“Value Packs” – not always the best value

I was sent an e-mail recently from someone highlighting how people should be careful in shows when they’re looking at “value pack” deals. The person gave an example showing that you might not always be getting good value with these supposed offers.

I was a Dunnes Stores recently looking at bottles of still mineral water which had a “value pack” offer running, with bright stickers and posters advertising the deal. There were two bottles stuck together in this “value pack”.
Yet, a few feet down the aisle, I could have bought 2 individual bottles of exactly the same water for less than the price of the “value pack”.

Obviously it’s important that consumers keep an eye open, and don’t always believe that things do exactly what they say on the tin/labeling.

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What’s the actual cost of the M50 Toll?

For the most of 2004 to 2006, I travelled twice a day through the M5o toll bridge, paying my €1.80. It was a great way to get rid of beer change, albeit that it took a split second more to put in 9 20cent pieces.

It was very funny how some people in the traffic mayhem of the M50 would beep if you took more than 2 seconds putting the money in the hopper. Like it made a difference.

Last weekend and this weekend has been the first time for a long time that I used the M50 Toll bridge, and therefore noticed that it had increased from €1.80 to €1.90.

Which got me thinking? For people who’s time in their minds is so valuable that need to get through the toll bridge in rush hour traffic 2 seconds quicker, how much do they care about the difference between getting the right change, and just putting in €2 and moving on?

How many people, I wonder, just fire in a €2 coin into the toll hopper and drive on, instead of putting in the correct change? This is giving free money to the NTR company given that they won’t give you change.

NTR could probably tell you how much of this free money they’re getting as presumably their cash handling procedures would indicate how many €2 coins go through the hoppers on a daily or weekly basis?

And NTR doesn’t even have to make an effort to get this money back to customers, or even make donations of this money to charity (which I believe Dublin Bus do).

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Lidl, Podge & Rodge, and the “horsey set”

Last week, Podge & Rodge made great fun of the “horsey set” going to Lidl to buy horse riding gear – though some of the stuff mentioned wouldn’t necessarily have been used by them for riding horses.

I’ve been quoted previously in newspapers saying that there’s a certain level of snobbery involved in some Irish people rarely availing of the cheaper prices available in Lidl and Aldi, all the time preferring to spend higher prices in Superquinn, Marks & Spencers and the likes.

But who buys the horse riding stuff in Lidl then, as went on sale last week? Obviously, people who are too proud/snobby for it to be known that they were shopping in Lidl in Finglas. I can say this given the amount of packaging strewn around the Lidl car-park last week, and all of it packaging for horse riding gear.

No shame at all in chasing the best value for money and saving a few bob, whether it be buying the food essentials for the weekly shop, or for horse riding gear.

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30 Things Not to Do with Your SSIA

Back in January, I posted about an article we’d put together on the ValueIreland website entitled 30 Things Not to Do with Your SSIA.

There was a follow up post by a reader mentioning an Irish Independent article which he described as an “absolute disgrace”.

The article was written by Donal Buckley and you can read it here. To be fair to Mr.Buckley, the gist of the article is actually based on banks suggesting that people borrow to buy cars rather than using their SSIA.

And why wouldn’t they suggest that – it’d make them even more money. They’ll make money on having your funds saved with them and on the interest you’ll be paying on your car loan.

Don’t do it!!!

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Irelands Consumer Website

This how Fine Gael are describing their ripoff website. But this is what “the paper of record” the Irish Times said about their site in the PriceWatch column last Monday.

Perhaps the most well-publicised consumer awareness site was Fine Gael’s
Ripoff.ie. Despite the publicity, it never really captured the public’s
imagination, and is now populated by little more than self-serving press
releases. It is not updated frequently, so it is increasingly irrelevant and its
close association with a political party makes it look like it is trying to
exploit people’s outrage over overcharging to win votes.

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Consumer Power At Work in the UK

Following on from the PriceWatch article in yesterdays Irish Times asking why there’s never any large consumer campaigns in Ireland, there was a short example in todays Irish Daily Star as to why such campaigns do work in the UK but will rarely have hope in Ireland.

The article mentioned how British Gas were forced to cancel plans to enforce a £5 fine on late paying customers by the size of the consumer backlash against the plan. The BBC can tell you more here.

So what of the plans by NTL in Ireland to charge customers €2 for not paying by direct debit and the late payment fee of €7.68? Was there a consumer backlash? Boycotts of NTL services?

Well, there were a few newspaper articles, a couple of discussions on a radio phone-in and TD Marin Brady calling for people not to pay their bills. I seem to remember our new consumer champion from the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald making a few comments about how

The National Consumer Agency then came out and said “they were in discussions” with NTL about these new charges. The outcome? You’ll get an extra warning letter that you’ll be charged the late payment fee. Oh, and they’ll ask NTL to review the €2 charge for the elderly and those with special needs.

Big deal!!! The fees are still there and will be levied on most consumers. No “British Gas” type climb down for NTL. And no help at all from the National Consumer Agency at all.

So what’s the difference? Simple.

First, click on this link to search for options on changing gas suppliers in the UK . A total of 133 possible results – including 3 paid adverts of companies who’ll help you swith your gas supplier.

Now, click on this link to search for options on changing your cable tv provider in Ireland. Unfortunately, Your search – “change cable tv provider” – did not match any documents.

No competion. No alternatives. No choice. No options.

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Ultimate Rip-off? Someone should call the polic……Oh!

I received this via e-mail this morning. Not Ireland, but it’s not too disimilar to how things are done here – witness having to join the IRFU Rugby Supporters Club to get first dibs on tickets for the recent Croke Park rugby internationals. Oh, and a regular e-mail as well, all for €60 odd.

Just checked out the ticketing details for the Police concerts in the UK this
autumn. They go on-sale officially on Friday morning but if you are a member of
the Police Tour Fan Club you can start buying them now. When you select your
tickets you will be automatically billed for 1-year’s premium membership at a
cost of £53. It gives you the option to view the additional benefits of being a
member so I had a look. It’s pretty much the ticket presales and f**k all else.
Unless you like exclusive web content & a discount at the on-line
store.

So, 2 tickets to The Police in Cardiff @ £85 ea – €262
1 Membership to the Fan Club @ £53 – €81
Getting publicly man-f**ked by the most ethical man on the planet – Priceless

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Quick Consumer Quiz

Complete the following sentence. The Customer is always:

a. A Dickhead
b. Right
c. Condescending

Obviously, we’d always thought that b was the right answer, but apparently given two recent reports about goings on in two Irish restaurants, the answer could just as easily be a or c as well.

Following the reports of Kevin Thorntons “dickhead” outburst last week towards a customer, there are reports in yesterdays Sunday Independent that the manager of a Dawson Street restaurant actually threw out a restaurant critic because of her “condescending” manner of complaint.

There’s no excuse for a business person to act in either of the ways above – no matter how much they dislike what’s being said to them about their product or service. The only way to treat such business people is to avoid their premises in future, but unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen with these particular establishments in this day and age.

Value Ireland has always maintained that Irish consumers should always complain where they’ve felt that they’ve received poor service from any kind of business or service provider. We believe that it’s a sign of a good business in how they respond to a politely put complaint. Check here to see how to put your complaint, and hopefully you won’t be considered a condescending dickhead for doing so.

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You can actually now shop around for electricity, sort of!

I should have added to my original post above about checking out the Airtricity site looking for business deals for electricity.

Airtrictiy are now supplying householders with electricty which I’m sure we’ll be told is bringing competition to the Irish electricity to the Irish market. You can find out more details here.

But hang on, Airtricity have said that they are offering to match the price offered by the ESB.
Is that (price) competition (where competitors cut retail prices to gain business)? Or is it price fixing (an agreement between business competitors to sell the same product or service at the same price)?

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