Dunnes Stores is the most popular link from the Grocery Special Offers page

I was looValueIreland Grocery Special Offers Pageking at the website stats for this site on the excellent StatCounter website recently, and particularly the listing of the most popular links that visitors follow to go to other sites. It’s no surprise that most of the links that people use are from the ValueIreland Grocery Special Offers page.

What was surprising though, was the fact that the Dunnes Stores link was three times more popular than either of the next stores on the list – Tesco and Lidl. In fact, the numbers selecting the Dunnes Stores link outnumbered those selecting Tesco, Lidl and Aldi put together.

This differs from the market breakdown for the supermarkets in Ireland where as of the end of September, Tesco was still the most popular, marginally ahead of the SuperValu / SuperQuinn combo which didn’t make the top 5 exit links.

Why are the National Consumer Agency paying for Adwords like this?

This is a little old, but it seems like a complete waste of money to me.

Why are the NCA paying for Adwords like this?

Just to clarify, the linked website there, consumerhelp.ie, is one of many websites that belongs to the National Consumer Agency.

The “new” HMV is honouring vouchers from the “old” HMV. What should you do next?

Run, as fast as you can, into your nearest HMV and spend them all. Get rid of them as quickly as you can. If you still have HMV vouchers, you’re extremely lucky that the new HMV are doing this – they’re not obliged to do this at all.

Though, one wonders if there isn’t all that many vouchers outstanding that haven’t been ripped up. It’s a nice gesture, but businesses don’t normally go for nice gestures if it’s likely to cost them a lot of money. I haven’t seen any of the newspaper coverage of this story actually ask the question as to what value of vouchers is outstanding.

Anyway, what should you do now?

  1. Spend any vouchers that you have as soon as you possibly can
  2. Search your house high and low for any other vouchers you have, gather them all together and spend them as well
  3. Learn your lesson from the HMV debacle and don’t buy any more vouchers – for yourself or for anyone else – and if you do receive vouchers as gifts, spend them as soon as you get them

Vouchers are evil – particularly so these days given the perilous state of many businesses, so you could lose your money. They’re also a really lazy present and could cause the recipient of your present to lose out as well.

Finally, click here to read plenty more reasons why vouchers are so evil and should be avoided.

B.B. King – Recession Blues

I was going through my music collection recently putting together some party playlists. This, B.B. King – Recession Blues – didn’t get added.


Since this recession I’m losing my baby
Because the times are getting so hard
Yes, since this recession I’m losing my baby
Because the times are getting so hard
Yes, I have to stop running around
Man, you know it’s breaking my heart

Yes, I can’t afford no liquor
All I can buy is beer and wine
Yes, I can’t afford no liquor people
All I can buy is beer and wine
Well I can get my baby what she wants
And she stays cross all the time, yes help me

Yes, please somebody,
Please go out to Washington for me
Yes, please, please somebody
Please go out to Washington for me
Yes, think about us out here
Help me get out of this misery

Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer

The death of Seamus Heaney prompted an office discussion last week about poetry, who reads it now, and what we can remember from our school days. For most of us, Heaney hadn’t yet been added to the curriculum when we were learning our Yeats, Wordsworth and Shakespears sonnets.

A few Heaney poems were Googled and read, including the particularly striking “Mid-Term Break“. Out of nowhere though, someone threw Ogden Nash into the mix. Given we work in financial services, a vague memory of a relevant poem by Nash was eventually discovered via Google.

The poem below, originally  published in The New Yorker magazine in December, 1935 reads as if it could have been written yesterday.


This is a song to celebrate banks,
Because they are full of money and you go into them and all
you hear is clinks and clanks,
Or maybe a sound like the wind in the trees on the hills,
Which is the rustling of the thousand dollar bills.
Most bankers dwell in marble halls,
Which they get to dwell in because they encourage deposits
and discourage withdrawals,
And particularly because they all observe one rule which woe
betides the banker who fails to heed it,
Which is you must never lend any money to anybody unless
they don’t need it.
I know you, you cautious conservative banks!
If people are worried about their rent it is your duty to deny
them the loan of one nickel, yes, even one copper engraving
of the martyred son of the late Nancy Hanks;
Yes, if they request fifty dollars to pay for a baby you must
look at them like Tarzan looking at an uppity ape in the
And tell them what do they think a bank is, anyhow, they had
better go get the money from their wife’s aunt or ungle.
But suppose people come in and they have a million and they
want another million to pile on top of it,
Why, you brim with the milk of human kindness and you
urge them to accept every drop of it,
And you lend them the million so then they have two million
and this gives them the idea that they would be better off
with four,
So they already have two million as security so you have no
hesitation in lending them two more,
And all the vice-presidents nod their heads in rhythm,
And the only question asked is do the borrowers want the
money sent or do they want to take it withm.
Because I think they deserve our appreciation and thanks,
the jackasses who go around saying that health and happi-
ness are everything and money isn’t essential,
Because as soon as they have to borrow some unimportant
money to maintain their health and happiness they starve
to death so they can’t go around any more sneering at good
old money, which is nothing short of providential.

Ogden Nash

Pre-paying for your electricity is unlikely to save you money

We’re seeing a lot of advertising recently from suppliers of pre-pay, or pay-as-you-go electricity supply services. One of the advertising slogans used is “no more shocking bills” which to me seems to give the impression that might be saving money by switching.

To be fair to the companies involved, most of the advertising pitch is based around “control” – “Always in control – With Pinergy you are the boss”, and “Sign up to PrePayPower now and enjoy having total control over your electricity costs!”

Control costs, or control usage

Technically – none of us have, nor can our specific electricity provider provide us with, control over the costs we pay for electricity. We can choose our electricity provider to avail of the costs they charge for electricity, but once signed-up, we can’t control what they charge us.

However, when it comes to control of our electricity usage don’t we all have control over that already, no matter who our electricity provider is? We have that control whether we’re with Electric Ireland, Airtricity, Bord Gais Energy – never mind Pinergy or PrePayPower.

Just because we have to regularly load up a meter in our hallway, or pay a regular direct debit, the principles of how we use – or don’t use – electricity will always be the same. And how we control our usage of it as well.

Pre-pay Electricity is Expensive Electricity

Leaving aside the bogus “control” factor therefore, moving to a pre-pay electricity service provider, like for like with the regular providers, will cost you more. So, you’re paying extra to get “control” that you already have. Pointless!

Specifically, you pay 37.5c per day for the pre-pay meter that will be installed in your house. That’s an extra €136.87 per year added to cost of electricity. That you have no control over if you sign up to them.

That charge is on top of the electricity standing charge (€125 to €169 per year) that you pay no matter which electricity service provider you use, and on top of the Public Service Obligation Levy as well (€31.60 per year).

At the moment, you can have your pre-pay meter installed for free, but who’s to say that that won’t cost you either. And presumably, you’ll get stuff for any maintenance costs on the meters as well.

No savings on cost

And just to clarify, the pre-pay electricity service providers do not provide electricity at a cheaper rate than the standard ESB rating. Pinergy “guarantee to match the standard electricity tariffs of Electric Ireland”, while PrePayPower promise that “Our rates match Electric Ireland Standard Electricity Price Plan’s unit charge and standing charge”.

Both company websites are, in fact, so similar, I did have to a special to check that they were actually different companies.

You can’t shop around

And despite their similarities, because of the fact that you need a company specific meter installed, switching electricity suppliers to try to get a better deal becomes a lot more complicated.

Worth switching?

While I appreciate that certain consumers are living from day to day when it comes to their income and expenses, based on the information above, switching to a pre-pay electricity supplier doesn’t seem to be an answer. Yes, you can see your money being spent and used on a daily or weekly basis as opposed to monthly or bi-monthly, but given the way you’re charged, it seems to be a false economy.

  1. You pay more
  2. You don’t get any more control over your electricity usage
  3. It’s harder to switch electricity suppliers to get a better deal

What to do?

Firstly, as a simple change, if your regular bills are just too big, you could set up a weekly or monthly standing order to pay a fixed amount for your electricity instead of paying by direct debit. That’ll smooth out over a year – overpaying in the summer while underpaying during the winter.

Before taking the drastic move to a pre-pay electricity supplier, try to cut your own electricity bill – work on controlling your usage and see about switching to a cheaper supplier.

In these tougher economic times, I don’t see how switching to a more expensive service supplier can be the solution to cutting costs.

Some help with saving money on your grocery shopping

There’s been a bit of focus on grocery shopping in general in the past few weeks, particularly with the renaming of the Superquinn stores to SuperValu, and the closure of 4 Marks & Spencer stores, but the opening of one other in Limerick.

The Irish Times in particular seems to have gone big on it in the past week, with what seems to me to be a pretty anti-Supervalu / Musgraves slant. I must go back through the PriceWatch articles (and particularly the “Value for Money” ones to see how Supervalu compares in mentions to the other chains.

On a more positive slant, here’s a few links that should help you save money on your weekly / monthly grocery shopping:

  1. I’ve updated the ValueIreland “This Weeks Grocery Special Offers” page with a couple of more outlets who provide weekly updates online to their grocery special offers available. It’s worth bookmarking that page to visit each week to see what’s out there.
  2. Don’t forget there’s the “Top Twitter Tips for Grocery Shopping” that I put together a couple of years ago now – it’s all still very relevant today.
  3. It’s worth remembering that there is no price comparison tool available in Ireland to help you compare prices of grocery items. This seems to be a very popular thing that people are looking for on Google, but it just doesn’t exist. The National Consumer Agency did try to do something some years ago, but went about it incorrectly and thus failed miserably.

Know Your Consumer Rights with Tina LeonadOne final link for you is from the (relatively) new website from Tina Leonard – consumer affairs journalist, radio and TV contributor, and director on the board of the aforementioned National Consumer Agency (though, strangely not declared on her website).

Tina’s website is a great resource with detailed tips and advice on all sorts of consumer stuff, with my suggested link now being her “Saving on your Groceries” article. There’s some great stuff in there, so check it out too.

The Consumer Manifesto – a model from elsewhere to be admired

A while ago I wrote about putting together a “consumer manifesto” – a declaration of the intentions, beliefs and demands that would represent Irish consumers in 2013. My rough draft at the time was as follows:

If you provide us with what we ask for at a fair price, with acceptable quality and service with a smile, we’ll pay you what you ask, on time, and we’ll thank you kindly and move on.
If things go wrong, we’ll politely ask your help, so we’d like you to sort things out as quickly as possible.
And assuming we’re straight with you, please don’t always be sneakily trying to get one over on us.

In my research on what others might be doing along the same lines, I did come across something called “The Social Customer Manifesto”:

The Social Customer Manifesto

• I want to have a say.

• I don’t want to do business with idiots.

• I want to know when something is wrong, and what you’re going to do to fix it.

• I want to help shape things that I’ll find useful.

• I want to connect with others who are working on similar problems.

• I don’t want to be called by another salesperson. Ever. (Unless they have something useful. Then I want it yesterday.)

• I want to buy things on my schedule, not yours. I don’t care if it’s the end of your quarter.

• I want to know your selling process.

• I want to tell you when you’re screwing up. Conversely, I’m happy to tell you the things that you are doing well. I may even tell you what your competitors are doing.

• I want to do business with companies that act in a transparent and ethical manner.

• I want to know what’s next. We’re in partnership…where should we go?

I think this is great. There are potentially one or two items I’d remove, but in general I think the tone and content is brilliant. So, back to the drawing board with me and my rough draft maybe.

PS: If you like that Social Customer Manifesto and you’re interested in customer care in general, you might be interested in the rest of the Social Customer blog in general. Read more here and sign up.


Northern Ireland Consumer Council produces very useful table of “Airline Charges at a Glance”

Recently, I warned of the potential issues for licencing and bonding for Irish consumers choosing to fly out of Belfast where their travel agent isn’t licensed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. You can read that post here again – Dubious advice for prospective holidaymakers in The Irish Independent.

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of the consumer council airline charges comparison table.That advice still stands.

However, what I’m highlighting here is an excellent, yet very simple, table of airline charges on flights into or out of Northern Ireland. This table was produced by the Consumer Council of Northern Ireland, and is available for download here.

In a very simple presentation, that would be great if one of our supposed consumer advocacy organisations could replicate for flights in and out of Ireland, you can see for example that the charges for pre-booking seats ranges from free with British Airways to £16 with Flybe.

It goes through other charges such as baggage charges and weight limits, cost of airport or online check-in, and booking charges. One thing it seems to be missing though, is how much passengers would be charged for reprinting of boarding passes.

Even if you’ve no intention of flying out of Northern Ireland any time soon, it’s worth a look at the table just to see the huge variety of charges imposed by airlines, and the differing terms and conditions that will apply for nominally the same particular charge.

Taxi driver customer service – Dublin style

He’s pretty much saying all there is to be said:

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of a taxi driver saying thank you

 Interestingly, later on in the discussions surrounding the photo and the taxi driver concerned, it seems his taxi licence might be out of date as well. Probably won’t end up being a good day for him.


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