Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

Bar of chocolate for a pound, sir?

We have a cute little high street where we live. I’ve eaten in a great Turkish restaurant out there this evening, with the kids, and it was throbbing with people.  We have Starbucks where the staff are friendly and it’s huge and cosy at the same time.  The pleasantness in there almost compensates for their limited contribution to the nation’s infrastructure.  We have a traditional hardware shop, a couple of small supermarkets, couple of pubs, an office suppliers, an independent card shop, a shoe shop and a sizable second hand bookshop and loads of other things that add up to a street where most of your every day needs are catered for.

We also have a tiny little WHSmith.  It’s just a bit bigger than a cupboard, and stocks a few books, a few papers, a few magazines and a selection of rulers.  It’s quite handy when an independent store doesn’t quite nail your stationery / news / emergency present needs.  It’s also been a little WHSmith oasis, because in most other WHSmith’s they seek to grind down the shopping experience by herding you to self-service machines, asking if you want a bar of chocolate for a pound, giving you endless vouchers for crap food or ocado shopping, churning our endless paper with £5 off printer cartridges (every time…really?) and refusing to give you a receipt for purchases coming under £5.

But now WHSMith’s mindless corporate policy making behemoth has rolled into even cupboard sized branches.  So, on Saturday, when purchasing an emergency present and birthday card, I came across a sign on the cash desk counter; please use the self-service machine.  I approached the desk, where two staff were standing doing fiddle-dee-dee and asked whether I had to use the machine.  ‘Yes’, they replied.  ‘It’s company policy,’ they said.  ‘Do grab your vouchers’, they continued, cheerlessly.  I commented that I hated using self service machines where they were completely unnecessary (like in branches the size of a backyard pond, where there are two staff, no queues and no-one buys anything more than a pack of envelopes and a paper).  ‘The company doesn’t listen to us’, one of the two employees muttered, by way of apology.  I suspect they won’t listen to me either.

One of the staff came round to the machine on the pretence of helping me.  She scanned all of my items, took my card and placed it in the machine and got my receipt for me.  That was EXACTLY WHAT SHE’D DONE IF SHE’D BEEN ON THE TILL.

I’ve loathed WHSmith’s descent into dumbed down shopping for a very long time.  Cash desks increasingly forlorn in branches; counters piled high with discounted chocolate; irrelevant vouchers and bits of paper thrust into your hand on leaving to dictate where else / when you shop and distressingly few staff within the stores themselves to actually help you find things and aid your experience.

Now their hideous policies are infiltrating my high street, I think I’ll go somewhere else.


IKEA: A new benchmark in customer service

I had a lovely day planned with the family today.  Indeed, we had a lovely day planned yesterday too.  But it’s all been sabotaged by IKEA.  We’re in the middle of a big internal build at home at the moment (week 12 of about 15) and the point has arrived where the kitchen needs to be ordered.  We’ve settled on an IKEA kitchen and have already endured two, two hour meetings preceded by long waits in the store because they’re overloaded with appointments (you have to wander round the store for a couple of hours waiting for your appointment).

Saturday saw us have another long appointment (preceded by a 90 minute wait) that finally saw us order and part with the cash (ouch).  IKEA deliver the next day, although the last time we’d threatened ordering, it would have been the day after tomorrow, so we were hoping for some negotiation They weren’t having that – it would be delivered the next day; today, Sunday.

We were given a 10-4 delivery window, but no finer detail within that.  We were due in west London for 1230, so we’d hoped for an early delivery.  When this didn’t materialise, my wife took the kids over and I stayed in for the delivery.  By 1530 I was convinced it wasn’t going to come.  I’d tried to ring IKEA once to check out where it might be, but had given up because of the ’30 minute waiting time’.  By 1530 though I persevered despite the ’60 minute waiting time’.  After 34 minutes, I got an answer – the delivery was on its way and would be here soon.  We’d had now gone past the original delivery window and were into no-man’s land.  I had also checked out the website.  I could send an email for help (which I did – they’ll respond to me within 5 days!) or I could ring the store (which was the same number as the general number and so, I suspect, not ringing the store at all).

The delivery arrived just after 1800, a full two hours beyond a six hour delivery window.  I’d been waiting a eight hours.  My wife was on her way back from the day out.  When I heard the doorbell ring, IKEA, it seemed, had decided to give three young lads a van to drive around in on the basis that they might pass by one of the houses on a list now and again.  They clearly been told not to apologise or show any concern for failing to hit a delivery target.  They were more concerned with where to park than bringing the stuff in, and didn’t put any of it where it needed to go (I accept it was in a vague vicinity, which might be their instruction).  There was no chance to look through to see if they’d delivered the right stuff and they left me unable to close the front door despite the rain outside.  All for £29.  Thanks IKEA!  Bargain!

I’ve had a grotty weekend.  The day out with the kids  has gone.  I’ve had to lug 123 individual boxes around the house having waited eight hours for a delivery that should have arrived at least two hours sooner.  I have spent more time than I care to think about in IKEA, and now they have my x-thousand quid they seem not to care a jot about the rest of my project and the safe arrival of my furniture.

Dear Richard.  Thanks you for being a valued IKEA customer.  Would you recommend us to a friend.  No, IKEA, f*ck off.


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Things that cause cancer

It’s been one of those weeks where my Facebook news feed has been full of scare stories about stuff and cancer.  Sadly, very little is helpful or comforting, and most of it is telling me I’m going to die of it because of my pathetic Western life.  I find the irony of being told that wi-fi causes cancer via the beauty of the internet quite galling.

Having spent eight years watch a fit, lively, intelligent, non-smoking, vegetarian white women under 40 succumb to a brain tumour I get a bit cheesed off with being told what specific things to avoid in order to prevent me from getting cancer as well.  Me, I just want to make the most I can of life in the fragile, limited time we have and worry about death when it comes knocking (whilst trying to keep a sensible handle on my exercise, balanced diet and alcohol intake).

So, purely in the pursuit of a good laugh, I’ve managed to find a list of things that the Daily Mail has linked to cancer or the causes of cancer.  If this isn’t enough to make you think that a lot of what you read is fear-mongering bullshit, I don’t know what is.

AGE [www.facebook.com]
AIR POLLUTION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
AIR TRAVEL [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ALCOHOL [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ALLERGIES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ASBESTOS (as if it wasn’t bad enough already) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ASPIRIN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABIES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABY BOTTLES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABY FOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BACON [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BARBEQUES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEEF [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A BLACK PERSON [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A WOMAN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A MAN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING SOUTHERN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BISCUITS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BLOWJOBS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BRAS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAST FEEDING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAST IMPLANTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BROKEN HEARTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BUBBLE BATH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BURGERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CAFFEINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CALCIUM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CANDLE-LIT DINNERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CANNED FOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CARBOHYDRATES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CARS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CEREAL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHEESE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHICKEN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDLESSNESS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDREN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDREN’S FOOD[www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILLIS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHINESE MEDICINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHIPS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHLORINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHOCOLATE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CITY LIVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CLIMATE CHANGE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COCA COLA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COD LIVER OIL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COFFEE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CONSTAPATION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COOKING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CORDLESS PHONES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CRAYONS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CURRY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DEODRANT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DIETING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DOGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
EGGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ELECTRICITY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ENGLISH BREAKFAST [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FACEBOOK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FALSE NAILS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FATHERHOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FIBRE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FISH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FIZZY DRINKS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FLIP FLOPS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FLY SPRAY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FRUIT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
GARDENS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
GRAPEFRUIT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HAIR DYE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HAM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HEIGHT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HONEY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HOT DRINKS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HRT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
INTERNET [www.dailymail.co.uk]
IVF [www.dailymail.co.uk]
KIDNEY TRANSPLATS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LAMB [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LARGE HEADS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LEFT-HANDEDNESS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LIPSTICK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LIVER TRANSPLANTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MENOPAUSE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MENSTRUATION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
METAL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MILK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MOBILE PHONES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MODERN LIVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MONEY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MORPHINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MOUTHWASH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
NUCLEAR POWER (there is no hint of irony in this article) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OBESITY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OESTROGEN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OLDER FATHERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PASTRY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PEANUT BUTTER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PERFUME [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PICKLES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PIZZA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PLASTIC BAGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PORK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
POTATOES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
POVERTY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PREGNANCY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RADIOACTIVITY (again, just no irony whatsoever) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RICE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SAUSAGES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RETIREMENT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SEX [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SHAVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SKIING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SOUP [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SPACE TRAVEL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SUN CREAM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TALCUM POWDER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TEA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TEEN SEX [www.dailymail.co.uk]
THIRD HAND SMOKE (read article and you’ll understand) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
VITAMINS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WATER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WI-FI [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WORKING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
X-RAYS [www.dailymail.co.uk]

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