Who doesn’t love the middle aisle of an Aldi or a Lidl? The allure is irresistible. You wander into the shop in search of milk and cheap as chips potatoes or whatever and you come out burdened by a professional grade serrano ham slicer or jack hammer or weird, torso-shaped steamer that promises you will never have to iron a shirt again.
But sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes you never actually use the ham slicer or the torso-shaped steamer doesn’t work quite as well as you thought it might. Or sometimes what you buy just isn’t right.
That was the recent experience of Joe Dwyer, who has recently retired to Sligo. In early March in Lidl he bought an impact driver – it’s a bit like a drill – and what he thought was an accompanying rechargeable battery. Both were featured close by in a Lidl catalogue issued in the week he made the purchase.
“When I tried to screw in a 3 inch screw into timber it did not have the power to drive the screw all the way in,” he says.
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Fast forward to June when he finds himself back in Lidl with the impact driver that has been unable to make much of an impact on anything.
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“I brought the impact driver, 2Ah battery and charger back to Lidl and asked for a refund. They told me because it was over 60 days since purchase they could not offer a refund and that they would pass on my details to their service agent/manufacturer. After I explained the problem to the service agent/manufacturer, they suggested that if I had a friend with a 4Ah battery to try it in my impact driver as they said ‘the manual states that a 20V 4Ah battery is required to make the Impact Driver work’. Then they offered to sell me a 4Ah battery.”
So Joe got back on to Lidl.
“After numerous messages to explain the problem again and again, we kept going around in circles,” he tells us.
In early July, a Lidl staff member “checked the brochure for the date of purchase and apologised that the 4Ah was not on offer at that time. In another message from [a different staff member] she agreed that the advertisement could be confusing and would refer it to management. She then suggested that I watch the brochures as the 4Ah batteries are often on offer.”
Joe says Lidl and its staff “are missing the point, the manual states a 4Ah battery is required. The only way you know that is to buy the impact driver then read the enclosed manual. On the day of purchase, only a 2Ah battery was advertised and available. There was nothing on the outside of the packing to say what battery was required, only that the battery was not included.
“Neither Lidl nor the service agent/manufacturer took any responsibility for the misleading advertisement. When I purchased the products in good faith, there was absolutely no mention of a 4Ah battery being required. If I knew that a 4Ah battery was required, I certainly would not have purchased the 2Ah battery.”
He says that he is on “an old-age State pension [so] to purchase a 4Ah battery & charger would make this product very expensive. Also I am left with a 2Ah battery and charger that are of no use to me. Even if I was to purchase a 4Ah battery, there is still a possibility that it is the Impact Driver that is faulty. I hope that no one else will get into the same predicament as I did as I feel it is grossly unfair.”
We got on the Lidl to see what it had to say.
The news wasn’t great for Joe. The company said that the packaging for the Impact Driver “clearly states on the front that a 4Ah battery is required. The Lidl spokeswoman attached the packaging and pointed out that “on the top right corner it states battery not included and that the recommended battery is 20V (4Ah))”.
We looked at the packaging and are not entirely sure we’d agree with the use of the phrase “clearly states” but let’s move on.
The spokeswoman did say that while “only the 2Ah was advertised in the leaflet, both 4Ah and 2Ah were available and on sale in stores on this date”.
She also pointed out that the impact driver our reader bought and the battery he also bought “were not advertised side by side in the leaflet, they were on different pages” and added that there. were “seven individual items across three pages all that require a battery”.
The spokeswoman concluded by saying it was “regrettable that the customer bought the incorrect battery. However, unfortunately on this occasion I don’t believe there is anything further than can be done.”
Making a bags of it
The difficulties airlines, airports and baggage handlers have had getting the world of international travel back up and running after the Covid interruption has been well documented but by any standards the story of how bags that were supposed to travel from Dublin to Greece via London but ended up either languishing in an arrivals hall in London or travelling to Addis Ababa is pretty head-melting.
At the end of June, reader Alice Maddock O’Driscoll travelled to Greece. She and her travelling companion first flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin to London Heathrow.
“On the way to London our bags went missing. We tried to report it multiple times and were refused. We were finally able to make a report on July 19th with British Airways, and July 20th with Aer Lingus. Since then, we have been told numerous times our bags were in Heathrow, then Dublin, then back in Heathrow. We were told that Aer Lingus sent numerous requests to Heathrow to ‘rush’ our bags to us in Dublin.
“On August 5th, we flew back from France to Dublin Airport and tried for three hours to get in contact with the baggage department so I could look for my missing bag. Eventually, I was let in and found one of our two bags. The bag tag had been covered by a new one, making the bag untraceable. The bag had been flown from London Heathrow to Dublin and had been sitting in the baggage hall since the 13th of July,” she says.
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“We were told the reason our bag never made it to our final destination which was Athens was because British Airways neglected to send Aer Lingus the details of our connecting flight,” she writes.
A member of staff in Aer Lingus HQ, said she would investigate where the other bag had gone and would call Alice even if she had no updates.
“She fulfilled this promise, but had no update; she then promised again to call back in two days but we have had no word since then.” On August 25th Alice contacted Aer Lingus to ask about her bag again. “When I asked them to check my file, they informed me that my bag was flown to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on July 14th.”
She says that if that is true, it means that each time she was told that either of our bags were in London or Dublin for the past two months was not correct.
She wonders how Aer Lingus could have neglected to tell he that the bags were in Ethiopia for 43 days. She says the airline “had been sending requests to LHR to send the bags to Ireland, despite knowing that [they] had sent my suitcase to Ethiopia. Customer service say they have contacted Addis Ababa, but have not given me any updates.”
She says she had already filed for compensation for what she spent on her to Greece trip without her bag. “To claim compensation, I have been told I must have receipts for all of the items inside. How am I meant to have that? I don’t have the money to replace the items, so I can’t give you ‘replacement receipts’.
“I have spent countless hours fighting with Aer Lingus and British Airways customer service agents on the phone, Twitter, Facebook and Email. I am sick to death over this. I have lost so much sleep and have been getting headaches stressing over where our bags are and whether or not I will ever see them again.
“Our trip was completely ruined, we would rather have stayed home and saved myself the stress and money rather than have gone on what was meant to be a fun trip. I had no clothes for nine days in blazing hot heat, so we couldn’t leave the house at all. We wore the same clothes for nine days straight. That is disgusting, we are humiliated.”
We contacted Aer Lingus and received the following statement. “We appreciate the concern and frustration felt by the customer for the delay in retrieving their baggage. It is not the level of service Aer Lingus seeks to deliver. Since the bag has been missing over 21 days, the customer is entitled to compensation which has been actioned by our Customer Care team who has been in direct contact with them.
“For further expenses the customer is advised to contact their insurance provider. We sincerely apologise to the customer for the obvious inconvenience caused. Our Customer Care team will reach out to them directly to provide any further update on their bag.”
“I really thought it would never come to this,” starts an ominous mail from reader Gemma Larkin. “I took all the advice I’ve heard you give through the years and I thought I would manage but nearly a year later, I still have not succeeded.”
So, what happened?
In March 2019 Gemma bought a Kenwood washing machine and paid just under €270 for it. “It catastrophically failed towards the end of August 2021 (the bearings were worn out). I inquired about having it repaired and was advised to go back to Currys, as this machine was not ‘fit for purpose’.”
So she contacted Currys at the end of August last year. “Eventually, after in excess of 30 calls, none of which were ever returned, despite being promised, [the following December] Currys agreed to replace the machine, but did not have a comparable machine available.”
So Gemma picked a different machine and was happy to pay the difference She was told “they couldn’t do this transaction through the customer services system. I had to buy the machine I chose as a separate transaction. I would receive a refund.”
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So she did what she was told and the new machine was delivered just in time for last Christmas.
“Since then, I have inquired on numerous occasions about the refund. Eventually on July 1st, I received a call from Currys Irish accounts department, inquiring about my bank details so they could refund me €85.00. I said no, this was not acceptable. I wanted the refund granted in December. It was referred back to customer services and I heard no more. I was in contact again and on August 5th I eventually spoke with a supervisor. That was it. €85. Is this right? Can they do this? Have I any recourse?”
She concludes by saying she is “frustrated beyond belief”.
We can imagine. We spoke to Currys and the retailers came back to us within a few days.
“We are truly sorry for the delay in providing Ms Larkin with a refund for her faulty washing machine. We have now spoken with our customer to apologise for the inconvenience caused and will refund the full amount due. We have also offered her an additional €100 as a gesture of goodwill to ensure she is satisfied with the outcome.”
We also heard from three Johns in a row. “My daughter recently and very successfully changed to a fixed-rate five-year mortgage where the interest rate remains the same,” writes John number one. “Why does this not happen with energy companies? I signed up with an energy company for a year for gas and electricity. However, they have now decided to increase my tariff despite having a contract. What is the point of signing a contract with them at all? It seems that you cannot change during the year without a penalty charge, nor can you get an energy supply without a contract. I understand that they offered me a rate reduction when I signed but they all do that.”
It is a fair point but all energy contracts in Ireland are structured this way. The discounts are offered on the standard unit rate of energy and when that standard rate rises, so too does the discounted rate.
“We often look for comparison to the UK for grocery prices, but what about our closest EU neighbour?” says another reader called John.
“On holiday in France and can’t help but be struck by how much cheaper groceries are here than at home. One example, our favourite Alpro yoghurt is 40 per cent more expensive in Ireland than France. This wasn’t on special offer, this was just the normal price. This wasn’t an isolated case, ditto for cereal and nearly everything else we bought. France is a high-cost economy, it has high labour rates and big social insurance obligations which employers must pay. Is it just competition? Something doesn’t add up.”
You’re not wrong, John number two.
And then there’s the final John: “In relation to your item on price increases in today’s newspaper, a big increase that I have noticed recently is in Winalot Dog food... approx 2 months ago, it cost €4.50 for a box of Pouches... today it cost me €7.25 for same box.”
“That’s pretty – wait for it now – woof.”