British Gas top up meter fail

Got a new British Gas card from a paypoint 2 months ago, topped up twice no problem.
Came to top up a third time, put card in meter... nothing.

Rang pay as you go "helpline" (using that term loosely)

Advisor 1 runs a test, by telling me to put card in upside down, meter does nothing.
Advisor 1 - "this shows us that the card slot is broken as it won't display an error message if the card is incorrectly inserted. We'll send an engineer out, they will either replace the card slot or order a new meter, either way they'll leave you with £10 emergency credit, we'll refund your card credit back on to the card, so that you can top up once it's fixed."

No problem, wait for engineer.

British Gas engineer that arrived is not an engineer, he's a British Gas employee with an ipad.

He tries my top up card... nothing.
He tries his own "Ghost card"... nothing.

I left him to it, as he fiddles about with his ipad.

Three minutes later he's back in the kitchen, with the cooker on full pelt, "testing it"
"Where's your boiler?"
- It's through there, what's that got to do with the meter failing to accept top up cards?
"We have to test all appliances before we leave the premises!"
- Really? Without prior appointment? Without notification or permission from customer?
"Well if you don't let us, then we will refer inspection back to national grid and if you refuse them access, they'll turn your supply off at the main road!"

British Gas employee writes down the make and model of both boiler and cooker, then tells me to ring British Gas back up and ask for £40 refund to go on a new card from the nearest paypoint.

- So a new meter or can you fix the card slot?
"We don't fix card slots, I have no idea why they would say that. I can only reset your meter or order a replacement to be fitted."
- Can I have my top up card back then it's got £40 credit on it?
"No, your card has gone now..."
- I think I should have it
"You don't need it, it won't work!"
- I'd feel better if I had it...

He pulls a few cards from his pocket and hands one over that is not ours (dirty, heavily scratched on card and microchip)
He leaves.

I rang British Gas back up...
I told them how I was not happy with their engineer not being able to do what advisor 1 says he could (replacing slot mechanism in meter) and how I wasn't at all happy with him helping himself to inspecting our appliances without consent.

Advisor 2 - "Very sorry about that, you will need a reset card to be sent out, don't worry though, our engineer (that wasn't an engineer) has left you with emergency credit and we'll send you a card out to top up your meter with the £40 credit I'll put on it.
It will be with you tomorrow, then you will be good to go!"

Waits in all the next day, nothing comes.

I rang British Gas again.
Advisor 3 - "Just let me have a look at your account notes... there is nothing on your account notes about sending you a new card out!"
- Really? What do they say?
"Your later call yesterday hasn't been logged and no notes exist for it."
- Great so where is our card and why have we been led to believe it would be sorted out and given false information yet again?
"Could you go out to your meter and put your top up card in again?"
- Card won't work as it wasn't the card we put credit on and it's not registered to our meter.
"Look if you don't want me to help you I will terminate the call" [VERY shirty]

- OK I'll go to the meter again and put in the card that's never been registered to our meter and when it comes back with an error message, I'll then wait on the line whilst you go and fetch me your manager!

Suddenly advisor 3 wasn't so shirty and began to LISTEN!

Advisor 3 - "If you go to your nearest paypoint and top up again, we can credit the £40 back on to a new card then you should be good to go..."
- Don't I need a reset card from you sending out?
"No it should work fine once this code is on a card and it's put into your meter"
- But two advisors have now said I'd have to wait for a special card to be sent out?"
"Just let me check with our expert on the floor here..."

"Can I ask you to go out to your meter again please?"
After running through the menu options advisor 3 tells me that a new card will need to be sent out, but "as it's after 5pm on a Saturday you probably won't get it till around Wednesday!"
- Well if that's all we can do then that's what we'll have to do. What do I do when the emergency credit runs out in the meantime?
"Well we could send a code to your paypoint to activate the meter, but we cannot do this as it's after 4pm and the code won't work!
I'll ring you back on Tuesday to see if it's come!"

What a complete an utter shambles British Gas, advisors telling me completely false information, one didn't even register the call or what was discussed (breach of the data protection act - wwhereby a company advisor has, by law, to register all calls accurately) and incomplete engineer notes.

Top up card failed on Friday afternoon, despite numerous promises of action, each contradicting the next, I'll lucky if I'm able to top up by next Wednesday.
Not to mention staying in all day for a "reset card" to arrive that hadn't even been ordered.

British Gas are a joke... does anyone working for them actually know what they are doing?

TV in the sale? A simple test for good value...

When buying a TV, even the new fangled HD - internet ready TVs - that are all singing all dancing in today's magical world of wonderment, or whatever the crap is they are peddling, but getting ripped off is as old as the hills.

Here's a simple way to stop that happening and stop the sales patter right in it's tracks.

Walk into any shop, look at how amazing the picture quality is... superb clarity, top notch resolution, etc. You know the drill.
Ask the salesperson one simple question, "Well let's see how it handles a tv aerial signal then?"
Sit back and watch.

Some will tell you they don't have that facility, some will claim it's just as high quality as the display you're looking at. Others will claim that they don't have an aerial or freeview to demonstrate as it's the licensing laws or costs the company too much to pay for the license, yes some do try this.
Some will start to sweat as they frantically run around looking for help or back up, if it's a big sale, some will start fumbling around behind the display TVs , pulling wires out and replugging them in. (It's quite funny watching them get more and more worked up)

Why ask for this you ask?
Well most TV you watch isn't blu-ray, not everything is in HD, many TVs look good and perform great when blu ray is up and running, but plug in a basic signal (via aerial and freeview or bog standard sky) and the amazing picture suddenly doesn't look so great anymore.
TVs have a frame rate, cheaper the TV, lower the frame rate and the picture suffers markedly.
Especially so, if it's in "a sale"
This is hidden if the TV on display is playing back a blu ray disc or even a DVD.

REMEMBER: Sale prices are all well and good, but be warned.
Companies know which TVs (or any other big buy) have a history of being repaired or need to be replaced down the line, before the guarantee runs out.
When any "sale" item is replaced, you will only be credited for the amount you paid, a match on features for example, is very hard to get out of them.
You could buy a top of the range TV in a sale, 8 months later, it's replacement is of the same value, but now you have an over priced mid ranged TV with less features.
Be aware of this.

If the shop doesn't have the facility to demonstrate the TV you are interested in, without showing you it's picture quality in freeview or with an aerial, then I would always walk away and shop elsewhere.
I don't want to buy a TV that looks great in the shop, to find it has a shadow or ghost running behind people in the picture when it's on freeview, only for the company to claim that it's some technicality with reception, or some low quality equipment effecting the average picture.
When you find a shop that looks after it's customers and can demonstrate the TV the way YOU want it demonstrated, value them.
Your TV may not be as cheap as bert bloggs all singing all dancing down the road, but it will save you money in the long run, result in better equipment and you will be more likely to return to them to buy again in the future.

There are some good retailers out there, you just have to find them!

Frugal tip: A frugal butter dish

You have access to a margarine tub? So use it!

Seen all the posts about how "margarine is just one percent away from being paint" and on TV about how blocks of butter are better for you when heated up, as opposed to margarine, we've switched over completely to butter.
We have the pot butter dish, but it can be a pain, when the butter is rock hard, even when left out in the butter dish and it rips the bread.
The marg tub is always out, so when it was empty, we put the block of butter in there and just leave it out with the lid on.

Soft butter and protected from flies etc.
Job done!

Tax credits renewals - Concentrix, Experian HMRC, What's going on?

It is disturbing enough that a 3rd party company is handling childcare cost aspects of tax credit claims and that HMRC will not discuss them at all, but should this same firm have the power to suspend or stop a claim?
I don't think so.

Recently had a firm called Concentrix, claim that over payment had been made and insisted that if written confirmation wasn't sent to them in a month then the full claim would be stopped.

After running around between the former nursery and concentrix, their advisor stated that there was no record on the HMRC customer file, that HNRC had been notified this had ceased, hence the over payment.
Another hour on the phone to concentrix, before finally went for the "I'll speak with your supervisor now" route, where, on explaining that the former nursery no longer had sprog2 on file as she hadn't attended there in almost a year, as if by magic, the correct HMRC information was suddenly visible to a concentrix advisor!
Within two days a letter was received stating that "I have decided that no further investigation is required and your claim can proceed"

"I"?
Shouldn't 3rd party companies working for HMRC have to produce evidence to HMRC and shouldn't it be them that take a decision to stop a claim?
Lest we forget, any company working as a third party will be being paid on results, a very dangerous game to be playing when people's income is at risk!

Next we have Experian, a company I have had the misfortune to have dealt with in the past.
"You can now renew tax credits online via the website" the 2 minute long answering machine tells me.
I went to the website where a number of companies are available to renew online, but only Experian was available in this case.

All you will need is a driving license or passport number.

Off I went to renew, question after question about personal circumstances, etc. Not a single mention of passport number or driving license reference.
I closed the browser, as it looked distinctly like it was farming for personal and financial information.
At no point in time did experian's website ask for input of a driving license or passport number.
It stated authorisation couldn't be completed, but to come back and try again once I had "details of a credit card, loan, mortgage or current account with overdraft facility"

I registered a complaint via HMRC website.
While this was being investigated, I started to receive junk mail, inviting me to take out credit cards or loans that would "improve my credit rating"
HMRC assured me that this was merely coincidence and confirmed that experian are not allowed to use HMRC data in this way, regarding their 3rd party companies.

Funny though, that since registering a formal complaint for this, the junk mail I had started to receive, has completely stopped. I suppose this is coincidence as well?

Finally we have HMRC advisors themselves.
The renewal was processed and the new information came out.
Only both incomes were wrong, the income that was no longer relevant had not been changed, the overall earnings were incorrect and income for the year ahead was also increased and didn't even add up with the incorrect income they had entered.

When I finally got through on the tax credits helpline, 30 minutes of waiting and discussing the case, the advisor came back on the line with an amazing claim.

"It wasn't the last advisor's fault that figures were not accurate, it was your employer that entered the income earned incorrectly on HMRC's system!"
- But both people do not work for the same employer, so this cannot be true?
"Errrrr but they provide income information"
- One person hasn't got an employer!
"Well anyway, I've corrected all the information but it won't change the value of the claim"
- It clearly states that any change of income should be given to the tax credits office to avoid over or under payment?
- In the past payments have always been adjusted on the new information?
"Oh well it probably will affect your payments then!"

The claim was only updated from today and not from a month ago when it should have been.

If HMRC staff do not know what's going on then how are people who have to claim going to know?
This is not some commodity to be traded or a product, this is essential income that people need to be able to LIVE, many of the more than 21 Million claimants, live week to week and need this safety net needs to be provided with care and attention to detail.

This might even cut down on time needed to help more people? A crazy idea I know...

Diabetes - Royal Blackburn hospital quiz

Diabetes UK (http://www.diabetes.org.uk) list the symptoms of diabetes as;

* passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
* increased thirst
* extreme tiredness
* unexplained weight loss
* genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
* slow healing of cuts or wounds
* blurred vision

Royal Blackburn hospital staff admitted a patient with all but one of these symptoms.
Royal Blackburn hospital staff tested the patient's blood sugar levels, they got a result of 19.6

Did Royal Blackburn hospital staff...

A. Alert the consultant of the clear symptoms and result of diabetes and retest to confirm?

B. Alert the consultant/staff on the ward the person is sent to and make sure patient is retested/treated?

or C. Alert no one, do nothing about the symptoms/treatment, apart from write the result in the notes and leave it?

Royal Blackburn hospital staff chose C.

Royal Blackburn hospital staff CHOSE to ignore all the obvious symptoms, CHOSE not to retest and diagnosed "terminal cachexia" instead, without any tests being carried out!
Regardless of NICE guidelines!

What would you do?