Friday, 29 November 2013

Awesome Little Shops

I love an "Awesome Little Shop", they break the monotony of the dull repetition of Poundland, Top Shop, Tesco Express, Primark, Greggs etc and they're generally where you find actually cool stuff rather than the usual junk. I'm very fortunate to live a forty minute drive from Cardiff, which is exceptionally good at giving these shops a home. The arcades contain utter diamonds, and I thought I'd share with you a few of my favourites.

3 Castle Street (Opposite Cardiff Castle.)

This is my favourite cafe in Cardiff. The coffee is delicious, the staff are very friendly (and remember you!) and everything is freshly done on the premises. I remember arriving slightly earlier than they opened one day and not only did they invite me in for a coffee, but the lass was making the scones to bake today. There's no better confirmation that everything is freshly made on the premises! They also have a nice loyalty card where you get a free coffee and cake after 9 purchases. Seriously dump Starbucks, come here.

Rules of Play
29, Castle Arcade

Okay, a small disclaimer - I'm very fortunate to now have a job here, but I have been a customer for a long time prior to this. As you may be aware, aside from Doctor Who my spare time is pretty much taken up with board-gaming and crafting. And this is certainly the place for finding board games. I remember driving home from Chichester one day, a four hour drive, with my boyfriend pleading for us to stop in Cardiff on the way back so he could purchase a game from there. That's the kind of customer commitment they inspire. I am very proud to work where I do. Board gaming is a fantastic hobby to get into, so if you ever fancy a change up from the annual Christmas game of Monopoly do pop in and have a browse!

Wally's Delicatessen
38-46, Royal Arcade

Wally's is one of those dangerous places to browse for anybody with tastebuds and a wallet in their pocket. A family run business that specialises in food from around the world. They have an amazing selection of goods, including the best Lebkuchen ever (some of my favourite treats), a massive olive bar, Belgian chocolates, different spices, wines, continental breads, meats, cheeses, an American foods section, sections for people with lactose intolerance or looking for low sugar options.

Hatt's Emporium
Unit 14, Cardiff Central Market

My boyfriend is a big lover of vintage coats and hats, so when I came across Hatt's while I was wandering around Cardiff Market before I started work, I was delighted. They have a great selection of waistcoats, coats, hats, cufflinks and all kinds of awesome fashion paraphernalia. They always have new stock in, and were a great help when I was looking for something in particular and gave me dates that they would have it by.

The Pen and Paper
13-17, Royal Arcade

In Chichester I used to love a ship called Sussex Stationers; now I've moved and The Pen and Paper has fulfilled my lust for different coloured bits of paper and foam, pens, sketchbooks, ink, pencils and pens and all the different oddments I love cluttering up my house with in the hope that I may sit down and actually make some cards. They've got masses of stock (and loads of knickknacks, which keep calling my name as stocking fillers every time I go in there..)

Anyway, that's a quick round up for now. I'll try and do a few more in this style over the next few months. Enjoy roaming around Cardiff!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Customer Service

Customer service is one of the things I can get really grumpy about. It's so easy to get it right and yet so many places you get poor advice, lack of initiative, and the complete inability to help you in a timely manner. I've been "fortunate" enough to be subject to various levels of customer service of late, so figured it was worth highlighting my experience.

The Body Shop:
I'm a sale whore, I freely admit that, and I love the items The Body Shop produces (the scent of Vineyard Peach, the aloe lip balm that is actually made out of fairy dust and cures chafing instantly..) and they have wonderful ethics. So when they held a 50% sale I was right there, because you just can't pass up that kind of awesomeness. And because sometimes I'm remarkably restrained I bought a lot of presents for people (okay mostly for Christmas even though this was September, I run Christmas like it was a military organisation.) and then they arrived like this:

Basically The Body Shop have removed cellophane from all of their products in order to become more environmentally friendly, and in concept I think this is great. Unfortunately when you buy a pre-packaged present and one of the items has opened and spilt all over the box and other items, it's a bit rubbish.

And then it takes a month to get it resolved because they only reply to an email every two weeks, even though the actual correspondence is generally quite reasonable. And they delete your review of the item when you mention how it arrived, even if the rest of your review was pretty pleasant considering how bummed out you were that the item you had ordered was out of stock and the present you had was no longer in presentable condition.

A massive shout out to their twitter feed, @TheBodyShopUK, however and Katrina in particular. Once I spoke to them a resolution was found much more quickly and with a greater amount of pleasantness.

Tits, knockers, nunga-nungas, boobs, fun bags, breasts. I have them and they're frustratingly gigantic. This is not a good thing. It means they're always in the way, seat belts are a pain (literally), they're so heavy that when I'm feeling ill I have to hold them off my chest when I'm lying down to stop me feeling nauseous, they will knock you (or somebody else) out if you jump or swing around quickly, and obviously you cannot get pretty lingerie. It's M&S horrible granny bras. That's just not nice. 

Frankly I was pissed off with them. To the extent I went to get measured, something I haven't done since I was 12 (yes not only did they grow, they grew early too. Sods.) Obviously I'd heard the many horror stories of being measured at M&S, so I decided to risk Bravissimo where I'd never shopped before due to the expense (and finding it in St David's Arcade, I still can't find my way around that place..) 

And they were lovely. I was fitted by a wonderful lady called Jenny, who could not have been more helpful. She looked at me and told me what I was already aware of - that my bra was gaping (the central part wasn't flush against my chest) and the cups were too small. After trying on many bras (never using a tape measure, bras generally fit completely differently depending on style) I went down one band size, and up three cup sizes to a 34J/JJ. I walked away with three bras.

And then, less than a month later - disaster! A wire had broken the fabric of the bra and was poking out. I immediately searched for my receipt, but unfortunately I'd cleared my purse out a few days before and no longer had it. So I was very nervous about heading in to talk to them about it. Luckily they could not have been nicer - there wasn't even a suggestion they wouldn't help, they immediately looked me up by email address and checked their stock list. They didn't have the replacement in store so they arranged free delivery. The new bra arrived a few days later. I was so delighted to have some exemplary customer service where I wasn't made to feel like I was in the wrong.

So some news. I'm getting married. Not for a while yet, I imagine, funds being what they are, but my lovely boyfriend has decided that he plans to propose and wanted to find out what ring I liked. (We're quite relaxed, there was no massive surprise proposal) So I attacked the internet with the force of a woman unleashed and eventually found a ring I loved. Adored. We then visited the local store to have my finger measured so that he ordered the correct size. I was told multiple times it was best to have it a bit tight so that it didn't slip off, during this fitting.

Finger red, despite wearing it for over half hour,
much bulging :(
He ordered it, it was delivered to the store and we went in to collect it. It didn't fit, not even close. I was quietly devastated. They offered me a free resize and again heavily pushed the fact I needed it tight - "If it was me I would definitely go for the smaller size." was said multiple times, amongst other similar influential assertions. They told me it had to be forced over the knuckle to ensure it wouldn't fall off, even though my fingers widen after the knuckle so something tight going over it would never fit any further down. I was told not to worry - when my fingers were cold there wouldn't be any bulging, even though I tried to point out that my hands were cold now (and are pretty much always cold due to my poor circulation.) Still, I ordered it against my better judgement. I'm a push over, nervous of authority and presume they must know best - they do this for a living and I know fuck all about wearing jewellery, especially important jewellery. This is something I regret.

So I waited, and finally had the call that it had arrived back in store. I went it to collect it by myself, as Gareth was working. It still didn't fit. I was shocked, and pretty close to breaking into floods in the shop. This was meant to be happy, why was it being so hard? I was then told that a resize would cost me £50. £50 on a ring you've already sized my finger for twice, and yet you agree with me that it doesn't fit?! I took it away, I didn't know what to do. When Gareth was home we had a chat and I cried a bit, and wrote a stroppy email to customer services. They got back to me and told me that I could have one more free resize. So I went in again, was resized again, the ring size went up again (so in total I was up two sizes from the initial sizing.) I'm still waiting to see if it will fit this time.

I agree a lot of this was my fault for being a bit of a doormat, but I found the pushy service very intimidating and it has really spoiled a very important occasion in my life.

Gareth, if you are curious, is clutching desperately to the awesomeness of being young and is having this as his engagement ring: