That hail on Sunday was a precursor to worsening weather – with the official start of the spring, the temperatures dropped to near freezing, the skies turned to mostly grey, and several short snowfalls made an appearance, melting instantly.
Natasha’s dad continued his exploration of London nonetheless, only devoting more time to museums, galleries and bookstores, as opposed to street wanderings. We even got into a sort of a routine, figuring out his targets the previous night, reviewing maps and routes, and then holding a postmortem at the end of the day, followed by the next round.
Natasha skillfully negotiated down the price of the X3 that we are getting, and we are planning to pick the car up on Friday. The Vauxhall is being traded in, for a reasonable amount, although our 5-months “rental” of it ends up being rather expensive. Lesson re-learned: When you have low level of tolerance for mediocrity, going with the cheapest option quickly turns to disappointment and becomes costly.
Conversely, Natasha bought a food processor, and did not spare expenses. Well, she did in a way, by searching the web and finding a good deal, but she bought a souped-up model that can slice and dice ingredients in a dozen different ways. No regrets so far…
Continuing the accumulation of goods topic, we realized that we needed to replace our portable DVD player for our upcoming drives around the country and the continent. The old one is dead, and our offspring quickly gets bored with looking out at the surroundings, which causes everybody to suffer. No problem, eBay rulez!, we easily found a good deal for a nice player, did not bother to engage in bidding, but “bought now”, paid via PayPal and waited for package to arrive.
Yesterday, returning home after several hours of being out, Natasha found a note at the door, advising us of a failed attempt to deliver, with several options. One was to come and pick up the package ourselves, which hardly works given that the depot is at least 30 minutes away and that we paid £25 for shipping. The other was to call and “schedule” a repeat attempt. When Natasha did that, the schedule turned out to be “sometime between 9 and 5:30” on the next day.
She said yes, anyway, and made sure that she was in the house all day long. In the morning, when she needed to take Kimmy to school, her father stayed behind. He later left for his explorations, though, so Natasha did this and that in the house, waiting for the delivery. It did not come. She phoned the shipping company twice and both times was given the “scheduled between 9 and 5:30” answer. At 3pm she had to go pick the kids from school. When she returned, she did not see any signs of another delivery, but the website of the shipping company showed that another attempt was made at 3:10…
She called the company and spent 40 mostly aggravating minutes trying to understand what could be done. The person on the other end was unmovable: Delivery requires a signature, so leaving the package at the door is not an option; delivering it to neighbors can only be done if the sender gives such instructions; we can come and pick the package from the depot; or we can reschedule again for another 9 to 5:30. Asking for a more precise delivery window was futile – this company, called CityLink, does not deliver that way… At some point, even my saintly wife got frustrated and hung up.
It appears that she will have to go and pick up the package herself, shipping payment notwithstanding (although we’ll have a separate chat with this eBay seller on his choice of shipping company).
We, at first, were inclined to chalk this incident up to baffling ways of how business is done in England, but thought back to our beloved America and had to admit that FedEx and its brethren often behave in a similar way, with utter disregard for inconveniences they may cause. However, there are ways to resolve these problems in America that do not seem to be possible here.
As a matter of fact, there was an unpleasant episode last summer of exactly the same vein. My passport would be expiring in the spring of ’07, so I renewed it in between flying to England on business and reconnaissance trips. I had small window to do that and I used a service called Just-In Document to expedite processing. They were FedExing the new passport to me on Friday, in time for my next departure on the following Sunday. I was at home on Friday, literally sitting on my front porch waiting for delivery. At around 11:30, I went to check the status of delivery on the FedEx website, and to my horror saw a “failed delivery” note with re-delivery scheduled for Monday. There was no slip by the door, so I could not explain this as having fallen temporarily into coma and missing the FedEx truck. The driver went to a wrong address, not even on the same street – as we lived on a small cul-de-sac and a truck would have to pass by our house in any instance – or did not come at all.
I immediately started calling FedEx, ready to travel any number of miles to get my hands on my passport. I did explain the situation and stressed that Monday re-delivery would be too late. I also emphasized that I did not believe that the delivery attempt ever occurred. The person on the other side gave me directions to the shipping center for the pick-up, and assured me that the driver would be contacted to see if he could return for re-delivery this same day.
At around 3pm, somebody knocked at the door. It was the FedEx guy with my passport. He pointedly asked whether I had been home in the morning, all but accusing me of inconveniencing him, but I let it go. Potential disaster was averted, and nothing else mattered.
Of course, as soon as I looked at my new passport, I saw that my first name got spelled as IIYA, but that is a separate story…
So there you have it. Another example of backwater, barbaric country that England is :).
I am not done with that. Consider this, if you will.
My new TV is HD-ready, so it behooves me to upgrade to HD service. I am thinking back to Cablevision that gave me a new digital box for free and never charged me an extra dollar on my mid-level package with the addition of 15+ HD channels. I did not own the box, there was a rental charge for it ($4.95 a month), but it was the same amount that I had been paying for a non-HD box before.
So, I am calling Sky to order the service, expecting some small charges, maybe, but nothing to be worried about. A perky girl on the other end tells me that the HD box costs £299 and my monthly bill will go up by £20, representing a 50% hike. ???!!! I take all of three seconds to tell her No thanks. And then sit there for a few minutes, completely incredulous…