Thursday, July 30, 2009

Virgin on the ridiculous

The Gnomad is singularly unimpressed with Virgin Media.

The internet connection to the Gnomad habitat keeps dropping out. At high usage times this can be as many as six to eight times an hour, for up to 2 minutes at a time. It is now necessary on almost an hourly basis to reset the modem and wireless router to regain the connection.

Emails have been exchanged between the Gnomad and Virgin Media Web Team (what they call their customer(don't)care line). Each email is met with a variation of the same response "try these diagnostics to establish what's wrong (with your computer)" with the implication that there is nothing wrong with the connection. At each stage the diagnostics are done, results returned, suggested remedies put in place, all to no effect. At various points Virgin Media have suggested, amongst other things;

Problems with compatibility of our OS and their network: the network has three different computers running different OS, so it can't be this.

Spyware and adware on the computers: the Gnomads habitually remove this on a daily basis so its very unlikely to be this.

Interference in the wireless connection: two of the computers are on the wireless connection but one is on an ethernet cable and all have the same problem, so its not this.

The Gnomads have done traceroutes, netstats, removed all adware, spyware (such as there was, since the Gnomads habitually run these clean-ups on a daily basis) run virus checkers, changed the wireless channels and many other fiddly little things that only change things on the Gnomad's side of the modem. All to no effect.

This has been going on since the beginning of May, and no improvement in service has been forthcoming. Virgin Media Web Team are no longer replying to the Gnomad's emails.

The Virgin Media service has now deteriorated so far it is as bad as they experienced in the Magic Kingdom and the Peninsular Gulf State. the Gnomad strongly suspects that the poor connection has the same cause as it did in the Middle East: too many subscribers for not enough bandwidth. the symptoms are exactly the same. Two weeks ago the Gnomads decided enough was enough and cancelled their subscription.

"We will send you a jiffy bag in which to return your set top box, modem and router" they said, "it will arrive next week." Having not received this mythical jiffy bag the Gnomad has called the customer (lack of) service line to be told, "well they usually arrive in 7 to 10 days so its on the way". the Gnomad pointed out that it had already been about 10 days. The help line helpfully suggested calling another telephone number for collections to arrange for them to pick up the set top box, modem and router. The Gnomad called the collection line. The bad=gs are on order they take about 14 days to arrive. So the ETA of the jiffy bags has gone from less than a week to 7 to 10 days to 14 days. The Gnomad pointed out that this would mean that the bags arrived after the Gnomads had left the property. Collection were only prepared to collect the items on the Saturday. The person at collection made it quite clear that he thought the Gnomad was being completely unreasonable not wanting to wait in all morning for the collection person to turn up on the day that the Gnomad was physically moving house. The "best" solution this person could come up with is as follows:

The collection department dispatch a new jiffy bag to the Gnomad's new address. The Gnomad has to take the set top box, modem and router with him when he moves house, wait on the arrival of the jiffy bags and take them to the post office for mailing once they arrive.

This is all very well but, with the best will in the world, there are risks involved in moving house, things can get damaged. The Gnomad's will of course take every care with the packing and transportation of Virgin Media's property, but will not accept any liability for any damage that might occur as a result of the move. Virgin media should have arranged for the collection of their property in a timely manner, since they have not, the Gnomad is doing more than he needs to in assisting in their safe return.

The persistently poor quality of the internet connection is irritating, all of the unnecessary faff of returning the hardware is really quite annoying, but the icing on the cake, and the real reason for the Gnomad's ire, is that the collection department person was downright rude. He continually interrupted what the Gnomad was saying to the point that the Gnomad had to specifically say "do not interrupt me while I am speaking" and "have the good manners to let me finish speaking" during the conversation.

Customer service involves listening to the customer, not speaking over them and trying to shout them down. What with this and the Grumpy Goat's (also on Blogspot) experiences with Virgin Airways, the Gnomads will not be using any of Mr Branson's services in future and will not be recommending them to anyone.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Carat and stick

The Gnomad is somewhat grumpy at the moment. The Gnomads have tried to get the Gnomadettes wedding ring enlarged. A simple matter one would suppose. However, having taken the ring into a branch of Timpson (The Quality Service People)the attempted expansion has severely damaged the ring necessitating a potentially very expensive repair. Timpson is a company that deals with key cutting, shoe repairs, trophies engraving and jewellery repairs. Clearly the Gnomad regrets not going directly to a bona fide jeweller, but the manager in the branch was completely confident that the work could be undertaken successfully.

The Gnomad has written to Timpson's customer service department detailing the situation and requesting that Timpson arrange to have the ring repaired to make good their error.

When Timpson do respond, the Gnomad will post their response and leave you, dear reader, to decide how reputable a company they are and what their Quality Service actually amounts to.

Addition: 24th July 2009

Timpson has replied to the Gnomad's letter, edited highlights below:

"May I firstly apologise if we have in any way damaged your wife's ring

We would like the opportunity to have the ring repaired by our own jeweller
(name supplied) and would be grateful if you could send the ring by Royal Mail Special Delivery to the address below, marked for my attention. I will of course reimburse your postage costs.

The ring will be repaired and returned to your home address as soon as possible..."

This seems pretty fair and reasonable as far as the Gnomad's are concerned. Any one can make a mistake, it is how the mistake is dealt with that allows you to judge a company. So far, top marks to Timpson customer care department.

The ring is being dispatched as requested this morning. The Gnomad will post again on the ring's return with a final verdict on Timpson.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Slowly turning beige

The Gnomad's have recently purchased a new (well, new to them, anyway) car. It is a Honda jazz. The Gnomad misses his 4 litre Jeep Cherokee and his Landrover Discovery, both left in the Lands Of Sand. Whilst cars like those were entirely suitable for the Arabian Desert, they are completely unsuitable for life in the Mundane Kingdom, especially when one considers the price of petrol in Mundania is ten times more than the price in the Magic Kingdom.

Arrival in the UK after many years of absence meant that the Gnomads were not credit worthy anywhere, so the initial Gnomadmobile was what could be purchased cash in hand and was intended only as a temporary vehicle until a better could be obtained. Said vehicle, a very ordinary and somewhat tatty Vauxhall Corsa, did serve well enough but is too small and impractical for the impending arrival of the Hababi. New wheels had to be sought.

Given that The Gnomad is about to become a parent for the first time, the choice had to be a sensible one, based on practicality, economy and safety. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson of BBC's "Top Gear", it would have to be a car to announce to the world that the Gnomad "has fulfilled his biological function and is now slowly turning beige"

The Honda jazz turns out to be a very sensible, though not exciting choice. It drives well, the driving position is comfortable, the boot space is very large for a car its size and the back seats are cleverly designed to fold flat to make the boot enormous or to fold up so that there is a very tall luggage space behind the driver. there are all those little gadgets that make driving easier and more comfortable like electric windows, central locking, electronic folding wing mirrors etc, etc.

The only real drawbacks were the space saver spare tyre, which the Gnomad considers to be spawned by Satan, and that the tyres, although legal, did not have a great deal of tread depth left, However the vehicle was a very favourable price and these were not considered sufficiently major problems to affect the Gnomad's decision to buy.

The car was purchased from a company called Stratstone Motors in Bedford. It came with a new MOT certificate and a full years road fund licence. Having collected the car and made use of it for a few days the Gnomad received a call from Stratstone enquiring how well the car was performing. The car was doing very well apart from a couple of minor niggles that one might reasonably expect from a car four years old. These were an odd noise from one of the speakers and the clutch taking a lot of pedal travel to disengage. These items were noted and the Gnomad's general satisfaction with the vehicle was confirmed.

Now the surprising bit: Stratstone's asked if they could take the car back for a day. Their reason being that the car had been brought down from Harrogate only the day before the Gnomad's were due to collect it. Stratstones had been assured that it was fully prepared for sale but they had not had the time to fully satisfy themselves over all of the details before allowing it's collection, so could the Gnomads' spare the vehicle for a day to allow Stratstone's to give it a once over to make sure everything really was tickety-boo.

The car was duly collected from and returned some hours later to the Gnomad's place of work. On its return the Gnomad was informed of the following: Stratstone had fitted four new tyres to the car, they had refitted the door speaker, checked and adjusted the clutch and also fitted new brake pads to the rear brakes. All of this, somewhere in the region of 300 UKP worth of work, done completely free of charge. Bear in mind that the brakes and tyres had passed the legally required tests and so were fully fit for use on the road, Stratstone didn't really need to do any of this. This is the sort of customer service one would reasonably expect when buying a brand new car, or possibly a nearly new car still covered under the manufacturers warranty, but not a car four years old.

It is refreshing to find that good customer service and decent after-sales care can still be found. The Gnomads are delighted with the service they have received from Stratstone Motors in Bedford and would recommend them to anyone.

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