Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And another company who sucketh mightily: Tesco

I went to Tesco to buy a little Dell netbook and couldn't... because the staff couldn't find the key to open the electricals cupboard. After 45 minutes I left sans netbook and in a bit of a funk with Tesco.

They do have a decent contact system though. I got given a card with all their contact details on. Although the fact they have a card shows that obviosuly a few things go wrong.

This is an excerpt from the email I sent them to complain:
I cannot fault the attitudes of the young woman working on the electricals counter who dealt with me, or Laura on customer service, or James the store manager (who had unfortunately walked into all this first thing on his shift). They were courteous and I could sense their frustration on my behalf.
However, it did take some time and several phone calls from the assistant on the electricals desk before any action seemed to be taken. The assistant was on her own so could not go and find the key herself and there seemed a distinct lack of urgency or response to her pleas for help. It seemed from her demeanour that the people she was phoning were unhelpful and 'not bothered'.
I was left with the impression that this member of staff was left unsupported, which compounded my frustration. Having worked in customer service myself, I know how demoralising it is to disappoint customers because of reasons beyond your control.
There were several things that could have been done better in this instance.
A colleague could have taken it upon themselves to hunt down the missing key or proactively check the places it was supposed to be rather than have to be directed by multiple phone calls from the sales assistant.
Obviously a better system for key handover would have helped. The key had apparently been signed back in at some remote location (downstairs perhaps), but was now missing. Quite how that happened (and the stock control issues that it raises) seemed quite unprofessional for such a well-known company.
Realising that a customer had been waiting fro 45 minutes, a manager could have shown some initiative to offer an apology and / or seek an alternative solution.
Like I said, the staff I spoke to were very sympathetic and expressed their frustration on my behalf. I did make these comments to the newly-arrived shift manager in a level and fair way, but also related my annoyance at the situation. Again a chance to be proactive was missed because nobody on the customer service desk offered to take my name and contact details to follow up my experience and inform me whether the lap top was actually available or not.
So, all in all, I am left with a wasted trip to an out of town supermarket, and a sense that Tesco may be a very successful company, but on this occasion it failed miserably at providing me with the item I wanted. Very little help, really.
And I did get an email back. But it was a missed opportunity...

Thank you for your email.

I am very concerned to learn of the problems you have experienced when trying to purchase a laptop from our Culverhouse Cross Extra store. Please accept my apologies for any frustration this matter has caused you

We aim to provide the very best service and it is disappointing when a customer is unhappy with any aspect of our operations.

I have passed your comments to our Store Manager, Huw Cowell, who will address the matter with the staff members concerned. This will ensure that this does not happen again.

I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and I am confident that you will not experience any further problems on your next visit to your local store.
Making sure it doesn't happen again isn't exactly what I was looking for. I'd be very surprised if it happened again because they apparently had 50 grands worth of electricals in that room and didn't know where the key was (off being copied perhaps?). I imagine they'll keep a close eye on the key. Great.

But it doesn't give me back my valuable time and it doesn't make me feel any better about my situation or about the numpty twazmuppets at Tesco.

I'm not exactly sure what Tesco could offer me as recompense, but the customer service lackey's confidence isn't it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Check the entire box set next time

How annoying is this? We have reached season five in our entire-run box set of the West Wing and the first disc is so badly scratched that it wouldn't play the whole first episode.

It's a brand new DVD. Some packer somewhere must have scraped the disc in.

And frustratingly, Play.com only guarantee things for 28 days. How are you supposed to watch every West Wing episode in 28 days to check for scratches. I have hunted on their website and they have no contact email that I could see - I think because it's been more than 28 days since I bought it. So now I have to phone them.

Things like this frustrate me. I don't know why companies bury their contact details. I've gone from mildly irritated with the disc to very irritated with Play.

The phone call won't be a happy one.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swapping an orchard for an apple

Very occasionally the Internet provides an arresting thought or concept that makes the whole web thing seem truly worthwhile.

A couple of days ago, there was a post on Stuff Christians Like that made me think a bit. Specifically the idea that Adam and Eve traded a whole orchard for the sake of one apple.

I've made some bad trades in my time - looking at it like that made me consider a few things.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My current magazine slots

In all good newsagents now you will find not one, but two magazines featuring content by my own good self.

Stamp and Coin Mart have a full feature article about collecting the Statue of Liberty on stamps. I even made it on the cover next to the masthead!

Meanwhile the 'new season' When Saturday Comes is also out, complete with the regular pre-season preview supplement that I contribute to for the bit on Shrewsbury Town. (In case you are wondering I am very pessimistic, which as Town have won their first two league games and came back from 3-0 down to beat Charlton in the league cup, may come back to bite me on the bum later.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Football can be a cruel game sometimes

I went to see Cardiff play Burton Albion in the Carling Cup last night, with my friend Cheryl, who doesn't go to many games (it was only her second one ever).

At 1-1 in the 90th minute, Burton had the opportunity to cause a bit of an upset, but their striker somehow skyed over from about two yards out. The Burton fans thought they'd scored before that awful realisation that somehow the ball didn't go in strangled their cheers in their throats. Gutting, for them.

Even more gutting for them was that Cardiff went on to score three goals in the final period of extra time to give them a flattering win that didn't really match the even-ness of the game. One of the goals was cracking, though. A quality strike from the edge of the area by Ross McCormack.

This was my second match of the season (matching Cheryl's lifetime achievement!), meaning I've equalled last season's total number of games already as I only saw two all year.

The other highlight was when Cheryl leaned over to me and asked if all the players out there were full-time professionals or did they need other jobs. I told her that some of the Cardiff players were probably on half a million a year. She was shocked.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Big screen / small screen review, including Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3
I've taken a few days to blog about this film because I've needed to get my thoughts in order. Firstly, it's very good - the usual high Pixar standard. But I found it emotionally challenging.

The themes of growing up and moving on from relationships, as seen in Andy parting with his toys as he leaves for college, was arresting. There's a whole scene where the toys are trying to get Andy's attention, and can't understand why he has moved on. I'm not sure why that troubled me so much (maybe the fact that my house is full of toys plays its part), but it did.

There's a depth to this, that is far more than you'd expect from a 'kids' film'. I'm not sure kids would get it. Most adults won't either, I guess, because people don't expect to be made to think in movies...

Jongudmund's rating: 8/10

The Hurt Locker
The film that beat Avatar to the Oscar earlier this year. A lot of hype. And yet when it came down to it, not as much substance as I expected there to be.

It was very good and I'm glad I've finally watched it. Maybe it was more of a big screen movie rather than a DVD night in, although I'm not sure. There are some excellently shot scenes - a shoot-out in the desert; tense and confusing scenes in the city streets.

It also managed to show how war provides an adrenalin thrill that becomes addictive, without ever going gung-ho, or playing down the horror of war. When a character gets vapourised by an IED, there's a highly believeable atmosphere of shock and horror. People get shot and stay dead. Blood doesn't spurt in cinematic technicolor.

I'd say it's a good film, but I'm not sure it's a great film. But worth watching.

Jongudmund's rating: 8/10

Dead Man Walking
This is one of those films I'd never got round to seeing, and it was on TV last night. The story is well-known, I guess. Susan Sarandon plays a nun who visits a death row inmate played by Sean Penn, who is the 'dead man walking'. Gradually she brings him to the point of repentance when he finally admits his sins and 'saves' him even as he is killed by lethal injection.

The brilliance of this film is the closely observed funny moments that seem to interpolate into the narrative, the way things do in real life. A sign that says 'Have much rabbits' prompts a character to ask "Are they selling or bragging?" "Maybe it's a cry for help."

Again this was an emotional film. When Penn turns to his spiritual advisor and admits he'd never foudn love until she had loved him unconditionally, and thanks her for loving him, I was moved. Redemption comes in many different ways and yet it is always powerful.

Jongudmund's rating: 9/10

THX 1138
This was George Lucas' first film, recently re-released in a Director's Cut. It's set in a dystopic future where humans are enslaved by the state and are not allowed to fall in love. It's very much like other films of that ilk - Equilibrium, The Island, and so on.

There is a dream-like quality to the film. Characters seem to appear, quite literally, out of nowhere. Scenes jump around. I was never quite sure whether I was meant to be seeing reality or what the main character, THX 1138, was percieving the world to be.

I really don't think this is a film for everyone. But if you're into science fiction, it's worth watching.

Jongudmund's rating: 6/10

Planet 51
A knockabout animated kids' film about a human astronaut who causes chaos when he lands on the inhabited 'Planet 51'.

There isn't much depth to this, but the alien pet who looks a bit like the alien from Alien and pees acid onto lamp-posts is very amusing. Truthfully I didn't care much about the other characters, but the animation is good and the design of the film is very nicely done in terms of the 1950s retro style alien vehicles and things.

Jongudmund's rating: 4/10

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Taking cannon to fools, when all you need's a BB gun

Sometimes I over-react to idiocy.

I did this on Facebook recently, flaming the Daily Mail over the way they reported the Government's plans on raising the retirement age (which whatever they say is going to affect the poorest more), and the comment flak began as various people who had somehow slipped onto my friends list despite Tory sympathies weighed in with their opinions.

But my point was more that the Daily Mail's reporting was an indicator of its right wing bias, and deeply hypocritical. It irks me. But what can you expect from the paper that supported Hitler?

I have my MP3 player pretty much permanently playing Tragically Hip songs at the moment. The line from Coffee Girl sums it up. Taking cannon to fools when all you need's a BB gun. You don't need much to discredit the Daily Mail. Not when it's own inglorious history is out there in plain view.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I had a dream that I relished the fray and the screaming filled my head all day

I don’t often blog about my dreams but here was a strange one that may tell you more about me than you already knew. Or not.

Anyway... I dreamt that a friend of mine from Uni days called John was coming to visit Cathy and me. I was quite excited because I hadn’t seen him for about 10 years and since I had saw him last he had gotten married, and this would be the first time I’d met his wife. (Up to this point the details in the dream are true – I haven’t seeing John for about that length of time and he has got married and I have yet to meet his wife.)

Our house in the dream looked strangely like my parent’s house, particularly my childhood bedroom and the stairs into the lounge. (It’s weird how in dreams you can be in a place which you know is a, but looks like b.)

One thing I really wanted to show John was the new Millennium Falcon I had for Christmas a couple of years ago, with the working ramp and headlights and whatnot. (It’s a FAB toy!) I knew that John, fellow Star Wars geek and all, would want to see it.

I had to manoeuvre it carefully through the door of the upstairs bedroom to bring it downstairs. (Also true, as it’s so big you have to turn it on its side to get it in and out of rooms.)

What I hadn’t accounted for in my dream is that John and his wife had had three children since getting married, and they brought the kids with them – as you would. The oldest was about six and very hyperactive.

For some reason that freaked me out. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to hide the Millennium Falcon so that the kids didn’t play with it and break it. But I couldn’t think of a way to move it without the kids noticing it.

Fortunately I didn’t have to find a solution because at that point my alarm woke me.

I am not sure what that dream says about me apart from I don’t want to share my toys. Randomly I remember John telling me once that when he was a kid he had an original Kenner Millennium Falcon but insisted on taking it back to the shop because the cockpit hatch wouldn’t close securely and that meant Han Solo and Chewbacca would die when they were in space. But I’m not sure that had anything to do with the dream.

The title of this blog post is the opening couplet from a Tragically Hip song called Nautical Disaster about troubling dreams.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The season starts before the season starts

Cardiff City 0 – Deportivo La Caruna 1 (31 July 2010)
Cardiff City’s pre-season friendly matches were mainly away, but this was their showcase home friendly, against the one time La Liga winners who have faded a bit in the last few years. It also gave me an opportunity to visit the new Cardiff City Stadium; Ninian Park now being a motley collection of nearly-built houses.

Friendlies always lack ‘edge’, and for a moment I thought this was going to end up like the fairly dire game against Ajax I went to a couple of years ago. (The entertaining bloke behind me thought so too.) But after 80 minutes of possession football, the Spanish side obviously decided they had mucked about enough, strung together a series of clinical short passes and scored when the ball was stroked home from about four yards out.

The collective response from the crowd was ‘Oh.’ Personally I wondered why they didn’t do that earlier. Maybe they didn’t want to embarrass their hosts.

But what it showed was a different mindset between Spain and Wales. There were several times when a Spanish attacking midfielder on the edge of the area would look up, see no options and pass backwards, with the ball ending up eventually back with the keeper, who would pass the ball out to a defender on the other side of the pitch, who would try and develop something on that side of the field. It was strangely fascinating considering it was so dull.

Cardiff on the other hand would occasionally loft a ball over the top of the defence and their frontmen would try and run onto it. This was usually the end of their short spell in possession and we would be back to Spanish non-urgent passing.

Not the most interesting start to a new season, but educational nonetheless.