Monday, March 15, 2010

The Sushi, the Stew and the Failed Computer

Last Sunday, Mother’s Day, we went to our daughter’s house in Chichester, as we had the previous Sunday, the weekend when they moved into the house. On both occasions we had a very pleasant day. I had been over on the first Saturday, when they moved in; Fedor had come with me to the “At You Fingertips” shop in the Greywell Centre, Leigh Park, to try to help me retrieve my money for the failed Acer Extensa laptop computer.

On the first of those two Sundays, while Emma and I went to fetch bed from a friend’s house, Fedor had put together a meal of sushi, his favourite and well deserved after all his efforts during the house moving. Unfortunately, somehow, it was knocked off of the table, the plate breaking on the stone floor and the sushi ruined by shards of crockery.

The following day I had returned home, after visiting clients, to find Jo ad made one of her very good stews. With my plate of stew on the worktop in the kitchen, I open a cupboard to get a wineglass, there being some wine left over from the weekend. Somehow, I contrived to knock the glass against the cupboard, or somehow otherwise drop it, for the glass to bounce on the worktop and break on the floor. Clearing up quickly and pouring wine into another glass, I took the meal into another room and sat down to eat. I had only taken one mouthful when I saw two pieces of glass ion the edge of the pallet. Obviously, the glass had started to break when it hit the worktop, before landing on the floor. So, my meal was ruined by shards of glass in it, at least potentially and not worth the risk, though Jo had made plenty, enough for two days, so all was not lost.

It was peculiar to have two such similar incidents twenty-four hours apart, the only connection being that Fedor, being a computer consultant, had offered to come with me to a shop where I had bought a laptop computer, sometime previously, the computer had failed, so had the first repair, and I was having problems getting my money back.

The computer was purchased from At Your Fingertips, in Greywell Precinct, Leigh Park at the end of September 2009. It began to show signs of instability during November and failed completely by the end of the month; it kept going blue screen, “crash dump to disc”.

I agreed to the computer being repaired, though there was additional delay due to the shop owner, Cecilia Harding, being away due to illness. The computer came back from Acer, with, apparently, a new motherboard and a clean bill of health, though, when I started it, in the shop, it went blue screen, “crash dump to disc”. Cecilia Harding suggested I take it home for Christmas and try it, see if it settled down, otherwise bring it back afterwards.

The computer was no better after Christmas, Fedor said from what I told him about it, that it was a memory problem, and wondered whether the computer was an up to date model. After Christmas I accept the offer of a loan computer while we waited for a response from Acer about the supposed repair, matters being delayed due to Acers laggardly, to put it mildly, response and Cecelia Harding going on holiday.

There turned out to be additional complications and Emma suggested the obvious, ask for my money back, which was not refused but starting to get somewhat involved. I came across a Hampshire County Council trading Standards Officer at a Havant Borough 50+ Forum Coffee morning, when I called in at the Beacon Centre, in the Meridian Centre, Havant, early in February. She confirmed that Trading Standards Law was that, if a product failed in the first six months, it was deemed to be a failure at time of manufacture and a refund was due. When I, later, ‘phoned the number she advised me to contact, Consumer Direct on 08454 040506, the adviser who answered the call was of precisely the same view.

I had already begun to wonder about the stability and reliability of the loan computer, particularly being the same make and model, so I bought a Hewlett Packard laptop computer, from Currys in Havant. I had been to a PC World Store in Sussex immediately beforehand but, whichever PC World I went to Currys was closer and owned by the same holding company. Ironically, we had problems with Curry’s relating to both a fridge and a freezer during the previous several weeks but it was always down to their delivery people, those in the shop being very helpful; as was the case with Rick when I went in for the computer. The choice of the Hewlett Packard was decided by the specification and the offer price.

The loan computer was stripped of my files and software, though most of my files were on an external hard disc anyway, and returned to its box to await resolution of the situation with “At Your Fingertips”.

When he next visited us, Fedor pronounced the Hewlett Packard computer to be a good purchase, an up to date model with a good specification. He carried out an online search for the Extensa model of computer with which I had problems but could find out little about it in regard to the U.K. though did so on Eastern European websites, apparently known for memory problems, which fitted with his original diagnosis of the problem with the one I had purchased.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Daily mail, about a couple who had purchased a laptop computer from a Comet Store, only to have it fail and Comet to decline a refund, at least until they essentially “camped” outside the store with a placard. In a way I can understand such reluctance but it is not good business, certainly in the long run.

When we went to “At Your Fingertips” in Leigh Park last Saturday, the shop was closed, though I was certain it did open on Saturdays; presumably that is a new development. The next time I go there the number of visits will definitely enter double figures, all in regard to one computer.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Great Big Business Debate, The Rose Bowl, Eastleigh, Hampshire

While talking to the people on the Business Link Hampshire stand at the Chamber of Commerce meeting at the end of January, I saw some leaflets for free seminars at the Rose Bowl, Hampshire County Cricket Ground, on 3rd and 4th March. I went to those events, which were free, expecting it to consist of seminars with a few exhibitors present; it turned out to be somewhat the reverse, mainly exhibitors with the seminars tucked away in rooms under the main stand.

I did not go to all of the seminars, just a couple over the two days, though found some of the exhibitors useful.

What also transpired was that Business Link Hampshire is being taking over by SERCO, or, at least, that is the company that has been awarded the new contract, there begin dissatisfaction with the performance of Business Link Hampshire in recent years.

When I went to ask someone on the Business Link Hampshire Stand about the potential new circumstances under SERCO the person I approached turned out, from his name badge, to be Chas Morrison. I had heard of him many years before, when David Bartlett had encouraged me back to Hampshire from Business Link Sussex in 2004. I had heard Chas Morrison might be helpful from my point of view though was never allowed to meet him or anyone else.

Although I mentioned that recommendation to Chas, he did not seem to think he could have helped, then added that I should have received a letter from Business Link Hampshire about my circumstances with them, probably from Jonathan Morris, the Director. I said I had never received a letter and that it may well have gone the same way as the E-mail I was supposed to have received from Sarah Anderson that I had never been able to find on my Email program, no matter what I searched under. Chas asked for my address in case it had been sent to the wrong one and made a note. The conversation went not much further than that.

No letter ever came, though I did not expect it to; the whole of Business Link Wessex is being taken over in April and, presumably, revamped; it certainly needs to be.

In contrast I had some potentially useful conversations with other people and have heard from a few of them since.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Business in Havant, in Hampshire, and David Willetts’ book “The Pinch”

On the Monday afternoon, I spent a while at the Havant Borough 50+ Forum at Havant Civic Offices. Among the subjects that came up, one involved problems with obtaining replies to letters written to Havant Borough Councillors and Hampshire County Councillors, as well as to Council Officers. None of that was any great surprise; I was well used to problems of that type, particularly with Havant Borough Council, to the extent that I routinely published all correspondence with Havant Borough Council, whether by letter of E-mail, on the Internet. I mentioned some of my problems with Business Link Hampshire, saying that I had found public funded bodies in general, including the Councils, well out of reach as far as obtaining any redress are concerned. We pay those who use public funds but most seem beyond any control other than that they choose to exercise themselves.

While in Havant, on the Tuesday, I tried to find Julie Gallagher, of Hampshire Trading Standards, with whom I had a conversation at the Havant Borough 50+ Forum coffee morning in February, principally about the faulty computer I had bought at a small shop in Havant. It was at the same meeting that I had appraised County Councillor Ann Buckley, of the Liberal Democrats, about my problems with Business Link Hampshire discriminating against me, the County Councillor being somewhat taken aback by that, let alone my views on the atrocious level of business support in Hampshire; effectively, if anyone decides to come to Hampshire with their business, or develop one in the County, they should ensure that they keep all of their out of Hampshire, lines of communication, advice, finance and publicity open, join the Chambers of Commerce and smaller organisation such as Southern entrepreneurs but assume that all other organisations are useless, or hostile.

Julie Gallagher was not there but I had a very useful conversation with other representatives of Hampshire County Council, including, Trading Standards, who had some tables set up in the Meridian Centre. Mostly, the conversations I had were about the problems I was having with the shop where I had bought the faulty computer. However, I took the opportunity to confirm what I suspected, that organisation like Business Link Hampshire were outside the jurisdiction of trading Standards and similar, as problems with them were a business and civil matter rather than a criminal matter. On the other hand, I did find out something about the Havant Borough Council employee who had claimed to be a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, as it was then, by including MIEE on his business card, though that membership, it transpired had lapsed some twenty years earlier; nowadays that is definitely a criminal offence and likely was then, though will need some double checking. However, none of the several people I informed about that deception knew that, apparently, including Councillors, Council Officers, or members of the supervising Board of the Borough Partnership, such as a College Principal and the Business Link representative.

It was suggested that I speak to people in the Economic Development Office of Hampshire County Council, particularly about the situation with Business Link Hampshire. It was more likely that I would need to find alternative avenues to business development.

What was particularly amusing, at least in the black humour sense, so do, if you are a budding entrepreneur coming to Hampshire, do remember to bring that brand of humour with you, was that David Willetts, Member of parliament for Havant, had just brought out a book, entitled “The Pinch”, Atlantic Books; it is about the “baby-boomer” generation, of which I am one, making money out of the younger generations but not doing much to give, put, any back. The irony is that, since the 1990s, I have been trying to do just that but Havant Borough Council wrecked my project and five years work, David Willetts, who had never helped anyway, said that it was a dispute between Havant Borough Council and myself, and that he could, therefore, not intervene; I still have the letter. So Havant Council prevented me contributing to local business, putting anything back from my generation and David Willetts could do nothing about it, yet David Willetts’ book criticises my generation for not contributing.

There was irony on Tuesday in the form of Mac’s Cartoon in the Daily Mail. The cartoon involved two men, hanging by chains, being whipped by a mostly naked woman in boots. Above and on the door was “Madam Whiplash (Sado-Masochist) Specialist in Prolonged Torture. Impaled on a bed of nails was a newspaper with the headline, “Opinion Poll Shock”, a reference to news stories about the apparent collapse in support for the Conservative Party as we approach a General Election. Well, if Mac regards life under the current labour Government as torture, with which I do not necessarily violently disagree, he should try life in Hampshire in general and Havant in particular, especially business life.