Wednesday, 2 August 2017

retail stress

Yesterday I bought a nice, bushy yew about eighteen inches high from the Chatto Gardens, having noticed that they had some when I called in before to buy the Verbena officinalis.  At that point I didn't know I would be wanting yew, but the fact that it was in stock registered.  August is not a usual time to buy hedging plants.  I already had two dahlias growing on in pots and some homemade compost to bulk up the soil before planting, so all that remained to complete the project was more gravel.

After the experience of the collapsing acrylic sheet distributor I am probably neurotic about small materials suppliers.  This was one reason why I left it a couple of weeks after my first attempt to buy gravel when I was told the local aggregate merchant's computer was down on Friday and still down on Saturday.  Their website was still there yesterday, but when I rang the man who answered the phone sounded very doubtful when I said I wanted to buy two bulk bags of washed shingle, and said he would have to ring me back.  Somebody else did ring me back, in more than two minutes, but by then I had lost my nerve and gone to one of the builder's merchants, a quoted company and one which back in the day when I followed the building sector was reckoned to be extremely conservatively run.  Mind you, a lot can change in two decades.  When I worked for Lloyds TSB they were reckoned to be well and conservatively managed, making a positive virtue out of dullness, and look what they went and did next.

I ordered my gravel online, ticking the box that said I was a DIY customer and not trade, and the one that said access was not suitable for HGVs, and giving details of the single track approach to the house, necessitating reversing one way.  An email arrived saying that my delivery would come from the Colchester branch who would contact me to arrange a delivery date.  The ETA was given as Wednesday, which suited me fine as I wanted to get on with spreading the gravel.  I hovered around near the entrance keeping an ear out for the lorry while weeding, so that I could head the driver off at the pass before he embedded his wing mirrors in the Eleagnus hedge trying to drive right into the garden, and I kept an eye on my phone for my advisory text saying when the gravel was coming.

By lunchtime I'd had neither text nor gravel, and it was forecast to rain, so I rang up the Colchester branch.  The conversation went badly from the start.  I explained I'd ordered some bulk bags online, would like to know when they were coming, and had the online order number.  The man at the Colchester branch said that was not much use and a name and address would be better.  I gave him my name and address.  He asked when I'd ordered the gravel and I said, Yesterday, and the email had suggested it would be coming today, and I would like to know when it would be coming so that I could be there to make sure it was put down in the right place and the lorry did not try to come into the garden.  He did not like the fact that we were not on the public highway at all, or that I was asking his lorry to reverse up a single track lane.  Did I know that the lorry could not go off road?  I said that I was not asking it to go off road, it was a perfectly good lane, all other lorries managed to get up the lane, including the dustcart that did it every week, the oil delivery lorry, and the local aggregates' firm lorry that had delivered the last lot of gravel a couple of months ago.  It was just that there was not room to turn at the top.  How was it supposed to reverse?  Would there be a banksman to help?  I said that I would be there.  He told me that he couldn't give a time for the delivery.  I said that was all right, I would wait in the garden all day.  He warned me the driver would do his best, and some of their drivers went above and beyond the call of duty, but they only delivered to addresses on the road.  They were not insured to go off the public highway.  And I should have rung them to say that I'd ordered gravel to be delivered to a property with such limited access, it said so on the website.

It doesn't, or if it does it is in size 6 font on a page tucked away in the website's furthest recesses. And I had ticked the box that said it was not suitable for HGVs and given as many details of the lane as I could fit on the online order form.  And the confirmation email said that the branch would contact me.  And it must be utter bollocks that they are not insured to go off the public highway.  They are a builder's merchant.  They deliver to building sites and new estates whose roads have not yet been adopted, for goodness sake.  And if the company didn't want private punters like me to order stuff they wouldn't have an open access e-commerce site, but one where you had to register as a trade customer and then log on before you could order anything.  I can only assume that he had the hump because I'd ordered online and that the firm's business model meant he made less from that than if I'd ordered from the branch, which would be a very silly business model if that was the problem.  Perhaps he was just having a very bad day.  Whichever way, I won't be using them again, and I shouldn't think the Systems Administrator will be getting the Coroline corrugated roofing to reroof the blue summerhouse from them when that finally rises to the top of the SA's list of Things to Do.

I hate buying gravel.

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