Category: London Behaviour

What is the most loathed retailer on the high street?

What is the most loathed retailer on the high street?

As this blog now seems obsessed with all things retail I thought I’d share the answer to the above question along with findings from the latest Which? magazine shop survey. They asked more than 7,700 shoppers which high street shops are top of the pops and which are dangling in the dirt.

Say what you like about WHSmith, but they are nothing if not consistent and for two years straight find themselves bottom of the plie. Customers slammed them for their poor value for money, poor service, and criticised the ‘cramped and messy’ stores.

WHS responded: ‘This survey accounts for the views of only 586 Which? subscribers and is neither statistically relevant nor meaningful relative to our loyal customer base.’

I put their response into Google translate and it came back with this: ‘You can take your minuscule little survey and shove it up your arse.’

At the other end of the scale, home entertainment specialist Richer Sounds came top scoring an impressive 89% customer approval rating.

Customers praised Richer Sounds for its in-store experience, which included having purchases carried to their cars and the retailer paying for customer parking.

Specialist shops tended to score well with John Lewis, the only non-specialist making it into the top ten.

Other highly ranked shops include Apple, toiletries shops Bodycare (both 83%), women’s clothing store Seasalt and bookshop Waterstones (both 82%).

Shoppers told Which? that Homebase/Bunnings was difficult to navigate and that it was ‘hard to find anything in overcrowded shelves’ and it was ‘difficult to find staff for guidance’.

Sports Direct was described by one shopper as having ‘a very oppressive atmosphere’. Perhaps the atmosphere was created by the staff on zero-hour contracts.

Which? Magazine editor Harry Rose, vying for the most bleeding obvious quote ever to make it into this blog, said: “Giving shoppers a great in-store experience is more important than ever if brands want to thrive on the high street. Our findings go to show that, if retailers can deliver great value, quality products and first-class customer service, customers will keep coming back.” Way to go Harry.

Here are the scores on the doors.

Top-rated shops

  • Richer Sounds (89%)
  • Rohan (87%)
  • John Lewis (86%)
  • Hotter Shoes (84%) = Lakeland (84%) = Toolstation (84%)
  • Apple (83%) = Bodycare (83%) = Crew (83%)
  • Screwfix (82%) = Seasalt (82%) = Waterstones (82%)

Bottom-rated shops

  • Clinton Cards (61%)
  • Peacocks (59%) = House of Fraser (59%)
  • New Look (58%)
  • River Island (56%) = JD Sports (56%)
  • Sports Direct (54%)
  • Homebase/Bunnings (53%)
  • WHSmith (50%)

Massive outbreak of Pétanque in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Took Bucket for a quick lunchtime spin to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens today only to discover a major outbreak of boules or Pétanque or whatever you call it.

Has this been a thing for a while, and I’ve missed it or has there been a massive influx of Frenchman come to laugh at us about Brexit? There must have been half a dozen teams playing, all taking it very seriously. Bucket and I stopped to drink it in.


 

Hold the phone: Rusty is a Patterjack

Hold the phone: Rusty is a Patterjack

Crossbreed dogs are incredibly popular these days and cost thousands of pounds, but you can keep your cockerpoos, your spandoodles, labradoodles, puggles and schnoodles because our dog Rusty is a PATTERJACK!

Sometimes when out walking, fellow dog owners ask what sort of breed she is. I just laugh and say she’s a Heinz 57 rescue mutt from Battersea Dogs and Cats. But not any more I won’t.

Mrs Preen was at the local farmers market which does contain actual farmers and not just hipsters selling artisan yogurt. The lady from Marsh Farm (they’re from Essex and sell delicious meat and eggs) took one look at Rusty and said that’s a nice Patterjack you’ve got there. Cue an astonished wife. Apparently Patterjacks are a cross between a Patterdale Terrier and a Jack Russell and are bred by farmers to go after rats.

We all know Jack Russells, but I’d never heard of a Patterdale, so I did some in-depth research lasting minutes and found out the Patterdale originated from the North of England and is a descendent of the Fell Terrier (never heard of that one either). They were used to hunt and control foxes and eliminate vermin in homes and stables. The Patterdale was recognised as a breed in 1995, but are very small so were mixed with a JR to make them slightly bigger and the Patterjack was born.

One website describes the Patterjack as a ‘handsome dog, small yet muscular and stocky’ that’s Bucket to a tee. The only thing we knew about Rusty for sure was that she was brought up on a farm and there’s nothing she likes better than burrowing, Patterjack-style, into the sofa.

We’ve often wondered what ingredients went into making Rusty and even considered getting one of those dog DNA tests, but not anymore, because, let’s face it, if you own a Patterjack life can’t get any better.


 

New London Scam

New London Scam

I may be naive or just stupid, but I’m damned if I can figure this out. It’s obviously a scam, but what’s going on?

Mrs Preen took the mutt for a walk last Saturday at around 7.30am. Realising she needed some cash to go to the farmer’s market she went to Vauxhall overground station which has a cash machine conveniently located inside the station.

She withdrew the cash and turned to leave the station.

Now pay attention as this is where it gets interesting. A reasonably well-dressed young man then approached her and said: “I need some help counting this money.”

Mrs Preen looked down and saw he had a large sum of cash in his hands, mostly in twenty-pound notes.

Not knowing what’s going on but sensing something iffy Mrs P. says, “I’m sure you don’t need my help.”

At that point a middle-aged woman took my wife by the elbow and said, ‘you don’t want to get involved with that’ and led her away.

The woman left and said no more, but it certainly appeared as if she’d seen this little slice of London life before.

Now I know what you’re thinking but no, my wife did not get her pocket picked or have her purse stolen. And of course the money was probably fake.

But what was the scam that seems to have been interrupted?

Was the guy hoping my wife would become flustered and put her bag down so he could nick it? Perhaps I’ve been watching too much ‘Line of Duty’ but was he trying to get my wife’s fingerprints on the money?

Can anybody help me out and explain what was going on?


 

The Hard Yard

The Hard Yard

This is why I love London and perhaps it’s one of the reasons you do too. To be fair you may not even like going to the theatre and do you really want to watch a play written in 1953 that dramatizes the Salem Witch trials that took place in 1692 which is an allegory on the McCarthyism that was plaquing the US at the time the play was written? The answer to that tangled list of questions is actually yes, but let me explain.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is currently playing at The Yard Theatre in Stratford and while I’m loath to do reviews on this blog, I leave that to others, I’ll just say this an extraordinary production that left the audience breathless the night I went. If anything, the director, Jay Miller packs too much into the show, hardly allowing the play to settle, but let’s not carp. The play starts with the cast sitting in chairs with their names on the seat-back. They start talking in British accents and I thought well OK, most would have just arrived in America and perhaps would retain their original accent whatever that sounded like in the 17th century. But gradually as the action gets under way their accents change to American and modern dress is replaced by period costumes. This is just one of the striking aspects of this production.

So why does this make me love London? Well it’s fairly obvious. This is a stellar production with a stellar cast, and everyone complains how expensive London is, but here in Stratford an evening at The Yard will cost you, top price £21. If you’re under 25 and turn up on the night and there are tickets available, then it’s yours for a fiver. I go to The National Theatre and the West End quite a bit and inevitably it’s full of middle aged, middle class people like me. Who else can afford it? Here at the Yard it’s stuffed with young people eager for a theatrical treat. And that is exactly what they get.

The theatre seats may be hard and made from plastic stacking chairs that have been torn apart and screwed into a wooden amphitheatre. The whole place was built out of salvaged material and has the feel of make do and mend, but don’t let that put you off. Twenty-one quid for a world class show; well you’d be foolish not to.

The Yard Theatre, it’s another London wonder.


 

Street Junk

Street Junk

If I ever need to buy heroin or presumably just about any other drug of choice, I now know my local dealer. I’ve yet to approach him but most days he can be seen dressed in a hoodie with a promising looking backpack slung from his shoulder often with a couple of sad-sack junkies trailing in his wake.  He’s always in the same place hanging out, taking care of business, at our local BT InLink digital kiosk.

InLink allows you to make free calls, jump on wifi and charge your phone. It’s a hi-tech version of a phone booth and has proved a huge boon to the drug dealing fraternity.

Occasionally backpackers, slumped on their luggage, can be seen topping up their mobiles which must be deeply irritating to the dealers who feel that this is rightfully their territory.

BT must have thought they were on to a winner: A free public service that comes with a sleek electronic advertising hoarding that puts other street furniture to shame.

I suppose it’s an example of unintended consequences with crims using a service most people don’t need now most have smart phones. But bad news Mr Drug-Juggler, apparently police and councils are stopping further installations.

Dealers are big fans of this service as calls can’t be traced, but, wait a minute, there’s a CCTV camera hanging right above our kiosk. Perhaps the hoodie is obscuring his view.


 

Barking Mad

Barking Mad

Do you think Brexit is Barking Mad? Are you against being hounded out of the EU? Do you refuse to roll over and demand Walkies not Porkies? Well the chances are you were on the Wooferendum March with Bucket, me  and a bunch of terrible puns.

It was the most English event I’ve ever attended. As English as rain on a bank holiday and guessing the weight of the vicar at a village fete. It was Mr Bean or for those with a longer memory, an Ealing Comedy: Passport to Pimlico with dogs.

All of which was odd because the whole point of the march was an attempt to reverse our current little England tendencies and stay in the EU.

Bollocks to Brexit
Bucket and me on the way

Leaving the tube at Charing Cross we made our way to Waterloo Place where the dog pack was gathering. The organisers had organised pee stations, with pictures of the Bad Boys of Brexit taped to bollards at doggie height.

There was a surprising number of snappers present and you could tell they really relished the moment when a bulldog unloaded a quite spectacular amount of urine over Boris Johnson’s head. This is where you need a large male dog, that lifts its leg and lets go a Niagara Falls of piss. Bucket is female and quite small, so she just made Dr Liam Fox MP a little damp. Good effort though.

And of course being English everyone was incredibly polite scolding their dogs if they got a bit snappy and apologising profusely. This is entirely unscientific, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say there were around 5,000 people on the march and slightly fewer dogs.

Making for Trafalgar Square we were suddenly caught in the cross-fire of a Brazilian demonstration. Brazil is in the middle of a very hard-fought election campaign with the far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro stabbed during a recent election rally. His supporters were on our right (well of course they were) and those of his rival the Workers’ Party candidate, Fernando Haddad were on our left. In total I suppose there were about two hundred protesters, but I have to say they put us lot to shame.

We were all shambling along politely with our mutts, while they were screaming shouting, singing, gesticulating and generally tearing the lid off the thing. Us Brits, we’re just not good at being demonstrative, which is kind of a pity when you’re on a demo.

Walking on down Whitehall past Downing Street I came across Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor and fervent anti-Brexit activist, who had brought along his five-month-old King Charles Spaniel Skye.

I asked him if he missed being at Number 10. He poo-pooed the idea but looked a little wistful, I thought.

Our final destination was Parliament Square. There were various speakers including Campbell, actor Peter Egan and Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy. Frankly, by now Bucket’s heart wasn’t in it and so opted for a poo on Parliament Square. I thought this might have been a pawlitical act on her part but on balance I think she just needed a dump.

So there I am bag in hand cleaning up the mess when out of nowhere a march organiser descends and says don’t worry I’ll take care of that and scoops up Bucket’s poop and departs. Bet you don’t get that in Brazil.

Plogg Blog

Plogg Blog

I’ve started plogging. Actually, I’ve been at it for a while. I guess like any addiction, at first you think you’re in control and you can take it or leave it. Initially I’d go for a while without plogging then suddenly I’d be back at it again until I realised I was doing it every day. My name is Jim and I’m a plogger.

Plogging came from Sweden and is a conflation of the Swedish words ‘plocka uppa’ which means pick up and our word jogging. What you’re picking up is garbage and you’re doing it while exercising.

Environmentalist Erik Ahlström started the craze in Stockholm when he noticed that even in squeaky clean Stockholm, garbage was lining his jogging route. As night follows day a Facebook page appeared and a hashtag (#plogga) was born. Plogging now has a world-wide presence in countries as far-flung as the US, Thailand, Ecuador, and Canada.

As exercise trends go it’s a bit odd as inevitably there’s lots of stopping and starting involved, not to mention a fair bit of bending. Think of it as environmental interval training. I often plogg when I walk the dog which you might call dogging, until you remember that’s a very different kind of outdoor activity.

Research carried out earlier this year by Keep Britain Tidy revealed that one in five visitors to London’s Royal Parks leave litter on the ground contributing to more than 3,000 tonnes of waste collected by park teams every year at a cost of more than £1.7m. So, if you fancy a go, don’t worry there’s plenty of junk to plocka uppa.

So far, my plogging has been rather solitary with just Bucket (the dog) for company, but that’s all set to change. Plogging is coming to our neck of the woods in South London. On Sunday 16th September a ploggathon is happening at Battersea Park. You can walk or run for between one and four miles picking up the trash as you go. Bring a bag, some gloves and enjoy a picnic afterwards, just don’t bring any single use plastic. Sign up here and I’ll see you on the day.