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"£3.74 for a personalised mousemat."
Ok, that's got these stupid customers hooked. Now, did you say you want to personalise it? Oh yes, forgot to mention, you have to pay £4.25 JUST TO UPLOAD THE PICTURE!
And did we mention that the mousemat isn't great quality? To rectify this you have to pay £1.50 for it to be padded.
Oh, you say you want it posted to you? Didn't we mention the charges at the start, so sorry you had to go through all the hassle of uploading and choosing your options. Well, the basic mailing service takes 21 days (and you pay £3 for that) and I think we all know not many people will be able to wait that long. Want it within a week? Well, that'll be a lot of trouble for us to pop it in the postbox so quickly, that'll be £8.50 to you, sir.
Your £3.74 mat is now £18.00. Kerching!
(By the way I didn't buy this, obviously. I got the same thing from Snapfish, advertised at £7, that's what I paid plus £2 postage. So half the price even though the headline figure was more to start with. And it was an easier system.)
The phone number is a mobile. There is no physical address. These are warnings for a start!
But the products do look nice on the website so we proceeded all the same and placed an order for bespoke pet bowls.
The problems started when we looked at the calender nearly two months later and began to wonder where our order was. OK, these things need to be made and fired and glazed etc. but there is a time period quoted and we had been waiting much longer. Chow Bella proved hard to contact, and even when after we spoke they did not keep their word about delivery. and eventually when I gave them an absolute deadline a few days later they rushed into action and the bowls arrived shortly afterwards - almost three months after the initial order.
But there was a problem, one of the bowls was clearly substandard. To their credit, the firm were the ones who pointed this out and said that a replacement would be on the way. This didn't come for another three months and more broken undertakings, and then only after I had threatened to take matters further if they didn't either come up with the goods or give a full refund immediately. And when the replacement came it was a different size to the original and so the set didn't match. But we gave up at this point!
Martin Lewis made a fortune from this site when he sold it. He's a clever man!The site owners get a cut from any starred links that users click on. The site says categorically that they don't promote the starred links, but if you get the weekly newsletter just look at how often they are advising you to switch energy providers and banks. This is their big earner and so this is headlined. There's good stuff on it but I would advise just a wee pinch of salt.
Our family has been shopping at Aldi since a new one opened up locally about three months ago. We used to go to Tesco and are now pretty much converted to Aldi.
OK, it's well known that they have own brands at low prices. We were suspicious at first - 'you get what you pay for' is deeply embedded in the British shopper's psyche, and at first we kept a list on the fridge of the things we'd bought, for members of the family to comment on whether we should buy them again or not.
But we found that in over 90 percent of cases everyone in the family was perfectly happy with the quality of the goods. So we took the list off the fridge and just started shopping at Aldi every week.
I'm the main shopper in the family, and the reason I find it a positive experience is that I'm in and out in about 30 minutes! Compare this to the marathon I used to go through at Tesco.
What takes up the time at Tesco is the numerous aisles that you have to wander (our Aldi has only five). Also there's all the time that you spend comparing things at Tesco. I got weary of the constant working out of the value - should I get the large 'great value' family pack, or 3 for 2 on the little packs? Should I get the Tesco brand rather than the more expensive Birds Eye? Ah, but Birds Eye have BOGOF on this one though we don't like it quite as much but maybe we'd better get it because of the saving. I only want 2 tubs of marge but as it's 3 for 2 I suppose I'll have to get 3.... The constant dilemmas! And we know from experience that the 'original' prices are manipulated to make the offers seem better, so you have to be thinking all the time, that 2 for 1 on Sugar Puffs sounds good but did Sugar Puffs ever really cost that?
At Aldi you have none of that - there's very little choice.
If you think that a lack of choice is a bad thing, then Aldi isn't for you. But lack of choice underlies the economics of Aldi. Take kitchen paper for example. Aldi has a choice of two sorts - a two pack or a four pack. Tesco has a choice of probably twenty, in different brands, designs, quality levels etc. The Aldi one is fine for most people's purposes, and we're happy with it, and meanwhile there's Tesco paying rent for all the space their kitchen roll takes up.
This leads to the other advantage - pricing. So as I've said, limited stock means low rent for Aldi, which translates into their ability to price lower. They sell their own brands 90 percent of the time (which in most cases are genuinely equivalent to the named brands). So these are obviously cheaper. Prices are kept low by Aldi's ability to place massive orders for the type of goods that appear in all their stores across Europe, e.g. packaged cheeses, tinned goods, pasta. Of course Tesco can do the same (as far as Europe and the UK are concerned, Tesco have about the same number of stores in total as Aldi) but their broader stock requirements means they will not always have the same leverage as Aldi who have a narrow product line, which again translates to lower costs for Aldi. Aldi save money by having low advertising overheads - you see TV and poster campaigns for Tesco all the time, but rarely for Aldi. They also save money by having very few staff on, and those staff are trained to multi-task - so when there's no queues, one of the checkout operators will close a till and you'll suddenly see her busily stacking the shelves. Aldi keep the checkouts reasonably clear by insisting on customers passing through at speed - I think it's well known that you don't bag your shopping at the register, but you have to put it back in the trolley once it's scanned and then bag it on the shelf provided, so that the till operator can get on with serving someone else. If you can't find the mayonnaise, with luck you will find someone on the shop floor and they will gladly tell you where it is, but they won't offer to accompany you as they do in Tesco because they need to get on with their real job. If you like having a chat with the checkout operator while she packs your bags, then again Aldi isn't for you - but you will have a better idea of why you are paying more in Tesco!
It isn't perfect. Though prices are unquestionably low, you'll see from your receipt that most of these prices end with a 9, which indicates that Aldi are not above the mind-games that other supermarkets engage in. They don't sell everything that Tesco does and we still occasionally have to pay a visit elsewhere. Dishwasher salt and bread flour are examples of things they just don't do, and if you want a lamb joint for your Sunday roast you'll probably have to get it from the freezer section. We haven't been impressed by their fresh minced beef, and the jury is out about the quality of the cereals and the fresh bread.
However it is good to be able to go to a supermarket with a shopping list and know that you'll be able to stick to that list, and not feel obliged to come back with twenty cans of beans because they're on BOGOF this week but won't be next week. And we have discovered food that we genuinely enjoy (the Salmon Wellington has been a great hit) of perfectly good quality. Even the cats are happy with the Aldi brands!
Well, it's a Travelodge. That means no frills but clean, and certainly this fulfilled the criteria. We paid £19 for a family room during one of the online special offer releases of rooms, and 4 of us slept reasonably comfortably.
Facilities: Be warned, what you save on the room you can end up paying for in extras. I paid £3.20 for a small bottle of lager in the bar. The parking is £5 per stay: that seems expensive but when you compare it to what is on offer commercially from other sites near the seafront, it is not outrageous. However I do wonder whether I could have simply driven 15 minutes' walk away from the coast and parked for nothing. We didn't have the breakfast: that was £7.50 for adults and free for children, which seemed just about fair. There are also evening meals on offer. We were very impressed with the friendliness of the staff. There was tea, coffee and a kettle in the room and the TV worked fine.
Location: it's right across the road from Blackpool's football stadium. We saw a MacDonald's and a Frankie and Benny's just a stone's throw away, and it is only about 15 minutes' walk from the central and south piers. The immediate area is somewhat tatty, with rows of sad looking hotels in need of tlc. The seafront of course has all the burger bars, donut stalls, ice cream shops etc. that are found in resorts of this kind.
Disadvantages: thin doors to the rooms mean that you can be disturbed by people talking in the corridor as they walk past - and this is a very large hotel with very long corridors, so the potential for a lot of noise. Having said that, the hotel was fully booked (an April weekday in the school holidays) and we weren't bothered that much. There is no extractor fan in the bathroom.
We had a positive experience and would stay there again.
For me Travelodge means basic but acceptable accommodation at a low price, and this is what we got at Travelodge Podimore.
We spent two nights in a clean Room 14 with two children. The spacious double bed had been made, but we had to make the children's beds ourselves. (The duvets were already in the covers which made this quick and easy.) There was a reasonable amount of storage space, all on open shelves.
Some oddities about the room: (1) though coffee and the works were provided, there was no kettle! (2) The TV worked fine, no cable, just the standard channels; but there was no remote. (3) The sofa bed was comfortable, but the infant pull-out bed was hard and did not offer an easy night's sleep. (4) It was next to a boiler room: there were pumping noises which might disturb some people's sleep.
The bathroom, like the room itself, was clean. The bath itself is not a large one but there was plenty of fast-flowing hot water.
The bedmaking and tidying service during the day was of a good standard.
This Travelodge has no restaurant and therefore does not provide breakfast; this is because there is a Little Chef on the same site, together with a Burger King and a filling station with shop. None of these offered very good value, and it is worth considering whether what is saved on the price of accommodation is partly lost on expensive breakfasts. There are vending machines in the hotel lobby - again, not cheap.
The Travelodge is easily accessible, being just off the roundabout where the A303 and the A37 meet. However, it is a bit misleading that it calls itself 'Yeovil Podimore' - it is quite a drive from Yeovil. If using a satnav, keep a lookout: our satnav took us into the village of Podimore half a mile further on.
The Podymore Inn is in the village of Podimore (note the difference in spelling). I visited this country pub with two children on a weekday one winter's evening. A clean, quiet and civilised ambience, and we were all clearly welcome there.
We chose from the menu: it was not cheap, but the food was wholesome home cooking and there was plenty of it on the plate - definitely not 'gastro-pub'. My rare steak with stilton sauce was delicious and tender.
The service was attentive and the landlady was friendly and helpful. There was a good range of drinks available from the bar, including well kept real ale.
While we were waiting for our meal we sank into the comfy sofas in front of the fire, looking at the newspapers and magazines on the table. The only disappointment was that the fire, though it looked like a real coal fire at first glance, was a fake gas one. But in all other respects this pub felt like an old fashioned hostelry.
This pub is easily accessible from the roundabout where the A303 meets the A37.
I went there for the third time the other day. I like this restaurant - in a building with history, it has a sense of grandeur about it, and the staff (with the waitresses in traditional costume) seem genuinely to care about you, though they didn't ask to take our coats. As there were three children and two adults in our party, we were concerned that there would be a lot of uneaten food (and of course we didn't want to waste money). The restaurant suggested we order the set meal for three people which actually worked out about the right amount of food, though we did get some noodles on the side. The service was attentive and quick, though admittedly we came early (about 6.30 on a Saturday) and it was pretty empty - it started filling up from about 7. I didn't think the prices were brilliant, but fair. One of the staff showed the children how to use chopsticks with a very clear explanation.
This machine is intended primarily for use with an iPod or similar device so that the music can be heard without headphones. For such a small unit the sound is impressive - certainly not tinny, which has been my experience with other units intended to perform the same function. Obviously it won't be up to the standard of a hi-fi system, but within a room it gives a very acceptable sound, and the volume can be increased to a good level without distortion.
The iPod slips onto the unit without any difficulty (and the machine charges the iPod while it's on). The machine comes with a remote control which is reasonably straightforward to use if you are just skipping through an album or adjusting the volume, though if you are using it to choose tracks, you have to stand so close to the iPod in order to read what the tracks are that there isn't much point in using the remote!
It looks slick, has a long lead and is a very fair price (at least at Amazon - I bought it in an Asda supermarket and paid quite a bit more than Amazon are asking).
Dan-yr-Ogof contains not only caves but several other exhibits. It is worth considering for a half-day visit for a family or group.
When you arrive, even if there are not many visitors, consider parking low down rather than driving up the slope to the caves. The reason is that the visit comes to a natural end at the Shire Horse centre, which is at the bottom. Parking is free.
Then walk up the slope to the caves. If you have small children with you, get them to use the toilet (which is in the café) before you pay to go in, as the first cave takes quite a while to get through.
The caves themselves are reasonably impressive, with flowing water, stalagmites and lovely formations. The centrepiece Dan-yr-Ogof cave, where you go to first, is the longest, but actually it is not as striking as the Cathedral Cave which is visited later. There is a third cave, the Bone Cave, which is the weakest of the three. There can be a queue for the Bone Cave as it is very small.
There are loads of dinosaur models everywhere, but it is worth going in to the Dinosaur Park where many more are gathered together.
The Dinosaur Park is good for a picnic, but there are plenty of other places to sit and eat if you don't fancy using the cafeteria on site.
There is a gift shop and a reasonably interesting museum in the vicinity of the cafeteria, and an area where younger children can pan for 'gold'.
Once you've finished with this end of the site, go back down to the zoo and the Shire Horse centre. There is quite a range of animals - sheep, llamas, donkeys, goats - roaming freely and all used to being petted. The horses themselves are in stalls. There is an indoor play area for under-elevens. Look out for the rodents in one of the barns, absolutely amazing to watch them speeding through the network of pipes.
We spent between three and four hours altogether, and considered it a worthwhile day. We had got coupons from Tesco Clubcard which made the cost (£38 for a family of four) slightly more tolerable. Guard your ticket carefully as it is requested regularly as you go through the complex.