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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Clockwork Orange

Our local council, worried about the rapid decline in the health of our high streets - all charity shops, money lenders, bookies and estate agents - have initiated a "Buy locally" campaign. They figure that of £10 spent in local shops most is retained in the area, to the benefit of the local economy. Go shopping "Up West" and that £10 is lost to the local area.

To encourage us to shop around the corner the Council offered vouchers which you could redeem at local shops participating in the scheme. The trouble is that our high streets are so denuded of quality shops that even the Council's carrot has little chance of keeping shoppers local.

When it comes to major domestic appliances, we adopt a policy of shopping locally. We found a local electrical retailer,  a small one shop outfit, that was friendly and offered excellent value. Over the years we bought, dishwashers, cooker and fridge freezer from them at prices lower than that charged by the larger retailers.

So when our washing machine packed up - a crap Candy that had broken down a number of times during its short useful life - I phoned the local firm. They offered a price for a Miele semi integrated  which bettered John Lewis. I ordered it over the phone using my 18 month interest free credit card. That was two weeks ago. Last Monday I had an urgent call from the store - they were ceasing business. No washing machine but they'd refund the payment. A week later no refund has been credited to my credit card account and in the meantime I phoned the credit card company to begin the refund process.

So we still have no washing machine, and although I don't mind hand washing - doing a bath load every day can get a bit wearing. Today, I went to John Lewis. Now bear with me, it gets a bit complicated. I should have mentioned that we are having our kitchen made over in September. Not a completely new one, but the doors etc replaced, new kitchen top, a new sink, induction hob and extractor unit. We were keeping the existing dishwasher, cooker and, at the time of ordering the kitchen, the old washing machine, with its fitted door matching the rest of the units.

Now that we needed a new built in machine, I realised I'd have to let the kitchen fitters know so they could order a door for the new machine. At John Lewis I explained my problem, said I wanted to order the Miele semi integrated machine. Except I didn't have a door for the Miele, I explained that I couldn't wait whilst a door was made up and the kitchen work wouldn't take place until September anyway.

I wanted John Lewis to plumb in the new machine, but they wouldn't do it without the door. That meant I had to plumb it in myself or get a plumber. So I left it - I was annoyed by this rather strange restriction they'd placed on the order and I hadn't a plumber to hand.

On the way home I realised there were two local electrical shops close by. The first one I went to could provide the Miele, but I started thinking that whilst they're probably the best machines around - built to last 20 years -maybe £1,200 was a bit rich. I asked about a Bosch integrated machine; They'd do the one I liked for £690 plus a fitting charge of around £50. Except as I was talking to the salesman, his colleague ran in saying that they'd fit free - the boss apparently overheard my conversation.

They had an offer, which ran until the end of the week, with 20% off the price of a second item purchased. Now, we have a Bosch dishwasher, the new induction hob and cooker hood will be Bosch, and were I to buy this washing machine which is a Bosch, I have the complete set except the cooker's a Neff - which has caused us considerable grief over the years. You can see where this is going.

I rushed down to the other electrical shop with the details of the deal the first shop offered me and asked if they could improve on it. They'd do the same Bosch washing machine for the same price with free fitting and quoted a price for a Bosch cooker. I said the washing machine was urgent when could they deliver and fit it. Next Monday, I was told.

I went home, no more rushing up and down the High Street, phoned the first shop and explained what the second shop offered. They could match the price on the cooker and deliver and fit all on Monday. I gave them my credit card details - and asked for an assurance they wouldn't go bust in the next 7 days.

I'm still supporting my local shops - just different ones. Whether I've struck the best deal is open to question, I'm sure I could have got a better price on line. It would be risky and I'd have to find a plumber I could trust. If something does go wrong the shop's 10 minutes away - not some warehouse in Sterlingshire.


Steve said...

And thus you highlight the problem with your council's "buy local" masterplan. The consumer's friend is choice... and anything that limits that choice is a bad move. If your council wants to help local business they could try lowering their business rates...

Marginalia said...

Also upwards only rent reviews can be damaging.