Bouquets & Brickbats 2017

The 2017 WELL DONE and COULD DO BETTER awards!

Not that the recipients will be in the least bit interested, indeed it is highly unlikely that any of their representatives will ever read my blog. I’m sure I could come up with lots more in both categories, but here are a few that spring to mind this morning:


The Blue Lemon, Shrewsbury. Best free-from nasty additives, reasonably priced toiletries. The owners are very knowledgeable,  their geranium & lavender and tea tree ranges are excellent, the online ordering system simple and straightforward, and delivery is super fast.

Benecos produce make up with similar credentials to the above. I actively try to avoid parabens, phthalates and aluminium so it’s great to know, without having to read the excessively small print that so many manufacturers use, that the products will meet my requirements.

Cross Country trains. Now there’s a surprise – a train company getting a ‘well done’ but praise where it’s due. You may remember that we had had bad luck not once, not twice but three times with train journeys. The final disappointment occurred only days before our complimentary tickets ran out so I wrote to the company explaining the situation and asking if they would consider extending them for a month so that we could make use of them. Without quibble, they gave me new first class tickets valid for a whole year! We now have a three night break in Edinburgh to look forward to in 2018.

The Entertainer toy store must surely be one of the most understanding of ‘staff needs’. The owner did not open on Christmas Eve. He never opens on Sunday stating that  “The Entertainer [is] dedicated to putting family first. For this reason, The Entertainer closes on Sundays so staff can spend time with their family and friends.” Good for him.


Marks & Spencer has to have the worst sale displays. I won’t be going to the current sale but I did unwittingly visit my local store on the very day their summer sale began. Do they specially buy in those racks and racks of garish, shapeless, poorly made clothing nowadays?  I never seem to see these particular items on offer outside sale time so I think they must. I’d rather forego the sale and buy fewer items when the store is less busy, taking my time to choose well. I think this is why I have never purchased a single thing from the jumble sale-style mish-mash that is TK Maxx. I just can’t be bothered to plough through it all. Much nicer to view things properly in a less frantic environment.

Next.  Inexplicably they begin their sale at 6am on Boxing Day. Why? It’s bad enough that any shop feels the necessity of opening on Boxing day but there is no valid reason whatever for such an early start .How about they consider their staff who have to be in store from a ridiculously early 5am. I understand that they are also expected to work until late on Christmas Eve to prepare the sale.  I’d hate to work for a company that was so needlessly dismissive of its employees’ family life. Would the queues be shorter and would they sell less if they opened at 9am? Of course not. I’d bet on the reverse. It’s a gimmick, and not a very nice one. I know that staff in the NHS, police and fire service (and others) work over holidays  and I am very grateful that they do, but I’m talking here about a shop full of frocks and fripperies.

Birmingham Hippodrome theater’s website is B-A-D!  I booked some tickets a couple of days ago and it was a very poor experience. Each time I wanted to check out certain seats, I had to begin the process from the start. When I had chosen and tried to pay for my tickets I had to ‘register an account’. This, of course, is so that they can bombard me with unwanted marketing material. Then, when I tried to register I got a message saying that I was already registered and needed my password. It’s ages since I bought tickets and had no idea what it was so I clicked the ‘forgotten password box’. The system then took me out of the booking page and I had to go through the process of setting a new password.  By then, I had ‘timed-out’ on the tickets I’d reserved and had to start the booking process all over again and the seats I had decided upon were no longer available.

Iceland…please train your staff! Like most other food stores the frozen food specialists issued a booklet showcasing its Christmas specials. Now, as you know, I like to cook but it’s a busy time of year and I’m not averse to the odd ready-made item that promises deliciousness. So loving the sound (and look) of the Roast parsnip, mushroom, spinach and hazelnut pithivier, I made a special trip to the store to buy one.  “Pity what?” said the first assistant I asked when I couldn’t find it in any of the freezers. I described it. “No, never heard of that,” she said. I pointed out that they were advertising it in their Christmas food booklet and she responded that I must be confusing it with somewhere else. I assumed that they had sold out and ascertained that the next delivery would be the following morning. To cut a long and repetitive story short, I went in twice more, spoke to three different staff and a more senior person (the manager was apparently not available) and not one of them had a clue what I was on about. On the the third occasion I had produced the booklet but even that didn’t help. “Probably sold out,” I was told. Probably? Well had you or hadn’t you?  My question to Iceland is this – when advertising specific items, with (presumably) the intention of encouraging customers to buy them, why not inform your staff  of their existence? I’ve completed their online contact form so await their response to this.  During my working life I’ve delivered a fair amount of training and my rates are reasonable. The offer’s there!

And finally, WH Smith. Will you please stop trying to sell me bars of chocolate at your till. Seriously, when I am buying a bottle of ink, what makes you think that I am interested in your super-sized bars of Dairy Milk? OK, OK, I admit it – I am ALWAYS interested in chocolate but I am perfectly capable of sabotaging my diet by myself. I do not need your encouragement!

What companies do you rate for great service, and which could you happily see disappear without trace?

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve, whatever you are doing. And thank you for your continued interest in my blog.


  1. I have to psych myself even to visit M&S. It’s such a mish-mash of so many unrelated items of clothes under different titles, such as Per Una and Autograph, so if you want jeans, you have to look in all these various separate areas. I want all the jeans TOGETHER in one place. As for colours, styles, sizes … it’s a nightmare. And finding staff … well, you can forget it. I have to return some gloves to get a larger size, I’m actually dreading it.
    Margaret P


    • Consistency of sizing is atrocious. I have M&S items in a range of sizes, and sometimes even the same design in a different colour fits differently. It’s very frustrating.


  2. Happy New Year! I agree totally with your comments about Marks and Spencer sales. I had the opportunity (misfortune) to visit the M & S outlet store, at Gun Wharf Quays, Portsmouth . I walked in and straight out. It was like entering a nightmare jumble sale; never again.


  3. That was an interesting read. 🙂 Boxing day is not a holiday, here, but a regular business day. After Thanksgiving day (Black Friday) sales used to begin at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, but now, they seem to start on Thanksgiving day, itself!


    • Both Christmas Day and Boxing Day are holidays but we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. That said, I believe that recently there have been a few restaurants that have started offering special celebratory menus and a few stores that have referred to it in their advertising. Wishing you a Happy New Year, Bless.


  4. As much as I love Next, I agree about the ridiculous opening hours on Boxing Day. I remember discussing it with a member of their staff last Christmas and she admitted that until they stop having long queues at 6am, they’ll unfortunately continue to open that early. Suffice to say she wasn’t a fan.

    As for customer service, Gousto and Virgin Atlantic have both been very helpful with me over the last six months. Surprisingly Sky were good too (they usually aren’t considered very good), probably because I seem to give them so much money every month.

    The worst I’ve ever experienced in my 31 years has to be Furniture Village which I had the frustration of dealing with between June – August this year. Absolutely atrocious and would never buy from them again (even if my new furniture is very nice!)


    • I guess we all judge based on our own experience. The absolute worst ever organisation for customer service in my experience was Student Finance England. I still have nightmares!


  5. Very interesting, some stores just get it right. Here in the USA Chick Fil a is always closed on Sundays, except when Atlanta Airport was closed down and passengers were stranded. They opened up and served more than 2000 sandwiches free of charge.


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