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2 January 2013

Mrs Blog goes to lunch

I hate it in a restaurant when I have to send something back and today that took the shine off what would have otherwise been an excellent lunch at Lilium restaurant in Arrecife in Lanzarote. The starters were quite good, fried cheese for hubby. He ordered badly expecting goat cheese with blackberry sauce and some salad. Instead it was little triangles covered in breadcrumbs nicely presented with a very film of blackberry sauce underneath. My starter, new potatoes with mushrooms and foie sauce, mildly earthy and subtle. Too many "crisps" though (not new potatoes) aka thin fried potatoes. The mushroom juice was very well reduced and the courgette slice was delicious.

The wine was excellent. We started with 2 glasses and then requested the rest of the bottle, very good Rioja.

The main course: hubby had duck with fig purée, he said "delicious just right". Sadly my main course, fillet steak, had to go back. It was cooked properly, rare as I like it, and looked great, but you couldn’t cut through it with a steak knife. It was fibrous, tough and unyielding. The chef immediately came to our table and offered to replace it which he did and the 2nd time round it was excellent, exactly as it should have been the first time. The chef blamed lack of attention in the kitchen following the New Year holiday. He declined hubby’s invitation to cut through the fillet steak himself saying he trusted us. I don’t like returning food in restaurants although sometimes it’s necessary but I find it stressful. We had no appetite for dessert. A complimentary shot of muscatel wine that came with the bill was delightful. And the bill was reasonable. It’s just a shame that it had such a fibrous hiccup in the middle. Without that I wouldn’t have hesitated in going back. It’s a shame you only get one go at making a first impression.

Oh and the wifi – we asked for the code for the wifi and after some whispered discussion behind the counter one of the waitresses was dispatched somewhere deep under the counter emerging after 10 mins with a sheet of A4 paper containing what looked like the admin password to the restaurant’s router. Unfortunately the 20 digit code didn’t give us access to wifi, we couldn’t work out the ones from the "l’s" and the zeros from the noughts. Apart from that it still didn’t work I’m sure if we had persisted another half an hour we would have got access as the staff all seemed willing to help. It seemed to me that it was the first time they had ever been asked for the wifi access code before. Perhaps given a few more days to recover from New Year everything will work like clockwork

Vamos a ver
[we’ll see]

Lilium restaurant arrecife
12 October 2012

Closure of Streamline Merchant account - Terminal Return

An interesting letter from Streamline Merchant services plopped through my letterbox a few days ago. We have closed our Streamline merchant account in favour of HSBC, and understandably Streamline want their terminal back.

The letter said "Important – please read". Well I would read it if I could. A new photocopier drum or some new toner wouldn’t go amiss Streamline. Or an admin assistant who could use their initiative would be useful. What do you think Streamline? Is this acceptable? Not sure what corporate image you hope to portray by sending out idiotic stuff like this.

Streamline merchant terminal return
5 August 2012

The annoying little hotel keycard

The Royal Corinthia Hotel in Budapest is one of my most favourite hotels in the whole world. However it has one very annoying problem, which apparently is unsolvable, the bedroom keycards.

Each and every day I stay at the Royal Corinthia my keycard gets demagnetised and then of course doesn’t work in the bedroom door. Each and every day I traipse back and forth between my bedroom and Reception to get a new keycard. Tomorrow … I will be back.

Other hotels, no problem.

The solution apparently is to keep the keycard away from anything magnetic including phones and electronic toys! However my handbag has a magnetic clasp, my glasses case has a magnetic snap shut mechanism, my purse has a magnetic catch, and … my phone and my iPad are inside my handbag … along with the key card.

The Plan B solution, very helpfully offered by the reception staff, is to keep the keycard in my pocket … I’m a girl … I don’t have any pockets!

My husband says the hotel should recognise that girls are incompetent at looking after room keys so they shouldn’t be given one. Simple solution from a man.

Room 2306

29 July 2012

Santander how free is your business banking

Here is a copy of letter I’ve just sent to the Santander complaints team.

Lauren Kennedy
Team Manager
Santander Complaints Team
301 Vincent Street
G2 5NT

Dear Ms Kennedy

Thank you for your letter dated 23 July in response to my complaint. The free forever bank account was sold to me as “free forever*” and the *star was subject to “transaction limits” and “available to businesses with a turnover of 1 million or less”.  Nowhere did it mention *subject to terms and conditions.  

I would be grateful if you could let me know what your bank employee could possibly have been referring to with regard to “free” and “forever”.  My understanding at the time was that free meant “no charge” and forever meant “without end”.

I would also be grateful if you would comment on the following statement which was on promotional material at the time:

“Many of our competitors business bank accounts are only free for a short time, or require a minimum balance.  We only charge you for non-standard services, for details of these charges click here. Or if you exceed our transaction limits.   The rest is free. Forever”

I look forward to your comments.

Yours sincerely

And here is a screenshot of the advert

Santander free forever banking
Santander renege on their FREE FOREVER promise … now withdrawn
29 July 2012

Santander Bank wastes money when replying to customer about the free forever promise

Here is a useful tip Santander. Why don’t you send letters to customers in small envelopes instead of using large A4 envelopes, that way you will pay less postage.

I received a 2-page A4 letter and a small booklet from Santander the other day rattling around in a LARGE A4 envelope in response to my complaint about their "free forever" promise which is now no longer free and no longer forever. The letter could easily have been folded to fit inside a much smaller envelope.

Just in case you don’t run a "how to fold an A4 sheet of paper" training course for your employees Santander, here are some simple instructions for them:

Step 1 Employee asks a simple question
"Do I really need to use an A4 envelope" If no then go onto the next step

Santander A4 envelope

Step 2
Make one fold as below, proceed to Step 3

Santander A4 envelope

Step 3
Make 2nd fold as below, proceed to Step 4

Santander A4 envelope

Step 4
Carefully place letter inside a small envelope as below, proceed to Step 5

Santander A4 envelope

Step 5
Seal envelope as below

Santander A4 envelope

Bingo, the employee has just saved Santander Bank 19p (2nd class postage for a small envelope is 50p, 2nd class postage for a large envelope is 69p, difference = 19p). 19p for each small envelope used.

28 July 2012

No more free listings in the Thomson Local Directory business categories

It appears that Thomson Local have changed their advertising structure this year. I’ve just received my local 2012-13 directory which covers a wide area taking in several towns and villages. A quick look inside the new directory reveals that Thomson Local have removed most of the entries from the front section of the book, the one where all businesses are listed in categories, eg solicitors, accountants, plumbers and the like. The only businesses now appearing in this "business by type" section are the ones that have paid for an advert (apart from some community entries such as schools and churches) unlike last year when most businesses in the local area were listed in amongst the paid/advert ones. And so there was trust, trust that you could make an informed choice from a list of business services, and trust that there was a real selection. Not just a choice from a bunch of paid listings.

When someone now picks up the Thomson Local to look inside the first thing they might notice is the lack of local businesses mentioned in the front section. Is it really believable that there only two accountants in this vast area, only one joiner and carpenter, only one hairdresser and so on and so on. Most people are going to glance inside the directory, not find what they are looking for and bin it especially as you need +3 reading glasses to go anywhere near it. It used to be a great directory, sadly no longer.

Not a great business plan for continued survival Thomson Local.

29 June 2012

Streamline and the NatWest RBS problem

It seems that businesses and shops who take Streamline credit card payments are the latest ones to be affected in the NatWest RBS saga.

We do not bank with NatWest but we do use Streamline to process our credit and debit card payments from customers and … RBS process credit and debit cards for Streamline! It appears that Streamline are not getting any funds through from RBS so are not paying us the "Streamline customers". Wednesday’s payment (20 June) has not yet appeared in our bank account yet but surprisingly Thursday and Friday payments did appear. OK one day wasn’t bad, and it will be nice to know when that will be paid, but now it’s not just one day’s takings that haven’t been paid. Monday and Tuesday’s payments (25 and 26 June) this week haven’t been paid into our bank account yet.

So this NatWest RBS "problem" has now started to affect any businesses who use Streamline for card payments. So are any businesses getting any money through from Streamline? Possibly not. Some businesses won’t be able to go on for long without any money coming in.

If this is not fixed by Monday we are seriously thinking of temporarily not taking credit and debit cards for a few days or weeks until it is all sorted out. It will be interesting asking customers on Monday if they have an alternate means of paying. I wonder how many of them still carry cheque books around with them? I suspect very few. This is turning into a HUGE knock on problem.

I want to know where all this money is, it can’t all be floating around in cyberspace. Some bank somewhere must have all this money, or at least I jolly well hope so. Streamline must be owed millions by RBS now. Here is the latest message on their website

Update from Streamline 29 June 2012
We are aware that some of our customers have not received funds as a direct result of the ongoing technical problems being experienced by RBS Group. These problems are beyond our control, but we fully appreciate the difficulties our customers are experiencing. We are liaising very closely with RBS so that we can keep everyone updated. They understand, as do we, that our customers have been let down. RBS have assured us that they are doing everything they can to restore the service back to the level that our customers expect, but it is clear that there is still work to do. As long as there is, we will continue to do everything we can to make sure that our customers are inconvenienced as little as possible. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused
10 May 2012

Thank you for listening NatWest

Success, NatWest have listened … to me … a mere customer, and they have overturned their decision to close my account.

So why exactly did NatWest overturn their decision so quickly? My blog posts, my Facebook campaign, my Twitter campaign? Perhaps they all helped, who knows, but probably the most important thing in the swift decision was that I actually knew someone in NatWest. It always helps to know someone!

I knew one of the local business managers, bizarrely not because of my NatWest account but through my local Chamber of Commerce. Thanks Andy, you were fantastic. Andy was willing to "fight my corner" and speak to his Area Director who was able to speak to someone senior enough in NatWest to get beyond the robotically repeated "we are going to close your account". Then a quick run through my absolutely impeccable personal finances produced the almost immediate over turning of the decision and a 4 page "we are sorry" letter from Card Services, £270 in compensation and an end to the whole sorry saga.

NatWest Helpful Banking

"Helpful Banking" Hmmm … without the local guys NatWest you would be in trouble. They are the ones who care about customers, they are the ones who care about your reputation, and they are the ones who offer the "helpful banking". NatWest you should do well to remember that

30 April 2012

Apathy at the Hilton Hotel Liverpool One

What is it with the Liverpool Hilton? The restaurant waiting staff are without doubt the most dozy hotel staff I have ever had the misfortune to come across in a long time.  At breakfast most of them looked as though they were going to fall asleep standing up. The exception being the "greeting" orange juice girl who was extremely efficient … at serving orange juice. So what were my main gripes:

  • the lack of coffee at breakfast
  • the tables laden with dirty plates, and … wait for it …
  • the girls who constantly touched their faces/wiped their noses with their hands and then … touched the “business” end of the “clean” spoon, the fork and the knife. Infection control? Hmmm. I was so shocked by this practice that I spoke to the duty manager immediately. However 2 days later they were back to their old habits again.  One girl in particular on my last morning constant touched her nose, her hand only leaving her nose alone every few seconds to lethargically lift up the odd dirty plate from the table.

I can accept tables laden with dirty crockery if a restaurant is very busy and all the staff are occupied but it is not acceptable if a group of four staff have time to gossip in a huddle around the entrance till. And then there was the egg station. At breakfast the freshly cooked egg station was unmanned more often than it was manned.

Hilton Hotel Liverpool restaurant
Missing staff at the "egg station"

I could understand this if enough pre-cooked eggs were available. But no, the whole egg section next to the range was EMPTY. On telling the girl when she eventually turned up that there were no poached or fried eggs available and that several people had gone away disappointed she said to me “well there’s scrambled egg over there” waving her hand to some far flung corner of the room. Not much use if you want a poached egg!
Now the coffee …  the lack of coffee at breakfast seriously got to me. What I want at breakfast are several cups of coffee. I don’t want coffee 15 minutes after I sit down and I don’t want to have to get up and walk to where it is “hidden” behind some till at the other side of the room.

Hilton Hotel Liverpool
My empty Coffee Cup
Hilton Hotel Liverpool
Yes … it’s empty again!

Why does the hotel employ a gormless dozy individual to walk round the tables in a daze asking the odd person or two if they want coffee. Why don’t the staff ask everyone if they want coffee and walk round the room with a purpose and do the job properly. Alternatively a much better idea is to have coffee available for guests to help themselves to, but alas no … not in keeping with Hilton policy for the guests to help themselves. The coffee rationing at breakfast was insane.

Late check out? Yes please, thank you very much. It would be rather interesting to know what happens when a guest asks for and is granted a late check out. Do the Reception staff just blindly say “yes” and then tap, tap, tap the information into thin air ???  Do they share the information with other employees? Not a chance. I had housekeeping trying to chase me out of the room (very politely though!) 2 hours before my check out saying they “hadn’t been told”. Then I had Reception ringing me telling me that it was past the check out time … she also “hadn’t been told”.  On actual check out I found out it was on the computer all along. Not much good if you don’t look at it!

And the god-awful noise from the thumping music in reception in the evening had to be heard to be believed. Six bouncers on duty on Friday  and Saturday night. I suppose they were needed to keep all the girls and boys under control that the thumping music attracted. I have never before stayed at a hotel that required six burly bouncers on the door in the evening. The difference between the hotel during the sedate "midweek" part of my stay to the insane noise during the "weekend" part of my stay  was well … not on the same planet. I couldn’t quite work out why the Trip Advisor reports were either fantastic or terrible. I know why now. If you stay during the week it’s fine. If you stay at weekends it most definitely is not fine!

On a positive note, the beds were exceptionally comfortable and the duvets and pillows unbelievably fab. And the hotel was incredibly convenient for the Albert Dock museums and next door to a John Lewis … shopping and culture heaven. Not much else to commend the Hilton Liverpool One though. The employees I found worthy of very special mention … well there were only a couple … and they were concierge (Bill, Darren and Gerald) … and housekeeping (fantastically polite). And oh nearly forgot Room Service who were helpful, friendly and efficient.

In summary, fab during the week … unless you want coffee at breakfast … And then of course there are the poor infection control practices to contend with. But don’t touch the Liverpool Hilton with a barge pole at the weekend . Not sure it warrants its 5 stars from Scores on the Doors http://www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk/business/hilton-liverpool-merseyside-459504.html