A pretty tight and direct insight.

Musings from the sofa

So I was idly browsing LinkedIn, as you do when you’ve had one of those weeks. Or, in my case, several of those weeks. By this stage in life, I’m quite prepared to accept that, when it comes to working for a living, the problem is with me, not them. I don’t like work; but then again, as a former colleague shrewdly pointed out to me, that’s why it’s called ‘work’, and also why no one gets up in the morning and bounces cheerily out of the house saying ‘I’m off to fun!’

Anyway, because I have absolutely no idea of what I might want to do instead of what I currently do, and because I’m sick of banging my own thoughts again the solid wall of my own ignorance, I’ve started browsing sideways on LinkedIn. I do this by simply clicking on a job that looks vaguely possible, then…

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Kiss me first Mr Estate Agent

Estate Agents used to strut around when selling houses as they couldn’t shift them fast enough. You snooze, you lose was the general feeling. These days in the UK the property sales market is v. v. weak yet the Lettings market is incredibly robust. Rents are high reflecting high demand and limited supply much as you learnt in Economics 101. As the estate Agents are no longer wallowing around in fat sale commissions and are relying on income from their lettings side they have decided that they obviously can’t keep sticking it to the Landlords who have the power to choose who represents them but instead they will screw the person with no options. To whit: the renter.

Estate Agents 2

I am renting a property right now and not only do I pay a deposit – very understandable – but I pay a mixture of other non-refundable fees that are the Estate Agents cost of doing business. They have worked out that they can not only pass these costs on for things like reference checks but hell, why not skim a bit on the side and round it up a little? They farm out reference checks to a third party on-line but it is apparently £60 per check.  £60, give me a break. After all, they want the house, we’re the agents, demand is high, it’ll rent regardless…drop your trousers sir. The “screw you” attitude gets better. I pay a deposit over the phone with my Debit Card and they even want to pass on the 30 pence (50 cents) handling charge on a £320.00 transaction. Talk about being nickeled and dimed to death.

The complete absurdity of the total lack of business acumen (not my job ‘guv, rules are rules) displayed by the chap in the office that obviously isn’t his? When I ask about my receipt the clown offers to post it. At least a £1 operation. I declined and tried to make the point that I wasn’t going to be petty and he could staple it to the inevitable hard copy of the rental agreement. Deaf ears, he just didn’t see.

When I go to the supermarket I don’t stand at the till and pay a further cleaning charge, staff pension supplement, stacking fee etc etc. What you see is what you pay. All those things are the cost of doing business.  estate Agents are always mystified as to why they are considered in such a poor light. I wonder why no-one wants to sit by them at a dinner party? I wonder.

PS: Kiss me first in the title stems from the crude but apt saying; I like to be kissed when I am screwed.

What she misses…

Prompted by me remarking that GP surgeries never seemed to operate hours to cater for working folk and not just people with nothing better to do with their time, a British friend that lived in the US for 7 years and is relatively recently back remarked to me, “I miss dealing with companies/service providers that see it as their goal to serve me and accommodate my needs and that don’t expect me to modify my life around their inflexibility”…or similar.

In the UK it is my experience that something as simple as seeing your GP at a time to suit a working person (like they are, grrrr….) is fraught with difficulty. Evenings or Saturday’s? Novel huh?

We pay for this – not as directly as money changing hands between us but through pretty high taxes. Who’s zoomin who?

Cooper Avon – you rock. Bikezone – you don’t

A day of two halves on the customer service front. Firstly, I was killing time in Zappi’s Bike Cafe which makes the most  excellent coffee in Oxford. It is inside Bike Zone and I meandered into the bike store part with both time to kill and the rarest of animals – cash in my pocket. There isn’t a riper time to relieve me of cash for bike ephemera  that when I am a bit bored and am holding the folding. So…I am standing in the middle of a small shop floor. There are the usual spanner jockeys behind the counter but walking around in front of me is someone who is clearly the boss, he knows it and doesn’t deal with trivia like customers standing there in front of him. He was stepping around me fer gawdsake… I was feeling rather silly actually as I was obviously getting in the way of him making scathing remarks to the spanner jockeys about their pathetic efforts to fill the shelves with stock.

On the other hand I was blown away by a call I received from the Sales Director of Avon Tyres. I had rung Avon to query why my new winter tyres, despite being stickered as Avon Ice Touring ST, were all saying Cooper Weathermaster on the sides. Odd. We agreed that as Cooper owns the Avon brand that although the labelling was wrong the items were essentially the same. Despite being offered the opportunity to have them changed I declined saying it was a lot of hassle and that why didn’t he just organise a voucher or something. Kevin replied that I was to call him when I was changing back to summer tyres and he’d organise the Avon’s of my choice to be delivered to Merit Tyre in Witney at 50% off. Wow! Who can say fairer than that. That simple gesture has just secured me as an Avon customer for good.

Avon Tyres Logo

Kudos, Roofbox Company

Overall I have not had good experiences with online “live chat” help facilities.Today was refreshingly different.


From discovering that I was conversing with a bot and not a person to someone at Wiggle that was congenitally incapable of answering the question asked as they were obviously relying on a fund of pre-written responses to use in different scenarios right through to Charlotte at the Roofbox Company. We went to and fro over a bike-rack for a friends BMW Z3 convertible with just a horizontal little boot. Whilst Charlotte couldn’t give a definitive answer she ended with a very sensible request to email a picture to be certain that her idea for a rack was the right one.


What a pleasure to deal with a pleasant common sense human being, whatever the interface. The message here is that Charlotte was well trained enough to ask for help when she needed it yet had the autonomy to think and act for herself. You can’t really ask for much more when dealing with a firm. It’s a simple concept that seems to elude many companies that implement live chat software. They seem to view it as a way to lose customers more quickly and cheaply rather than by serving them poorly face to face or mucking up the transaction. When will firms get it? It’s not about the tool but how you use it.


In the words of my friend with the Beemer, “Harrumph”