Thursday, 9 January 2014

Say Cheese!

Dear Breville,

When I moved house in August, I finally gave in. I threw away our much-loved Breville sandwich toaster (mostly under duress from my husband). Ok, so the words he used were “filthy” and “it's a wonder we don't all come down with food poisoning”. I did try to convince him that the condition of the toaster added to the flavour of the toasties. But he's a modern man and didn't quite see it that way.

I then went to the shop (Argos, not an experience I'll repeat in a hurry) and bought a new Breville sandwich toaster. A shiny, new black 2 slice machine, complete with absolutely no crispy cheese. I'm afraid the new toaster has been a complete disappointment however. It's impossible to make a cheese toastie that lives up to my expectations with the machine. Here are the issues:

1. The toaster doesn't hinge wide enough to fit two slices of standard bread and cheese in. This means that the uncooked sandwich is pushed forward too far in the machine, leaving the front portion of the sandwich untoasted. Is there an ultimate bread you can recommend to fit in your toaster?

2. No matter what I do, the melted cheese always oozes out of the sandwich at the back and onto the work surface. This leaves 2 slices of bread with a hint of cheese in, and half a bag of melted Cathedral City to clear up. Are my toasting techniques wrong? Should I be propping up the toaster in some way to ensure that I keep my cheese (at a fiver for 500g, it's not cheap)?

3. After consumption of the inadequate toasted sandwich, cleaning the machine is nigh on impossible. As much as I like the crispy cheese residue and slime, as previously discussed, my husband is not so keen. How do you get the machine clean? I'm close to throwing caution to the wind and putting it in the dishwasher. I doubt this will do the electrics much good though.

Your help would be much appreciated,

Kind regards,


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A bag full of trouble

Earlier this year I bought a dark grey rucksack from you with lovely coloured spots. Having a pair of toddlers in tow, you need your hands free all the time, so a rucksack is essential. It looked like a nice sturdy and pretty bag, but has proved to have a major flaw. The bag has a zip either side of it, which I assumed to be a pocket when I first bought it. The zips however lead straight into the main bag, making pickpocketing super-easy. The zips are also remarkably easy to open by accident. In the past 2 months, I have lost via these ridiculous zips, my diary, my wallet, 4 boxes of raisins, 2 pens, 3 small cars and one of my twins' all-time favourite blue bunny. Trust me, bedtime wasn't a pleasant experience without the blue bunny.

So I decided to cut my losses and bought another rucksack from you - one without zips in the sides. My new bag, bought last month is your Odette Tweed spotty bag. Sadly this has another major flaw - the opening strings are made from very soft leather. This means that it doesn't open properly without 2 hands, a knack and a promise. You also have to put the bag on the ground to do this, thus setting free the toddlers in the middle of the street. My new bag is also now in very bad shape on the bottom because you have to put it down every time you need to open it.

Do your rucksacks get tested? You could do with a twin-mum to put them through their paces. I'm now over sixty quid down and still haven't got a practical bag to use every day.

Sally Gill

A couple of days later I receive the following reply:

Dear sally,

Thank you for contacting us about the bags that you purchased from Monsoon Accessorize.

On behalf of Monsoon Accessorize, we would like to apologise that you have been disappointed with your purchase and for any inconvenience this has caused.

Please be assured that all Monsoon Accessorize products undergo quality control checks at both the supplier and at our warehouse. We have therefore passed your comments to our Technical Team.

As we are not aware of your date of purchase we are not sure if you are still eligible for 28 days return policy. However, if you are dissatisfied with your purchase, may I suggest that you return to your local store to discuss the matter with a member of the Management Team.

Alternatively, you can return the faulty item to our warehouse with a covering letter and the free returns label provided at the bottom of your despatch note, selecting the faulty reason code if you have placed order online.

As a gesture of goodwill, we would like to offer you a 20% off discount code to be used on your next online order with Monsoon.

To redeem this discount code, please enter THANKYOU20 in the 'Promotional Code' field at checkout, to apply 20% off your entire order. This discount code is case sensitive, can only be used once, and will expire on the 30th November 2013.

I hope you find this information useful. If you need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,


Online Customer Service Consultant

Verdict: Monsoon aren't really getting the issue here. A 28 day return policy wouldn't be relevant to me. It certainly wouldn't cover the flaw "design flaw". Instead they are encouraging me to spend even more money on a bag. Logical. Nope. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Further bacon robbers

Dear Black Farmer,

I have been a fan of your bacon and sausages for a long time. They make breakfast beautiful. But I'm afraid there has been a bacon sin committed recently. I have been robbed! On opening my latest packet of beautiful pink smoked bacon, I almost fell off my breakfast stool. Someone had stolen the ends of the rashers! They were missing! It broke my breakfast heart to see the bacon had been snipped, removing that lovely crispy last bite. A bacon travesty!

What has happened to the ends of the rashers? Is there any possibility I can have them back? They would have been nice crumbled into a bacon carbonara. With those little bits, my breakfast bacon butties would have been truly complete!

With bacony regards,


Verdict: I received a lovely letter this morning from The Black Farmer, they have obviously taken it seriously. There was also a small cheque which I will spend on their sausages. I'm still going to continue buying Black Farmer meat - their sausages are second only to our local village ones. They do a great corn-fed chicken too. 

Old El Paso

Dear Old El Paso,

Have you ever seen Spinal Tap? There's a scene in it when one of the band members is struggling to get the right ratio between meat and cracker. I have a similar problem with your Enchilada dinner kit.

Here's the issue: I've found, the ultimate sauce/chicken ratio is 1.5 chicken breasts to 1 sachet of tomato sauce, mixed with 15g of your spice mix. This makes 2 perfect enchiladas with the right amount of sauce to soak into the tortillas. I can then save the rest of the tomato sauce and spices for another night of faux-Mexican goodness. What I'm left with however is a spare 4 tortillas. And then there are the sad occasions when the packets of spice mix are short-changed and don't contain enough spices. Do I buy 2 boxes of your Enchilada dinner kit, taking some of the spice mix from the new box, then again not having enough the next time round? This then would leave me with 8 spare tortillas, no tomato sauce and not enough spice mix. I'm not prepared either to buy your jarred Enchilada sauce to add to my dinner kit – it's just not the same.

Please help me. I just can't solve my enchilada dilemma!


P.S. If you haven't seen Spinal Tap, I suggest you do. Then you may fully understand the extent of my meal-time problem.

Less than a week later I get a reply from Old El Paso - a lovely stock letter, not addressing the ratio issue at all. However the letter did have a nice £5 voucher attached to it. This time I went for the Fajitas box. Verdict: My dilemma is still unsolved. I doubt they care though. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

This isn't just Valentine's Day - this is an M&S Valentine's Day

The "dine in for" offers that supermarkets do can be amazing - and a decent way to cook up a quick meal if you're in a rush. So after seeing the adverts (a lot of chocolate pudding), I headed to Marks and Spencer's to sort out some dinner for Valentine's Day. What an error. So I thought I'd better drop them a line...

Dear M&S,

On Valentine's Day (and being a bit disorganised) I decided to go for your £20 meal deal. Looked like good value for money to me. The wine was lovely, but the main meal and side dish were an appalling let down.

I bought the herb-crusted rack of lamb. It wasn't so much herb-crusted, but with a layer of green sludge over it. And no, it wasn't my cooking (although sometimes I admit I have my moments). I followed the instructions on the "fresh chips" to the letter too - I mean how hard can it be to shove something in the oven? Within 10 minutes they were burnt - I think you have way over-estimated the temperature the oven needs to be at. If I had actually let them cook for the specified time, we would have been eating black twigs.

Very disappointing M&S. If it wasn't for the wine, Valentine's Day would have been a complete flop. Next time could you just do 4 bottles for £20 instead?

Sally Smith

A day later I received a very formal response involving food technologists and the offer of a refund. Who are these food technologists? I wonder if they tried the chips. It would have been quite a simple scientific test. Try the chips. It's not really a hardship. Who wouldn't want a job that involves trying chips? 

Dear Ms Smith

Thanks for your email about the Valentine's Dine In meal you bought from us recently. I’m sorry you were disappointed with the quality of the main meal and side dish you bought. 

We appreciate any customer feedback which will help us identify where we can still improve a product. It seems that, despite our rigorous quality controls with our supplier, we’ve not met expectations on this occasion.

I’d like to inform our Food technologists so they can investigate and take steps to make sure the highest standards are being met. Please take any available packaging and your receipt to the Food Information Desk in your local store. My colleagues there will be able to capture all the information from it so we can pass it on. They will, of course, also offer you a full refund. 

If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us again. 

Please be aware this email is from a ‘no reply’ email address. If you would like to respond, please contact us via our website and we will be happy to assist you further. 

We’re keen to know what you thought of our reply. If you’d like to share any feedback, please let us know by clicking on the following link:

Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

Kind Regards

Heather Cameron
Marks & Spencer Customer Services
Registered office: Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Road, London, W2 1 NW.
Registered Number: 214436 (England and Wales) 

VERDICT: I may get a refund. But I'm more intrigued about these food technologists. I wonder if you can hire them for parties. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Love it or hate it!

In another story of 'You don't ask you don't get', I am on the blag. The email says it all. Just watch this space!

Dear Unilever,

On the 12th of July something spectacular is happening. What is that I hear you ask? Myself and my partner of 6 years, Bruce are getting married. About time too I hear you say! You should have got round to it before the twins came along.

So here's the dilemma. We're having a little do afterwards at our local village pub. You know, beers, chicken wings, a blues band, that kind of thing. In an attempt to funk the place up a bit we decided to make a few table decorations to reflect our loves. And Marmite is one of them.

So for the past few months, we've been eating lots and lots of Marmite, and saving the empty jars. In fact everyone has been eating lots and lots of Marmite. Our parents, our grandparents. Even the twins seem to have permanent sticky Marmite faces. But you know how long it takes to get through a single jar.

Anyway, I was wondering, (after my lifetime of loyal Marmite consumption), if you might have a few spare empty jars knocking about the place you could part with? Maybe then the twins could go back to honey on toast for a change!

Kind regards,


And this is the Marmite epic fail email I got back. I'm going to write directly to the factory next. 

Hello from Marmite

Dear Sally,

Thank you for your recent email.

We only manufacture trial size samples of products for specific marketing activity, and unfortunately we don't currently have any available for this product.

I'm sorry that I am unable to help you, but thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards,

Emanuela Ferrandes
Careline Advisor

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Venus Razor and the great aunt's soap

Oh why do I get sucked into the special offers in Tesco? This time it was razor blades - possibly the most ridiculously expensive item ever. Seriously, why do they cost so much? Even reduced in cost, the Venus Pro Skin razor was still about four quid, and only included 2 refill blades. Daylight robbery. And here's the thing - it was rubbish. So I sent them a little email. 

Hi there,

I bought a Venus Pro Skin razor in Tesco this week. What a let down. I'm 33 years old and have been shaving my legs for over 20 years now. In fact I'd say I'm a bit of a dab hand at it by now. The Pro Skin razor made me feel like I was a novice again. The 2 giant bits of soap that you've welded either side of the blades make the razor unwieldy and difficult to use. Like an idiot, I even attempted to have a bit of a bikini trim with it. Let's just say it was a disaster.

Then I come to the soap. You know it smells unpleasant right? The cheap and nasty soap is like something my great aunt has had lying in a bowl in her bathroom for the past 8 years. She won it in a raffle (because nobody else wanted it). For the fairly expensive cost of the razors, how about buying some better soap? Soap that doesn't leave your skin smelling like great aunt.

So anyway, I'm very disappointed with the Pro-Skin. What a waste of money. Think I will be going back to the faithful Bic.

Sally Smith

It wasn't too long before I had a reply from Venus - less than 2 hours in fact. 

Hi Sally and thanks for your email.

I was sorry to read that recently you had a problem with your purchase of Venus ProSkin razor blades.

I have passed your comments onto our Quality Assurance Team to make them aware of this.  We pride ourselves on the products we make and really appreciate your feedback.  This will be used to ensure we continue to make products which meet your expectations.  I am sorry that on this occasion this was not the case.

We would love you to continue using our Venus products and I would like to send you a complimentary coupon to use against your next purchase. You could try the blades without gel bars, as all Venus cartridges are compatible with all Venus handles. Please send me a note of your full name and postal address so that I can arrange this.

Thank you for taking the time to write.  If you need any more help, please email us or call on (UK) 0800 3580696, (ROI) 1800 947654. 


Consumer Relations

Ah well, looks like I'm going to give Venus another try. Still, she didn't say anything about the smell of the horrific soap.