Wilkinson Plus, Wilkinson Minus

July 23, 2008

Someone on one of the Money Saving Expert‘s forums described an offer where you sign up for a free month’s trial at Wilkinson DVD‘s, and you receive a free boxed retail DVD from a list. The idea was that you get the free DVD even if you cancelat the end of the free month.

Now, in my book, free is a pretty good deal, so I signed up.

After the first month, I cancelled my subscription. Unfortunately, the cancellation request was received after a second set of DVDs was sent out, so I ended up paying for a month’s rental. I didn’t mind too much – the service was good value for the month, and I wanted to watch the movies I sent for anyway. I had better success cancelling my subscription at the end of the second month.

I must say, the actual DVD rental service was acceptable. The only down side is that you don’t often get your first choice of movie – you’re far more likely to get the less popular titles further down your list of choices. In fairness, however, that is all explained in the T&Cs. As a result, I have no complaints about the rental service itself: I just don’t need it.

The free DVD, however, is another matter.

On 3rd June I received an email that stated,

We are… pleased to confirm that you did fully qualified for the bonus DVD-to-keep that you chose on registration.

 And that I should,

allow up to 28 working days from the point of qualification to receive your Bonus DVD.

Unfortunately, I am still waiting. On 7th July I sent this email to Wilkinson:


28 days have passed, but still no DVD. Is there a problem?

But received no response. Apparently, I am not alone in this experience. So today, I telephoned Customer Services.

The lady I spoke to initially was polite and applogetic. She explained that the offer had received more interest than expected, and that I should receive my DVD in the next couple of weeks. I gently pointed out that it would have been helpful if Wilkinson had emailed customers explaining that there is a problem, and that it would have been polite for them to have responded to my previous email. The lady explained that she was merely a ‘minion’ (her word) who had no power to make descisions about things like that. Fair enough. I asked if I could speak to someone who had more authority…

I think: Here we go…

I was put through to a Customer Services Manager.

I explained the problem, and said that I considered that the service I had received from Wilkinson was poor. I suggested that the readers of this blog might be interested in my experience with Wilkinson. The CS Manager then said that this “wasn’t fair”, because I had received the rental DVDs I had asked for.

I think: You have failed to deliver on your promise, but I am at fault if I tell people?

She explained that the problem was due to other larger companies using the same DVDs as part of their promotions, and that as a result Wilkinson had been unable to supply the demand. Apparently, Wilkinson is too small to compete against the big boys

I think: HMV is to blame for your customer service?

I asked why I had no response to my first email. I was told that there was no record of this email against my account, so that was not Wilkinson’s fault. This is strange – every other email I have sent recently has reached its intended destination, and my mail server says the email was sent.

I suggested that customers should be told about the delay, rather than having to chase things up ourselved. I was told that we already had! I explained that I have received no such communication from Wilkinsons. Again, the CS Manager stated that this was not her fault!

I think: MyISP is to blame for yourpoor cummunication?

I explained that I had a contract with Wilkinson, and that the company had provided poor service against that contract. The CS Manager insisted that there was no contract, because I had now cancelled my subscription.

I think: I have paid for a service that I have not received. It was part of my contract, but isn’t now because I don’t want anything else from you?

Finally, I was told that I would receive my free DVD within the next 7 days, and that I would have to amend my blog once it arived.

I think: We’ll see.

The CS Manager also said that she would look out for my blog!

I think: The one thing that fascinates me about this whole episode is that the Customer Services Manager was less skilled at dealing with my complaint than her “minion”. If the CS Manager had been genuinely apologetic, I would have accepted that delays sometimes happen, and looked forward to my free DVD arriving sometime in the next 28 days. In that case, this article wouldn’t even exist…

I’ll let you know how things turn out.


The DVD did actually arrive within 7 working days!

Who know if it would have come at all unless I had (1) phoned to complain, and (2) threatened to publish all the gory details on this blog? Either way, I an delighted. Now, all I need is the time to watch it…


Barclays Bank, Barclays Bank, Great Little Product but the Communication Stank

June 25, 2008

I don’t have a problem with Barclays policies, but I do have a problem with the way they communicate them.

Last October I arranged a mortgage with Barclays. It was a good rate and they offered a good flexible features. Officially, the mortgage offer was valid for 6 months, but we were told by the Barclays rep. that sold us the mortgage that it would still be available after the 6 month period. We were delighted – we had a good offer on our property, and had an offer accepted on the house of our dreams. Sadly, through no fault of ours, the sale of our property fell through. We were forced to pull out of the purchase of the house we wanted. Time passed…

Finally, another offer on our property, another offer of ours accepted. Now, I quite understand that keeping a mortgage offer open indefinitaly is impractical, but I had been made a promise. Just over 6 months had passed, so I went back to Barclays for them to make good on the rep’s promises. When I called a general mortgage line, I was told that the offer had expired. Disappointed, I explained about the original promise. The lady I spoke to asked me to hold while she spoke to her supervisor. A few minutes later, I was assured that Barclays would honor their agreement and I could have the original mortgage at the original rate. All I had to do, I was told, was to contact the original rep. to verify my financial status had not changed, and to pay another £90 admin fee. I would have understood if my request had been declined, but again, I had a promise. I was delighted.

…until half an hour later when I called the person I had originally spoken to. She was very nice, recalled our previous agreement, and genuinely sounded as though she wanted to help. Unfortunately, she said, she had no authority to reinstate our mortgage offer. She explained that the offer had expired. I explained that someone had agreed to honouring the original promise just half an hour previously, and that she had told me that I could extend the offer beyond the 6 months. She spoke to her supervisor, tried to get things fixed, but ultimately failed. She suggested that I had grounds for complaint, and suggested that she initiate the complaints procedure on my behalf. I agreed.
By this point, I felt let down. I would not have minded if the offer had just expired after 6 months. What bothered me was that I had twice been told – by different people – that I could extend the original offer beyond the initial 6 month period.

Finally, someone from the complaints team called me. At this point things went downhill. Again, I was not surprised that the outcome of the conversation I had with the complaint handler was that there was nothing that could be done for me. However, I was stunned by way that my complaint was handled. The lady I spoke to:

  1. opened the conversation by getting name wrong (she used my middle name instead of my surname)
  2. did not appear in the least bit interested in my view of the situation
  3. did not clearly establish the grounds of my complaint (she assumed that it was the decision that was made not to extend the mortgage offer, but was in fact the false promises that I had been made)
  4. was not interested in what I thought would be a reasonable resolution (a partial refund of my initial fee as a gesture of good will), but just kept repeating that Barclays could not extend a mortgage offer indefinitely – something I had never, in fact, asked them to do
  5. kept telling me that she had no record of the promises that I had been made (as if that were my fault)
  6. was very abrupt, to the point of downright rudeness
  7. said that the only thing that she could do for me was send me a leaflet from the FSA.

In conclusion, Barclays financial products can be good, but sometimes their ability to communicate their policies accurately, and deal with complaints politely, falls far short of the mark.

Lessons Learned: If it is not in writing, it doesn’t exist.

A Barclays sales rep. has left a message that I should call him to talk about my mortgage needs. I doubt that I will return the call. After all, I have now arranged a mortgage with First Direct, one of Barclays competitors. I got a much better deal than I ever would have had with Barclays.

72 Year Old Refused Alcohol

November 1, 2007

Back in September, the BBC reported an incident where Supermarket staff had refused to sell alcohol to a white-haired 72-year-old man – because he would not confirm he was over 21.

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Alliance Leicester Account Switching (Dis-)Service

July 23, 2007

al.gifMy ‘phone was cut off this weekend.

The Alliance & Leicester did it.

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Perhaps if You Ignore Me…

July 2, 2007

On 27th May I emailed ChoicesUK to complain about their termination of a loyalty scheme just before we were due to receive our free bonus DVD rental. I am very disappointed to report that the company completely ignored my email complain.

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Solving the Wrong Problems

May 31, 2007

It is often beneficial to go back to fundamentals.

Many years ago I passed an HND in Mathematics, Statistics and Computing. One of the few things that I remember from the Computing modules that is still directly relevant to my day-to-day work is the idea of the “Presenting Problem.”

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Telephone Preference Service: Complaining

May 27, 2007

What happens when you need to complain about the complaints service?

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