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Pharmtastic

Pharmtastic
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Member since: 17.03.2008

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      31.10.2010 10:17
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      Well worth a visit

      The Premier Inn at Haymarket, Bristol is a high-rise hotel located in Bristol city centre. It's situated on a roundabout on what I took to be part of a ring road system within the city - a country hotel this is not! However, the rooms are very well soundproofed and we didn't once notice traffic noise in the rooms.

      It has rooms on 17 floors, and so it's just as well there are three lifts! When we stayed there recently, one lift was out of order, I suppose it would be really unfortunate if all three went at the same time.

      Rooms are booked on a per-room basis. We paid £69 for a family room, though it is possible to get this for £29 if you book early enough [not done this in practice so not really sure how many rooms at this price are available].

      The room we had was perfectly clean. It had a double bed and two fold-out single beds for the children. There was a TV, tea/coffee making equipment and a hairdryer, but no mini-bar [not a bad thing with children around!]. There was a bathroom, with a shower over the bath.

      There is no restaurant in the hotel, but there is a Beefeater next door, and there is a connecting door so you don't need to go to the street to get from one to the other. The Beefeater provides breakfast at a cost of £7.95 per adult; children under 16 eat free with adults [up to two children per adult]. This includes an excellent range of cereals, porridge [cooked to order] and a hot buffet [no kippers!]. The coffee came from a "Costa" branded machine - personally I didn't like the coffee, but others seemed to be swigging it back.

      For £21 person, you can have a three course evening meal + drink + breakfast. We didn't do this so can't comment on the evening meals, but it sounds like good value. If you're interested, the menu is here: http://tinyurl.com/39zcdth

      The hotel has a car park: parking is charged at £8.00 per day. The car park is relatively small and so may get full. There in an NCP car park on the other side of the roundabout. This charges £15 per 24 hours, but Premier Inn guests get a 25% discount.

      The hotel is a five minute walk from the Cabot shopping centre, and about ten minutes from the Bristol Hippodrome, and so is convenient for either shopping or culture.

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      10.01.2010 01:49
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      Good value, especially for those with children

      Old Orleans are a chain of themed bars/restaurants which are found in many towns and cities in England and Wales.

      Cardiff has two branches: one in the city centre, and one in the Cardiff Bay development. This review refers to the second of the two.

      A themed bar, of course, needs a theme: in this case it's based on the American South, Creole and Cajun cooking. This is good news for me as I rather like most of the type of food that's sold there.

      The restaurant has the basic layout found in many American bars: a bar area for drinkies and a separate area for dining. This one is situated a little away from the Millennium Centre and Sennedd Building, next to a multiplex cinema. This seems to have the effect of making it slightly less popular that other ones I've been to. I'm sure that this is only a result of its location, and is not a reflection on the service there. The advantage for the punter is that you can often get a table with less than a ten minute wait. There is ample parking outside.

      One of my favourite dishes is the ribs: personally I think they're better than the ones you get in TGI or the Hard Rock Café. They do a range of starters such as nachos, wings, potato skins, and some of these are put together in a way that's designed to allow diners to share. If you're less hungry, you can make do with the bowl of popcorn that's provided at the table.

      The puddings are, in my opinion, the weakest part of the menu, so I don't usually have these [I'd rather enjoy the starters, or pig out on a full rack of ribs!].

      The menus can be seen in full at http://www.oldorleans.com/home/food which will give an excellent idea of what's available.

      The restaurant is always clean and well presented, and the staff have always, in my experience, been perfectly pleasant and sufficiently attentive.

      Having two children, a big attraction for us is the Kids Eats Free service that they've run for about two years now. Children's meals are usually £3.95 or £6.25 for two courses, but you can get one free [plus a drink, which would be extra to this price] for each adult main meal ordered.

      For those without children, you can sign up for a discount card which gives a 10% discount [not available with the free children's meal offer]. You can request a card online at the website: since there is not cost, if you eat there reasonable often it's worth a punt.

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    • Boots Advantage Card / Credit Card / 46 Readings / 44 Ratings
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      09.01.2010 08:43
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      If you shop there anyway, get one!

      The Advantage Card is the reward card/loyalty card that's issued by Boots in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It's been running for just over ten years, having been launched in 1999 [in fact, it got off to rather an inauspicious start as it was launched on the Monday after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, leading to a lot less publicity than Boots no doubt would have hoped].

      Loyalty cards are essentially a system by which companies try to get customers to remain loyal to them. They also allow the companies to analyse customers spending habits and the information gained is then used to help with future marketing. The companies like this information and are willing to pay for it; they way they pay their customers is by issuing reward points.

      In case of the Advantage Card scheme, the points are issued at a rate of 4 points per whole pound spent. The points then build up, and can be used in place of cash to pay for items in the store. Each point is equivalent to one penny, so the rate of return is approximately 4% [it may work out a little less than this as only whole pounds spent earn points].

      The normal rate of earning, though, can be boosted in several ways. Every few weeks, the stores will hold bonus weekends, where the rate will increase to 10 points per pound, and there are often bonus points on specific lines. The larger stores have Advantage Card machines; it's always worth putting your card into one of these before shopping, especially if it's likely to be a large basket full. The machine will offer vouchers which may give extra points on specific products [and if you're lucky it'll include something you were going to buy anyway!], but there is almost always a voucher that gives and extra 100 or so points for spending over a certain threshold, say £15.00.

      Points can be earned on most products in the store; exclusions include: prescriptions, stamps, mobile top-up; baby infant formula [I've often heard people querying this - it's because by law stores can't be seen to be discouraging mothers from breast-feeding] and gift vouchers [though if you spend a gift voucher, you can earn points].

      Points can be spent on pretty much anything, subject to the same exclusions. One important point is that you need enough points to cover what you want; you can't mix points and cash. If you have more points than you need for a particular item, the balance remains on the card.

      If you shop online at Boots.com, you can register your card to your account and points will be earned [you need to visit a store with an Advantage Card machine to have your card updated], but you can't spend your points online.

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      09.01.2010 00:47
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      Convenient and good value

      Express by Holiday Inn Cardiff Airport is located at Port Road, Rhoose just outside the entrance to Cardiff Wales Airport.

      The hotel has 111 rooms, arranged over four floors. The hotel looked clean and fresh, having been renovated in 2005.

      Express by Holiday Inn is part of the Six Continents Group, and generally these hotels are a little cheaper than standard Holiday Inns. Prices vary depending on the time of year, and usually range from £55.00 to £80.00 per room per night. Since the price is on a per room basis, they are obviously more cost effective if you stay as a family of four rather than on your own. I've actually stayed for as little as £35.00 as I was there at a quiet time of year.

      You can get the price down by booking their Advance Purchase rates: the disadvantage is that these are pre-paid and you can't get a refund if you need to cancel [unless, of course, you've got separate insurance].

      I feel that cost-wise, these are similar to Travelodges, but they usually have the feel of standard Holiday Inns.

      One difference is in the breakfasts. A buffet breakfast is included in the price, and allows you to help yourself to cereals, toast, croissants, muffins and a range of drinks from a machine. This is not up to the full cooked breakfasts offered by Hiltons/Holiday Inns, but for the price I feel it's not too bad.

      The area where breakfast is served doubles as a bar in the evening, with a few communal TVs, and there is a pool table.

      As this is an airport hotel, they offer stay and fly packages. Depending on the time of you year, you can stay overnight and leave your car in the car park for 15 nights for about £105.00 [the hotel arranges a shuttle service to the airport].

      The hotel is situated about 11 miles form the centre of Cardiff and so could, at a push, be used as a base to visit the city.

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    • Book People, the / Media Store / 44 Readings / 43 Ratings
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      05.01.2010 01:10
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      Great place fro bookworms

      The Book People is a mail order/online book seller.

      They have a website [www.thebookpeople.co.uk] and also produce a catalogue which they will be more than happy to send to if you get on their mailing list. The catalogues get sent out at about monthly intervals, but they seem to come a little sooner at Christmas.

      It differs from many others such as Amazon in that it has quite a limited stock. By this I mean that the number of books available at any one time is limited, and also that the books themselves seem to be available for only a short time [at least for some of the inventory].

      However, what may be lacking in terms of range, they make up for in terms of price. They claim that all books will be offered with a minimum discount of 50% off the recommended retail price, ranging up to a 70% discount. The current catalogue, for example, has Stephen Fry's "Last Chance to See" at £5.00 [RRP £20.00] and Michael Palin's "New Europe" at £3.00 [RRP £20.00].

      Particular savings can be made on book sets: five John le Carre books are available at £7.99 for the set [obviously, if you've got some them, this becomes less attractive, but I'm sure you get the point].

      About half of each catalogue is devoted to children's books, so this may be of more interest to some rather than others.

      Delivery is £1.95 for one book, £3.95 for more than one, and is free for orders over £25.00. There are often codes floating around on voucher sites which will give free delivery at a lower threshold.

      The company also operate through a system of agents who will drop off a small range of books at offices and other places of work, and will return after about 7-10 days to take orders. The choice is particularly limited, then, but there is the advantage of being able to see the books, and there is no delivery charge then.

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    • bangcd.com / Online Shop / 62 Readings / 61 Ratings
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      29.12.2009 01:13
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      Worth a look if the price is right.

      Bangcd.com is a media sales website which has been [at least according to the site itself] "Proudly Serving The On-Line World Since 2005".

      Its range is not as extensive as, say, Amazon or Play, but does cover:

      * CDs
      * DVDs [regions 1, 2 and 3]
      * Blu-ray
      * Games [PC, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo DS and PSP]

      The site itself isn't too different from that of Play: there's a homepage with sections for new and pre-release CDs, DVDs, and Games, and then a section for Bargain Basement products.

      You can click on the various sections to look at, say, the DVDs, or use the search function to find a particular product.

      I usually visit the site if prompted by MediaPricer [see my review for more details of this great site] that what I'm looking for is on Bangcd at a particularly good price, so I would tend to use the search function.

      The prices shown are inclusive of delivery [or delivery is free, if you prefer] and they are often competitive.

      The last two orders have arrived from Hong Kong [I can't remember about the other ones, sorry]. The site claims that 95% of orders arrive within 5 working days [that's a week to you and me]. However, one order I placed took 12 days to arrive. Sometimes this might not be a problem if you'd ordered early enough for a gift, for example: in this instance, though, it was a game for my son who got a bit fed up waiting.

      Items have always arrived, though, and none has been damaged in any way.

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      28.12.2009 00:04
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      Good value, very friendly

      The Ramada Jarvis Swansea hotel located at Phoenix way, Swansea. This is not in the city centre, though, but is 3 miles out in the Llansamlet Enterprise Park. This is a very spread out set of car dealers, large stores such as PC World/Currys, Makro, supermarkets and specialist stores such as a huge music shop. The hotel is about a mile and a half from the Liberty Stadium, which makes it great for anyone wanting to see games played by [or against] Swansea City FC or the Ospreys rugby team. It's also very convenient for the M4 which is great for exploring South Wales in general.

      This is the only Ramada hotel is which I've stayed. The standard is comparable with that found in most Holiday Inns in the UK. The hotel has rooms on two floors.

      The room types available include Standard Twin, Standard Double, Executive Double, Suites [for 2] and Family Rooms for 3 or 4.
      We stayed as a family [with two boys, 11 and 8] and were given a Family Room for 4. The room had a double bed, a sofa bed which could have slept two and another pull-out bed. This was great for us as it meant the boys could have separate beds and so reduce the chance of fights [!!].

      Even with all of this, the room didn't feel cramped, and there was still plenty of room for bags and to walk around.

      The room had the usual facilities you might expect from a this type of hotel: a kettle and tea and coffee facilities; a desk with TV and a comfy chair for [one of] us to relax in, ironing board, press and iron.

      The bathroom was adequately sized, and included a shower in the bath. It was very clean. There was a hairdryer in the room.

      There is a Leisure Centre with indoor pool, sauna & multi gym. This, however, is no ordinary Leisure Centre; it branded as a Sebastian Coe Health club. This is the only Seb Coe Health Club that I've visited and I must say I was a little disappointed. I think I must have fallen into the trap of thinking that a leisure club with this branding would be much better that the standard hotel club. It's that it was particularly bad, it's just that I'd hoped it would have been a bit more impressive. The club is open from 7.00 am to 9.00 pm, though the sauna is only open in the evenings.

      Breakfast took the usual buffet form where you can choose from fruits, cereals and the traditional eggs, bacon, sausages etc. Breakfasts like this can sometime be let down by the fried eggs which can get a bit over-done under the lights. This was got around by the staff preparing the eggs to order; this may cause a short delay, but personally I would prefer this. The hotel did fail my haddock test [there was none available on the morning we were there, but I was advised that it can be ordered in advance (though I'm not sure quite how far in advance they meant!)].

      Evening meals are available in the Arts Bar and Grill, but we didn't eat there in the evening so can't comment on the quality.

      However, the best part of the breakfast was the staff: they were all very friendly and no request was too much trouble. They really made a difference.

      We stayed for one night in December. The rate was £70 for the room, which included breakfast for us all. For rates that don't include breakfast, the cost is £11.95 per person.

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        18.12.2009 01:58
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        Great exercise, and you see the kites

        Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian is an outdoor recreation centre run by Forestry Commission Wales. It's located about 10 miles inland from Aberystwyth, just off the A44.

        The name means "Silver Stream Pass", a reference to the silver that was once mined in the area. [There is a former silver-lead mine about a mile further along the A44 at Llywernog, which is also worth a visit.]

        Entrance is free, though car parking is £1.50 per day.

        The facilities at Nant-yr-Arian include three signposted walks through the forests, ranging in length from 1.2km to 5km. The shortest walk is suitable for wheelchairs. I would particularly recommend you take of the two longer routes, though, as they both include a spectacular view along the ridge top.

        The car park is always busy with people loading and unloading their cars with mountain bikes. The three walks are mirrored by three cycle trails, at 9km, 16km and 35km in length. Not being a cyclist, I've not used these, but enthusiasts travel from far and wide to get here. The visitor centre - apart from providing hot meals and drinks - has excellent showering facilities [for both riders and bikes!].

        There are also two play areas for children, catering for differing age groups. At weekends, an RSPB hut is manned with enthusiastic volunteers who will help you spot the various birds that inhabit the forest and its lake.

        If you do visit the site, try to time your stay to include 2.00 pm [winter, or 3.00 pm summer] as this is the time that the Red Kites are fed. Kites are no longer as scarce as they were even 15 years ago, but the site of about 80-100 circling and diving for food is quite spectacular.

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          28.11.2009 00:49
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          Well worth considering for a stay in town

          Holiday Inn Kings Cross/Bloomsbury is located at 1 Kings Cross Road in London. [There's another nearby hotel on the same chain, the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury, so don't get them mixed up.]

          The hotel is reasonably large, with 405 rooms. It didn't really seem to be that big, though, apart from having a very long queue for breakfast one morning [we didn't eat there that day, so weren't affected, fortunately].

          We stayed as a family [with two boys, 11 and 8]; the room was billed as a family room, with two double beds.

          The room had the usual facilities you might expect from a Holiday Inn: a kettle and tea and coffee facilities; a desk with TV and a comfy chair for [one of] us to relax in.
          The bathroom was a generous size, and included a shower in the bath. There was a hairdryer in the room. The room looked as though it was relatively recently decorated, and all the staff were perfectly pleasant at all times.

          There is a Leisure Centre with indoor pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi & multi gym. Unusually, this isn't free to guests: there's a charge of £3.50 per day for adults, which is not a situation I've seen before [but it is London, I suppose]. We didn't actually use the Leisure Centre, so can't comment on it directly, though it was refurbished in 2009.

          Breakfast took the usual buffet form where you can choose from fruits, cereals and the traditional eggs, bacon, sausages etc. The choice was definitely poor compared with other Holiday Inns in which I've stayed, with even the selection of cereals a bit restricted. Those of you who've read some of my other reviews will be aware I'm partial to a spot of haddock for breakfast; alas it was not available here [and it took about three attempts just to find a waitress who knew what haddock was!].

          There are two restaurants, one conventional [grills, steak, pasta etc (kids eat free)] and one Indian (have to pay for children).

          The hotel is situated about 15 mins walk from King Cross station, and you can walk from it to Oxford Street in about half an hour. We arrived in London at Euston Station, which was a £7.00 taxi fare away.

          We stayed for three nights during October half term and used the hotel as a base from which to explore London with the boys. The B&B rate was £175.30 for the four of us. [Aword of warning about the website: I thought I'd booked a room for £154.00. It was only after I'd paid that I realised that prices quoted don't include VAT. I've since found out that the Holiday Inn website includes VAT in the quoted price for hotels outside London, but excluded it for London hotels.] Holiday Inn run a loyalty scheme called Priority Club, and we'd used our pints to get two free night, so three nights in London for under £200 doesn't seem too bad.

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          • Quidco.co.uk / Internet Site / 94 Readings / 89 Ratings
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            23.05.2009 00:20
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            Let the web work for you

            Quidco is a cashback site that passes on [most] of the cashback that's earned to the customer.

            Shopping websites want you to buy from them so they make a profit. Before you can buy from them, you need to visit them. But how do you know what sites are out there? Many sites are now so famous that they will pop into many customers' thoughts without too much trouble, but even these would like more customers.

            The internet has developed a system of paying websites for referrals to other sites. If you click to a new site from the one your on, the new site may well have an arrangement to pay the first site a fee. This may be a fixed amount, or a percentage of the price paid by the customer.

            This system has led to the formation of cashback sites whose only purpose is to refer to third party sites. By doing this, the cashback sites then earn a commission. The sites can then pass on some of this to the customer as an incentive to use their site in particular.

            Some sites take a cut of every transaction, so that the commission is shared between the site operators and the customer. The exact split will vary from site to site.

            Quidco is slightly different. In any given year, quidco will want the first £5.00 you earn as their fee. Any commission over that is yours to keep. What I quite like is that you don't have to pay quidco the £5.00 at the start of the year: they wait for you to earn some cashback, and when it's time to pay out, they subtract the fiver then. This means that there is no cost to the punter. [if your commission is less than £5.00 in a year, quidco will keep it all and you earn nothing].

            Having made a purchase via the site, your account page will show a record of your earnings which may be "tracked" or "pending", "received" [by quidco, not you] or "paid" [now it is yours]. This process is often not very fast; typically it can take three or fours months and can be even longer. However, if you use this regularly, the account will usually show some money in each of these stages. I usually end up get some payment each month now [though I did go for six months in 2008 when nothing was paid - it did all come through, and nothing was lost]. However, since it's free money, I don't see this as a big problem.

            There are currently 1346 merchant listed on the site [May 09], though I admit I only use a few regular ones [HMV, Play, Next]. I did change broadband in Feb; this has earned me £47.50 in cashback. There are some big numbers for changing utility suppliers, mobile 'phones etc. It may not be the only reason for choosing a particular merchant, but all else being equal, you may as well get something back.

            Some merchants will allow you to earn without actually buying anything e.g. you can get £2 for getting an insurance comparison [there is a limit to the no per year], but usually you do need to make a purchase.

            You should remember that cashback is not guaranteed, and will occasionally fail. I would usually buy at £50 with no cashback rather than £55 with a possibility of £6 coming back.

            Cash is usually paid once a month. You can be paid via PayPall, or as a direct credit to your account via BACS. The account will let you set a minimum payment if you want to [i.e. if you set it to £3.00 and you only got £2.50, you will wait until the next payment schedule should the threshold be reached].
            I've been a member for two year. In that time [and I don't consider myself a huge internet shopper], I've earned £279.65 gross. From this, quidco have taken £10.00, there is £64.40 waiting to be processed, so I've actually been paid £205.05.

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              07.05.2009 01:22
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              Excellent Value

              Holiday Inn Chester West is situated in North Wales, at Northop Hall, near Mold, just off the A55. [So, not in Chester at all, but I'm sure you'll agree that "Holiday Inn Chester West" has a better chance of selling itself than "Holiday Inn Mold"!]

              The hotel is on three floors and was renovated in 2003. Interestingly, the hotel is owned by a local company which runs it as a franchise from Holiday Inn. On the whole, we got the impression that the staff were friendlier than usual for a Holiday Inn - this may be due to the different management structure.

              There are 81 rooms. We stayed as a family; usually we would have a double bed and a sofa-bed the children. On this occasion, though, the room had two double beds which was more comfy [especially for the children!]. When booking, you are offered the choice of a two double-bed room or one with a sofa-bed.

              The room had a kettle and tea and coffee facilities; there was a minibar, which on this occasion was empty. I'm sure if this was usual, or if it had been emptied as a family was in the room. It wasn't a problem for us - I often ask for the minibar to be locked to prevent the children accidentally moving an item and getting charged. There is a TV, which had Sky Sports in the rooms. There was free wi-fi internet access throughout the hotel [considering the hotel I staying in last week charged £15 per day for internet access, this was excellent value]. I'd taken a laptop with us, and it was very easy to connect to the system.

              The bathroom was a generous size, and included a shower in the bath.

              The hotel doesn't have a pool. There were signs for a gym: we didn't use this so I can't comment on it directly.

              This Holiday Inn has a "kids eat free" offer, which helps to reduce the cost of eating in as this can be expensive otherwise. This even works if you just order a bar meal: on one night we four had a one-course meal with drinks for £20.

              Breakfast took the usual buffet form where you can choose from fruits, cereals and the traditional eggs, bacon, sausages etc. It was possible to order extras such as poached eggs and smoked haddock [my sons thought I was bonkers to order fish for breakfast!]. Breakfast was excellent on the first two days; on the third day the staff were different and it didn't seem to quite so efficient

              The hotel is just off the A55. You approach it travelling west and it's about 9 miles from Chester. It shares an exit with a petrol station, a McDonalds, a Costa and an American-style diner. Because the A55 is a dual carriageway, you have to continue west when leaving the hotel before you can make a U-turn.

              We stayed for three nights in the week after Easter: one night was £62 and the other two were £52 [all to include breakfast for the four of us]. For about £85 [depending on the date], you can get a combined deal which includes a family ticket to Chester Zoo [value £37.50 to £50.00 depending in the season] which seems good value.

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              • johnlewis.com / Online Shop / 120 Readings / 116 Ratings
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                08.02.2009 09:03
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                Great customer service

                John Lewis Direct is the online arm of the John Lewis Partnership, perhaps more usually renowned for their department stores in large shopping centres.

                Rather like their physical stores, the site has a pleasing, upmarket feel to it; there's nothing brash or cheap about the look.

                The prices, though, are often very competitive, and since there's free delivery, there are no extra charges to worry about. TVs in particular can be a great buy: they offer a 5 year guarantee included - elsewhere this may cost anything from £15 [for a small TV at Richer Sounds] to over £100.

                The most recent purchase I made was for a Moulinex JuiceMachine Pro Juicer. This was listed on hotukdeals.com [see my separate review if your not familiar with this site] as being available for the bargain price of £9.95 [£55 at Amazon]. I thought this was worth a punt and placed an order. I was so excited at the thought of making my own fruit juice that I asked dooyoo to add the Juicer as a product suggestion, so that I would be able to review it when it arrived.

                After four days, a courier duly arrived bearing a large parcel. My excitement was short lived, though: the pack didn't contain a JuiceMachine Pro, but another model, the JuiceMachine Duo [the invoice described the correct item]. This normally sells for about£35, so £10 is still good price, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

                From comments on hotukdeals, it seemed that all orders were supplied with the wrong item.

                I phoned John Lewis to ask about the item and was told that they didn't have any of the correct machines in stock, so they weren't able to swap over. However, they did offer to give me a full refund and allow me to keep the wrong machine [i.e. free of charge]. This seemed a very fair and generous offer, so I was more than happy to accept.

                My thoughts of John Lewis has only improved after this: you can often learn more about a company form the way they deal with errors than from normal transactions.

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                • sky.com / Internet Site / 102 Readings / 99 Ratings
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                  13.01.2009 00:47
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                  Easier than the listings on the TV

                  Sky.com is the website for Sky: the TV people who have moved into phone and broadband services, too. The website is pretty huge, with sections on news, entertainment, gossip, and - of course - plenty of pages offering you the latest deals on Sky packages.

                  I have no intention on reviewing the whole site, just the TV listing section. I did, in fact, ask dooyoo to add the TV listing section as a separate entry, but I got a reply to say that the "Product was already there". Apologies, therefore, to anyone who was looking for an overview on the whole of Sky [!], but I did try.

                  The TV listing page can be found at:

                  http://tv.sky.com/tvlistings

                  When you visit the site, there is a delay of about 5 to 10 seconds when nothing seems to happen, and then a grid appears which shows the first 14 or so channels and what's on TV for the next 3 hours. You can use a mouse to move forward to see further ahead, or click on tabs to change the date.

                  So far, this is not that much different to the Sky Planner with which customers will be familiar from Sky's onscreen guide.

                  However, on the top right of the grid is a search box. This allows you search to a programme by name, without needing to know when it's on, or even which channel is showing it.

                  Entering part of a TV programme name will bring any programmes that match that. You then choose the one you're interested in by clicking on it: this then brings up all showings for that programme in the next week. I used this, for example, when Sky+ didn't record the second part of Silent Witness. I was able to see that there was a repeat showing on BBC1 London at about 3.00 am, and so didn't have to miss the rest of the story.

                  Just as you think it can't possibly get better than that, there is also a remote record facility. If you log into your Sky account while looking at a programme, you can click on a box in the programme description which says "remote record". This allows you to send a signal to your Sky+ box to tell it to record that particular programme while you're still at you computer. Before I get accusations of being too lazy to walk to my living room, I would say that I find this useful when the kids are watching something else and I don't want the hassle of disturbing them [I have also used it when staying with friends - there is no need for the computer to be in the same house.]

                  This about as close as I seem to have got to the House of The Future that I used to see on Tomorrow's World when a boy!

                  also on ciao

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                  • More +
                    14.12.2008 00:15
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                    A pinker breakfast

                    It's now quite common practice for a company to cash-in on a brand that they believe is doing well by expanding products within the range, or adding new products to the range.

                    The Quaker Oats guys are no exception to the rule. When I grew up, Quaker Oats meant porridge - the old fashioned stuff you boiled with milk and salt, not the namby pamby microwave stuff [that I use myself!].

                    Having expanded the porridge range to an impressive 16 varieties [I couldn't believe it either - check the website], they've now started on the cold cereal range. The original Oat Granola has been joined by, inter alia, a strawberry and raspberry variety.

                    The normal granola has raisins as the fruit element, so I suppose it doesn't take a huge leap forward by getting someone to make suggestions for other fruits.

                    This version has the usual granola base of oat clusters augmented by freeze dried strawberries [in broken bits] and whole dries raspberries. The effect is very pleasant indeed. We have a split decision in this family: I prefer the raisins of the original; while my wife is coming down on the side of the newer version [I'm sure that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the milk turns a girlie pink colour!].

                    The pack is lighter that the original [500g as opposed to 600g]. This is partly due to the fact that the cereal is even denser than before. The recommended portion size is now 45g [c.f. 50g previously]. To save you doing the maths, the strawberry & raspberry pack will give just over 11 portions, while the original gives 12.

                    Quaker Oats obviously see this as a premium product and have priced it accordingly: £2.59 for 500g [c.f. £1.89 for the original]. I suppose you could buy a plain granola and add your own fruit.

                    In practice, I suspect that will now buy both varieties.

                    One portion provides 2.9g of fibre [1.1g soluble].

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                    • More +
                      10.12.2008 15:56
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                      Helps you through a cold

                      Lotus tissues have launched a new tissue product especially to help clear the nose when it's blocked from a cold or 'flu.

                      When you suffer from a cold or 'flu, there is nothing that can be done to "cure" the situation, but symptoms can be managed to help to maker the sufferer feel better. Blocked noses can be helped with inhalations: either steam [I find a shower makes me feel a lot better!] or oils to help clear the nose.

                      Olbas have long been a well know brand with their Olbas Oil range. The oil can be dropped into hot water, or placed on a handkerchief for mobile nose clearing purposes. I was never a great fan of the second method as I felt I could always smell the oil, even when the handkerchief had been washed.

                      Lotus to the rescue, therefore, by producing a tissue paper that come ready impregnated with the Olbas Oil. They claim to have captured the oil in tiny capsules on the tissue: crushing the tissue then releases the oil and allows it to be breathed and therefore clear the nose.

                      A week or so ago I did have quite a bad cold but still needed to be out on occasion to take children to school, football etc. I did find that a pack of these in my coat pocket gave a certain amount of symptomatic relief, and so I didn't feel quite as ill as I might have.

                      They come in pocket sized packs with ten tissues; I bought them in a multi-pack of 6 x 10 for £1.49.

                      One word of caution, though. The pack bears the following warning:

                      After using these tissues wash your hands before touching delicate parts of the body. Do not rub your eyes with the tissues.

                      It's probably worth remembering that the Olbas oil contains Mint Oil and Eucalyptus Oil. Both of these essential oils are irritant to the skin, especially the skin on "delicate parts of the body"! You have been warned!!

                      Also on ciao

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