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Lynn Hawthorne on the trials and tribulations of shopping at a well known electrical superstore.

I recently bit the financial bullet and decided to replace my leaky 'fridge/freezer. Dazzled and not a little confused by the choice, I asked for help from a Curry's salesperson. No-one seemed interested, so I walked out.

Finding yet another pool of water on my kitchen floor, I was forced to return, as it's my nearest electrical store.

What I wanted wasn't in stock, but was scheduled to arrive before the end of the school holidays when I was at home. It didn't. I went back to work. I kept ringing Curry's.

The item was finally due to be in stock and "if you ring back on Friday, we can arrange delivery" said a chirpy call centre chappie. I thought the deal was for them to ring us. "Oh no. If you wait for us to ring you, it could add on another 5 days to the delivery time."

Frustrated, I did as I was told and delivery was arranged for Friday between 3 and 7pm. We had made it very clear at every point in the store that no-one would be home until 4pm on this particular day, but they couldn't guarantee a time and their automated system doesn't allow you the opportunity to speak to a person. The store offered the 'special instructions' of as late in the afternoon as possible and we had to be content with that.

When did it arrive? Yes, you've guessed it! It arrived at 3.27pm, a full 30 minutes before I got home. Furious, I rang. Apparently, the delivery guys were 'running early' and I was 'the last delivery of the day.' I asked how 3.27pm could possibly be the last delivery in the 3-7pm slot, but again got the 'finished early' comment. Now that couldn't possibly be linked to it being Friday, could it?

I repeated the Special Instructions. "Oh, they're only there for the drivers to take into consideration," she said. They obviously didn't think about my instructions for very long, then. I asked what the point of Special Instructions was if they were going to be blatantly disregarded. "They didn't ignore them," she said, "they just couldn't accommodate them."

I asked for a manager, who told me that the half-day time slots were there to help the public, but actually it is an all-day delivery policy they operate. "So why say between 3 and 7pm if you don't mean it?" I asked and we went round the mulberry bush of the fact that my delivery had been between 3 and 7pm, it was just my fault I wasn't there.

He did, trying not very hard to be helpful, suggest I could collect my goods from the store. He didn't, however, offer any suggestions of how I was to fit a 'fridge/freezer into a Fiat Punto. Or dispose of the old one in the eco-friendly manner offered by Curry's.

Who, amongst working people - and, let's face it, you have to work to afford the appliances - has the opportunity to sit around all day waiting for Curry's (or anybody else) delivery drivers to turn up? Not everybody works on flexitime and when I did, I remember having a day off to wait for something that arrived at 8pm. Surely there is a way to accommodate customers so that deliveries can be arranged for when they are at home? This to-ing and fro-ing is much more costly that listening to what the customer actually wants and needs?

This 'supervisor of the day' let slip that the store might be able to arrange a special courier. I asked and they could. What's more, it could be delivered the next day and at a time to suit me. Hurrah! Scheduled for between 9 and 11am, it arrived at 9.16am and was bought in by two friendly guys. Hurrah!

End of story? Er….no. In the kerfuffle of delivery and removal, we hadn't paid close attention to the packaging. It was filthy, but you expect a bit of dirt. As we removed the packaging, we realised that not only was the packaging filthy, but so was the machine. It was covered in a black, sooty substance that smelt of diesel, some of which we could not remove. When we took away the polystyrene under the machine, it was inside the packaging. Ingrained in the enamel, which had originally been white, was the outline of polystyrene protective corners.

Having been without a 'fridge since Tuesday while the old appliance defrosted, not being able to keep milk, butter or meat during this lovely spell of hot weather, this was the absolute last straw. I got on the 'phone to Curry's. Were they bothered? Not particularly. They blamed the manufacturer. We called Hotpoint, who blamed Curry's. And tried to sell us cleaning fluid!

Curry's, finally realising that my husband and I were about to blow our stacks completely, offered to source another appliance to be delivered at our convenience. In the meantime, we are allowed to use the filthy heap we have stuck in our kitchen until it arrives.

Ah, the service sector in the 21st century! What an institution! What ever happened to the customer always being king?

I am currently glaring at my ancient washing machine, threatening it with all sorts of untold horrors if it dares pack up, because I cannot face this again. Right! Now I'm off to Dunelm Mill to exchange the third set of faulty curtains, which I wouldn't have bought if I'd known they'd been made in China. Aargh!

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