Alex Polizzi says I belong to the “Lunatic Fringe”. Little old me? Really?
I’ve been called many things in my time, drama queen and nervous wreck spring to mind and I hold my hands up to both. But this week I fell into a whole new category ~ the Lunatic Fringe!
Now if you know me, or think you do from reading my blog, this may come as a bit of a surprise, so let me explain.
I watch very little television as a rule, although I have to say currently I am spoilt for choice. I could not miss Wolf Hall, Broadchurch or Mr Selfridge! I am also tempted to watch anything with George Clarke, the restoration man in, as his beautiful Sunderland accent reminds me of my Geordie roots. Another presenter I admire is Alex Polizzi. She is the sort of feisty, intelligent, successful, call a spade a spade businesswoman/celebrity, I enjoy watching. On her programme she goes into failing businesses, be they hotels, cafés, shops, or entertainment venues, and gives practical help and advice on how to turn them around. It makes for fascinating TV.
This week Alex visited a children’s play barn. These are the sort of places I frequent with my grandchildren when it is too wet for the park! Of course these businesses are not so popular in the summer when children can play for free out of doors. I have to say Alex did not suggest the improvements which to me were blindingly obvious. I would install air conditioning to make it inviting on hot summer days and dedicate an area to sand and water play with a whippy ice cream maker nearby! It would be like going to the seaside but without the sunburn and crowded motorways.
Alex’s suggestions of course were practical, doable and great ~ new space-themed murals and paintwork, a much needed deep clean, and more nutritious, appealing and varied menu options. I did think that with the owner’s love of baking he could have been a bit more adventurous. My daughter makes wonderful little cupcakes for her son with grated vegetables or fruit in as well as mini tortillas packed with goodness. They are so cheap to make yet much healthier than the sugary cakes and biscuits the owner was lovingly preparing.
It was then that Alex explained that ‘normal’ customers who are dissatisfied don’t complain, they just never return! She said only the ‘lunatic fringe’ bothers to complain. What? Is this true? If so I am definitely a paid up member of the ‘Lunatic Fringe’. Who knew? Well just maybe Pets at Home, Greene King Inns, Gloucester Royal Hospital, the County Council and our local MP did. These have all been the recipients of complaints from me over the last few years. And, I have to say my complaints all achieved positive outcomes.
I could tell you about the explicit posters that were displayed outside our local pub advertising a ‘ladies night’ with male striptease. My complaint was that children on their way to school would see these posters, which I think is inappropriate. I also felt that a local pub was not the place for male strippers! My complaint succeeded because the landlords did not have a license for this type of entertainment so the posters were removed and the event cancelled.
I could tell you about my rather embarrassing but successful run in with the council over their attempt to site a hideous green bus shelter right outside my front window. (Does that make me a NIMFY?) I won’t go into detail about all of my complaints but if you read my blogpost Bus Stop Brenda you will get my drift.
If something is wrong in my opinion, I will usually write a letter of complaint in the hope that the person, company or service will put it right. I am polite, I use nice cards or paper, and I often search the internet for the name of the person at the top who makes the decisions. Is that lunatic?
My current grumble is with Sainsbury’s. I dread to think how much of my hard earned cash has passed through their tills over the years. I don’t have time to shop around, I never did, and so Sainsbury’s has fed my family and kept my household going for as long as I can remember. But they are risking all this loyalty for points worth pennies, and vouchers which drive me insane.
I have a Nectar card with Sainsbury’s and for every pound you spend you get points ~ so far so simple. You save up the points which equate to cash off your shopping. But recently the value of the points has been halved. You now need to jump through all sorts of hoops to get ‘bonus’ points or double points. This just takes you back to where you would have been originally but they pretend it’s a great deal for the customer. Next there are the confounded vouchers which come through the post or pour out of the till. They are not just simple money off vouchers, they are date restricted, product linked or just for fuel.
I also get vouchers from Pets at Home, Waitrose and M&S, sometimes for food, or clothing, pet stuff, or for household goods. It’s a nightmare trying to use them.
Nowadays, no-one calls me a domestic goddess, organised I am not. I used to be. When I was younger and working full time, a parent of 4 children with a dog and a cat to consider, I could manage to work efficiently for 60 hours a week, ferry my children to their various activities, attend to most of the domestic chores and provide nutritious food on a regular basis as well as keeping the animals happy, fed and exercised. But since I retired my organisational skills have dwindled to the point where cutting out and collecting the relevant vouchers and actually taking them in my purse to the right shop for the specified items between the appropriate dates is totally beyond me.
Bemoaning this to a couple of friends who still qualify as domestic goddesses they advised me to:
- a) sort out vouchers into date order
- b) buy a plastic zippy pouch to keep vouchers in
- c) keep the zippy pouch with your purse in the reusable shopping bags
- d) take the bags, purse and pouch to the shops
- e) go through the vouchers at the checkout and present the relevant vouchers
So I tried this last week and failed miserably. Going shopping with a 2 teenagers, a small child and a baby in a pushchair may have been difficult but it was a doddle compared to going shopping with a 6 foot hubby currently in a wheelchair, which goes something like this:~
- Convince hubby that shopping needs to be done
- Explain to hubby that he needs to get out of the house
- Find his shoes, coat, scarf, hat, wallet, hanky, drinks bottle in case he gets thirsty, sweets in case he gets dry throat
- prise hubby out of comfy rise and recline chair
- help him on with previously mentioned items
- use indoor, 4 wheeled mobility aid to get to front door
- use outdoor, 3 wheeled, foldable mobility aid to get to car
- help hubby into car
- put outdoor walker in garage
- get wheelchair out of garage
- fold up wheelchair and lift into boot
- drive to Sainsbury’s
- dodge the car washers who want to charge me £8 to put wax on my driver’s window with a dirty rag so that I can’t see out of it
- get wheelchair out of boot
- help hubby into wheelchair
- ask staff to unlock store’s mobility scooter
- help hubby into mobility scooter
- take wheelchair back to car, fold and lift into boot
- do the shopping, carefully adding a bit extra because we have vouchers
- find a checkout wide enough for mobility scooter
- unload all shopping onto conveyor belt
- look for reusable bags, purse and zippy pouch bursting with vouchers worth £12 and hundreds of nectar points
- Realise they are still at home on the indoor mobility aid
- Ask hubby for his wallet
- Pay for shopping
- Replay 1 to 18 in reverse order
- Go home and have a little cry
Now the end to this tale of woe is that I kept my receipt and went in the next day with the voucher for £12 off having fulfilled all the criteria, but the computerised till would not accept the voucher because it ran out at close of business the night before. My complaint is that my shopping was done within the specified time so the voucher should be honoured. What would Alex Polizzi say? Would the shareholders of Sainsbury’s rather I acted like a ‘normal’ customer and just voted with my feet or would they prefer to get a letter giving them the opportunity to honour my voucher and keep my custom?
Answers on a postcard please …