Becca Jane St Clair

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How My Kindle Changed My Reading Habits

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Rebecca has
completed her goal of reading 144 books in 2012!

I’ve always been a big reader, ever since I was a child. In fact, I tried to convince my parents I knew how to read when I was three or four by reciting my favourite bedtime story. And I might have convinced my mom I could read if I hadn’t forgotten to turn the page! Before I could read on my own and my parents would tell me to pick a bedtime story, I would hand them a stack. Once I learned to read, I hit the ground running. I was a fast reader, and I was reading well above my grade level. I can still remember a March of Dimes campaign when I was 8 or 9 and one of the adults at my church offered to sponsor me. Most people had sponsored me for 10 cents/book and he thought that wasn’t high enough so he pledged $1/book… the end of the month, he owed me $100! When we went to Florida for a family vacation (by car!) when I was turning 10, I was set up in the backseat with one of our American Tourister duffel bags filled to the brim with books. I finished all of them before we got to Florida (and from New Jersey, it was a long trip!). I used to get in trouble with my English teachers (anyone remember when it was called Language Arts?) for doing reports on grade-level appropriate books because they knew I could read at a higher level….but it was hard for my parents and teachers to find me age appropriate books. Once I finished Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, and the Jane Austen collection I moved on to reading Gone with the Wind when I was 11, and I started the Flowers in the Attic series when I was 12. I had read the complete Longfellow, Blake, and Tennyson by the time I was 15. I was and always will be a readaholic.

A trip to the bookstore always made my mom shudder. Stacks and Stacks of books – the latest Babysitters Club book, Sweet Valley Twins or High, Friends 4-ever, Sleepover Club….I read them all in lightning speed.

As I got older, my reading tapered off largely because I couldn’t afford to keep myself in new books. I re-read my favourites over and over and relied on finding books at the library or from friends.

…and then I met Tim, and he introduced me to the town of Hay-on-Wye, a small Welsh village FULL of used bookstores. I was in HEAVEN.

The biggest problem with books though is that you have to have a place to store them. Anyone who has been to our house knows that we are getting short on space. The other problem is that some larger books get really heavy as I hold them, like any of the Harry Potter books after book 3!

Enter the Kindle.

Tim and I decided for our second anniversary last year that we would buy Kindles and we purchased Kindle Keyboards with 3G. The 3G meant that we would be able to access Amazon from anywhere to download new books.

I decided to set myself a goal to read 12 books a month in 2012. As you can see from the graph above, I read nearly 100 more than that. Because my Kindle goes everywhere with me as it’s lighter than a paperback. Waiting at the bus stop, riding the bus, waiting for food to arrive at a cafe, while drinking a cup of coffee….I was reading. And the nice thing is Amazon has loads of Kindle books for less than £1 or free!

And with the free books, I have enjoyed books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and everyone has a built-in birthday and christmas present for me with getting me Amazon gift cards!

This year, I received the Kindle Fire for Christmas. The downside is the Fire doesn’t have 3G service, but it is basically a mini tablet. I’m in love with it. I’ll still keep my Kindle Keyboard though, particularly to take camping with us — and that’s another thing. The year before we had the Kindles, I read 7 books while we were camping and we had to go out and buy more books. This past year with my Kindle, I read over 20!

Having the Kindle has changed my reading habits back to the way they were when I was younger, and I love it!

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Word to the Wise: Don’t Order from Comet

[copy of the facebook comment I left for Comet on their Facebook Page this evening. Please spread the word.]

Dear Comet,

Given that you do not permit people to post directly to your facebook page (I wonder why?) I am left with leaving you a comment on your most recent entry.

I wish to register a complaint in regards to your telephone customer service representatives who tell lies to their customers. I have been waiting at home all day for the delivery of my birthday present – a new netbook ordered via the Comet website. I rang your overpriced customer service number earlier today and was assured that my item was out for delivery and while she couldn’t give me an exact time, it would be before 7PM. I rang again at 6PM to enquire as to the wherabouts of my delivery as it still had not arrived. I was informed that I was scheduled for delivery from between 7PM and 8PM (which is news to me, as I was told delivery was by 7PM! and if I had known I had an actual slot I might not have wasted my entire day, but I digress), but if I did not hear from the delivery driver by 7:30PM I should ring back because THE OFFICE WAS OPEN UNTIL 8PM. I just rang 15 minutes ago to receive a recording that your office is now closed as of 7PM. This means that your customer service representative LIED TO ME. I cannot possibly trust a company who hires people to tell lies to their customers just so they do not have to deal with them. I do not have my laptop, and my birthday has now been ruined as I was unable to leave my house to go out to dinner due to being told my package would arrive between 7 and 8 when I was expecting it before 7PM.

And now what? I can reschedule delivery for tomorrow, only I’m not available all day tomorrow and no one is there to take my call to reschedule. I am sure that if I ring in the morning, I will be told that it is too late to reschedule delivery services for that day. In fact, the ONLY day I was available from 7AM – 7PM was TODAY, the day I scheduled and paid for delivery.

I would like a REFUND of my delivery charge, a REFUND for all the money I spent ringing up your “10p per minute” line, and an accurate re-delivery slot. It’s either that, or I cancel my order and I will no longer be stepping foot in your store or any of your affiliates (including your web site) and that’s a shame, as my husband and I need all new Kitchen appliances within the next 5 years.


Rebecca Lockley

Yes, I had to leave this as a comment on their most recent post as they have disabled the ability for people to post to their page. I am BEYOND livid. First, that they can’t seem to keep an appointment when the delivery slot IS THIRTEEN HOURS LONG, and second, that they would employ customer service representatives who LIE to the customers. Really? Do they not know what time is knocking off time? Are they sitting in a dark call centre for an additional hour after they shut off the phones? What on earth would possess anyone to tell a customer to ring back A HALF AN HOUR AFTER THEY HAVE GONE HOME FOR THE DAY, if not just because they did not feel like dealing with an irate customer? Oh, don’t they realize that all this does is make me even MORE irate?! If the drivers have mobile phones they are to use to contact customers, why don’t they ring up all their outstanding orders at 8PM just to let the customers know? How do I know my item won’t show up at 11PM tonight after I’ve gone to bed due to a late driver or worse — what if my item has been delivered to the wrong address or left outside the wrong address (which has happened before to me)?

Needless to say, this will be the LAST time Tim and I order ANYTHING from Comet or step foot in their shops. Fortunately, there is a Curry’s in the same shopping centre in Lincoln. It was my own misfortune that I decided to order my new netbook from Comet.

So, yeah. Birthday? Ruined. Netbook? Not delivered. State of the Becca? Extremely cheesed off!!

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Product Review: Giant Cupcake Silicone Mold

A few years ago, my sister-in-law gave me one of those cupcake cake tins made out of silicone and joked that she gave it to me so I would make her a giant cupcake. The pans sat in the box in the kitchen until one day I finally opened the box, gave the kit a wash, and stuck it in a cabinet. I kept thinking about using the cake pan, but ultimately would make something else, or not be in the mood to play around with it, so it just sat there. My sister-in-law loves peanut butter, and when I was in PA in December, I was reminded of Peanut Butter Icing…which of course, needed to go on a cake for my SIL. Since her birthday was this past Friday, I decided to break out the big cupcake. My sister-in-law also likes white chocolate better than milk, so I had decided on making her a white chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.

For the white chocolate cake, I just took a regular chocolate cake recipe and where it called for melted plain chocolate, I subbed in 200g of melted white chocolate, and I used some white hot chocolate mix in place of the 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa. I also removed a few tablespoons of sugar from the recipe to compensate for the extra sugar in the white chocolate.

The directions said to spray the cupcake bottom, top, and insert with cooking spray, so I did that and followed the directions which said to fill the bottom part up to the line on the inside (about half way) and to fill the top part 3/4 of the way. The piece that makes a hollow hole in the bottom for filling is optional, so I snapped it in place thinking it’d make a nice little cave for some peanut butter icing.

Baked for 20 minutes, and it wasn’t done. Baked it for 15 more minutes (total 35) and it still wasn’t done, but in fact the bottom part of the cupcake had spilled out over the side of the mold and was baking itself into a little pile of cake on the baking tray I sat the molds on. The lid was still in place on the bottom though, so I assumed it would still have an indention. I set the timer for a further 15 minutes (total 50 mins) and both halves appeared to be done so I removed them from the oven….

The TOP piece developed an indention while it was cooling and appeared to be brown in colour on the sides. The BOTTOM piece did not have the indention for filling anymore, and when I removed it from the silicone mold, it appeared to SHRINK in size.

Since I had the indention in the top piece, I decided I would still put some icing in the middle and I attached the top piece. Due to the shrinking of the bottom piece, it looked like a mushroom instead of a cupcake, and I discovered the bottom piece started to buckle a little under the weight of the top piece and it appeared to have a hollow bit….ALL THE WAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CAKE. So I used a spoon and shoved in some peanut butter icing into the hole. Why not?

Since I wanted a cupcake and not a mushroom, I decided the best thing to do would be to make a cupcake “liner” out of card stock and arrange it to make the bottom look closer to the same size as the top. my SIL’s favourite colour is purple, so I used purple card stock. Then, to hold it together better, I took a bamboo skewer and stuck it through the middle of the cake. Since it would stick out the top, I made a sign on the computer with Tim’s nickname for my SIL in the shape of a star to tape to the skewer.

I made the Peanut Butter icing and piped it on using a Wilton 1M tip – the same size tip I would use on a normal-sized cupcake.

Peanut Butter Icing (recipe from my cousin, Jen)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1.Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy

I decided the icing wasn’t peanut buttery enough, so I added a few extra desert spoonfuls of peanut butter, a little more milk, and a little more sugar. Basically, make the icing to your own taste.

Hopefully, the cake tastes okay – I’m waiting for my SIL to text me!

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog.]


Quidco a No-Go

Over the Summer, a friend was talking to me about Quidco, a website that offers you cash back based on your purchases you make through their site. I was a member of a similar site when I lived in the US (I currently can’t remember the site!) and had earned back around $20 on various online purchases, so I signed up for it, but then forgot about it.

In October, Quidco sent out an email with an offer to join Weight Watchers UK. The offer was that if you signed up for their 3-month package at £32, you would gain £30 in cashback, making your three month subscription £2. I decided to give it a try, since I felt there was little to lose since in the end I would have only spent £2.

[screenshot of the email offering £30 cashback]

I am now out £32.

Quidco failed to acknowledge the transaction so in mid-November, I submitted a claim on their website. Oddly enough, the site would only let me put in a claim for £15 instead of the £30 advertised, but I figured at least I’d get £15 back and wasn’t going to be too upset over losing £15. A few weeks later, an email from Quidco arrived that simply said “We have an update for you from the Quidcare team.” and directed me to log into my account. I logged in and the standard “this is what will happen” message appeared. I didn’t receive any more email updates from Quidco.

In all the excitement of planning my emergency trip back to the US, I forgot about it until today, when I realized that I would need to cancel my original WW subscription soon if I didn’t want to be charged another £30. I checked into Quidco to see if the reward money was there because if it was I would have used the £30 cash back to pay for an additional three months of WW. My reward wasn’t showing. Instead, it showed that my claim had been denied based on my not providing information they asked for “in an email”.


Here is a screenshot of my email box filtered down to messages from Quidco:

[apologies for the small print, I had to re-size this for WordPress]

No where in there, beyond the first update email do I see anything related to this claim requesting additional information, yet here’s what Quidco has on their website under my claim:

[screenshot of the claims screen on Quidco]

I found where it was possible to re-submit a claim, so I’m filling it out online:

[screenshot from Quidco, Click for larger]

As you can see, it still is allowing me only to ask them for £15, when the original offer read £30, but again, I’m kind of past that point and really now only want at least the £15 they are offering. I go to the next screen, where it asks for my username on WW and my confirmation number when I joined. I provided those details, and moved on to the next screen.

[screenshot from Quidco, Click for larger]

Getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I clicked on “contact us”, which brings me to a page where I need to click on if I am a member of the site, an advertiser, or part of the media. I select member and go through another set of pull down options to get to the following:

[screenshot from Quidco, Click for larger]

Okay, I will click on that “denied cashback claim”, but oh look where it sends me right back to:

[screenshot from Quidco, Click for larger]

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

I have now been through this circus about 5 times now, hoping somehow that something will have changed and it will magically let me re-submit the declined claim. Seeing how there appears to be no other way to contact this company, I went directly to their facebook page:

[screenshot from facebook]

The link they gave me? Goes to the same page as the previous image, which is the same page as the first image, so my options are to start the cycle on their site again, or write off ever seeing my £15, let alone the original £30 I was promised.

I’ve since gone to the WW site and cancelled my membership there so I wouldn’t be charged in January. It was a very simple form to fill out and asked for the reason. So I told them this problem as well, though I doubt WW can really do anything about it.


O2 Text Message Update

I got an update from my tech contact at O2, Tony, and I thought I would pass it along…

I still cannot receive international text messages on my phone. They are unsure when the problem will be fixed, but they know what the problem is, and really, that’s half the battle right there.

Basically, when I rang up to complain, this was the FIRST time they started looking deeper into the issue. It helped that Tim is also an O2 customer (personal AND business) and they were able to see that he was getting international texts. It also helped that I’ve been so patient with them throughout this.

The problem has been traced to affecting all numbers recently ported over from Orange.

When a text message is sent from the US to the UK, it goes to a central hub for distribution over the UK networks. There is more than one hub available to use. Vodaphone and O2 use one of the hubs, and Orange/T-mobile use the other (I’m not sure who 3 or any of the other smaller companies use). While my phone number was ported over to O2 and uses the O2 network for everything domestically, international messages were still going to the hub Orange uses, and then not being delivered since O2 doesn’t connect to that hub.

The issue has been escalated as high as it can go within O2 and they are currently in negotiations to get it resolved. He couldn’t give me a timeline, but told me he would keep me updated as he could. I also told Tony I’d be willing to switch to an O2 number if it came down to that, but for now I’ll be patient and wait. Not being able to get international messages is an inconvenience, but everyone who texts me can reach me via email.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Oh, Blackberry

I bought my Blackberry (affectionately nicknamed Bramble) in mid-September after months years of debating on a new phone. I love it. I feel like I’ve finally caught up on modern technology, and I LOVE using Four Square to check into the obscure locations around my town.

But then last week, all the Blackberry phones in Europe stopped working in their smartphone capacity, and I was taken back to three weeks ago when I still had a StupidPhone. No Email, no internet, no Messenger! Oh no, what would people do?!

People took to the internet. People who had never owned a Blackberry phone in their life started posting about how bad they were and how they had an iPhone that was better, etc. etc. A lot of people immediately got new phones and turned their backs on Blackberry and RIM.

As a personal user, not having access to email or messenger (I have two contacts on it. If you want to be a “friend”, let me know) wasn’t a big deal for me. Instead of emailing Tim’s work phone when I needed to tell him something, I texted or rang him. Both texting and calling were still working on the Blackberry during this outage.

But my phone has a more serious issue. My phone isn’t receiving international text messages. I probably wouldn’t have noticed for quite some time, but Miss M was having her surgery, and her partner was going to text me with updates to let me know she was okay. The day of her surgery arrived and I waited, and waited, and waited and finally sent him a text…no response. I panicked. I really did. The following day, I texted both M and her partner, and again, got no response, so I finally sent M a message on Twitter. She told me her partner had texted me twice while she was in and she texted me once. Hmm, that’s a little odd, isn’t it? So I asked my mom to try to text me, and her message never arrived, either.

I rang O2 (and yes, I spoke with a British person. All the O2 call centres are located within the UK) and the woman I was speaking with thought it was odd, and tried a few things, but the messages didn’t show up. She determined that I needed a SIM swap and advised me to go into the O2 shop in town as it would be faster, and they also could test my SIM in a different phone to try to determine if the problem was my phone or my SIM.

I went into the Lincoln shop around lunchtime that Friday and had a wonderful woman (I can’t remember her name!). She put my SIM into a tester phone and we waited, but nothing showed up. Assuming it meant this was a simple SIM issue, she arranged for a SIM swap and told me to finish my shopping and come back when my phone read “invalid SIM”. Well, I had only gotten down to the escalator when my phone started displaying it, so I went back. She swapped in the new SIM, and I rang Mom to ask her to text me. She did…and nothing. So, time to start exploring other options.

The O2 person took me over to a desk and rang up tech support. They were of no help, so she escalated it further, and then again. We were getting some really ridiculous suggestions like “delete the contact from your phone and re-add them” (what?) or that it was the US provider’s problem, not ours (it wasn’t. Mom and M are on different networks and Mom had been able to text Tim with no problems). Several hours later, and we decided the best thing to do was for me to go home and try to let things reset themselves over the weekend and if it still wasn’t working on Monday, ring or come in.

The following Tuesday I wound up ringing O2 again because it still wasn’t working. I spoke with Emma (I think?) and she was fantastic. When a first tech guy wasn’t helpful, she got someone else. Tony was fantastic. He gave a few suggestions for getting it to work/testing it out. The first idea was to stick my SIM in Tim’s phone and try for an int’l text. That was a no-go and nothing came through, even though Tim had previously been receiving international messages. Second suggestion was to use the Blackberry desktop software, back up my phone, and then update the software. Again, this didn’t help. Tony told me he would look into the issue some more and get back to me on Friday.

In between Tuesday and Friday, I received a call back from Emma, who wanted to check in and wanted to let me know that she would flag my account and keep checking it and would ring me if she found out anything else. I loved that. Really, it’s a shame you can’t ask for people directly when you ring, or I’d ask for her every time.

When Tony rang me on Friday, it was to tell me that he unfortunately didn’t have much news for me — BUT, he was talking to some of the other techs and apparently this isn’t an issue isolated to me. Several people had been ringing up with the same issue (on top of the existing BBM issues everyone was having). So the issue has now been escalated AGAIN to an investigation team, and Tony is going to keep me up to date on anything new that comes of it (and hopes it gets resolved soon, obviously). He also didn’t have a direct phone number, but he gave me his email address so I could email him if anything else happened with my phone.

My problem isn’t fixed yet, but I have faith in O2 and in the techs I was speaking to. This experience makes me glad I switched over from Orange. Anytime I had a problem with Orange, I used to get bounced around from call centres in India to the UK, and people who said they would ring you back never did. This was not the case with O2. O2 has ALL their call centres in the UK, and their employees actually ring you back when they tell you they will!

I just hope my problem gets solved soon. It’s a little annoying to know that if an emergency pops up I’d have to borrow Tim’s phone to communicate with my mom.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]


The Trick to Getting Companies to Fix Things….

…is to go to their Facebook page and complain. What company wants potential customers to hear that an item of theirs broke on you or dissatisfied you?

I’ve had good luck with contacting companies. Last year, when Boots No7 Foaming Face Wash made my chin break out in bacterial acne because I was unaware the product contained an item I was allergic to, Boots very nicely sent me a £15 gift card in addition to letting me return an unopened bottle without a receipt. For Christmas 2009 (really, January 2010 when we celebrated), my Mother-in-Law gave me a thermal cafetière from Scotts of Stowe. It started to leak a few months later and coffee got in between the walls of it, so it smelled really fusty. I contacted Scotts of Stowe, and they told me if my MIL called them with her customer ID, they would dispatch a new one. When the new one never arrived, my MIL called them back, and they sent out a second replacement (which did arrive, and I’ve been using since with no problems).

But lately…not so great service from emailing Crocs or Gelert directly from their “contact us” forms on their respective websites.

I have a pair of Crocs (the style no longer appears on their website. It was a pair that does not have any venting holes) and I was wearing them one day when I slid in the kitchen and my shoe went flying off. In the process, one of the little “rivets” that holds on the back strap cracked and would no longer hold the strap on. I first checked eBay for the rivets, but didn’t see any. Then, I went to the Crocs website where their instructions were to “take the shoes back to the retailer for replacement rivets”, so I sent them an email through their contact us page explaining that I had moved to the UK but had purchased my shoes in PA and could not take the shoes back to the retailer, but needed one single rivet in order to be able to wear the shoes comfortably again.

I received no response, so after a week, I looked for the company on facebook and posted to their Facebook page:

I sent off an email about cracking one of the “buttons” to one of my shoes and have not yet received a reply! I’d love to continue to wear these shoes, but it’s hard without a strap.

Within a few hours, I had a response giving me a different email address to write to with my address. Once I sent off the email, it was only a few days before a full set of replacement rivets arrived.

Most recently, Tim and I have been dealing with our flasks (as you know). Before we were trying to clean the newer ones, We tried to use another flask we had that was made by Gelert. Unfortunately, the stopper in the cap had a broken washer, and it was leaking. I tried to fix it, but even with clipping the broken washer back on, it still leaked. I went off to the Gelert website, and sent off an email asking for a replacement washer.

No response. So, I did exactly what I did with Crocs….I went to the Gelert Facebook page and posted:

Hello, I recently sent an email via your website in regards to a product of yours we own that has turned out to be faulty but did not receive a response. We own a 1L steel flask, and the lid has started to leak. I would like to know if it is possible to get a replacement new lid, or even just have the small washer that goes in the lid sent to me. Thanks!

And would you believe? Within a few hours, I had a response to that post informing me to email a specific email address, and I’ve since gotten a response to that and been informed they have put a replacement cap in the post for me.

Obviously, only contact a company if you really have a problem with a product and always check first to see if you can purchase a replacement. Things like phone chargers and USB cords are readily available, but something like the lid to a container might not be. I think it also helped that I was asking for small parts from each company – I don’t think Crocs would have sent out a new pair of shoes if I had asked for new shoes, but replacement rivets were no problem.

In the end, the worst thing a company can do is tell you no or ignore your request. As it’s lots easier to ignore email, I went straight to Facebook, because I felt the companies wouldn’t ignore a negative comment left for all the public to read. I may have been right!

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Save your Feet!

I bought a new pair of HIGH heeled boots a few months back…and when I say high, I mean high.


(pardon the pasty legs, the flash went off and I was wearing nude tights!)

The heel on those is about 3 inches. And these are for a person who never wears heels. I mean, I do on occasion, but my usual heels are only about an inch or so. But I loved these boots!

I wore them a lot to try to break them in, and I moved the insoles out of a different pair of heels to try to make them more comfortable. Tim bought me these thick heel wedges at Pound Stretcher to try to help…but always, after an hour or so, the balls of my feet would be in terrible pain from all the strain/pressure.

It really upset me, because these were NOT cheap boots (though I did score them on a sale!). I figured I would just have to suffer through it until my feet got used to the height of the heel, but then I was in Boots a few days ago and I found these. Ball of Foot cushions. They don’t go in your shoe, it has a loop for your second toe and then you position it under your tights/sock/whatever. And my feet felt so good! The only weird thing is getting used to the toe loop, but honestly, after about 10 minutes I forgot it was there. The pads are washable, too, so if they start to get funky you can just wash them in the sink. I’m so happy. Now I can wear my fantastic boots all day, everyday.

I also like that since it doesn’t stick to a shoe, I can use them in other pairs of shoes. Maybe my chorus shoes won’t be so painful any more!

[Please note: I am not being compensated by Evans, Scholl, or Boots to advertise their products. It’s just a product that works for me!]

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Digital SLR

I’ve talked about this in a few places, but not given much detail. Tim has a Canon EOS 300D. I, do not. I tried using his camera in 2008 when we were in Wales and I thought his camera was too heavy, and so I gave up on using it…but recently he encouraged me to play around with it. I love it. I took all the photos in Wales exclusively with the SLR camera, and even took loads in manual focus.

Does this mean I don’t want my new Olympus mju 3000? No way. I’m so excited for my new camera my mom and aunt gave me for my birthday. I love having a portable camera, and I can’t wait to try out the new settings. Sometimes, a small point and shoot can take just as nice photos as a big SLR.

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When Good Customer Service can Save…or Why India Outsourcing is Bad

What a few days it has been for me.

Last week, I decided it was time to upgrade my phone. I’m an Orange customer, and when I bought my phone it was originally to use as a visitor only, so I picked up a barebones phone (a Sony Ericsson W200i. In pink.). Now that I’m living here full-time, I wanted a phone a little bit more like my old us phone (Verizon – a LG EnV), since I was very satisfied with it and if Verizon had used SIM cards, I’d have just gotten my US phone unlocked and popped the Orange SIM in it. Verizon doesn’t use SIM cards, so I had to purchase a new phone.

About a month ago, I went into the Orange shop to browse phones and talked with someone in the shop. I explained the three important things in a new phone:

1) better camera (my old phone was a VGA, I wanted at least a megapixel or 2)
2) the ability to send pictures to facebook
3) a QWERTY keyboard

The sales person recommended the LG KS360. I said thank you, and filed that bit of information away until August, since Tim and I had discussed my new phone being a birthday present.

While I was checking my balance last week, I noticed the phone I wanted was now on sale for £35. With the £14 I had saved up in my “phone bank”*, the phone would only cost us £20. I happily ordered it.

…and then the fun began.

The phone arrived on Tuesday. Since I wanted to keep my current number, I had to call to get things activated. I got sent to a call center in india, where I was told it would take 24-28 hours to activate my new SIM with my old number. Then, he revised it and told me 30 minutes after I expressed shock at it taking so long.

30 minutes passed….no phone active. Called back, got India again. This person reiterated the 24 hours to activate. Fine.

24 and a half hours later….no phone active. Called back, got India. This time I was told that “it hasn’t been 24 hours yet. You didn’t call until 5:59PM yesterday, and it’s only 3PM”. I explained that I had actually originally called at 2:30PM, and the person I spoke with changed the time I called to 4PM. She promised me a call back at 5 to make sure the phone was active.

5PM….no call. I called, FINALLY got the UK call center. And guess what? It only took 2 minutes for the person on the phone to activate the SIM.

Problem. SMS and MMS was not working properly. Called back, got India. Their attempt to fix it didn’t work, as picture messages still were not working.

Called back, got UK. Fixed it in a few minutes.

So, my new phone was now active, and the UK person even told me how to transfer my phone numbers onto it from my old phone. When the new phone imported everything, it dropped characters off of people’s names, so the place I volunteer, Cancer Research UK, became “Research U”, The British Transport Police became “Transpor”, and Welton Family Surgery became “Surgery”, to name a few. It also didn’t thread multiple numbers for people, so it would have something like “Tim/M” and “Tim/H” right in a row. It also deleted email addresses, such as the address for sending pics. I figured this was the kind of stuff I could fix manually, so I went into the address book only to discover that a) you only can have 1 number per entry b) the name space is very short and c) there was no place to add an email address.

Went to bed. Thursday morning, Tim and I went into town so I could return the phone to the high street shop. Person in the shop told me he couldn’t help me b/c it was an online purchase and I would need to call it in. Ok, fine. Each number I called told me they were not the number I needed THREE TIMES (so, three wasted phone calls) until I finally got someone (in the UK!) at the right number. This included a call to the India call centre who told me I couldn’t return my phone!

In order to return the phone, I also needed to return the new SIM. This meant getting my old SIM re-activated. I went through all the steps of returning the new phone except for the last step, because I needed to get the SIM re-activated first. I called the number to re-activate the SIM, got someone in the UK, and guess what? It took only a few minutes. I was told that it should have never taken 24 hours the first time. Nice, right?

So, We’re done with the tale, yes? Old phone is working again, and new phone is ready to be returned, right? No.

My old phone was no longer receiving texts and pics.

Called it in, got India. I was told he was sending an update to my phone. He told me it could take a half hour.

30 minutes later….no texts. Called in, got the UK. Again, the woman tried to send the update to my phone and said it sometimes does take a while for the system to make it go, and said she would call me back in an hour.

No call. I called in, and the person I spoke with said he knew how to fix it, but the problem was I was calling from the phone, so he would make a note on my account for me to call in this morning to get it fixed. We speculated that maybe I also wasn’t receiving phone calls, so he told me when we hung up he’d try to immediately call me and if it didn’t go, we’d know it wasn’t receiving calls, either.

No call. *sigh*

After Tea with Lynne and Jan, I figured I had better ring Tim to let him know that I couldn’t receive messages, just in case he needed to reach me or had been trying to. A few minutes into our call, I got cut off. I tried to call back and got a message “you do not have enough credit for this call” and was advised to switch to the “reserve tank”**. I didn’t understand this, because that morning I had checked my balance and I had over £5!

Annoyed and with the resolve that I was going to switch to O2 in the morning, I went to chorus and then home to bed.

This morning, I called back into Orange, and got a lovely woman in the UK named Emma. Emma is why I am staying with Orange. She looked in my account and saw the notes from the previous night and was able to fix it. Then, when I explained to her that I was thinking about switching over to O2 because I was upset with the number of calls I had to make to Orange in the past few days, upset with the India call centre not being able to help, PLUS the calls all coming out of my credit she asked me to hold, and then came back on the line and told me she was giving me some credit (which most of it had to re-pay the reserve tank, but still). Then, she chit-chatted with me as we waited for my phone to start receiving the messages from yesterday, and even talked me through the process two more times when my phone kept losing messages.

Would you like to know the problem? Apparently a single tower was down yesterday and my phone had been programmed to use that tower, so all they had to do was swap me over to a different tower.

I won’t go into what happened when Emma had to (apologetically) send me to the India call centre to finish the return, since once again, the India call centre proved to be useless (and told me again that I couldn’t return the phone, when the paperwork clearly stated “7 day return”) and I had to call back yet again (to the UK) to finally get it handled.

So…I’m sticking with Orange. Because of Emma. Because of finally getting someone who was competent, friendly, and able to understand my frustrations.

Emma, if you’re reading this….Thank you!

(They are sending me a mailbag to return my phone in. It can take a week for this bag to arrive. I have 30 days to send it back now that I’ve called to return it and the credit will go back to my account when they get the phone back, including the money from my phone fund, so while I will be researching some of the other phones available through Orange, I won’t be purchasing anything until the credit goes back on, and I probably will purchase the phone directly at the store to save all the hassle.)

*Phone Bank is an Orange gimmick. For every £10 you top-up by, they put £1 into a phone fund for purchasing a new phone.
**Another Orange feature, where they give you an extra £2.50 in credit you can use if you go dead, and then when you top-up, it repays the reserve tank back.

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Update on Boots

I contacted Boots via email about the face wash, and got a very nice apology email and was asked for my mailing address for them to refund the cost of the original product. Imagine my surprise when I received a gift card in the mail for £15 – twice the amount of the original product!

I have to say, Boots went over and beyond the call of duty on this one. Both times I spoke with someone from Boots – in store and in email – I made it clear that I had purchased BOTH bottles with £5 vouchers and both times I was refunded the full price of the product and then some.

I have switched to a different No. 7 face wash that does not contain “Acer”. It doesn’t feel as nice as the foaming wash does, but it does the job. Now I just have to figure out how to get rid of the bumps left on my face from the old facewash!

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Read Labels Carefully!

A few months ago, I went into Boots in search of face wash. A few friends of mine from us2uk recommended the No. 7 line, so I went to that counter first. The woman I spoke with suggested the Gentle Foaming Cleanser, so I bought a bottle. Since I had a voucher for £5 off, I bought a second bottle before I was finished the first one.

I started breaking out on my chin badly. Regular pimple cream wasn’t taking care of it, but some antibiotic cream did, so I was really confused as to what was causing it. I got to the end of the first bottle of face wash, and was separating it for recycling when I noticed “contains maple”*. Uhmmm….so I scanned the ingredients list (which I had looked at in the store) but still didn’t see maple listed. I was frustrated, but glad to find the source of the spots.

I decided to start googling all the ingredients listed, and sure enough, the scientific name for a sugar maple tree was listed. Because, doesn’t everyone know the scientific name for everything they are allergic to? I sure don’t. And I found out that every type of maple tree has a different scientific name. Fortunately, they all start with “acer”, so I should be okay in the future.

Fortunately, the Boots store let me return the unopened bottle and I purchased different face wash, but I’ve learned an important lesson:

Always read the little blurb on the back of bottles. Even if it is full of adjectives telling you how nice the product is.

*Maple, along with oak and sycamore, make up the bulk of my allergies. Really, I didn’t even think the UK had maple trees!

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Walgreens – Pretty Nasty and No Customer Service

I wasn’t going to write a public entry about my issue with Walgreens. I posted something on my private Livejournal to my friends about it to let off steam, but then a friend of mine replied telling a horrible encounter she had, and another friend said “I’m boycotting Walgreens just because of that, and I’ve never shopped there”, so I thought I’d tell the tale.

Walgreens has been doing a 7 days of 7 deals thing with their photolab. Nearly all the offers have been free items or really cheap items (25 photos for .25, free 8x10s, free 4x6s, etc.). The freebies are posted all over the web, at blogs such as Deal Seeking Mom, Moms Need To Know, and at least a dozen other mom or frugal related blogs. So, the coupon codes went pretty viral.

I went in to pickup my free pictures in one large lot and was informed by someone claiming to be the “assistant manager” that he was going to charge me for my pictures. I did try to argue with him that since the website says to charge me $0, he should, but no luck. So we walked out. A few hours later, I received a notice that my order was canceled. I forwarded it to Walgreens Customer Service department along with a note explaining what had happened and this is the reply:

Thank you for contacting customer service.
This is in response to your email regarding photo
order xxxxx.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. You
have contacted customer service for website.
Although I can not address your concerns directly, your
satisfaction is very important to us. According to our records,
your photo order was submitted at your local store. For
assistance, please contact the photo manager at that location
at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

If you have any further questions or need additional information
regarding our website, please reply to this e-mail, or contact
us at the toll-free number below.

We at look forward to serving all
of your prescription, photo and drugstore needs.

So, their solution is to call the store that you already have an issue with. Nice. Well, I’m not about to do that, but I certainly won’t be taking anymore orders into Walgreens.

To cinch the deal for me and a few of my friends, let me tell you what happened to my friend, J.

J’s brother passed away and her family wanted some pictures of him to display at the funeral. J happened to have some digital photos from her wedding that included her brother, so she took the disc into Walgreens to get some prints made.

The person she spoke to at the Walgreens photo counter accused her of trying to re-print copyrighted photos and then when J explained the situation about her brother dying, she got accused of lying about the deathl in order to get the store to print her photos. Obviously, she walked out without getting anything printed.

I hope between my story and my friend’s story, you might consider not taking your photo orders into Walgreens, no matter how good the deal looks.


Cranergy Energy Drink

I’ve been seeing the commercials since I got back from the UK for a new energy drink from Ocean Spray called Cranergy. Cranergy boasts 50% fewer calories and less sugar than “traditional energy drinks” and contains “green tea extract & B-vitamins”. First, I need to correct something. One serving of dragonfruit flavoured Vitamin Water (the bottle is technically 2) also only has 50 calories, and Vitamin Water now makes a new 10 calorie version. If you purchase the 4C brand Vitamin Stix or Energy Rush, those actually have 0 calories. But we’ll forgive Ocean Spray.

I love anything cranberry flavoured, so I really wanted to give this a try, but at over $3 for the large bottle, I wasn’t willing to purchase it in case I didn’t like it. I was going through the coupon offers on on Friday, and I discovered a $1.00 off ANY Cranergy item coupon. Then while we were at Weis, I saw the 4-pack on sale for $2.99, making it only $1.99 with my coupon, and each bottle only $0.50.

So we picked a pack up, and I cracked open one of the 12 oz. bottles around 10PM when I was feeling a bit tired and still had a lot of work to do. The first thing I noticed was the overly sweet taste of sucralose. As I said above, I love cranberries, and what I especially love about them is how tart they are. It goes without saying that I was a little disappointed with the sweet taste of Cranergy. It tasted just like the Diet Ocean Spray (a product I dislike for it’s overly sweet taste). I couldn’t taste the green tea or the grape juice the ingredient list claims it contains.

As far as the vitamin content goes, it has 100% Vitamin C, but it also lists 70% for Niacin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, and something called Pantothenic Acid, which I’ve never heard of before. A quick search on Google tells me that it’s simply another name for Vitamin B5. The only other vitamins mentioned on a regular bottle of Ocean Spray are 1% Iron and 1% Calcium, both missing from Cranergy. The small print on the side of the nutrition facts also tells me that due to the green tea content, Cranergy has 83mg of caffeine. A strong cup of hot black tea contains between 50-100mg of caffeine to give you a comparison.

Around 11PM last night, I decided to go to bed. I was still tired, and was going to chalk up the Cranergy as just another gimmicky product. But as I was checking e-mail and other things for the last time before bed, I started to feel a bit more awake. I got into bed and started watching Season One of Eureka and stayed awake until past 2AM. I blame this entirely on the Cranergy, as I’ve been in bed lately by 11 or 12!

Today, I foolishly drank 2 bottles – one this morning at breakfast, and one in the early evening. I completely forgot it was an “energy” drink and grabbed it for the cranberry flavour. Whoops.

So I think I would recommend this drink if you can handle the sweet cranberry taste and are willing to wait an hour or so for the energy boost to kick in. I still think the regular price for the bottles is a bit steep (the large bottles are smaller than regular bottles of Ocean Spray, yet cost more), but if they plan on offering $1 coupons more frequently, I’ll continue to pick up the 4-packs. But if you’re looking for a beverage that will provide energy and more vitamins (and still don’t mind the taste of sucralose), I’d go with Vitamin Water or 4C Vitamin Stix, personally. If you’re looking at it purely in terms of cost, Vitamin Water frequently on sale for 10 for $10, making it the same cost as the Cranergy 4-pack at regular price. Vitamin Stix are sold 14 to a box and cost around $4 for the box, making it less than $0.30 per bottle. Of course, with Vitamin Stix, you have to have a bottle of water to mix it into, and if you don’t have a bottle to fill with water, you could wind up spending more than $1 on a bottle of water, which would significantly up the cost.

Wonder how long I’ll be awake for tonight?

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