Satellite system care - 0844 8000 405 - refunded!

Back in August 2012, I posted about an elderly neighbour of mine, whom was misled by Satellite system care, portraying that they were taking over from sky, for the repair and maintainence of sky equipment.
(You can read the full post here - )

After discussions with their "Sales" office, Satellite system care were adamant that they had not misled my neighbour in their cold call sales process, despite taking all her remaining money out of her account for the next two weeks.
A few more attempts were made to contact them directly, my neighbour received no reply.
My neighbour then became even more distraught, after promises made by her bank, Natwest, were not honoured and her promised visa chargeback was refused.
This, despite the facts that SSC were being investigated by the bank's own fraud department, they were selling insurance while not registered with the Financial services authority (FSA), their website had been removed from public view, no answer/reply on the phone lines, etc.
Several promises by Natwest later - things like a form will be sent out, but took four attempts over two weeks to get a simple form - finally we managed to get someone higher up to have a look at the case again.

As it stood my neighbour was getting nothing from satellite system care, nothing from natwest and was £175 out of pocket.

After more weeks of filling forms and sending emails and phone calls, unanswered questions on twitter, my neighbour came back to me saying she suddenly had extra money in her account, had I heard anything?
Today, it gives me great pleasure to tell you, that my neighbour has a huge smile on her mush.
Natwest staff informed her that Satellite system care have refunded her money in full!

Why this has happened or how, I have no idea.
Satellite system care said they would not refund.
Satellite system care said they only ever refunded by cheque and never straight back to a bank account.
Natwest have said they will not issue a visa chargeback.
Neither satellite system care or Natwest, have been in touch with my neighbour or myself for weeks.

Out of the blue, the money has been magically paid back.
Once again, if your receive cold calls, put the phone down on them. Save yourself a lot of trouble.
My elderly neighbour has had to learn this through an experience that really did upset her. Don't you be the same!

IDE to Sata, reusing your old hard drive

It's always difficult when your computer finally packs in or is not up to scratch and you give in to updating it. As I recently experienced, the world of the computer boffin/expert is one that can be the most infuriating.

In my new basic computer, I simply wanted to use my old hard drive, which was an IDE drive. IDE drives have the old 4 pin power plug. The new computer has SATA power plugs and plugs on the motherboard. The process should be relatively easy. A couple of quid for a power adaptor plug to convert from the SATA plug to fit the back of the IDE drive, no problem.

A few quid to convert the IDE drive to the SATA plug on the motherboard, should have been just as easy. The store fitted my old drive, connected the power and drive convertion plugs no problem. I turned on the new set up, eager to start transferring all my tunes and pictures of sprog2 in various guises. Eight hours later my new set up still could not find my old IDE hard drive.

"Buy an enclosure and turn your old hard drive into an external drive, plugging it in using a USB connection" was suggested as a possible solution. More expense and time as well.

The solution, was trial and error for about an hour.
* The jumper position - the tiny plug on the rear of the IDE drive, try it without, then in the "master" position, then "slave" position, then "master with slave present" position, then without.
Solution - mine was with the jumper in the "master with slave present" position.

* Powering the IDE to SATA adaptor coming out of the back of the IDE drive - the tiny white plug that slotted into the adaptor, only powers the adaptor and not both the adaptor and the IDE drive. Confusing the "expert" who fitted the drive for me, as it lit up the yellow light on the adaptor card plugged into the IDE drive.
Solution - was to power both the IDE drive AND the IDE to SATA adaptor card. Plugging in a power plug to the back of the IDE drive and the little white plug to the adaptor card itself,  lit up both yellow and red lights on the adaptor card.

* The IDE card itself - the IDE adaptor can fit both ways into the rear of the IDE drive upside down as well as the right way around!
Solution - I placed the adaptor card into the back of the IDE drive with both lights facing the underside, ie, the bottom of the card.

Each time I tried all the adaptor settings I had to turn the computer on and go into the bios (Holding down the delete button on start up) to check if the IDE drive was recognised on start up, each time it was not, I had to switch the computer off and move the jumper along one slot, then start up again. I changed the IDE adaptor card around each jumper setting as well, covering all possible settings.

When I came to the last but one possible set up (just my luck) it worked and recognised my old IDE drive.

This trial and error way worked for me, always read the instructions provided and ALWAYS earth yourself before moving equipment around inside your computer - safety first! - contact your equipment provider/manufacturer if known, before you start messing around. This prevents any damage being done and covers your back if you are following advice.
I had exhausted all avenues of "experts advice" before I went through this process, even having the IDE drive to SATA adaptor fitted by them. For the record they had not powered my IDE drive and fitted the adaptor card upside down!

Good luck, I know only too well how many needless hours have been wasted on computers, that could have been avoided if only the so called "experts" actually knew what they were doing.

Consultation on regulated industries unit - submit your views

The consultation on the proposed regulated industries unit (RIU) which will shape the future consumer landscape, needs your input.
You have only until the end of September 2012 to submit your opinion/views.

"Stakeholders" [read: businesses] are being consulted, isn't it time that the people of the UK were listened to?

Submit your views and read the proposals over at Consumer Focus

This is your chance to voice your concerns about issues you have with;

* hidden charges/fees
* Mobile phone price increases
* Bank charges
* Misleading supermarket sale prices
* Being held to ransom via your credit rating

The list is endless, it's time for you to speak out!

Frugal ways to win for less on ebay

Bidding and buying on ebay can be costly to your pocket, especially when, as is often the case, there is another "bidder" interested in the same item that you are after.
Now that you can shop and buy using a one off card payment, you don't need to use or have a paypal account to shop on ebay.

But there are ways to win and win on the cheap!

Here are my personal top tips to viewing and winning on ebay - getting value for money.

* NEVER use the "watch item" feature!
You see an item and click to "watch it"
This is then advertised across ebay under the "see what others are watching" section for the entire duration of the auction.
This is plastered all over your side bar and your "watched item" is promoted, not just through the ebay website but other ebay owned websites, increasing the number of views is not good, this will only lead to more bids, especially expensive if the item you are "watching" is quite hard to get hold of and collectable.

* When entering a search term, be vague!
There are many tools available to the more knowledgable ebay user whom buys and sells via the website, that help them see what search terms are popular and what are not.
The seller is aiming for the maximum exposure to attract the maximum bids, popular search terms can also work to increase the starting price, pushing up initial bids, which, as I will cover later in this post, do not help your pocket when buying.

For example, say you are looking for a collectable product. We will call it "Box A"
You enter "box A" and run a search.
Any sellers listing their "box A" check how popular that search term is.
You might return to ebay and run a search for "box A" a few times over a couple of weeks, this pushes up the number of results.
If "box A" becomes a popular search terms, anyone listing one might well start their auction off at £5.99 instead of 99p, this costs you more, both in the initial bid and the amount by which the bidding will increase, ie, a 99p start price would rise by 50p per bid, something with a higher starting price often rises by over a £1 per bid. Not very frugal!

Try searching for the manufacturer of "box A" - granted, you will have to work through the results, many of which won't interest you, but from there you can view the ones you find for "box A" without increasing search results and popularity.

* Don't forget spelling mistakes!
You would be amazed at the amount of times I have searched for something and I have spelt it wrong when I typed it in, only to find one or two listings for what I was looking for where the seller has spelt it wrong.
Ignore the "did you mean..." option on the results page.
As I write this post, there is an xbox 360 game listed under "lwgo" (the W is next to the E on the keyboard) instead of "lego" with no bids on it in the 24 hours it's been listed.
Keyboard mistakes are easy to make for sellers, which can be very frugal for buyers if they are spotted.

* Change your own "last viewed" list!
Your sidebar and cookies display what you have last viewed, by clearing cookies or simply viewing three other items completely different from the item that interests you, you can remove these results.
Think about it, if it has information that shows you the last three things you viewed, everytime you log into ebay, it can show all the other users what you viewed also, increasing clicks on the item you want, possibly generating more interest in it.
If you have three unrelated items listed there, no damage is done and viewing results for the item you want will be reduced.

You've found your item, what now?

Now you have two options;
- Using your vague search term, find it in the results and keep your eye on it (*NOTE this does not mean clicking on it!)
- Place a minimum bid on it then keep an eye on it via "my ebay" (*NOTE this does not mean clicking on it!) Do not bid any higher on the item!

I have noticed that if I bid the opening bid on an item then just keep an eye on it, without clicking on the listing, via "my ebay" - in essence, leaving it alone - more often than not, no other bids come in for it.
My other tactic is keeping an eye on it - again not clicking on the listing - via my vague search term results.
Either way, I then move to my "win it" next step.

These two methods also help cut down on the possibility of becoming a victim of "shill bidding"
"Shill bidding" is where the seller lists an item and works with another bidder or has another account set up and bids on their own item to increase the end sale price (Costing you more money in the process)
You can normally spot shill bidding taking place, but although you can complain to ebay and they will review it, it is very hard to prove, as the friend or other account normally has a different IP address logged so the two accounts cannot be linked by those investigating.
Telltale signs of "Shill bidding" include;
* An account bidding on the item with no previous feedback left or given
* An account making several bids but only on this particular item or only bidding on some items with this particular seller
* An account making many bids but only increasing the bid each time by small amounts, then once they have gone past your "maximum bid" they retract their last bid, so their bid falls just under yours, you may win the auction, but you pay the maximum amount for it!

[This has happened to me once before - 12 bids of small amounts placed on the item I had put a maximum bid on, then retracted the winning bid so the rival bidder went just under the maximum amount I bid. Despite a complaint, ebay found no evidence of shill bidding and expected me to pay for it, warning of damage to my feedback rating if I failed to pay for the item and suspension of my ebay account. Two weeks later the seller magically closed their account and vanished, with no negative feedback or account suspension for me]

* The "Win it" final step!
If you have placed a minimum bid on the item, then watched it via "my ebay" I'm hoping you have not bid any higher on the item.
If you haven't placed a bid on it, but kept an eye on it via your vague search result term, then in the last few minutes, now is the time to return to it and click on the item page.

Many times I have been gazumped by a bigger bid in the last 10 seconds of an auction.
There are websites you can join, where for a fee, you can list an ebay item and place your maximum bid, the website will then wait until the last 10 seconds of the auction, then automatically place bid increments until it either reaches the maximum or wins the auction by becoming the highest bid then stopping.
This leaves you no time at all to increase your bid and the item you've been keeping an eye on for the past 7 days has gone to someone else.
It is extremely annoying when you are beaten by 50p to an item, especially when you have placed the opening bid of £1 and no one else has bid on the item.

You can vastly improve your chances manually.
In the last few minutes of the auction there is a countdown clock shown on the item page.
With just 20 seconds to go, I type in my maximum bid.
The "confirm your bid" box appears, which I move so I can see the countdown clock, then I hovver my mouse icon over the confirm box and wait until 3-5 seconds before the end of the auction, then I click confirm.
Once entered, it is difficult for anyone using an auto increment website automated bidding process, to have their bids increment fast enough to outbid me.
Remember that the automated website is trying to outbid my original opening bid or the latest highest bid. In the few seconds it takes to beat that bid, I have submitted a new bid, unless the website is capable of checking for new bids in a split second, then it doesn't have time to react and I win the auction.
Alternately, if the automated website is placing only the minimum bid, as I've only watched it from my vague search term results and placed no bid and neither has anyone else, then before it can check for other bids, the auction is over and I've won it!
If no automated website is involved and no one else bids, regardless of my maximum bid, I get it for the opening bid amount... it doesn't happen very often but it does happen.

Sounds silly, but the amount of times I've been beaten by these websites after a week of bidding, watching items, etc, is too numerous to count.
Many times, by placing the opening bid then leaving the item alone, so to speak, nobody else comes in with another bid and I win the auction at the minimum price.

The trick is to avoid showing ebay what you are interested in.
Would you go to a real life auction house and declare to everyone what it is you will be bidding on?
The same applies to ebay, if you do not feed ebay information about what interests you, then you can save a packet and be very frugal indeed!
Ebay's target is to obtain as much information about what you are interested in and using target advertising, promote as many clicks/views of that item as possible, to obtain as much commission as possible for their business.

The easier you make their job, the more it will cost you, the buyer, from your pocket!

Thanks to Stelsters (Over at shameless plug of a totally FREE trivia/quiz website) for another money saving ebay tip.
When searching, try searching for national variants!

"luster/lustre, theater/theatre, and of course, the infamous U." - Thanks Stelsters hun.

Dad diary - Rip off Britain, holidays, petrol and juggling bills

As summer comes to a close, rip off Britain is alive and well, it's been one of the hardest that I can remember.

HOLIDAYS (Or lack of):
We are all so tired, now six years since we could afford a holiday, a week away that doesn't involve paying out hundreds of pounds for a hotel bedroom that has added a dado rail and has declared itself top rate, bumping up their prices in the process.
You can go to [insert european destination here] "from" £XX per person... Only it never is that price is it!

One late "deal" I checked out, at lastminute dot com, the headline price didn't include a case (who goes on holiday in just the clothes they are wearing?) and declared sprog2 [who is 2 years old] as a junior and almost full price for the flights, hotel, etc.
For mum & dad and a 2 year old sprog it was the best part of £1500 for a week self catering.

We could holiday in the UK?
Have you seen the prices for a bedroom in the UK, that was £200 for a week in early July, but now it's over £450 for the same room a week into the school holidays, this is without costing for petrol, meals, "Things to do" and relevant parking.
It's a joke.
I watched a few episodes of those B&Bs on channel 4 - where fellow B&B owners shove an asparagus stalk on a plate and dream about the public paying £100 for a room for the night as being "good value" - nonsense the lot of them.

We could go for a day out?
Paying top dollar for parking, petrol racing up in value, blatent profiteering by the petrol sellers, as I've caught out our nearest forecourt, putting up the price 3 times on the same delivery, then smiling when you chastise them for it... as if it's some kind of light hearted banter!
Resort tickets stretching the finances - tickets for mum & dad, granny and a sprog will set you back the best part of £100 for a few hours of being trapped inside blackpool pleasure beach, eating and drinking is out of the question as the prices are way above what's being charged outside their theme park... don't worry though, the same old rides painted in the style of their sponsors, nikelodeon, will ensure a wonderful day out... not.

Everywhere we go the parking is more than an hours wage, we are even charged for parking so we can walk around a reservoir!
There's only so many times you can go for a walk in the hills locally and see the wonderful views, many don't even have that option, what are they supposed to do?

I swear if I hear "It's the government taxing it" being used as an excuse by an attendant for putting up pump prices one more time, I'll shove the pump handle where the sun don't shine!
I shouted down a shell forecourt attendant the other week, as I'd driven past not 30 minutes earlier and seen a price of £1.32 per litre. It was now mid afternoon and now was charged at £1.35 per litre, at the time more expensive than a motorway forecourt in a remote area in the lake district... the attendant thought it was funny as "it went up 15 minutes ago!"

Juggling bills:
I save in one area, I lose in two others, one step forward then three steps back.
We saved £200 on insurance for the year, then lost £240 a month in income.
We are budgeting just to break even.

Cannot afford to pay of a modest overdraft, then hit with £1 per day charges instead of % interest. Price per month increased from around £7 per month to £20, that's over £150 per year extra to find unless we can skint ourselves and pay it off.
All this while the weekly shop increases in cost.

There's only so much one can recycle in the garden and around the house to prepare for winter and do over the summer.
Summertime used to be a wonderful carefree time of year, some sunshine and a break for us all to have time to recharge the batteries.
We can tolerate the poor weather, that is, until the planned "day out next month" goes tits up when yet another bill lands on the doorstep and swallows up the money we'd have spent stretching to some fish and chips or travelling, or both!

We are exhausted here, I don't mind telling, something has got to give, it's not nice seeing the better half spend her entire two weeks off work, her main summer holiday, running around the place trying to chase her tail, making the best of things.

We tried a day out at the trafford centre, getting stung £10 for 5 "luxury ice creams" that weren't upto the standard or size of the poundshop's own brand ice cream.
We had to pay £3.50 an hour so the little 'un could be pushed around in a plastic car buggy for a bit of fun, I had to surrender all my details (information harvesting) and lay down a £20 deposit incase I went home with the thing... god knows how most people can afford to shop there?

The mother tells me it's all spent on credit cards then people take 2 months work paying it all off... so what happens to their monthly bills then?
I think she might be right.

Is it so wrong to want to take the two year old out once in a while and be able to afford to not skip a monthly payment so we can pay for travelling and eat when we get there?

Businesses overcharging for everything, whilst customer service goes down the pan. Promised call backs that never come.
Saving money with the left hand and a week later watching the family finances pot get lighter as some business raises their charges.
"Admin fees" that are just a way of making yet more profit, does it really cost £25 to change an address or some other minor detail? 

Where will it all end? There's only so much people can take, something has GOT to give and soon...