We are to Ebay as Lance Armstrong is to cycling

From 2001 up until quite recently, we were the ‘poster boys’ of Ebay. Not only were we Top Rated Sellers providing a premium service with a Powerseller status and the first to be offered new trials and products, but we’d also managed to keep a 100% positive rating for almost the entire 12 years we’d been trading over nearly 10,000 transactions totaling around £200,000. Anyone who’s ever had an Ebay account knows that’s really quite some feat and, I can assure you, it took some serious effort to keep that many people happy!

But the extra mile was worth it. Our feedback was exceptional, with happy customers gushing over the service they got in both feedback form and directly by some incredibly touching emails. Our repeat purchase levels were off the charts as were our customer satisfaction scores.When we rang Ebay for any issues, we were repeatedly commended on our performance, told what a great example we were, and how much Ebay needed sellers like us. Despite the extra work, it was very satisfying and our reputation grew and grew. By July 2016, we’d reached 7381 positive feedback at 100% satisfaction and customers could see we had years of top rated sales behind us. Continue reading “We are to Ebay as Lance Armstrong is to cycling”

Voting out, those pesky kids and following the money.

Well, this is a blog I thought I’d never write! So, after exercising my democratic right to vote in the recent referendum, a right won for me at great cost by my predecessors on this earth, I find my Facebook page full of people directly or indirectly attacking the process, or my own views, providing ceaseless ‘evidence’ as to why it’s a terrible idea and demanding not only a new referendum (presumably so that a ‘proper’ result can be achieved by the Remainers) but also ALL the answers to ‘what happens now’ like I’m sort sort of prophet-cum-expert on all things Brexit. After all, I voted that way, right?

So let’s clear a few things up. Just from my perspective of course, not the whole thing, since that’s way beyond my remit. Let’s start with the referendum itself.

It’s democracy. That’s how it works. You give the people a choice and you’d better be prepared for the outcome. The majority spoke, 52% to 48%. Not a massive margin admittedly (what’s a million and a half people between friends?!) but a winning vote by any standard. And did you know, by the way, that split by MP constituency, 422 out of 650 voted ‘Leave’. That’s just shy of 65% to 35% or, translated into General Election terms, a pretty bloody impressive victory. Put it this way, the current majority Conservative government has 330 seats. Yup, go check it, it’s all true. Continue reading “Voting out, those pesky kids and following the money.”

The shocking case of the Woolworths fiver

Some years ago, I took a routine trip into Guildford town centre to buy a couple of items I needed from our local Woolies. It was for the shop I had in the town at the time – Quarks Internet Cafe – so I had taken cash from the till to be replaced with the receipt and the change as was our usual practice.

It was a couple of small items and the bill was less than £5. I handed over a tenner and received my change which consisted of some coins and an Isle of Man £5 note. Now, only some people know that Isle of Man coins and notes are not generally accepted by retailers and are, technically, not legal tender in the UK. That said, most banks will exchange them for a UK equivalent. So, not a real problem in practice, but the point was I really would have liked my change in a format that the next shop would accept to save me going to a bank or going back to the shop at the other end of town.

Continue reading “The shocking case of the Woolworths fiver”

Review of Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back

So, despite having countless articles, stories and other random pieces sitting the drawer ready to be published, I have, unexpectedly, decided to ignore them all and update the blog with something I did last night. The reason? At the time of writing there are still four weeks of Secret Cinema’s “Empire Strikes Back” event left and, well, if you’re a Star Wars fan you need to go. Actually if you’re not a Star Wars fan you need to go. This is an astonishing event and worth every penny of it’s hefty price tag.

It’s tricky to review in detail because it’s secret by name and secret by nature. The location is not revealed to you until 48 hours before your departure (though it’s no real secret that it’s in London somewhere), no phone or camera are allowed at any time, and all correspondence is in ‘code’. In truth, as much as I want to tell you all the details and gush about it, it’s far, far better if I don’t. Better for you, that is, the surprises should be surprises. I may do an updated blog after the event has finished with all the details if there’s any demand, but we’ll see. Continue reading “Review of Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back”

The old man, the cafe and me.

Simple little tale and completely and utterly true. It happened in Quantum Web Café no more than two weeks ago, a web café I own in Reading. Although fully staffed, I sometimes I work the shop floor myself to keep my hand in. It’s also a great way to get real feedback and really understand any issues that the guys may have raised.

It was a warm sunny morning and I’d not long opened the store. I do like working the shop floor sometimes as I get to meet the customers, the vast majority of whom are fun, respectful, polite or at the very least harmless. The grumpy or difficult ones are actually few and far between, possibly because we’re pretty laid back ourselves. There are many regulars both for internet and just lunches etc, but everyday we also see new customers coming through, which is great.

This particular morning, a very elderly gentleman shuffled into the café. He was probably in his late eighties or early nineties, but well dressed, neatly groomed and clearly still mobile, albeit with the aid of a walking stick. I gave him my usual cheery ‘good morning’ and asked if he needed any help. Continue reading “The old man, the cafe and me.”

E-on, Scammers, and the guy who called back.

Eon Energy love me. They must do. they call me at least once a day. Every single day and have done for at least three years. I always know it’s them because they always start the call in a thick Indian accent and say “Hello, can I speak to Meester Dee-Urn pliz?”

In the early days I used to politely request they take me off their calling list, or make a joke of it, or enquire why they kept calling me. After a few weeks, this had progressed to pretending I was someone else, imitating them on the phone, speaking in various accents from around the world, speaking gibberish, repeating word for word what they were saying until they gave up, pretending to be a burglar who happened to answer the phone, going to get ‘Meester Dee-Urn’ and then leaving the phone on the table for twenty minutes at a time, leading them on and pretending to be really interested and then say ‘just kidding mate’ at the end, or just hanging up if I was busy. All to no avail. Continue reading “E-on, Scammers, and the guy who called back.”

Innocence and Dancing Ducks

It’s been some time since I’ve actually contributed to the blog, although there are copious pages of scribbling waiting to be converted into readable text in due course. But today, my little girl inspired me to write a story telling the world what happened to her this typical Tuesday.

Anya loves to dance … all the time

It was 4.45 when the Outlook reminder came up to tell us that Anya’s second MMR jab was due at 5pm. We’d forgotten of course, but luckily the surgery was only a 5 minutes’ drive away, so it was all still possible. As I looked at Clare’s face, I could tell she was not keen on taking her daughter to be stabbed in the arm twice, which is why I had been volunteered for almost all injections to date. It simply upset her too much.

I glanced at Anya who was sitting at the dining room table with grandma colouring in a thickly lined image with a large blue pen, oblivious to the discussion concerning her veins that was going on a few feet away. Realising that we only had minutes to spare and there was going to be no mind changing, I leapt into action. Continue reading “Innocence and Dancing Ducks”

Destiny vs embarrassment

This is simply a retelling one of those moments in life where you become aware of something and have an urge to take a specific action. The trouble is that the action you want to take is one of those that you normally only see in a scene from a film, which always either ends well for the hero of that scene, or, by design, feeds the story along in a specific way for a specific purpose. How many times have we all seen or witnessed something and wanted to be the one who intervened in an ‘I’m Spartacus’ attention-demanding way? How many times have we afterwards said to people who experienced the same thing “I was going to say this” or “I was going to do that” only to have them reply “me too!” and yet none of us did. Trouble is, it takes some serious balls to that, but even that’s not really the problem. It’s more a question of doubt – could the action create more problems that it solves? Could it perceived incorrectly and therefore have the wrong motives assigned? What if the information you’re working on has been gotten ‘illegally?’ Where do you stand then? Continue reading “Destiny vs embarrassment”

The funny side of terror suspects

It’s very difficult, of course, to write a story that captures the moment of extreme laughter in a way that is meaningful to a reader sitting, well, where you are now. I bet you’ve tried it yourself, explaining to someone who was in no way connected to the event you are recounting, the circumstances that led to ‘everyone laughing hysterically’ only to be greeted with a polite smile on reaching the punchline. This is usually followed by a slight pause and either party offering the universal ‘get out of jail free’ card of ‘you had to be there’.

Even knowing that my efforts will therefore most likely be in vain,  I still feel that I have to share this moment with you. For the people involved, it is still, even all these years later, oft referred to, and invariably makes me smile just thinking about it, which is exactly what is happening right now as my fingers dance over the keyboard. Continue reading “The funny side of terror suspects”

Measure twice, cut once

Originally written a couple of weeks after my son, Jed’s, birth this was an accurate account of what happened and the unexpected complications we experienced. An edited version was published in one of the Maternity publications, but I forget which now. It’s long, but then a lot happened! Enjoy!

Measure twice, Cut once

A less than routine birth from a partner’s perspective

It was never routine for us. My partner, Clare, had had major surgery some ten years previously for a serious Crohn’s attack – a rather nasty, incurable and, in my opinion, completely pointless infection of the intestine and bowels – and been told that child bearing could be life threatening for her. This was a belief long held by her family who were visibly shaken when they found out she was pregnant. A little more complicated, sure, but not life threatening if all went well. All we needed to do was avoid a C section to be safe.

Hah. Continue reading “Measure twice, cut once”