rmc28: (glowy)
  1. Discovering my netbook, which has been a bit ropey for a while, is now literally falling apart and intermittently failing.
  2. Shopping for a new netbook.
  3. Going to an actual shop to get a new netbook:
    • advantage - got it today
    • disadvantage - had to deal with multiple salespeople (all men) who patronised me and tried to upsell me on lots of extras I don't want.  This is why I like shopping online.
    • call me naive but if I reserve a computer online to collect from your Collection Point, I kind of expect it to be there, not to have to wander around the store being handed off between salespeople and patronised etc for a good 15 minutes before getting the computer I wanted.
  4. Setting up Windows 10, creating a backup drive, and installing Ubuntu
  5. Restoring all my files from backup onto Ubuntu
  6. Getting things back the way I like them
(Currently still on step 4)
Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/632721.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: (happy)
I put my hair up in a French-plait for the first time in years.  20 months growing-out since the last time I cut it to 9mm.  Of course, some of it was falling out after the 25-min walk to work, and I redid it twice during the morning and then gave up and shoved it back into a ponytail instead.   But it was nice while it lasted.

Passport with the right name arrived!  (I had a letter last week with a query, which I put on one side to deal with After The Election.  The nice person from the passport office who had written the letter rang me to follow up before I had got round to writing back, and we were able to sort it out by phone.  This was all after office hours on a weekday evening.  I was impressed.)

Railcard with the right name arrived!  (This followed tedious faff which I shall write up separately.)

New sandals for Charles arrived!  (John Lewis were out of stock of the right size when we went shopping on Sunday, but put through the order online for me.)

I'm not sure which of Charles and me is the happiest right now.  But we're both pretty happy :-)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We've been using Ecotricity as our power supplier for a couple of years now (prompted by [livejournal.com profile] furrfu  and [livejournal.com profile] monkeyhands), and moved to them because they explicitly invest their profits in new generation capacity. They also price-match the "standard" regional tariffs, which meant we could get cheaper by shopping around the confusopoly of energy tariffs, but not by much, and we decided the extra was worth paying for sticking to our values and not having to shop around every year.

Now, they are making a small but symbolic reduction in energy prices, so they will be a few pounds cheaper than the local standard tariff.  Because now they are generating about 35% of what they sell from wind, so they are less tied to the global gas / oil / coal prices which ultimately determine the price of conventionally-generated electricity.  And to quote from the customer email I got, "We intend to stretch the gap between us and the conventional energy companies as we achieve greater levels of energy independence."

This to me is the whole point of the endeavour, of going with Ecotricity and not the Big Six, of getting solar panels on roofs everywhere, and heat pumps where we can: becoming less dependent on burning fossil fuels for power.  And now we're seeing that in hard cash terms - a small step but I think the beginning of something quite exciting.

Another interesting nugget about Ecotricity which I found buried on page 18 of the 2012 progress report (pdf) is their approach to customer service: 

"We don't have a call centre. You call our office and we answer the phone (quickly). And the person you speak  to is able to make decisions and solve problems on our behalf. ... We deal with nine out of ten queries within one call, so our customers rarely need to call back. We never set our staff targets for the number of calls they handle or how quickly they deal with them.  It’s about letting them do the right thing for the customer."

This reminded me of the stuff David Boyle repeatedly says about "human-scale" services and particularly this rant about call centres and IT.  I think he's worth reading, even if I do think his dislike for "digital by default" is misunderstanding the nature of the GDS project.

[I'll also say that it's a pleasure to have the bills arrive on time now - we were with Ecotricity for a while in 2005-07 and the bills always arrived late and we had massively overpaid when we finally switched away.  But no complaints this time around!]


2013-08-15 13:35
rmc28: (grouchy)
What is the point of a delivery company giving us an hour's delivery slot (with implausible accuracy - 14:19-15:19), for which we make arrangements for one of us to come home and meet from 2-3:30, if they turn up nearly an hour early?

Jonny is home, looking after a Nico with a bad cold, but had explicitly said he didn't feel comfortable accepting the delivery, both because it's not his, and because he would be doing childcare.   Of course they arrived during a nappy change too, and by the sound of it, have made him feel it's HIS fault, rather than theirs for being early.

So now Jonny's been messed about, Tony's been messed about (he was going home to meet the stated delivery slot) and I'm just annoyed with everything. 

GRRRRR.  The 1-hour delivery slot was part of what convinced me to go with the Co-op for this.  WHAT IS THE POINT IF THEY ARE GOING TO IGNORE IT.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
A quick recap: last October, Good Energy sent me a bill for electricy use in November-December 2004.  I was surprised to be hassled for money 7 years later, especially as my accounts indicated I'd paid a "final bill" by cheque in December 2004.

Under the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills published by the Energy Retail Association, if the supplier is at fault, and the customer has not received a bill for energy consumed  for more than one year, then any outstanding amounts that relate to energy consumed  more than one year ago will be cancelled.

So I wrote to Good Energy, pointing out that they were breaking the industry Code of Practice, and refusing to pay the bill.  I got a reply within 24 hours confirming "that the balance of £61.41 has been cleared and you should receive no further correspondence from us."

I was therefore annoyed this week to receive a solicitor's letter claiming to be acting for Good Energy and demanding I pay them £61.41, complete with patronising (and misspelled)  "The debt will not go away if you chose to ignore it."  I am not sodding ignoring it.  I was told it had been cleared.

Good Energy is behaving in a distinctly bad way.  It is breaking the industry code of practice on billing, and should not be hassling customers and ex-customers in this way.  They certainly shouldn't be using solicitors to pursue them. It's unlikely that I'm the one and only customer being so hassled, and I find it offensive that these sort of tactics are being used to extract money, perhaps from people in far worse financial circumstances than mine, to which the company is not entitled due to their own errors.

So I have replied to their previous email expressing my unhappiness with receiving the solicitor's letter.  I have also written to the solicitors and copied in Good Energy for good measure, enclosing a printout of their own email saying the account had been cleared.  I'm also thinking of dropping a quick note to Which? and the MoneySavingExpert people, asking them to remind people of the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills and encouraging them to defend themselves from this sort of harassment.

Text of cross email and letter behind the cut, for future reference:

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Received just now:

Good afternoon Rachel

Thank you for your email.

I’m so sorry you’ve received a bill from us. Whilst this bill does accurately cover your final charges between 21st November 2004 and 20th December 2004, due to the time lapsed, this shouldn’t have been sent.

I can confirm that the balance of £61.41 has been cleared and you should receive no further correspondence from us.

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this has caused.

Kind regards

Account Resolution Analyst

That was ... faster and much less painful than I feared it might be.
rmc28: (grouchy)
I've just sent an email to Good Energy customer services.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Account number: [redacted]

I have just received a bill from you, dated 28/09/11, requesting payment of £61.41 for electricity used between 21/11/04 and 21/12/04.

I switched supply away from you in late 2004. I have not kept the electricity bills from 7 years ago, but my accounts show that I made a payment by cheque on 24/12/04 after a series of direct debit payments to you. As that was the last payment I made to you, I presume it was in response to a final bill from you.

Which? explains that under the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills published by the Energy Retail Association:

"if you do not receive a bill for more than a year and it is the energy supplier’s fault, you do not have to pay any outstanding debt for energy you used more than a year ago."

One of my reasons for leaving Good Energy 7 years ago was because I was fed up of late and inaccurate billing. The fault for failing to bill me for so long is clearly yours, and therefore I regard the debt as cancelled according to the Code of Practice. I will not be paying it.

Yours faithfully,

Rachel Coleman Finch

I suspect I'm far from the only person being billed in contravention of the Code of Practice, and I worry about how many people will pay up when they don't have to.  I'd like to support sustainable energy production, but greenery is not an excuse for incompetent and borderline-legal billing.
rmc28: (bat-funny)
The house woe is getting sorted.
Read more... )

My foot was xrayed and is not broken; and has in fact started to improve in the last 24 hours. At this morning's checkup the doctor said it was most likely tendonitis, though the root cause remains a mystery. Anyway, it should heal up in another 1-2 weeks, if I can continue to stay off it as much as possible and continue with the ibuprofen. This has cheered me up greatly as I feel there is an end in sight to the tedious regime of getting the bus everywhere. At least Charles has enjoyed the extra bus rides.
rmc28: (grouchy)
Today we have travelled in:


When originally planned, today's journey had no taxi, no Metro and 2 fewer trains in it. Engineering works, volcano-driven crowds, SNCF strikes (what a weekend to do so!) and useless customer service[1] have conspired to delay us, and we have conquered them all to arrive safely with Tony's mother.

[1] "You have to wait 3 hours for the next train there" ... digging for myself on the free station wifi I discovered that no, we could walk 400m and catch a train to Paris from the other SNCF station. Tony confirmed our tickets would be valid and we were only about 80 minutes late in the end.

Montparnasse is significantly easier to negotiate with Charles on a Trunki than with Charles in a buggy, especially where stairs are concerned.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
British Gas Homecare, whose helpline people are trained to attempt to upsell you more of the homecare service whenever you ring. At least they don't do it until after arranging the engineer visit. If they do it a third time I will point out they already asked me twice in the last week and I haven't changed my mind.

HSBC Credit Card, who continue to staff their phone lines with American-accented non-native English speakers and train them to tell lies about the British banking system. They have no capacity for passing you up to a more senior person, though I did get an email address to compose a complaint to. The lie: they claim they need a new direct debit mandate to switch me from making minimum payments by DD to full payments by DD, and that this is because they need to change the setup with my bank. Explaining that this wasn't how direct debit worked actually got me blank incomprehension and repetition of the lie. I could well believe HSBC's own systems are so rubbish they want different paperwork for full payment by direct debits, but other companies manage such switches just fine without making the customer jump through hoops unnecessarily.

I was going to keep them as the joint spending account, but now that's not happening. 6 more months maximum (I need to do other credit-card juggling in the mean time) and then they get no more little cuts of our spending.

TwoLeftFeet, who took my money for a shipment of nappy soak and then failed to communicate with me for 2 weeks after saying it would be delivered in 3-5 working days. Their "after-sales service" consists of email-only contact to which they say they will respond within 3 working days, with dire warnings on the website not to email again as it will "reset the timestamp". Their responses were generally at least 4 working days, ended up in the spam folder without fail, and consisted of telling me that they were just waiting for an order and it would be a few more days, and generally ignoring everything I'd written.

I cancelled the order 6 weeks after first making it (having found the stuff I needed in John Lewis) and got a reply saying they'd refund me within 30 days. That was 21 days ago, why no the money isn't back on the credit card yet. Never ever ever shopping there again.

The local pet shop, DJ Pet Supplies, who take phone orders for giant bags of catfood, and deliver it as they shut before I can collect it on a weekday. When I discovered the next day they had delivered me a small bag of kitten food rather than a large bag of middle-aged-cat food, they were very apologetic, and sent round two young people (the Saturday help?) to sort it out within the hour.

Little Possums who delivered two slings I very much wanted within 48 hours of the order, at no extra charge. So I was able to take one of them with me last weekend where it proved very useful.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Today I booked Eurostar tickets to go see Tony's dad in November. It's now possible to book through-tickets from most UK stations to Paris (and other Eurostar destinations, and beyond!), so I decided to do so, having already got the French travel booked through SCNF.

These are a win because a) they are a saving over buying the Eurostar and Cambridge-London tickets separately and b) they bring the journey under international travel protection, so that if FCC cock up the Cambridge trains that day, Eurostar are still committed to getting us to Paris on the next available train.

However, I was annoyed when trying to book online when I got to "Seating Preference" and was offered a drop-down of "No Preference" or "Side by Side". I was expecting to see a choice including "Eurostar Family" so at that point I gave up and booked by phone instead.

At the end of the booking, I asked if I could make a suggestion about the online booking and was put through to the "internet helpdesk". There a very helpful person listened to me, replicated the issue, and then kindly explained that if I just continued the booking beyond that screen, I would get assigned initial seats but could then choose any I wanted.

I suggested that this was made clearer at the "Seating Preferences" stage, was promised that a ticket would be raised about the unclear wording, and rang off. I then ran a dummy booking far enough to confirm that he was right. It's very cool indeed being able to pick exact seats. I will be booking all future Eurostar journeys like this :)

Note: I used to recommend RailEurope for international rail bookings but they recently redesigned their website, making it much harder to book trains and without the Eurostar Family option. I just tried to make a booking to see if they also let you select seats directly and couldn't even get as far as choosing an outward journey successfully.
rmc28: (destructive)
During the last tax year Tony joined me in receiving income from lodgers in his home over the Rent A Room allowance, and therefore needs to start filling in tax returns. I'm going to do most of the work as a) I like paperwork b) I am an old hand at tax returns now.

To register to do tax returns online (by far the easiest way), you need among other things a Unique Tax Reference (UTR). I got mine years ago by ringing up the local tax office, so rang up to ask for one for Tony. It turns out they "never give out UTRs by phone any more, you have to write". So he posted a letter some weeks ago saying "I need to start doing Tax Returns, can I have a UTR". This week he got a generic letter back saying "We have looked at our current tax records for you and now believe we should be asking you to complete Tax Returns this year. [much waffle]"

Aside from the generic form letter and the false information (er, you didn't "check your records", we WROTE AND TOLD YOU), is there a helpfully labelled UTR anywhere on the letter? Of course there isn't. There's an "Our reference" which is the right length, and we'll try using shortly, but honestly, is it too much to expect them to READ THE LETTER and RESPOND TO WHAT HE ASKED FOR?

Die. Die. Die.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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