“ Type: Picnic Wares „
It was the hottest day so far this year when Best Friend and I hatched our plan. We were sat in Hyde Park, enjoying the glory of convenient nature; scrubby grass with close proximity to a bar serving ice cold bottles of wine. It seemed in the hazy outdoor shimmer that camping would be an excellent idea. We gleefully facebooked each other to confirm on our return home and I set about the task of working out what I could buy....I mean, what 'I needed' to take with me.
Skipping out of work to accumulate this 'stuff' I tried out a sale in one of the town centre camping shops. Most things were already gone, but a cute picnic backpack on display caught my eye. With a pretty blue exterior, it looked like it had everything I needed. Originally priced at £39.99, it was a bit on the expensive side, but I negotiated a discount and left happy. The shop assistant had been quick to point out that the backpack was made by Gelert. I'd seen their range and the prices, so I was pretty convinced I'd landed a high quality bargain. He said the blanket alone retailed at over £10, so the entire bag was a steal at the £25 I'd paid.
I proudly showed it to The Boyfriend and greedily ticked off the contents on my fingers in the car on the way home. "It's got four plates...look, with a little flower design....oh, the elastic is really loose, that must be why they keep slipping about, four plastic glasses....four sets of cutlery - metal cutlery!...ow!, why are the weird flat bottoms on the knives and forks so sharp??.....And a corkscrew and bottle opener....four napkins (oh dear, these felt nasty and were the size of a sheet of toilet roll but I said nothing)....salt and pepper pots...a chopping board, no! What? There's no chopping board!! And no knife for the chopping board! But it says these are in here!" I began rifling through the bag. But there was only one big cool bag compartment at the back, this fold out front pocket that all the other stuff I've listed was in and a little tiny pocket at the front with nothing in it.
When I got home, I started to show it to Dad, but the enthusiasm had drained out of me a bit. I opened with some rambling about how I'd bought it but I had to go back to the shop because bits were missing. As I went to get it out of the carrier bag, I realised that the handle at the top was frayed to the last bit of cotton and about to snap. It was all a bitter disappointment.
The following morning I was sat, seething with rage at my desk with this crappy picnic bag at my feet. True, I could take it back, but they didn't have another, this was the last one in the shop. 10 seconds of googling later I rang Gelert customer services to see if perhaps they would exchange it? Or perhaps tell me where to pick up the chopping board and knife to fit the bag?
I got through quickly without having to press any buttons to announce my intentions, but unfortunately they didn't care. The lady on the other end was polite enough, but she just said that they would have nothing to do with returns and that I had to take it back to the shop. So much for customer goodwill. She said it simply wasn't their problem. I kind of felt it was their problem given that they manufactured substandard crap, but I thanked her for her time and trekked back across town to the shop.
Back in the shop, the manager came to the rescue. He immediately offered me a refund or a further discount and I decided to make do and take the discount. It saved looking round the shops for another one. Pleased with the result and his pleasant manner, I took the stupid thing home again and ran through my wheel of fortune style pitch for the third time with The Boyfriend's dad. I finally took out the blanket from its holder to make sure it really was big enough for four people. As I laid it out (gently!!) on the carpet, the backing came clean off the fleece. Then I opened the front of the bag and closer inspection revealed that the scabby plastic wine glasses were cracked.
Realistically, all I'm left with is a badly made backpack with a childish design and a broken handle. Every single thing in it is rubbish. The Boyfriend says that we should be thankful that we didn't buy the tent from Gelert and he's right. I googled again, this time using the words "Gelert" and "poor quality" and I think I have my answer. The bag and all the other equipment from the range are fairly pricey. I understand that brand name camping stuff usually is, but I'm not entirely sure why and I really would want it to at least last until we got to the campsite.
What's alternative? Polar make some nice picnic backpacks, as do Henley's and there are plenty of unbranded ones for sale, which seem to have much sturdier parts. In the end I purchased the following;
Four really nice frosted plastic wine glasses from Asda, £1. Four gorgeous plastic plates and four matching plastic bowls from the 99p store. Incidentally, they have some excellent four person metal cutlery sets there, in gift boxes, with Conran style handles. I also got a pack of 6 teaspoons, because you need teaspoons on a picnic to eat yoghurts. Or spoon olives onto plastic plates. Or stir sugar into coffee. And I'm not sure why these weren't in the bag. I just need a cheap fleece throw and a Tesco £4 rucksack and I'm sorted.
Deluxe rucksack style picnic set with padded shoulder straps, back system and grab handle. Set includes corkscrew and bottle opener, 4 plates, 4 glasses, 4 cutlery sets, 4 napkins and a salt and pepper pot. Large insulated cooler compartment, zipped front pocket and PVC backed picnic blanket.