Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sometimes the little things they don’t tell you can be a big deal

I like to think I am a fairly clued-up consumer. I certainly know my rights, as many a bruised and battered retailer can tell you. I have to confess to not being the most savvy person when it comes to technology, but I do have the ability to work stuff out using what knowledge I do have and applying a good deal of  linear logic.

However I have to say that the retail market today is not as user-friendly as it was ‘when I were a lad’. And I think this is down to more than the fact that I am a grumpy old bastard these days rather than the wide eyed innocent I once was. Yes, I was a sweet little kid once; I know it’s hard to believe today.

My main complaint with the retail sector today is the almost complete absence of ‘service’, never mind service with a smile. When this is added to an abysmal lack of product knowledge (probably due to a total lack of training) the end result can be frustrating and time consuming for those of us who would rather consume their time doing things they enjoy rather than battling idiots.

The reason for my current outburst is threefold; or rather my reasons are threefold.
The first in this fold involves buying a new Television set. Not a big deal, I would have thought, but I was about to learn otherwise.

I considered sparing the blushes of the retailers concerned in this saga, but then I thought," What the hell for?” The whole purpose of a cautionary tale is to caution others and I believe that should extend to the noo-noos who need a slap up the side of their head to adjust their thinking.

So we headed off to No Lemmings and chose a 32” model. Of course these days all the new models come with Freeview decoders already loaded, so we figured it would be a chance to ditch our old decoder. The salesman said the model would suit us well and the sale was made.

We took it home and after lunch I lugged our outrageously heavy old CRT model out to the garage and began to set the new lightweight version up. I should point out here that I differ from many male consumers in that I actually read the manual of any new appliance before attempting to set it up. So by the time I began plugging everything in I had read that little book from cover to cover, which made it all the more puzzling to me when it would not receive any television signals at all.

After a bit of energetic swearing I picked up the phone and rang the tech feller at Low Nemmings and spent the next half hour or so following all of his instructions, but still without success. After I had tried everything he told me there must be a fault with the set and I should bring it back in. By this stage it was too late to get back to the store before closing time, so I lugged my heavy CRT back and hooked it up to the old decoder and boxed up the brand new set ready to return the next day. I was annoyed because my whole Saturday afternoon had been wasted buggering around with this and now I was going to have to go and waste more time down at Snow Leopards getting it changed over.

On the Sunday when I returned the set to the store they plugged it in and ....it worked perfectly well. I was flabbergasted. At first they tried to tell me there must be something wrong with my aerial. I explained there was nothing wrong with my aerial because my old CRT TV worked perfectly well with it.
It was only then that they asked me what sort of aerial I had. ‘Why I have a satellite dish”, I answered. “Do you have a Freeview decoder?” she asked. “Well yes I do, but surely I don’t need it as this set already has one”, I replied.

I then learned that the Freeview decoders that are loaded into these new TVs are only suitable for use with a UHF aerial. I gave the salesperson a piece of my mind over how much trouble I had been put to due to the original dimwit who sold me the set not asking me what sort of aerial I had when I bought the bloody thing. It was just lucky that I had not got rid of my old decoder otherwise I would have been up for a new one of those as well or a UHF aerial and all the costs associated with having that installed. And all because a dopey twat who calls himself a salesman had failed to ask me one little, but vitally important question.

A few weeks later we had to replace a broken shower head. Luckily Might of Ten was running a bathroom special and had all sorts of shower heads on special. We headed down to the store and over to the prominently signposted bathroom section and began looking through the shower heads. A young assistant came over to help and asked us what we were looking for. We told her what we wanted and picked up one that appeared to be the correct size based on the old one I had brought along for comparison.

When we got home I noticed the installation instructions were pretty short on information, but I figured out what went where and set the whole deal up. When I turned it on the water came out beautifully......for about 30 seconds. Then it started squirting out all around the perimeter of the shower head and spraying all over me, the walls and the floor. I turned the water off, dried myself and the walls, disconnected the new shower head and headed back to Mighty Tent with the intention of converting said shower head into a weapon of mass destruction. However I had calmed down by the time I reached the store and realised that one does occasionally strike faulty products, so no need to get unduly wild about it.

This more reasonable approach soon changed, though when I got to Metal Tin and the girl at the returns desk asked me if I was on mains pressure water or not . When I told her I was she said, “Oh you can’t use those ones on mains pressure. If you do it will just blow them apart and the water will spray out everywhere.” We were aware that some showerheads could not be used with mains pressure because we had already rejected a couple of models because their packaging stated that they weren’t suitable for mains pressure. But the one we had chosen bore no such warning.

So once again a cretin masquerading as a salesperson who was fully aware of the choice we had made had failed to ask me one small but vital question and my entire Saturday afternoon was wasted because of it. On the upside the replacement showerhead we picked out turned out to be about $10 cheaper than the one we had originally chosen.

The final in this trilogy of tragedy happened less than a fortnight ago when our Freeview decoder – yes the one that we nearly sold but couldn’t because...well you know the rest; died. We were watching a programme and the picture just started pixilating and finally broke up altogether. At first I didn’t know whether it was atmospherics, the satellite dish, the new TV or the decoder. Eventually I came to the conclusion it had to be the decoder or the dish as the TV worked fine with other media.

We figured we were long overdue for an upgrade in that department anyway and made the decision to get one that recorded as well as received. I saw Narvey Hormone had one that we liked the look of but No Lemons had the same one for a hundred bucks less.

I didn’t want to go back to the useless buggers down there so determined to get the deal of the century I headed off to Hardly Normal with an internet printout of the deal from Know Nothings in my pocket. After getting the salesman to show me all the whistles and bells on the machine I wanted I dug into my pocket and said, “That looks good, but here’s the thing; your competitors half a k down the road have got this same machine at $100 less than you. Can you do better than that?”

The salesman took my piece of evidence with him and consulted with (presumably his manager or possibly himself) and came back and offered me the machine for $1 less than his competitor. I took it and the discounted extended warranty as well.

When I got home I was impressed with how easy installation was and within 10 minutes it was working and I was impressed at how it enhanced the already very good picture. I was looking forward to watching the rugby on Prime later that night (I am too tight to pay for Sky).

However when the time to tune into the footy came around I found that Prime had disappeared from my list of channels along with Trackside and C4 (not that I watch either of those). I tried retuning, but no luck. I rang the 0800 number for the manufacturers because the retail store was long since tucked up in bed, but found they only operate between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday! Imagine that. I would expect most people buying a new decoder would do so in the weekend and then if they have any problems be absolutely delighted to learn they could not get any help until Monday during the hours they are trying to earn a living....NOT!

So I missed the game and took the machine back to Hardy Nomads the next morning. I then spent an unbelievable amount of time arguing with the (alleged) manager of the TV department over what the cause was. He had tried it on their set up and found he got the same results as I had.

He first told me the reason I couldn’t get Prime was because it wasn’t available on these machines and offered to give me my money back. I said I didn’t want to return it; I wanted it fixed and asked him why they would have Prime was on the EPG if it was not available. He said that was because they load that at the factory. I countered that by asking why they would load on a channel you couldn’t get since they didn’t list any others you couldn’t receive and anyway how come it was there when I first set the thing up? He then tried to tell me it was it was my satellite dish that was faulty – but was stumped to explain how I was able to get all the other channels. I said there must be a simple fix and told him he should ring the manufacturers for me on Monday and in the meantime I would take the set home and await results.

I am happy to say that on Monday I got a call telling me to go to the manufacturer’s website, download a fix onto a data stick, insert it into my decoder and follow the instructions and all should be well. I did that and everything worked out fine, but it could have saved me an awful amount of grief if the store had known enough about its own stock to know that a fix was necessary for these machines.

I just hope nothing else breaks down because the next time my whizz-bang new whatever fails due to some lame-brain failing to advise me properly they will find themselves in A&E having said appliance removed from a place where no such appliance 
should ever go.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The good guys don’t always wear white

Just exactly when our society changed from being a caring and fair one to the dog eat bitch free-for-all that it now seems to be, I don’t really know. I guess it was one of those things that ate away at us rather like the increasing sea levels around Tuvalu. The difference being that the water levels might not have originated from man’s inhumanity to man – although there is a body of opinion that might say otherwise to that as well of course.

In any event there are times when it seems that as a species we have descended to a level comparable with the bowels of Satan.

People seem hell-bent on looking after ‘number one’ even when number one by his/her behaviour would be more appropriately described as a pile of number two.

The latest scam to get my undies in a tangle is another example I have come across of a money-grubbing business taking advantage of someone who is less able to fight back.

This sad story begins with an innocent enough exercise of me paying a bill. The bill in questions was for expenses incurred by my elderly father who is currently in a rest home with dementia. The rest home in question is a very good place and like most such establishments they run a ‘care account’ for their residents. 
This is basically a kitty into which I put money to take care of any incidental little expense he might have throughout the month. They have a little shop there where he occasionally buys sweets and they also use the account to cover such things as extraordinary expenditure that he might have to meet.

One such expense that falls under this category is payment for non-subsidised medicines or other pharmaceuticals that he might be getting.

In my Dad’s case his latest reconciliation had some entries described as Non SS Meds: Fish Oil Tabs. I realised what these were of course and would not normally have taken any further notice of them were it not for the fact that there seemed to be an awful lot of them.

There was an entry on 30 November for them – cost $11.10, then another on 6 December – same cost again and then further entries on 3, 24 and 31 January. In all there were 5 lots of fish oil tabs charged out over a period of 62 days for a total cost of $54.00. My first thought was, ‘Why did he need 1000 fish oil tablets – that would be 200 per week.”

So I rang the rest home and asked them to explain. They assured me the charges were correct and had been sent to them by Pharmacy Services as they were non-subsidised and were being dispensed along with the rest of his subsidised medication and put into those cute little bubble packs. I asked why he would need 200 of these a week but they assured me he was only being given one each day and referred me on to Pharmacy Services.

I then rang Pharmacy Services and asked them why my father was being charged for 200 fish oil tabs per week and they told me he was not and that he was only being given 28 every four weeks. I challenged this because at $11.10 for 28 tablets I felt there must have been some sort of mistake as the price indicated that he was being given 200 each time.

The woman I spoke to was adamant that the charges were correct so I did a couple of quick calculations. I knew that he was being given 1000mg tablets and I also knew that a tub of 200 of these was regularly available via the supermarket for $9.99 and yet these people were charging him $11.10 for just 28 tablets.
I said to the Pharmacist that it seemed to be a pretty steep price and how could they possibly justify charging more for 28 tabs than what I would pay for 200. At that point she came over very condescending and explained to me that everybody has to make a living and she was sure that i would not want to work for nothing and that they put these tablets into the bubble packs with his medicine and so they had to charge something for the effort of doing that.

Needless to say I was neither impressed to be spoken to like a little child nor convinced about her argument. I already knew that he was paying a premium along with his prescription charges to have all of his medications put into the pack so why was there a need to charge a premium on the item as well. After all we are not talking about a small extra charge here. My sums tell me that fish oil tablets from the supermarket cost a whisker under 5 cents each and yet these ones which were exactly the same were costing a little under 40 cents each – in other words they were 800 percent dearer.

As you might expect I was unable to convince the Pharmacy that they were a bunch of low down scumsuckers taking advantage of old folks because they could, so the upshot is I told them to leave the bloody things out and we would supply his fish oil tablets in future. The rest home was quite relaxed about my new arrangement and we might all now live happily ever after. Yeah right until the next chancer (or as my spellchecker suggested here, chancre) comes along.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen the moral of this little epistle is: if you have responsibility for the care and welfare of an old person and especially if that person is near and dear to you; leave nothing to chance. If they are sent a bill for anything at all make sure you check it to see (a) if they actually were supplied with it, (b) did they really want or need it, and (c) have they been charged the correct amount for it.

You would be surprised to see how many lowlifes there are out there who think nothing of ripping old people off and many of them wear nice white smocks or flash suits and have shining white-toothed smiles. Beware and be ready for the b swines.