Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The customer is always... hungry

Word count: 38,090

I’ve done some writing. OK, not that much, I will admit, but work has been busy and I’ve also been doing some magazine pitching and some sorting out of labyrinthine IT problems relating to the Open University, and that’s left precious little time for writing. You might question then how I have time to blog, but then again you will have noticed the stream of consciousness style of these missives, so blogging is a piece of the proverbial in comparison to Proper Writing.

As a champion of consumer rights I have also been on the Case of the Wrongly Labelled Sandwiches. I bought my usual veggie wrap thing on Monday only to unpack it and discover tuna and boiled egg, a truly disgusting combo (you might like it, I suppose. I think it could only be made worse by the addition of, say, cold custard). The labels were all wrong. The following day I took a chance again (I am very fond of these wraps, they’re all cheesy and garlicky and beany) and this time they seemed to have had an accident with the black pepper as it was so full of hot bits that I needed to sneeze. Borderline inedible.

Anyhow, the two incidents were enough to get me looking up their website and emailing – and I’ve been impressed by how quickly they responded, within a couple of hours, promising investigations and a ‘free lunch delivered to your door.' Sounds a bit more exotic than a replacement sarnie. The whole thing felt very personal and I was reassured that my complaint was being taken seriously.

It’s in contrast to my experience with a well known soup maker named after a London market (heck, I’ve probably already bored you with this but I can’t find a search facility) which took weeks to respond to my email after I ended up with a painful scald when I followed their microwave cooking instructions. And then admitted there was a packaging fault and sent this standard letter saying they’d attached vouchers while they’d actually attached a cheque for £15. Now the cash isn’t really the point: it’s being taken seriously that makes me feel better – and that doesn’t happen with a standard letter.

So the soup company failed. And the sarnie company succeeded. Keeping consumers happy isn’t rocket science, is it? So isn’t it weird that a large company should make a hash of it and the smaller one make me feel more warm and glowy? The only difference that might have altered things is that I bought my sarnie at work and so sent my email from my work (ie BBC) address whereas the soup complaint came from a private email. But I am not that cynical…

Lovely Link of the Day:

I had a scout around for online consumer sites and found grumbletext which a) has a great fairy tale like name and b) has had some interesting press coverage. I can see how tough it must be running sites like this though, having done some consumer journalism myself – you simply can’t check out people’s stories if they’re all posting online and yet if you don’t you could be sued for libel. Still, good on them for trying… bizarrely though they seem to be getting texts on their site from consumers AND from the very premium rate text spammers they seem to be targeting.


Anonymous Quin said...

The soup recipe book made by that company is also brilliant. I've really got into making soups now; my favourite is the peanut and salsa one which doesn't sound as if it would work, but does fantastically.

Thanks for your kind notes earlier on this month about the Guide to Zone 6. I've just updated it after a long absence with more tales of faraway places like Orpington. I'm also about to put together some pitches for publishers... you wouldn't happen to have any advice or know anyone who might be interested, would you?

11:57 pm  

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