Go off-topic in the Lobby

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The Lobby is our off-topic space here on Which? Conversation. It’s perfectly natural for a conversation to go off-topic, particularly if you want to add some colour to a point you’re trying to make. When the conversation well and truly departs from the topic at hand, or if you can’t find a space to talk about what you’d like to discuss – the Lobby is a good place to start.

This is our fourth Lobby in the history of Which? Conversation.  The first, second, and third are still around, however are closed to new comments.

One key difference about this space compared to others is that the latest comments will appear on this page, but won’t appear in the Latest Comments or Latest Activity feeds.  As we noted in our relaunch earlier this year, contributors to Which? Conversation told us that people wanted it to be a place to learn and grow their knowledge of consumer issues. So we’re keen to better help people locate that knowledge and those discussions on the consumer topics they’re looking for.

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Latest comments


Locked out…again.

It’s definitely something to do with the isolation of the Lobby.

I was locked out two days ago but found it easier than previously to get back in the Lobby. I only had to ring the bell once and I was admitted.

I am wondering why our comments are underscored in the Lobby’s Latest Comments list, and why with the new presentation it was not possible to allow for more comment intro’s to be included in said list.

There seems to be some experimentation going on at present. I’m sure that the comments box is now wider than it was. If you click on one of the new comments that takes you to the full page of recent comments.

It’s interesting that we often seem to experience problems at different times. I had problems last week but not this week.

Some excellent humour this morning. Well done everyone. This was a laugh “allowed” morning. I pressure washed the boat just now. It looks just the same minus a few spiders. Fish don’t like detergents, so I’m looking for a plan B which doesn’t involve a wet suit or borrowing someone’s dinghy. Our heron seems more interested in preening itself than catching fish. I have been surprised at the contortions it has gone through including one for which humans might use a loo roll. I have yet to see it catch anything.

And finally, so I am not cast as a nature loving fogey who bores everyone with trivia., two swan sightings. Mum and six cygnets all in a line behind her. They got to the far bank and mum showed them how to forage. They all had a go and busily foraged for about quarter of an hour. Just now the same troop left the marina followed by dad. Or was it dad leading and mum behind? Does this line up stay the same and is there a pecking order as they travel? Is it the oldest cygnet first or do the males take precedent, or maybe the females? What ever, there is discipline and concord within the group. If the lead swan moves left or right, even a little, the pack does the same. It’s as if they are chained together. Ducks seem few in number this season, I hope there isn’t a breeding problem. Enough nature rambling for one visit. If I see a crocodile, I’ll let you know.

Is very simple Vynor, being a creative person you have more conscious awareness than most. People who are blessed with more conscious awareness often feel a stronger connection to all living things. Each species has their own variable and limited consciousness they need to survive and reproduce, and moreover, birds and animals are able to sense that same universal conscious connectedness in humans, and that is why the kingfisher happily chose your boat to enjoy its meal.

I have regular visits most mornings from ducks who I feed with specially formulated pellets, one of which will readily take food from my hand. On one occasion I dropped a few pellets on the doormat in the hallway and, quick as a flash, she was in the house and soon devoured the lot. Ducks are less shy than kingfishers, so you were really privileged to have one land on your bow and also a return visit.

For a more scientific explanation see:


YouTube.com – What animals are thinking and feeling and why should it matter/Carl Safina

Nature lovers here too Vynor.

When we were in Canada, we saw chipmunks go in the back door of a cafe and help themselves to packets of crisps. How did they know which sealed bags to go for?

We sometimes get the sick and wounded at our back door. They seem to sense we can help them, but unless they are in a really bad way won’t actually let you anywhere near them.

Animals and birds display quite a lot of intelligence if you watch them long enough and are quite capable of learning. The blue tits have learned to tap on the window when their seed feeder is empty and will continue to do so if we ignore them. They soon get their way of course.

There doesn’t seem to be a suitable Convo for this. Maybe there should be one? Anyway …

I was attracted to an offer today from a 3rd party Amazon Marketplace seller, for a set of three A4 Pukka pads for less than £5 with free delivery directly from the seller, i.e. not Prime-eligible, nor fulfilled by Amazon. Working from home, I can no longer raid the office stationery cupboard and get through quite a few of these pads.

I added the item to my shopping basket, but was advised that the minimum order quantity was 2. I was happy to accept this, given the relatively low cost of the product vs the postage costs. However, when I got to the checkout, I happened to notice that the delivery cost was now £25! Nor was I able to change the order quantity to anything other than exactly 2 items.

It seems that this Amazon Seller has found a cunning plan to offer free shipping for one item, which cannot be ordered in practice, but charge an extortionate £25 shipping fee for the only permitted order quantity. In fact, if you don’t manually update the quantity to 2, the system will automatically change it at checkout, along with the inflated shipping cost. I wonder how many people simply fail to notice?

I checked out the seller’s Storefront page where only a few items are for sale, but all with enormous discounts, such as a box of 50 Bic Crystal pens for only £1.80 with “free” shipping. But once again, the minimum/maximum order quantity is 2, whereupon the shipping cost jumps from free to £28.99 – more than the typical retail price of these pens from Ryman. And it seems to be the case with every item on sale, even the £2.10 Rapesco stapler. As a non-consumable item, who needs two?

The name of this scam outfit is ME TO BUY. Of course, they do not give a trading address, which puts them in double breach of the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Which is a shame, because if anyone in authority would care to take action, the offences they appear to be guilty of would indicate a large fine or even a jail sentence.

But I have reported them to Amazon and they are investigating.

Hopefully few will go ahead with a purchase when they find out that they have been tricked by the marketing, but as you say it’s illegal and also a waste of customers’ time.

I recently read that the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled on an example of advertising that has tricked many into signing up to Amazon Prime: https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/amazon-europe-core-sarl-G19-1021643.html It seems to be easy to report a problem to ASA and they sometimes respond to a single complaint.

I am more concerned about Amazon and other marketplace owners failing to take action to prevent their traders from advertising dangerous and counterfeit products on their websites. Which? has provided enough examples.

From what I have read, Amazon are responsive to complaints and the fact that you have taken action could produce a result, just like reports of dangerous goods have done. I doubt that it will stop other marketplace traders using similar techniques, in the same way that as dangerous products are removed from sale, others take their place.

On line selling, now everyone does it and mighty organisations fill warehouses and sub contract to other vendors. The big problem is that the seller and the purchaser are miles apart and thus delivery becomes a key issue. Either it is a promise of supply when there is no stock actually available, or a generous fee to send stuff, and of, course having to be home to collect it. One also has to rely on photographs, descriptions and reviews to decide whether to buy. Policing the system is hit and miss. If it was too dire, we’d stop buying, but there ought to be an understanding that vendors, who act as Em describes, should be taken off line and not allowed to trade, either for a set penalty time or for good. Such a real threat might change things especially if a simple name change was not enough to begin trading again. I suppose it is in the nature of things that honest traders will try and encourage with good service and products and those determined to defraud will carry on as long as they can get away with it. Let buyer beware!

I haven’t seen that one Em but I have seen prices increase.

I can’t think of a real product offhand so this is made up, but I have seen products at maybe £2.99 each, 3 for £7.99 only for the price to go to £9.99 in the basket.

I have just looked as this seller, they are still demanding a minimum sale of 2 items, and I see no seller information. Surely seller information should be mandatory on Amazon?

I agree @alfa – seller information – name and geographical address – is mandatory, so no reason not to enforce it. And where does it get us … ?

Good news – Amazon seem to have taken down the ME TO BUY storefront.

Bad news – another seller Sky srats trading ltd [sic] is now online, using exactly the same sales tactics, but with an address this time.

There is no such company, but there is SKY STARS TRADING LTD running from the same private address in Huddersfield. This company was set up just over a year ago under the category “47910 – Retail sale via mail order houses or via Internet”.

Hopefully, Zahid MEHMOOD will shortly be receiving a visit from Trading Standards.

N.B. As a “limited” company, all the above information is in the public domain. However, it is also illegal to pass yourself off as a limited company if you are not. I can’t imagine a company hoping to establish its reputation as a trusted Amazon seller would deliberately misspell its own name, so we can only guess at the motives for this.

Looks like another call to Amazon is required, but it would be better if the laws were properly enforced to protect consumers and discourage these dodgy traders, rather than play “whack a mole”.

I went into a shop and I said, ‘Can someone sell me a kettle?’
The bloke said ‘Kenwood?’
I said, ‘Where is he?’”

He’s probably hiding in the Bosch’s.

After living off free toasters and kettles for the last few years, we have just bought yet another kettle, this time a Russell Hobbs 20460 that has now been in use for 1 month.

It has been reviewed by Which? and gets a score of 76%.

Pros are:
– energy efficient don’t know

– quick not noticeably faster than any other kettle we have had

– quiet nearly silent the first few days, then as noisy as any other kettle.

– easy to use <same as any other.

Cons are :
– ineffective and fiddly filter (haven’t touched it yet

– unclear water gauge bad comment, the water level is at the base of the ‘u’ shape in the window that makes it clearer than most kettles.

– difficult to keep clean and even goes on to say a real nightmare to keep clean. I though this a strange comment as I just chuck a packet of limescale remover into kettles and let it do its job. The drips get wiped from the outside every fill, a long-time habit, so very little work. Although a month old, there is no limescale inside the kettle. I am wondering if the unusual rings on the inside base have anything to do with it.

It has bits of plastic inside that so far have not tainted drinks.

Will it make it past the 3-year warranty? Or will I get yet another ‘free’ kettle?

I am unable to edit my comment that should be in italics after ‘-quick’. and italics ended for the last two paragraphs.

I have logged out of Opera and logged in with Firefox and I could then edit my comment.

Pleased to hear it. I shall stand down.

Alfa – Converting electricity to heat is essentially 100% efficient, so I cannot understand how one kettle can be more efficient than another other than in the rate of heat loss.

Kettles with shiny stainless steel bases with the heater below don’t tend to become encrusted with limescale in the same way as the separate element of old fashioned kettles. It’s not exactly difficult to descale a kettle. Just don’t become distracted. I once forgot that I was descaling the kettle and make coffee, which was disgusting to put it mildly. 🙁

I had a RH Canterbury kettle which I was happy with and when I was living between two houses a friend got me another one for five or six pounds. Both were used heavily for three or four years but the very convenient pop-up lid mechanism failed in both kettles, probably due to poor plastic parts.

I was interested in the strange taste/smell problem in kettles discussed in two Convos but have yet to find anyone who has had a problem. A retailer should exchange it if there is a problem.

I’m now using a Bosch kettle that is less convenient because it has a smaller pop-up lid and only time will tell whether it was worth paying more for.

Over the years my water has become softer because it is blended and the proportion of soft river water must be much higher.

I’m not very good at magic – I can only do half of a trick. I’m a member of the Magic Semi-circle

You have to know where to draw the line.

A semidemi sleight quaver in a delusional musical vocal?

”Miracles and magic sometimes look the same, but their goals are different. Magic and illusion distract the eye from reality, while miracles draw the eye to reality. Miracles reveal, magic hides. Miracles are an expression of creative power; magic uses what already exists. Miracles are a gift; magic is a studied skill. Miracles do not glorify men; magic seeks to be noticed and bring glory to the magician.”

My next door neighbour worships exhaust pipes. He’s a catholic converter.

He is obviously confusing his pipes with his popes 🙁

I wish he would do it more quietly, especially early in the morning.

As Ogden Nash said –
You can do whatever you want if
You can clear it with the Pontiff

He said ‘I’m going to chop off the bottom of one of your trouser legs and put it in a library’. I thought ‘That’s a turn-up for the books.

That’s a bit half cut…….but speaks volumes.

As the back of his anorak was leaping up and down, people were chucking money to him.
I said ‘Do you earn a living doing that?’
He said ‘Yes, this is my livelihood.

This bloke says to me, ‘Can I come in your house and talk about your carpets?’ I thought ‘That’s all I need, a Je-hoover’s witness.

Heard of Dyson?

He’s probably an Axed Minister, or a carpet bagger in disguise even.

Why, you got rugrats?

Multitasking: messing up several things at once…

I can go to bed early and think about everything that needs to be done, which does not take long. I don’t know of a better way of having a good night’s sleep.

I have discovered that I can watch television and fall asleep at the same time.

Best way to avoid multitasking is acceptance that everything is never done.

After an early start yesterday and being on my feet for ten hours without a break I woke up early this morning, looked at Convo and fell asleep.

Stack Overflow: Too many pancakes…

Capt’n! The spellchecker kinna take this abuse!

Let Rab sort it! YouTube – Phone accent confusion. Rab C Nesbitt, (20 secs)

Can someone please translate before the moderators???

I read my palm this morning. It said “you are going on a journey” – so I did. On the way I was passed by a Bentley bearing the number plate 1 XPM. and wondered which one it was that was loose on the road.

Was it chauffeur-driven and have motor-cycle outriders? If not, probably some D-list ‘celebrity’ or business tycoon. Bentleys are considered more prestigious than stock R-R’s nowadays but nothing beats a bespoke Coachbuild R-R which not even the Royal family go around in.

There egos…….the one with the largest!

That car has a six litre engine and a CO2 emission of 338 g/km, yet the vehicle tax is only £630. When are we going to start thinking about the environment?

How do I set my laser printer on stun?

The adverts mention ‘Stunning colour’. First select ‘Maximum hype’.

Today’s subliminal thought is:

Kevin says:
20 June 2022

Is it the 10 of diamonds?

First become aware of your thoughts, then either change the channel or press the off button. If that doesn’t work…………meditate.

According to my calculations the problem doesn’t exist.

I get the same result, but anyone determined enough will find one.

Life without problems is a school without lessons.

I prefer learning that helps us avoid life’s problems. A good teacher should have learned what others have had problems with in the past.

Teaching avoidance of problems is failing to prepare students to deal with the inevitability of them, as and when they present. Problem solving promotes growth, maturity and responsibility.

That would depend on the context, Beryl. In my teaching I did my best to help my students gain confidence so that they were better prepared to meet challenges.

My response to Ian’s joke was because I have met too many people who seem to delight in for problems to make others unhappy and uncomfortable, rather than pulling together.

Some useful proposals by Ofgem: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-61860717

It’s astonishing that the protection of customers’ credit balances wasn’t built into the supplier licensing arrangements at the outset. I am hoping this measure, together with the resilience tests before entry to the energy markets and subsequently, will prevent firms with a weak business model and inadequate financial resources from being licensed to trade in the UK. It might see the end of very low tariffs and aggressive undercutting but supply assurance and stability are more important in my view.

I am not sure about what requirements are placed on energy suppliers. There is reference to operational capability on page 54 of this document, but there is no specific information to the points you have mentioned: https://epr.ofgem.gov.uk//Content/Documents/Electricity%20Supply%20Standard%20Licence%20Conditions%20Consolidated%20-%20Current%20Version.pdf

I have so far avoided being a customer of a company that has gone bust but I was repeatedly allowed to build up an excessive credit balance by Scottish Power and e.on, the issue highlighted in the BBC article. Which? has repeatedly drawn attention to poor service by the larger suppliers.

I do hope that Ofgem will take effective action as a regulator and perhaps investigate why under normal circumstances those who choose fixed contracts should be able to buy energy at a significantly lower price.

I think when the major energy companies found they were haemorrhaging customer numbers to numerous start-up suppliers they sought to stem the flow by locking customers in with fixed price deals on long-term contracts. This was a gamble on the part of both the company and the customer on the future cost of energy. Sometimes the offers were not especially preferable to the standard variable tariff but the security of a fixed price going forward was an attractive feature. We are currently the beneficiaries of such an arrangement and our gas and electricity prices are fixed until near the end of next year. We could not foresee how advantageous this would become when we signed up to the fixed price contract and at the time it was not the best tariff available in the market. There will no doubt be a mountain to climb when contract renewal comes round and probably not much choice of supplier. Our supplier adjusts the monthly debits from time to time as our consumption changes in order avoid either an excess credit balance or a shortfall. Fixed-term contracts are of little value if the supplier is going to collapse and many customers who chose such terms are unfortunately now facing a steep rise in costs when transferred by Ofgem to an alternative supplier, possibly wiping out [or at best neutralising] any gains from the original price deal.

Competition is an excellent principle but too much of it can be damaging as we have seen. A Regulator exists to regulate a market through the moderation of competition and I am glad stability might now return to this basic and essential commodity. The basic product is identical across the market so the terms of supply permit of little variation if companies are conducted properly and with prudence against forward commitments. Companies should not have been allowed to expand their customer base beyond their capacity and their forward energy resources forcing them onto the spot market for additional supplies. This was not only detrimental to their own customers once they collapsed but left a legacy of debts which have been recharged onto other consumers.

I do hope that proper regulation is introduced. Until energy prices started to escalate energy prices could be significantly higher for those on a standard variable tariff. That might have suited businesses but perhaps the needs of consumers are more important.

For years, Which? rated the larger suppliers poorly for customer service and that was my experience with Scottish Power and twice with e.on, the main problem being that they pushed up my direct debits even though I had a large credit balance.

As you say, the debts of the failed small companies are being paid for by all of us.

The recent Ofgem proposals are at least encouraging.

You and I have the same problem come the end of the year, John, and my contract, like yours, was a gamble and considerably more than the variable tariff available at the time. I still don’t know whether I have saved or lost out. I agree with your interesting and useful comments above.

Last year we were paying the same every month that kept us in credit. The credit was OK as winter was coming and our bills would be higher.

In December, British Gas lowered our monthly payments that did not cover our usage. In March, they even wrote and said they had reviewed our account and “Good news, your payments are spot on” !!!

We managed to sort it out and received another letter stating ‘You’re using more energy and you need to pay more each month’, and the monthly payment almost doubled !!!

But how many ended up paying more than they should have done for energy used in the cheaper period?

It could be argued that being in credit to the energy companies is just giving them your money. Their argument is that the summer surplus helps with the winter excess and things balance out over the year. I tend to accept the latter version, especially this year when the winter bills are likely to be very high indeed. Any buffer I have will be welcome to cope with this. Some may think as I do, and some may call this foolish and the energy companies greedy. I know what I’m paying at the moment will not pay the bill in November and I’m likely to be in debt by the end of the year. If I were to ask the energy company for a refund, I would have to find even more later on.

I would rather have money in my account and pay for what energy I use. The only time I have wanted to be in credit with a company was when I made payments for my credit cards in advance because I was going to be on holiday. For safety, I overestimated the payment.

With my present energy supplie and an online accountr I can increase or decrease the monthly direct debit payment whenever I want to, or make a one-off payment to clear a debt. Hopefully the companies that used to push up my direct debits when I was well in credit now put their customers in control. of their accounts.

We did have a substantial increase in our monthly gas bill payment notified a few months ago because our consumption had increased proportionately. I am satisfied it was entirely justified. Although last winter was not especially harsh, we did feel colder so we tweaked the thermostat a pip or two and sometimes kept the heating on overnight. This is largely as a result of getting older, spending more time indoors, and not going on holiday to warmer climes. Overall I think the enforced lockdown and abstinence from external entertainment and social activities has compensated adequately for the extra heating expense, but it will not do so over the next twelve months because our current largely homebound lifestyle is now likely to be the permanent pattern.

In terms of the government’s response, I feel that the extra £150 council tax rebate and the £400 energy bill rebate, together with the uplift in universal credit and other benefit payments, and the likely increase in the state retirement pension in line with inflation next year after the one-year pause, will all help substantially. I regard it as a reasonable response overall, and probably more than the country can truly afford, but until people see it in their bank accounts they will not appreciate it, hence the general state of disappointment and complaint about the government’s action. Most of the most poor and vulnerable members of society will not be affected by the rise in National Insurance contributions, but nor will they benefit from the reduction in income tax that is being promised for next year; I think that gesture should be held over and the money reallocated to further targeted relief for those in hardship or raising tax thresholds to take more people out of the basic and higher rate tax brackets.

The National Audit Office has criticised Ofgem for allowing an unstable market in energy supplies to develop on weak foundations. Ofgem has admitted that its own internal review came to the same conclusions and is making changes. The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said “”Once again, it’s the public who has to pay for the mistakes of those charged with protecting them. It’s unacceptable.” So why isn’t the government compensating consumers for the regulatory failures of this public body? See — https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-61881981

So far as I am aware no action has been taken against those local authorities which decided to engage in the energy market and, presumably in partnership with energy traders, ran up large losses which are having to be recovered from council taxpayers. Local authorities might be substantial consumers of gas and electricity for their schools, premises, street lighting, swimming pools, tramways, and so on, but they have no particular expertise in this area. Whatever drove them to get involved?

A public interest report was issued by Nottingham City Council’s local auditors on how the council managed its relationship with its wholly-owned subsidiary Robin Hood Energy and revealed a series of weaknesses and shortcomings in its oversight highlighting its lack of commercial experience, financial awareness and risk awareness. The cumulative loss over four years before the company was closed down was £34.4 million.

So far as I know, no councillors have been surcharged or barred from office for their mismanagement of this activity.

I agree some problems are avoidable, as those of us here on Convo are all too aware Wavechange, and maybe the emphasis needs to be more on the difference between those which are avoidable, and those which are not.

Life is full of challenges, but a life worth living does not dwell on them. There are people who find some sort of distorted satisfaction in creating problems for the very sake of it, who are always seeking a victim[s] to appease their inner discomfort, just as there are people who will pay others to solve their problems, or use a form of mental manipulation in order to avoid facing up to, and taking responsibility for their own misdeeds or misfortune. They are best avoided at all costs if possible.

If you are able to dig a little deeper into a persons past history, you will often discover a valid reason for their ill-gotten conduct or behaviour. You can offer advice in the form of support in such circumstances, but if that advice goes unheeded, you need to ask yourself, do you really need this in your life?

Many children could benefit from being taught this fundamental truth in schools, especially where bullying is common place, and it is important to teach them to deal with, or report a problem as and when it occurs in the present, if avoidance is impossible or impractical, whichever the case may be. The avoidance of problems without facing up to them will cause untold mental (psychological) damage to a young persons mind if left to fester for years without seeking help for them.

It is certainly a good idea to distinguish between avoidable problems and those that are not, and perhaps those who enjoy creating problems deserve to be ignored.

I have little experience of children and none of bullying, so I cannot make any useful comment.

RAM DISK is not an installation procedure…

That would be a virtual disaster.