NPME

BigCorporationsRipingUsOff

posted by Natalie Paddick

All of you reading this blog will have been subject to the poor service, corruption if you prefer from one of the big corporations and their like… They don’t supply goods or can’t supply the services they so readily advertise. In the full knowledge that their products do not fulfil their advertising remit …. To say I find it frustrating would be an understatement …. Me… I fight back …

My most recent example of the lack of care and duty to customers is with what was once First Utility now renamed Shell Energy….A utilities company.. You will all have seen the advert on TV sponsored by the government, an animated production with pretty butterflies flying around and a little girl skipping around a flat, reminding us all that it is our job to protect the environment from damage now and in the future and our way to help is by installing a so called Smart Meter…. For the good of the environment ….

It turns out it is load of old tosh … The government states these new meters and their Smart Meter reading monitors save the environment from ‘our’ overusing precious utilities …. For the record I am all for that …

The new Smart Meter roll out  is slightly different than that we have been lead to believe! After a sales call from Shell Energy to advise/recommend to me an update to smart meters, I agreed, I had no reason to believe there were any issues… I mean you can’t research into everything, sometimes you have to take things at face value and believe what you are being told… An appointment was made back in April 3rd 2019 and the meter man went to work installing the two new meters, all I did was make him a cup of tea…

One of the sales points of the meters is that we can all enjoy ourselves watching the smart meter reading monitors on an hourly basis to see just what we are spending on gas and electricity … Brilliant … As if we aren’t already stressed out enough over house hold bills!… I question if I want to clock watch it on an hourly basis… Yes… I know I can put the reading unit in a room where I can’t see it … But that is not my nature … I am a natural born worrier, I could win prizes if there was a worrying/anxiety competition… I am really good at it!! I can find worry where no one else can see an angle! So for me on reflection this was a disadvantage…

At the end of the installation the engineer told me that he had put the fully working reading unit in the room nearest to the newly installed meters and that I must leave it there for the next four hours, then I could move the unit anywhere I wanted in the house.. So the  reading unit was placed on the floor in a dimly lit room which was undergoing renovations at the time… Ten minutes after the engineer left I decided to take a peek at my new monitor, to my horror I had managed to run up a bill of £166.00 …. I was instantly catatonic, with terror, I mean how did I do that?? What had I got switched on? …. I spent the rest of the afternoon periodically snatching the door open to surprise the unit, in the hope of catching the monitor off guard and praying that it would showing a more reasonable meter reading …. It never happened it was still showing £166.00 … By the time my husband got home I was on my second glass of wine … And was lamenting my future obsession … Meter Watching …

My husband left me with my glass of wine and went off to observe our new nemeses… Unlike me.. He takes a much more pragmatic approach… He switched the light on in the room and observed the new monster, put his glasses on he bent down and picked the unit up.. He called me into the room standing up he turned to me; “Did you turn the light on Natalie & did you put on your glasses?” … Well obviously I had not, I was too involved in worrying about it! I had already taken the view that the meter was out to get me …. My husband turned the meter toward me and I could see without my glasses that the meter reading was actually £1.66 !! … The only problem is … The unit still says £1.66, some seven weeks later … It does not work! And nor do the new meters, they read still read ‘0000’ and ‘00000’ respectively! You see I knew that there was good reason to worry…


In the many conversations with Shell Energy they tell me many things one being that the unit might not work for 28 days, as it takes time for the unit to warm up ….! They have also told me that they will never estimate my bills because the unit and meters don’t work.. They are currently estimating my bills!! So we have no control over the amounts we are using or paying … They have told me to press the button ‘A’ on the gas meter … I have told them there is no button ‘A’ .. They say ‘Oh’ … Apparently there are two types of these new smart meters the former does not have a button ‘A’ the latter meters do … But the energy company have run out of the new meters so they are installing the old Smart meters in the full knowledge that they don’t work, properly!

I have told Shell Energy that their engineer had taken, without my permission or consent a piece of wood cut and shaped for another job and used it to ‘prop’ up the gas meter, a complete bodge job and I want compensation for this… They say that they don’t give compensation but only ‘good will gestures’! … But they can’t give me a ‘good will gesture’ until the units work!!

They have made an appointment to replace the meters … Then I get another call from Shell Energy stating that I have not made any arrangement for the engineers to come into the property to replace the meters..…. Today I got a call to say they are going to replace the smart meters with the old meters at my request … And so it goes on… It is a complete debacle … And I am not the only one suffering the incompetence!

The facts behind the Smart Meter roll out…

The British Government decided to roll out these meters country wide because they wanted the UK to be in line with the EU … Brilliant!! Considering the current state of affairs… Not to mention Brexit!

Here are just a few facts …

1) Smart meters could make it harder to switch gas and electricity providers

You can’t change providers with the old Smart meters because the government has not put the meter readings into a secure third party domain that would then allow you to change supplier!

2) Smart meters don't bring an end to estimated bills (or billing errors)

3) Smart meters won't work if you have a poor signal in your area

I told them that before they installed it!

4) The display units linked to smart meters are crude and difficult to understand

The display units will become obsolete in a few years! Also they provide no information on how the units are supposed to work … You have to guess!

5) There's little evidence so far that smart meters will save energy - or money

6) Smart meters 'pose security and other risks'

Terrorism …. They are apparently very ‘hack-able’ …. Brilliant… Also the meters if they work will provide the supplier/government information on how you use your energy … Big brother is watching us again! As far as I am aware at the moment they can’t monitor how many units of wine I drink!!

British Telecom sold me a product that ultimately wiped out all our emails; which as you can imagine was more than a little inconvenient and expensive, the package they recommended did not support the email configurations we had… Despite me asking if I could keep my emails before I signed up to the package …. Unlike Shell Energy they did offer compensation and they did not call it ‘a good will gesture’ which I think was to their credit…

On another occasion British Telecom updated our router except it never turned up! .. I called them, once I had answered all the pressed button automated questions which are a total waste of time… And are unhelpful and irritating.. Finally I got through to someone in Dubai… Who told me in no uncertain terms that I had the router and it had been delivered to my address in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire…. I did once live in Henley about 14 years ago! … Now I live in Somerset!! The ‘helpful’ woman in Dubai consulted her map of good old Britain… She advised me that I could just pop up the road to collect the router!… She informed me that it was a simple stroll up the M4! Eventually we came to agreement for another router to be sent! More compensation was sent….!

Working on a project for a client I had purchased an entire communications package from British Telecom on their behalf. It was a wet day and I was outside under an umbrella redesigning the garden, when I heard a van screech on the roadside, a van door slide open and then a number of boxes were slung over the fence into the puddles and mud in the garden! … The door slide shut and the van drove off at speed… Yes you have guessed it! My delivery had arrived from BT! I complained…. More compensation! I don’t want the compensation … I want some Customer Service!

Vodafone – Once you are tied into a mobile phone contract they are almost impossible to break… I had five contracts with Vodafone who had told me at the time of signing that they had 3G in the area. Problem was that they didn’t, they were hoping to get, and that is quite a different thing! So the service was very poor, you were lucky to even get 2G… I repeatedly complained and was given various different excuses. My main problem was not just the bad service for myself, but for my teenage children, who at the time like most teens, living their dreams partying around the countryside and beyond, so I needed to be in contact with them to make sure they were safe.. And of course they wanted to call me in the middle of the night to ask for a lift home for them and ten of their friends from some field or other in Somerset!… Vodafone network did not work and subsequently were putting my children at risk… I went to battle with Vodafone on more than one occasion I was told by customer service, that whilst I was on the phone that they had sent a man up the mast and he was working on the problem …. I might not know a great deal about the technical workings of a telecommunications company… But one thing I do know is that one man cannot find my lost signal for my phone on the Mendip transmission station that is 293 meters/961 foot high… Yet another total lie! I went the press! … Front page in the local paper… Within a week Vodafone cancelled all the contracts… And shut down their high street Vodafone outlet…. Due to bad publicity …. No due to poor service and telling ‘fibs’!

John Lewis, I have a trade account and deal with this high street brand a great deal, they have a really good product, mostly. The problem is the delivery service, I would say on one job 40% of deliveries arrive either wrong or half complete and mostly damaged, which is a concern and costly if you are working on a project for a client, re-ordering and then there is the time wasted waiting for a further delivery. John Lewis have great customer service and they are more than helpful in dealing with any issues you may have… If needs be they send you a product free and or send you a gift or in trade accounts send me all sorts of expensive gratuities… But to be honest I would rather they sent the goods out correctly in the first place… I was once told by their customer service representative that they spend at least as much on compensation as they do on staff bonus … How can that be right?? It is madness and it is impactful on the environment in all sorts of ways…

In conclusion this was my experience with Currys, again good products with a good price point…There was an issue with our new Fridge/Freezer and Currys agreed to replace it, it was a debacle from start to finish… But to be fair they did offer compensation … This is what happened…

A cheery Currys Delivery Man [CDM]arrives at our home, [finally] with our replacement Fridge/Freezer….

CDM: Good morning Madam, I am here to deliver your new Fridge/Freezer. Would you like to see it? .. It is on the lorry…

Me: Great… No that is fine just bring it in …

CDM: I am afraid I am unable to deliver this item as I am not qualified to deliver Fridge/Freezers..

Me: What???!!!

CDM: Do you have a back entrance to this property?

Me: [Confused] … No would you be able to deliver if we had?

CDM: No … I am not qualified to deliver fridge/freezers … I told them this at the depot, before they loaded it on the lorry… Can I see your old fridge/freezer… Please?

Me: [More confused].. Yes please come in ……This is the one you are supposed to be taking away…

The delivery man and I stare at my old dead fridge/freezer ….

CDM: It is big isn’t it?

Me: Yes… [I think… Course it is big - It’s f***ing fridge/freezer….! What did he expect?]… Can you take it away? [Desperation now setting in…]

CDM: No …. I am not qualified ….

[Through gritted teeth] I show the delivery man back to the front door…

Me: Why don’t Currys send someone who is QUALIFIED?!!

CDM: No-one else was available so I volunteered …..

More compensation was forthcoming from Currys ….

These few examples are just a snap shot of the bad service we all receive… It is just not acceptable …. I fight my corner, but it is time consuming.. Not to mention frustrating … FIGHT YOUR CORNER, if you can … DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! Failing that I find wine helps!

 




BlogTheRockery

posted by Natalie Paddick

The Making of the Rockery .....
 
Sipping wine in our garden resting between two gruelling but exciting jobs, in a beautiful location in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire ... The immortal words were uttered........ “WE NEED A VIEW!” ... A light bulb moment!!!????
 
Our house which was the Folly in the style of a Greek Temple; had once been the 100th room of the McAlpine Estate. The original owner of the main house had counted all the rooms and found that there were only 99, disliking uneven numbers. He commissioned the 100th room to his estate with the construction of a Folly. We rebuilt and refurbished the Folly into a bijou but stylish home; but that is for another blog! ... The Folly is in the centre of a plot of land surrounded by enormous beech tree’s and manicured laurel hedges...... There was I thinking we were going to have a break from work... But no a plan was hatched ...  Immediately and detailed sketches and drawings were worked on... Conversations with local planners took place to check what building regulations are requirements were needed.... 


The first of a number of issues relating to the build was that we could not break through the underground chalk membrane as this would affect the Thames Water regulations. This is a problem if you are intending to dig deep! ....There was no way of knowing where the chalk started and the clay stopped, the only way this could be tested was to start digging! A risk as the project was very grand, the  dimensions of what at the time was referred to as the ‘hole’. Were 35ft deep, by 50ft wide, by 75ft long. We had already ordered and paid for 200 tons of rock that were due to be delivered from a quarry in Yorkshire. We decided to dig! Hell!! .... You don’t do this unless you are mad or committed, fortunately we are both and it was a landscape designers dream!  

Having checked with all local authorities to see if there are any underground utilities running under the property, The Southern Electricity Board (SEB), sent a team of people with all sorts of gadgets to make sure we were okay to dig. The paperwork came back with the green light ...... Day one the digger started, clearing the area getting it ready for the crane to come in..... The quantity surveyors calculations, stated that we would need three eight wheeled lorries in constant daily rotation for approximately three weeks..... The crane was capable of lifting one ton of soil per scoop. Boy it was going to be exciting!..... The digger started, I was in the Folly working when the was an explosion like I have never heard, and all electrics went off! Opening the front door .... All eyes were on the hole that the digger had just dug, there was much scratching of heads and bemused looks ... It would appear that we had hit a 4 inch high voltage mains electrical cable and put a nick in it!!
 
Within fifteen minutes you could hear sirens blaring, cars hooting and general mayhem off in the distance? ..... Then three siren blaring cars skidded to a halt outside our gate, a number of panicked looking men came flustering into the garden. The Southern Electricity Board had not identified a major electricity cable running across the garden. The digger had hit the cable and blown all the electricity at the local sub station; which had knocked out most of the electricity in Henley, not least the traffic lights and all the banks electronic communications!! ....  ‘Opps’!! The site was shut down, SEB workers arrived and there was much panicking!! Emergency cables were set up and order was eventually restored electricity wise to the local area!! 

As you can imagine this sort of high lighted the project to the press and the locals. Not least delaying the project whilst we fought with the SEB as to who was to blame and who was to pay for the reinstatement of a new electricity cable. Eventually the SEB  agreed that they had not highlighted the cable to us and offered to go halves on it’s relocation!! ... We declined to pay for their mistake and they then spent a week relaying a cable at their cost! ... And so we started again!

As the ‘hole’ got bigger it became impossible for the digger to get any deeper so, we used the crane to drop the digger into the ‘hole’. Once we got to the desired depth and width, we shuttered the base with timber sheets in readiness for the pouring of concrete for the pool base. Because of the complexities of the design the company Ready Mixed Concrete had to mix a special concoction of concrete with a water proofing additive, the same mix that was used in the construction of the underwater harbour in Tokyo. When they came to pour the concrete they bought a camera crew, as they were going to use the project in their new sales promotion documents! 

We ploughed on, installing steal re-enforcement around the entire sunken construction.... But we had another problem, we had become a sight seeing location by interested locals...The Folly was on a private single track road, so viewing traffic along with our constant use of the road taking away spoil, was impacting on our neighbours .... It is always important to keep the neighbours happy where you can!! ... A local reporter turned up at the property to interview us.... It turned out that the rumour was that Michael Jackson had purchased The Folly and was digging an underground tunnel to the nearby Friar Park Estate, which was up the road to us and was the home of George Harrison .... Friar Park is the most beautiful landscaped estate, which has secret tunnels running under it from place to place... But we had no intention of digging into George Harrisons house... As you might imagine!!!

So we were forced to erect shields to protect our new found fame! But this interest came at another cost ... One day the local authority's turned up unannounced; we had been informed on and if it was not to be Michael Jackson’s secret hide away, they assumed we were mining for minerals!! Give me strength!! ... I mean really can’t anyone do a bit of landscaping construction in their garden? After much discussion and grumpiness on their part, they agreed we could continue, but they were going to keep an eye on us!! At this moment and the memory of such negativity from others my quote would be Carp Diem .... And ignore the bank balance!!
 
There was one very frightening moment, (outside of the bank balance!) At 3 am in the morning; I stood at the top of the ‘hole’ and my partner stood at the bottom. It was pouring heavy rain and we needed the walls of the ‘hole’ to hold before the last pouring of the concrete. As the walls were made up of clay, the weight of the rain could at anytime undermine the sides of the construction. Now that would be expensive!! Fortunately we had put extra support on the road side of the construction in order to prevent us taking out the road in case we had this exact situation! The next morning one side had collapsed, in the process it had demolished all the steal reinforcement on that side of the ‘hole’ making it look like bent safety pins! ... More reconstructive work was needed ...
 
The Butyl liner arrived, which was made to a special size and was so heavy the crane had be used to get it off the lorry and in place.... All the rocks had been sized an numbered in order of where they were to be placed, the smallest rock was half a ton and the largest 7.5 tonnes; because of their weight there was no second chance in placing them, it was a very precise business!! ... Some of the stones had to be drilled so they could be held in place with stainless steal pins ....   

I can still hear the noise of the cranes loud alarm system screeching, warning lights flashing, when we tried to place the largest rock on the podium stone. The wonderful crane driver, rocked the boom so that the rock swung backward and forward; I thought the crane was going to fall into the rockery. But this crane driver was highly skilled, he placed the rock with perfect precision..... In a conversation with him afterward he said that it was an unnerving moment in his life, but he was used to pressure as he currently held the title of the United Kingdoms heavy weight bench pressing title!! ....
 
The rockery had three 100mm (4”) outlets, which pumped water loudly all day. It had a cut of switch at night, you could hear it firing up in the mornings.... It was an amazing site .... We bought in another digger to excavate a valley to the rockery and heavily landscaped the whole area ..... On one occasion we were woken in the middle of the night with helicopters and flood lights scanning at low level over the rockery... It was in 1999, after the appalling attack on George Harrison, by an armed intruder, who had stabbed him. The police were searching the area for any accomplices and they thought that maybe they were hiding in the rockery. We would also have the odd balloon flight going over the top of the house to take photographs, they would wave and call to us in the garden!   

It was beautiful in every way, it played the centre of stage at many a bohemian party and private events. We swam in the pool and climbed the rocks. I loved it and was passionate about it. We have done many other landscaping projects, but the rockery was for us! We sold the house to a pop star and moved on to our next project. But we had created a ‘Folly with a View’; that will remain there long after we are gone and always be in my heart forever! 


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