Driving Change – Better Services

Following on from the utter farce with Cazoo being shockingly shit at customer services, it’s only fair to mention that there have been other companies who have made things a lot easier than they could have been.

First among those has been Enterprise, who have always been a stand-out for me when it comes to car-hire firms. They have one simple thing that makes them stand out (and I don’t understand why other hire firms don’t mimic it) in that quite simply, they come to collect you rather than insisting on getting to them.  Alongside that, there’s been no hassle when I’ve needed to extend the hire period and so on. I know that really it’s “just” a case of doing the jobs they’re paid to do, but sometimes even that feels like a rarity.

Honourable mention also goes to We Buy Any Car, who again just did what they said they would – I got the old Kia to them, they checked it out (and explained the entire process really clearly) and paid what they’d agreed within the day. All the paperwork came through fine, the V5C change of ownership and so on, and it was all smooth and easy. (Cazoo wouldn’t do a trade-in on the Kia, as it was over their mileage limit, which is fair enough)

Alongside that, even my car insurers (Darwin Insurance) made life easy. Once I’d taken delivery of the car, I checked other insurance providers so I’d got a good idea of costs, and then called my current insurer to see what the charges would be with them.  It turned out that sticking with Darwin would mean a premium that was about 50% higher than a different provider, so it made sense to cancel the current policy and start a new one for the new car.  Darwin made that cancellation process easy and smooth – and it turned out that I’d paid enough that I got a refund rather than having to pay the cancellation fee. (Which has just *got* to be a win!)  The new policy has also all come through fine and been easy to sort.

So, despite Cazoo being a monumental pain in the arse, there’ve been others who’ve made the entire thing a lot easier than it could have been.  And that’s something I’m deeply thankful for.



Back in February, I got a specific credit card with two years of 0% interest on balance transfers.  It’s all been good so far, and I”m down to about a third of the original balance, which is how I wanted things to be.

But today I got an email from them saying “Your promotional rate is expiring at the end of the month“, and talking about the money transfer rate. Which seemed a bit odd – and very early.

So anyway, I called them up to find out what was going on, and it turns out that (unsurprisingly) I’m a bloody idiot.

Turns out that the card also had a zero interest deal for money transfers – which aren’t, as I thought, the same as balance transfers. And that’s the rate that was expiring. I’m sure I should’ve known the difference between money and balance transfers, but in that general “What the fuck?” phase of things, I conflated the two things into one.

So anyway, all’s fine. And my acknowledgement of my own idiocy at least made the call handler laugh, so there’s that.

Slooooooow Processing

When I moved house back in October, one of the changes I made was to get rid of BT entirely.  (That one decision has saved me about £50 a month!)

As part of that, they wanted me to send back the bits of BT kit that I had, which is fair enough. That was all sent mid-October using their own pre-paid envelopes, and I got a confirmation on 3rd November that everything had been received.  So that was all fine.

However, on Friday I then got another message, this one confirming that I’d actually returned the stuff I’d been allocated – rather than, apparently, any other old random crap – and that they’d *now* recycle or dispose of it all.

So, five months to process the returns.  That really does tell you everything you need to know about the efficiency of BT, doesn’t it?


One of the things that always surprises me when it comes to dealing with my accountants is how gob-smackingly disorganised a lot of their clients must be.  They send out reminders through the year for people to get their receipts in order, to make sure they match what’s in the online portal, and keep on saying about when the deadlines are, when everything has to be ready by.

Personally, I hate being like that – all the stuff I can do for my accounts for last year is already done. My receipts are scanned and linked, my bank statements and transactions files are all completed, all the expenses and so on are logged, it’s basically done.  When my accountant sends out their request for everything, I can supply it all by return of email.

It’s still a frustrating experience, though. They’re really geared towards the late submitters, the last minute merchants – so even though I submit rapidly, I still have to wait ’til the processes are done and so on, and that seems to be reliant on the disorganised ones.

I’ve said repeatedly to the accountants that they should have a team that specifically deals with “easy” clients, the ones who are organised and who just get stuff done. Nothing in my accounts is complex – I already know what my 2022 Corporation Tax will be, because the prediction on the online portal is (for me) rarely out by more than a couple of quid.  So sorting out clients like me should be at most a week’s work, just get the files in, agree them with what’s been submitted, calculate the figures, and job done.  It really can’t be difficult.

But while they always say “Oh yeah, we could do that“, they never do. So I’ve done what I can, and I’ll just wait for the accountants to catch up.  It’s deeply fucking annoying, but at least I know I’m on top of things and have done what I can.

Offline (Kinda Sorta Ish)

So – I knew everything had gone too smoothly. Turns out my Sky internet connection won’t be activated for three [insert snarly sweary words here] weeks.

Now, before I go on, I have to emphasise – at least half of this is my fault. I didn’t read the “What’s Next” email completely, just looked at when the engineer would be out to fit the Sky stuff.  I absolutely accept that I should’ve read it all through properly. But I didn’t.

On the other side of that, even the engineer didn’t see the information until I showed him where it was in the email – it is not evident that This Is Important – and also they didn’t send through any confirmation text messages which would’ve also made things clear.

Anyway, despite the new place already having in all the infrastructure necessary (access point, cabling etc.) it turns out that OpenReach “need to check everything” before they can allow the connection to be made. And that takes time, because OpenReach are a) a monopoly and b) fucking useless.  I have to stay in on the day of the ‘installation’, even though they admit themselves that it is usually done remotely, and they won’t even book an appointment slot – I have to be inconvenienced all fucking day just in case there’s a problem.  You can imagine exactly how impressed I am about that one!

As it is, I’m lucky. I’ve got a mobile-internet device (which is what I’m using now) so I’m not completely offline. I’ve also managed to sort out a desk at a local new co-working space for the month, so that I can carry things on without being too inconvenienced. It’s an absolute pain in the arse, and I’m really annoyed by it all (at least partly because I didn’t read that sodding email and try to push for an earlier connection)  But it could’ve been so much worse.

As it is, I’ve got the SkyTV installed, set up, and pretty much sorted, I’ll have three or four weeks in which to learn more about the town’s facilities and centre, and… yeah, it could be worse.  Plan C would’ve involved continuing to use my current office in Milton Keynes, and just swallowing that mileage for the month. Which would’ve been even more annoying!

An Office Move

Over this second Lockdown, it appears that quite a few companies have decided to move out of the building where my office sits.  Some have found that they can cope just fine entirely working from home, some have moved elsewhere, and some (I’m pretty sure) have just given up the ghost.

However, taking some advantage of that, I’ve been able to move my office to a larger/better one with minimum hassle.

The one I was in was OK, but had an issue with *very* thin walls – studwork walls, in an 80’s open-plan setup that was then converted to house multiple small businesses – to the extent that I could hear phone calls and conversations from the offices either side of mine, with absolute clarity. (Which meant I knew *way* more about their clients than I ever wanted to)  And with the new prevalence of video-calls and so on, that’s even more of a factor.

The new one is better built, better lit, and larger. I’m paying a bit more for it, but it’s well within manageable levels.  The only downside (at the moment) is that the fluorescent tube lights in it are noisy, with a buzz that I can hear all the time.  However, I’ve raised that as an issue, and been able to get them to agree to change them to new lamps with an electronic ballast – I don’t have a clue, but apparently it’ll mean it runs silently. And if it doesn’t, well I’ll just unplug them, as I have in other offices.

Even better, the move was easy as chuff. It took two hours to move everything from one to the other, and get it all set up.  I’ve probably got some layout changes to make, a couple of things to buy (a new office chair, for example, once Lockdown is over) , but it’s all good. I’m happy with the new unit, and hopefully it’ll be home for another couple of years.

Car Costs

Last week was an expensive one (and disappointing in some ways) with regards to the car.

Firstly, on Wednesday morning it failed the MoT test – three of the four linkages on the anti-roll bars were “excessively worn” (read “fucked”) and needed replacing.  Slightly annoying/disappointing, but not unexpected at 160,000 miles. (And one of the linkages had a warning last year)

What was more annoying/disappointing was the attitude of the garage about it all, who told me they had no availability until a week on Friday (i.e. October 16th) in order to do the work. And that’s just shit.

The problem is that with the “new” MoT (it’s been around for a couple of years now, so ‘new’ is a bit of a misnomer) if the car fails, it’s not really supposed to be driven at all. With the time duration, I was OK to drive it home but then wasn’t supposed to use it again ’til it’s time to be repaired. And being stuck at home like that for ten days is not my idea of fun.

Fortunately, I had a way round it – albeit a potentially expensive one.  Hire a car to use while mine was unavailable – and then it occurred to me that there’s a KwikFit on the same site, so I gave them a call as well, and organised it for them to look at my car and do whatever was necessary. Because it was later in the day, they said it might take time to order the parts, so it might not be done ’til Saturday (still a week earlier than the original garage could do) but that was fine.  And of course it also meant I could legally get to the car-hire place!

So that’s what happened. Over to KwikFit, drop off the car and paperwork, collect the hire car, and home. All fairly easy, and a better alternative than being stuck at home, or facing any legal issues.

The next day, KwikFit gave me a call, confirmed the work, told me what it would cost, and it was all fine. So they said I could collect it Friday morning, including having re-taken the MoT test.

So all told, it could’ve been a lot worse.

The original garage have pissed me off though – I’ve had this issue before with their other dealership, and it’s frustrating. I’m happy that they’re busy, and I know there’s less availability because of social distancing and so on. All the same, if it were my business, I’d keep at least one workshop slot per day open for same-day and urgent repairs. That way these sort of things wouldn’t be a problem – and they’d show some customer service by being able to go “Oh, yeah, we can juggle this, we’ll do it today (or tomorrow at a push)“. Which would also mean the money from said work went into their account, not that of one of their competitors.

I get that they want to keep busy and maximise things, but the simple fact is that it’s cost them money – both in not having the money for the work and replacements I needed, but also in the likelihood of me going back there for any future work. Which is what makes it so sad and short-sighted.

Anyway, from my side it’s all fine, and the car’s taxed, MoTed and fully insured again.