Tales of everyday consumerism – good, bad and ugly

Diary

I don’t keep a diary, but if I did then the pages of the past month would have been littered with tales of everyday consumerism – good, bad and ugly. I’m sure you’ll recognise some familiar themes…

Clueless car dealers

I need to change my car soon, so went to test drive a couple of options. When I asked one dealer a few basic questions about the car, he simply started reading the blurb off the manufacturer’s website. Another chap – similarly clueless – accompanied me on the test drive. How do they manage to sell any cars, I wonder?

Rip-off insurance

I received a renewal letter for my boiler cover (I know it’s poor value, but my ageing boiler is starting to struggle…). Spotted the huge premium hike, so called to query it. I didn’t even need to utter the words ‘I’d like to cancel’ before they dropped the price by 60%. 60%! But there was no apology for attempting to take me for a ride…

Terrible trains

Talking of which, my commute on Southeastern and Thameslink trains has been the usual mix of late running, overcrowding and broken seats. Our latest rail survey reveals just what my fellow commuters think of their services. And our Rail Refunds campaign now has more than 40,000 people supporting our super-complaint to make refunds for delayed trains easier.

A happy customer

Popped into Richer Sounds and saw the Which? booklet on ‘Your consumer rights’ at the counter. We worked with Richer Sounds to get these booklets in their shops, so I’m really pleased to see a retailer educating shoppers about their consumer rights, not deflecting them. Crucially, staff knew the products, gave a fair price and great service. Why can’t others do the same?

If you had a 2016 diary (perhaps you do!), would yours be filled with any similar stories to me?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I very much support efforts to make consumers more aware of their rights. Just today I suggested in another Convo that retailers should inform customers of their rights rather than turn them away if they could make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act after the guarantee has expired. It’s good to read Richard’s tale about Richer Sounds and hopefully more retailers will follow their example.

Like many others, I am fed-up with price hikes in annual premiums. I don’t approve of Which? encouraging haggling because knowing that customers will haggle just pushes up the initial price. That’s not a problem for those who are able to haggle, but it disadvantages many elderly people who are no longer able to haggle. I don’t want to be part of a culture where people only care for themselves.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Retailers have had plenty of time to inform customers about their rights, under SoGA and now CRA, but (some) seem either to not wish to do so or to have ill-informed staff. We need real publicity of rights (I hesitate to suggest a leaflet with every purchase) and links to an informative website, or perhaps a well-prepared leaflet prominently displayed in all shops to be mandated. Trading Standards did a good one for SoGA. Maybe they could do a good one for retailers to display for customers for the consumer Rights Act. Or Which? maybe (who would pay for it?).

On a positive note when being shown my prospective new car the test drive was with a well informed (and enthusiastic) person who knew the car inside out. When I took delivery the “salesman” I had been dealing with spent a good hour going through the controls and, in particular, all the gadgets – setting up the satnav , linking my mobile phone and putting in all my data, changing any settings to suit my preferences…….

On another embarrassingly positive note I recently tried to pay a credit card by phone. After 40 minutes hanging on (whilst I did another task as well) the phone hung up. All numbers were then engaged until, about an hour later I got through on a number aimed at overseas callers. The transaction went through and I asked if there had been a phone problem. I couldn’t understand the reply (foreign accent) so asked again, same result and finished the call. I emailed the only contact I had – their CEO – who, to my surprise, replied in around 10 minutes that there had indeed been a phone problem and apologised. To cut a longer story shorter I had several phone calls about “investigating my complaint” (which it was not, just asked for information) culminating in a significant payment being placed in my account (which I hadn’t asked for, nor expected – hence a bit embarrassed). Nevertheless prompt and attentive service.

Life isn’t all bad.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Yes Malcolm, , ,Curry’s etc all need a brief notice setting out the consumers basics rights for all to see
Curry’s always features in my head yet I use them for near all white goods not because I like them but because the others around me here I find even worse. . .
Getting out the door having not been talked into buying an item I dont want and without add on warranty is an uphill battle.. . .
The last couple of items I have bought on line and not went near their pushy staff
A notice not unlike the ones that have to appear in the workplace about health and safety would do well

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Currys used to put their receipts in a leaflet that included advice on what to do in event of problems. One of the points was that Currys may refer customers to the manufacturer. I did write to Currys and explain that they could not avoid their legal responsibilities but the same information was there a few years later. I don’t know what their leaflet contains now because the company is boycotted for this and other failings.

It would be good if their leaflet briefly summarised rights our rights under the Consumer Rights Act and indicated where to find further information.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Thanks Wave, , I’m very of the opinion that whilst there may be rules/laws etc there is so little policing they are all but pointless just the same as I know there is a lot lacking in quality and there is no one willing and able to look at anything it seems
To me there is no point in testing or Standards etc if there is to be no one or no body fit to follow up or make sure the normal routes have been followed
Malcolm sorry if I used the word Standards. . .
Just look at the VW thing. . .Was that not prime territory for Trading Standards
Is the dryers thing not the same

I must just say just now as I remember Patrick that I noticed a few days back that a Tumble Dryer write up here on Which somewhere made mention about Beko and White Knight having fire problems is to say the least a little dated as there is no mention of the current problems mentioned there
It turned up in a search I was doing and I was surprised that is was there with no mention about current issues

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Ah yes Currys and the infamous Which? Best Buy Logiks L90sss11 steamer. SO talking of durability …..

Not Good
I have no doubt that if you can get a good one then it is exceptional value for money and it does cook well. Ours lasted < 3 months – display broke and on / off button doesn't work anymore . I can genuinely say this is the only which best buy in 20 years plus of buying recommendations that has turned out to be a real dud. I would be amazed if it was tested now (especially over a extended owning period) it would even score 20%
30.1.16

I wonder if he got a replacement.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello dieseltaylor, I just wanted to let you know that due to the significant number of complaints from Which? members about the poor reliability of the Logik L90SSS11 steamer we carried out research which found an extremely high failure rate. We therefore decided to remove Best Buy status from this product.

We surveyed Which? members who own or have owned this steamer, and found that 92% of the steamers owned by the survey respondents had developed a problem that was serious enough to cause them to return it or throw it away. 65% of those problems developed within 12 months of purchase, and 84% developed within 18 months of purchase. Therefore, we do not think this product is reliable enough to remain a Best Buy.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Having looked at the reviews, it would be better to make this product a ‘Don’t Buy’ or simply remove the review.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Well I could almost cry as I have been mentioning it for a long long time!!

I do believe I suggested that in fact Which? should have someone eyeballing these reader reviews to make sure the organisation is alive to the long term use and associated problems.

I did also suggest bolstering it slightly by recording the membership dates as one is always nervous of the possibility for the £1 offer subscribers being overly represented in curious ways. Essentially I would place more weight on the review of a member for 29 years than someone who joined that week.

As for removing the review absolutely not . A virtue should be made of the system to show that Which? does respond to valid criticism and does downgrade tat. Those who have reviewed it would be most peeved to be wiped from the record.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

@patrick, so would you class this product as not “durable” under SoGA and CRA? Should there be recompense for those people out of guarantee but say less than 2 years old? Or do we expect this sort of product to be only good for 12 months use?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Which? says, and this I find hard to reconcile:

” Construction
Build quality
★★★★★ [actually shows 4 stars]

How well constructed the steamer is, taking into account the quality of the materials, machining, assembly and likely durability. A five star steamer is made from strong and durable materials; all parts fit together well and are properly finished and appear solid and unlikely to break in normal operation.”

Seems to be a mismatch and the score remains at 82% so durability does not seem to be included in the construction score.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Haggling???
I absolutely hate, detest abhor this method of dealing

I come from an area where haggling “dealing” or “dale-in” as it is pronounced here is the norm
If I go and look at something whether it be a car or whatever and if I’m interested I start off by telling the seller I dont “dale”
I ask them what price do they really want for the thing because I can see there is room to negotiate. . I explain quickly that if the price they give me is agreeable I’ll buy it if not I’m away. . .I emphasise I will not be standing around all day debating about price
But that still doesnt stick. . . When I walk away I’ve had salesmen walk after me and ask me to make an offer
My usual reply is “you had your chance” and I’m pretty hard to turn at that stage

No I dont do haggling apart from the credit card charge thing because I recon that if the sign is in the window without a notice beside it I’ll be trying my hand at it

I am also fed up to the teeth with car dealers selling cars with a little hand written proviso stating no warranty implied or given or very similar yet they made no mention of such during the deal. . Note I have bought cars as far south as Nottingham and came home with the same story
This is against all I know about car sales having to give warranty because as best I know they are supposed to give warranty except for B to B trade sales
It seems that if you want warranty you buy warranty but according to my thinking one should not have to buy warranty. . .The car should come with at least 3 months from the dealer. . . Whether they buy the warranty or not doesnt matter to me but I just dont get this buying warranty caper

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I keep between £50 and £150 in a PayPal account to buy small items from internet traders including eBay. I prefer not to give out credit and debit card numbers for small purchases in case the details are passed on or otherwise misused.

I frequently receive an email from PayPal to say to remind me that I have money in my account. Sorry PayPal, I don’t subscribe to the idea that I or anyone else should be encouraged to spend money. There’s too many living in debt as it is. I will try to remove myself from their marketing emails but that does not help anyone else.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

I too use PP as much as possible although I dont keep anything in it as such unless I have received a credit or refund
I watch like a hawk for PP to make the move as they always do to take funds from my debit card and I mostly catch them on and click on the cards and tick the CC card again
I never run credit but my CC gives me a little money back so I suppose I’m penny pinching

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At least I have never had PP taking money. One of the reasons that I keep a credit balance in my PP account is because I’ve had a web hosting service helping themselves and then telling that they have charged me. It’s many years since I have been unhappy about the behaviour of a small company but some of the larger ‘reputable’ companies are good at letting me down.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Yes Wave. . On line financial activity is to be avoided if possible. . .Keeps a lot of things at arms length where they should be

Profile photo of Ian
Member

Quote #comment-1435906 from DT: “Well I could almost cry as I have been mentioning it for a long long time!!”

I can vouch for that. It also raises a number of very serious questions for Which?:

Was the external company that carried out the tests for W? briefed to look at reliability?
If not, then why not?
If so, can we assume their contract will shortly be renegotiated?
Does this not exemplify the dangers of ‘contracting out’ testing?

The length of time DT has been pointing this out is well documented in W? Community. The length of time it’s taken W? to respond in any meaningful way, four years, suggests a degree of inertia in the organisation which is worrying.

Finally, those who spent money purchasing the product (and others which have been found to have similar reliability issues) may feel sufficiently aggrieved to demand some sort of recompense from the organisation. There are no good sides to this: W? loses since its reputation for accurate assessment of products as best buys is irreparably damaged. The W? members who relied on the BB assessments lose financially. The event could prompt an exodus of members (if anyone thinks I’m exaggerating about this, there have been several articles about W? recently in the national press, none of them overly complimentary).

This ought not to be underestimated: it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal because Which?’s entire reputation is based on Trust and Accuracy. “Expert opinions based on real life tests” is the bold claim. Perhaps some changes need to be made?

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

DT and Ian, ,. here here
Enough nicey nicey, ,give it some

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello everyone, I’m sorry for not responding sooner. The blame lies with me there – a number of individuals around Which? provided me with information to help me reply to you, but I haven’t been able to do so until now. For that, I sincerely apologise.

I want to make clear that our researchers do read member reviews, and they will consider the status of a review if there are discrepancies. We have also put processes in place so that we more regularly check reviews, reply to members’ feedback and investigate thoroughly when necessary. Member reviews also help shape future testing.

We do test for aspects of durability in products when there is a real problem. For instance, we introduced durability testing of strimmers after seeing members’ feedback to suggest their strimmers were breaking down.

We perform the most thorough product tests in the UK and we stand by our results, but even our tests can’t uncover all uncommon faults nor can they replicate years of use. However, we carry out an annual product reliability survey across all our core products as a way of complementing our testing and capturing experiences of living with a product day in and day out for several years, which lab testing can never replicate.

I also thought you’d find it interesting to hear that we carry out some testing in association with other ICRT (International Consumer Research & Testing) members for some products. In these cases we work together to jointly develop and commission the testing. Have a lovely weekend.