which is slightly rarer than hens teeth, because the clutch/gearbox on the Ninja feel as if they have been sewn together with love and adoration by the most talented sewing fairies in all of the seven universes.

I didn’t need to change again, because the lights changed, and I stayed in fifth gear down to the next roundabout (Asda), where I had to drop from fifth through fourth and in to third gear.

The clunking got bigger with each change.

After the Asda roundabout I changed up to fourth until I was approaching the big roundabout by the Walsgrave Hospital.

Down to third (clunk) and in to second (CLUNK!).

And that was it; locked in second gear and unable to apply any clutch.

The cable had snapped clean through.

The engine cut out.

I managed to stop, switch the ignition off, and get the bike in to neutral, put the bike on its stand and dismount on to the central reservation.

I waited until there was a break in the traffic (I was stationary in the right-hand margin of lane three on the approach to a busy roundabout), and then walked the bike over to the left-hand margin of lane one, in to a safe position.

I got my phone out and rang the RAC, who said they’d send someone out within the hour.

Then I went on to FB, and to the Warwicks & West Mids Bikers Group, where I typed: “Does anyone know someone in Coventry who could supply and fit a clutch cable to a 2003 Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R?”

Almost immediately there was a “Nooooo” from the guy I bought the bike from, but that was followed by a name – Andy Clark.

Andy and I got in touch through FB.

The RAC man arrived – just an RAC patrol, not a recovery vehicle – and announced he couldn’t fix the problem and the bike needed to be recovered to a garage. Well der.

Andy said he’d be able to supply and fit the cable, but it would be a couple of days for it to be delivered.

Eventually the RAC-contracted recovery lorry arrived. The ramp was lowered, we pushed the Ninja aboard, where she was well secured, and off we went.

The lorry driver (bless him) took me straight to work and then took the bike on to Andy’s workshop.

An hour or so Andy rang to give me the bad news: supply and fit of a new clutch cable would be £38.

Wow. Is that all?

I caught the train home that night, and used the Daytona for the next couple of days.

On Wednesday I caught the train to work (carrying all my biker gear). That lunchtime I went up to Fletchampstead Highway, Coventry (nice and close to where I’m currently working) and met Andy.

I gave him £38. He gave me the key to the Ninja. And then I had a nose about and asked him about his business.

You can hire space in Andy’s workshop. You can hire the use of ramps (there are a few!). You can hire tools. And if you get stuck, you can hire Andy to help out – or (do what I would do and) get Andy to do the work in the first place.

This whole concept is an an interesting idea if you’re looking to save money and do big mechanical jobs on your car or bike yourself.

And if that’s not good enough, Andy’s prices (as evidenced by the Ninja repair) are extremely competitive.

So if you are in the Coventry area and you need a motorbike or a car mechanic, or if you want to hire a car or motorbike ramp, or if you want to hire space in a workshop, or if you just want the services of a very reasonably-priced mechanic, I suggest you drop Andy a line (tell him I sent you).

Insurance industry: ripping its customers off at every opportunity

As a motorcyclist and a motorist I am compelled, by law, to have my vehicles insured.

I am also compelled, by law, to ensure that my personal details are kept current with DVLA and with my insurers.

But it seems that as a compulsorarily mandated consumer of vehicle insurance products, the companies who provide me with insurance are only interested in ripping me off.

Let me explain.

I have moved house.

I have moved from one suburban area of town to a house a few minutes’ walk up the road in the same suburban area.

But it is a better area.

A nicer area.

The new house is a 2-bed semi, not a 2-bed end of terraced.

The new house has a lovely big garage where my motorbikes will be housed overnight.

The car will sit outside, on the drive.

I rang the car insurer, to advise them of the change of address.

They entered my new details in to their system, and said there would be no change in the premium.

And then they charged me £30 administration fee.

Wow. These people do know that I am compelled by law to notify them of a change of address, right?

And then they charge me £30 for complying with the legislative requirements?

Robbing bastards.

I rang the Daytona insurer (MCE) to advise them of the change of address.

They entered my new details in to their system, and said there would be no change in the premium.

And then they charged me £17 administration fee.

Well, that’s an improvement, but still wow.

So far today I have been charged £47 for complying with the law.

Something, here, is very clearly wrong.

I rang the VFR insurer (Bennetts) to advise them of the change of address.

They entered my new details in to their system, and said their underwriter would not insure me at my new address.


Bennetts were adamant; their insurer would not cover me at my new address, even though my new address has a lovely, secure, dry garage where my bikes will live.

The girl at Bennetts did a search for a new policy, using my updated details, and came back with a quote of £283.


The old premium for the VFR (via Bennetts) was less than half that price.

I told her, as politely as I could, to forget it.

I hopped over to a price comparison website where I was quoted £115.

That’s a massive difference than the rip-off price of £283 that Bennetts were trying to get me to swallow.

Ironically, the £115 quote came in from the Daytona insurer (MCE).

So well done to MCE for saving me from being ripped off from Bennetts.

But as for the insurance industry charging people for complying with the law?

That is just like being mugged.

Two year changeover

It’s been two years since I adopted the Nexus One as my mobile phone handset.

It has been a happy two years.

Apart from when I dropped it.

And broke it.

And had to live without it for six whole days.

It has seldom left my side and rarely been switched off (apart from when I’ve been onboard flights).

But with the passing of two years comes the opportunity of a free upgrade.

I’ll roll my tongue around my favourite words once more…

‘free upgrade’.

Mmmm, that feels nice; that’s my favourite kind of upgrade – the free kind.

Well, after a lot of prevaricating about the bush (three minutes) I decided to change manufacturer and choose, as my free upgrade, the Samsung S3.





This little baby.





Except it isn’t little; the surface area dwarfs that of most other handsets.

No complaint from me on that, though it does still fit nicely in to my shirt pockets.

And it is thinner than most other handsets on the market.

But the big improvement seems to be battery life.

Well, the big improvement *after* speed, because the dual-quad processors make the phone eye-wateringly fast.

Yes, the battery life is a significant improvement on the Nexus One. I’ve had my S3 switched on for 25 continuous hours and the phone has only used 15% of its battery.

And that’s 25 hours which includes significantly large amounts of time which have been engaged in heavy email, internet, and Twitter activity.

So yeah.

So far so very excellent.

Well done Samsung for giving me a nice new phone that continues to offer me all of the usual Android goodness.

This is nice.

Not servicing the customer

I’ve just had an epic phone battle with Nationwide. I have been trying to make a £400 payment online, via my Flexaccount Visa card.

My card was declined.

The account balance is healthy, so I tried again.

The card was declined again.

I tried for a ‘third time lucky’ approach, taking extra care to ensure that every single keyboard depression was the correct one, except it was third time unlucky, as my card card was declined again.

I called Nationwide and had the most surreal Marx Brothers-esque, round-the-houses conversation with an offshore customer services operative.

Apparently Nationwide had put a total block on my card. Nice of them to tell me in advance, wasn’t it? They have my number.

Would it be too much to ask, do you think, for someone at Nationwide to think (!); ‘We’re going to block this guy’s card. Let’s, you know, give him a ring and give him this piece of news. Just so he isn’t embarrassed, the next time he tries to use it’.

Well obviously it is too much to ask.

The customer service operator at Nationwide said that they had blocked my card because they believe it had become compromised.

As my card has been hyperactive this week – international travel, overseas accommodation and foreign currency transactions all taking place amongst a slew of other payments – I asked what I felt was a reasonable question.

‘What transactions have occurred that leads Nationwide to believe my card has become compromised?’

‘The card department will not tell you that’.

What the actual fuck?

I asked what the next step was and heard words I was dreading:

‘I will get a new card issued which will take three-to-five working days to arrive’.

So my fully-working card will arrive, at my home address, to replace the blocked card, whilst the blocked card and I are in Texas.

I explained that I am flying out to the US in a couple of days and asked if there was *anything* that Nationwide could do, to allow me to have access to my account and cash, while I’m abroad.

For example, Amex will overnight express a replacement card to a customer.

Short answer: No, Nationwide will make a card and pop it in the post.

Which leaves me 7,000 miles away from my working card.



The customer services operative was (I guess) working from a script.


She/it was rigidly inflexible with regard to actually helping me.



Guess what Nationwide’s strapline is, according to their website?

…. we’re here to help!

Yeah, right.

Here to help, except if you need reasonable information about precisely why your card is being blocked.

Here to help, except if you need reasonable access to your cash whilst overseas.


The lunatics and the water companies (22/29)

There have been a few articles, in today’s press, about the easy-to-predict forthcoming drought that is going to hit the UK.

What utter cocks the water industry are.

Why would you put out pieces, for newspapers to print, solely designed to scare the British public to falsely economise our water use?

Why would you do that?

Why would you not plug the gaps in the water network, instead?

Oh, because that would involve spending your shareholders cash?


So here’s the message:

Dear Water Industry,

Stop getting the newspapers to print such utter bogus stories as these, and instead get up off your sorry skanky backsides, and put a proper, robust, water-carrying system in place. You know, one that doesn’t leak tens of thousands of gallons *a day*. That would be good. Wouldn’t it? If you did that?

Of course, I realise that to do this thing would mean you would have to spend real money, and that the work would probably take about 8 years.

But come on, think of the future! Think how much water you would be saving? Think that, with all that new water-carrying infrastructure in place, there would be almost no water wastage. Think that, with almost no water wastage, you could cut the price of our water bills. By up to 50%.

That would be really excellent too. For your customers. Maybe not so excellent for your shareholders. But still. Can’t have everything, eh?

And also, while you’re about it, why don’t you cooperate with each other and build a Water National Grid? So that, you know, the rainy north and even rainier Wales could send some of their natural goodies to other parts of the country? That would be good too.

Wouldn’t it?