Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dear Olaf Swantee; a Formal EE/Orange Complaint


Ahhh, the joys of the mobile network provider. Remember the good old days where you'd top your phone up using a card down the cornershop on a Friday after school? 10p for a text and you'd have spent your tenner before the weekend was over? Those were good times.

10 years later, life is vastly different. I live a life of perpetual confusion, only broken by the occasional call to customer services to try to establish the outstanding balance on this elusive phone contract that I was conned into taking out in 2014.

You see, I was due an upgrade and I wanted an iPhone and Three had the best offers on. I let Orange know about this in the spirit of honesty and they suggested that I try out a new handset that they had that was "just as good as an iPhone but cheaper". I know what you're thinking. Yes, I fell for it. "Don't worry, you have a cooling off period, if you don't like the handset just phone up and we'll cancel the contract for you provided you return the phone", the 17 year old guy on work experience schmoozed. What they sent me was some sort of Samsung handset and it was rubbish. I took out a new iPhone contract with Three and phoned Orange to cancel my rubbish-phone contract.

"Oh no, you don't have a cooling off period with this handset as you got it on a promotional offer. The terms and conditions clearly state this, Miss Roberts". Let's not go into that part in too much more detail. I'm on Doctors' orders to keep my blood pressure stable and just thinking about that makes me more than a little angry.

I've been paying for this imaginary contract for years now. £17 per month for months and months and months. Yes it's only £17, but that is £17 that I would rather spend on a bottle of wine or two. I'd probably rather spend it on toilet brushes than with EE. The phone is long gone (it broke within 2 months) and the SIM card is nowhere to be found. I've never used the phone. I've never sent one text or one made one phonecall. I don't know what the phone number is and I never will because the CONtract (see what I did there?) doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. This, however, was my first downfall when I called EE/Orange this morning to understand why they were still trying to collect money from my account 2 months after the contract ended. "PLEASE ENTER YOUR MOBILE PHONE NUMBER FOLLOWED BY THE HASH KEY" screamed Mr Shit Call Handler Robot. "Hmm", I pondered, "I don't have a phone number, I'll just press the hash key". This made Mr Shit Call Handler Robot angry: "WE REQUIRE YOUR PHONE NUMBER, GOODBYE". He hung up on me. The computer hung up on me. I tried this again and waited for it to present some other options. No such luck, it hung up on me again.

I tried phoning sales. Not just sales, but the sales number for NEW customers who would obviously have the biggest call operator assignment with the most eager of sales people. After 30 minutes I got through to a woman who I think was called Justine but could have been called something completely different. Justine was mega helpful. She found my mystery account without needing my phone number (what a middle finger to Mr Shit Call Handler Robot) and informed me that despite the fact I was advised my contract ends in August, I in fact had 2 months outstanding to pay for. Nothing about this surprised me. I wouldn't have been overly shocked if I were told that in order to end the contract I had to win the million on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, sleep with Chris Tarrant and then tweet the photo evidence to the EE Twitter account as proof. I gleefully paid the oustanding balance feeling overwhelmed with joy and calm like a still lake in the moonlight. Whilst I waited for the payment to go through I listened to Tara, the call operator in the background, bitch about the customer she just 'helped'. "Speak to a manager?! No you can't fucking speak to a manager love". I focused on channeling my inner moonlit lake. Justine clearly explained that I would just need to be passed through to the contract termination team who would take my 30 days notice and let me know what I needed to do next. Moonlit lake.

They. Cut. Me. Off.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

The C Bomb is Here; My Advent Calendar Wishlist



It's finally happening. The Grinch's in the office are dying off (fiiiiiiinally!) and I'm slowly Christmas-ifying my house (this largely consists of chucking reindeers, candles and fairy lights on every open surface in the house). Beauty and lifestyle advent calendars are one of my favourite things about the holiday season and in this spirit I decided to take a look at the best and brightest out in the virtual Christmas market this year.


Packed full of little treats, the Benefit Party Poppers calendar is one of the best value for money calendars out there at just over £30 at Debenhams. It includes the every popular They're Real! mascara, bronzers, lip glosses, highlighter, cheek stain and even a little tube of the award winning POREfessional primer.


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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Showcase Cinema De Lux Reading; XPLUS Review


Last night I was very kindly invited to attend the Launch Party for the brand new XPLUS screen at Showcase Cinemas in Reading. I've long been an avid Showcase fan; the cinema is in a great location out of town which is easy to get to. It has a huge car park and it's never hard to find a space, and to be frank it's better value for money than the other cinemas in Reading. That being said, Showcase in Reading had been getting a little tired-looking over the past few years. When I found out the cinema would be having a full refurb and would be converted to a new "De Lux" cinema the movie-addict inside me was thrilled. 

 We arrived an hour early for the film that Showcase and Fox had kindly arranged for us to see, mainly so that we could have a look around the cinema and see what had been improved upon. The answer: everything. The Showcase Cinema De Lux Reading is now an incredible venue. There's a brand new Costa Coffee inside, along with a swanky new Party Room for events and parties for children. They've upgraded the snack stands and have installed a set of those super cool Coca Cola drinks machines that allow you to mix up your own drink (I went for Coca Cola with raspberry syrup!). There are also a load of comfy seats and sofas in the cinema lobby and it feels like a real luxury venue.


Once we had a look around (which included quite an intensely specific look at the champagne table) we were shown into the 7:30pm screening of the new Tom Hanks film; Bridge of Spies. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the screen that I walked into gave me the most amazing and intense cinematic experience I've had in my life.
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Monday, 16 November 2015

Hana Laurie; A Wedding Photography Review


Picture this: you get back from your honeymoon in a whirlwind of euphoria and still eagerly recounting which parts of the wedding day were the best: how hilarious 'dancing grandma' was, and how you spent a good three hours calling to your wedding guests from the dancefloor to top your wine glass up. You sit down to peruse your wedding photos but your photographer seems to have missed dancing grandma. He's also missed the group shots, and a few of the family photos you asked for. The crushing reality: your wedding photographer has cocked up. What can you do? Absolutely nothing.

Every bride I spoke with in the run up to the wedding was having the same panic as me: what if I simply make a bad decision? What if the photos don't come out as I imagined them? It's such a crucial part of the day because it immortalizes the whole event. Your children will look at these photos. Your grandchildren will likely look at these photos! I spent a long time getting myself worked up and I struggled for many months to find a photographer that I was confident in and comfortable with. Until Hana. Let me introduce...

Hana Laurie



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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Ask.FM; Is It Still The Most Irresponsible Social Platform Out There?


Ask.fm describes itself as an "Ask and Answer" service. You've probably heard of Ask.fm and will understand why I won't be linking to the site directly for your reference. Ask.fm has also been at the center of cyber-bullying controversies for the past 2 to 3 years. Ask.fm has been directly linked to the deaths of 15 year old Joshua Unsworth and 14 year old Hannah Smith, who are just two of a handful of children who have ended their lives early with tangible and proven links to Ask.fm.

Ask.fm was never shut down, even pending police enquiry following the deaths. The headquarters and data holding locations were in Latvia, Northern Europe, where controls on misuse of internet services are much more lax and much more difficult to police. It was also widely documented that existing owners and business-leaders of Ask.fm, Mark and Ilja Terebin, were never particularly bothered by the deaths linked to their "Ask and Answer" service. This excrutiating interview, written by Jack Dickey and featured in Time Online, shows the flagrant disregard the brothers have for the safety and wellbeing of the Ask.fm users. FYI; this article will make you angry. One of the questions Jack asked of the site owners, with one of the less offensive answers if you can believe that, goes as follows:

Do you feel responsible for the bullying on the site?

Ilja: It’s like with the police. You can’t put a policeman in each apartment. But you need to install police that people can call whenever they have an issue. This is our responsibility, to have this available for our users, if they have bullying issues, if they see someone else being bullied. They can press a button, and we can punish whoever sent the bad comment or question.

So, what happens to these bullies as a punishment for misusing the site? Ask.fm have been preaching about the influencers they've brought in to the business. These largely comprise of charities and exec investors. Has anything changed? I signed up for an Ask.fm account to see what measures have been put in place since the speight of teenage suicides a few years ago...

The first thing I noticed was this disclaimer for minors.

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Monday, 2 November 2015

Petit Gateau; A Wedding Cake Review


In all honesty, it took a lot of ferocious Googling to find a wedding cake supplier that I liked the look of. I wanted somebody who could create some really special flavours rather than the fruit cake nightmare that is served at some weddings. I also wanted somebody who could create a cake that was absolutely one of a kind.

I contacted Jordana at Petit Gateau in April last year and went to meet with her at her lovely studio in Berkshire to discuss the design and the flavours. Jordana served a selection of flavours that we could taste during the design sessions to help us make a decision, and every single one of them was incredible. We tried some beautiful combinations of cake flavour and filling flavours and I knew immediately that I wanted to book Petit Gateau to provide my wedding cake.



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