Turn Out That Light!

And another week has rolled by and here we are at the weekend again. The beginning of the week was taken up solely by work – my new shifts that don’t end until 6pm at the earliest fill the whole day, especially if I’m collecting shopping after work as I did on Monday. By the time I got home, unpacked, and put it all away, fed a bitterly complaining and starving cat (you could see the ribs, honestly), got changed, cooked eaten and cleared away my dinner, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, put on laundry, and checked all my social media notifications, it was 9:30pm and time to collect Miss F from work.

Tuesday wasn’t much better, in that a customer came in at five minutes before the end of my shift and then proceeded to waste 45 minutes of my time just faffing and farting about with no indication that they had any intention of buying something, and then they left. That’s 45 minutes of my time that I will not be paid for nor receive back at some future date. My company consider that if there is a customer, then you must stay no matter that you are technically off the clock or that you have shopping or a child to collect.

And that is something I want to ask all non-retail people. Why? Why do you do it? Why do you wander around shops at anti-social hours when the staff have been on their feet since early that morning and just want to go home? If you have a genuine need to buy something, fine, we’ll quite happily be late going home and so long as you ignore the rumbling of our stomachs because we’re staving hungry, we will help you if we get a sale out of it. But to amble about a shop with no purpose or goal but just because… that is selfish and unfair.

Okay, maybe you have nothing else to do and you hate your home and family so much you don’t want to go back there, and maybe you are so fed up with being trapped in the house due to various lockdowns that you are now desperate to be in a shop – any shop – and wander and touch and look and ask the staff stupid questions, but that doesn’t mean the sales consultant feels the same way.

If it’s a normal shop with normal opening times, at least the staff can ask you to leave because the shop is about to close, but many stores – mine included – can’t close until the last customer has left, so that’s you. Maybe think about that next time you have thirty minutes to kill so you wander into a shop at five minutes to seven. Maybe look for store opening times or ask a member of staff what time they close, rather than thinking you are so important that all the staff must work unpaid overtime to please you.

After all, would you like it? If you’ve been on your feet for ten solid hours, you had a quick sandwich at midday and it’s now almost seven, so you’re faint with hunger, but you still must turn around and cook a meal for yourself and maybe your family when you eventually get home. Maybe a child is standing in a dark and wet school car park waiting to be collected from an after-school club. There could be any number of reasons on top of simply wanting to go home on time why the sales staff want to close the shop and go home, and then you wander in – just looking. You waste everyone’s time, including your own, before ambling off without buying anything and the staff are left to mutter curses behind their masks and hurry to lock the door before any other braindead idiot can come in.

Sorry for the rant, but it does annoy me and everyone else who works in retail that people are so inconsiderate and rude and plain don’t think about the sales staff. I truly believe many don’t think we are human, that we have no needs or rights.

Anyhoo, my day was like that on Tuesday. Lots of idiots all “just looking” but not actually buying anything. They crowded into the shop, no social distancing, and most not wearing their masks correctly – OVER the nose, you plank, otherwise don’t bother! And then, five minutes before I was due to go home, I get a time-waster, so I don’t get home until almost seven. I must cook dinner, get changed, so we don’t sit down until almost eight to eat dinner.

Wednesday my parents came for lunch, so that was a very busy day that went by in a flash. It was lovely to see them, and we had a nice time, but I’d forgotten what it’s like preparing and cooking a meal that isn’t just a simple, everyday meal for two.

Thursday, I went to visit my favourite cousin for the first time since December 2019. It was amazing to see her, but it felt like no time at all had gone by since we last met. I spent a very pleasant morning with her – it’s her daughter’s birthday on Monday so I took over her present and we had a real catch up on all our news.

In the afternoon, I telephoned my local council. Now, I’ve never been able to claim a sole occupancy discount on my council tax because we’ve always had a lodger, but it suddenly occurred to me that we have been alone since the end of December so that’s five months discount I could have claimed. Could I claim retrospectively, I wondered. Turns out, yes, I can. The very nice lady gave me an email address to send my request to, so I did that. I’m not sure how much I should get back, but it will be somewhere in the region of £150 to £200 so definitely worth applying for. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I have my second jab coming up on the 3rd of June and the NHS had emailed me a pre-jab form to complete. By the time I had run about the house finding all the various reference and NHS numbers they wanted, that took up a good thirty minutes. A few days earlier, I had received a text from the NHS inviting me to have my jab earlier than the 3rd, but to be honest, it’s only next week and I have already arranged my days off work around it – just in case, it makes me as ill as the first one did – so it hardly seems worth bothering. Also, I’ve heard the horror stories of people who have tried to bring their jab forward, only to find instead of having a local appointment they suddenly have a hundred-mile round trip for a jab that’s only a week earlier than their original appointment. Best leave be, I thought.

This and a few other chores filled my Thursday afternoon, including going through everything that Miss F already has for university and making a very comprehensive list of items still to buy, and that was the second day of my four days off done with.

Friday morning, I forced a reluctant Miss F to contact Amazon again. Regular followers will know the headache we’ve been having with them. My new tablet that was a Christmas present from Miss F suddenly stopped working at the beginning of May. We contacted customer services, no problem, they told us, we’ll send you a return label and as soon as the faulty product comes back to us, we’ll arrange a replacement. So, the tablet was photographed to prove the uncracked nature of the screen and was sent back using the Royal Mail track and trace service – thank heavens we did. Mind you, it did take about three increasingly irate chats with their customer services before they eventually sent us the pre-paid label, but finally, it was emailed to us and we posted the tablet back to them on the 7th of May.

Two weeks went by, no sign of a replacement tablet. We checked the parcel’s status on the Royal Mail website and could see that it had been received and signed for by someone at Amazon on the 9th of May. Back onto customer services we went. Yes, yes, they said, we are so sorry you are experiencing this problem. We will sort it out immediately for you. A week went by. Nothing. Back we went again, this time the tone of our “live chat” was definitely on the tetchy side. So sorry, they said, give us 48 hours and we will sort it out for you.

That was last Saturday. By Friday morning we had still heard nothing. I told Miss F we had to chase them again. I don’t want to, she said, I’m going to work this afternoon and I don’t want the stress and hassle that chasing them always is. You must, I told her because you’re going to work even earlier tomorrow, then I’m at work Sunday through to Wednesday so can’t do it until Thursday and that will be another week gone by.

So, reluctantly, she contacted them again. This time there was no mistaking the stroppiness in her messages. I am sick of this, she wrote, this has dragged on for almost a month. Where is the replacement tablet? You’ve had plenty of time to sort this out, and no, I won’t give you 48 hours to investigate it because last time I did that, no one contacted me for a week and we’re having to chase you up, yet again! I want it sorted and I want it sorted now!

Back and forth, the chat went. Her email address was given and checked. She took a picture of our track and trace receipt which clearly showed the parcel going to them on the 7th. Oh, so we are going to repair it for you, came back the reply. No, demanded Miss F, the time for repairing it is long gone. You promised us a replacement – I have screenshots of the conversation where she said this – so I want a replacement now!

Give us 1-2 hours, they begged, we just need that time to check our systems and sort it out. Okay, Miss F reluctantly conceded. So long as it is only 1-2 hours and that you don’t disappear for another week because I’m fed up with chasing you. We won’t disappear, they promised, 1-2 hours maximum and we’ll leave this chat thread open.

An hour went by, two hours, another forty-five minutes. Chase them, I told Miss F, so back onto the chat she went. Well? She asked. You asked for 1-2 hours and it’s now been two hours and forty-five minutes, what’s happening? Yes, yes, they said, so sorry, it took a little longer than we anticipated, but we can now assure you that the replacement is on its way and will be with you tomorrow.

So now, we wait. We’ve had a delivery notification that it will be coming today – I only hope it’s not during the twenty minutes it will take me to go and collect the shopping and get petrol, or the forty minutes this evening when I collect Miss F from work – so fingers crossed, a brand-new working tablet will be delivered and this whole frustrating and stressful issue will be resolved.

And that leads me to the other major headache in my life – my energy supplier. As you know, I thought it had been sorted. I had telephoned them and spoken to the oh so obliging Nicole, who agreed that I couldn’t possibly owe the amount they were claiming I did, that she could see my meter readings on there and not the made-up smart meter readings, and that she would change my direct debit back to what it was, get my statement reassessed and refund any credit to me.

Well… I received an email from them, my new statement was available to view, so off I trot to view it. To my stunned disbelief my meter readings had once again been deleted and a long list of fictional readings from this mythical smart meter I’m supposed to have had been reinstated. They are claiming I used £283 of energy in May, plus I’m still in debt to them by £19!!

This is unbelievable. As you can see by the attached screengrab according to them, I used twice as much energy in May as I did in December or January! Not possible. Yes, it’s been a chillier Spring than normal, but it’s not been as cold as December or January, plus with lockdown over both Miss F and I are back to work so are no longer in the house all day and every day. Fewer appliances and devices are being used. Besides, £283 on energy in one month for a two-up, two-down terraced house in the south of England with just two people living in it is a ridiculous amount. I have friends with four people in their family who live in massive five-bedroom houses who don’t spend that much!

Look at May! No way did we use twice as much energy as in the Winter!

Clearly, this company are standing by their decision to raid my bank account. This is the hill they are prepared to die on.

It’s unbelievably frustrating and frightening just how much power companies like this have. They have our bank details so can simply take what they want, and we usually can’t fight back. They can falsify information on our accounts and then lie about it. They can refuse to return our emails and suspend live chat whenever they feel like it. They act like gods.

Obviously, I have been looking into energy companies and the whole energy bill situation in detail over the past month, and all the experts seem to agree that things are set to get worse here in the UK. I don’t know if it’s because of Brexit, or Corona, or is a combination of the two, but it looks like energy prices across the board are due to take a massive hike.

I knew I needed to sort this out immediately. I sent an email to Look After My Bills – the energy switch company that put me with Green Suppliers Limited. I held nothing back. I told them everything that had happened and attached screengrabs of the ever-changing status of my account and the stupid amount of energy they are claiming I used in May. I told them that I do hold them partially responsible, after all, they are the ones who switched me to this company of liars and scam artists, I had no say in the matter. Also, when the whole ugly issue first arose, I did telephone them and ask them for help. Only to be fobbed off and told there was nothing they could do, and I had to talk to the supplier direct.

This email went off yesterday morning. I have yet to receive a reply. I wonder if I ever will.

Then I telephoned another energy company called Octopus. Now, during all my extensive research I kept coming back to this company. They were voted the number one energy supplier in two consecutive years by Which magazine – although that means nothing. Most people are not aware that the companies with the deepest pockets can buy this status on Which because it is not an impartial or unbiased organisation and is wholly up for sale to the highest bidder. But, a lot of other independent assessors have rated them, including a few people I know and trust.

Unlike Green Suppliers Limited, Octopus have a very user-friendly website and a helpline number that was answered within fifteen minutes, so we were off to a good start. I spoke to a lovely girl and told her my tale of woe. Horrified, she was quick to assure me that Octopus were not like that at all – that they would never treat a customer so badly – and that transparency and openness were how they preferred to operate.

Ah, but what about a fixed-rate deal? It seems likely that energy prices will be taking a massive leap upwards in the next couple of months and I wanted to protect myself, and my bank account. Absolutely, she replied, she could give me a quote based on what I had told her and my average energy consumption over the past year (not including May, obviously). I braced myself. I was prepared to pay more than my usual £88 per month just for peace of mind but didn’t want to go too high. The quote came back at £90 per month fixed for two years and renegotiable at any time by me. If I wanted to use purely renewable energy from sustainable sources, then it would be £91.12 per month. Aww, heck, for the sake of £1.12 per month let’s save the planet.

So, it’s arranged, I am leaving the dark side – Green Suppliers Limited and their shady practices – and joining the light side – the transparent and allegedly honest Octopus. Now the race is on, can they move me before Green get a chance to plunder my bank account again or make up yet more fabled smart meter readings? It takes approximately fourteen days, and my next meter reading won’t be due until the 17th of June. Of course, there will be a final bill to pay to Green, but I have taken a photo of the last meter reading I gave them on the 17th of May and will photograph the final reading I take for them. I’ve also told Miss F that we need to be very mindful of our energy consumption over the next few weeks as I don’t want to give a penny more to Green Suppliers than I absolutely must. It really will be a case of – Turn That Light Out!

I honestly don’t know how it’s going to go, but until I am out of their clutches and have cancelled the direct debit, there is nothing I can do but wait and hope that they won’t turn around and try to claim I have used another £283 worth of energy. Especially, as the warmer weather looks like it’s finally here and the heating is off permanently.

I will keep you posted.

And now it’s 11:30am on Saturday. It’s a beautiful day out there, the sun is shining, and little birds are chirping outside my window. Miss F has just left to catch the bus to work and informed me on the way out that my tablet is being delivered between 2:30pm and 5pm. Oh great, I must go and get petrol and collect the shopping between 3pm and 4pm – what’s the betting they try and deliver in the twenty minutes I’m gone! Miss F is working late tonight and won’t need picking up until 8pm. She’ll be famished after being on her feet since midday – I know I will be – so there will be a nice big dinner already cooked and in the hot trolly ready for when we get home.

The rest of my Saturday is busy – I must write the copytext for the video that’s being made for my novel The Forest ~ a tale of old magic ~ and email it to the wonderful James and Becky Wright over at Platform House Publishing. They really are incredible, and I already know the video will be amazing. For all your formatting, cover design, promotional images, interior illustrations, and videos check out their website and don’t forget there is a discount code for them on my website – link on the contacts page on here.

I have two beds to strip and remake, laundry to do, and Miss F’s work shirts to iron. Now she’s no longer at college she has picked up more shifts at the restaurant, which is great but does mean I struggle to keep her supplied with clean white shirts.

Speaking of Miss F, thank you to everyone who contacted me asking how she got on with her exam and expressing your disgust at the shabby and underhand way she and her fellow students were treated. The exam took place on Monday morning and she thinks she did okay – managed to scrape a pass – although I am confident, she probably did better than she thinks. It was unfair but at least now it is over and her time as a college student is finished.

Ahead of her lies a summer of fun and work as she picks up as many shifts as she can to get money for university, driving lessons, and ultimately a car. It’s a very exciting time for her.

Gosh, I have rambled on a lot more than I thought I would, and this blog is now simply enormous! Sorry about that, but doesn’t that always happen when we sit down to chat?

Anyway, take care of yourselves and wherever you are in the world and whatever you’re doing, stay safe and stay healthy.

Julia Blake

2 thoughts on “Turn Out That Light!

  1. My goodness, people are thoughtless. It is rude to come into a store, knowing it has to be close to closing, and just hang out, like it was a club or something. It is completely thoughtless, because I’m sure they are not thinking about it at all. The door’s open and you’re there, so in they come. Your company has a terrible policy as well. You should be able to leave at closing time and inform customers who have arrived late that you are closing. So a double negative.

    Of course I’ve been following on IG and know what you’ve been through with the car, the utility company, the tablet and Ms. Fs sudden exam requirement. I’m so glad you switched utility companies. Once moved over you’re done, and if Green insists on more over charging, let them chase you. You’ve got everything documented.

    So glad the exams seemed to go well for Ms. This too will be behind you and her. I’m sure she did quite well.

    Did the tablet come? Maybe you mentioned on IG and I missed. Things always are scheduled at the most in opportune times, and if you change plans to be there, it will get delayed and not come any way. Just how it works.

    Glad you had a nice time with your parents, though I believe you said you wound up not feeling well. And at least you had a lovely morning with your cousin.
    Well now you have another big work week coming up.

    Now another rough bunch of work days coming up. I’m amazed you gets these blogs done.

    Stay well and see you on IG.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The tablet did come, but Miss F hasn’t had a chance to set it all up for me so I’m saving the celebrations until we know it works. For all we know, they might have just sent me back my old one.

      Like

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