Losing our record shops – what next?

Aberdeen is set to lose it’s last remaining independent record shop One Up on the 31st January, with HMV’s fate to be sealed in the coming weeks and months. The music-buying public in Aberdeen and the surrounding area will be without any proper record shop leaving only the supermarkets who only sell chart CD’s. Aberdeen won’t be the only city in this position, so what is the serious music buyer, who likes a tangible product, to do next?

The fate of One Up has forced me to think hard about how I’m to continue to get my music fix.

I don’t like Amazon – they don’t pay full UK tax and are at the root of the problems faced by existing records shops

I like a tangible CD or vinyl, I like to be able to read the album covers and a CD lasts as long as I look after it!

I will never go fully digital

So what can I do? I will have to save up my music browsing for cities that still have record shops and I will be looking into ordering online via independent record shops. Options are limited now and I have to admit it scares me and fills me with dread. Some of my most interesting purchases have been made while browsing or getting recommendations at the One Up counter.

I hope someone entrepreneurial may take a risk and open a record shop in Aberdeen in the future, but I fear I may be over optimistic.

This is a bleak time to be a music fan!


Five Reasons to Support Your Local Record Shop

Local independent record shops are so much more than just a place to buy music – here’s why you should support your nearest:

1. Supporting the Local Music Scene

New bands can take a chance, upload their music to a variety of websites: MySpace, Soundcloud, Spotify, Facebook etc, etc.. but nothing beats a nice “local music” rack, their tracks being played in-store and ticket sales for gigs around town.

2. Recommendations

Amazon may offer a list of recommendations, but they can never provide you with an interesting chat at the counter, background information on the artist and the passion of someone who has listened to it. They might even play it in the shop for you.

One Up, Aberdeen

3. Second-hand Music

You are far more likely to find a gem or two by riffling through the second-hand racks at your local independent record shop than browsing through eBay. Beats auto-generated recommendations any day!

4. They directly contribute to the local and UK economy

The closure of Brighton’s Rounder Records brings into focus the VAT avoidance of the likes of Amazon who do not pay tax in the UK because their European arm is based in Luxembourg, thereby avoiding UK tax. Rounder Records blamed their closure as a result of Amazon’s business practice.

5. Use It or Lose It!

In seven years the number of independent record stores in the UK has fallen from 900 to around 300, at this rate there will be none left!

Please shamelessly plug your local independent record shop in the comments!

Can I ask you a question?

People of Aberdeen, how many times have you been asked this when wandering through Union Square?  On one occasion, I was there for 30 mins and was asked this no less than 6 times by stall employees!

The stalls in question, please excuse the pun, are next to impossible to avoid, yet those that work on them continue to harass visitors to the centre.

Union Square, Aberdeen

During my short visit today, I was first shouted at by a man at one of the stalls, “Excuse me miss, excuse me miss”, my back was turned to him but he continued anyway!

Next up at the neighbouring stall, “Miss, let me show you something for your hair” and she was really shouting it and walking towards me.

I am tempted to complain to Union Square in an attempt to curtail this, as I see no other stalls in the centre resorting to such tactics. “Can I ask you a question?” is an ineffective sales tactic in any case, rule number one in sales technique is “never ask closed questions”! The fact that this has been going on for months leads me to believe that Union Square Management either haven’t been informed or have turned a blind eye.

Is is just me who is getting increasingly hacked off with this every time they go to Union Square to shop? Frankly, it feels like harassment.

Please feel free to add your comments as I would be interested to hear other opinions.

Is Sainsbury’s taking over Aberdeen?

A few months ago a shiny new Sainsbury’s Local opened near my flat on Rosemount.  It made a nice change to the tired old Co-Op across the road that never seemed to stock any milk because their fridge was always broken.

Since my Sainsbury’s Local opened I’ve noticed a rather aggressive campaign by the store to cover every corner of central Aberdeen.

Driving across George Street at the weekend I spotted a new one at the corner of Maberly Street.  One of my favourite Chinese restaurants the Royal China on Holburn Street has closed as Sainsbury’s are putting a store in there.  Today I read that Beluga at Holburn Junction is to be turned into a Sainsbury’s Local too.  Holburn Junction to the proposed Holburn Street store is a mere 0.3 miles or a 3 min walk, so this all seems a little crazy!

The city centre already has two stores, one in the St Nicholas Centre and the other just along from the Music Hall.  What is surprising is that Tesco, known for it’s quick expansion, is not keeping pace.

I’ve probably missed a few in areas of town I don’t often visit, but I do wonder when it will stop and if Aberdeen will be painted a lighter shade of orange?


HDNL, or Home Delivery Network – if only their trade name did what it says on the tin!

I’ve had two recent bad experiences with this lot, and going by my research I am certainly not the only one to have fallen foul!

A few weeks ago I went into John Lewis, Aberdeen to order a new TV.  They didn’t have the one I wanted in stock so they asked if I’d be happy with a Parcelforce delivery.  I have never had any issues with Parcelforce in Aberdeen so this was quite acceptable.

On the day my TV was due to be delivered I got home to find a green HDNL card waiting for me.  I had to wonder why John Lewis had decided to use HDNL when their system, and my printout clearly said my delivery would be via Parcelforce.

So, I called HDNL to rearrange my delivery and have them divert it to my office as I would not be at home the following day.  On the call I made the fatal error of saying that I’d like to change my delivery from my flat to my office.  The brusque “customer service” girl said, “sorry, can’t do that”, so I asked why not, “you live in a flat” – nothing in my address says “flat”, but I said the dreaded word in question.  She then launched into a tirade that if she changed my address to my office she’d lose her job because I live in a flat!  I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life!  Are people who live in flats more dishonest than people who live in houses?  I was then asked to call John Lewis, as they could change the address “in two minutes”.

John Lewis were not much use either, they had no direct line to HDNL to follow up on my order, the guy I spoke to called me back to see if I had HDNL’s telephone number!  They were then faced with the same nonsense at HDNL when they got through to them and also agreed with me that they were particularly rude and unhelpful.  If Parcelforce had delivered my TV they would have changed my delivery address, as they have in the past, and I wouldn’t have been in this situation.  I spent around 1.5 hours on the phone to both John Lewis and HDNL to try and rearrange my delivery until they eventually changed my address after much reluctance and wrangling.

My latest HDNL issue has been with an Amazon delivery.  On Sunday 26 September I placed an order for some books on Amazon and paid extra to have them delivered First Class (and so avoiding HDNL), two days later Amazon emailed a delivery dispatch notification telling me my order would be fulfilled by HDNL!  I thought, by choosing First Class on Amazon that it guaranteed a Royal Mail delivery, well, not anymore! I still do not have my books and they are not likely to be delivered until Friday 1 October, tomorrow, at the earliest – a full 5 working days since placing my First Class order.

What is disturbing is that two, seemingly reputable and trusted brands such as John Lewis and Amazon would entrust customer deliveries to a company as unreliable as HDNL.  The internet is awash with complaints and bad ratings for this courier company.  They must be cheap, but they certainly don’t do what’s required of them – timely, reliable delivery and providing friendly and helpful customer service if things go wrong.  Shame on you John Lewis and Amazon!

Paperchase Problems

I feel like I’m on some sort of consumer crusade at the moment.  Last week I went into my local Paperchase to buy a stripy laptop bag as gift.  It was hanging up on the display beside their counter so it wasn’t so easy to inspect at a busy till so I just paid and left the shop.

Anyway, today I was going to meet the person whom I’d bought the gift for so I took a closer look at the bag.  One corner of it was covered in thick manufacturers glue which could not be easily removed.

I went into Paperchase today to return it, as I couldn’t give this to anyone as a gift and I was met with what can only be described as a ‘brusque’ manageress.  It was clearly an inconvenience to her that I had returned the bag and she didn’t believe me when I explained it was a manufacturers fault so they shouldn’t have been selling it.  She was very short with me when she took my details and then told me she’d have to refer my refund to Paperchase Head Office; sure, go ahead, why not – you shouldn’t be selling faulty goods!

After my previous post about Orange I’m beginning to wonder where customer service has gone.  I naively thought the recession would have improved the relationship between retailers and customers as retailers should want to keep our custom.  At this rate, we are all going to be so disenchanted we’ll be buying everything online and high street shops will go out of business!  Who needs stroppy sales assistants when a website can sell you the same thing without much fuss?!

Orange are anything but Bright!

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I’ve been a loyal customer of Orange ever since I got a mobile 10 years ago.  Last weekend I made the fatal error of trusting them to sell me an iPhone.

I went to my local Orange Shop knowing exactly what I was after – an iPhone 3GS 16GB on an 18 month plan at £30 per month.  Sounds straightforward?  Not exactly!  The sales advisor, lets call him Liam, quoted me £99 for the phone, which sounded reasonable so I decided to go ahead.  Liam took my details, did a credit check, I had to wait 30 minutes while a “random” check (don’t ask me what that is) was carried out and he gave me a demonstration iPhone to play with while I waited.  I passed all the checks and I was then escorted to the till, he zapped the phone and then announced my iPhone 3GS 16GB was infact going to cost me £189 and not the £99 he’d quoted me.  I requested to see the store manager to ask that the cost of the priced quoted be honoured, Liam then fobbed me off and told me it couldn’t be honoured and blamed Apple’s pricing policy.  As he’d missold me the iPhone I asked him to cancel the order and revert my phone number back to it’s previous Pay As You Go settings.  Liam assured me that the contract for the iPhone had been cancelled and shredded and the my phone had been reverted back to PAYG, and so the next chapter in the saga begins…

My phone continued to work normally until a few hours later when I then saw “No Service” displayed where “Orange” usually would be.  I couldn’t make or receive calls or texts when I got home.  As my landline wasn’t connected, there was no way I could make contact with anyone unless I went to the nearest phone box.  I pumped in various coins to phone the Orange Shop on their costly 0870 number only to hear Liam on the end of the line, he told me to switch my phone on and off for the next few hours and it should be fine.

Well, Liam’s not the sharpest tool in the box, and it wasn’t fine on Sunday morning.  I still had “No Service”!  Again, I took myself round to the phone box, pumped in around £1.50 to get Liam’s colleague Steven, who very kindly offered to put my number onto a new SIM to resolve the connection problem and he was also kind enough to drop this round to my flat on his way home.

Sadly, Steven’s solution did not work as I had “No Service” displayed on my phone again the following day.  I decided to contact Orange Customer Services directly to find out why on earth this kept happening.  This was the start of nightly contact with them for the rest of the week!

On speaking to John at Orange Customer Services, I was told that I held a contract for an iPhone!  Liam from my local Orange shop had NOT cancelled my order as requested, so their systems couldn’t reconnect my number to PAYG.  He offered to follow this up with the Orange Shop as it was their responsibility to cancel it, John was informed that the local Regional Manager had the matter in hand and that the contract would be cancelled within 24 hours.  I was still without a functioning phone though!

Twenty-four hours later, I was still without a working phone and Orange had not successfully cancelled my contract.  I was asked to wait another 24 hours for them to try to resolve this!  By this time I was in the hands of Lucas from Orange Customer Services as John was on holiday.  After another 48 hours I could receive calls, but couldn’t make them as Orange couldn’t add credit to my account (my previous credit had vanished), I was also unable to top-up online or via a swipe-card in a shop!  I was told on Friday night that this was due to an error message on my account which had been passed to their IT Team for resolution, they expected this to be fixed by Saturday morning (a full 7 days since I set foot in the Orange Shop!)

So, I waited, with great expectations, on Saturday morning to be told that my phone was fixed, but that proved to be far too optimistic!  Tessa from Orange Customer Services called (Lucas was now off on holiday too!) to inform me that I’d have to wait until Tuesday for the IT Team to fix my account as they were now off for the Bank Holiday weekend and her team had assumed that they were open!  I had played the patient, well-mannered customer up until this point, but I just couldn’t do it anymore, I was at the end of my tether.  I stressed to Tessa just how serious this was, that I’d been waiting a whole week for them to get their act together.  I had asked before, and I asked again, for this to be escalated to Senior Management and that in no uncertain terms, this HAD to be resolved NOW!  Oddly, taking a much harder line paid off, my number account was fixed within 2 hours, why on earth they couldn’t have done this earlier, I’ll never know?

I am so angry with my experience with Orange that I’ve requested my PAC code and I will be moving my custom to another network, so Orange have lost 10 years of custom and a potential £700+ over the next 18 months from me!

It should also be noted that Orange are the only UK mobile network NOT to clearly publicise their rates for 18 month iPhone plans, O2 and Vodafone clearly list their pricing structures on their website and in their brochures.

I’d warn anyone reading this to carefully consider giving Orange your custom.

*All Orange staff names have been changed