Monday, 22 December 2008

Merry Xmas To All, And To All A Goodnight!

Ohhhhh, I'm broken and in desperate need of a detox, both financial and physical. December is like heroin - it's addictive and it damages your body but it's so good you just can't get enough of it. Office parties, pub lunches, massive price cuts in the Christmas sales....they all kill your health and bank balance, while inducing the kind of high usually reserved for a turn on the Cobra (rollercoaster at Ratanga Junction in CT).

I am shopped out, drunk out, grazed out and out of money. And there are still 10 days left of the month.

Plus, just to ice the cake of downward spiral, due to a cock up by HR I didn't get paid this month. I am hoping (read: threatening at gunpoint) that they can fix this before I go on holiday on Wednesday.

We're off to Broadstairs, a tiny seaside resort on the East coast of Kent near Canterbury. Yes, of the Canterbury Tales. It's one of the places in England I've always wanted to visit, and I'm excited to finally see the home of the father of the English language (English Lit was always my favourite subject: why learn about atoms and trigonometry when you could read books?).

Shoes and I will be staying in a 5 roomed cottage along with Eyes, Scarf, OJ, Penguin, Barbie and Barbie's boyfriend, The Beef. Amidst the inevitable eating and drinking, we're going to spend a day exploring Canterbury and take long walks along the white cliffs of Dover in wellies and thermal underwear. We might even borrow an Olde English Sheepdog from a local farmer - we want to be as authentic as possible.

I'll be signing off for now then, and bringing you more of the random in 2009. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you - be safe and have fun!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Dear Boots

Dear Boots
I am writing to complain about the customer service I received when using your online ordering system. May I start by saying congratulations to you for having online ordering in the first place. With a Boots store on pretty much every single corner in London, you wouldn't think one would be necessary - in fact, you have now expanded to the point where you are rivalling the pubs for pavement space.
However, I was most grateful for your technological advancement when I received an e-mail from you advertising the new FCUK overnight bag on sale at half its original price. Like most women in London - and indeed everywhere else in the world where consumerism has become a sport - I lose my mind a little when I see bags on sale. It doesn't really matter what they look like, nor what features they have. If it is a recognisable brand at a low price, I am all over it like a rash. So it was with great delight that I logged into my online account to place my order for this coveted product.
Imagine how much more elated I became when I saw that not only was the bag on sale, but it was also filled with FCUK products. Then imagine further still, how the shopping endorphins in my brain kicked into crazy mode when I saw that all your gift packed products were 3 for 2. Obviously this meant I had to buy another two gifts - I mean, I am a woman and powerless to resist the lure of sales. You know your target audience well, Boots, and for that I must extend further congratulations.
I'm on a shopping high here - can you feel me? Right. Well, imagine then how devastated I was when my computer crashed as I placed the order. The potential for diaster was monumental. What if someone else snapped up MY bag because the stupid computer failed to do what I told it? I therefore did what any self respecting woman would do - I immediately went back in and placed the order again. Without checking whether or not it had gone through the first time. Let me pause here to explain: sales wipe all reason from a woman's mind. But you know this - in fact, you prey on it. Hence I cannot be held responsible for my impulsive action here.
10 minutes later, I was mildly concerned to note that in my inbox were two receipts for two orders placed with you - order 62293163 and order 62293121, to be precise. Obviously my computer was not as stupid as I first thought. Briefly I considered keeping them both. Two FCUK overnight bags, two No 7 cosmetics cases and 2 gorgeous Soap and Glory toiletry cases all stuffed full of goodies would not be considered a bad thing in any woman's diary, not to mention the free gift of a No 7 clutch bag filled with yet more treats. However, I did have to consider the wrath of The Boyfriend, and decided to cancel one of the orders.
This is where my complaint comes in - if you thought I have been side-tracked enough reliving my perfect shopping moment to forget the purpose of my letter, you're wrong. When I called your customer service helpline, I was informed that you would not be able to cancel the order, and that I would have to wait until it was despatched from the warehouse before cancellation was possible. I thought this strange - after all, if you're going to cancel an order, would you not save yourself the hassle of despatching it and then hunting it down for return once it was already on its way? Anyway, mine not to question why, mine but to shop or die.
I waited the 2 days that I was told it would take for the despatch notes to be e-mailed to me, and called up your customer services once again. This time I was told that as I had elected to pick the goods up in my local store, I would have to get a refund in that store. Again, I thought this strange. When you have an online ordering system, is not customary to handle all online issues through a central office? Never mind.
I went along to my local Boots in Kingsway yesterday at lunch, and explained my situation to the manager there. He handed me my first order, which had been delivered that morning, but said to me he didn't think he could give me a refund as the second order was only due to be delivered on Friday (note: 2 identical orders placed literally seconds apart, get delivered 3 days apart? Houston, we have a problem). Immediately on my guard, I explained that I was not going to leave the store until someone somewhere told me how the hell to get my refund.
The manager kindly offered to phone your online customer service and sort out the situation for me. 15 bloody minutes later, he finally got off the phone and came back to me - surely you can afford a few more call centre operators? According to the person on the other end of the phone, the only way I can get a refund for my second, accidental order is to - wait for it - WAIT three days until it arrives in my local store, make another trip down there (because in case you have forgotten, I already made a trip today to pick up order no 62293163) and request a refund upon seeing the order.
Ok, back up. Do you mean to tell me that, with all the technological advances in the world of retail, with all the foresight and research that has gone into making online shopping the method of choice for women across the world, with all your money and power and sway over the helpless consumers in the UK, you cannot hire ONE PERSON to do refunds from a central point for all online transactions? Do you honestly expect me to believe that everytime a consumer needs to cancel an item ordered online, she must high tail it across London, through the wind and the rain, to an actual Boots store, to launch an aggressive attack about refunds upon store managers who don't even know how the process works? Are. You. MAD??????????????????????
I cannot believe that in this day and age, I as a customer have to freaking run around after my own money, all because YOU cannot implement an effective online ordering support system.
I'm not writing because I want freebies (although should you want to send me some, I would accept them gracefully - my address is in your database), nor am I writing to try score points on my Boots card (although I would welcome the addition of the points I should have recieved today for my first order, as the store in question did not have the facilities to add them. Seriously? I mean, of all the.... seriously?????)
What I want is for you to refund me as any other company in the world would - by using the debit card details I entered into your system, and cancelling my collection with the store. It's not hard people, come on.
Make it happen. I know you can. Don't make me wear out my River Island stiletto boots walking 0.73 miles to your store for the second time on Friday. It's unethical, it's cruel, and most importantly, its unprofessional. You're better than that. Don't let me down.
Yours sincerely
Note: this letter refers to an actual event, and has been sent verbatim to Boots Customer Services.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ready, Set, SUNSHINE!!

Aaaarrrrgggggggghhhhhh! Ok, I feel better. I just needed to get that out of my system. You see, Shoes and I booked the first of our two trips to Cape Town last night. As much as I have made peace with the idea of going home twice in one year and giving up our *choke* trip to Thailand (it's still hard to say that), I always feel a bit sick after booking flights to Cape Town. Think about it - we just literally spent one month's salary on getting to and from SA. And we'll be doing it again come December.

Why, you ask? Bloody good question, I've asked myself this a lot. Because we're good friends and we value our friendships above *choke* trips to Thailand. No, really. If I sound strained it's only because I have a tic in my fingers.

We're returning to our beloved shores to witness the joining in holy matrimony of my best friend and her boyfriend of 10 years (April), and Shoes' sister and her boyfriend of 18 months (December). All I can say is, ladies if you're reading this, I forbid you to ever get divorced after our monumental sacrifice (Thailand *choke cough choke*) to witness your vows!!!

No, I'm only kidding - I'm really looking forward to being there for both Schmokkle and BlackVelvet's special days. There are 3 weddings that we always said we'd come home for - those two and that of my sister, Mini-Me. Mini-Me has been threatened under pain of electric shock torture to abstain from getting married for at least another 3 years, so we can be sure we'll be in the country at the time.

So while we'll be forgoing the beaches of Phuket... and the insanely cheap shopping of Bangkok..... and the 5 star resort hotels where we can live like kings *sob*....oops, tangent. Sorry. While we'll be forgoing all those things, we'll be spending more time with our families and friends in 6 months than we have in the last three years combined. And no matter what we have to give up, that is something too precious to be valued. It's easy to go for a good length of time away from home and think you're doing alright, but then you go back and realise just how damn much you miss everyone, and how getting that fix of home is the only thing keeping you strong enough to live so far away.

Everybody wins, really. Except the Thai tourism industry. But just wait, people of Thailand, we'll be gracing your islands in 2010 and I promise to shop you all out of house and home. Honestly. Don't test me - I am more than capable.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

She's So Lucky She's A Star

I just have to take a moment today to bask in the total satisfaction of fulfilling a lifelong ambition: I bought tickets to see Britney live on her Circus Tour of London next June!!!!! Damn it feels good to say that!
My Britney obsession is well known amongst my friends. Since the first time I saw the video to Baby....One More Time, I've secretly wanted to be Britney Spears. She was just so pretty, she danced like a demon and man, she had abs that made me want to actually want to go on a diet and work out 7 days a week - for about 5 seconds. Then reality came crashing down (7 days a week? In what lifetime?) and I hit on a much better idea: follow Britney's every move like a stalker and live THROUGH her. That way I'd be part of the global phenomenon, but could enjoy her life from the comfort of my couch, potato chips in hand.
Since then, I have adored her from afar for pretty much her entire career, give or take a few episodes of umbrella-wielding crazy and a head shaving incident or two (and even then I followed the madness religiously, so she never lost my loyalty; just my respect for a short time). I say pretty much her entire career, because there was a brief spell in my first year at Cape Tech where I became too cool for Britney Spears.
I'd recently met Shoes, and he was into house, back in the day when the scene was still referred to as "rave".I very quickly immersed myself in the club scene, and suddenly I found that the only kind of raving I could do was with glowsticks and lots of shiny lycra; raving about Britney Spears was very much frowned upon. We were far too cool to listen to "commercial" music.
So I denied my Britney obsession for all I was worth, and instead listened to electronically manufactured beats with soaring female lyrics about peace, love and chasing the rush. To this day I still love club music, psy trance being my particular favourite. But it was always on the cards that I was going to give in to my guilty pleasure and return to the pure pop paradise that is Miss Spears.
I was one of the millions who watched in horror as one of the world's biggest ever celebrities paid the ultimate price for superstardom, and one of the loyal-to-the-point-of-dementia fans sitting tight in her corner, cheering her on as she seemed to pull her life back from the brink. In my heart of hearts, I will always think that Brit Brit is a little piece of crazy, but that just makes her more interesting. I'm glad for her that she's got things back on track, partly because, hey! she's human and deserves to be happy, just like the rest of us.
And partly because on 4 June 2009, I will be watching in awe as the Queen of Pop throws down for London's O2 arena. It will be one of the highlights of my concert trips: fire jugglers, live animals, lip synching and all. The only difference between then and now? With the wisdom that comes from experience, I would now much rather be Lopz than Britney. But I will never get tired of dancing to Baby...One More Time in my room, hairbrush in hand!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Recipe For Success


1 x hungover girlfriend (a wide range of cocktails should be guzzled the previous evening to achieve full effect)
1 x irritatingly bouncy boyfriend
1 x smallish shopping centre just a five minute bus ride away


Put boyfriend and girlfriend on bus. Girlfriend should be clutching stomach while trying to hear boyfriend's conversation over pounding in her head. Complaining is not permitted - no escape routes should be presented to boyfriend at any time. NB: Enthusiasm may be false - watch out!

Walk around centre at top speed, zipping in and out of individual shops like slinky springs down the stairs. Boyfriend should remain annoyingly upbeat; girlfriend may be slightly cheered at sight of massive shoe sale. Sulking inevitable when boyfriend takes girlfriend's hand and forcibly drags her in opposite direction.

Enter suit shop. Try not to act intimidated. Stride around with sense of purpose, carefully avoiding smirks of sales assistants. Browse through rail upon rail of suits of all sizes, cuts and prices. Act like you know what you're doing. Turn down offer of help from smug sales assistant - you know you will end up buying something you don't like just to get rid of him. Unite in confusion - leave shop empty handed.

Girlfriend to remain sulky. Boyfriend to sigh and tut loudly, but due to inexplicable good mood, eventually gives in gracefully. Boyfriend should take girlfriend to shoe sale and buy her a pair of metallic stripper stilettos. Girlfriend miraculously recovers and outdoes boyfriend in enthusiasm stakes.

Exit mall. Begin browsing shops along main road. Boyfriend's spirits begin to flag; girlfriend to will them both on through euphoria produced by new shoes. Enter final suit shop. Demeanour should be be cautious yet hopeful.

Find fantastic luxury black suit marked down to half price. JACKPOT! Also find FCUK thin long sleeved hoody. Boyfriend ecstatic - well, as ecstatic as men can get when shopping. Buzz heightened by type of booty collected: 1 practical item (essential for men to feel they are not being frivolous) and 1 coveted item.

Arrive home 3 hours later. Girlfriend should now be 100% back to normal, and still on a high which is only increased each time she gazes upon the perfection of the stilettos. Boyfriend to immediately plant himself on couch, crack a beer and put the footie on.

Balance is restored.

Serves 2 full portions of satisfaction.