Hermes: the good, the bad and the stupid

Happy 2019 everyone! Here’s my first post of the year.

Right before Christmas, I was doing a major sell-off and clear out of old, unneeded items, including clothing, jewelry and my old Mega Drive games. But once items are sold, the next step is getting them to their new owner.

In the past, I had always used the Royal Mail (RM). Living in Northern Ireland we didn’t- up until recently- have much choice in who we used as a courier. To use any of the other couriers would have cost you around £20 to send anything from N.I. to G.B. No thank you.

Hermes (pronounced Her-mes, thank you very much)– named after the Greek God, who among the rest of his many jobs was the messenger of the Gods– has been on the UK market for a little while, but my goodness has it recently got better. It’s now possible to import your sales directly from eBay into your myHermes account making things quicker and easier. Then comes the difference in price. To have a signed-for parcel through RM, it’s at least £3.95, for Hermes, it’s £2.79.

hermes-768x1680-775757606.jpg
Hermes, messenger of the Gods. Also God of trade and merchants

Then when it comes to the heavier parcels, there are even bigger savings to be made as Hermes doesn’t care about the size of an object (within reason), only the weight. Therefore, when I sent a large soft toy to England, I saved myself around £4 by sending it through Hermes. So far, so frugal. If you’re really looking to save money on your purchases, then this is a good way to go. You may not save a huge amount of money, but every little really does add up.

To use Hermes, you need a printer, as you have to have your labels, complete with barcodes, printed and affixed to your parcels yourself. There’s no such thing as stamps. Everything is arranged online, printed and prepared, and then you simply drop them off at a collection point- often a Co-op or some petrol stations. Which is great, because it generally means that there are no massive waits when you’re behind someone else who wants to post three hundred parcels.

However, the title of this post contains the words, “and the stupid,” because, frankly frugality alone isn’t the be all and end all. Customer service is also important. Let me tell you about the bad customer service experience I had with Hermes, and my utter determination to get a refund when they had messed up. Some of you will find this post exceedingly petty, but frankly, it never needed to be and only was due to them. I wanted my £2.79 back, and I was going to get it.

A buyer in England bought a megadrive game off me, and I decided to use Hermes to deliver it as I was delivering four other parcels that day. Hermes will attempt to deliver an item 3 times before it’s returned to the sender. They attempted two deliveries on the same day to my buyer- which in itself seems daft to me. For the third attempt, the buyer nominated a safe place where the parcel could be left, but the courier ignored this, thus couldn’t complete the delivery and the parcel was therefore returned to me. Thus began the worst and most frustrating customer service farce that I’ve ever come across.

The whole email chain is laid out below (names and details have been changed or removed), but if you want, you can skip to the end of it for the highlights. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog email

Hi there,
I have sent a parcel to X in London. The courier apparently tried to deliver three times, but X says that they never followed his safe place instructions (screen shots attached). Under the circumstances, could we try again please? He’ll be in Wednesday, Thursday or Friday,

Many thanks,

BelfastBudgetBlog

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hermes Response By E-mail

Good Morning,

Thank you for emailing us at Hermes.

In order to fully investigate your query we will require some further correct information. Could you please provide any (or all) of the following:

> Sixteen-digit tracking number

> Eight-digit order number

> The bar code number which is on the top right hand corner of the calling card

> Recipients Full name and complete delivery address with postcode

If your item has been ordered through a retailer then you must contact them directly with any queries.

Please contact us again with the relevant information.

Regards,

X

Customer Service Advisor

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog response

Hi Hermes,

> Sixteen-digit tracking number:

> Eight-digit order number:

> The bar code number which is on the top right hand corner of the calling card:

> Recipients Full name and complete delivery address with postcode:

I’ve just seen that this parcel appears to be on the way back to me- though the tracking in my Hermes account isn’t working. Is there anyway to stop this and send it back, as it sounds as though the fault in this case lies with Hermes. X, who got the calling card also tried repeatedly to call the number on the card and got no response or reply to his phone messages. It hasn’t been fantastic customer service on this occasion.

thanks,

BelfastBudgetblog

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 Hermes Response By E-mail

Good Morning,

Regarding parcel number:

Our service provider has attempted delivery of your parcel on three separate occasions; however they have been unable to successfully complete the delivery.

In this case the parcel will be returned back to the sender, I would request you to contact your retailer as they will surely help you with the refund or a replacement.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Kind regards,

Hermes Customer Service Advisor

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog response

Dear Hermes,

This query is not resolved. It appears that you haven’t read my query.

I am the sender. This parcel is being returned to me, though there have been no notifications from Hermes to tell me this. Should there not be some warning that a parcel is being returned?

My original query stated that according to the intended recipient the Courier ignored his “safe place” request. This was the reason that they could not complete the delivery. Had they followed his instructions they could have delivered the item. X also attempted to contact the courier on numerous occasions, but they did not answer the phone or reply to his messages. This is poor customer service and I will now be out if pocket because it appears that instructions were not followed. Could you confirm if X had designated a safe place please? And also if there is a reason why the courier was incommunicado?

It also appears from myHermes that the courier attempted two deliveries on the same day. If a person is away for the day then they have missed two of the three deliveries. This seems unfair. Is this usual practice?

I look forward to hearing back from you with the answer to my queries,

Thanks,

Belfastbudgetblog

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hermes Response By E-mail

Dear Belfast Budget blog,

Thank you for e-mailing Hermes. I apologise for the delay in response.

As per the tracking I see that the recipient requested for a safe place as letterbox. The recipient requested the safe place before the third attempt in the morning however our courier might not have seen the notification as As the couriers spend majority of their day driving.

If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Regards,

Customer Service Advisor

Hermes Support

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog response

Dear Hermes,

Then, considering that the courier did not complete the delivery as he did not follow the recipients instructions I request a refund for my postage costs please- £2.79.

I would also say that the parcel, when it was returned to me, was in terrible condition, so I don’t feel as though my item has been well cared for. Fortunately the game was well-padded, otherwise I would also be asking for compensation.

Thanks,

BelfastBudgetBlog 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hermes Response By E-mail

Dear BelfastBudgetblog,

Thank you for e-mailing us at Hermes.

We are sorry that the parcel has been returned to you. However the tracking shows the courier has attempted to deliver this parcel but not delivered due to customer was not available.

We do handle all our parcels with care, however during the delivery journey, they go through several handling points and transportation, so on rare occasions this can happen.

We are sorry for the inconvenience has caused.

Please let us know if you need any more information

To make it easier to get in touch, you can also use our live chat on this link

Kind regards,

Hermes Customer Services Advisor

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog response

Dear MyHermes support,

I realise that the tracking shows that the courier attempted delivery on 3 occasions, but it has already been established that the recipient designated a safe place between the 2nd and 3rd attempts and the courier did not follow this instruction.

It was due to this failure that the parcel was then returned. As the fault therefore lies with your courier, myhermes did not complete the duties for which I paid it. Therefore, under consumer law I am owed a refund. “If a service isn’t provided ‘with reasonable care and skill’ or ‘as agreed’, the seller must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer.” Please, therefore refund me the price I paid for my parcel- I.e. £2.79.

Many thanks,

BelfastBudgetBlog

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hermes Response By E-mail

Dear Belfastbudgetblog,

Thank you for contacting us at Hermes. I am sorry for the delay in my response and that the parcel was not delivered to recipient.

We are unable to provide your refund however we can apply a 20% discount code to your account. This will automatically be deducted from your next order with us online for a maximum discount of £10.

Please confirm the same so we can apply the discount.

I hope this rare instance will not deter you from using our services in the future.

Once again, please accept my apologies for the inconvenience caused and should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us

Regards,

Customer Service Advisor

Hermes Support

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BelfastBudgetBlog response

Dear myHermes support,

I would request that this email be referred to a manager please.

 

Dear manager,

could I please request that you read this entire email chain as in the past some of your customer support advisors have failed to do so, which has compounded my frustration with this whole incident.

Whilst I appreciate that you have offered a 20% on my purchase, this is simply not acceptable. MyHermes did not supply the service for which it was paid- i.e. they did not follow the recipient’s instructions as to a safe place, and it was for this reason that the delivery was not made. The UK consumer right’s act (2015) states that: where a service was inadequate, as it has been in this case,

“The trader should either redo the element of the service that’s inadequate, or perform the whole service again at no extra cost to you, within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience.

Or, in circumstances where the repeat performance is impossible, or can’t be done within a reasonable time or without causing significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction. Depending on how severe the failings are, this could be up to 100% of the cost, and the trader should refund you within 14 days of agreeing that you’re entitled to a refund.”

It has already been established that myHermes is at fault, therefore I am entitled to a refund.

As the failing is entire, i.e. the parcel was not delivered due to your courier’s fault, and that due care and attention was not taken with my item (I refer you to the photographs further down the email chain) then I will accept nothing less than a full refund or a coupon to cover the entire amount of a similar delivery (i.e. £2.79), as the recipient refused that I use Hermes again.

If this is unacceptable to you then I must write to Paypal to refund me the money for your payment as the service I paid for has not been delivered.

I would add that up until this point I have been exceedingly satisfied with your company. However, since this has all happened I have not used your company, and will continue to use an alternative until a resolution has been achieved.

many thanks,

BelfastBudgetblog
____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hermes Response By E-mail

Dear Belfastbudgetblog,

 

Thanks for getting in touch with us about parcel number

I have checked the tracking details and can see the parcel has been delivered to the customer on 24/11/18 at 12:08:00. I would request you to please check the POD/Signature attached:

“Here they showed a picture of my husband’s signature, when he had signed for the returning parcel.”

and also the parcel is delivered within the vicinity of the Geo which is in the radius 9 of meters.

I would request you to please confirm with the recipient regarding this.

To make it easier to get in touch, you can also use our live chat on this link

Thanks

 

Hermes Customer Services

____________________________________________________________________________________________BelfastBudgetBlog response

Dear Hermes,

I would like to raise a formal complaint. Please start your response to me by confirming that you have read this entire email chain. If you do not I shall bounce it straight back to you. I am also now opening a case through Paypal as you have failed to actually listen to my query.

Here are the salient points

  • I am the sender of a parcel
  • The parcel was not delivered as your courier did not follow the safe place instructions.
  • The parcel was returned to me and signed by my husband.
  • The parcel was returned in terrible condition.
  • I have attempted on more occasions than should be acceptable to communicate the above points to customer service, and you keep failing to read and have gone over the same issues again and again.

I require a full refund of my payment £2.79. I also want to state categorically that myHermes customer service has been truly abysmal throughout this entire affair.

thank you,

Belfastbudgetblog

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 Hermes response By E-mail

Dear Belfastbudgetblog,

 

Thank you for contacting us at Hermes.

I am sorry for the delay in my response and that the parcel returned to you.

We are unable to provide you a refund however we can apply a 50% discount code to your account. This will automatically be deducted from your next order with us online for a maximum discount of £10.

Please confirm the same so we can apply the discount.

I hope this rare instance will not deter you from using our services in the future.

Once again, please accept my apologies for the inconvenience caused and should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

To make it easier to get in touch, you can also use our live chat on this link

Kind regards,

Customer Service Advisor
Hermes Customer Services

 

Ok, so you can see that I’d totally lost my temper with the useless customer service. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t 100% sure of the laws I was quoting, but they did sound pretty good, and I was at least getting somewhere. They admitted early on that they had made the mistake, and so that gave me grounds for my argument. The main problem was that I felt that they were either a) attempting to fob me off by making life difficult, or b) they had exceedingly limited power to do anything.

Even the offer of 50% off was pretty poor. I was out of pocket because their courier hadn’t followed instructions, and whilst arguing with them was vaguely helpful, in that they had raised their offer from nothing to 20% to 50% off voucher (in both cases to a maximum of £10), it wasn’t what I was owed. Fortunately, as I’d paid through PayPal, I had another means of getting my refund.  Paypal offer protection when you do not get what you pay for. And so I opened a case there. I laid out everything that had gone wrong, and I asked again for my refund of £2.79.

Within a day or two, I had an email telling me that they would be happy to refund my claim. What a difference! I’d finally won. If only I’d come to PayPal first, I would have saved myself so much hassle. And honestly, I believe that the difference in response was due to the fact that, via email I had no power, but here at PayPal I was protected, and I had power to hit them in the wallet.

And then, when that hadn’t come through within a week, I reminded them.

And they sent me a full refund. And by that, I mean that they refunded my entire transaction which had been for four parcels, rather than just the one that I had requested. Instead of my £2.79 that I’d been asking for, they gave me £12.36.

Frankly, after all of the hassle they’d put me to, I felt that was fair. Guys, it’s the little victories in life!

Hermes

Whilst this whole episode has damaged my opinion of Hermes, I will continue to use them again in future because one bad courier shouldn’t reflect on the whole company, and particularly where I’m sending large parcels, I will be saving considerable money.

But needless to say, I’ll make sure I pay through Paypal.

 

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Home is where the heart is

Ok, so a warning to everyone reading: This post is going to be offal. Which really is a bad name for it, and might be part of the reason we’re so queasy about the stuff. There is an argument that if we’re going to raise an animal for meat then we really should be less wasteful and eat as much of it as we can. Everything but the ‘moo’, so to speak.

We had two packs of beef hearts in our freezer. They’d been on sale for pennies, so we’d bought them and forgotten about them. Note, no matter how cheap something is, if you don’t use it you’ve just wasted your money, so as part of our clear-out, we were adamant that we would use them and use them asap.

Beef heart is, obviously, meat taken from the heart of a cow. And as ‘meat’ is really just muscle, then it sort of follows that the heart, the hardest-working muscle in a mammal, should be more than edible.

I have eaten offal before. I couldn’t stand the taste of kidney and I didn’t much care for the texture of liver, but I once made stuffed lamb hearts, and those were delicious.

However, as Google suggested that beef heart is tougher than lamb heart, I decided to dig out my slow cooker, which will be getting a lot more work over the next few months, because winter and slow cookers are best friends.

Slow cookers not only look after your food when you’re out, cooking it very economically, the long, low cooking also makes tough meat more tender.

I had some rendang sauce that I wanted to use, and some coconut milk that was… more than a little out of date. I’m not going to tell you how long past its best before it was, because I pretty much ignore best befores.

I cut the heart into strips, added it to the slow cooker and mixed in the rendang and coconut milk.

Then I left and went and did some other stuff whilst the little cooker did its thing.

Ok, so as it was, the sauce was fiery. When I tasted it it nearly blew my head off. I cooled it down with some tinned tomatoes and yogurt. A heck of a lot of yogurt. Then it was damn good, though I’m sure it’s not rendang any more.

A bit of rice to go with it, and then we ate.

The texture, thanks to the slow cooker, was just right. The taste was nice, if (not unexpectedly) quite irony. The first half was delicious, but it was very rich, and I found that I couldn’t manage to finish about half of what I’d made.

There’s plenty left and frozen away for future meals, but maybe I’ll spread it out with some more veg or something.

I wouldn’t say that I’d be rushing out to buy it, but nor would I balk if it was reduced again.

Fighting back against bad customer service

We recently phoned up our broadband provider to terminate our contract. We could get a much better deal elsewhere, and there was cashback available through topcashback, making it even more appealing. There is no point staying with a company like this if you aren’t getting value for money. Particularly when, in general, broadband providers have poor customer service.

broadWhen we phoned up to cancel, we were told that when we’d made changes to our package a couple of months ago, we’d signed up to a new contract. We were shocked. At no point during the conversation were we told that we’d be agreeing to that, and in fact, because we were at that time hoping to move house somewhere where they weren’t available (welcome to Northern Ireland!), we had specifically said that we would not be interested in any new contract. The cancellation guy was adamant that not only had we agreed to a new contract, but that we’d been sent a confirmation.

I knew that none of this was true.

I could been philosophical, I could have shrugged and got on with my life, but the point was, this was about more than just money. This was about a company taking action without my informed consent, and against my express wishes. I was raging!

So I asked for a copy of our contract, I asked for proof that we had been sent the confirmation email. Then I said I’d be in touch.

Then I wrote an email. I told our provider that I was furious over what had been done. I asked that they send me the recording of the original conversation during which I had apparently agreed to this new contract, because I knew that if they had it, there would be no arguing with me. I finished by telling them that if they didn’t release me from the contract I was quite prepared to go to the Ombudsman and fight it.

Today, I got a phone call from my broadband provider.

They apologised, they admitted I was right and they were wrong, they said that they wanted to keep us as a customer and they offered us a large discount.

I thought about it. I weighed up the fact that the discount was very good, bringing us under the price of the other provider, with faster speed.

I was still annoyed about the whole affair, but I accepted the apology and the deal.

Now I’m saving £13 per month against what I was paying, or £156 per year. And I got an apology.

The point of this, I suppose is that:

a) You should always fight back if you think a company has mis-sold you a product, whether it be something like what happened to me, or PPI or whatever. Unless you’re a very well paid person, £156 for a half hour of work isn’t bad.

b) your broadband provider charges its customers lots of different prices for the same product. Ask for discount. Ask again.

Have you ever fought back against a company that mistreated you? What was the outcome?

 

 

 

 

Quick! IKEA advent calendars are selling like Kanelbullar

Just a quick post tonight, because you still have time to get yourself over to IKEA to buy some of their advent calendars.

This is a fantastic offer. When you buy a  £2.95 advent calendar, you get handed a £5 voucher. Then inside the calendar (as well as delicious Swedish chocolate) is another voucher. Most will be for only £5, but you could be lucky and scoop one of the 10 £100 ones.

There are only 75,000 advent calendars across all its UK stores and:

  • 50,000 contain a £5 voucher
  • 20,000 contain a £15 voucher
  • 4,990 contain a £25 voucher
  • 10 contain a £100 voucher
Image
Not the most festive appearance, but full of winter cheer!

At a minimum, each calendar you buy will give you a profit (if you plan to spend money in IKEA, of course) of £7.05. It might give you a much bigger profit, of course, but it’s all down to luck. Either way, I consider that I’m being paid to eat chocolate…

There are terms and conditions of what you can spend them on, of course, but they seem to be valid on basically any normal purchase of (non-food) items at IKEA.

ikea
No £100 voucher in this one. Oh well. 

The vouchers are only valid from the start of December to the end of January, so they could be useful to have for the sales.

Most IKEA websites say that the calendars are 1 (or 2) per person, but when I asked in Belfast, the lady at the till didn’t mind, so I bought one for everyone in my little family.

There weren’t many left as of this afternoon. So I suggest you go now if you can.

 

 

Money for Nothing Part 2

I said in my last post that I’ve recently been doing a major clear out of things from around my house to declutter and to recoup some of their value. These are mostly things from around the house that I haven’t used in a while, so I consider these to be money for nothing. Let me give you a rundown of the things (some of which are slightly surprising!) that I’ve sold on eBay in the past two months.

My husband and I decided that as we no longer watch them, it was time to do a major clear out of our DVDs. For most DVDs there isn’t really much money in them at all- people probably aren’t willing to spend more than 99p, and then you have to pay postage. The problem here is that the big companies such as Music-magpie have the market tied up. They buy used DVDs for pennies, and they pay a much-reduced postage price compared to private sellers. You won’t be able to compete. I advise you sell locally on Facebook, or just donate them. Do check though, there is a chance that you have something a little bit rare that’ll be worth a bit more. However, whilst single DVDs do not really keep their money, box sets do hold up a bit better.

51r-jj27hFL._SY445_

Completely Round the Twist

Father Ted

Lark rise to Candleford

Lion King Trilogy (Bluray)

All these sold for in and around (or more than) £10.

My husband agreed to let me sell his old MegaDrive games, some of which actually go for decent sums. Street Fighter 2, Revenge of the Shinobi and Golden Axe have all sold. We have another six on for sale for various sums. We’ve had some offers, but no bites yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

I also sold my husband’s copy of the original Pokemon blue for the Gameboy, with his permission. It was a little faded, so didn’t expect too much and therefore were happy with what we got for it. Then, after going through my Mum and Dad’s roofspace, I found my copy of the manual for the same game. A quick Google showed that people were selling them, and mine was in better condition that the ones going for sale. I put it up for £15, plus postage, but left offers on. When someone came along and offered me £10, I was happy enough.

pokemon.png

I’ve sold other Pokemon items in the past, including Pokemon cards (I must dig those out and sell some more) and some Pokemon comic books. I suppose vintage items hold their value.

I’ve also been selling a few items of clothing: a Superdry jumper, a Jaques Vert Silk dress and a Wool flat cap that Eoin had never worn. We’re not talking big sums of money for any of these, but the point is that small sums (particularly when you’re not using them) add up. And they’ve cleared out some space. Why not take a look in your own roofspace?

I still have 26 active items, with some more to be added. I have a few auctions that will end on Sunday that will sell, including a The Puppet Company puppet that has already had plenty of interest. So fingers crossed.

Oh, and I finally sold something successfully on Facebook Marketplace. I cleared out a good iron that I don’t use as we got given a new one. Didn’t get much for it again, but it’s more space, and a little more money for the Christmas pot, plus it helped out someone who was setting up a new home. Win win win.

 

 

Money for Nothing

As part of our effort to declutter our house I’ve been donating and selling things from round the house. Things I no longer want or need and that are just taking up space.

Some things have gone to charity shops, some on Freecycle and a lot more have been or are being sold. I’ll do another post on some of the things I have been selling, but for now, let me talk about the means I’m using to sell them.

First off, let’s talk about Facebook marketplace.

It’s one of the little icons on the Facebook bar. It’s quick, its easy and it’s good for people to see your item, particularly if it’s a impulse buy.

However, I find that I’ve not had much luck with it. People always ask you to deliver (Dude, it’s a £3 item and you live half an hour away), or else you go though the whole rigamarole of organising pickup and then they don’t show. Not my favourite.

Next on the list is Gumtree. It’s one of the best local selling sites in the UK, and particularly in Northern Ireland, where some of the other selling sites (e.g. Sphock) haven’t taken off here yet.

There is an app (see below) but I just use the browser these days as on my phone there just isn’t space.

Gumtree is good as you can filter for only those sellers who are close to you, so you don’t have people asking if you’ll deliver from Belfast to Fintona. However, you do get a lot of emails giving you silly, and insulting offers.

“Hey that sofa you’re selling for £60, would you take £5? I’ll pick up tonight.”

No I won’t. No you won’t.

Still, for selling big, bulky items, like furniture, Gumtree is the way to go.

Next, of course, is eBay.

Email is the biggest online auction site, so successful that there are lots of people around the country who sell on eBay professionally. I’m not planning to do that, but just reduce the amount of stuff in my house, and make a little money for nothing. In fact, I love eBay so much that it’s my first app on my phone.

The good thing about eBay is that when you post an item, you’re posting it into a worldwide marketplace. The bad thing is that, as a seller you’re at a disadvantage if your buyer decides there’s an issue with your item as eBay will almost certainly rule in their favour. Good if you’re a buyer though.

The fees are also a little high- if you sell something at £10, you lose £1.54 in fees, but honestly, you are selling to a wide audience, so are probably getting more than you would otherwise. I’ve been at this a while now, and have feedback of 1688, so people trust me.

I’ve been selling anything and everything on eBay recently, and have a lot more things still up for sale. As much of it is stuff I’ve taken from the backs of cupboards, it really is money for nothing. In the past 2 months I’ve made close to £200 from selling things that were just taking up space.

Shopping from your own cupboards

We recently planned to move house- I say ‘planned’ because, for a number of reasons, we decided to call the move off- and as part of this, I vastly reduced the number of shopping trips I did and decided to instead, work through my cupboards, eating through the food stores that I’ve built up for the last year or two.

Part of this was in an effort to reduce the things I’d have to bring with me when we moved, and part was to save money. I wouldn’t say that we were over-reaching with the house we were moving to, but it was definitely a step up in spending each month.

I had a ridiculous amount of dried food- beans, lentils, beans and four hundred and seventy-three types of pasta (might be hyperbole, but only just!). Then, there were my freezers, which were packed to the gills as well. For three weeks, I slowly worked out way through my cupboards, and honestly, as well as saving over £70, compared to normal months, I actually became a better cook. Though, to be fair, there were some weird ‘fusion’ meals like spaghetti Bolognese with naan bread.

Once of the best things I made was my own rice pudding, made from half a bag of 13p pudding rice bought about a year ago that had languished in the back of my cupboard unloved and uneaten for far too long.

There’s still a lot more things in our cupboards to eat through. There’s also our freezers- tonight we found beef heart at the back of our freezer from about 6 months ago. I’ll make something with that for lunch tomorrow

Vintage Scratch- yay or nay?

There are a lot of new apps downloadable on android that promise to pay out in real money. Vintage Scratch had some good reviews, so I thought I’d give it a go.

The premise is fairly straightforward- watch an advert and you’ll be given a virtual scratch card, where you might just win some points. If you save up your points you’ll be able to purchase gift vouchers, such as for Amazon. You might also win pieces of puzzles. Collect enough of these and you’ll be able to get bigger payouts of perhaps a few dollars depending on the rarity of the puzzle.

Dear reader, do not bother with this app!

Whilst the games themselves are eye-catching, they are as they are designed to be, exceedingly frustrating. Payouts of points are minuscule- nearly always winning the lowest possible amount (5 points) and considering that it’s 9000 points for a £1 Amazon card that’s 1800 games you have to play!

And when you do watch your advert, scratch your card and win your measly prize, there’s an inexplicable and infuriating delay before you’re allowed to collect your coin (oh yes, and do you want to Brag about your win on Facebook?)

The adverts become excruciating every session as the same ones are repeated and repeated again and again, often trying to get you to sign up for other games, normally casino related.

But the jigsaw pieces, they must make up for the measly payouts- right?

Well, no. When you fail to collect any coins, not even your unimpressive 5, you then get a puzzle piece instead- collect 4 pieces from each puzzle to win. But they have to be different puzzle pieces, of course, you can’t just find the same one again, oh no. I have collected about 80 pieces of the lowest value puzzle, but just don’t seem to be able to find that last, elusive bit, so no payout.

And here’s the worst part about this app- it’s a time-eater of the worst sort. I, for one, am bloody determined, and I wanted my payout. It seemed that the more time I put in, the more I was determined that the game owed me something, and would pay out properly next time, or next time, or the time after that- in much the way real gamblers do, I imagine. I was halfway to the £1 payout when I realised that I was hating every second of playing the game, and I was only doing it to get paid. Plus, with all of the ads (generally about 30 seconds), the actual games, the interminable waits, it was using up a stupid amount of my time.

And that’s way more precious than a £1 Amazon voucher.

The peace of wild things

I haven’t managed to make any posts recently. Life, work, and of course my kids have been taking up a lot of my time. I cannot deny that the last almost-a-year has been amongst the most stressful I’ve known. And yet, no matter how stressed I’ve ever become, I’m amazed how nature always has that magic power to calm me down, wash away my worries.

Northern Ireland is currently experiencing a little bit of a heat wave- so my eldest girl and I wandered down to the park near our house to enjoy the weather.

And whilst there was a play park, we found far more joy in rolling down hills, blowing dandelion clocks, playing in the cut grass and making a nest for the shell of a bird’s egg that we found.

And I have had the poem ‘The peace of wild things’ by Wendall Berry bouncing around my head all day since we came home, particularly this part:

I come into the peace of wild things
 who do not tax their lives with forethought
 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
 And I feel above me the day-blind stars
 waiting with their light. For a time
 I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

There’s something beautiful and freeing about being in nature, whether that be climbing up into the mountains, or popping down the road to the little park at the foot of the hill. Getting to share that with your kid is even better.

So next time you feel that the world is getting on top of you, take yourself off to where the wild things are and let yourself relax.

Have a coffee on me

I’ve written before about how you can get a free coffee an a Tuesday Caffe Nero through the O2 app. Well, did you know that you can also get a free coffee when you download the Caffe Nero app?

All you have to do is enter the code WELCOMETONERO2018 when you register, and you’ll get a QR code for a free hot drink. The code has to be used within 21 days and you can actually send it to a friend, which is nice.

The app is also great for collecting your Caffe Nero loyalty stamps and you can link a card for faster payment. I find the latter a little dangerous- a way to disconnect with your spending- so I skipped that step.