Posts Tagged ‘complaints’

Stopping political junk mail

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Junk mail is always annoying, there are many different types, and different steps are required to stop each type. Stopping junk mail is something I’ve previously written about, but if you want to stop political junk mail, or canvassing phone calls my previous advice won’t help you.

political junk mail

If you are on the unedited electoral roll then the political parties are entitled to contact you for electoral purposes. You can ask to be removed from the unedited register and this might reduce the political post you get. It might not though – and it could take some time to get removed.

Facing an avalanche of political junk mail in the run up to the general election, I decided to contact the three parties directly to ask them to remove my address and phone number from their lists of people to contact.

I decided to send each of the main parties the same polite message via the main contact form which is on their websites.

I sent the messages on Friday 16th April at about 7:30pm. Below are the three screens confirming that my message had been sent.

three parties contact us forms

Who will win the political junk mail removal contest?

Almost immediately I got an automated email from Labour saying that they had received my message and it had been forwarded to the appropriate team.

The next day – Saturday 16th April – I got my first real email reply. It was from the Conservative party chairman’s office. The lady explained very politely that it is perfectly legal for them to contact me as I am on the unedited register, but that she would ask my local Conservative office to remove my details from their list so that I don’t get contacted again.

One day later – Sunday 17th April – I got an email message from my local Conservative office confirming that they had removed my details. The man who contacted me did say that I might still get mailing which were already in the system – which is fair enough. As a bonus he told me how I could get unaddressed mailings from other organisations stopped as well.

So just two days after sending my message we have a clear winner – The Conservative party. Not only did I get two prompt replies from two different people, but they also replied at the weekend which I found quite impressive.

Which party will get second place?

The week went by with no reply from either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. I was thinking that neither of them would send me a reply.

But then on the 26th April I got a reply from the Liberal Democrats. The lady who replied told me that my request to be removed from the mailing lists has been passed to my local Liberal Democrat office.

Maybe I’m not 100% there with the Liberals yet – but I think I can safely declare them to be the runners up.

The losers

And Labour who have sent me no human response are the losers. If I do get a response from them I will of course update this post.

Events and conclusions

Here’s a quick summary of what was sent and received.

  • Friday 16th April 7:30pm – Sent messages to the three main parties.
  • Friday 16th April 7:39pm – Received automated email from Labour.
  • Saturday 17th April 2:34pm – Got a personal reply from the Conservative party chairman’s office.
  • Sunday 18th April 7:22pm – Was sent a personal reply from my local Conservative branch.
  • Monday 26th April 11:43am – Received a personal reply from the Liberal Democrats campaigns department.

Here are the rankings:

  1. Conservative Party – the clear winners.
  2. Liberal Democrats – an honourable second.
  3. Labour Party – a dishonourable silence – so far!

Does any of this have any bearing on the upcoming general election? Maybe not, but it is interesting to see how much importance the major political parties attach to a simple request submitted though their official websites.

Update May 2010 – The results perfectly match the order of influence in parliament after the election. I bet Labour are wishing they’d replied to my message now!

My two months journey to get £10 Oyster refund

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

In January an Oyster card top-up machine managed to turn £20 of my cash into a mere £10 of credit. Here is the journey I had to take (bad joke alert!) to get them to give me my £10 back.

oyster card tfl complaint

Perhaps the best way to explain this one is to print the first complaint I sent to Oyster customer services via the contact form on the Oyster website:

Text of the first complaint

On arriving at [xxx] station after 3 months abroad I needed to top up my Oyster prepay.

I went to the card only machine and paid £10. However I didn’t touch my card on the machine for the second time after payment fast enough (it’s been a while since I used these machines and I forgot I needed to do this). I got a message saying that I had been charged, but my Oyster card hadn’t been updated.

I asked a member of staff for help but he was unable/unwilling to help – saying he’d never seen this happen before.

As I needed to get home I paid another £10 and this time touched my card on the reader in time so my Oyster was credited with £10.

Therefore I have been charged 2*£10 but have only received 1*£10 credit on my card.

If you look at your payment logs you will see I have used the same card to make two payments and your Oyster logs will show that only one of them was credited to my card.

Please either arrange for £10 to be refunded to the same card, or I am happy to collect the extra £10 credit at the ticket barrier at [xxx] station.

A better designed system

Why was it necessary for me to have to write in to complain? They should have systems that automatically detect this problem. A better designed system would have:

1. Not required a second touch of the card on the sensor.
2. And/Or automatically given me the missing credit next time I touched any Oyster sensor.
3. And/Or automatically refunded the money direct to my card without me asking.
4. And printed out a physical diagnostic receipt from the machine which I could have shown to the staff members at the station. The machine briefly showed an error message on screen, but having proof of the problem in my hand would be much better for convincing the station counter staff to offer some help. It could be in the form of a refund voucher which would get me an immediate refund when handed over to the counter staff.

What they shouldn’t be doing is pocketing your money, giving you nothing in return, and then forcing you to spend you own time writing a complaint!

Technical problems

There was a further problem when I tried to complain using the complaint form on their website.

I filled in form. Pressed ‘Continue’. And I got a ‘500 internal server error’ Pressing the ‘Back’ button in the browser caused me to lose my form contents. Luckily I’d saved the text before pressing ‘Continue’ as I know that badly implemented forms sometimes do this.

I refilled in form. Pressed ‘Submit’. I then got a “Please enter phone number in correct format.” Message. However it didn’t tell me what the correct format was. I guessed that I needed to remove the space in the number and then it worked.

So do you think I got a refund after this complaint?

Not even close! I got no response from my first complaint to Oyster customer services.

So a week later I sent another complaint using the Oyster complaint form. Again no reply.

Realising that they don’t seem to be doing anything about complaints sent online I decided to write Oyster customer services a letter.

Did I get a response? Of course not. This is even worse as unlike the complaint using their web form this complaint cost me a stamp, an envelope, and a sheet of A4 paper.

I then sent another postal complaint – this time to TFL customer services. There was no response during the next week.

Finally 16 days after sending the letter to TFL customer services I got an email reply (coming from Oyster online customer services), apologising for my lost £10 and saying that I could collect my £10 of credit from the Oyster gate at my chosen station.

Response from Oyster customer service centre

Thank you for contacting us about what happened at [xxx] station on 26 January. Please accept my apologies for the long delay in responding to you.

I am sorry that you were charged for a product you didn’t receive when using one of our ticket machines.

Your refund of £10 has been sent to the gates at [xxx] station as requested. When you touch in at the gate at the beginning of your journey this amount will be loaded onto your Oyster card. This refund will be available from 24/03/10 and can be collected for 7 days afterwards.

If you have any problems collecting the refund in this time please contact me directly quoting the above reference number.

Thank you for your patience while this matter was being resolved. Please feel free to contact me again if you need any help in the future.


Here’s a quick timeline:

  • 26th January – Oyster top up machine takes £10 off me and gives me no top-up in return, forcing me to spend another £10 to get enough credit to get home.
  • 28th January – I sent a complaint using the online form on the Oyster website.
  • 3rd February – I send another complaint using the online form.
  • 11th February – This time I send a postal complaint to Oyster customer services.
  • 7th March – I send a postal complaint to TFL customer services.
  • 23rd March – Finally I get an email response from Oyster customer services.
  • 24th March – I get my £10 back.

A satisfactory outcome?

Am I satisfied with the Oyster customer service / TFL response? No, they have been less than satisfactory on many levels:

  • Their staff member at the station offered me no help, and was unwilling to investigate my missing £10.
  • Oyster customer service online failed to respond to the two online complaints I made in a timely manner.
  • Oyster customer services failed to respond to my written postal complaint.
  • TFL customer services didn’t respond to my written postal complaint.
  • When I finally get a response they didn’t offer me an explanation of what went wrong, what they are doing to stop it happening again, or why it took them so long. All they could offer was “sorry, and here’s how to get your £10 back”.
  • They offered me no compensation. For the fact that this kind of error can be made, the four complaints I had to make (two postal, costing me stamps, envelopes, etc), and for the two months it took to refund my money, I would have expected some compensation. I think a minimum of an extra £10 of credit should have been offered.

A special bonus in case you need to make a complaint

Whenever I need to make a written complaint I print the address out on an envelope. I find that if you need to make one postal complaint, it is quite likely that you will need to make a second complaint, so it is good to be able to print out the addressed envelopes quickly. Here is a link to a zip file containing addressed envelopes for Oyster and TFL customer services, in case you find you need to send them a complaint in the future.

Oyster and TFL customer services addressed envelopes (11kb)

Is it possible to get removed from this junk post list?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

I’ve used Interflora in the past when I’ve needed to get flowers for various people. As a result of this I ended up on Interflora’s postal mailing list. Every so often I would get mailing in the post advertising their services. Especially around the times of flower giving events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

junk mail post

I’m not a bit fan of getting junk mail so I thought I’d send a quick message to them to ask them to stop it. I used the Interflora Contact page to send them my request. This I did on the 1st August 2009.

As always when contacting a company I make a record of it just in case I need to make a further complaint later on. I record the details on my telephone call logging spreadsheet. Despite the name it works well for recording details of emails, and letters that I send as well.

Despite my request, later in the year I received another junk mailing from Interflora, this one saying ‘Trust Interflora to deliver a smile this Christmas’. Their junk mail didn’t put a smile on my face!

On the 29th January 2010 I sent them a second complaint through their contact page. This time I got a message back from one of their customer service people apologising for the inconvenience caused.

Now after two complaints they are bound to have removed me from their mailing list. Right?

Wrong. Come February 2010 I received another one suggesting I send someone flowers for their birthday. And in March 2010 I got another one reminding me about Mother’s Day.

So it is now 4th March 2010 and I have sent them my third complaint. Will I finally be removed from their mailing list? I’m not hopeful, and I’ll update this post if I get any more unwanted post.