If you’re one of those old fashioned people who like to send a charity Christmas card through the post, then listen up. There’s no point in wasting your money on first class stamps, according to research by Consumer Futures.
Why? Because Royal Mail don’t actually have to meet next day targets during December – from the 2nd to the 23rd. They’re too busy hauling your George Foreman Grills from Amazon up ten flights of stairs to care about your piffling best wishes to Aunty Sheila. Don’t delude yourself that the red stamp of urgency will get it to her quicker. Frankly, at this time of year, Aunty Sheila can lump it.
The Royal Mail loophole means that if you’ve left it too late – after the last posting date of December 20th – then first class delivery is not guaranteed. Only half of first class mail was delivered next day last year, and with stamps costing a whopping 60p, you should probably post early and use second class, or find another way to express your seasons greetings to your loved ones.
Why not send an outrageously impersonal e-card to everyone in your address book, instead? Or make a Youtube video of yourself twerking naked in a Santa hat in a petting zoo and upload it to Facebook? You’ll have gone viral by Boxing Day.
People are forever winding up companies with joke letters of complaint, but things get really good when companies play along in turn.
And so, to Bic, who make the famous pens. One customer told them that one of their pens must have been faulty because it was erroneously drawing nothing but massive penises. And so, Bic responded to the letter and apologised in a funny fashion.
Have a read of this letter (click on it to make it larger, if needed)
[image via twitter/warrenchrismas]
Are you thinking of leaving the country to celebrate Christmas? Why you wouldn’t want to queue at a food bank and watch Strictly in the homeless shelter is anyone’s guess, but if you are, then take heed. The Which! consumer elves have put together a helpful little list of the cheapest dates to fly during December.
Flight prices always vary like the waxing and the waning of the moon, but the closer you get to Christmas, it would be cheaper to hire a private jet and fly to Mars with the Kardashians. So, Which! have been inputting dates into those little boxes on Skyscanner to blag you the cheapest seasonal deals.
The advice seems to be – go early. For example, a flight to Barcelona on Monday 16th December will cost just £37, compared to £110 on the Sunday before Christmas. Fly to Orlando with Virgin Atlantic a week before Christmas, and you could get a ticket for £474, compared to almost double the price on the weekend before the holidays.
All fares start to rise around Thursday 19th, hitting a peak at the weekend, so if you can get away in the days before the rush, you’ll have a cheaper Xmas break. They also suggest that the cheapest day to fly back is New Years Day. Which might not bode well for the booze-addled anxious flyers out there, but at least there’ll be plenty of legroom for your hangover.
Good news! If your phone gets nicked and the perpetrators use it to call their gangster pals in Serbia, or decide to Shazam everything and upload snuff movies onto it, you won’t be hit with a large bill.
The government has reached an agreement with four mobile phone companies – EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodaphone – to put a cap on bills from stolen mobile phones from next Spring.
If you’ve reported your phone lost or stolen, there will be a £50 limit on bills. Also, phone providers will have to behave themselves when it comes to mid contract price rises. Customers will be able to decide to cancel their contract without any charges if their provider announces a price hike – following a ruling from Ofcom.
It’s all part of what the Government likes to sensationally call ‘the great mobile phone rip off.’ As announced earlier in the year, mobile providers must also work with the EU to end data roaming charges by 2016.
These days, if a Tory minister doesn’t mention ‘hardworking families’ in a speech, they’ll be jolly well egged and chucked into the River Cam without a punt. And Culture Secetrary Maria Miller didn’t disappoint.
‘We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own. Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise. This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.’
Customers who have bought mussels and clams from M&S are advised to return to their nearest store to get a refund, after ‘a small number’ of people fell ill.
Thousands of mussels have been taken off the shelves pending an investigation from the Food Standards Agency. If your house contains the crustacean critters, do not sauté them, steam them or otherwise ingest them, unless you want to spend the next few days pulling a muscle with all the vomit.
The products affected are: Mussels in Garlic, Mussels in White Wine and Mussels and Clams. The FSA have said that it is yet to be proven that the mussels caused the illnesses, but anyone who has ever had a dodgy clam will know the symptoms of digestive trauma and feelings of wanting to die.
The mussels are supplied by Pinneys, based in Annan near Dumfries. Scotland has been at the centre of a mussel debacle recently: several farms in Shetland were closed down in the summer after the FSA found high levels of toxins.
Anyway, to be on the safe side, don’t be SHELLFISH, and take your mussels back to the shop. Perhaps you can swap them for some less dangerous food that doesn’t resemble wizened orange slugs.
The rise of the budget supermarkets continues –with Lidl planning to double the amount of UK stores to 1500. Everywhere you go there’ll be a Lidl. The UK will be littered with off brand German biscuits and tubs of coleslaw the size of your head, and there will NEVER be any time to pack your bag at the till.
Unlike Tesco, who are struggling like a kitten down a well, Lidl sales are growing by 18% a year. Owner Ronny Gottschlisch (try saying THAT when you’ve had a few) said they were trying to put their cheap and cheerful budget image behind them and grow into a force to be reckoned with.
‘We really see ourselves these days more of a supermarket than the hard discounter of the past.’ He said. ‘Those times are over.’
What they want now is to appeal to their target demographic, a person called a ‘Maidstone Mum.’
‘Those Maidstone Mums are no longer afraid of being seen in a Lidl store,’ Mr Gottschlich said. ‘I actually do think we are entering a new era. I think that people’s perception in the past was that there must be something wrong with the quality of what those people at Lidl offer because they have such reasonable pricing in their stores.’
I can’t speak for those ladies in Maidstone, but I’ve only seen Glasgow Mums in my local store with a Berkeley Superking hanging out of their mouths, threatening children called Lacie-Ann near the JFC frozen nuggets. Still, it’s good to have ambition…
Hooray. It’s December. That means everything is now officially mince-pie scented and dusted with picturesque snow that never actually arrives. Even Trading Standards (or specifically the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB)) have been hitting the sherry are getting in the Christmas spirit and have produced a “Twelve Scams of Christmas” that you just have to sing along to…
Twelve Vishers Vishing
Vishing has caught a lot of people out recently – consumers have already lost £7million to this scam, according to Financial Fraud Action UK. Scammers call victims pretending to be a bank, building society or similar official and attempt to get personal information. Consumers must remember that their bank or building society will never ask for details over the phone – they already have them
Eleven Alarming Alarmists
The National Scams Hub is warning consumers about a possible burglar alarm scam where consumers receive a cold call from a company offering to install security systems. The security system may be free or available at a nominal cost but the on-going maintenance cost is high and there is a daylight-robbery cancellation fee.
Ten Dodgy (Car) Dealers
Not very festive, but apparently yuletide is also a time to be wary of buying second hand cars, as greasy second hand car salesmen might be clocking the car to make a few extra quid.
Nine Grants Disappearing
It’s like something from your Christmas list- an email from the ‘Commonwealth Secretariat’ and ‘HM Treasury’ telling explaining that you qualify for a free £1,000 grant to be paid directly into your bank account. Unfortunately those who gleefully hand over said bank details will normally see more than the fictional grant disappear…
Eight Council Tax Bands- a- Playing
Getting your property rebanded for Council Tax purposes could save you a pretty penny, always assuming you have a genuine case and you fill in the relevant forms from the Valuation Office Agency (available free). Still, these pesky facts don’t bother claims company fraudsters who are happy to take your money and run- North-West Scambuster investigations discovered that less than 0.1% of claims submitted by companies claiming they can obtain council tax refunds are legitimate. You just pay high, up-front fees to a company that does no work on your behalf.
Seven Computers Crashing
Sometimes the old ones are still good. The National Scams Hub and trading standards are warning of a simple scam where the victim receives a bogus call from a computer company claiming that they had been alerted by the internet provider to a serious virus attack. The scammers tell the victim the only way the problem can be fixed is to buy a special computer programme. You can guess the rest.
Six Alternative Investments
Targeting the ‘more money than sense’ brigade (and we all know a few of those) these cold-callers offer attractive ways in to a range of exciting investments- diamonds, wine, carbon credits (?!)- but at hugely inflated prices, and with magical disappearing companies. Some cat is getting the cream, but it’s not the hapless investor.
Five Doorbells Ring
December is not the warmest time of year to be knocking on doors, but this time it’s not carol singers ringing your bell. Bad weather is used by rogue traders to convince some residents that they need unnecessary and often substandard home improvements at extortionate prices. Or by unscrupulous
energy companies to pressurise the elderly and vulnerable into signing expensive service contracts.
Four Calling Loans
Christmas (and January) are often times when money is tight,and that’s where loan companies sidle in offering relief. The National Scams Hub says many people have received unsolicited text messages or telephone calls from firms offering them an unsecured loan. Those who accepted were charged large, upfront fees for little or no service.
Three Free Trials
Christmas and New Year is also free trial target time. Whether it’s trying out a one-day delivery service, a film streaming service or a weight loss programme, these companies make their money on the guarantee that people will forget to cancel the trial in time, or worse, require notice of cancellation of almost the same period as the trial itself.
Worse, some scammers hide expensive contracts in amongst the fine print and after customers enter their card details to pay for the post and packaging on a freebie, the nasty people use these hidden contracts to regularly take sums of moneys from the victim’s account.
Two Bogus Charities
While no-one wants to curtail the season of goodwill, the NTSB just want to make sure you are actually giving to charity and not to some clever scammer lining his own pockets. Consumers should be wary of vague statements on packaging such as ‘donations for work creation’ or ‘donations to poor children’ and look for registered charity numbers where you can. Also check things like charity collection bags to make sure they are destined for who you think they are- before you fill them
And a dangerous toy under the tree…
The NTSB want to stress that, while a cheap toy or electrical gadget might seem a bargain, sub-standard foreign imports will not adhere to safety guidelines and have the potential to be dangerous for kill unsuspecting gift recipients. And that will not make a merry Christmas.
NTSB chairman Lord Toby Harris, wearing a red suit and white beard, chortled: “Last year, UK adults spent an average of £592 on Christmas. At a time of year when we know consumers will be parting with hard earned money, it is imperative that they be made aware of current scams. The NTSB encourages all consumers to check the legitimacy of chosen traders before buying gifts or committing to contracts.”
Consumer Minister and part-time elf Jo Swinson advised: “The first thing people should do is follow the old adage – if something sounds too good to be true than it usually is. If something is not quite right or they are being pressured into buying goods or services they don’t need, then they should report this to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. They can ask trading standards to investigate claims and make sure consumers get a fair deal.”
Over at South Florid Container Terminal, they’ve got all the things you’d expect from a hangar filled with people wishing they weren’t there. However, they also have something called an ‘ethnic corner’, which is something of a fail.
Do they have separate water faucets and lynchings in there?
Once upon a time in the UK, we didn’t know what a Black Friday was. Maybe it was something to do with the weather? The crumbling economy? Satanism? But as is the way with so many American things – Big Macs, drive thrus, the tendency to say ‘OMG’ and ‘REALLY?’ at every tiny little thing – Britain has succumbed, and now we do it too, like it’s never been any other way.
In the US, Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving, when everything is heavily discounted. It marks the beginning of the festive season, a kind of doors open day to encourage people to throw cheap widescreen TVs into their shopping basket for Christmas. It’s a hideous free for all, and can lead to punch ups over Breville toastie makers and three mile long queues to get a cheap blender. It is consumer madness writ large.
Now the UK is following suit, and stores like John Lewis, Apple, Amazon and Asda are offering up to 70% off. Asda, which is obviously owned by Walmart, will go Black Friday cray cray, offering ‘unbeatable’ deals on LG 42 inch plasma screen TVs, which are expected to sell out almost straight away.
So are we going to queue up for hours to get things on the cheap? Brawl over discounted electrical goods and poke each other in the eye in the struggle to get a bargain?
Well, it looks like we’re all for it. Mark Lewis from John Lewis (no relation, we presume) said: ‘Black Friday has really caught the imagination of our customers. Last year we felt they really engaged with it and so we would go a step further.’
Christopher North from Amazon added: ‘Since we started Black Friday deals in the UK, the concept has really caught on and is now a much anticipated event in the UK shopping calendar. This year we’ll be releasing twice as many deals to make it easy for customers to save money on this year’s must have gifts.’
At John Lewis, there’s already been online early bird deals, and with Apple having to contend with their ‘never knowingly undersold’ policy, you should be able to get a great deal.
So what are you waiting for? Get in there, elbows blazing, and grab yourself a bargain. Fight to the death in the street. Kill your gran for plasma telly! After all, that’s what the festive season is all about, isn’t it?
When you pay online you always have to have your card details to hand – unless you pay through Paypal – but from today, Visa are launching V.me, a payment service that lets you buy online using just a password and a username. Also, you can attach your V.me account to several credit cards, so you’ll never have to input those boring long numbers again.
Ok, so ‘V.me’ sounds like a filthy proposition, and it’s not available everywhere just yet, but it’s hoped that thousands of retailers will take it on. And it does sound like a more convenient way to blow all your wages on meaningless crap off the internet.
Visa have called it a ‘digital wallet’ and it’s now live in Europe, with 1400 online retailers on board – while Nationwide are the first financial organization to support it in Britain. Steve Perry from Visa Europe said:
‘V.me by Visa gives merchants and issuers an acceptance mark that will work across Europe. Mobile phones, tablets and the use of digital payments have changed the nature of commerce: consumers want to be able to buy from the merchant of their choice via any device without sharing their card details.’
By January, 4000 new retailers are expected to start using it, and there’ll be a full, bells and whistles commercial launch of the service next year, when everyone will be saying ‘Hey, just V.me’ and ‘Yeah, I V.me’d it.’
Nah, they won’t. It’s a terrible name.
In Britain, it’s more expensive to run a car than anywhere else in the world. Yes, your little Honda Jazz costs more to run than Justin Beiber’s pimp mobile, or Bret Michaels’ souped up RV full of dirty ladies.
On average we pay £3453 a year to stay on the road, which is a grand more than the Americans and the French, and £2000 less than the Chinese, who are scooting about on the cheap and living it up.
Webuyanycar.com took motoring costs from 21 countries and found that we shell out 27p a mile on average – paying more for fuel, tax and insurance. And of course, the thing we’re spending the most on is petrol. A whopping £2256 a year goes on filling the damn thing up.
Only Denmark and Switzerland came close to our prohibitive car costs. But the cheapest place to run a car is Saudi Arabia, where it costs the princely sum of £237.32 a year to own a car. But of course, they do have all the oil. And women aren’t allowed to drive, so that cuts costs for the oppressed ladies straight away.
Do you want a depressing table of costs? Thought so. Happy motoring!
1. UK £3,453.66
2. Netherlands £3,370.42
3. Switzerland £3,321.80
4. Italy £2,966.69
5. Portugal £2,914.63
6. Germany £2,856.04
7. France £2,538.82
8. USA £2,425.36
9. Spain £2,421.87
10. New Zealand £2,387.20
11. Australia £2,128.24
12. Canada £1,828.65
13. India £1,805.94
14. Russia £1,727.82
15. Japan £1,628.38
16. China £1,315.12
17. South Africa £1,280.18
18. UAE 672.01
19. Qatar £527
20. Argentina £269.92
21. Saudi Arabia £237.22
There’s a lot of concern regarding a company called Alpine Electronics. Not to be confused with the Alpine who make car accessories, but rather, a site people have spotted some bargains that appeared to be too good to be true. And, it appears they were indeed not to be believed.
The company, trading via alpineelectronicsltd.co.uk had offers on cheap consoles. After taking numerous orders, the site is now down and it appears that all orders have gone with it.
BW staff contacted the numbers that were on the site before it went down, and there’s no answer. After finding the address of the company, we called the company next door and found that Alpine Electronics had upped sticks and moved on. The person we spoke to admitted that they’d taken numerous calls regarding this matter.
Looking at scamvoid/alpineelectronicsltd, it seems this was a very new company, which makes it difficult to assume that this is anything but a scam.
Over on HUKD, there’s a lot of discussion about the company, with one user noting too many indescrepencies (see here), and lots of comments about emails going unanswered and phone calls which were vague about the company’s history. Many customers have said that they’ve received fake DHL emails about delivery.
Amazon customers have also been talking about Alpine Electronics, with many feeling they’ve been duped. Some customers have already contacted the police about the matter.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE AN ALPINE ELECTRONICS ORDER?
To be safe, it is worth getting in touch with your credit/debit card company or call Action Fraud on 0300 1232040. When contacting Action Fraud, be sure to let them know that the company has vacated their premises, which means they won’t instruct you to send a Breach Of Contract letter to Alpine. Your bank should stand the cost of the transaction, but you’ll need to contact them for more details.
Should your bank prove difficult, remind them that you are in fact protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act whenever you make a purchase for goods or services worth between £100 and £30,000 using your credit card. Section 75 states that you and your credit card provider are “jointly and severally liable” for your purchase. That means, if you’re scammed, your card provider must refund you if the retailer won’t.
Most debit card providers offer protection also. A scheme called Chargeback offers protection on purchases made using Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard and Maestro debit cards. This makes it possible for you to claim a refund if your transaction is unsatisfactory (goods not being delivered, multiple billing, fraud). Claims must be made within 120 days of when your goods should have been delivered and ask your bank to initiate the Chargeback process and a dispute will be opened by your bank.
If Chargeback fails, take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Ok, so it’s not a very catchy title for a Christmas song, but online sales are forecast to hit a jingle janglin’ £5bn this year, says Deloitte, while overall, we’ll be spending £40 billion on Furby Booms and comedy reindeer onesies. And it seems that all we want for Christmas is quick, flexible delivery or click and collect.
Considering we’re all supposed to be arduously climbing out of the recession like an overweight old man out of a swimming pool, these festive projections sound pretty healthy. Indeed, Ian Geddes of Deloitte sounded positively cheery.
‘The forecast will provide some Christmas cheer for retailers. Shoppers are expected to loosen purse strings off the back of rising consumer confidence and improving economic conditions. After last year’s click-and-collect Christmas, consumers’ expectations around flexible delivery over the coming festive period are higher than ever before.’ he said, wearing a Noddy Holder glittery top hat.
With Black Friday and Super Stupid Saturday just around the corner, shoppers are all set to click and collect themselves senseless this weekend. Royal Mail is predicting that Saturday will be the busiest day of the year for online sales.
In marketing, what goes down well in the office ideas pod might actually be a teensy bit dodgy in real life. Like this alleged campaign by Intelligent Marketing Solutions (the clue is in the name), who are apparently paying people to pose as shoppers and demand that Typhoo is stocked in more stores. By generating a fake demand for it, they obviously hope that sales will increase.
But, er, isn’t this all a bit dodgy? Take for example, the email from IMS to its secret shoppers:
‘We have been asked by our client to contact Sainsbury’s by the following methods [email, Facebook etc] to ask why they no longer stock Typhoo tea in a specific store (the stores will be listed) and to ask if this product can be restocked. Rates of pay are £1.50 per call, with the exception of the letter and telephone assignment, which are paid at £2.50.’
The online ‘assignment’ involved stores all around the country, and shoppers were asked not to identify themselves as marketing lackeys. But the plan is now apparently on hold after the media got wind of the email.
It’s still not clear whether IMS is working for Typhoo, or on behalf of some crazy tea head who is willing to pay thousands to see their favourite brew back on the shelves. What’s the betting it IS Typhoo? After all, it tastes like pond water, and the only person who ever buys it is your gran.
Has your recently privatised postie been looking depressed and demoralised lately? Well, Ofcom have told the Royal Mail to pull its socks up after it failed to reach delivery targets – and there could be fines if they don’t improve.
One key target states that 93% of all first class letters should be delivered the next day, but they only managed to reach 91.7%. And regardless of whether you’re in an office in London or a croft in John O’Groats, there’s a target of 91.5% for next day first class delivery across all UK postcodes. But Royal Mail only managed to reach that target in 62% of UK postcodes areas last year.
However, things aren’t THAT bad. They did manage to deliver 98.5% of second class post within three days! And sometimes they delivered parcels on time, sometimes they didn’t – what do you want? BLOOD?
Ofcom is coming down tough on the Royal Mail, and said:
‘Ofcom is concerned about Royal Mail’s failure to meet certain service targets, and has made clear to the company that it must take all necessary steps to meet these in future.’