Posts Tagged ‘service’

It’s been a busy month!

On Monday 30th July, we moved into our new home. That being said, it’s taken until now to get halfway settled. Our new home is a new-build, and for us a downsize 😀.


So, besides having to chuck a load of stuff away, we’ve also had to buy furniture that has lots of ‘hidden’ storage. Yea for IKEA. I’m sure that others might have said that it was bound to happen but – we had some issues with IKEA’s delivery service. Because the new apartment’s postcode cannot be found on large company databases we had to visit the store in Leeds to make and pay for our order. That was Monday.  They, the delivery area folks at IKEA said it would be delivered “tomorrow’ – Tuesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  Whoo-oo.

We’d given the project manager’s postcode (she lives just up the same road) and off we went looking forward to a day building stuff.

19:00pm came before we were finally told that the delivery would now come “tomorrow’ – Wednesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  And so, it did, mid-afternoon with no more than two minutes warning (which is 58 mins short of that promised). They also delivered a few other things addressed to other people in Halifax and in Huddersfield. As we were going out later to spend the evening with friends being entertained by Robbie Hunter-Paul at Elland golf club, we only managed to complete half of the delivery, which was itself ONLY HALF of the order we’d delivered. Sharon phoned IKEA on Thursday and asked whether/if/when our order might be completed.

Someone eventually phoned back and said that Leeds IKEA had now run out of stock (of the main item missing) and that they had re-ordered it via the Ashton-under-Lyne branch.  It would be delivered on Friday between 07:00am and 19:00pm.  We received another phone call on late on Thursday to say this wasn’t now going to happen as Leeds had found the missing half of our order. We eventually had the final items from our order delivered on Saturday. We’d told IKEA about the extra items (Halifax and Huddersfield) but the delivery guys were not interested. Charity shop then?

Whoo-oo, we have storage.

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Once again, I need to have another moan about my experience of customer service in this country.

Friends and family often don’t notice the same issues as me and that itself is indicative of what has become accepted here as customer service.  Being served in this sense, comes in many guises:

  • we queue to pay for groceries and the like at supermarkets,
  • we ask to be served in a wide variety of other shops (grocers, butchers, car parts etc.)
  • we stand at bars and coffee shops asking to be served drink or to order food,
  • we queue to buy take away food,
  • we sit at restaurant tables and wait to be served with all manner of comestibles.

These are just a few examples of what calls itself a service industry.


In many ways, I accept the dour faces and lack of communication from folks who have to sit by a cash register all day, monotonously scanning goods and asking if you’re paying by card or cash. I know that there are many examples of cheerier till operatives, but they are not the norm.

What does grip my gall are the girls and boys who decide that working in a bar or pretending to be a waiter/waitress is the easiest way of earning a few extra pounds. They don’t want to be there, the just want the money that comes their way after completing their shift.

16864721353_dc47ce9c27_zThere are very few places in this country where we find food/drink service personnel who see their work as a career.  In other countries, being a camarero, serveur or Cameriere is seen as a career and something one needs to work at. I’ve mostly found food/drink service to be unobtrusive and polite (if not always prompt) in other European countries but not here.  Furthermore, where I have found good food/drink service in the UK it has been invariably presented by people from elsewhere in Europe, often Eastern Europe.

My current gripe was with being served gin and tonic the other night.  My simple request for a “Strawberry Gin and slimline tonic please, without ice” was not simple enough:

which gin is it?” [server]

I don’t know – the last one I ordered was simply served to me, I wasn’t aware you had more than one.” [me]

it’s usually Gordon’s” [manager – who happened to be passing – to server]

ok, single or double?” [server]

single, please.” [me]

And off the server went.


She returned from the other end of the bar with a goldfish bowl (i.e. large bulbous drinking glass) full of ice with a strawberry gin in it.

did you say slimline tonic?” [server]

yes, I also said ‘no ice’!” [me]

At this the server looked completely blank; first of all at me, and then her manager, who simply walked away without offering a solution other than “use the tongs”.  I was then stunned to see the server walk to a sink and lift out all of the ice with tongs.  When she returned her face was like thunder.  She completed pulling the pint we’d also ordered and plonked that down with such force that I thought the base might crack.  She turned her sour face to me and said what it all came to (££) …

can I now have that extra shot in there please?” [me]

you can if you pay for it!” [server]

I have no objection to paying, but as you’ve now thrown half the gin down the sink, I’d better take it back to the table with SOME flavour in it” [me – now not being as pleasant as I prefer to be]

And again, she stormed off with the glass and when she returned, she banged that down too.

I found her attitude completely irrational as she’d made the mistake in the first place.

The manager should have stepped in at the outset, but she too would probably not have been trained properly either.

Some previous grumps:






Image Credits:





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I’ve eaten out several times since my birthday last week; its that time for year. My experiences have ranged from the sublime to the downright careless.

I mentioned The Crown at Roecliffe in my previous post and the food there was delicious. The customer service was careful and attentive without being overbearing and the whole evening was faultless. Yet, locally, I joined three ex-colleagues for lunch the other day in a well respected eatery and it verged on being uneatable.

Because I have dined well here before, I won’t mention the venue but, as I also ate here again a few days later (see below) with just as little care in some of the food preparation, I will blog about it and only re-visit when some time has passed and I fancy risking it again.

Us four ex-colleagues were there to chat and catch up, so the food was only of secondary concern – I had a Sausage Sandwich (with caramelised onion and apple sauce). What can go wrong with a sausage sandwich? Well first of all, I was offered ciabatta or baguette – neither of which would be my preferred choice of bread for a sausage sarnie. Nevertheless, I chose the former based on my knowledge of the sort of baguette bought and served in pubs up and down the country: tasteless lumps of microwaved-from-frozen cooked dough – unlike their crunchy French namesake.

Old grumps

Sadly, the ciabatta was a bad choice too because it lacked any substance that allowed me to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich. I had to use a knife and fork (God forbid!). As the rectangular plate contained a smidgeon of salad and half a bag of sliced, raw, red onions, and as the sausages themselves (I’m coming to them) were blobbed with tinned/bottled apple sauce, the whole thing was pretty unmanageable.  The onions were a surprise inasmuch as the menu suggested they’d be there, it just didn’t say they would be raw – why would they be? The sausages themselves, particularly knowing their provenance and the competition this well renowned butcher has locally, were sadly lacking in flavour. Just thin grey fingers of ‘something’ to hold the name ‘sandwich’ together.

They were busy though, I’ll give them that and for that reason I’m forgiving the barely cooked and lightly coloured chips and I’m forgiving the time it took to serve three sandwiches and a steak pie – but I cannot forgive the poorly kept beer. Watery Hobgoblin! I can’t re-live that.

Mum’s Birthday
My mum was 85 last weekend, she won’t mind me saying because she keeps forgetting 🙂  However, as I say, we’ve had some good meals here before and had booked a Sunday lunchtime table to celebrate. Remember, this is the same pub/restaurant as mentioned above.

I avoided the Hobgoblin.

The service on each occasion was good. Better on Sunday than Thursday but on each occasion the service and attention to orders etc. was good.  My starter was OK: A small piece of Halibut with sweet and sour sauce. I didn’t expect any more than I got, a few bones still in it and commercially tinned/bottled sweet and sour sauce. I still ask myself “why?” but can’t really say. Anyway, my main course was better: Roasted belly port with prawns and saute (ish) potatoes. It was good, the only thing letting it down was the prawns served on top – which prevented the skin from properly crisping up. But it was tasty.

Goat’s cheese tarte tatin

However, Sharon’s choices were badly made (in both the sense that she made a bed choice and the sense that the dishes were in fact badly made). How can you ruin hummus? This is one product the chef should have bought in! It was lacking any real flavour, was watery and under seasoned. I know there are different ways of combining the chickpeas, the tahini (if used) the garlic, the olive oil and the seasoning but this, served to Sharon, was just home-cooked chickpeas (drain these well Chefs, drain them well), food processed to within an inch of their lives and lightly seasoned. And to dip in it? Griddled Asparagus (the menu said that) and boiled Chantenay carrots. Boiled!! Sharon had misunderstood the menu – it said griddled asparagus and carrots – she’d expected raw carrot. But boiled! ffs.

Her main course was less of a disappointment but still not what it should have been. A goat’s cheese tarte tatin. The picture here is what she expected (from elsewhere), what she got was something a whole lot smaller.

Rant over.

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I really don’t understand how we get to this point with a company that sells itself as a nation’s pride. After leaving Alison and me stranded in India for almost 48 hours without contact or care – British Airways deny any wrongdoing.

Vegetable Talis

Because I wrote to my M.P. to ask for help at the outset of my campaign to get some recognition of their culpability from British Airways (BA) and because he, Jason McCartney, forwarded my enquiry to the CEO of BA (Keith Williams), I did eventually get a phone call which said sorry, ‘send us your expenses receipts and we’ll pay them’ – along with an £80 voucher to fly with BA again.

The voucher had enough conditions attached to make it worthless to me. So, I wrote back via a ‘web form’ (there’s no way of phoning back and speaking to the one person who seemed to care) to say that this resolution was not satisfactory and to please try again.

I’ve heard nothing back. So I have had to write to them (via ‘web form’) once more. The letter (snail mail) I sent at the outset has been ignored completely.

Lufthansa lunch

On two separate occasions my application for compensation under EU law has been rejected out of hand. This is despite BA’s negligence in not repatriating me as required by international carrier standards. Because BA did not contact us at any time that we were in India and because we could get no response from them through any of the channels open to us; Alison and I had to take our own steps to repatriate ourselves. We finally left India almost 48 hours after the scheduled departure of BA118.

Following social media comments, I realise that Alison and I are not alone in our disappointment with BA. Even discarding the complaints about lost or late luggage and inability to contact BA on a variety of more trivial matters, there is enough evidence to suggest that the company simply do not care about the human cost of cancelled flights or overly long delays. If they do, I’d like to see some evidence of that.

I’m sure that all of the complainants, like me, understand that these things happen: problems do occur. However, once more like me, they all feel that the company has a duty of care to ticket holders and their families when flights are delayed or cancelled. They are quick enough to deny claims when these are made, yet extremely slow to react (or don’t react) to enquiries and updates.

All they had to do to appease us in India was give us timely, accurate information – but they were unable to do that.

What is the role of a social media team if not to give timely, accurate information?

Perhaps British Airways are simply understaffed?

See https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/british-airways-unforgivably-poor-customer-service/ for story.

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Friday 28th February 2014

I’m starting this blog entry in the departure lounge at Bangalore Airport; it’s nice to be back here at last.

We were previously here the day before yesterday at 06:00am – it is now 03:00am, 45 hours later. We leave at 03:45am, exactly 48 hours after I awoke to begin what was planned to be my final day in India.

The Problem
BA118 was scheduled to depart at 08:00am on 26th February but had a problem with one of the engines, so after being boarded and seated, we were taxied out and then taxied back (with over 2½ hours on the plane). We were finally disembarked. Up until that point we were kept up to date with developments and we had no problem with the safety concerns and actions that caused the delay.

After we had disembarked however, British Airways (BA) did themselves no favours at all. None.

We were left to re-enter India, return purchases to Duty Free and collect our luggage without any instruction or information from BA. As queues began to form at two points in the baggage area we realised that this instruction and information might be being given at these points – which was partly true. After a long wait we eventually realised that the girl, who was the epitome of tact and patience faced as she was with increasingly frustrated passengers, was directing people to home (if local) or to hotels if not.

We left our names, telephone details and seat numbers with her as requested and transport was laid on. By 12:00 we were leaving the airport. It then took almost 90 minutes to get to the Royal Orchid Hotel (there are more than one similarly named hotels here – so I’m not sure which one), which on first view (in the driveway) looked quite nice.

The Hotel
Despite the welcoming foyer, my room turned out to be very smelly, very noisy and worryingly dirty. The A/C was either on full, or completely off with no low or medium levels. The smell coming out of it was of old cigarettes and sweat – truly awful. The toilet showed signs of inexpert cleaning and the shower heads were simply dirty. Overall, the room had had a normal clean, but there was no evidence of a deep clean ever having taken place: wooden surfaces were sticky, the flooring was cracked and as I said – the toilet was shitty.

Alison’s room was even worse: E.g. One of her twin beds had stained bed sheets and her window would not close.

The Hotel Royal Orchid is one of a chain in Bangalore, and I cannot comment on the state of the others – but this one, adjoining the KGA Golf Course on Old Airport Road was very grubby, smelly in parts and downright unkempt – in our experience. I for one have no wish to ever go there again. This opinion was shared by many of the other stranded passengers.

Nevertheless, we had been told that news of our flight would be sent to the hotel and we would each be telephoned (on the numbers we had supplied at the airport) as soon as news was available. At this point, we still had the understanding that we would be re-boarded onto the cancelled flight on the following morning. So we had to stay.

The wait
Now began the interminable wait for news from BA.

As I said, we’d been left with the impression that a replacement part would be sent from London and that we would all be rebooked upon this flight, some time the following day (27th February). 13:30pm on 27th February soon became the rumoured departure time – a time that appeared on the BA web site at one time or another. This changed soon after we woke up on 27th. [Flight Tracking] I should note here that friends and family in the UK who were tracing our original BA118 flight from Bangalore, were saying that it had landed in Heathrow about half an hour ahead of schedule. How on earth can that be as the plane was standing at Bangalore Airport, crippled and not moving? Another BA cock-up to add to the ever-growing list?

The departure time shown on the web soon changed to 02:30am on 28th February and every time someone phoned BA (either in Bangalore or the UK) they were told that this was a confirmed time and flight, despite the web site saying that it was estimated and NOT confirmed. BA staff soon had to agree that they were getting all their information from the same place as us – the BA website. Friends and family in the UK were repeatedly told that BA staff at Bangalore were dealing with the situation – which I can assure readers, they were not, certainly not efficiently.

The rumour began to spread that the wrong part had been sent from London and that the flight would not therefore return with passengers. This is quite understandable; I can certainly see how BA would now prefer the 747 back home for repairs, and how flying it back on three engines with a full passenger load might be impossible. So why not come clean as soon as they knew?

It is difficult to describe the stress of not knowing what was happening. We’d gone to bed on the 26th February fairly certain that after 24 hours BA would have a plan and would start ringing us. However, by mid-afternoon on 27th February, it became clear that they hadn’t. For pretty much all of the day we sat in or around the hotel lobby with other stranded passengers phoning, searching and pleading for more information. One quite determined lady had someone send a fax with details of the current situation, but this did no more than confirm what we were being told piecemeal.

Some fellow passengers by now had limited medication, one couple had had to extend care arrangements in the UK for another family member – with no knowledge that this would be possible, and all of us were having to pay for the bottled water we were drinking. The polite and patient member of BA staff mentioned earlier had written on our hotel vouchers: ‘no room service’ and ‘no alcohol’ – which the hotel had interpreted as ‘no drinks at all except tap water’. Alison and I ate in the ‘Geoffrey’s’ Bar because we didn’t want to eat Indian food just before an eleven hour flight – but we even had to pay for that because only buffet food was included in our voucher (apparently).

With no interest from British Airways, we couldn’t check or change that!

Social Media
Alison and I had started to pound Twitter and Facebook with pleas for information as soon as we realised that nothing was going to be gleaned from the Bangalore staff on Thursday morning. We’d hoped that by the time social media (customer relations?) staff came on duty at 09:00am UK time, there would be some form of communication from them. Social Media complaints usually attract immediate attention from public facing companies because they fear the damage that campaigns such as ours can cause.

We have still not had any response from the social media team (nor anyone else at BA to be honest). A simple direct message asking for our phone numbers or email would have made all the difference, even if they could only say ‘we know no more than you, but will try to find out’.

By mid-afternoon, a steady stream of people was returning from the airport. Apparently, they had left the hotel of their own accord during the morning to just be at the airport and to pester BA staff there. They had returned because by now they had been told that a wrong part had been delivered and that they had been rescheduled onto other flights – mainly on the following day (28th February).

Others amongst us began to receive a steady drip of communication from BA. There was no discussion; just reroutes and times. Some fellow passengers were to travel via local flights to Chennai and then on to Heathrow. Some via Dehli, some via Muscat and some I believe via Mumbai. The longer distance travellers, ultimately going to the USA were being rerouted east via Far East countries and into West Coast airports.

We however, were getting nothing. (As I complete this on Sunday 2nd March, I have still heard nothing from BA – it’s as if I wasn’t on that flight.) So as soon as this became apparent, we contacted our employer and their travel agent in Glasgow.

We eventually returned to the UK via Frankfurt, on a Lufthansa flight that left Bangalore at 03:45am on 28th February.

This was no thanks to BA.

Every thanks are due however, to our employer and to their travel agents Portman Travel of Glasgow, for securing us two places on what turned out to be a relaxing, problem free journey to Manchester.

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I’ve always been a fan of Wetherspoons.

Their (apparent) ethos of selling good quality products at reasonable prices have always suited the Yorkshireman in me.

However, of late, this has changed.

I’ve not been over-impressed with the newest menu – it’s too burger-ridden and the vegetables have (almost) disappeared and for me, the new menu has become the really boring pub-grub menu of years gone by. The chicken burgers I’ve tried on several occasions, in different pubs, have been dry and tasteless – just like other pubs used to serve.  So whilst other pub/food places are upping their game, Wetherspoons seem to be ‘downing’ theirs. Nevertheless, because the Yorkshireman in me still holds sway, we go to the ‘special menu’ evenings from time to time.

I’m also used to praising the customer service I find at Wetherspoons – certainly that found in Huddersfield’s two pubs and in various Wetherspoons up and down the country (Blackpool being a recent exception) has always been good. We’ve been to the Brighouse Wetherspoon pub twice in recent weeks. We have not been impressed with the customer service there (or the food – later).

The Brighouse pub is a drinkers pub really, but on Thursday’s ‘curry night’ it fills up. The first time we went, we had to sit at a dirty table until someone eventually came and removed the detritus – it was never ‘cleaned’. I put up with this on this occasion, I’m sorry. This week however, I was not happy with the only available table being littered with a pile of discarded poppadums and associated debris and glasses. My friend Tony asked one of the servers if it could be cleared. So far so good.

Eventually, a server came and lifted all of the debris (in his hands) and took it away. Not on a tray – he just lifted it and removed it. Someone came and removed the glasses. No one came to CLEAN the table. So I queued at the bar (a time-sapping task as they were obviously understaffed) only to be told that “we” can’t help you – “you’ll have to ask one of the servers on the floor”. Bear in mind that the servers also ‘serve’ the food from the kitchen – so that takes up lots of their time and effort.

Angry now, I caught one of them and asked if our table could be ‘cleaned’. She came and wiped the table with the same cloth she’d used on the previous ‘x’ amount of tables, simply flicking debris on our laps. No sanitiser, no soap (as far as I could see). No care.

Luckily I had put a clean hanky in my pocket that evening – so I soaped and moistened it in the loo and cleaned the table myself (drying the hanky under the hand dryer to wipe down afterwards).

Now, I’ve had rogan josh at Wetherspoons before. It’s tasty enough, it comes with buckets of rice, a standard Tesco-style nann bread and a couple of poppadums. And some chutney. And, it’s always been ok – even here in Brighouse on the other visit. On this most recent visit (last Thursday, 11th July) my rogan josh was such a tiny portion that I was visibly unimpressed. My colleagues said to complain but having been so unimpressed with the customer service and the cleaning regime – I said “no – there’s no point, they don’t care”. Tony however, did complain to one of the servers (pointing out the difference between each person’s portion size) and the server said “we don’t portion it – it comes portioned”.

Well it might come portioned, but not surely not individually portioned – that would be a ridiculous waste of space and material. I suspect that food DOES come in portion packs (e.g. 12/20 portions etc.) and that the ‘chef’ in the kitchen simply individualises from there. In the case of Brighouse, last Thursday I suspect that they had been over generous with previous portions or, more worryingly – were trying to get more portions from the pack.

Whatever the case, I left very disappointed.

My colleagues said that I should write to Wetherspoons and complain but what’s the point? It would take me the best part of an hour of my time to write (like this blog post) and I’d simply get a reply saying sorry – here’s a voucher. Sadly, I don’t want a voucher (at the moment I don’t want to eat at Wetherspoons again) – I just want the pub chain to take more care with training staff and a little more though about menu compilation.

I’d also like to hear what others have to say.  You never know, I might be wrong!

I’m still happy with Wetherspoon’s beer choices and prices.

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