Da’ ya want fries with that?

I think it only fair to warn you that the following post may invoke the use of SHOUTY CAPITALS quite a lot….read on if you can bear it.

Recent events have driven me to the conclusion that I am officially OLD. It’s been a creeping realisation for a while. Once I started rejecting going into certain clothing establishments simply because the music was just too LOUD or I started looking forward to getting into my pjs as soon as I walked in the door…or worse still not bothering to get out of them at all on a weekend (much to the disgust of the teen and tweenager), it was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Then there was the realisation that I had started looking forward to my cup of tea/coffee in the afternoon almost as much as my nightly glass of wine…really not very rock and roll. There’s the accompanying grunting and sighing as I sit down or stand up from a chair and expressions like “it’s good to take the weight off” uttered from my lips. Apparently shortly after my 30 plus 10 birthday, I turned into my (now dearly departed) 82-year-old Grandmother…..

However, the biggest nail in the coffin of my youthfulness has to be that my ability to let crappy customer service wash over me has entirely disappeared and will not be TOLERATED. No longer am I content to roll my eyes in annoyance when 2 shop assistants proceed to talk to each other, completely ignoring me at the till point. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience (please tell me I’m not the only one?!) They stand there, sometimes they will tell you the amount you owe but more often than not, they will continue chatting about their weekend/boyfriend/girlfriend/hair style just handing you your receipt/card back with out so much as an acknowledgement of your presence.

At Christmas time, when let’s face it most people are short on time and tempers, I realise that the retail industry is not the nicest of places to work in. To be honest it’s not really that nice to shop in either. I also realise that politeness and manners work both ways and that consumers themselves are not the easiest of people to be around. But having stood waiting in a queue  whilst a shop assistant completely ignored us all, another eventually handling my purchase whilst taking a call from their other half and one stood their filing their nails (I kid you not) I barely managed to constrain myself from shouting “I’m partly responsible for paying your wages you know!”

The restaurant industry can again be a minefield of service issues. Having excitedly booked a table at a newly opened well-known chef’s restaurant chain and the littlies ordering from the children’s (healthy style!) menu, the chicken/beef patties that turned up were the size of a 2 pence piece each with half a min sub-roll under each and 1 sad-looking piece of lettuce.  No warning that even my 18 month old niece could have demolished this in 2 mouthfuls and still be left hungry. No rice, coleslaw or side orders  like potatoes or (god forbid!) chips were suggested to pad the meal out…The waiter expressed surprise that we wanted chips please after the G man sat there like the boy from Oliver Twist: “Please Sir, I want some more!”

On the flip side, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised when having sat down at the table, I have been told there could be a delay. Of course if the Chef phones in sick when they have 70 covers in place, that is going to put more than a strain on the kitchen and the waiting staff are the ones who will bear the brunt of the fall out. BUT if you are warned at the time you sit down that there might be a wait, that they will do their best to bring the children’s meals out as soon as they are ready and how about a free appetizer in the meantime to smooth things along, they are going to be met with a far happier, less whiny party than those left wondering  if they have actually gone to Aberdeen for the Aberdeen Angus burger.

We moved to the UK last year. I think it’s fair to say most people find moving fairly stressful and it’s supposed to be up there on a par with death and divorce. I had to co-ordinate the move by myself as hubby was already training for his new job in Europe.

It was really quite something, managing 4 kids, the cat and vacating all on the same day as the kids broke up for the Easter hols. Having actually moved out of our house in Jersey  in April to ship everything to the Uk and then stayed in friends’ furnished accommodation so the children could finish their academic year in Jersey, we finally left  again for good at the end of July so I count that as 2 fairly major, stressful moves.

We paid a removals company a not inconsiderable sum to pack up, ship then unload at the other end. I won’t name and shame but the Jersey movers started off promisingly and then let me down big time. Apparently, packing my Hoover and the last bathroom items from the house just wasn’t their problem, nor was the fact that they shipped all my shoes, despite the big yellow post it note stating  DO NOT PACK, NEEDED for Jersey… When I tactfully suggested that they needed to come back, pick up the final items and could they please have a look in their van for my missing footwear, I was met with a torrent of abuse and a suggestion that I could shove the Hoover in my car, and a “tough sh*t *re the shoes. I won’t tell you where I suggested they “shove” the Hoover idea. It’s not for polite conversation.

The boss man had the audacity to tell me “it’s all your fault.” No oops, no oh dear….just a big fat rant. I will confess I had a bit of a blub. I was so shocked to be shouted at by someone whose services we were paying for, by someone who was supposed to be making our lives easier and frankly was worn out both emotionally and physically, it knocked me sideways.

Snottily, tearfully and not at my best, I telephoned UK head office and with a series of hiccups and gasps managed to get the poor woman on the other end of the phone to comprehend what I was saying and how I upset I was. When I had calmed down sufficiently, I even managed to negotiate a small compensation payment for shoes – being left in my flip-flops in April was not ideal, even they conceded that. Score 1 for the new shoes 😀

Regular readers will know that our daughter is on a lot of medication for her medical issues. Most of it can’t be purchased over the counter and requires prescription from the Doctor or hospital consultant. Between 6 of us in fact, 5 of us take regular medications. I had concerns about how easy it would be to organise this promptly, especially the Minx’s and in view of this, had a 6 weeks supply of medications that I took from Jersey to give us some breathing space.

I was pleasantly and gratefully surprised that the various local support services were entirely on board with us from the get go. I managed to register quickly with a Gp practice and be on the radar of the medical bods very promptly. Being that Minx is under physio, occupational therapy, wheelchair services, pediatrician, speech and language, dietician, ophthalmology, optometry and orthotics (& that’s just the local Harrogate services!) I had visions of camping on hospital property with a placard  stating “WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED” until I could see the appropriate teams but fortunately none of that was necessary.

Having organised the medications with the appropriate people, toddled off to a large pharmaceutical establishment that rhymes with “Toots” and signed up for their service that promised to take the stress of out of my life by automatically obtaining repeat prescriptions from the Gp, filling them AND texting me to let me know they were ready, I was quietly confident (smug) that I would no longer be found ferreting around in the medical boxes praying that I had re-ordered everything in time.

Fast forward some 6 weeks and wondering why I was indeed in the garage buried in boxes hunting down additional supplies, I telephoned the pharmacy. Not our fault they assured me. Ring the Doctors. So I rang the Doctor’s and guess what? It wasn’t their fault either!

Back and forth between Doctor’s receptionists (usually quite scary but ours are very lovely actually) and pharmacist I played phone ping-pong waiting for some one to ‘fess up to who had messed up. It didn’t happen but I was eventually provided with emergency meds and assurances that it wouldn’t happen again.

Except it did. And not just once. It has taken 5 months(!) to sort out where the break down in communications has occurred and guess what? Apparently it’s MY fault….despite filling out the forms, ticking the boxes, providing e-mail and text numbers….somehow it still remains down to me….hmmmnnn.

We have been waiting since November for Amelia to have “urgent” scopes of the stomach and bowel as she is in a lot of pain and despite regular juggling of medications and increasing doses, we are not able to stay on top of it all.

Now over the years, I have learned that “urgent” can mean very different things in the world of medicine. There’s the, (quite rightly) urgent admission/assessment for very serious, potentially life threatening/compromising situations and the “urgent” that means it really does need doing as soon as poss but we have no idea of when that will be.

I am not knocking the NHS at all here. They are a fabulous, over-stretched, under resourced organisation. However, when your child’s quality of life is poor because of pain issues and the Doctor leading their care says that we need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s with certain procedures and tests before you can plan a way forward, then as a parent you want the very best care and attention and for everything to fall into place quickly and smoothly.

Having had the Christmas/New Year period to contend with, we knew that nothing would happen until after this time frame but we had hoped to get dates during the first week of January for some time in the coming weeks.

I waited and then after the first week sent a quick “hi how are you…any news on scopes e-mail.” Nada. I telephoned and left a voice mail. Zip. I left another message slightly less perky and chirpy. I sent another e-mail asking for them to at least ACKNOWLEDGE receipt of my e-mail/voice-mails. Still nothing.

It’s a strange dichotomy to be chasing for something that you know will cause your child distress but is a necessary evil. The wimpy part of me would quite like to take the lack of responses as a sign that I should just ignore it all, lalallaaaa and soldier on with platitudes to my daughter. But the big girl, ok, woman of a certain age, knows that she needs to fight her daughter’s corner, to try to push forward for answers, resolutions, a plan at the very least.  All I really wanted was a date.

So, no longer will I stand for “I’ll get back to you on that” aka your enquiry means nothing to me and will be shuffled around my desk until it falls in to the recycling bin, never seeing the light of day again.

Nope. I have turned into THAT woman. The one on a personal, one (wo)man band crusade to restore good service to the nation. I will complain (politely) I will say my piece without getting over emotional (hopefully, apart from the moving incident/shoes but it did involve lost shoes so surely emotion at the point is ok?)and I will ask how we (note the emphasis on we) can resolve the situation to our mutual satisfaction. I feel like I should have a super-hero suit or something or at least a super power but probably being able to swear fluently in several different languages doesn’t count.

So last week in a fit of (pique) desperation I fired off a politely worded e-mail detailing the dates and times of my previous e-mails and phone calls and that if I did not receive any kind of acknowledgement by the end of Friday, I would be left with no choice but to contact PALS – the Patient Advice and Liaison Service  (akin to the complaints department in the hospital but generally revered and able to kick some butt) –  to pursue the matter further. Strangely enough, this had the desired effect.

I felt rather bad about throwing my toys out the pram to get a result but sometimes it seems that taking things higher is the only way forward. I had no less than 5 telephone calls that Friday morning telling me who would be contacting me, where Minx was on the list and by mid-afternoon even been given a date for the scopes. Bittersweet.

Stand with me people. Surely I can’t be the only one disgusted at the lack of politeness in day-to-day life? The lack of common courtesy? The no-blame/no responsibility culture that we seem to live in these days?

No one is ever wrong anymore and it’s always someone else’s fault or problem. I don’t think I have heard the words “I’m sorry, we made a mistake” in a very long time. It’s epidemic in our children too and getting worse. Well at least it is in mine. When they haven’t remembered to bring a reading book home from school, it’s not their fault: the class teacher didn’t remind them/kept them busy/couldn’t find their hat etc. I have reached boiling point several times recently and told them that a simple “I forgot” would have made me a far less shouty mummy than them trying to justify the lack of book.

So come on folks, let’s man up and be counted. Give and expect appropriate customer service. I am not particularly religious but I do think the commandment “Do unto others” is a pretty good creed to run your life by.

Until next time……

 

 

 

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