The annual Which!!! retailer survey results are in, and specialist toiletries and cosmetics retailer Lush is the best shop for a second year in a row, with a customer score of an impressive 80%. However, bottom of the shops was EE (previously Orange or T Mobile shops),with a less impressive 52% customer score.
Which!!! surveyed 9,409 members of the public in February 2015 about the shops they have used in the last six months, and ranked them out of 100. The overall customer score is based on its customers’ satisfaction and how likely they are to recommend it to a friend. Satisfaction levels include the range and quality of products available, customer service, what the store is like to shop in and its pricing.
Top of the shops, Lush, was lauded for its product range, quality and customer service. It also gained credit for its environmental credentials, with shoppers praising its “cruelty free” products. And its smells. Nice mostly. Lush’s score of 80% just pipped that other perennial favourite John Lewis to the top spot, the department store scoring just less on 79%. The rest of the top ten is as follows:
2. John Lewis
3. Independent stores (DIY and decorating)
4. Richer Sounds
8. Independent stores (furnishings and homeware)
Independent Stores (Electricals)
Which!!! editor Richard Headland said: ”If retailers can get their products right, along with excellent customer service and a great shopping environment, customers will keep coming back through their doors.”
However, despite 40% of consumers saying price was their top consideration, the Which!!! survey bods said that “although great prices might tempt customers through the doors, our research and analysis found that, once inside, the range and quality of products are the most important things in determining whether shoppers have a good experience – and whether they give it a high customer score.”
In line with these findings, independent shops were this year’s dark horses, with three different types making the top 10, on account of their customer service
Headland added: “With independent stores on the up in our annual survey, it shows a big name isn’t everything as consumers look for quality in both products and service.”
By contrast, the bottom places were packed full of bignames, and at the other end, phone shop EE came bottom, earning the joint accolade of worst phone shop and worst electrical retailer. WHSmith crawled off the bottom spot this year, but customers still find it ‘cluttered’. And Tesco’s woes continue with a poor 90th place (out of 100) showing in the survey.
94. Sports Direct
So what do you think? Are the results about right, or have Which!!! got it totally wrong?
Southern Rail are a PR disaster at the moment. A director at the train company admitted that their trains being on time were ‘few and far between’, while one fella hates them so deeply, that they got a tattoo announcing as such, with some rather colourful language to boot.
And now, they’re only making themselves look worse as they’ve fined a bunch of customers who were forced to stand-up because the train was too crowded.
Commuters heading to London found themselves on a train that was so packed that they had to stand-up in the first class section, because their wasn’t room anywhere else. Did anyone make provisions or stop this from happening? Of course not. Southern Rail ticket inspectors were too busy doling out fines because customers didn’t have the right ticket.
Add all this to being one of the least punctual train companies in the country, coupled with some of the highest fares, and you’ll see why people think they’re a laughing stock.
Peter Boyland wrote to his MPs - Crispin Blunt and Sam Gyimah – to complain about all this, saying: ”The train was so packed in fact that the ‘revenue officers’ were unable to pass through to me to check my ticket, despite my clear proximity to them. This is a fine example of the attitude of Southern, who only seem concerned about protecting their revenue, and less about providing an acceptable level of service.”
A Southern Rail spokesperson said that these fines are just dandy, and with a straight-face, said that passengers would have been fined either £20 or twice the price of a single fare – they choose the fine by going for whichever of the two amounts is greater.
“In this instance, passengers who were issued with penalty fares were sitting in first class accommodation whilst holding standard class tickets. First class accommodation is not declassified automatically if the train is busy, but Conductors can use their discretion to declassify if it is deemed necessary,” the spokesperson told The Independent.
Refund and Compensation
If you think you’re entitled to a refund or some compensation, have a look at our guide to getting your money back. While the train wasn’t late enough to get reimbursed, the fact remains that Southern didn’t provide an adequate service and it is worth trying to dispute the fines and asking for the price of your ticket back.
Let us know how you get on.
Soon enough, when you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes or wanting to buy some movies, when you search in Google, you might have the option to buy it directly through them, rather than messing about pressing buttons to get to Amazon or eBay and wasting your valuable minutes on this planet.
That’s right – the search behemoth is apparently looking to rollout a ‘Buy’ button on its Shopping tab. Google say they won’t get any commission on this and they’re thinking about doing it to help you out. They’re selfless like that, clearly.
That, or they’re going mine all that lovely data and sell it on for a wad of money from someone.
Anyway, according to various reports and mutterings, these buttons will appear alongside paid search results in the ‘Shop on Google’ section.
Seeing as Google have Google Wallet, you’d think that they’ll store your payment details in that, so you don’t need to enter your payment details all the time. That means you might have to be signed-in with Google all the time, which again, works in their favour massively and will no doubt annoy people who don’t have a Google account.
If you’ve made arrangements to take a train somewhere this Bank Holiday, you might want to start arranging a back up plan.
Members of the RMT Union have announced that they are planning to take industrial action on, yep, you guessed it, Bank Holiday Monday 25th May and also Tuesday 26th May.
Talks are supposedly ongoing this week between Network Rail and the Trade Unions so there still might be a possibility that the strike will be called off with a resolution to their dispute being reached.
Should the strike go ahead, train companies have put in place special ticketing arrangements and these are shown below. Do remember to check any existing travel restrictions on your tickets.
Anytime, Off-Peak or Super Off-Peak ticket valid for travel on either the Monday 25 or Tuesday 26 May can be used on Sunday 24 May or Wednesday 27 May instead.
Advance ticket for travel on Monday 25 or Tuesday 26 May can also be used on Sunday 24 May or Wednesday 27 May instead. However, if you travel on either of these two alternative days, you must use the same train service that you would have used on the 25 or 26 May, or the services immediately before or after this service.
As soon as we hear more news we’ll let you know.
So how does it work? Well, go to your pharmacy and ask for the minor ailments scheme form, and fill out your order, and you could get your meds through your NHS contributions.
This scheme is meant only for baby and children’s medication, and is there to alleviate the burden on the NHS. If you don’t need to go to your GP, you don’t have to.
If you want more information on this, the NHS have a page about it all, which is helpful.
There’s a search engine about the minor ailments scheme, which you can check out by clicking here. Not all pharmacies run a minor ailment service, sadly. If you have a Boots nearby, they’re on-board with the scheme. You can check out their information on it all, here.
Basically, if you just need some Calpol or nappy rash cream, you can avoid the wait at the GP’s and get it for free at participating pharmacies. This scheme has been around for a while, but it seems there’s a lot of people out there who still aren’t aware of it, so have a look into it and make the most of this very useful service for new parents which will save you time, as well as money.
If you’re an adult picking up a prescription, there’s also a thing where you can save money. In some cases, picking up a private prescription is significantly cheaper than doing it through the NHS. Have a look here for more details on that.
Whether it be an electrical item or something edible, you expect something you purchase to be completely without defect. Unfortunately however that is not always the case and from time to time you see those big product recall notices plastered in the newspaper, in a window at your local store or most frequently these days a post shared by your friends on social media. Of course the bigger businesses will often find themselves in the national press too.
Manufacturers and retailers in the UK are legally obligated to communicate product recalls to the product owners. For big household items it is worth registering your ownership of the product with the company as they can locate you should your product be subject to a recall.
If you find yourself with a product subject to a recall, the notice should give you all the information explaining what you need to do next. If it doesn’t, you can contact the retailer/manufacturer or the Citizens Advice.
For any product bought from a company based inside the EU, European law will protect you. For this you’ll need to contact the UK European Consumer Centre for more information. It is worth noting that if you bought a product from a company outside the EU it is unlikely that UK or UE law will be able to assist you.
If you are concerned about the safety of a product and you’ve done all you can to check whether it has appeared on a recall notice, it is best to stop using it and make your concern known to the retailer, manufacturer or, if not known, your local Trading Standards office.
Official Recall Websites
Retailer Recall Pages
BitterWallet Recall Articles
You can find our dedicated section to product recalls by clicking here.
The hack sees ne’er-do-wells able to take funds from customer credit cards, bank accounts and PayPal accounts. You see, the app is linked to an online payment service and hackers have found a way in, so they can take advantage of the cash auto-reload function and online gift cards that a lot of people use.
Basically, they can transfer money to themselves.
So what’s the deal? Well, Starbucks say that they know there’s a problem, but rather than this being their fault, they say this is an issue with weak passwords. While they’re seemingly not willing to do anything about this security flaw, they are saying that customers won’t be held responsible for any charges that someone else is responsible for.
Starbucks said in a statement: “If a customer believes their account has been subject to fraudulent activity, they are encouraged to contact both Starbucks and their financial institution immediately.”
“Customers are not responsible for charges or transfers they did not make. If a customer’s Starbucks Card is registered, their account balance is protected.”
If you’re worried about this, change your password and disable the auto-reload feature, and you should be fine.
With this, comes a big safety issue. If you’ve bought a princess dress for a couple of quid or what have you, then chances are, it hasn’t gone through the same safety tests as proper, adult clothes. This legal loophole means a lot of fancy dress outfits are incredibly flammable.
This follows TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, who bought her daughter a witch costume in a local supermarket for “five quid”. The costume caught fire while trick-or-treating. Winkleman said: “I was talking to somebody, and then I just heard her scream,” Winkleman said. ”She just screamed ‘Mummy’ and I turned round and that was that, she was just on fire.”
TV show, Watchdog, looked at the flammability of children’s costumes and the results were pretty shocking. In one instance, a princess dress was very much aflame within 10 seconds of catching light from a small flame from a tealight.
It is obvious that children’s fancy dress clothing needs to be reclassified, in a bid to make them more safe to be worn. One thing suggested is that fancy dress costumes be put through a more rigorous test, such as the one done on children’s nightclothes.
A report has been submitted to the government, which we’ll report on when they’ve responded. Until then, it’d be worth thinking twice before buying any fancy dress outfits for the kids.
If you want to see Watchdog’s flammability tests, click here.
As far as a UK energy company is concerned, Scottish Power has received the highest number of complaints EVER, according to new figures. They’ve seen complaints going up by a whopping 488%, according to Citizens Advice.
1,163 customers per 100,000 complained about Scottish Power in the last quarter of last year, which is the largest amount of people moaning in any one quarter. And what has caused all this? The reason is largely because of the supplier’s new billing system.
While complaints across the sector are going down, Scottish Power are reversing the trend and were banned from proactive sales in March after failing to meet customer service targets set by Ofgem, who had found that the company hadn’t made sufficient improvements regarding customer complaints.
Npower must be thrilled as they’re usually heading up the table for being the most complained about energy company. For the first two quarters of 2014, they were, but Scottish Power’s dreadfulness saw them taking the top spot in the second half of the year.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “New billing systems are routinely failing energy customers. In the last few years, four of the largest firms have introduced new billing systems, and their implementation has caused chaos for consumers. Thousands of customers have been hit by delayed and incorrect bills which have resulted in extreme frustration and significant debts.”
“It’s encouraging that Npower is now turning the corner, but Scottish Power still has a very long way to go.”
Neil Clitheroe, chief executive of Scottish Power retail and generation, said: “We apologise unreservedly to any customers who have experienced account issues. These statistics reflect service problems in the last six months of 2014, when we had our most challenging period following the introduction of a new £200 million customer IT system.”
“To make improvements we have added 700 new customer service advisers and we worked closely with Ofgem on call waiting times, outstanding bills and ombudsman complaints. We also agreed with Ofgem to stop outbound sales for a two week period. Recently our call answering times have been among the best in the industry and outstanding complaints have been reduced significantly. We remain fully committed to resolving outstanding issues and ensuring that no customers will be left out of pocket.”
Problems continue to mount for airbag supplier Takata with the announcement that Toyota and Nissan will be recalling 6.5m airbags.
These Takata airbags have been under scrutiny for quite some time and 17 million vehicles carrying these airbags have already been subject to a recall.
The previous problem appeared to be that the airbags inflate with too much force and shoot out metal shards. This problem has linked the product to 5 deaths and dozens of injuries. The latest recalled however is slightly different in that the front passenger and front driver-side air bag inflators can deploy abnormally, or rupture, and put a person in a crash at greater risk.
Its chairman and chief executive pledged Takata was working hard to test and replace airbags deemed to be a potential risk. In a letter they said “Our airbags have deployed safely in more than two million auto accidents around the world since we began producing them in 1987, saving many thousands of lives.
“In 2014 alone, thousands of serious injuries and deaths have been prevented worldwide by Takata airbags.”
Toyota cars affected in the latest UK recall:
Corolla. Yaris, Picnic and Avensis Verso models built between March 2003 and March 2007 for passenger airbag defects
RAV4, Yaris and Hilux cars manufactured between July 2003 and December 2005 for driver airbag defects.
Toyota have stated that owners of these vehicles would be contacted within six weeks and told what to do next.
Nissan recall vehicles in the UK:
Navara Pickup, Almera Tino, Patrol, Almera, Terrano II and X-Trail models manufactured between 2004 and 2007
Both makers will carry out the recall without charging customers for parts or labour.
What’s the best thing since sliced bread? Unfortunately for bread manufacturers, its not the traditional white sliced loaf anymore. A combination of changing consumer tastes and supermarket price wars have meant that traditional sliced loaves are no longer the best thing in a baker’s range.
Research shows a widespread switch away from sliced bread in recent times, with consumers instead turning to ‘healthier’ alternatives such as wholegrain and artisan loaves, or even shunning wheat or gluten-based products entirely. Add to that the fact that bread, as a staple product, has been heavily involved in supermarket price wars- Asda recently dropped a number of branded bread products, and Tesco has thrown them all out in favour of in-house ranges, and you can see why the top three UK bakers are all showing a massive decline in sales. And don’t even mention the introduction of free school meals for all infant school children- with the 14% decline in schoolchildren taking sandwiches also being blamed.
Data from analysts IRI shows that Warburtons, Hovis and Kingsmill , have lost a total of £121 million in bread sales in the past year. Warburtons has lost sales worth £35 million, while Hovis has suffered a £11 million slump in sales. Kingsmill reported that bread sales down £75 million on the preceding 12 months, price drops exacerbating a 14.3% drop in volume. Total UK bread sales were down 8.4% as average prices fell 4.7%, and these figures mean that Hovis, perhaps assisted by its ‘wholemeal’ and traditional image, has overtaken Kingsmill to become Britain’s second biggest selling bread brand.
And therein lies the silver lining. As the bread market goes stale, this has spelled good news for consumers as prices in High Street stores have fallen by an average of 15p for a large (800g) loaf. Trade magazine The Grocer reported that shoppers are currently paying, on average, 13.3% less than they were a year ago for a large loaf with those selling at a typical promotional price of £1.14 in the last week of April now costing just 99p.
So are you still a tea and toast in the morning kind of consumer? Or are you almond bagel or fruit and yogurt material? Does your lunchbox include a ham sandwich, or are you quinoa and roasted vegetables these days…
Well, this is quite strange. The browse and discover site for parents Wauwaa seems to have just disappeared. Site not found, Twitter and Facebook account deleted and there is currently a proposal to strike off the WAU Holdings Limited company.
The most unfortunate part of all this is that there will no doubt be many of you currently waiting for orders to be fulfilled or refunds issued and and now you’ve got no way of contacting the company to find out exactly what is happening.
So, what can you do? Well, you could just sit and wait. If the company is going to go into liquidation there should be a formal announcement shortly with details of the administrators appointed. If there is a company sale then again, an announcement should follow too.
Made payment on card? Contact your card issuer – it will depend on how you made payment to Wauwaa but you could have some recourse through your card issuer. There are primarily two schemes in place and these are Chargeback or Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. In a little more detail…
If you’ve paid using a debit card for goods you can ask your card issuer to reverse the transaction if the goods have not arrived or if they are different from the description. You can also use Chargeback if the company has ceased trading. The procedure might vary between Visa, Maestro and American Express so check with your issuer for full details such as time limits and the nature of your purchase (e.g. flight purchases are different in that the breach is from the date the flight is due to depart).
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers purchases on credit cards and over £100 (and not more than £30,000). What many do not realise is that you are covered for the full cost of the item even if you only used your credit card to pay the deposit. So if you bought a kitchen appliance for £50 deposit using your credit card and paid £300 by cheque, you’d be covered for £350. If you’ve made your payment to Wauwaa by credit card and you wish to make a claim, make sure you get in touch with your credit company and get your claim lodged.
Have you placed an order through Wauwaa and are concerned? Let us know!
The Grocer magazine decided to do a taste test of 1,103 own-label products, and they found that Aldi and Lidl beat off the majority of supermarkets in Britain. Each of the budget supermarkets bagged 13 gold medals each in the annual Own Label Food & Drink Awards.
Asda also got themselves 13 golds, while M&S nabbed eight gold medals.
With a combination of experts and people off the street, the taste test was undertaken and Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons came up short, which will be even more worrying for the retailers.
Editor of The Grocer, Adam Leyland, said: “The number of entries we receive is a clear reflection of the growing importance of own label to retailers. And with competition as fierce as it is, excellence is essential.”
For those who still haven’t stepped foot inside an Aldi or Lidl, they’ve got higher end own-brand items, just like the competition. The quality of Specially Selected and Deluxe items is, according to this test, better than Tesco’s Finest and the like. Some of the items that fared well were Aldi’s Specially Selected vine tomato and lentil soup, the Specially Selected continental plum crumble tart, Moser Roth Madagascan vanilla chocolate and Specially Selected dopiaza curry sauce.
Lidl, meanwhile, scored well with their hot smoked salmon fillet with black pepper, Deluxe Red Leicester with green chilli and red peppers and their steak and ale pie.
Ronny Gottschlich, Lidl’s UK managing director, said: “The awards help to reinforce our message that low cost does not mean having to compromise on quality.”
Down the wrong end of opinion, Morrisons only managed one gold, while Sainsbury’s had absolutely none. It is worth pointing out that Waitrose decided that they didn’t want to enter any products into this test.
Q: How many pedants does it take to change a lightbulb? A: None. They replace one. However, when a headlight bulb goes on your car, with all these shiny new headlight units you might be at a loss as to how to replace it yourself and you might need help doing so. But how much does it cost to change a lightbulb? Car magazine Autoexpress decided to investigate this very question, and found massive variations in charge, with some charging over £70 in some cases. They also found out which marque of car dealership was most helpful in answering telephone queries.
What is, perhaps, not surprising is that most dealerships charged to replace a lightbulb, and the average variance in price between dealers on the same car was around £20. However, what is a welcome surprise is that some offered free labour, and some offered a free bulb, while yet others charged exorbitant fees for a tiny bulb of over £70.
Auto Express picked 50 of the most popular cars in the UK and anonymously contacted three dealers across the country for each model, enquiring how much a new headlight bulb would cost, and how much they’d charge to fit it. The Nissan Qashqai returned the biggest disparity of £44.60, with prices starting at £5.40, rising to £15.39 and peaking at £50. In second place came the Renault Captur, where one garage offered to supply and fit a new light bulb for free, while another wanted £40.. The Mazda 3 returned the third biggest disparity of our trio, as well as providing the single highest quote for changing a bulb, a massive £71.99.
With some headlamp units harder to access and bulb costs varying, it’s unfair to directly compare models, but the average price of the bulbs plus labour was £22.77.
So if those were the most disparate quotes, which were the most consistent? Good old Volkswagen was the most consistent with all nine dealers contacted – for the Polo, Golf and Passat – quoting the exact same amount: £16.40. The next best was Skoda, which had a variation of £1 (£15 to £16) between its three dealers for the Yeti. Volvo came in third, with dealers quoting between £10.08 and £15 – all with free fitting – for the XC90. Skoda and Volkswagen, were the most helpful in dealing with the enquiries over the phone.
However Autoexpress say their research highlighted the varying levels of customer service provided by different dealers, with premium brands being, on the whole, the worst performers for phone manner. Audi and BMW dealers were so premium, they wouldn’t even offer an estimate without exact number plate, ownership, and inside leg measurement details.
Of course, this whole exercise simply highlights the need to shop around for anything, even something as small as a headlight bulb. And while pricey quotes from branded dealers might not be a surprise, those who will fit your bulbs for free is worth knowing- who’d have thought it would be cheaper to go to Volvo for lightbulb fitting than to Halfords, for example.
It’s always nice when a retailer makes a goodwill gesture when they’ve stuffed up in some way, although, in some cases, disgruntled customers might stretch that goodwill to the limit. Like the case of the Hertfordshire woman who, when offered a meal for two to compensate her for a delay in picking up her new (used) car, promptly went out and spent over £700 on a slap-up meal.
The delay in question was caused when a delivery truck bumped into Ms Siobhan Yap’s new (used) car she had purchased from Watford Audi. While Audi repaired the damage, there was obviously a delay in Ms Yap, 27, obtaining her new Audi A3, and in addition to providing her with a courtesy car, the car retailer offered to pay for her to have ‘a meal for two’.
So far so amicable. However, while Audi did not specify a restaurant, or indeed a price limit for the meal, it is unlikely they would have been expecting the inconvenienced customer to book in at the Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Covent Garden, the total bill for the meal for two coming to £714.
While at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Ms Yap and her mother did not cut any corners, enjoying four glasses of champagne, two bottles of wine costing £69 each, six cocktails totalling £86 and a sloe gin all at Audi’s presumed expense.
They did also eat some food, and the “small tasting dishes” they tried included one La Truffe Noire at £35, two St Jacques scallop dishes costing £29 each and two La Volatille risottos totalling £42.
Unsurprisingly, Audi were a little dismayed to receive the hefty bill, which was rather more than it would have been in Nandos, with a Watford Audi spokesman saying they felt it was “excessive expenditure for two diners”, but as Audi were “keen to make amends for the incident” they offered to cover half the bill, equating to £357.
“We believe this is a fair and reasonable amount given the circumstances, and we stand by the decision taken,” said the spokesman.
However, an unapologetic Ms Yap told the JVS show on BBC Three Counties Radio that Audi should really pay the whole bill because she’d had to send the car back for further repairs, and the cost was “relative to what they put me through and their customer service levels”. If only we all got sloshed at a posh restaurant every time we had sloppy customer service eh?
“They put me through a lot of stress and it was a really nice restaurant,” Ms Yap said, before adding triumphantly that “they should have specified a limit.”
Etiquette expert William Hanson agreed that the garage should have set an upper limit and should “learn a lesson” and “absorb the cost”. However, he also remarked that “you don’t need to perhaps drink that much if someone else is paying”.
But what do you think? Do Audi deserve being taken to the cleaners for their naivety, or is Ms Yap just taking the mickey? Isn’t she entitled to a little bit of what she fancied in exchange for what was an admitted cock-up by the car retailer? Or are greedy people like this the reason more firms don’t make added gestures when things go wrong?