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Would you abandon a brand over a bad experience?

Angry customer

I think most of us probably accept that we will experience discontentment with a service or product at some point. But just how many of us are happy to forgive and forget?

It will come as no surprise to many that it was the retail sector which received the biggest share of complaints in the latest multi-sector Consumer Action Monitor survey by Ombudsman Services.

According to the report, retail sector complaints had a 24% share of the total complaints and the cost of poor service to the sector weighed in at a significant £10.05 billion last year.

The report found most consumers are often happy to forgive and forget as long as their complaint is resolved satisfactorily. But, if a complaint is handled poorly many aren’t afraid to retract their custom, with 19% taking their business elsewhere and 15% making a conscious decision to spend less with a brand.

Poor service

A bad experience can be disheartening, stressful and inconvenient. The company is already facing the weight of an unhappy customer, so the complaints and resolution process should be vital to turning things around.

But sometimes even this won’t be enough.

I had a negative experience with a large retailer in the weeks running up to Christmas the year before last, which has since permanently damaged my relationship with them.

I ordered two sets of four champagne glasses, which were to be a present for my parents. Ordered and confirmed in early December and with a delivery date selected for December 22nd. I was shocked when half of the order was cancelled on the same day I was due to pick it up. That’s right, the same day!

This left me feeling dejected, let down and – above all – incredibly stressed running around physical stores trying to see if there were still any on display. We are a family of eight at Christmas and special occasions, so four flutes instead of eight just didn’t quite cut the mustard!

I was refunded the full amount for the missing part of the order as was proper, and sent a £10 e-gift card as an apology for them being unable to fulfil my order at the eleventh hour.

At the time, I didn’t actually feel the need to complain further; the retailer had refunded me as they were in breach of contract and extended the added olive branch of a gift card. But the experience left me distrustful.

Complaints handling

I still shop with the retailer, but will never again do this online around Christmas for fear of being let down in the same way.

How a company manages its complaints and decides to resolve the issue might impact whether the consumer chooses to remain loyal, spends less or takes their business elsewhere.

If your complaint was handled well, would you think more highly of the business? Would you continue spending money with the company in the same way? What if your complaint was handled poorly – would you take your business elsewhere?

Which of these statements best describes how you would react if your complaint wasn't dealt with well:

I would take my business elsewhere – they let me down (81%, 1,356 Votes)

I would make a conscious decision to spend less with the business – I can’t rely on them in the same way (17%, 277 Votes)

I would forgive and forget – everyone makes mistakes from time to time (2%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,669

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I have avoided Currys/PC World for years for various reasons, but mainly over their reluctance to face up to their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act.

I don’t use Amazon for much more than the occasional map or guide book. I have discovered that they do not take responsibility for goods sold by their Marketplace traders, even if there are safety issues. People who would be cautious about buying goods from a street market or an unheard of company trading online are happy to order online from Amazon and have an unheard of company fulfil the order. It’s a simple and elegant con, in my view.

I have given up on Marks & Spencer, having shopped there since my mum used to take me to buy clothes. They carried on selling clothing made in the UK for longer than other shops and although the prices were high the quality was generally good. Nowadays it’s imported goods, like other shops, and what they sell either no longer appeals or is considerably overpriced. The only time I have ordered online, they were very unhelpful over delivery.

Complaints are handled by individuals and, human nature being what it is, some (most) do it much better than others. So if a retailer sells a product I want and am happy with generally, I would look objectively at a problem and give the business whatever chances I feel it deserves. I have been with the AA for years and always negotiate my annual renewal. This year I spoke to an unhelpful and abrupt individual who refused (as is his prerogative) to reduce my premium to what I regarded as a satisfactory figure. Because of the attitude I did not conclude my renewal, but rang the AA a week later, spoke to another person who was very pleasant and we concluded a deal that was better then i was working towards.

We must be careful if we take out business elsewhere on principle, and lose out in the process, simply to make a point. I don’t see cutting off your nose to spite your face as a good strategy.

A few days on another convo I wrote:
Having just looked at the latest copy of Which? magazine, I was appalled to see that 77 sub-brands of estate agents were owned by just 5 groups and after declaring we wouldn’t touch one of them with a bargepole discovered we used another agent in the same group. Had we realised, we would not have used them either.
You can read the rest of my rant here if you are interested:

If I have a bad experience with a company but the company works hard to put the problem right, then I would probably use them again. It would rather depend on the problem, and if it was one of quality, then they probably wouldn’t get my custom again.

But my mega-gripe is not knowing who I am dealing with as companies buy out other companies but continue to trade under the original brand name when the products might have little resemblance to their original specifications especially in quality.

To bring back real competition, I want to see parent companies names in front of their sub-brands so we can make an informed decision whether we want to trade with that company again or not. e.g. Countrywide-Mann, Countrywide-Miller, Electrolux-AEG, Electrolux-Zanussi.

I think the number of reputable UK brands that have been sold out to foreign companies with manufacture off-shored and quality impaired would astonish you, Alfa. Some time ago I realised that this had happened with Pringle knitwear. It had been sold to the Fang’s of Hong Kong. It’s worth taking a look on Wikipedia at “Pringle of Scotland” to see how it has changed, both for the better and the worse, over the years as it struggled to make money while remaining a luxury goods manufacturer. Needless to say, nothing is made in Scotland anymore – just a bit of finishing work so they can still sew on a ‘Made in Scotland’ label.

From the companies’ point of view it does not matter if Pringle’s knitwear is imported or they are able to sell goods under reincarnated brand names that disappeared decades ago. I do not see any easy way that the consumer can easily keep track of what is happening. In addition to the usual ways of finding out about products and customer service I suggest speaking to neighbours, friends and family for up to date information rather than relying on pleasant or unpleasant experience in the past.

This is a list of companies I found posted on the internet a few months ago and these are only associated with the EU so there are plenty more:

Cadbury moved factory to Poland 2011 with EU grant.
Ford Transit moved to Turkey 2013 with EU grant.
Jaguar Land Rover has recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia with EU grant, owned by Tata, the same company who have trashed our steel works and emptied the workers’ pension funds.
Peugeot closed its Ryton (was Rootes Group) plant and moved production to Slovakia with EU grant.
British Army’s new Ajax fighting vehicles to be built in SPAIN using SWEDISH steel at the request of the EU to support jobs in Spain with EU grant, rather than Wales.
Dyson gone to Malaysia, with an EU loan.
Crown Closures, Bournemouth (Was METAL BOX), gone to Poland with EU grant, once employed 1,200.
M&S manufacturing gone to Far East with EU loan.
Hornby models gone. In fact all toys and models now gone from UK along with the patents all with EU grants.
Gillette gone to Eastern Europe with EU grant.
Texas Instruments Greenock gone to Germany with EU grant.
Indesit at Bodelwyddan Wales gone with EU grant.
Sekisui Alveo said production at its Merthyr Tydfil Industrial Park foam plant will relocate production to Roermond in the Netherlands, with EU funding.
Hoover Merthyr factory moved out of UK to Czech Republic and the Far East by Italian company Candy with EU backing.
ICI integration into Holland’s AkzoNobel with EU bank loan and within days of the merger, several factories in the UK, were closed, eliminating 3,500 jobs.
Boots sold to Italians Stefano Pessina who have based their HQ in Switzerland to avoid tax to the tune of £80 million a year, using an EU loan for the purchase.
JDS Uniphase run by two Dutch men, bought up companies in the UK with £20 million in EU ‘regeneration’ grants, created a pollution nightmare and just closed it all down leaving 1,200 out of work and an environmental clean-up paid for by the UK tax-payer. They also raided the pension fund and drained it dry.
UK airports are owned by a Spanish company.
Scottish Power is owned by a Spanish company.
Most London buses are run by Spanish and German companies.
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to be built by French company EDF, part owned by the French government, using cheap Chinese steel that has catastrophically failed in other nuclear installations. Now EDF say the costs will be double or more and it will be very late even if it does come online.
Swindon was once our producer of rail locomotives and rolling stock. Not any more, it’s Bombardier in Derby and due to their losses in the aviation market, that could see the end of the British railways manufacturing altogether even though Bombardier had EU grants to keep Derby going which they diverted to their loss-making aviation side in Canada.
39% of British invention patents have been passed to foreign companies, many of them in the EU.
The Mini cars that David Cameron stood in front of as an example of British engineering, are built by BMW mostly in Holland and Austria. His campaign bus was made in Germany even though we have Plaxton, Optare,
Bluebird, Dennis etc., in the UK.
The bicycle for the Greens was made in the Far East, not by Raleigh UK but then they are probably going to move to the Netherlands too as they have said recently.

Roll on Brexit, alfa. Presumably the grants were partly funded from the £350M a week we give the EU? Good of us to pay people to take their businesses out of the UK. But then some criticise the UK government when we give incentives to companies to invest in the UK (Nissan et al). Just what do we really want?

We rely on the reputation of brand names from past experience. I agree with all the others who ask that the current overall brand owner should be shown prominently alongside the brand name. So if we don’t like a company we can choose not to buy its brands. Suppose Which? or Private Eye got taken over by Rupert Murdoch (I hope they haven’t been!)? Would you still trust what they said if you found out? You might then stop buying them.

Retailers must be careful – John Lewis, i seem to remember. sold some pretty poor domestic appliances under their own label. It damaged my perception of JLP as a quality retailer (even if not necessarily best value for money).

Thanks, Alfa. Just the thin end of the iceberg unfortunately. One or two entries on the list need updating but it is a roll-call of tragedy for UK industry, aided and abetted by the EU in many cases. I am now of the view that I can’t wait to leave. What have our MEP’s and ministers been doing all this time? – that has never been put under the microscope.

The list posted by Alfa has been doing the rounds for months and some of this is dated or misleading. Plenty of well known companies do their manufacturing in China and elsewhere without UK or EU support.

Indeed companies do manufacture in india, China, Philipines, Taiwan, Brazil. Such is the nature of a global economy . BMW, Honda, Nissan, for example manufacture here. Where I see a problem is when the EU conglomerate redistributes work at our – the UK’s – expense. It might help ailing or developing economies, but I want to see the UK economy prosper. I want us to stand on our own feet, not for example have to place tender invitations throughout the EU and accept the lowest offer to comply with EU regulations; I want as much UK work done by UK companies as possible.

These comments are also in the wrong place 🙁 .Perhaps Which could copy and paste them into The Lobby, or the Brexit Convo?

What’s more annoying is the fact that the EU grants contain a large proportion of UK tax payers money.

Melissa – In your personal example the retailer should, obviously, have made sure it was able to fulfil your order in full. Given that it failed, it is hard to see what more it should have done for you. You didn’t make any further complaint so the problem was left to fester in your mind such that it has affected your relationship with the company. You offer no acknowledgment of the fact that, even though you ordered the goods early in December, you postponed delivery of a critical purchase to the last minute. Champagne flutes and other drinkware are always in high demand in the run up to Christmas so I feel you contributed somewhat to you personal misfortune and displeasure, not to mention your parents’ disappointment. That does not excuse the retailer from cancelling half your order, however, but there are lessons in this for both sides. By not making a formal complaint you have deprived the retailer of an opportunity to address its ordering procedures to prevent the over-selling of stock under order. You have decided not to stop shopping with the retailer, which I feel is the right response, but we all need to be careful over on-line orders ate the busiest part of the year when most stores are concentrating on their post-Christmas sales campaigns as well as trying – with casual staff in many cases – to cope with the Christmas rush. The tales of Which? are full of things gone wrong at Christmas-time and, up to a point, we have to put it down to experience and not carry it around as a grudge. My family would drink champagne out of the teacups if that was all that was available so I hope you all had a good time in the end.

Mugs hold more…

“My family would drink champagne out of the teacups if that was all that was available….” mine too 🙂

I had a lucky escape during a stay in North Wales a few years ago. Somehow, the washer-up (me!) managed to break one of the champagne flutes, but luckily we found two near identical ones in a charity shop in Caernarfon, so we bought them as replacements.

Personally I find Champagne overrated (although I have not indulged in very expensive versions). I do like fizzy wine – refreshing – and think there are just as enjoyable drinks in some English and Loire sparklers. Having said this, years ago I was given a Harrods’ hamper that included 2 half bottles of their own label champers – a lovely biscuity flavour that we thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately we are out of their delivery area – and price band.

Some Aldi champagne we had at Christmas was very enjoyable and after New Year’s Day, when Sainsbury’s were clearing their stocks, I took the opportunity to buy some of their Which?-recommended champagne at reduced prices for a family celebration and it too was excellent.

Luckily, I have very rarely had a need to complain about a company’s service but when things do go wrong, even if I have had full redress, I make a point of politely letting the company know so they can try to improve their service in the future. I usually find this produces an appreciative response and that I have no justification for changing my relationship with them. Over time one learns who one can do business with satisfactorily and who might let you down. Buying anything on-line has added risks and I endorse what Wavechange has said about specific companies. One of the problems these days is that there are a decreasing number of reliable alternative retailers so we need to support the good ones and help them to do better. The risk is that, in situations like this, complacency can set in with big retailers like Currys PC World and they start believing that they have got the market to themselves so treat their customers with contempt.

I recently got very annoyed with British Gas who cancelled a boiler service and central heating system check on the day before the agreed date in December. The explanation was that they were overstretched due to emergency calls – not from existing customers but from people who had requested a repair in response to BG’s adverts. I amicably made a fresh service appointment for early February but took the problem of over-booking up with the company at head office. I received an apology and their justification that they prioritise emergency call-outs from wherever they originate, especially when temperatures are below zero; they see that as part of their social responsibility. All very laudable, I thought, but why don’t they warn their contracted customers of that possibility when the appointment is scheduled? I have tried other companies but they also let you down with even less justification so we have remained with BG for some years and are satisfied with the quality of their service. It was suggested that we change the annual service to a summer date but i pointed out that it had to take place around the anniversary of our purchase of the property to comply with the NHBC protection scheme. This has now expired in respect of boiler cover so we shall adjust the date in future years to avoid the winter season. The service carried out a couple of weeks ago was one of the best I can recall with a most thorough check on all parts of the system and a repair to a motorised circuit valve that I had not realised was malfunctioning. The service technician was present for over an hour and so, despite an administrative contretemps, I see no reason to seek an alternative contractor.

I’ve been boycotting all Cadbury/Mondelez products for over 2 years now. I thought I ate alot of the stuff, clearly not enough to worry Cadburys though. Although it was detailed in the press that sales of creme eggs were down £6m last year.

My daughter went to Austria for New Year as they do, so I asked her to get me some Mozart Kugeln which she did. To my horror on the bottom in large letters is the word Mondelez 🙁 These companies get their paws on everything.

That’s right. I’m sure I heard something about us being On the Road to Mondelez.

To abandon a brand, I’d have to get hooked on one in the first place.

In practice, I think I prefer to choose products on the basis of their intrinsic merits.

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I just abandoned the Nationwide brand, having had their credit card for many years, because when they replaced the card just before Christmas due to suspicious activity, it no longer showed on the online accounts. I phoned them and filled in the ‘missing accounts’ report online. They told me it would take 3-5 days. By the end of January it was still missing. I reported it with secure messaging, and phoned again. This happened several times, each time getting an apology and the 3-5 days mantra. I was even promised an escalation to head office and a call back within 48 hrs – which never happened.

Eventually, after 7 contacts and unfulfilled promises, I closed the account – no point having an online account that isn’t accessible online. Disappointing, but easy enough to get a credit card elsewhere.

I’ve now had the official letter of account closure, but never received any of the promised calls or emails.

Many times it is the staff employed by the company who cause most problems by being to lazy to do the things they should be doing and ignoring company policy Others follow the rules to the letter and and do even consider doing anything else More than my jobsworth people

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Today I attempted to get a quote from a Which recommended ‘high end’ retailer offering house insurance. It would not let me submit the form as kept coming up with a query I could not understand. The page invited me to a live chat, which then said I was calling outside their normal business hours (it was approx 2.45) so there was no-one available. It suggested I email so I followed their link – to a site which could not be found. Needless to say I will not be pursuing my enquiry after such bad customer service.

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It was John Lewis Home Insurance.

John Lewis outsource their insurance services to one of the major insurers who have a ‘desk’ for John Lewis casework. The John Lewis website says “We have carefully selected Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc to underwrite John Lewis Home Insurance”. I believe RSA do more than just underwrite the insurance but actually administer it under the John Lewis name. The insurer has a contractual specification for the insurance terms and conditions, premiums, and cover, and all the literature is produced in the John Lewis house-style. John Lewis also sets the standard for customer service so it would be interested to learn of your unsatisfactory experience. John Lewis Home Insurance is a Which? recommended provider [January 2017].

I think it is sensible to walk away from a company that lets you down or provides bad service, but in the interests of improving the experience for other consumers it would be good if you could find time to write to John Lewis at their head office and tell them about your recent experience. One of the particular features of insurance cover is that we need 100% reliability when things go wrong – flood, fire, burglary, accidental damage, etc – so how a company deals with customers [or potential customers in your case] has to be considered as an indicator whether or not it is representative of their general level of service.

If you are looking for the kind of customer service you were expecting from John Lewis Insurance there are several alternatives and NFU Mutual has usually scored well in comparison tests. I have also found Barclays Bank, Saga and Nationwide Building Society to be very satisfactory for home insurance with the right cover at a more reasonable premium.

I have informed JL via their Facebook page and asked them to pass on my comments. I just felt that I’d wasted so much time in finding the information needed and completing the form, and so frustrated, that I couldn’t be bothered to write. Perhaps you are right, then, and I should write. Would have to be email, though, as on crutches with recovering broken hip so getting out to post not an option.

E-mail is fine, Barbara, and I feel that a personal and directed message will carry more weight; you are much more likely to get a considered reply, or at least an acknowledgment. Broadcasting your discontent via Facebook as you have done might also be a salutary lesson for John Lewis. Companies are under pressure to expose themselves via social media but are not necessarily grateful for what they receive, and whether they always take such complaints seriously is open to question.

P Stamp says:
23 February 2017

Would’nt it be nice that if an error was made and the company was aware of it, they offered an appology and a token of their regret before a complaint had to be made…. that’ll be they day!

Lesley wharton says:
24 February 2017

I purchased a new caravan from a a very friendly centre. On the 25th February last year 16. It went for its first service on 17th February this year less than a year old. To be told it needs a complete new floor and will take Two months or more can you. Advice me please

I recently had a bad experience with Ford UK over an essential spare part not supplied for 5 months. When the dealer got it they made two mistakes in fitting it. I complained, during the process, to the Chairman/Managing Director of Ford UK before I got any kind of action. Before that customer care was obstructive to useless but polite. I now drive a Toyota.

Joseph Bin Laden says:
28 February 2017

yes, becuase i would have bad connotations 🙁

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bernard says:
6 March 2017

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Maria says:
28 February 2017

Two weeks ago bought a mobile ph through fb.it was said it was a locked ph but he clearly said I can unlock it from any shop when I gave it for unlocking it came back advance can’t unlock it as it is a replacement handset. The seller is not even answering my msgs although my msgs are seen by him what should I do 😔😔😔

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Unless someone makes a false description of a product, you have very little comeback if you buy from an individual, whether in the street or on Facebook: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/l/second-hand-goods

Galaxy tab 4 bought new in 2016 now several apps including banking no longer support this device any comebacks under consumer law as fit for purpose as cannot do on it what I wanted to

James Tate says:
6 March 2017

Marks and Spencer (M&S) sold me a ‘Latex’ Pillowtop mattress on sale (30% off) for £630. 18 months later it had become really uncomfortable due to 4cm of sinkage.

I complained to M&S and they handled it really poorly. Initially they sent a FIRA technician round, who wrote a report on the mattress saying it was fine and that the dips were less than 2cm – the threshold. But I later found out he hadn’t followed guidelines, eg. he was supposed to let me read the report before signing which, he refused to do. So I complained to M&S who refused to listen to any complaints and my insistence and photographic evidence that there were dips of 3.5cm and 4cm. They suggested I complain to the Funiture Ombudsman and that this would cost me £50. Turns out the Ombudsman is free, so I complained to them. . This was a waste of time as after 14 days they merely told me the burden of proof was on me, and that it wasn’t really an issue they could help me with. They went back to M&S (Marks and Spencer) and came back to me a week later saying M&S said that 3.5-4cm was the manufacturer’s acceptable tolerance for a 2 year old mattress, when before they had said on the phone it was 2cm. Odd, why didn’t they tell me this before I went to the Ombudsman. It feels like they’re just making it up as they go along.

Alongside this I had also complained to the Executive Office of M&S who were no use. They accepted that the FIRA technician should have let me read the report and that he hadn’t followed the correct guidelines, but they insisted it was pointless to send another technician round as he would only come to the same conclusion about the mattress. I think the fact the technician got me to sign a report under false pretences (he said I was signing to confirm he had attended, when in fact I was signing to confirm I agreed with his report!) clearly falsifies the report, and strictly he should be sacked, though I wouldn’t actually want him to be sacked.

The whole process took 6 weeks.

The mattress sold to me by Marks and Spencer (M&S) was really poor quality, in terms of longevity. I opened up the mattress to find out what it was made of. Again I had been mislead. It was sold as ‘Latex Pillowtop 1500’. I think it would be reasonable to assume that the ‘pillowtop’ bit of the mattress was filled with latex. In fact it was two thirds stringy white fluff, and one third cheap latex – 2cm of latex! For a latex mattress topper the minimum thickness available online is 4cm. 2cm is nothing. The design and name of the mattress is misleading. (And the latex is really cheap – compared to the latex pillows I have and my old Ikea latex topper, the latex material is not very dense).

M&S’s brand is based on an idea of trustworthiness and some level of quality, but this mattress looked luxurious on the outside, and feels good initially, but inside the quality is poor and the comfort does not last. And to compound matters M&S handled my complaint really poorly.

I think M&S’s old image of being reliable and trustworthy and of some quality is clearly outdated. They’re heading the way of BHS.

I have no intention of shopping there again. I feel they owe me.

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James T says:
7 March 2017

Hi Duncan,

thanks for the info. I already bought a replacement mattress. The M&S mattress was not fully latex it is a pocket sprung mattress with a layer of cotteon, then, a ‘pillowtop’ which they termed a latex ‘pillowtop’, when infact it is mostly just white fluff. 2 thirds white fluff which they ambiguously called ‘white luxury fibres’.

It could be genuine Kapok, James, but the word has derogatory connotations so they apply the euphemism ‘white luxury fibres’. The colour is immaterial out of sight inside a mattress.

James t says:
9 March 2017

Hi John, I’m pretty certain it’s not Kapok. I’ve seen Kapok. The stuff in the mattress ‘pillowtop’ is synthetic.

M&S don’t provide accurate information on what is inside their mattresses or how much of anything is inside. Which is obviously very important to know. I was foolish enough to make assumptions. I though based on the price and reputation that the pillowtop was entirely full of latex, as the name of the mattress suggests. But it isn’t and as a res of the poor quality full used to bulk out the padding the mattress has sunk alot and it not usable.

Even a charity wouldn’t take it!

I am not really surprised the filling isn’t Kapok, James. It is probably a spun synthetic material that does not have the properties of a natural fibre. The original [non-discounted] price suggests a good quality mattress.

Good retailers of beds have illustrations or cut-away samples of the contents of their mattresses so you can see the composition and construction, and experts available to answer customers’ questions. This has been my experience with John Lewis and other good department stores and also with some specialist bed shops. I think you have been poorly let down by M&S who, as you say, trade on a high reputation; however, the more they stretch their product range the more difficult it is to maintain consistently high quality standards of retailing.

Presumably you had to get rid of your mattress at your own expense adding insult to discomfort.

James T says:
19 March 2017

Hi John,

yeah I think you’re right, M&S are stretching their expertise by selling mattresses.

They did have a cutaway of the materials on their website, but it was very poorly done as it didn’t include the pillowtop bit in the cutaway, so I didn’t know that there was hardly any latex inside. (I mainly wanted the mattress as I thought latex was a quality material). Also unlike John Lewis they don’t list how thick each bit of material is. There is a lack on information on exactly what you are buying. I was an idiot. I was too keen on gettin g a latex topped mattress! Should have bought a different on and got a latex topper.

And yes! Of course I had to dispose of the bugger myself.

My new Tempur mattress has a 15 year guarantee under which dips over 2cm can be claimed on, whereas M&S give no guarantee and think that 4cm after 2 years if fine!!