Feel free to talk in The Lobby

Open discussion

This conversation is no longer accepting comments – Please visit our new off-topic discussion to keep the conversation going.

Update: August 2018

With just shy of 13K comments we have frozen comments and created a new off-topic Lobby for you to continue using.

Although you won’t be able to add new comments below, you can still link to this page, and to individual comments.


Original post:

Since Which? Conversation launched six years ago, there have been almost 4,500 conversations on all sorts of consumer issues – from money to megabytes. And in those conversations, there have been close to 180,000 comments.

Of course, the real strength of Which? Convo lies in its members who contribute so much to every discussion. And one of the better aspects has been watching how this community has slowly but surely grown into such a caring one.

Our community

But, as with any community or conversation it can – and does – wander off-topic. This is perfectly natural, but it hasn’t always been possible to do so in some of the subjects we discuss due to the precisely defined nature of them.

So, at the behest of some of our community members, we’re creating a brand-new convo: The Lobby.

This will give you the space to discuss anything that takes your fancy providing, of course, that your comments remain within our community guidelines.

The Lobby will be available in exactly the same way as all the other conversations, and some of our regular community members will help with the moderation duties.

As always, any ideas spawned here in The Lobby could also be used to generate new topics for debate and discussion, so you – our community members – will be able to really help shape the direction of Which? Convo.

Rules in The Lobby

There are no rules… only kidding 😉

To ensure that this off-topic discussion remains a healthy and friendly place for you all to share your thoughts, musings and ideas, here’s a reminder of our most relevant guidelines:

  1. 1. You may go off-topic… that is the purpose of The Lobby 🙂
  2. 2. You can’t agree with everyone all of the time, but when you do disagree, please be polite and speak to others as you’d like to be spoken to.
  3. 3. Avoid ‘trolling’, or purposely provoking others into a desired emotional response. It’s just mean 😐
  4. 4. Avoid making comments that others might find offensive, threatening, abusive or defamatory.
  5. 5. Website feedback is best shared on this dedicated Conversation. If you would like to talk about the closure of Which.net, you can do so in this dedicated discussion area. This is so we can keep The Lobby to be about everything else.
  6. 6. If you’re a Which? member and you’re looking for somewhere to discuss issues related to our organisation, including governance, then please head over to which.co.uk/haveyoursay.

So without further ado… welcome to The Lobby. What are you waiting for!?

With special thanks to Which? Conversation community member, Ian, who kindly wrote the bulk of this conversation and provided the excellent name of The Lobby.


Thanks very much, Patrick. Hopefully this will help us keep the other Conversations on topic. Thanks to Ian for the suggestion. Hopefully no-one will suggest division lobbies. 🙂


This place answers an oft-felt need, I think. Somewhere we can take chats whenever they wander off topic elsewhere.

When reading Which? Magazine I often have queries or thoughts that are not important enough to make an issue of but might be worth a brief discussion. I usually think . . . well, I’ll save that until this topic comes round on Conversation as many of the Magazine contents do. But as luck would have it the topic never comes up – and if it did I’ve probably forgotten the point. I was thinking of proposing that we have a Conversation in respect of each Magazine edition from publication date for about two months where we could air our thoughts on things seen in the Magazine. I am hoping The Lobby will fill that need. Now what have I done with the March issue? . . . I thought I had it here somewhere.

Great idea, Ian, and a great name for the topic. Thanks Patrick for bringing it into life.

Well done Ian; great idea. Look forward to seeing how it develops.

Just popping in to say Hi! Been a which member for many years now – was even invited once to visit your offices by PK and met Alan S. I’ll have a look around and dip in when I’ve got something to add. See you all around 🙂

Hi Kerry – Welcome to our what is likely to become a virtual coffee lounge. Do you take sugar?

These name-droppers 🙂 PK= Paul Kitchen – first managing editor of the Which? forum. Alan S= Alan Stevens – Media specialist and now owns his own media coaching company.

Haha! I was an acronym dropper!

Only black. And with how I’ve been sleeping in the past week, better make it decaf!

Perhaps we should have some poetry in the Lobby. I enjoy poetry but am no good at it.

Well, there’s some evidence that caffeine extends life expectancy.

Not altogether recommended for ‘A’ type blood groups Ian whose adrenaline levels are supposed to be already sufficiently stimulated.

What if you’re an AB? Does the B modify the A?

Lone, you will know if caffeine affects you negatively and it is important to consult your GP if you have an enduring health problem such as diabetes and/or are taking prescribed medication. I have an inherited history of migraine so caffeine is not for me as it temporarily shrinks blood vessels and gives me a nasty headache the next day. Taken in excess it can raise blood pressure, boost heart rate and could trigger cardiovascular problems in some people.

For more information, log onto: livescience.com – Can Caffeine Kill You?

There is another website that discusses the pros and cons of blood group types @ webmd.com – The Blood Group Diet

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on that!

I have been drinking rather a lot of coffee since my late teens and have not noticed any problems. I don’t know if I am conditioned to caffeine or somehow different to those who notice the effect of a single cup of coffee. I know I am not alone in being a serial coffee drinker but I never get a headache after consuming alcoholic drinks that are reputed to cause headaches.

Whilst at university we used to buy 1.5 lb tins of Nescafe instant coffee (powder) and consume it liberally. When we ran out temporarily many felt a craving for it, so presumably it was the caffeine that was a little addictive.

In those days I drank tea and coffee liberally laced with sugar. In a temporary job on the railways between school and university the norm was to take a mixture of sweetened condensed milk and tea leaves in an enamel can so all you had to do at snap time was add hot water. It took many years to wean myself off the sugar and realise how much nicer was the flavour of real tea (leaves) and coffee (ground). Still need sugar in cocoa though.

Beryl, I don’t drink vast amounts of coffee – one small mug after lunch is my limit. I’ve tried taking my blood pressure before and half-an-hour after drinking it; there was a slight increase (as I’d expected) but it was very slight. I can’t now remember the figures. I do drink my coffee moderately strong, black, no sugar, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t affect me in a negative manner.

Wasn’t there some research that found caffeine had some good effects on your health/longevity? 😉

PS, I’ll have a look at the web sites you recommend; thanks!

New Scientist articles dating back to 2000 suggest only positive effects of small amounts of caffeine. Longevity was one of the positives. “Caffeine can have both positive and negative health effects. It can treat and prevent the premature infant breathing disorders bronchopulmonary dysplasia of prematurity and apnea of prematurity. Caffeine citrate is on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. It may confer a modest protective effect against some diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and certain types of cancer. One meta-analysis concluded that cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease and stroke is less likely with 3–5 cups of non-decaffeinated coffee per day but more likely with over 5 cups per day”.

Sounds like I’m doing the right thing then.

No, I’m not worried about caffeine, but I am a little worried about alcohol. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t consume vast quantities, but I do drink wine most days and usually between a quarter and a third of a bottle. If only wine makers would stick to a more modest alcohol content, life would be easier: I don’t drink for the sake of the alcohol, but because I like wine with food. 12% would be much better than the many 14%+ wines you find now. And there are some very good German wines with as little as 8%, but they tend to be on the sweet side and are not easy to find.

If caffeine can increase longevity then I ought not to be here Ian!

There is much exchange of views on the subject but scientists tend to agree it is a mildly addictive and dependent drug and like all addictions withdrawal symptoms will occur when you stop taking it. Caffeine can increase the efficacy of painkillers (NSAIDS) but may also contribute to rebound headaches and addiction when you leave them off.

I would be interested to hear from someone who, like myself, is affected by drinking caffeinated coffee. For the scientifically minded the best website I have found on this subject is: americanmigrainefoundation.org – Caffeine and Migraine.

It delves into the neurological effect of caffeine on the brain and is quite informative.

I’m just having a coffee before I start painting again.

I can’t drink caffeine in the evenings Beryl, it doesn’t settle well in my stomach so I have decaf coffee, ginger tea or hot chocolate if I want a hot drink.

Lone, if you can stick to the NHS recommended 14 units of alcohol a week spread over 14 days you have no worries. This amount now applies to both men and women.

Good luck with the painting alfa! Ginger tea will settle your stomach after a heavy meal in the evening, as does peppermint tea.

The WHO places alcohol in the same band as Asbestos for its carcinogenic properties.

If Which? Convo had been launched earlier, Alfa might have had some advice of a chap called Michaelangelo, who had a reputation for painting ceilings.

Yes, but I think he was always lying down on the job…

Mind you, you could always send him on his way after some fish ‘n chips – especially near supper time.

LOL!!! 🙂

I don’t have a great tolerance for alcohol but also like wine (or good cider) with a meal. A standard glass does for me; more than that in red starts to taste unpleasant and with red or white it can send me to the land of nod – but not refreshing sleep. I don’t like it diluted as a spritzer so I intersperse it with a decent soft drink, such as elderflower cordial or chilled green tea. It is difficult to get soft drinks that are not too sweet.

I’m with you on soft drinks being too sweet Malcolm. I hate the taste of artificial sweeteners and would rather have less real sweeteners in soft drinks. My current cordial is Belvoir Organic Ginger that only has 4.2% organic sugar when diluted as suggested. Are you able to describe what chilled green tea tastes like?

I have never liked fizzy drinks, and decent non-fizzy drinks have always been hard to find when out and about. Orange juice is now too acidic for me, so I usually stick to water. I don’t drink alcohol in the daytime so if I find myself in a pub at lunchtime, I am stuck with water or coffee.

As a child, I disliked the 2 hot chocolate drinks that were available, I think they were Cadbury’s and Bourneville. They were too sweet, and I just didn’t like the flavour.

Last year, I found myself in a coffee shop and on the spur of the moment ordered a hot chocolate. It was lovely even though it was a bit sweet. So then went through quite a lot of hot chocolate powders trying to find one I liked. I discovered Food Thoughts 100% Cocoa that says for baking on the tin. Made with nearly all milk and a bit of sweetening, I now enjoy hot chocolate at home.

We buy ready-to-drink Lemon and Green Tea from M&S. It is slightly lemony with a kind of peach hint, not too sweet (for me anyway) and I find it refreshing. I’m sure you could make your own. We’ve taken this, with other similar drinks, on picnics instead of the usual sugary fizzy drinks or squashes. Even the children like them.

I make hot chocolate with whole milk and M&S cocoa powder, like you. Much nicer than too-sweet (and expensive) chocolate drinks.

Nice one Ian, looking forward to teaming up with the conversationalists on a more extra curricular and liberal footing, ever mindful of course of the T&C’s, and Kerry, decaff is always a must for me!

I’m keen that the regulars encourage irregulars and new faces into the The Lobby. I’m happy to serve the virtual coffee but someone else can do the decaffeinated stuff.

Decaf Gold from Lidl is nice and I don’t usually like decaf.

I much prefer caffeinated coffee Alfa but it always triggers a migraine headache. Caffeine acts by constricting blood vessels which expand when you leave it off causing pain in susceptible individuals. Decaff is the only alternative but you do get used to it after a while.

No decaf for me! But then, I never drink coffee in the evening.

I should mention that I’m also an old (very old!) Which? member, and a friend of Kerry and Ian.

Welcome aboard, Lone.

Thank you, Ian.

‘Cause we got a little new convo
Rockin’ night and day
Yeah, we got a little new convo
Where we are allowed to stray
Come on and join our convo
Ain’t nothing gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this chattin’ convo
Ain’t no one got nothin’ to say?

(Chorus of Convoy for Wavechange)

She’s off!

Bravo, Alfa!

LOL!!! 😃

My goodness. I get a mention.

A serious subject. Is anyone else a volunteer for a charity?

I do a bit of volunteering for the local civic society of the nearby town. It involves turning out once a month to pull shopping trolleys out of the river, clearing the banks of dumped rubbish, cutting back vegetation on an ancient pathway, litter picking, planting trees, cleaning the statues, and general tidy-ups. It’s the sort of jobs that would never get done by the town or district councils, and it can be good fun.

In my younger days I did scrub-bashing, equipment repair and have mixed many tonnes of mortar for our bricklayers. I still look after some of our equipment but nowadays I’m involved with outdoor activities for all ages and we raise a surprising amount of money from donations. Meetings and site meetings take up a lot of time but the latter often don’t need minutes to be taken. Today I have made a start on compiling and editing the next issue of our magazine. Out in the countryside we don’t have much litter but I do get dragged in to an annual litterpick by another charity that I have less involvement.

It would be interesting to know if any of the Convo team do charity work.

Sort of. I’m in finance and am always helping local charities to some degree. Currently one for free (complete volunteer!) and a handful more at cost to my business. I was also a school governor for eight years but resigned after my children had been left for some time and I felt I’d lost “touch” so couldn’t hold to account as well as I had originally.

Doing voluntary work has helped many ease the transition from an active working life to retirement, though hobbies can achieve this. I seem to have more meetings than I did before I retired. I keep getting pushed to take on writing major grant applications. No way – I did enough of that at work.

I’m involved with a major international youth group as a volunteer, and also locally in various committees.

I have been volunteering all my life and it’s not because I have volunteered to become a volunteer!

So this is the nearest we’re going to get to the old “armadillo” then?
“Rules – we don’ need no steenkin rules” 🙂
As for me I’m recently retired (6-months) – still trying to figure out why I didn’t retire earlier and now trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next (apart from tinker with computers and electronics and watch some telly)

Patrick, this commenter’s name shows as Nell-M, not Neil-M, on my screen but lower case ‘i’ often merges into an ‘l’ when bold type is used [the ‘i’ in Patrick in your by-line is a case in point]. Which is correct in this instance?

I know Neil’s name is Neil 🙂 But the problem is created by the font being used. Serif fonts don’t have the same issue. Sadly, it’s not felt ‘fashionable’ to use serif fonts any longer.

John may be able to change the font displayed to overcome the problem. Thankfully the difference between i and l is very obvious on my screen.

While we are on with technical issues @patrick, any thoughts on the problem that clicking on ‘Latest comments’ sometimes fails to work as intended? We have been discussing the problem in the New Convo Convo.

I hope The Lobby Convo doesn’t simply take over from The New Which? Conversation. One feature of the latter was comments on how the structure and mechanics of Convos could develop. We seem to be transferring that topic to The Lobby.

The intro to The Lobby begins “Do you want to discuss an issue that’s bothering you but can’t find the right place to post it? Or maybe you’re looking for somewhere to chat with your community pals.” Sorry to be a party pooper (incidentally @patrickt have you sorted out a date and venue?)

I don’t think there’s any need to worry about what’s being discussed where at this stage. Malcolm. Give things a little while and they’ll sort themselves out naturally. One purpose of this place was to afford us all a place to talk about anything and be self-moderating. That will happen, I believe, and worrying at this point about what’s discussed where is probably unnecessary.

The humour, eloquence and intellects among the regulars will not only resist attempts to organise them but, left to grow, will develop into something rather special. In due course people will choose where to discuss what; ‘Welcome to..’ will probably be viewed as a place for technical natters by default, but there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t start in here.

Think of this place as the greenhouse: seeds for anything can be started in here, and – as they develop – they can be moved to more appropriate locations.

I agree, Ian, except that I hope that I hope that The Lobby will not just be used by regulars. Perhaps some new faces will pop in, be made welcome and pointed towards other Convos that are relevant to what they would like to discuss.

Perhaps The Lobby could replace ‘Ideas’. A few of the Ideas are taken forward into new discussions but the rest languish and eventually drop off the list, which must be very discouraging to those who post them.

One of the attractions of Which? Convo is that it is like a virtual pub and provides an opportunity to join in discussions with people you know and strangers.

In the olden days Microsoft Word used to use Ariel twelve point as the default font. Sometime later it had moved to Calibri 11 point. Both seem to do the job reasonably well, though I increase mine to fourteen point when I write to those with challenged sight or I want my letter to seem longer than it actually is. We all look down our noses at Comic Sans these days. I wonder whether our choice of font says something about us? How many of us now own a working fountain pen with ink in it. I do, occasionally, write to people and take a photocopy so that I have a record of what’s said. My elderly cousins also handwrite in preference to typing, and replying on the word processor seems a little impersonal. Crossing out on the computer is easier than typexing! When “creating” I like to write everything in longhand and use the typing process as a first edit of my work.

Ink in it? Sorry.
While I’m here, has anyone else become angry because Amazon has refused to sell you something? I recently tried to order a specialised spoon to help with feeding and when I tried to purchase it I was told to “continue shopping” and not allowed to check out. On further investigation I discovered that this was an “Add On Item” that was uneconomic to send out on its own. I had to buy something else to get it. They either SELL something or they DON’T!!!

They will sell it, but only when you have bought sufficient to cover their postage fees. You can always contact the trader selling it and ask them to send one, anyway.

I did.

I have sometimes found Amazon sellers sell products cheaper on their own sites.

Amazon is a good place to see what is available and read reviews with a pinch of salt, but it is not always the cheapest.

stephen says:
1 February 2017

Serif typefaces are certainly completely out of fashion. And though I have generally been strongly in favour of serif faces, I do nowadays see some lovely page designs using sans-serif faces. They can look delightfully clean. Difficulties tend to arise when serif faces are used in very small sizes (as here).

I worked in a university and produced various bound manuals for teaching and other purposes. Our Disability Services asked us to use sans-serif typefaces for the benefit of readers with dyslexia.

Serif typefaces are rather uncommon on websites nowadays.

Retiring gives you more time to spend on those things you once had to rush – gardening, cutting the grass and hedges and lets you do more of the activities you like. I always liked growing plants and, with the benefit of a greenhouse and heated propagator find that relaxing, but very time consuming. I always enjoyed design, and have made quite a bit of furniture for ourselves, the family and others. Been able to do more bowling, and helped others new to the game as well as organising a club. Reading was always enjoyable but time to do more. So look upon retirement as a challenge to do more of what you like and find new activities to try. You’ll wonder where the time goes.

Neil: this is the first major change for W?Cs. Under Patrick’s astute oversight (grovel) I’m sure more changes will eventually appear. What this does, however, is provide a base where nothing is off-limits.

Malcolm: wonder if we could operate a chess club in here? Might be fun to try.

Will it open with an Ian’s gambit?

LOL! I’m an admirer of Bobby F’s Sicilian adaptations – the poisoned pawn, for instance . Be nice to be able to play as he did, but no chance of that, I’m afraid.

Well this is a good start to The Lobby – well done @carneades 🙂 and welcome @neil-m, @kerry and @lone

Thank you! We’re following in Ian’s footsteps…

A magazine with brief report on something tested or a key issue from each year would be interesting. A page an item would leave a few pages for comment.

Alternatively you could invite all your members to a big party.

I’ll leave the choice in your hands. 🙂

For the 50th they produced a Mag page of all the covers since the start. Key achievements would be goo, and perhaps making more of some really significant steps – such as the creation and operation of the world’s first consumer-oriented web site and forum.

The history of some of the individuals involved would be good. I’m thinking of the Sheilas and Kims of this world.

I suggest focusing on achievements of Which? during the 60 years, focusing mainly on ones that the public can relate to. Engaging with subscribers and the public in various ways is certainly one of the strengths and Which? Convo could be used as a prime example of how this is being achieved.