Tuesday 13 December 2005

Christmas hassle.

The thing about having lots of people round for Christmas is that it may require the acquisition of a bigger table than one currently has. In our case, that is the case. We are getting our table from Homebase, 'cause it's cheap and we're skint — and because they promised to deliver within two weeks. Three weeks ago.

So I rang up on Saturday and asked when it would be arriving, and they said the first week of January. They also said (because, presumably, they don't like their customers to think that their service is only slightly crap) that the salesman who sold us the table, whom we told it was for Christmas dinner, must have known at the time that it would not arrive till January.

So I went into the shop and asked not only for a refund but for compensation too, on the grounds that their lying to us had caused us a delay which now meant that we had no time left to get a table from anyone else. And the manager I spoke to agreed with me, which was nice, and sold us a much nicer table, which came with chairs (which we needed anyway), at an insanely low price. It was a very good example of how to deal with a complaint: he solved our problem, made us happy, gave us compensation, yet still got a bit of extra money out of us. Well done.

And the big thing about this new table, other than its bigness, its wooden niceness, and its coming-with-chairsness, is that it's in stock. We were promised it would be delivered today, and, now, it looks like it might well be. But not until after some bonus ineptitude on Homebase's part.

They were going to call us "first thing" to let us know when it would arrive. I call today, long after what I think is first thing, and they tell me that their delivery driver doesn't even turn up till ten o'clock these days. Hmm. So I ring again at about ten-thirty, and they have no record of my name, my address, my purchase, or the delivery. Bollocks.

To cut a long and thoroughly uninteresting story short, it looks like it's all sorted out now. What I really wanted to write about was their excuse for the mix-up.

The reason they had no record of the scheduled delivery was, they tell me, that the delivery driver already had everything on his truck. Got that? If they're delivering something, it's on the truck; if it's on the truck, they don't know they're delivering it. Presumably, the only deliveries they do have a record of are the ones that they aren't actually making.

Our table and chairs are, they tell me, "being loaded onto the truck now." These are the ones that were (see above) already on the truck.

If they get us our table, I shall choose not to care that they're lunatics.


The table did arrive. But the saga is not over.

It's a flat-pack, which, being a dab hand with a screwdriver, I generally don't mind. The bolts for assembling the table have allen-key heads, typically. One of them, however, just had the outline of a hexagon but no actual hole to put the allen key in, making it completely useless. (Remember the days when these things always came with a few too many screws and bolts, in case of loss or damage or mistakes? Was that really so expensive that flat-pack manufacturers can't afford to do it any more?) And one of the struts of the table was split. That's pretty bad quality control.

So I went back to Homebase last night to exchange the dodgy parts. Despite not quibbling with me at all, it still took them over half an hour to do. The first fifteen minutes of that was spent repeatedly calling one particular employee over the tannoy. It seems that he is the only one who can exchange parts; if he doesn't answer when called, all anyone can do is stand around helplessly. Great.

What is particularly annoying about the half-hour of dawdling is having to go through it again this evening, because I've since discovered one of the other bolts is badly bent. Oh, and part of one of the chairs had come apart, so I glued it back together — if I exchange everything that's wrong with this, it could take weeks, and, besides, it rather looks like I can do a better job of building furniture than they can.

The underside of the table has a couple of straps stapled to it for some mysterious packaging reason. The staples go so deep that attempting to remove them with pliers simply breaks them, leaving little needly spikes for us to pierce our fingers on whenever we try and move the thing. I've had to hammer them flat for safety reasons. One of the staples has been punched in by a careless person: it's been put in so close to the edge of the table that it's knocked a small chip out of the edge. I'm just going to sand that down and put up with the flaw, as the table-top is the big heavy bit that requires their delivery men and I simply can't be bothered with dealing with them again — can't take the time off work, apart from anything else.

But I shall be seeing if I can get a bit of money back off them for all this.

Homebase's customer service isn't quite as bad as Ikea's — that's a tough act to follow, contempt-for-customers-wise — but their quality control, amazingly, appears to be worse. Do not buy furniture from them. Ever.

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