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Dennis Country

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Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Beware the Bargains

Shopping - Finance Posted on Sat, December 10, 2016 05:40PM

… and not only the “bargains”, things with price labels different to that charged at the till.

I’ve noticed in recent years that down-marked price labels in particular don’t always match those charged at the till in some grocery stores (parts of large chains, for example SPAR). These are sometimes known as “convenience” stores, to whose benefit I wonder sometimes. In a recent example, a printed discount label for an item showed a shelf price of £2.00, but I was charged the original price of £2.50 (shown on the receipt). When I queried this, saying a similar thing had happened many times before in that store, I was told that it was up to the customer to check that they were charged the correct amount! The story has often been – “there’s a problem with the computer”, “it’s not updating properly” or something similar. Stated discounts for multiple buys are sometimes not applied.

I expect this could be a widespread practice, but I haven’t noticed problems with larger stores, maybe they can afford better “computers”. One day I may spend an hour or two filling out the rather large Trading Standards report form. In a recent purchase at a Londis store I was overcharged at the till for a loaf of bread. When I pointed out the discrepancy the assistant smiled sweetly and said that’s what it says on the till, didn’t offer a refund, thus breaking trading law – training required?

It’s obvious to me that in most cases this is not a genuine mistake. For one thing the price at the till is always higher than that marked in my experience. It’s organised theft. The shops rely on customers not counting up their bill, and even if they do not wanting to quibble and hold up the queue or create a fuss. Customers could be especially vulnerable at petrol stations for one example.

PS: I just heard a whisper that I’m not “one of the best” customers of a store with poor price labelling and charging co-ordination performance. So to be “one of the best” customers one has to behave in what manner I wonder. Probably to not notice or complain about pricing discrepancies would help. Not wishing to be a sub standard customer I’ll avoid this store.

Update 13 Feb 2017:

An example of what can happen reported by the BBC (I haven’t noticed a problem with this store chain myself):
Tesco customers overcharged by out-of-date offers

As of 14 Feb the above article has 845 comments, some criticising the BBC for pointing this out (shareholders I guess). It’s not just Tesco of course. I first noticed this as a regular occurence in around 2008/9, perhaps it was no co-incidence there was a serious economic downturn at the time.

Update August 2020

… and another thing, I’m using contactless card payments now as advised, and it has been working well. I ask for a receipt so that I can check against my monthly statement, a waste of paper maybe. Now I’ve been refused a receipt after 100s of purchases in dozens of shops. The shop assistant said only Merchant Receipts are produced for contactless. That’s incorrect: their payment provider states merchant and customer purchases can be printed from their terminals, the latter if requested for contactless. Bizarrely it seems that there is no legal obligation to give a customer a receipt for goods (not sure about services), but why would a business refuse to do so? Cost of paper/ink? Also, this shop kept their terminal to themselves, and manually typed in the sales amount which I couldn’t see before presenting my card. I should have asked to see the amount, but I don’t like to, and why keep it hidden? I guess the answer is to avoid shops with these practices.

ParcelForce and Post Office – a weak combination!

Shopping - Finance Posted on Fri, May 13, 2016 10:52PM

– but strong in making me lose money and time, wish I’d seen reviews of ParcelForce beforehand …

I sent a largish item within size/weight limits by ParcelForce (PF), for collection at a specified Post Office. This is what happened:
1. I specified collection 0900-1400 26/4/16, it was collected 1812
2. I could not enter recipients required post office depot for delivery, only 4 presented on PF website
3. The selected post office refused to accept delivery on 27/4/16, although parcel was within weight and size restrictions
4. There was no warning on PF website of potential refusal to accept by Post Office
5. The tracking information repeatedly referred to Returned to Sender, rather than being held at a depot, seemed very keen to return rather than trying to resolve. Note the 1 minute lapse between returning to depot and returning to sender!

6. I managed to get PF to attempt a second delivery, when this failed parcel was returned to me.
7. ParcelForce sent an email to the recipient that the parcel was ready for collection 5/5/16 10:40, was delivered to me one minute later at 10:41. It couldn’t be collected, it was on a van, and no point notifying the recipient, it was being delivered back to the sender 130 miles away!
The “Force” wasn’t with me here, lost money and time. Claiming for compensation looks very time consuming, all the details have to be entered again, they know all that from the parcel and invoice number, obviously an attempt to deter claims.

UPS, via the Parcel2Go website, successfully delivered parcel on the second attempt (when recipient wasn’t available 1st time). There was no immediate decision to return to sender.

ParcelForce have denied my claim saying that the recipient refused delivery. Not correct, didn’t read my claim notes, their Post Office “partner” refused delivery. To be continued-

After sending ParcelForce another message, this time with salient details in capital letters, and repeated, they say “Having reviewed the details of your appeal i have arranged to reopen and pay your claim for a postage refund”. Since the details of the claim were the the same as before, they either ignored them the first time, or refused the claim on the same evidence presented when they accepted it – interesting. I wonder if they do this for every claim.


Received refund of postage only (2 months later, consequential costs refused, as expected)

Argos Online – Didn’t Work Well For Me

Shopping - Finance Posted on Sun, January 10, 2016 10:38PM

7 Jan 2016: I ordered a washing machine and the recycling of the old one. I
was disappointed that a new machine was not delivered on 8th Jan., but Argos did achieve taking
the old one away. Their website does not make it easy to view order status, but
it became apparent that the order for the new machine was lost (while Argos retained
the money). After numerous phone calls another “order” of mine was
found, which was for two delivery charges of £499.96 (see photo), a bit excessive considering there was a special offer of free delivery! The help
line operator admitted there was a problem, and said they will deliver in a few
days. In the meantime I’ve made a note:

Update 19 Jan 2016: The washing machine was delivered and works fine. However for the warranty to be valid I need an Argos sales invoice which they failed to provide. Argos customer services say contact the washing machine manufacturer. Now I’m trying to convince Argos that they should provide the sales invoice, this may take some time. The Argos website has very limited functionality, but it’s possible to find an order summary if you know the order number.

Update 23 Jan 2016: I received a sales invoice by email today.

Wood Preserver Supplier

Shopping - Finance Posted on Mon, September 15, 2014 11:35AM

This isn’t an advertisment, but I thought I’d mention the very efficient service and good prices obtained from the Wood Finishers Direct web site ( Having seen the astonishing prices asked for decking oil and wood preservative quoted by better known retailers, I was pleased to find this supplier with more reasonable costs (other similar suppliers are available no doubt).

At present, spending over £50, there’s free next day delivery and a 5% reduction off the current order price. The courier (DPD) delivered in the middle of a one hour slot, as notified by email and on their tracking web site. I’ve now run out of excuses for not doing some fence preserving!

Broadband Usage Error

Shopping - Finance Posted on Sun, March 02, 2014 08:31PM

Thought I’d mention that I had an email stating that I had exceeded my monthly data usage allowance (provider is Plusnet). This turned out to be a data flow of 7.64 GB in one morning – 100x an average daily amount. My computer had only been switched on for 20 minutes. After 2 hours on the telephone, a Plusnet technical advisor admitted that it was a provider error – helped because other customers had called with a similar problem. One month later I have received a refund of £5 for the incorrectly metered data usage. I was lucky since my allowed additional usage had been set to unlimited – that was not how I left it – now it’s set to zero!

Update Nov 2016
On the plus side for Plusnet, the service has been reliable in recent years, but performance took a dip recently. I was down to about 0.5 MBps download speed, with a signal to noise ratio (SNR) of 3dB. After the usual wait for about an hour on the phone, the support person spent over 30 minutes investigating, and after some additional messaging via their website over a couple of weeks, performance is back up to about 2.5MBps / 10dB SNR. So I’m happy with the way Plusnet dealt with it, however the initial fault report has to be made by telephone rather than online, which was a bit annoying.