£2.66 a head for Christmas dinner

November 17th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

christmas 300x300 £2.66 a head for Christmas dinnerThanks to the increasingly heated rivalry between all the supermarkets, the price of a turkey and the trimmings has fallen. If you’re feeding eight people, the price of your Christmas dinner will be £2.66 a head.

You can recalibrate the cost per head if you’re the kind of person who does Christmas properly and feeds four people with eight people’s worth of food where you all force it all down you like a hoard of gluttons.

Funnily enough, this cost of a Christmas dinner is actually cheaper than a Meal Deal from Tesco.

Anyway, this is the kicker: If you want a turkey, cranberry sauce, four types of vegetables, stuffing and three different desserts, if you shop around you can buy it for £21.31. Last year, according to the Good Housekeeping magazine, it would’ve set you back £21.84 and, in 2009, it would’ve cost £24.

Soon enough, the supermarkets will be so desperate for our custom, they’ll just fire pre-cooked turkey dinners directly into our mouths for free with a t-shirt cannon. Here’s hoping.

Good Housekeeping found that the best priced turkey was £9.99 from Lidl while Aldi are cheapest for sprouts and carrots. As for your Christmas pudding and mince pies, the best is to be found at Sainsbury’s, while Tesco is the place to buy your cranberry sauce. Morrisons, Asda and Tesco all offered stuffing for the same price.

If you can’t be bothered going to all those different shops, then the cheapest single-basket shop is Peter Andre’s Iceland, where you can buy the lot for £27.84, which is £20 cheaper than the most expensive, Marks and Spencer.

Good Housekeeping said: “Budget ­supermarkets are making a real difference to the cost of our shopping,” adding: “It’s a constant struggle for many to keep family food bills under control, but the current battle between the traditional supermarkets and the discounters is pulling prices down.”

All you have to do now is sharpen your elbows for the inevitable rush in the supermarkets. Remember, Christmas is all about one thing: NO MERCY.

death grim reaper dead Mans ashes taken to phone shop after company refuses to cancel contractWhen someone dies, it can be really tricky getting a company to believe you. And so, to T-Mobile, who consistently refused to believe a widow when she’d told them that her husband had passed away. The mobile company wouldn’t cancel his monthly contract, so she decided to prove a point.

She took his ashes into one of their stores.

Maria Raybould had been threatened with bailiffs by T-Mobile and told she had to pay a cancellation fee after her husband David died. As if she wasn’t dealing with enough. After showing T-Mobile a death certificate, funeral bills, she decided to show them an urn full of remains.

Still, T-Mobile weren’t having it and wanted some money from a woman who was clearly grieving.

She said: “I’ve been up to the shop with the death certificate, with a letter from the crematorium, the funeral bills – even his ashes. I took in everything I could. I lost it in the shop. I gave them 20 minutes to sort it out. I went outside and had a panic attack. When I went back in the girl told me she had spoken to the manager and they were going to stop the contract. Then I had another letter about the bailiffs.”

Mrs Raybould said that her son had got in touch with T-Mobile on the day after her husband’s death, trying to cancel the contract, but clearly, seeing a death certificate and everything else, it was all to no avail. Even after visiting with his ashes, she still received demands for bills and cancellation charges.

She added: ”How dare they put me and my sons through this after all we have been through already. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through over the last few months. It was easier for us to bury him than sort this out.”

T-Mobile have now said sorry for all this, blaming it all on an automated process that cancels the balance, which meant that letters were still being sent out.

A spokesman said: “We apologise to Mrs Raybould for any distress caused at this difficult time. We can confirm that the account has been closed and the balance cleared.”

energy Ovo gets egg on its face by undercharging energy switchersYou know how it is when you recommend something to your friends and it turns out to be completely rubbish? Energy minister Ed Davey might be feeling a little red faced today after news emerges that his recommended smaller supplier Ovo has made a bit of a rickett and has charged a load of switchers the wrong energy rate.

It seems many of the people who actually could be bothered to go and find a new energy deal could find themselves having to fork out some extra cash as Ovo discovered their error which affects people who switched between April and June. In total, more than 13,000 customers of Ovo Energy were charged the wrong amounts for gas and electricity owing to a computer glitch. Three in four of these – just under 10,000 – will see the amount they owe increase as Ovo tries to correct the errors, with the worst cases seeing poor customers asked to cough up as much as £400 extra. Ovo said the average undercharge was £25.Similarly some households have paid hundreds of pounds too much and will be given refunds.

All this is obviously highly embarrassing for Ovo, which has positioned itself as a customer champion against the Big Six, and for ministers including Ed Davey who, earlier this year praised Ovo Energy for “doing a fantastic job” encouraging customers to switch to these small suppliers who he described as “agents of real change”.

More than 300,000 people switch energy suppliers every month, figures show, with many starting to look to smaller firms such as Ovo and First Utility. Ovo is the third-largest of the small suppliers, behind First Utility and Utility Warehouse, according to data compiled by The Telegraph. While the small suppliers’ share of the market has increased eightfold since 2011, they still only have around eight per cent, with the lion’s share still held by the big six suppliers.

A spokesman for Ovo explained that some customers were originally set up on the wrong electricity and gas unit rates, hence the embarrassing correction needed now.

“We unreservedly apologise for this mistake and we’ve now started correcting the balance of accounts that have been affected as a matter of priority, and will be writing to every single customer affected,” the spokesman said. “Anyone affected will be put back on the rates they initially chose. No saving any customer will have made by switching to us has been affected by this issue.”

Still, Ovo are making some effort to placate the affected customers. Overcharged customers will be repaid “as quickly as possible”, with undercharging below £10 written off. Customers undercharged by more than £50 will receive a goodwill gesture of between £20 to £100.

What drives you mad about packaging?

November 14th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Bitterwallet Amazon packaging 300x225 What drives you mad about packaging?There’s a lot of snide packaging out there, trying to tempt you into parting with your money for something that is, basically, a load of crap.

Which!!! have been looking at some of the sneaky-ass tricks that retailers have been doing and they’re most irked by ‘Poor-value gift sets’, which means getting a bundle of toiletry items that cost most than buying them separate.  You’re actually paying for some lousy box that you’ll just throw in the bin.

They found that a £6.50 Dove gift set can be bought separately for £4.40. That’s £2.10 for some poxy packaging.

The consumer rights mag also has the hump about ‘tiny portion sizes that make products look healthier’ and ‘Light’ products that aren’t actually healthy. Which!!! looked squarely as Flora Buttery Light (for some inexplicable reason) which “contains high amounts of both fat (45g per 100g) and saturated fat (10g per 100g)” to which Unilever replied with the fact that their product “complies with labelling regulations.”

Which!!! have missed the worst of them all – crisps. Ever bought a packet of crisps, where the packing is larger than your head, yet when you open it, there’s only about 10 crisps inside? It is enough to make you stab. Or wolf down 37 packets of crisps in one go while you’re watching How I Met Your Mother for the millionth time.

There’s also got to be a shout-out to cereal boxes, which give the impression of loads of food inside, when in actual fact, the bugger’s half empty when you buy it.

Anyway, feel free to shout at us about the packaging that gets your goat.

creditcards Hated online card security systems to get revampedMastercard and Visa are going to replace their online security systems.

The much loathed MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa systems are set to be usurped by a much easier to use set-up.

The systems that ask for further information and an extra password were meant to be a way of halting fraud and making it safer to shop on the internet.

However the systems have also been considered a bit of a faff and open to exploitation.

Initially it all sounded quite comforting. You’d get an extra window asking for fragments of your password and you’d feel all safe and that.

Yet according to customer feedback, customers have struggled to remember additional passwords, and there’s also been issues around whether the pop-up windows were not a front for some evil.

The new system will revolve around customers having passwords texted to them, which they would then type in.

Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard, said: “All of us want a payment experience that is safe as well as simple, not one or the other. We want to identify people for who they are, not what they remember. We have too many passwords to remember and this creates extra problems for consumers and businesses.”

MasterCard believe that mobile payments will account for 30% of online retail sales by 2018.

Pinterest looking into becoming an online shop

November 13th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

pinterest 300x300 Pinterest looking into becoming an online shopPinterest have announced that they are to enter the retail browsing racket.

The site where people take pics of things for followers to go “Oooh” at, is wanting a piece of the online retail action, and is in talks as to how to monetize the site.

The chap in charge of engineering at Pinterest, Michael Lopp, claimed that the company was looking to redefine how consumers find goods online.

This comes after Adobe reckoned that Pinterest could become a goldmine, and even projected that it would overtake Facebook.

Lopp said: “When we think of retrieving information, we think of search. If you don’t have a keyword though, you’re out of luck and if you want to browse, search engines are the wrong tool. We call this the discovery problem. There’s a big opportunity to help people browse and discover ideas and projects before they’re ready for search phase.”

Pinterest hopes to be the place where consumers check out new and exciting things, rather than the dull old search engines of Google and Amazon.

Pinterest is responsible for 23% of referrals to e-commerce sites. Lopp also stated that there are 30 billion pinned posts on the social network with that number growing by an average of 25% every quarter.

And there’s us thinking it was just used by a bunch of girls gawping at photos of things that they can’t afford.

BT’s fibre broadband LIES

November 13th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Picture 2 BTs fibre broadband LIESBT and their promise to deliver end-to-end fibre broadband to 25% of the UK has hit some snags.

The company wanted to assure customers that a quarter of the UK would be broadband ready, yet unfortunately the real figure is lower. Like, ridiculously lower.

They’ve confirmed that only 0.7% of the UK can get a full fibre broadband service right now, meaning only a small fraction are hitting the higher speeds.

That’s quite shambolic really.

BT had quietly pushed the 25% claim under the carpet when it dawned on them that it wasn’t gonna happen, due to improvements in the speed of the slower FTTC fibre-to-the-cabinet lines (which combine copper and fibre optic cables together).

Customers had complained to the Advertising Standards Authority claiming all this yabber about ‘fibre optic’ was misleading. However the ASA ruled that it wasn’t, so it can continue to advertise it as it currently is.

Damned lies!

mobile phone 300x225 Now you can find out where the best mobile network coverage isAn app has been created which can indicate the strength of the mobile signal in a certain area.

OpenSignal have invented a heat map, which uses crowd-sourced data, showing 2G, 3G and 4G signal available to users throughout the UK on the major networks – Three, EE, Vodafone and O2.

It shows that – shock – the strongest signals are to be found around cities, where 4G speeds range from 12Mbps to 15Mbps, however the UK still has some catching up to do in a lot of areas.

The map also shows that EE has the best 4G coverage, encompassing 75% of the UK population over 300 towns and cities, and also offers the best overall performance.

However up in Scotland, Three offers the best 4G performance, and in Nothern Ireland Vodafone are the victors with their average download speed of 19.3Mbps

In Scotland, however, Three offers the best 4G performance, with an average download speed of 10.6Mbps and upload speed of 7.0Mbps; while in Northern Ireland, Vodafone has the best 4G performance with an average download speed of 19.3Mbps and upload speed of 9.9Mbps.

Jay Karsandas, digital manager at Mobiles.co.uk, who licensed the maps from OpenSignal, said: “Despite a slow start, the UK has made significant progress in the provision and speed of 4G. It is likely that the initially high price point of 4G dissuaded consumers from taking contracts that utilised the high-speed technology. With a range of flexible and competitive 4G plans on offer by major retailers, and a race to provide the most UK coverage, 4G will inevitably be the future of mobile connectivity.”

This comes after the report which OpenSignal had done with Which!!!, which showed that average speeds on 4G mobile networks had almost halved in the past year. Ironically, the slowdown is attributed to more and more 4G subscribers, but not enough 4G masts.

Fancy that!

“Remember to hide your fags” say government

November 12th, 2014 6 Comments By Ian Wade

cigarettes 300x242 Remember to hide your fags say governmentThe Department of Health has reminded retailers that they should prepare for the tobacco display ban which kicks in next April.

The display of tobacco products has been banned in stores over 3,000 sq ft since 2012 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Scotland followed suit a year later.

However from April 6th 2015, that will be extended to all stores, and anyone failing to comply with the new rules could face up to two years in prison or a fine or even both. Christ.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “With only five months to go before the legislation applies to all shops and businesses selling tobacco, I strongly encourage retailers to start preparing for the changes now.”

“Eye-catching displays of colourful cigarette packets can encourage young people to start smoking and undermine the resolve of adults who are trying to quit.”

We could quite easily get into a debate about how obscuring tobacco behind a till giving smokers grief versus how a whole aisle of alcohol must may make alcoholics feel, but now is not the time. The DoH have said that retailers could get support from the tobacco industry in making their displays compliant.

In the meantime, advertising of electronic cigarettes became okay as of 10th November, but that too may not be for long due to the European Tobacco Products Directive scheduled to come in from May 2016 would prevent the advertising of e-cigarettes on television and radio.

Ellison spoke of this final countdown by Europe and said: “More and more people are using e-cigarettes which is why we want to make sure they are properly regulated. We support the European directive’s proposed controls on e-cigarette advertising which will apply from  May 2016.”

Apple in lack of information lawsuit

November 12th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

sad apple logo Apple in lack of information lawsuitApple have had to be forced into taking a US federal lawsuit. The fruity giant is facing claims that they failed to inform customers about their messages possibly being blocked if they switched to an Android.

A class action lawsuit was brought against Apple in May by Californian Adrienne Moore, who alleged that Apple had interfered with her Verizon wireless contract which entitled her to text messages, and so now a US district judge has ordered that Apple must face Moore’s claim.

Disgruntled ex-iPhoners who flee to Androids, have often been unable to receive messages from other iPhone users. If a phone number is still registered to iMessage despite being on a Android phone, SMS messages from iPhone users are often sent to the deactivated iPhone rather than the new device.

Think of all the dirty/boring text messages being lost by people!

This comes a few days after Apple launched a new thing to allow users to deregister from iMessage. Users must either manually turn off the app on their iPhone, or request a confirmation code from the Apple website.

The Californian lady has argued however, that when she switched to a Galaxy S5, Apple hadn’t mentioned anything about how messages may be blocked. According to the court papers seen by Reuters, Apple argued that there was no law to protect customers who subjectively believed their tech hadn’t worked in the way they wanted.

So what have Apple said? Well: “Apple takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously, but the law does not provide a remedy when, as here, technology does not simply function as a plaintiff subjectively believes it should.”

US District Judge Lucy Koh has argued that a “Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple’s intentional acts have caused an actual breach or disruption of the contractual relationship.”

Moore hasn’t laid out how she wishes to be compensated as yet.

electricity meter 300x187 Now you can switch your energy supplier in half the timeAs the temperature cools, so might your affection for your energy supplier, and this is often the time people think about switching. However, as everyone who’s  ever switched knows, changing energy supplier appears to be a long and laborious process that takes around five weeks- which going from today would take us up until Christmas. However, this is one thing that is about to change, with switching times set to fall to just two and a half weeks.

The 17 day switching time was actually a target set for energy suppliers by Ofgem back in June, and suppliers have until the end of the year to get their fingers out and sort the faster switching. Of course, keen small supplier First Utility has already got its systems sorted, and anyone switching to them from this week onwards will benefit from faster switching. Particularly handy when First Utility are currently topping the best buy energy table.

First Utility have also been asking people what they think. According to Ofgem, 40% of households have never switched energy provider. British Gas must be laughing all the way to the bank. First Utility’s poll suggested that 70% of UK bill payers would be inclined to switch gas and electricity supplier if the process took less time and effort. Because saving money clearly isn’t worth any time and effort for these people…

However, before you get all excited about two-and-a-bit week switching, Ofgem has more dramatic plans up its sleeves. The two weeks plus three days deadline was calculated taking into account the EU imposed 14-day cooling off period for switchers, plus three working days for the energy company to actually effect the switch. But Ofgem are not happy with this either and are working towards one-day switching by the end of 2018 “at the latest”. While the 14 day cooling-off period will remain, Ofgem wants this to run after the switch, as after all, if switching only takes a day, it will be relatively easy to switch back if you change your mind. First Utility’s research showed that 41% of bill payers think switching gas and electricity supplier should take one to two weeks, while 46% think it should take less than a week, highlighting consumer appetite for even faster switching.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem’s CEO, said: “Consumers can change their bank in seven days, their mobile phone in just a couple, but have to wait significantly longer to switch their energy supplier. We know that consumers want a reliable and efficient switching process, and that concerns about it going wrong can put them off shopping around for a better deal. So now that we have taken steps to make the market simpler, clearer, fairer, we are leading a programme which will deliver faster, more reliable switching.”

Ian McCaig, CEO, First Utility said: “This is an important milestone for the industry… By making it easier to switch supplier, more consumers will be encouraged to seek out the best deals and help to significantly reduce their bills.”

So while First Utility are now pioneers of the medium-faster switching service, we will have to wait and see if all the other suppliers can also step up by the end of the year.

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys app will destroy checkout time by literally secondsSainsbury’s are trialling a new and exciting app, even though they can’t be bothered to give it a proper name yet. Either way, it is being tested in various stores in the next few weeks.

The gadget enhancement allows Nectar-holding customers to build a ‘virtual basket’ of products they’re most keen on, before they shop. It also helps them navigate around the chosen branch, and will even allow for customers to scan and pay at the shelf through a mobile.

Crazy.

The supermarket reckons it will shave minutes off your life spent in their stores. That could really backfire though, eh?

Other upgrades include more flexible delivery slots, with bookings on the half hour as well as the hour, and greener delivery options allowing shoppers to book slots in one vehicle if it’s delivering to neighbours. Far out, maaaaan.

Sainsbury’s digital and technology director Jon Rudoe has weighed in with a say: “We know that customers’ weekly shop doesn’t start at our front door – they know what they like and they also like that search for a bargain. They still want to come into store – but with limited time, they want to be able to get their shop done quickly. That’s why we’re putting digital firmly at the forefront of our agenda, and putting technology in the hands of our customers”.

At least he didn’t say solutions, but for a moment there, we were all thinking it.

Lidl: no, they’re not banning Welsh

November 10th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

wales Lidl: no, theyre not banning WelshThere was a row over the weekend, where it was reported that staff at Lidl were going to be stopped from speaking any language other than English in their UK stores, including Welsh.

The supermarket initially said: ”It is Lidl UK company policy that staff speak in English to customers, irrespective of their native language. This is for the benefit of all our customers as well as our staff to ensure a comfortable environment where all feel included.”

Of course, this made some people really angry and made some racists shout “QUITE RIGHT!”

Lidl, aware of the pending storm of faeces about to hit them, decided to make things absolutely clear and issued a statement via Facebook. They said:

“To our lovely customers. We apologise for the continued confusion surrounding the use of the Welsh language in our stores. To be completely clear, we have never and will never ‘ban’ the use of the Welsh language at Lidl. Nor do we prohibit staff from speaking Welsh to each other. Those of you who have visited our Welsh stores will know that we embrace the language, with many of our stores also having Welsh signage. We hope that this helps to resolve any misunderstandings going forward.”

They continued: “There has been a lot of misinformation circulating regarding our business language and we would like to clarify Lidl UK’s position on languages in the work place.”

“We understand that in certain regions of the UK there are other official languages in use and we welcome the use of these in our stores. We also ask that, if possible, our staff respond to customers in the language in which they are addressed. As an international company we are extremely proud to support such a diverse workforce, and value the contribution of each and every member of staff. We do have a general policy in the UK stating that we carry out our working communication in English, such as when speaking to fellow employees on the shop floor. As a business we have to have this in place to help reduce misunderstandings and encourage the building of good relationships across the business and with customers.”

“It is a great asset for our business to have such a multi-lingual workforce, and one that we value and champion. We absolutely aim to empower and encourage any staff members to use their language skills to assist customers. Equally, whilst staff are on their break, they are of course welcome to converse in their language of choice. We only ask that they consider their colleagues who may be sharing rest facilities at the same time.”

“In light of recent events we would like to assure our staff, customers and the general public that we do continually review our policies and will be considering all feedback that has been presented to us.”

Hands up if you think one of the big supermarkets leaked this story to the press because they’re pig-sick of Lidl chipping away at their profits.

Chocolate and sweets HAVE got much smaller

November 10th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

chocolate Chocolate and sweets HAVE got much smallerWhen you were a kid, chocolate and sweets were much bigger weren’t they? Once upon a time, a Wagon Wheels would constitute an entire meal whereas nowadays, you could eat 16 of them and barely notice.

Of course, you could argue that the difference between the treats of old and the sweets of the now is that you’re physically larger. Maybe your favourite treat as always been the size of an adult fingernail? Maybe your formerly tiny hands and gob made you think otherwise.

Well, forget that because someone’s done some research and it turns out we ARE being fleeced by sugar vendors. Boxes of Christmas chocolates, sweets and biscuits have indeed got smaller, but of course, we’re all paying the same price.

For example, if you’re bang into Bassetts Jelly Babies, they’ve shrunk by as much as 14.8% according to the Sunday Mirror. Last year, £4 would buy you a 540g box of Jelly Babies. This Christmas, to save you from tears, we’ll tell you that £4 now buys you just 460g.

Outrageous. Meanwhile, a £6 box of Nestle Black Magic has been reduced from 376g to 348g while a pack of Terry’s Chocolate Orange Segsations is down to 300g from 330g, but will cost you the same £4 you would’ve spent on it last year. And the same goes for biscuits as well, with the price remaining the same, but the contents getting mysteriously lighter.

So what’s the deal?

Manufacturers are pointing at the rising costs of raw materials and boo-hooing at the fact they now have to meet health targets on calorie content because of The Man. It isn’t a sly way of squeezing more profit at all, no.

Cadbury said that we shouldn’t worry because all they’ve done is change the shape of their Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sensations box: “We believe this still represents an affordable sharing treat.” Nestle meanwhile, said that you should shut your moaning because their Black Magic box still had the same number of chocolates in it. Doesn’t matter if the chocolates are getting increasingly smaller, year-on-year – the fact is, there’s the same number of them.

So there you have it. You weren’t imagining it. Selection boxes and Christmas treats are getting smaller.

spring water 300x225 Water meters. Not all they’re cracked up to be?Water meters are, in theory, a sound idea. If you pay for what you use, how can that be wrong? Apparently it can, with a third of people who have switched to water meters wishing they hadn’t.

A poll by money.co.uk found that, not only were a third regretting their decision, only 42% of switchers actually saved money by switching, leaving the logical conclusion that 58% of people are paying more with a meter. Meters are, of course, not compulsory, unless of course you live in a house built after 1990, when installation of water meters in new houses became compulsory to ease the stress on the water supply.

However, more people might be better of with a meter, but because they only get estimated bills once very six months, many householders don’t actually know whether they are better off or not. And it certainly isn’t conducive to making an informed decision whether to switch back to rateable water bills, which must be done within 12 months of having a water meter, or be stuck with it forever.

The poll has prompted some sorts to call for an inquiry into the national roll-out of water meters, which has accelerated over the past 12 months. Last year the Government suggested to nine of the 24 water companies that they might like to consider compulsory metering for all their customers.

Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said: “The trend across the country has been towards a ‘one size fits all’ mode of more metering. Yet this data blows wide open the assumption that we will all be better off with a meter.

“Less wealthy families living in smaller homes are being ripped off. We now need Ofwat to audit each water supplier’s customer base to find how many households would be better off on rateable bills, and direct that they should be transferred or have their bills capped at this level.”

Money.co.uk said those who lost out were £100 worse off on average and that 30% of water companies failed to provide calculators on their websites to show customers whether they would save money.

But isn’t everyone missing the point? Whether you save or lose money with a water meter is dependent on whether you are using more or less than you are currently being charged for. If you ‘lose’ money all it means is that you are now paying for your own water instead of allowing all the other water rate payers to subsidise you…