I'm compiling this list entirely for my own benefit, as I am of the opinion that I should avoid companies that have treated me badly in the past, and my memory is no longer as reliable as it used to be. I shall, in future, consult this list prior to engaging with any new companies.
Well it goes without saying that this lot should take top spot. For managing to p**s me off several times of every single day of my working life. For single-handedly destroying the great potential of the personal computer and putting the brakes on the information revolution. For routinely marketing products containing no moving parts that are consistently less reliable than anything British Leyland could muster while 95% of their workforce was on strike. For doing all this while making their leader the richest man in the world, thereby proving beyond doubt that free-market capitalism doesn’t work.
Healthcare, specifically. I get private healthcare through work you understand, but just because I'm not paying for it doesn't mean I can't have a good moan.
The first introduction to private healthcare was eye-opening. Suddenly you're not talking to a doctor any more, you're talking to an insurance company. So the initial phone call to check whether your condition is covered or not was nothing short of humiliating. After some 20 minutes explaining my intimate medical problems to some 20-year-old female insurance clerk I felt as if I was pleading: "Please miss, it hurts, really hurts, could you please be so kind as to consider my condition severe enough to be funded by you fine organisation? Please?"
Anyhow, it worked. I had one consultation, and then a follow-up a few months later. Some two weeks after the final consultation, I received a letter form the insurance company requesting that I contact them before seeking any more treatment. Fair enough I thought, I would. Shortly after that, I received another letter saying that I had submitted a claim for treatment but had not contacted them, therefore they would be paying.
So I wrote to them, pointing out that I didn't contact them because I didn't receive the letter telling me to until some weeks after the consultation, I was not psychic, I couldn't change the past, and time flows linearly in one direction in my part of the world.
Nothing happened. Not a bloody thing. Except of course I got a letter from the hospital asking me for their money. So feeling somewhat guilty, I sent them a cheque. Bad move. Won't be doing that again, it wasn't my fight. I wrote another letter to the insurance company telling them I'd paid, asking why they'd ignored my last letter and could they please reimburse me direct.
That had obviously spurred them into reading the first paragraph of my first letter. They send a cheque to the hospital. The hospital, to their credit, immediately spotted the ****-up and returned the money I had already paid them.
I thought that was it. But then I received a cheque from the insurance company too, who'd obviously, finally, got round to reading the second paragraph of my letter. So I'd now been paid twice. Fair enough I thought; I deserve it after all that. I could return the second payment, but to whom? My attempt to do the right thing had already confused the hell out of the system.
But ... the insurance company had stopped the cheque to the hospital. I had been paid twice, but they hadn't been paid at all and were now out of pocket. It transpired that the hospital had also had to write twice before the insurance company took any notice. The insurance company then took the galant approach of ringing me and asking me whether I would be so kind as to sort out their appalling cock-up by repaying the hospital direct, which I did, 'cos I'm like that.
A pre-emptive inclusion, since I haven’t had a problem with my broadband so far. However, the modem turned up late, and when I tried to phone them to find out why, I got ten minutes of automated messages followed my no answer. Does not bode well.
Marks and Spencer
I think the main reason this annoys me is that I've always thought of M and S as good value, good quality and customer focussed. Anyway, I recently received a special offer voucher through the post, entitling me to 15% off web orders. As I'm working up until xmas, I will not get a chance to visit any shops so this seemed an ideal solution to one of my xmas present problems.
So I placed an order for a coat. The quoted price did not include the 15% discount, but I was assured that it would be applied when I received my order confirmation. A full day later, I received an email telling me the trousers I had ordered were out of stock. I then replied saying I did not order any trousers, what about my order for the coat? To date I have had no reply.
Anyway, as time was running out I assumed the order was void and ordered a different coat. Following the weekend, another reply saying this was also out of stock. It was now too late to order an alternative in time for xmas, and I was faced with having to present someone rather close with an IOU for a xmas present.
It is infuriating that M and S advertise goods on their website that are not available to buy. It is especially infuriating that they make you go through all the motions of placing the order - including submitting credit card details - BEFORE they actually check whether the goods are available. It is even more infuriating that there is a delay of up to a day before you find out.
If I was especially cynical, I could imagine them "prioritising" orders in such a way that no-one ever gets the advertised 15% discount. But that would be illegal, wouldn't it?
Insurance. Tried to simplify my life with a multicar policy, which turned out to be more expensive than two single policies. And now I get three copies of every letter – one for each car and one for the policyholder. Simple it Is not.
The Good Ones
Can’t fault ‘em. Oldest is 19 and still going strong; youngest is 7 and as good as the day it was born. Some French cars would be long gone by that age.
Just good, is all. Easy, quick, good quality, reliable.
Good customer service. When my card had been used fraudulently, they noticed before I did, phoned me, and didn’t even try to charge me for it.
A reluctant inclusion. I find Sky expensive, brutally commercial and a bit too tabloid, but I have to admit that their customer service is pretty good.
The wine company. I have used them for years now, without problem. Wine turns up when expected, they’ll leave it on the doorstep so I don’t have to engage with some delivery company to arrange a time when I’m going to be in all day. When, on one occasion, an order was delayed, they send out freebies to make up. Even when they delivered to my old address – which was technically my fault – they immediately despatched a new case to the new address without charging.