Finally Finished

*Ages* ago (well before I moved) I bought a load of laundry pods because they were on a very good offer. (Reduced price and increased loyalty/rewards points, I think – might’ve been a multipack deal in there too)  I might even have taken advantage of that offer twice – although that was mainly through forgetting I’d done it once already. Regardless, I then didn’t get round to using them.

When I moved, I realised I still had them, so decided to use them up before going back to the methods I prefer (liquid/gel rather than pods or powder)  Somewhere along the line I also discovered I’d been using the pods incorrectly – turns out they’re supposed to go into the washing machine *first*, then the laundry on top , whereas I’d been using them in the same way as the liquid/gel methods.  Live and learn, and all that.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of acknowledging that I’ve finally – *finally!* – just used the last of those sodding pods.

The next couple of laundry loads will be a comparison exercise – do I really notice the difference?

But for now I can’t deny, I’m just happy to be at the end of the pods.

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.


Driving Change – Update/At Last

At the start of November, I had to buy a new car, and used Cazoo to do so.  Today, I finally received one.  It has been a long process!

The first one I bought (a Kia Optima) was due to be delivered on November 6th.  That day, after the delivery slot had closed, they called and said “While we were checking it, we found a problem with the rear bumper, so we need to respray it.  No, I don’t know how long it’ll take, I’ll call you back“.  (Spoiler : They didn’t call back)  Not a great start to things, but… OK, I guess that at least they’d checked it.

Time went on. They came back a few days later, still saying “There’s a problem, we don’t quite know how long it’ll take“. I kept getting “we’ll let you know [in a couple of days time] when we know more” (which they never did, I had to call each time)  We got to two weeks late, in which time “a problem with the bumper” had turned into “a problem with the gearbox” (on an auto box with less than 30,000 miles on it?!?) had turned into “we need to replace the gearbox, and don’t know how long that’ll take“.

At that point, they decided to take the Kia off-sale, and refunded my money.  Which was deeply annoying. Understandable in the circumstances, but annoying all the same.

However, they offered a discount on another purchase with them (and had already offered a day-rate for inconvenience and travel costs) so I stuck with it, and ordered another car – this time a Vauxhall Insignia of similar age, and similar low mileage. (Under 20,000 miles for a seven-year-old car)

Thankfully, that one arrived today – and all seems to be OK so far. It’s had a small (in my terms) test-run to  make sure it’s not totally rotten, and it’s going to get some testing over the next couple of weeks. (In that we’ll be covering a mileage in two weeks that is on a par with what it’s been doing annually so far!)  As with the Kia, I’m as protected as possible – if it’s shit this week, it can go back with no penalty. From there it’s got a year’s warranty including Roadside Assistance, and it’s been paid with a credit card for that Section 75 protection.

Mind you, at the moment I wouldn’t recommend Cazoo to anyone.  I’m hoping that this second purchase might ease my dislike of them – but the entire experience has been an utter, utter shambles. I suspect that they’re OK so long as everything runs smoothly and to the script, but as soon as things go awry they’re all at sea and nothing short of fucking useless.

  • To date, there’s been absolutely no apology from them for pissing me about.
  • They assigned someone as a “case manager”, but it took a week to even discover that. Additionally, there’ve never been any direct contact details – everything goes through their generic customer-service email account.
  • That “case manager” couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag.  They had absolutely no understanding of things, and were strictly stuck to their script with zero flexibility.
  • That “case manager” has also completely failed to escalate things as they got worse – or at least, if they have escalated, that’s never been made clear to me.
  • The daily rate for “travel costs and inconvenience” was fairly pathetic at the beginning, and Cazoo then tried to reduce it during this whole process. (Sadly – for them – they’d named the rate in their early emails, so they were knackered on trying to reduce it)
  • However, for some reason they’ve wanted receipts to prove I’ve had travel costs – God knows why, just paper-pushing bean-counters – and that caused real confusion with the case manager.  No matter how many times I explained that I wouldn’t get a receipt until I’d paid for the extended car hire (and that wouldn’t happen until I’d taken delivery of a new car) we were stuck on the “But we need a receipt” loop.
    I ended up going to the hire company and closed off one hire (and then started a new one) in order to get that receipt.  Utterly farcical.

There’s still going to be some stuff ongoing in this – yes, they’re paying the daily travel costs rate, but that’s less than half the cost of the car hire I’ve had to have while they’ve been pissing about. I’ve been reasonable, in that I originally had a week’s rental to cover over the first delivery date and I won’t include that initial period in what they need to repay.  But the subsequent three weeks hire have been entirely down to Cazoo messing things about, so I feel it’s only fair for them to pay for that.

So once I’ve paid for the final week (this Friday, assuming that the Vectra stays being decent) then I’ll send the receipts and an invoice (less what they’ve already paid) to them. From there it’ll be interesting to see what happens – I know what my expectations on it are, but we’ll see.

Right now, I’m just hoping that everything is now as done as possible. This month has been a ton of unnecessary hassle, and it’d be good to end the year with no further fuckery.

Changes, Privilege, and Good Fortune

Every so often, in situations like this week’s need to organise a change of cars, I sit back and realise just how lucky I am.

Ten years ago I was just out of my official bankruptcy period, with another five years to come with it still on my credit record. I was doing OK, but something like this week would still have made life interesting. (As it was, I did have to go through a car change while in that bankruptcy period, but thankfully got through it OK because the administration people were excellent)

It’s taken a long time, but everything since then has been in a positive direction, and I’m happy with it all.  It leaves me somewhat gobsmacked that now I can again pay for a car on a credit card (and once everything’s gone through, I’ll move it all to an interest-free balance-transfer card)  with no real hassle.

Hopefully the new car will also not need anything major for a while (fingers epically crossed!) which will also help a lot.

Obviously, it’s more debt than I’d ideally like to be in – but it’s feasible/affordable, and I can sort the rest.  It might even give me some impetus for getting some other things off the ground and get some extra income that way.  We’ll see.

Regardless though, it’s good to have these occasional reminders that I’m fortunate enough to be in a good place, and simply appreciate that simple fact.

Finance Trials

Over the last few months I’ve been intermittently fighting with two different finance companies about their shitty ways of handling things. I’m not going to name names (yet) so it’ll be “Company A” and “Company B”

Company A

The shorter of the disputes started back in June when I logged in to the app for their credit card, and discovered that my credit limit had dropped from around £6,000 to £1,000.  With no notice or warning. Which is, it’s fair to say, a bit of a concern…

I rang them (I know, old school!) to find out what was going on, and was told “Oh, well you weren’t using your full credit limit, so we dropped it”.  Which is, to be honest, well within their rights – I wasn’t using it, and *shrug*.  But it’s still not right to do so without any notice or warning – if they’re increasing the limit they give you 30 days notice and allow you to decline the change, so why not do the same for a decrease?

I got the change rescinded, but made a complaint about how it had been done. There could’ve been any number of reason why I might’ve been relying on that card/limit that Company A were unaware of (if I’d been getting the car significantly repaired, as one example) and where a sudden drop would’ve landed me in the shit.  (Fortunately that wasn’t the case – but they didn’t know that)

Alongside that, a drop in credit limit would almost certainly have a negative effect with the credit-scoring people – at a bare minimum it would have raised the Credit Utilisation percentage (the amount of your available credit that you’re actually using)  But it also makes other lenders twitchy – that whole perception of “why would Company A drop the limit if they didn’t think there was a problem?” and so on, and would’ve lessened my credit score as a result.

I got the response from them last week that my complaint wasn’t being upheld “because we can’t find any errors in how we administered your account”.  Which again is (kinda sorta) true/fair. Errors weren’t made in the decisions (although who ever heard of a credit card company decreasing a limit?!?)  But errors were definitely made in how that decision was then actioned, which was the actual reason for the complaint.

So today that’s gone off to the Financial Ombudsman for them to have a look at.

Company B

Company B’s problem has been *far* more long-winded.  Back in December I had fraudulent transactions made on the card, which got spotted and reported.  No idea where that leak came from, as it wasn’t a card I used often, but there we go. Stuff happens.

When I next used the app, as a result of the fraud, I had a flag put on for “heightened security”. Just to check it was me, verify transactions etc. And then they sent me a new card (as expected)

Only somewhere in that process, things went tits-up.  I went through the “heightened security” checks, validated myself, had to call them (I know, old school again!) and that should’ve been that.  But instead, the app locked up, and stayed that way – every time I went through the process for registering the new card in the app, it froze on insisting I needed to give those checks again. I did that four times, with Company B saying each time that they couldn’t understand why it was still wanting those checks, I’d definitely already done them.

I *suspect* that what happened was a clash – the “heightened security” was on the old card, which then got cancelled, but somewhere in the depths of their system, it wasn’t cleared in my account. So when I registered new card, it was still checking back and seeing that flag from old card.

Anyway, complaints (yes, plural) were made – firstly because of how badly it was handled (they agreed, and I got their default compensation payment) and then because the problem was *still* ongoing three months later, I couldn’t log in to the app.  That ended up going through their app support team, who might as well have been a black hole for all I heard from them.  And so I gave up for a while, and left it. I wasn’t using the card, didn’t have any payments to make, so *shrug* what the hell. Their problem, not mine.

Last week I reinstalled the app again, just to see. It’d been six months, after all…

And lo, it finally worked.  No-one from Company B had been in touch, despite those outstanding complaints and support issues, but at least it was working.

I got back in touch with Complaints because not being told was a bit shit, and they agreed. (In an hour-long phone call)  It hadn’t been handled well, the support team were rotten, blah blah.

So I’ve had another default compensation payment out of them, and it’s now all done and dusted.


All told, life could be worse.  I’m stupidly lucky to be in the position I’m in now, where neither of those issues has actually caused me any more inconvenience than yelling “Oh for fuck’s sake” on a regular basis.

But both of these companies are supposedly specialists in dealing with people with credit issues – as I was when I got them – yet haven’t seemed to have any real insight on how these issues could/would affect someone who truly was still having those issues, or anyone for whom life was a bit tight at present. (and god, who *isn’t* in that situation to some degree or other – even if it’s “just” being aware of how much prices have risen and so on?)

As such, I’ll be the person to use that fortune/luck and privilege to be able to have the time and energy to raise these complaints and hopefully make things better as a whole.

But really, neither of these things should ever have been as much of a problem as they turned out to be.  And that’s what makes it all so frustrating.

Spare Space

One of the reasons for my move last year was to have a bigger house, with space to have a home-office and so on, rather than Tiny House and also renting an office in Milton Keynes.

It is lovely to have a larger house, to have space for bookcases (and to have all my books out of boxes for the first time in Far Too Long) and to have that home office and so on.

However…  I find that most of the time I’m still in “Tiny House” mode mentally, in that I don’t actually use that home office. It’s there, and I know it’s there, it’s just that I forget when it comes to actually working, so a lot of that is still done down in the living room instead.  Additionally, I don’t yet really sit in the other part (that was the ‘dining room’, and is now ‘book room’) as a matter of course. I’ve used it a couple of times – and suspect I’ll use it more in spring/summer with some natural light coming through.

Both rooms are fine, and fit for their intended purposes. I just… don’t use them properly. Yet.

Maybe I’m expecting too much of myself. It’s not even six months that I’ve been in this place yet, and I was in Tiny House for over a decade, so in some ways it’s not surprising that I haven’t really made the mental switch yet.

I will do. I’ll get back into the mindset, I’m sure, and I’ll make use of the rooms the way I meant to.  It’s just taking me longer than I thought it would.

Working It Out

Over the last five years I’ve been involved with a fitness group in Bedford that was set up for overweight men over 40. We started as part of a larger organisation that did three months of longer sessions including an hour of information about nutrition, portion sizes etc., and an hour of physical exercise routines.  It was a fairly decent programme, and certainly helped some of the group with losing weight.

Once that first course was over, the organisation lost the contract they had with the local authorities, so it all collapsed a bit.  However, we worked with the trainer who did the exercise side, found a village hall in Bedford that could/would take us, and spawned off into our own group – and then two other related ones in other nearby locations where that organisation had also held courses.

The trainer turned out to be fairly disorganised and flaky, but it gave us a good grounding in what we wanted, and we ended up with a decent group that worked fairly well and met twice a week for an hour’s workout session.  Not really enough to enforce weight loss, but also far better than nothing.

Just under three years ago the trainer buggered off to an overseas posting, and our group was the only one that had anyone daft enough to step up and keep it going, organising the sessions and workouts, as well as paying for the centre we used and so on. The trainer came back to take it all back, but proved to be even flakier, and quit completely about eighteen months ago.

So at that point I took it over completely. I sorted out insurance, organised workouts, and sorted out stuff that had always been promised previously but had never appeared.  I’ve kept it going since then, and it’s been fairly successful, keeping about 80% of the initial members.

When I moved, it was just coming up to the end of the current quarter’s sessions, but without enough time to hand it over cleanly to someone else – so I made the decision that I’d be the one to keep it running ’til the end of 2022.  It’s added a lot of mileage over the last three months, and been a bit of a bind, but in general it’s been worth the effort.

Now, though, I’m done.  Things didn’t work out perfectly on timing, so last week was my final session – and today is the first time since moving here that I’m not now belting down the M1 to do the group and then come home. And that’s a very odd feeling after so long (both there and here) but also quite a nice one.

I’m honestly not sure if the group will continue now I’m done with it.  The other members have said they want to do it, but no-one’s been prepared to take on the whole thing so it’s now being “run” by three of them (which amuses me quite a bit, having done the entire thing on my own as well as that extra dollop of mileage in the last three months) and we’ll see how it goes.   I’ve been able to hand it over as ethically as possible – they’ve got a whole load of prepared workouts and so on, so it should actually be easy to run, but… I don’t know.  I hope it does, but I’m not holding out much hope.

But anyway, I’m going to be sitting here doing my own thing on a Monday evening for the first time in far too long, and I’m pretty happy about that.