Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bits and pieces at the end of February

Although it's reasonably warm, the sky seems to be continually grey. We shouldn't find this surprising (after all, in the UK during winter the sky is rarely, if ever blue) but somehow we've got used to sunshine and clear blue skies, after nine years living in Cyprus. It hasn't rained much, though, which is a pity as the island still needs rain. But more is forecast. It's not till the end of May that we can pretty much guarantee constant sunshine here.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email, yesterday, in response to my message sent to Metro. They said that of the missing items we have noticed, two (veggie sausages and blackcurrant/green tea) are due to supplier problems, but should be in the next shipment. Cat litter is apparently back on the shelves, other than one brand, and although they were puzzled at my mention of almond milk, they assure me that almond juice has also returned. I assume we're talking about the same thing. The only item they will not be re-stocking is Pure margarine, due - apparently - to low demand. That's a pity, since as far as I know it's the only sort that's completely dairy-free and also avoids horrible hydrogenated fats. I must write back and ask if they have any other alternative for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant.

They did say that they always welcome feedback, so if anyone reading this in Cyprus has good - or not-so-good - things to say about Metro, let them know. Perhaps they will take them into account.

Communicating with the web-site is not so straightforward, however. They're a UK site who are usually my first choice for books or DVDs as their prices are good and they offer free postage anywhere in Europe. It's mildly annoying that they're now charging non-UK customers in euros, since I use our UK credit card and it charges an extra commission for changing to another currency, but it still works out better value than most other sites, and definitely better than buying in the rather limited bookshops on the island.

The vast majority of the time, are not only good value but speedy. DVDs are usually in our PO box about four days after dispatch. Books tend to take a couple of weeks, but then they come in a 'mailbag' rather than airmail; fair enough as we don't pay anything for postage, and I don't mind even when they take a month, as has happened once or twice.

In January we ordered four books for Tim's theology course, for the new modules he would be starting mid-February. I ordered two from, one from Abebooks, and one from Play Traders, who are's second-hand service - equivalent to Amazon Marketplace, I suppose. But with the huge advantage of free postage, just like the main site.

The book from Abebooks arrived in about a week, as did the book from Play Traders. When the two from weren't in our box by the end of January, I didn't worry. When a month had gone past, our guests were visiting and I didn't really think about it; Tim took a week's break from his studies, and said it wasn't a problem that he only had two of the books to start with. Indeed, two out of the three of his modules didn't arrive until a couple of weeks ago.

By Monday last week I was getting concerned. We decided to give it another few days, so I made an extra trip to the PO Box on Thursday. Nothing there. I even went in and asked the very friendly postmistress if by chance there was a parcel for us, but she said there wasn't. So on Friday morning I send an email to the info email address I had previously used for

It came straight back with a message saying the mailbox was unattended, and that I should report any problems via the web-site. So I went to the web-site, found the help pages, and clicked the link for 'I have not received my order'. It told me to click the red button next to the missing items on the 'order history' page.

Fine. Unfortunately, on the order history page, only two items were showing the red button, and they were two books I had ordered early in February, and which had arrived within about ten days. Oops. Perhaps I had left it too long to report. I hunted everywhere for an email address, but there were none. There was a phone number for the UK but not one I could use from Cyprus.

So, in despair of being able to contact them (and distinctly concerned about Tim's necessary books) I clicked one of the red buttons for a book that had arrived, to see what happened. There was a comment box there, so I wrote a message saying that this particular book HAD arrived, but that I wanted to report two others which hadn't.

On Saturday morning, I had an auto-response from, saying - yes, you've guessed it - that they were sorry about my missing delivery, and would dispatch a replacement as soon as possible. A replacement for the item which had arrived, which I did not want replacing. Sigh. Evidently they had not read my comment. Still, I hoped a real person might do so before the parcel actually got sent - after all, someone presumably has to actually put the items in the jiffy bags and get them addressed.

On Sunday, I received an email saying that my missing item had been dispatched. Oops. Too late, then. However... this email DID have a phone number that could be used from abroad, which I was supposed to ring if the original parcel actually arrived, so I could return the replacement. But I could only call on Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Monday morning, I went to the PO Box again, wondering if the parcel might have arrived at last. It hadn't. So at 11am (which is 9am UK time) I phoned the number, wondering if that too would be some automated system. To my slight surprise, it was answered almost instantly by a helpful man to whom I explained what had happened. He told me he would send out the missing books at once, and that there was no problem about the replacement book that I didn't want - all I had to do was send it back and they would refund my postage. He even sent a confirmation email for that, and I had an auto-email saying that the correct books were dispatched later that day.

So, we shall see...


Anonymous said...

An interesting tale that seems very familiar with online retailers. Play are good and I use who i prefer but I think all suffer from selling cheap and trying to automate as much as possible.

Tony said...

I don't know if this helps, but my son is allergic to milk, and we buy vitalite. The red one is no dairy, and it says in greek somehting that resembles this :)
Nnotisimn (the 'o's of course are greek s and will have a horizontal line extending from about the middle of the 'o' for a little way.
Anyway i hope it is close enough as i can get it on this blog to help. Good luck, and it actually tastes alot better than pure :) (in my opinion)