Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Caveat emptor...

Never trust your eyes. We've just done Christmas and now we're having to send most of it back.

The problem is you see, Sharon my lovely significant other, suffers from a medical condition that means she has to spend rather a lot of time stuck to the pump that delivers her nutrition and fluids. Because the apparatus is royal pain in the rump to cart around despite being on wheels, most of this time is spent sat up in bed doing her writing stuff (which she's very good at and it pays for holidays). And as she gets tired very quickly she doesn't go out shopping a lot. The internet is designed for her really, isn't it.

One of the nice things about going shopping in the high street is that you can fondle things (ooeer missus) in Jessops and Dixons and get to ask a barely pubescent assistant questions they haven't a cat in hell's chance of knowing the answer to ( he's 17; if he already knows the maximum shutter speed of every camera in the shop he's a candidate for some serious vitamin deficiencies). One of the nice things about shopping on the internet is that it's cheaper and you can do it in the nude while drinking medium priced Australian chardonnays. Which is definitely frowned upon in the Trafford Centre.

The real downside is that some sites aren't quite what they seem. Take this one, Pixmania.com. Looks OK to start with but then look closely. The prices - something about them isn't right. We Brits write £350.99, these are £350,99. It's Johnny foreigner at work and indicating his disdain for the poor Anglo Saxons as the villains of Europe in a rather forthright manner. It's a huge site offering gear at very reasonable prices and it has a "presence" in 24 European countries. The big problem with this is that these 24 countries speak 24 languages and Pixmania work out of a big warehouse somewhere on continental Europe. This means that lots and lots of their goods don't come with English instructions and because the Brits are hated throughout Europe they can't be bothered to source English instructions from the suppliers.

Now to be fair they do have a place on the site where you can download a PDF version of the instruction booklets but it's not apparent where it is (I still haven't found it but then I have a notorious habit of describing sites as appallingly designed if I only employ my own crazy logic about how a site should work) and as you're not really expecting to have to do this because the whole world is used to having multi-lingual instruction books where English is deemed to be one of the world's major languages and usually included. It doesn't even mention anywhere in the ordering process that your stepdaughter won't be able to use her hugely expensive SLR style digital camera to take some photos as soon as she takes it out of the box because, although she speaks Norwegian and English, she doesn't speak Italian, French or German so she doesn't know how long to charge the batteries for.

The problem with the downloaded instructions is that whereas the manufacturer's instruction booklet is a decent size and fits in the free camera bag (which they haven't sent either), the download is A4 and fits in nothing your average teenager carries around with her. In fact a sheaf of A4 paper probably constitutes more covering than the average female teenager wears at any given time so would probably be pressed into use should it rain. Better use the laminator Sharon bought me in that case. I won't go as far as saying the site's a travesty but for a company that claims a turnover of almost €250 million, investing in someone with a bit of common sense to design their website shouldn't be a problem.

Now the other culprit. Amazon of all people! Sharon (poor Sharon, she's feeling very inadequate now) bought me a rather nice DAB radio to take with me when I go fishing or walk up mountains or for when I end up sleeping in remote Welsh B & Bs after PMT has kicked me out in a hail of wardrobe contents. It looks like a portable radio, has a handle and the "manufacturer's description" as Amazon calls it, says you can take it into the bathroom with you. Now call me old-fashioned if you will but we are of a certain age and were brought up with all those public information films featuring that mental cat who told you that you don't take things that are connected to the 220 volt mains supply into a room in which the prime activity is getting wet. That's why bathrooms don't have sockets. So she confidently expected it to have a battery compartment. Bugger. Guessed right? Now who's the poor sod who's going to have to go down the post office tomorrow and pay to send his own pressie back?

So you get my drift. Check carefully and do what you'd do in a proper shop and fondle the goods. Except internet fondling involves you typing "blah blah review" into Google (please use some common sense there. Please. If it's a website then substitute the website name for the blahs, know what I mean?) and read what comes back. There are enough anal people out there to want to let you know the ins and outs of everything you can buy so you could be quite busy.

Good luck.

0 Vegetable peelings:

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