Argos in racist doll fracas

January 23rd, 2015 7 Comments By Ian Wade

Argos have found themselves in a row. A RACE row about dolls. So they have.

The original click and collect front, have a white doll priced £10 more than their black and Asian offerings.

The white ‘Maria’ doll, made by French company Corolle Calin, is being sold on the Argos website for £34.99, while Asian and black dolls ‘Yang’ and ‘Naima’ are for sale for £24.99.

‘Yang’.

All the dolls are, like, the same and beautiful inside and of the same dimensions and on the manufacturer’s website all three are sold at the same price of £23.

A mum of three named Lisa O’Reilly from Lincs reckoned: “It’s unacceptable for children to think white is better or more desirable. It’s wrong for our youngsters to grow up thinking non-white skin colours are worth less.”

“There’s enough prejudice in the world already without battling against racist toys.”

Argos blamed it handily on a genuine pricing error and said it was urgently rectifying the problem. Why, even a spokesman chipped in with “[We] can confirm all three dolls will be priced at £24.99″.

So that’s alright then. Nothing like checking these things BEFORE they’re uploaded, eh.

Which are the worst energy companies?

January 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Which are the worst energy companies?Which!!! have been trying to find out which is the worst of the energy providers and, in a move that will surprise precisely no-one, Npower have been awarded the dubious honour.

The energy company have been annoying everyone with major, major problems with their billing and came bottom the Which!!! customer satisfaction survey for the fourth year running. They’ve got an overall satisfaction score of a meagre 35%.

They’re past caring these days aren’t they? It is almost like complaining about them is just white noise to them and they’ve started to enjoy it and are now trolling everyone.

ScottishPower wasn’t too far behind, again, haunted by billing cock-ups, and was second worst with a score of 41%. Both companies are under investigation by Ofgem for their abject performance, being threatened with sales bans unless they get through their complaints backlogs. Not that they seem to care one jot as The Big Six are completely oblivious to… well… everything.

Roger Hattam, Npower’s director for its domestic retail business, said: “We’re disappointed with the results. We value all feedback and have already made significant improvements to how we look after our customers.” Meanwhile, a ScottishPower spokesperson said: “Last year all our customer accounts were migrated on to a new £200 million customer service IT system, and although this will deliver real benefits in the long-term, the installation process has been challenging. The vast majority of accounts have been transferred successfully, but unfortunately the installation of the new systems has meant we have not been able to provide the level of service our customers expect.”

Both of those statements came from a press release generator by the sounds of it.

So who came top of the pile? Green energy supplier Ecotricity had an approval rating of 85%, which is great for them.

Year on year, the Big Six are performing poorly and getting their arses handed to them by smaller companies – is it time we all started moving away to the underdogs? At least the smaller companies don’t wait for the results of competition inquiries and surveys to start aiming for good service.

Wireless charging at Starbucks

January 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

starbucks logo 300x300 Wireless charging at StarbucksJust like McDonald’s, Starbucks are going to start offering wireless charging for customers, or people who are just sneaking in pretending to be customers, but really having a sly poo.

To start with, only 10 Starbucks in the UK will be offering wireless charging by the end of January, but you suspect they’ll roll it out further.

Now, there’s a few different types of wireless charging portals and Starbucks have decided to go with Powermat, which means you have to plug in an adapter to their phone. If there’s a plug socket available, you could just plug it into the mains and be done with it.

If not, you can buy one of the ring-shaped devices for £10. It only makes sense to do that if you spend a lot of time in a Starbucks, which a good number of folk do. The rest meanwhile, can be found muttering about taxes and inflating the cost of a Starbucks brew for comedic value while slagging them off.

If you have an adapter, you place your phone on one of the specially equipped tables and like magic, you’ll get some juice for your phone. We can already sense the in-store leaflets, tittering about how these things are like an espresso for your mobile.

Ian Cranna, vice president of marketing and category at Starbucks, said: “We have always tried to anticipate our customers’ needs and innovate with technology to provide even more convenience. Our partnership with Powermat demonstrates Starbucks response to an increasing need to stay connected whilst on the go.”

The first ten cafes will be at Princes Street, Kingsway, Wardour Street, Pentonville Road, Harewood Place, Berkeley Street, Great Portland Street, Moorgate, Fleet Street, and Euston Tower.

All in London then.

zzzw EE customers to share £1m refund after VAT kerfuffleSeveral EE customers are due a windfall refund of around £1 million. Not each, mind.

The EE customers were those who went outside of the EU and used internet data between October 2012 and October 2014 are affected – about 0.5% of EE’s total customers.

EE told the BBC that the cash was never EE’s and that the overcharges went straight to Revenue & Customs. Customers affected can expected refunds from about £2 to £80 per customer.

Spokesman David Nieberg said: “Due to a configuration error in our billing system, made following a system change, a small number of customers were wrongly charged VAT on the Data Roaming bundle outside of Europe.”

“This was a mistake, and we are now refunding these charges and contacting affected customers to apologise for the error.”

He added: “We’ve claimed that money back from HMRC, and then it goes back to the customers.”

Customers affected by the error are being contacted via text message and told the amount they are owed, and any former customers who believe they may be eligible have been told to contact customer services.

Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?

January 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

eurostar channel tunnel Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?There’s been a weekend of complete mayhem at the Channel Tunnel, which means a lot of people are looking at getting some compensation from Eurostar.

As you’ll be aware, the chunnel was closed for most of Saturday because of a fire and then it was locked down again on Sunday because of an unrelated electrical fault. Today, there’s only one of the two tunnels open, which means more delays and headaches for passengers.

It is hoped that the Channel Tunnel will be back to full speed tomorrow, but after this weekend, no-one should hold their breath.

The amount of passengers inconvenienced over the weekend are in advance of 12,000, which is a lot of compensation needing to be paid out.  On Saturday, Eurostar cancelled 26 of their services.

The cancellations were a result of a lorry  which was on fire (or more accurately, it was “”smouldering”, which meant two CO2 detectors went off and everything had to be shut down. Then, once that was put out, “residue smoke” had to be cleared, meaning further delays. Then, when it looked like things were getting sorted, there was a problem with a power supply which meant more hair being torn out in frustration.

So what happens now?

Well, if you’re planning to travel on Eurostar, they’ve said that they’re planning to run a full service, albeit with delays, so you should check-in as normal, but expect to spend some time sat around and tutting.

“As Eurotunnel will not be completely operational Eurostar services may be subject to delays of up to about 30 minutes,” the company said. “If you were scheduled to travel on Saturday or Sunday and wish to change your plans and were impacted by the tunnel closure, you can exchange your ticket free of charge, within the next 60 days to travel anytime within the next 120 days, or apply for a refund.”

If you’re wanting to complain, then there are long waits on the Eurostar telephone services. You can try ringing them - 03432 186186, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri – or, if you prefer, you can email them at traveller.care@eurostar.com and include the details of what happened as well as your six-letter booking reference.

Eurostar’s website says that they have a “generous compensation policy” for passengers who have been affected by delays so if all of the above switches you off, they have an online form to help you get your money back.

And now, instead of some hold music, here’s a man being run over by a moped outside London’s St Pancras, live on the telly. Both are fine.

Royal Mail get cosier with eBay

January 15th, 2015 3 Comments By Ian Wade

Royal Mail Royal Mail get cosier with eBayThe Royal Mail are hoping to cash-in with online shopping a bit better by teaming up with eBay.

The new Click & Drop service is made to make the process of delivering eBay purchases a lot easier, along with a online postage and label set-up that will integrate with the eBay account, with optional PayPal business too.

By extending the options for payment, marketplace sellers can now choose at how they’d like to cover the cost of their postage, by using the proceeds generated from their marketplace sales. Royal Mail will also be offering customers a choice of delivery options including 1st and 2nd Class, Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm, Signed For 1st and 2nd Class.

Later in the year, customers will also be able to send items abroad or use Parcelforce Worldwide services. Customers will be able to post their items in a postbox or drop off at one of 11,500 Post Office branches nationwide.

Royal Mail have put this move down to some research that revealed that almost a quarter of all UK small to medium businesses would be using online shopping portals to increase their sales in the next 12 months.

Nick Landon, Managing Director of Royal Mail Parcels, said: “Royal Mail is very pleased to introduce Click & Drop, our new parcels online postage solution for eBay sellers. This is part of Royal Mail’s programme of investment in IT to support customers and make it easier for them to do business with us. The new solution allows eBay sellers to integrate their accounts, enabling them to manage their orders more easily.”

Two solutions there. Well done Mr Landon.

The Silk Road: back. Back. BACK!

January 13th, 2015 1 Comment By Ian Wade

618px Silkroadmain 300x173 The Silk Road: back. Back. BACK!The Silk Road website, where one can obtain jolliness like drugs, guns and the like, appears to be back online, and reckons it’s more secure than TOR.

Named after The Silk Road that was a 4,000 mile stretch of of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by linking traders and that, from China and India to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time

The Silk Road site, now named ‘Silk Road Reloaded’ like some classic line-up tour, is using an alternative network called the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) and you can only get at it via special secret software.

In order to access the new Silk Road, interested parties need to download I2P software. The website URL is silkroadreloaded.i2p, but standard internet browsers will realize that the site is inaccessible. Without the software, there’s no way in. Oh noes!

Do you know what I2P is? Well handily we’ve cut and pasted that info for you from their official site because we’re nice like that.

“To anonymize the messages sent, each client application has their I2P ‘router’ build a few inbound and outbound ‘tunnels’ – a sequence of peers that pass messages in one direction (to and from the client, respectively). In turn, when a client wants to send a message to another client, the client passes that message out one of their outbound tunnels targeting one of the other client’s inbound tunnels, eventually reaching the destination. Every participant in the network chooses the length of these tunnels, and in doing so, makes a tradeoff between anonymity, latency, and throughput according to their own needs. The result is that the number of peers relaying each end to end message is the absolute minimum necessary to meet both the sender’s and the receiver’s threat model.”

“The first time a client wants to contact another client, they make a query against the fully distributed ‘network database’ – a custom structured distributed hash table (DHT) based off the Kademlia algorithm. This is done to find the other client’s inbound tunnels efficiently, but subsequent messages between them usually includes that data so no further network database lookups are required.”

It all sounds a bit ‘Thom-Yorke-will-probably-release-an-album-via-it-soon’ doesn’t it?

I2P claims to offer anonymous internet browsing, by utilising a distributed network database along with peer selection, as opposed to TOR’s centralized directory-based approach. While TOR has a much bigger database and significant funding, I2P claims their service is faster and optimised for hidden services.

So there you go. You can smell the warm pants of trouble around this already.

Call for event ticketing reform to stop touts

January 12th, 2015 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

tickets Call for event ticketing reform to stop toutsBuying tickets for a sporting or music event is often wildly frustrating. When an event sells out, then punters find themselves looking for resales, and it is here that people from the world of entertainment and sports want a rethink.

They’d like to see new controls on websites selling event tickets and would like to see resellers publishing the names of ticket sellers and face value of tickets, in a bid to stop fans getting ripped off. There’s a letter, which was published in the Independent which was signed by heads of sporting and cultural bodies, as well as the management companies of entertainers.

This is a bid to stop touts making a fast buck and, indeed, control the market that resells tickets for needlessly inflated prices. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport are on record as saying that they don’t see a change in law happening, but the industry is pushing MPs to do something as secondary ticketing sites are able to add whatever surcharges they like, getting themselves a nice commission.

So, if these companies buy tickets for a popular event in bulk, they can resell them for profit, meaning that tickets at face-value aren’t getting into the hands of the people trying to attend the event. This is undermining the efforts of sum to keep ticket prices fair.

The letter says: “It’s high time the government stopped sticking up for secondary platforms, and decided to put fans first.” They want to see measures that ensure secondary ticketing platforms publish; the name of the seller and whether they are affiliated to a larger organisation; the face value of the ticket; whether the resale contravenes terms and conditions agreed to by the original buyer and the seat number of the ticket.

These proposals have been suggested as a change to the Consumer Rights Bill

Of course, this would be a win for both sides – if a band cares about fans getting face-value tickets, they’ll be happy. Also, it means profits go to the band’s organisations, rather than being siphoned off by someone creating false demand.

The government’s culture spokesman, Viscount Younger of Leckie, thinks that forcing companies to play along with this isn’t needed, saying: ”I believe that a voluntary approach with improved guidance and with better point-of-sale electronic means to control ticketing is the way forward.”

Boomerang Games: Has your money gone missing?

January 12th, 2015 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

 Boomerang Games: Has your money gone missing?There’s been a kerfuffle at Boomerang Rentals, where customers have been complaining that money has been going missing from their account.

Boomerang said: ”Following an initial enquiry at the end of last week, we have had a number of customers raise concerns regarding fraudulent payment attempts on their card details that are also registered with us.”

“We are fully investigating this issue and have temporarily removed access to our website while this continues. We have contacted our Payment Provider Sagepay and our Merchant Bank World Pay and neither have any reported concerns relating to us.”

“However, please be assured we are treating this with the utmost urgency and can provide more information on our findings as they become available. If you have any concerns, please contact your card issuer. We apologise for any inconvenience the removal of our site has caused and thank you for your patience as we continue to investigate further.”

Obviously, a lot of customers aren’t happy with this response. One spat: “How comes it took you 3 or 4 days to acknowledge this? I had over 2 grand took out and if you would have warned us all, hell by even a email, we could have cancelled our cards. It is not the money I am pissed about, it’s the fact you ignored the complaints you were getting on the thursday and friday that annoys me. For such a great games company, your customer service is sorely lacking. It is such a shame it happened this way. Customers first Boomerang. …you should have warned us straight away, instead of keeping quiet. Very disappointed.”

Another added: “I had money taken out my bank as well, i closed my boomerang account months ago so you shouldn’t even have my bank details stored still.”

There’s a thread on Reddit also, where there’s a good volume of complaints. Some are suggesting that the company got their bank details from a free trial, and now, potentially thanks to a leak/hack, money is going out of accounts from people who hadn’t planned to spend any money.

We’ll keep an eye on this, until then, it is worth contacting your bank about any payments you believe to be fraudulent or indeed, if you’ve used Boomerang, check your bank statement to see if there’s any erroneous funds missing.

Creme Egg recipe changed – probably a Jihad plot

January 12th, 2015 6 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Cadbury Creme Eggs 300x300 Creme Egg recipe changed   probably a Jihad plotAs you may have found out, via those fantastically bright people at Fox News, Birmingham is a no-go area for people who aren’t Muslims. You didn’t hear about that? Click here to find out all about it. Just wait until Fox finds out that, nearby, they’ll find the Black Country.

Seeing as Cadbury is Birmingham, the news that the company have secretly changed the recipe of Creme Eggs, you can only assume that this is a secret terror plot to fell Britain via dissatisfied palates by horrible eggstremists.

So what’s going on? Well, the chocolate shell of a Creme Egg is now made with a standard cocoa mix rather than Dairy Milk. And you can tell. It is much sweeter than the old version, as if Creme Eggs weren’t sweet enough already.

A spokesdrone for the company said: “We tested the new one with consumers. It was found to be the best one for Creme Egg, which is why we’ve used it this year. The Creme Egg had never been called Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Creme Egg.”

“We have never played on the fact that Dairy Milk was used.”

Of course, Creme Eggs were actively good for you in the olden days, before the American company Kraft took over Cadbury’s. Kraft also stopped boxes of Creme Eggs containing 6 treats (you know, like a proper box of eggs) and reduced the contents to 5, while keeping the price the same. Naturally, chocolate fans are exggsasperated at the whole thing.

Shell-shocked. Albumental, etc. Now, we’re off for a Creme Egg omelette.

Train tickets: cheaper in Wales

January 9th, 2015 2 Comments By Ian Wade

train Train tickets: cheaper in WalesTrain ticket prices are a right arse, especially when one can pay such a random array of prices for the same trip, depending on when you buy a ticket.

However, a new study has shown that English train passengers are being properly rinsed, and can save up to 60% if they buy their tickets in Wales.

It’s a bit of a trek, admittedly, to get to Wales to then try and save on a train ticket, however people in Bristol – 20 miles from Wales – are stumping up over £50 or more just to get to major cities in the North, and single peak time tickets bought in Newport or Cardiff to the same destinations are up to £58.60 cheaper.

The key example of the ludicrousness is a trip to Manchester during morning rush hour on Monday next week will cost £80.70 from Bristol Temple Meads, but a train leaving Newport just four minutes later travelling to the same destination will cost less than half the price – only £32.

Welsh train operator Arriva offers cheaper fares on journeys heading north than can be found on many journeys leaving from Bristol, while services from Cardiff to Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Blackpool also proved cheaper than travelling from Bristol, but with just minutes added to the journey.

Latest figures from the Office of Rail Regulation reveal huge disparities between the government funding for passenger journeys, varying from an average of £2.19 per journey in England to £9.33 in Wales.

These price differences are the result of the system used by nationalised operator British Rail, which was privatised during the 1990s, according to Christopher Irwin, a director of Travel Watch South West, which promotes the interest of public transport users.

Irwin said: “The history of British Rail helps us understand how fares are priced. Before the railway was privatised, lines used to be classified in three categories; intercity fares, South East fares, which covered a lot of lines to and from London, and regional railway fares.”

“Traditionally regional lines would charge less, as those journeys would contain more stops and take slightly longer. Something like Bristol to Manchester would be classed as an intercity line, whereas something leaving from Newport and travelling through Wales is likely to be a regional line and would cost less.”

Not wanting to get all electioneering, but the party that promises to re-nationalise the railways, could win by a landslide.

boarded up shops 300x199 New Retail Ombudsman service launches  to a load of complaintsAt Bitterwallet, we’re big fans of ombudsman services, which normally offer consumers a further avenue of redress should a complaint about a product or service not be resolved satisfactorily. Now, a new ombudsman service for the retail sector has been launched- and deluged with complaints in its first three days.

We already have a number of ombudsmen that deal with things from financial services to energy- there’s even a furniture ombudsman- but the new Retail Ombudsman (TRO) service was launched on 2 January 2015. On that day alone, 107 complaints were lodged, this total rising to 312 by the end of that first weekend of the year. Most of the complaints were about delivery and returns as a result of the huge increase in online shopping before Christmas, followed by mislabelling and damaged packaging. The TRO is on course to meet its prediction of handling 100,000 cases this year as consumer awareness increases and more retailers sign up.

An estimated 2 million complaints remained unresolved in 2013, out of a total of around 6.4 million. An additional 6.8 million people are thought to have had a grievance but didn’t take steps to complain.

The service represents the first alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme in the retail sector, and will provide “a free, fair and independent” facility for dealing with unresolved disputes between firms and consumers, with 3,000 retailers already signed up as members. The ombudsman is funded by member subscriptions – retailers pay between £100 and £2,600 annually depending on the size and type of business. Although 3,000 might sound impressive, according to the British Retail Consortium there are at least 187,000 retailers in the UK, and membership of the ombudsman scheme is entirely voluntary.

In order to access the TRO service, you must have purchased goods or services for use or consumption from a UK retailer (including supermarkets, High street shops, independent shops, websites, garden centres, petrol stations but not furniture or professional services) and have

i) firstly made a complaint to the retailer direct and given them at least 8 weeks to respond; and

ii) made your complaint to TRO within 6 months of the retailer’s decision.

After reviewing the case, TRO can make a determination that would be binding on any member retailer. However, if the retailer is not a member, the TRO, will still review a complaint and advise consumers of their rights. If the ombudsman find in the customer’s favour, they will write to the retailer and “encourage them to reverse their decision”, but TRO currently has “no power to impose sanctions” upon non-member retailers.

However, the UK is set to implement new EU legislation on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and as part of this the government is considering making ADR mandatory across all consumer goods and services in the UK – including retailers. Members of the TRO would automatically meet this requirement.

Also, if TRO rules in favour of a retailer and the complainant does not accept the decision, the consumer does  still have the right to take the case to court.

Chief ombudsman Dean Dunham, a barrister and consumer rights specialist, said: “In this day and age, with shopping online as well as the high street, there are millions of complaints. A large proportion get resolved, but a large proportion don’t. Those people are frustrated and they don’t know where to turn and can’t afford a lawyer. Now they can turn to the ombudsman.”

marmite 255x300 Marmite to relaunch spoof ads despite complaintsMarmite, eh? You either love it or hate it. That’s the theory. Although you could apply that theory to anything from Mrs Brown’s Boys, Rita Ora, a brother-in-law or anal sex to be honest.

However, it’s their thing, and they’re continuing to go with it, as they’ve announced that the mockumentary style adverts that spoof animal rescue scenarios, are to return despite all the complaints they had when it was first aired 18 months ago.

They’ve done a teaser advert, which bugles the return of the mockumentary which detailed jars of Marmite being re-homed and rescued from the backs of kitchen cupboards.

The short film jokingly lays bare the cruelty from “repeat offenders” that has lead to a resurgence of neglect of the brand just 18 months on from the original campaign.

There’s security officials monitoring security feeds and spoofy undercover interviews to poke fun at the public furore around the first advert, ahead of the full 30 second commercial that will debut next week.

Of course there’s a sodding hashtag – #MarmiteNeglect – thank you marketeers for doing the admin for everyone who will no doubt be inundating social networks about it.

Joanne O’Riada, Marmite brand manager, said the campaign will be “digital-first” and deliver a light-hearted reminder of the ‘Love it. Hate it. Just don’t forget it’ strapline”.

Shall we have a look at it?

What days we live in, people.

£6,235.88 for a Nando’s

January 5th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

nandos £6,235.88 for a NandosSome people are mental and really, really love Nando’s. They throw loads of money at them to scoff chicken, covered in sauce that could dissolve a corpse.

However, one chap had a surprise when he found out that he’d spent over £6,000 on a family meal at the poultry pusher.

Aurel Lupsa chewed some chicken at the branch in Brent Cross, London, with his wife, their seven-year-old daughter, his niece and her husband. Their bill should’ve been £62.35, however, the Nando’s worker had put £6,235.88 into the credit card machine and Lupsa didn’t notice.

Good ol’ staff got on it though. Lupsa said: ”I didn’t really notice I was overpaying, to be honest. Just as we were leaving, the server rushed over and said there had been a mistake. I couldn’t believe it when they said I overpaid by more than £6,000. Thankfully, the mistake was spotted straight away, so I wasn’t left broke and penniless or anything like that.”

“I can’t believe the most expensive meal of my life was at Nando’s. It’s good chicken, but it’s not that good.”

A Nando’s spokesman said: “We immediately refunded the transaction and apologised for the error.”

SWNS NANDOS BILL 02 500x332 £6,235.88 for a Nandos

Of course, this is a pretty typical story, but it is worth staying vigilant. One poor sod from Birmingham got charged £60,000 for some wrapping paper over Christmas and didn’t notice until his card was declined on Christmas Eve.

That saw his card being rejected, his account being frozen and all manner of nonsense to irritate him over the festive period. So there you go. Don’t get complacent or you’ll end up with a load of faff and mithering friends for scraps of food and all that.

John Lewis: Click & Collect is the future!

January 5th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

john lewis John Lewis: Click & Collect is the future!Click & Collect overtook home deliveries this Christmas at John Lewis, which tells us one thing – people would like to spend as little time as humanly possible inside actual shops filled with other humans.

The never knowingly undersold mothership saw online taking rise by 19%, which represented 36% of the trade. The Click & Collect side accounted for 56% of online orders too. Fancy that!

Despite counter sales falling by around 1%, like-for-like sales across the retailer grew by 4.8% for the five weeks to 27 December. Total sales were a moistening £777 million.

Managing director Andy Street said sales performance from its outlets was ahead of rivals: ”I am utterly confident that our shop result will beat the market.”

This is all good news for John Lewis, as they essentially ran tings in the Christmas adverts with Monty The Penguin (although when we looked in on him at his Wonderland on New Years Eve, he looked a bit tipsy and kept swearing). Also  John Lewis is planning to grow its store numbers from 42 currently to 65, with a focus on locations such as Birmingham, Leeds and Oxford.

Despite their online triumphing, Mr Street is still clear about the need for the shop: “The role of the shop is absolutely critical in providing the online sales.”

Yeah. No-one likes being in shops though.