/ Community

My lifelong memories of Which?

John Creasey is a long-term member and Which? Trusted Trader since 2013. Here, he shares his memories of Which? that have lasted a lifetime.

This is a guest post by John Creasey. All views expressed are John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

My first memories of Which? were back in the early 60s when, as a child, we all looked forward to picking up our weekly comics from the newsagent.

Neil Armstrong was yet to set foot on the moon, but of course ‘Dan Dare’ had done it all already. Beano, The Eagle and the rest all had to be purchased from the newsagent.

Anybody could buy them… but Dad had a ‘special’ delivery. 

You couldn’t pick up Which? in the shops – you had to be a member – and that was something special.

The comics came and went, but Which? was always there. It didn’t matter how many times we thought that Dad had read his copies, they were always around and never thrown away.

He had taken the first ever copy and kept all the others for years. Somehow, even at that young age, although you didn’t understand the significance of Which?, you knew it was different and that it was a survivor, since it got filed and indexed. 

Independence and impartiality

As any important household purchases were considered, Which? would appear and reviews studied before final decisions were made.

As we grew up, Dad impressed on us the independence and impartiality of Which? and just how important this was at a time when advertising was really taking hold. When commercials started appearing on TV, the ‘penny dropped’ (an old pound shillings and pence ‘penny’ of course).

It all made sense; Which? was synonymous with trust. It was different – companies couldn’t buy advertising and, when Which? tested something, you could believe what it said.

When I moved out and bought my own place (yes, it used to be possible), I couldn’t keep going home to pinch back-issues of Which?, so I too became a member.

Like father, like son, I looked forward to my own copies each month in the post. 

As a gas and heating engineer, it felt like a natural progression to apply to be assessed by Which? Trusted Traders.

After a lifetime association with Which?, it’s genuinely one of the only sites that I advise people to use. Well, that and Which? Legal services…

A dog’s tale

Which? Legal became invaluable when our little dog, Scoobie, needed a couple of operations.

We knew that we were in the right, but were getting nowhere until we received advice from a Which? Legal advisor.

When we told the insurance company we were taking advice from Which?, it completely backtracked and paid up in full. That’s the power the name holds.

For a big organisation compared with the old days, it still has that human touch. 

When Scoobie’s brother, Ziggy, won Which? Trusted Trader’s first ever unofficial ‘Mascot Award’ in 2017, we were not to know that we would lose him shortly after following a tragic accident.

In an amazing announcement and gesture, the award was renamed the ‘Ziggy Award’ from 2018 onwards.

📢 We have a special announcement to make.Last year's #WTTsocialawards winner for Best Mascot was John Creasey's…

Posted by Which? Trusted Traders on Wednesday, May 16, 2018

 

That’s the sort of thought and empathy we didn’t expect in this fast changing world. 

I believe Which? cares, and the people behind it are real. In this era of fake reviews, who can you still trust? 

This was a guest post by John Creasey. All views expressed were John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Comments

It was a pleasure to meet John and his wife the other week and show him around the Which? office. We had a fascinating chat about Which?’s past, present and future.

Telling the stories of long-term members is something I’d love to do more of – watch this space 🙂

I suppose that part of the aging process is that of looking back and thinking that the world was simpler and more straight forward when we were younger. To a certain extent this is true when all the new technology and the instant communication is shaping a complex society which is also fragmenting as our fears and past environmental crimes come home to roost. Part of that innocence was Which? As Mr Creasy says, advertising was beginning to feature on television in addition to the press and Which? with its moral stance and independence captured our desire to read its reviews, which we believed and trusted. It’s aims were simple and easy to understand, if Which? recommended something it was a good reason to buy it. I really enjoyed those early editions, the writing was direct and one knew instantly what Which? thought about any product tested. Gradually Which? decided that it should expand its brief to include social issues and to write about things that were not tested and recommended as best buys and it also decided to compartmentalise so that magazines specialised in money and gardening. Others followed in an attempt to gather extra revenue as well as to cover specialist subjects in more detail. This was understandable since Which? had far too many things to write about for one monthly magazine to cope.
Our current polymath is so different from the original that it is difficult to compare the two. It still attempts to tell the truth as it sees it but its original mission to test and report is now, perhaps a third of its output and the rest is consumer news and campaigns. Since this conversation is a reflective one with some nostalgic overtones, I make no comment about the Which? of today, but simply say that I still enjoy receiving the monthly magazine and wish Which? many more years of dedicated consumer publishing. It would be sad to say goodbye to it if it ever decided to cease its crusade for a better world.

I share Vynor’s views. I did not become a subscriber to Which? until 1964 and have kept going ever since. I am of a utilitarian nature so if I was not generally satisfied with Which? Magazine I would have cancelled my subscription. I have not always been happy with the corporate conduct of the Consumers’ Association but I have abstained from becoming an Ordinary Member and thus been able to let its governance issues go over my head. I still read almost every page of every edition of the main magazine but stopped taking the money and gardening publications some time ago. I must have thought I knew it all!

John Creasey says:
29 August 2019

Well said John – Still also a cover to cover reader here as well.

Welcome to Which? Conversation, John. I know you have already contributed on a few topics. 🙂

I welcome the fact that Which? is much more than a magazine that reviews washing machines, cars, etc. There is a limit to the number of washing machines and cars we are likely to buy but there is plenty of scope for useful related articles. Thanks to what

I value the independence of Which?, and while it is good to know which products and services to trust, I am a little wary of Which? awards to companies, especially ones that offer some products that are a bit iffy as well as the good ones. On the other hand, the Trusted Trader scheme seems a good way of helping to choose a decent company.

Which? has helped us move from consumerism towards informed consumerism but since consumerism is progressively destroying our planet, perhaps Which? should be helping us move towards a simpler lifestyle to help conserve natural resources and reduce pollution.

John Creasey says:
29 August 2019

Hi wavechange – yes good to be back – been a little in the wilderness since the loss of Which? Local. (you’d be proud to know that I mentioned you as an old remembered favourite during our visit to ‘Which? Towers’)

Hi John – It’s good that the slightly notorious get a mention 🙂

Sometime you will have to tell us a little about fire walking.

It is funny how your memories and my memories are so similar but 20 years apart (I was very firmly a Beano girl)!

I was looking through old back issues in the office from the 80’s and some of the covers brought me right back to the magazine landing on the doorstep. I remember pouring over the review tables in particular.

“This is a guest post by John Creasey. All views expressed are John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?” appears at both the start and end of John’s article. I suppose we have to be wary of people who make very supportive comments. 😉

Alistair Wright says:
31 August 2019

I joined ‘Which?’ in 1964 or so, certainly near the beginning. I started a small syndicate in our office at English Electric as it was too expensive for individual membership. We were all professional engineers, which tells you something about salaries in those days. I kept on the subscription when I left EE, and have now been a member for over fifty years. My best memories include the early car tests, which included telling you the turning circle, and how long the car could idle in traffic without boiling! We always turn to Which? when buying things especially big ticket items.

Hi Alistair, thank you for sharing. It’s great to have such long-term members commenting here on Which? Conversation 🙂 Do feel free to get involved around the site, and let us know if you need anything.

Harrovian says:
31 August 2019

I remember that two or three work colleagues and I shared a Which? membership very soon after it started. We all worked in the GEC Research Laboratories, so we respected the ethical working principles of Which?. The only tests that I remember from those days were on toilet paper. You needed 3 or 4 thicknesses to keep your hands clean! I can’t remember which was the best buy, might have been Boots. In the course of our jobs, we often had to visit Government buildings where the only toilet paper then provided was the hard variety with a printed crown. Fortunately, things have changed.

What a strange thing to remember, Harrovian.

Soon after colour TVs appeared on the market I remember reading in my uncle’s copy of Which? how unreliable they were and that there had been numerous fires. I cannot remember the statistics but it stuck in mind because my parents’ TV had gone on fire fairly recently.

I wish I had kept issues that reviewed products that I have used for many years.

I also worked at the GEC Research Laboratories in N. Wembley – sadly razed to the ground and turned into housing. We had a restaurant for lunch where I sat with an older colleague for whom I had a lot of respect. I took the Which? magazine and occasionally discussed products but he was quite adamant that the reports were a waste of time and he knew better how to choose a best purchase. That always struck me as contrary to his normally very logical approach.

If you have one or two products you really want to see the review of I could look them up for you. 🙂

John,

Great column – thank you for your kind words about the magazine. It’s humbling to know how much it means to so many people – that it’s tied up with memories of parents, childhood and momentous life moments such as buying a first home. Those of us working on the magazine now must cherish and protect this legacy and maintain the qualities that first appealed to your father.

On a personal note, my love of magazines also started with the Beano!

What is it about the Beano that makes its fans turn into Which? fans? 😀

It was simply the best comic around. Multilayered humour – appealed to both kids and adults.

John Creasey says:
6 September 2019

Thanks Harry – something about Which? and being a ‘member’ does make it feel like a bit of ownership. George does a great job for you (completely unprompted) – lovely guy who made us so welcome during our visit.

Re Beano – backbone of our childhood – but also remember moving on to the Marvel & DC stuff that did the rounds around school and ‘Mad’ yay (Spy vs Spy). Never bought them, but somebody clearly did and they were passed around – suddenly we were influenced by the USA before we knew it.

Hi John. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, and for taking the time out of your day to visit our office – I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s great to read a first-hand experience of the impact that Which? has had over the years, spanning multiple generations.

I’m proud to see the passion long-term members have for the organisation here on Which? Conversation, and having them contribute pieces like this helps show off everything that’s great about Which? and its history – it really sets us apart. I’m pleased to be leading Which? into its future, supported by the loyal members of its past and present.