This morning I have been at home awaiting the delivery of a new washing machine by John Lewis. As a result, I am pretty sure I actually woke up with high blood pressure. Why? Because, while there are many really wonderful things about London, home delivery or repair of ANYTHING is not one of them. In fact, if you tell people that you will be at home waiting for a delivery or a service person, they will give you a look of pained concern that is similar to one they would give you if you told them that you’re suffering from a serious gastro.
So far, since living here, we have had to replace 3 major appliances and
coordinate repairs for plumbing and blinds. The majority of these things took weeks to sort and some took months. I have to admit that the actual reason why it takes this long is still a bit of a mystery to me. There is always a lot of finger pointing that goes on. The drivers blame the stores for not giving them enough time to make deliveries. The stores give you soupy apologies and allude to the fact that the delivery guys aren’t very competent, but apparently they aren’t incompetent enough to fire.
But what is really funny is the excuses that you get for their inability to do their jobs. So, just for a laugh, I thought I would list my six favourite in reverse order.
Number 6: We Can’t Get There On Time Because of Traffic: I hear this one every other week. “We’re late because it’s really congested in your area and we couldn’t find a parking space.” I live near a bloody tube stop on one of the busiest roads in London, you couldn’t have seen this coming? So, I could excuse someone who doesn’t live in London or drive in London for not knowing that it will be congested where I live. But really, a delivery person who doesn’t know the congested areas in London? I think not. What makes this particularly annoying is that you are usually given a “flexible window” of time for your delivery. With everything except food, this “window” is likely to be from 8:00-17:00. Let’s be clear here, this is not a “window” it’s a “day”. So it’s a bit hard to blame traffic for your inability to get somewhere at some point during a whole day.
Number 5: We Didn’t Bring The Right Equipment, So We Can’t Do The Job: I would be ok with this if the repair person realized that he or she needed something really bizarre that they could not have suspected…like an antelope horn to remove grout. But most of the time the equipment or part that isn’t brought is something that is either completely obvious or fairly likely if considered by someone with even a toddler level of perception. For example, when we first moved to London, we had guys come out to check the automatic blinds. These came with the flat, mind you, as we would never choose the automatic, and therefore likely to break, option when a manual option was possible. As we could have predicted, the remotes didn’t work… meaning we could neither open nor close blinds. Those who live closer to the equator won’t understand the unbridled horror of this. In the UK this means is that your children won’t go to bed until 9:30 pm in the middle of summer because that’s roughly when the sun goes down, and they will wake you up at 4:30 am because that’s when the sun comes up. Now you see the importance of working blinds for your parental sanity. Kudos to our landlady, who I believe is from an even more northerly location, because she immediately called out the “blinds specialists” to assess the situation. But that was where the efficiency ended. Said blinds guys didn’t bring a ladder. They also didn’t think to ask us or the building manager for a ladder. By the time I noticed that they were just sitting around staring at things and asked them the problem, they were “late for the next appointment” and had to leave. They returned no less than 5 times to the house, each time without something they needed. Finally, they decided that we needed to replace all the blinds with regular ones, but the manual ones weren’t in stock at that time. This was going to cost £2400. After 6 months of phone calls and waiting, and a “white summer”, my husband decided to get a ladder and take one of the blinds apart, just for giggles. It turns out the sensors for the remotes had simply not been removed from the packaging. They had never seen this because they could never be bothered to bring or borrow a ladder. So, we went around to all the blinds, pulled out the sensors, and voila, blinds that work. This moment saved our landlord £2400. I guess I can now apply to the “blinds union” (see below).
Number 4: We’re Late So We Don’t Have Time: John Lewis is particularly bad for this one. The number of times that groceries have not been delivered or washers have not been installed because “we are already running 2 hours late, so we don’t have time” is actually fairly shocking. This one also makes you feel really valued as a customer. Its like they are saying, “So, we suck at time management, but you aren’t very important so we’ll just make up the time with you so as not to inconvenience the much more important people after you”. Once, I actually had a delivery guy tell me that, because of having to deliver my dryer, he was running late for delivering a refrigerator to a little old lady who needed to keep her life saving medicines refrigerated. No, I’m not kidding, he actually tried this excuse. Unfortunately, my tongue engaged before my filter and I said “Well, it’s taken you so long that she is probably already dead, so it shouldn’t be an issue anymore”. The guy didn’t much like me to begin with, but he liked me much less after that. Que sera sera
In all of these cases, the delivery guys blame the store for their time crunch, saying that they are only given a short window of time to deliver and so they can’t be held responsible for either a) not delivering something or b) not installing the thing they delivered. I’m actually starting to get used to have things like washing machines and refrigerators sitting in my living room for weeks at a time. Maybe it can be worked into some new home decorating scheme. Unfortunately, in my house these things just provide another surface for my kids to dump things on. We had an old refrigerator that Curry’s refused to take away that sat in our living room long enough that the boys to start putting their shoes in it. I really hope that ended going to the dump and not being fixed and sent back out… as I know how bad Lucas’ grungy shoes can smell!
Number 3: We Can’t Install The New Machine Because We Aren’t Allowed To Take The Old Machine Out. I can buy this excuse under one scenario. If you are calling up to buy a new machine, and you don’t tell them that this is to replace an old machine. If that’s the case, I can stretch logic to see how they could feel like they shouldn’t be required to have to take something away. After all removal takes a bit of extra time, energy and truck space. And, seeing as how there is probably some little old lady with medical needs in line right after you, you don’t want to cut into their schedule. But this usually happens when you have actually told them that you have an old machine, and have specifically asked for removal. What never fails to happen is that the delivery person shows up, takes one look at your appliance, then looks at like you like you are either a) intensely stupid or b) spawn of the devil and says “Oh, we didn’t know it was THIS kind of machine”. “This kind of machine” could be any number of things: too old, too new, too big, too small, too fat, too skinny, the wrong color…you name it. They are quite creative about this. And they almost always use it in tandem with either “We Don’t Have Time”, “We Don’t Have the Equipment” or ….
Number 2: We’re Not With The Right Union : I love this one. Until I moved here, I had no idea how many unions there could be…and I lived in Paris for a few years. I first learned about it when we had to get a new refrigerator. The delivery people were supposed to take out the old fridge and install a new one. Of course, they said it had to have been defrosted and food free for 24 hours, cleaned, groomed and had its’ nails clipped. We did all this, so I felt like we were on top of it. After the blind’s guys, I thought I was ready. But I admit, I made a classic blunder here. As we were buying a refrigerator with exactly the same dimensions as the existing one, it didn’t occur to me that I would need to measure the kitchen doorway. But, apparently, they must have built the original refrigerator directly into the wall before there was a kitchen door. For that matter, it must have been brought in piece by piece through the window because it only fit into the lift by removing all the packaging. But this was where things got interesting. The guys took one look at the situation and said “Oh we can’t get it the old one out the door without removing the kitchen door, so we’re just going to leave the new one here in your hallway”. My husband got fairly irate at this point and I got on the phone with the dispatcher to explain the situation to the owner, who was less than helpful. So my husband and I talked them into waiting a grand total of 3 minutes for us to remove the kitchen door. Well, the old one still couldn’t go through the door without removing the refrigerator doors. But the installation and removal guys could not do this because apparently there is a “Refrigerator Door Removing Union”. No kidding, according to them, this exists. And apparently, Jimmy Hoffa’s heirs migrated here and are running the thing because it’s so powerful and scary that they could not even let us remove the doors while they were there. So they just left. Once again we had an old non working fridge in the kitchen and a new non working fridge in the living room. On top of that the owner called and yelled at me for keeping his people for 5 minutes over the allotted 10 minutes they were supposed to spend on this. Oh, and he swore at me, and I hadn’t even sworn at him…yet. It turns out that the owner was in litigation for fraudulent practices. I considered joining the lawsuit but couldn’t make the time because I was dealing with trying to get a working refrigerator. This was where I discovered Aspect.co.uk, who have since become my go-to people for dealing with house related service issues that are messy..mainly because they are competent, which brings me to my last and favourite excuse.
Number 1: You Didn’t Specify That You Wanted The Competent Installation & Delivery Guys When You Scheduled Installation & Delivery: I didn’t recognize that you actually have to request competent delivery specifically…but apparently you do. When the delivery guys came to remove our old washer and deliver our new washer, they took one look at the fact that the washer was sitting “under a cabinet” and freaked out. They said that they couldn’t do it because it was an under the cabinet washer. Now, I had pre-emptively spoken with the Bosche repairman (a whole other story) as to exactly what type of washer would work under the cabinet. Measurements were taken, weight was assessed and it was concluded that a free standing washer would work just fine in this spot and that that they just needed to push it back under the cabinet. When I explained this to the installation guys, they told me that it wasn’t an issue with the machine it’s that they didn’t have the appropriate training to push said washer back into the cabinet. They told us that we would have to call John Lewis back and request the guys who actually knew how to install a washer.
Whenever I tell these stories, my expatriate friends chime in with worse stories. My friends in the U.S. respond with “that’s terrible, you should complain”. For the record, I can, I have and I do. But it doesn’t have any impact. You usually get a lame “so sorry” from the stores but that’s as far as it will go. The next time you order something, it will be the same. The best hard earned advice I can give is to develop a sense of humour about it.
So, for everyone reading this, you can consider this a heads up. If you
are expecting a service person or delivery in the near future, you might want to consider some of my mistakes and don’t make them. Oh, and you can also come up with some witty retorts to the above excuses. It won’t change anything, but it’ll make you feel better.
Have I missed any? Is there another lurking excuse that I should be aware of before it presents itself at an awkward or inopportune moment?
I am happy to hear about it!