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since 26/08/2000


British Airways - BAW 19/04/2002

BA - where the customer is a pain in the neck

British Airways - BAW British Airways seem to have given up on even trying to resolve problems. Recently I have had: 1) A 2 hour delay on an internal flight, which resulted in me taking an expensive taxi (my lift couldn't wait 2 hours). BA refuse to pay up. As far as they are concerned they got me from London to Newcastle in rather more time than the train and at a rip off price, and that's the end of their responsibility. 2) On another flight booked through BA's telephone booking service BA charged my credit card twice. They have made a meal out of refunding - it is agony to get through their hold system and get to a human being who might be able to help, and I had to do this 3 times because BA said they would sort it out and didn't. And no compensation. I reckon I've spent about 2 hours on hold. They were rude, unhelpful and incompetant. Advise - if travelling in the UK, drive. Possibly quicker, probably cheaper, and less stress than dealing with BA.

Thameslink 04/12/2001

Common sense applied

Thameslink I occasionally use Thameslink, and often find myself sympathising with the negative tone of many of the oppinions posted. However on this occasion I think they got it right! A while back I was waiting on Bedford station for the Thameslink service to Kings Cross Thameslink, a sprint to Kings Cross, and the last train of the day to Newcastle (yes, Bedford to Newcastle really is routed via London). My meeting in Bedford had run late, and I was playing brinkmanship. And yes, you guessed it, the Thameslink service was late arriving - about 15 minutes late. As far as I was concerned I'ld missed my connection, and it was hotel in London for the night. What Thameslink did was decide to make the train fast from Bedford to Kings Cross. There was an on-time Thameslink service immediately behind that would serve the intervening stations. By running the late train without stopping for a few stations it more or less made up time, and I guess would have been on-time for the rest of its run to Brighton. And yes, I caught my train at Kings Cross. This is the first time I can remember a railway company applying a bit of common sense. On this occasion the service was okay - at least it got me to my destination on time. The form below asks me to comment on safety. I don't have information to answer this. As faaar as I know the track, signalling and train are all in good working order. By the way try getting through the barrier at Bedford with a paper-ticket purchased in ...

Great North Eastern Railway 02/11/2001

The sit-in rubbish bin

Great North Eastern Railway GNER offer quick services from Scotland and the North-East to London. It is possible to get a reasonably priced ticket. Great! The problem is lack of cleanliness. There seem to be four separate issues: 1) Rubbish left by passengers. Bins are inadequate (and perhaps are considered a safety issue anyway). The solution would seem to be that someone needs to come through the train collecting rubbish, as on an airline. I have very occasionally seen this, but it needs to be a frequent feature. 2) Not properly cleaned at depot - trains come in grubby at the start of the route. 3) Need "deep" cleaning - a thorough clean of all surfaces (not just a rub over with a cloth) is urgently needed. 4) Problems with latrines that will not flush. When a train is late in it appears that they do not have time to refill the water tanks. I've made my decision. I'm not willing to sit in a dustbin for 4 hours or so - I either fly or drive.

Arriva Trains Northern 02/11/2001

Arriva temporary timetable

Arriva Trains Northern Arriva have introduced a temporary winter timetable to cover their present driver shortage. The positive must be that they have acted to introduce a timetable rather than just cancelling trains at random. However they now have services that are unusable. For example their North Northumberland service (Newcastle to Chathill) is now buses only north of Morpeth, and the service is virtually unusable. It takes an hour and a half on the bus Chathill to Morpeth, about double the train time, and they are running the sort of bus which is suitable for short journeys in the city. There is going to be a problem when the bad weather kicks in, as many of the small roads that the bus uses block when the snows come - the route includes some unclassified roads which are not gritted. There is a real community service issue here. Arriva have an incredible variety of rolling stock, including some that is very tatty. Given that they are running less trains it would seem a shame that they cannot find their way to using better rolling stock.

Vodafone 06/08/2001

Vodafone Customer Service

Vodafone Consumers may be interested to learn of the following problem I have encountered with the customer service from Vodafone. I bought a Vodafone Maxon MN2 with prepayment for calls. Less than a year after purchase of the phone the plastic battery clips on the battery pack broke. As far as I am concerned this is shoddy design, not any form of misuse. I contacted two Vodafone shops (Newcastle and Gateshead) and telephoned Vodafone. All tell me that the battery is now unavailable, though the phone was a current model less than a year ago. My Vodafone is therefore completely defunct. Vodafone states that battery clips are not covered by their warranty (two letters from them to this effect), and have refused to do anything whatsoever. I have reminded them that consumer protection legislation requires goods to be of merchantable quality, and that a persishable component which goes within a year and cannot be replaced breaches this. Thet refer to their warranty ... Vodafone have refused point blank to refund calling credit and service credit which I have prepaid - about £30. I regard this as institutionalised bloody mindedness, as as far as I am concerned this is my money they have pinched. They have not made any effort whatsoever to resolve this issue - I've telephoned once and written twice. They stonewall. I'm around £100 out of pocket and a lot of inconvenience on this shambles. Very clear advice - do not touch a Vodafone.

Candy CV10K Freezers 17/04/2001

Functional freezer

Candy CV10K Freezers This is a basic, functional frezer, available from Currys and probably elsewhere. The specs are three cubic feet, an upright freezer with four drawers. It is rated three star, which is more or less average for a basic freezer. All freezers seem to look much alike - this one has a flat back (so it pushes back snugly) and a curved door which is a nod towards design. It works well and is quiet when running. As a basic, no-frills cheap upright freezer this one takes a lot of beating. It is unlikely to suit a family (it is not particularly tough or large), but is great for a couple. I have wondered if three doors would be better use of the available space, but in the end this is a matter of taste.

Railroad Tycoon (PC) 02/04/2001

Addictive game

Railroad Tycoon (PC) This sim has been around for a while, and is available in both PC (Windows 95) and Mac formats. It makes few demands on the hardware - you need 16MB RAM and 130MB of free hard disk space. The game takes a while to learn to play. There can be initial frustration with trains that won't run, or run empty - and the instructions are less than perfect. There is a tendency for the advice feature - if turned on - to give useless advice, and to keep giving the same useless advice. Once the basics are mastered the game is unputdownable. Several scenarios give plenty of variety, and different levels keep the challenge fresh. Graphics are good - though there are now plenty of games with better. It doesn't seem to be possible to build a tunnel, which seems rather a shame. Available in Britain for as little as £10 - and in America for around $8.

Chelsea Building Society 17/03/2001

Nineteenth century customer service

Chelsea Building Society This is an organisation that has not kept up with the changes in our speed of life. Branches are empty - but you can still wait for ever for service. Computers go down - and the response is come back later. Postal use of an account is not a particularly good idea. They take forever to get round to cashing a check (with loss of interest) and they don't acknowldge. If you want to be reminded of a gentler and less hurried age the Chelsea is just right. If you want service go elsewhere. Products are unremarkable, and while their ISA isn't bad there's nothing else i can see that sparkles.

Epson Stylus Color 680 17/03/2001

Good value printer - expensive ink

Epson Stylus Color 680 A good quality printer within its price bracket. Speed is good, resolution good, colour satisfactory for this price range. Design is pleasing - the paper tray moves away from the plastic prong found in many. Desk footprint is average - if you are short of space you might want to consider a tidier printer. There are a couple of disadvantages to be kept in mind - this printer is more noisy than some of those at a similar price, and ink cartridges are expensive. Black ink runs at £23 a cartridge, or £17 if you hunt around on the net; colour ink a little higher. So far no-one seems to have brought out an "own make" cartridge that fits, though presumably this must happen soon.

Member Advice on Cheap Printer Cartridges 03/02/2001

PC World cheap cartridges

Member Advice on Cheap Printer Cartridges PC World offer a large range of inkjet cartridges, covering all popular inkjet printers. The cartridges are great value for money - often around half the price of a branded cartridge.. There are a few drawbacks. They are not the quality of the brand name cartridges. Typically they produce poor quality printout for the first few pages. The ink has a slight tendency to spread. They can very occasionally produce an unwanted ink mark. I've had a problem with PC World Gateshead selling out of the cartridge I want. And be very careful making a selection - all the boxes look much the same. For domestic or light office use they are fine. But if you want the best possible quality use a branded product.

Ikea 08/10/2000

Unique store

Ikea Ikea can offer design at a cheap price. Many of the items show twenty first century design - they really are excellent. You can make your home look as if it is up to date. A great place both to buy and to get ideas. Prices are low, sometimes amazingly low. That's for everything from a light bulb to a big item of furniture. It's unusual to be able to find an exact equivalent elsewhere, but my impression is that they are about half of department store prices for pretty much everything. And that's a major saving. If you need to return anything there is a straightforward process. In-store cafes are very cheap. Be aware of the downside. The big problem is they won't deliver. Unbelievable, isn't it! There is a company at the exit of each shop that will do local deliveries, but the problem here is that you are dealing with two organisations - Ikea and the delivery service - and its fun and games if anything goes wrong. don't envisage no delivery, so I've stuck it down as 1-2 weeks which is probably what the independent company takes. People try to cram large loads into their cars - clearly this can be difficult, and there can be safety issues. Items are generally of an acceptable quality, but not always top quality. There can be little problems - I've queued for 25 minutes this morning to pay.

F/A 18 Hornet 3.0 (PC) 01/10/2000

Superb flight sim

F/A 18 Hornet 3.0 (PC) There's no shortage of flight sims around, but this one is hard to beat for the balance of what you can do with ease of operation. The sim is based around Pearl Harbour, but in fact the whole of the Hawaiian islands are there. There are at least four airports, including two big multi-runway jobs. There is also an aircraft carrier. The city of Honolulu is in tremendous detail. While parts of the backdrop are sketched without much detail this hardly matters - everything you are likely to want is there in good detail. The plane is easy to control with a few keyboard commands and either mouse or joystick - and mouse does work perfectly alright. Plenty of shoot them down and instrument options, but also no need to use any of these unless you want to. It can be nice just to fly, without shooting down (or being shot down) by the enemy.

Portman Building Society 29/09/2000


Portman Building Society Portman is a mutual organisation, owned by its members. A little while back over 500 of the members of Portman got together and asked the directors of the company they own to consider demutualising. Portman responded by throwing these members out of the society. It seems to me that the arguments for or against demutualising are almost irrelevant here - in a free society 500 of the members of a mutual organisation should be able to have an idea considered. Portman has thrown them out, knowing that a legal challenge by the members would be very expensive. It seems to me that the directors are acting without any control from anyone at all. The market is full of banks and building societies. I advise use one that is not tarnished by such arrogance. 20/09/2000

Lots more than carpetbagging The site provides a forum for information and discussion on a range of wealth enhancing ideas. Carpetbagging is certainly well represented, both Building Societies and Life Insurance. Come here to find out what is happening with te Bradford and Bingley payout, or whether a policy with Liverpool Victoria might be a good bag. Coverage is good on topics including internet shares. There are also so more lighthearted sections. Visitors should find in a few minutes an idea which may well lead to a building society or insurance company windfall, or similarly beneficial information. I've been impressed by the quality and speed of responses. This is a really active board, with lots of advice and ideas which appear excellent. Very highly recommended. ...

Re-exchange of foreign currency - various 19/09/2000

maximum return on re-exchange

Re-exchange of foreign currency - various Some ideas for the best deal on re-exchange: 1) avoid it - don't change too much into the foreign currency in the first place. 2) Free re-exchange from Thomas Cook and others - helps, but you still have the turn to pay. 3) Hold as cash and change into another foreign currency when next abroad. Avoids the double loss of changing into sterling, and into another currency. 4) Use automatic coin exchange machines at Gatwick and Heathrow to get rid of foreign coin 5) Britain makes hard work of exchanging coin, small denomination notes and weird and wonderful currencies. Overseas bureaux de change often better
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