I try hard to avoid being a grumpy old man on here, but every now and then …
This story starts in mid May, when in the post was a card from ‘Parcel Express UK’ advising me they had tried to deliver a package, and there was a redelivery charge of £2.20. Cue AC fulmination about whatever happened to the days when you just had the Post Office, and the delivery business had not become the all-consuming giant it is now?
The card, which looked genuine enough, nicely designed, with a mix of pro forma print and postman’s scribbles, said I could call and organise redelivery by credit/debit card, or collect the package in person. I was due to go the Heathrow later in the day, and the collection address was just off the North Circular, so I decided to pick it up on the way.
The address – Oxgate Lane NW2 – turned out to be an industrial estate, with no sign of a ‘Parcel Express UK’ depot. I asked around, and eventually found a man who said ‘don’t tell me – £2.20 redelivery charge – it’s a scam.’
He said there had been a steady procession of people up there to look for the depot, which didn’t exist. And presumably a steady flow who had called the number and given their credit card number, like I might have done had I not been going to Heathrow.
Once back from my trip, I googled Camden council trading standards, surprised myself at the ease with which I navigated the site to leave a short report for their attention, and was electronically told someone would be in touch within a few days.
I heard nothing for a while, so tried to phone, but got nowhere and eventually gave up. Instead I went to the local police station. The officer at the desk, as soon as he saw the card, sighed and said they had had loads of them, so thanks for popping in, but it was already under investigation. Fine, I thought.
Then yesterday up pops an email from the Planning and Public Protection department at Camden Council, thanking me for my message, apologising for the delay in replying, and telling me that they no longer deal with such complaints.
Instead, the ‘customer support officer’ told me, I should contact ‘Consumer Direct London, a telephone and online consumer advice service that is supported by local authorities in London, and by the government.’
There then followed the usual 0845 numbers (always a turn off) a couple of website addresses, and then this ‘To provide you with the best possible service, incoming emails are handled by the team as a whole: please help us maintain standards by sending all responses to this email to … etc.’
Handled by the team as a whole? But in truth it would seem to me it has been handled by nobody, for five or six weeks, until finally I get an email saying I should go somewhere else.
‘Handled by the team as a whole’ reminded me of that sign at Euston that always makes me smile, urging passengers to use all entrances to the train to ensure a speedy departure. I know what they mean … but if we all used all entrances, we would be so busy going in and out of entrances, the train would never leave.
Anywhere, there we are, grump over. I will assume the police are doing what they have to do. I will also assume that in the time it has taken for the council to tell me I need to take my complaint elsewhere, the scamsters have moved into another area, then another, then another, moving rather more quickly than the pace of trading standards complaints procedures.
That’s Lib Dem Camden for you. You wouldn’t get that in Labour Lambeth. We have a very efficient trading standards unit which would have dealt with your complaint promptly together with police specialists.
The scams are improving in quality and number both through our letter and e-mail boxes. My perception is that there is a lack of interest in resolving these scam issues.
I have lost count of the number of e-mails from Nigeria. Organisation that remind me to renew one of my domain names with small print saying this is a solicitation!
And of course, the ones I really like are those from banks eg the Bank of America asking me to verify my banking details. As a society (world)we seem to be accepting this as normal behaviour as opposed to making it socially unacceptable.
As usual your articles are super.
I have definitely noticed a drop in standards of various services at Camden since Labour lost power. it is why it makes me so angry that people vote in council elections often on national issues. We are losing good services allthe time. Also, th litter in Camden is a nightmare
It is probably the weather making you grumpy.
So when Gordon was going on about service guarantees, perhaps the ability to speak to a human being rather than a machine or computer would be a good one. Have you tried calling the old rail inquiries recently. You speak to a computer with a human voice and every time you cough it goes back to the beginning
Under a programme rather patronisingly called ‘better and cheaper’ services like this have been merged. If you phone up the council because you are annoyed by noise nuisance coming from a pub, for example, and (not unreasonably) ask for the head of licensing not such job exists, it’s now called regulatory services – hardly on the tip of my tongue and I’ve been a councillor for 7 years.
The advice Camden gave you was wrong, btw – you should not be reporting this to Consumer Direct if you are a Camden resident – they should be investigating.
It’s sad because the trading standards function used to be top notch – through the use of Freedom of Information they pioneered the restaurant star rating system (now rolled out across London) so people could have easily access to hygene standards. This was way ahead of Westminster, who saw it as too burdensome, and created an interesting sight on Charlotte street where on one side of the road you could get the information in restaurants (Camden), and one the others side (Westminster, Conservative) you couldn’t.
Where are these people who would use a debit/credit card for £2.20? For goodness sake!
May I take this opportunity to point out that probably both the AC’s conmen and the Nigerian’s previously mentioned actually live in a ‘cash society’. Something which is substantially safer than ours where strangers on the end of 0845 numbers handle your bank details.
May I recommend that with savings rates as low as they are it really is best to keep your money in a shoebox under the bed and when anyone asks for your credit/debit card number to genuinely say “sorry I don’t have one”. You will save loads of money simply by economising! Just make sure you don’t give out your address too often…
Were you expecting a parcel? If not, why pay any attention to it?
By the way, your comment posting form needs sorting out – the boxes have coma adrift from their labels…
I only hope that they don’t uncover a group of Romanians involved with this… *keeps fingers crossed* 🙂
@Alina, well, at least we know they’re not Nigerians. They would have asked for thousands, not £2.20. Strange scam.
Remember that story about Nigerian emails with senders claiming to have kidnapped Jack Straw and not one person replied to the email?… there’s a joke in there.
I would imagine the £2.20 to be the trojan horse – an amount so innocuous that the unguarded phone up and give it out, only to find a while later their account empties/is charged up/maxed out.
I know today’s blog was probably not intended to be funny, but it did make me chuckle, especially with the description of said faux parcel card and your attempts to attract the notice of those who should be notified in these matters. It makes me think fondly of my mum who in similar circumstances is also like a dog with a bone and will not give up until she is satisfied that the proper authorities will do what she expects them to.
We would all roll our eyes, grin and say “christ, mum’s at it again, writing some poor unsuspecting civil servant one of her MacDonald letters.” Perhaps it’s the Scottish last name thing…. LOL
Maybe when you are writing about one of your pet peeves or grumps you could call it “Campbell’s Crankys” 🙂
Hope the rest of your weekend is better sir.
Dear AC,Em,Jane A,Marion and the rest of my fellow bloggers,
So many wise people on this blog!I know nothing and probably would have fallen for it.
Have you got the phone number so we can see what happens when you do ring?
Thank you all – I am suddenly a suspicious person-new territory.