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Northern Tea Merchants – 26th February 2010

14 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 11:

Compensation: Case of six 125g tins of Food Thoughts cocoa

Simon Dunn
Managing Director
Product Chain Ltd.
Unit 5
Beech Court
Wokingham Road
Berks RG10 0RQ

26th February 2010

Dear Mr Dunn

I purchased the enclosed jar of Food Thoughts “The Finest Fairtrade” Cocoa with the idea of making Nigella Lawson’s chocolate orange cake recipe, which requires a large amount of cocoa in its mixture.

It was lucky I sampled the cocoa before making the cake.  In order to make a mug of cocoa (which I was looking forward to), I did as the instructions suggested, and I can only describe the ensuing result as tasting like bad breath.  Had I not sampled the cocoa, I can only imagine that an entire cake would taste like a dentist’s waiting room where the patients are suffering from collective halitosis.  I would have been very embarrassed to serve such a cake to guests.

This is disappointing as I like to support Fairtrade products wherever I can, but unfortunately I must return your product for a full refund.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Ingrid Stone

The Response:

9th March 2010

Dear Mrs (sic) Stone

I am today in receipt of your cocoa powder, and I have tried it and made notes.  It appears that your complaint is justified.  The cocoa has above the normal amount of free fatty acids, hence the smell.  This can be called rancidity.  This very rarely occurs in alkalysed cocoa powder that has been correctly produced and handled.  It has no physical difference in appearance to standard cocoa powder, and flows the same through an auger filler.  In short, it is impossible to spot on a packing line.  That is why it is important we use reputable suppliers who produce the cocoa powder in a safe and hygienic manner.

We take great steps to ensure we look after our cocoa powder whilst it is in stock here.  We segregate it completely from other products and handle it in accordance with our independently audited quality manual.  It is imported from one of the largest European processors of cocoa, Messrs Dutch Cocoa, via a reputable importer called HB Ingredients.  I have also sent on the remainder of the cocoa to HB’s Quality Assurance department for further analysis.

Yours is the only complaint we have received on this product from the packing run of 12 pallets (12096 drums) that we packed on 12th and 13th November 2009.  Your tin was packed on the 12th and my packing records show nothing other than a problem-free packing run.  I can only hope that we receive no more complaints and yours is an isolated one.

I have arranged from a packing run we are carrying out today for a case of 6 x 125g Food Thoughts Cocoa to be sent to you.  I hope you will agree when you are trying it again that it is indeed an excellent quality Fairtrade product.  I personally love the brownies and chocolate cake it makes.  We actually use it for all the chocolate cakes we make in our cafe!  (Please see our website on

If I can be of any further service to you then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely


James Pogson

British Airways – 11th April 2008

12 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 9

Compensation: Six complimentary return British Airways Club Europe tickets.

Willie Walsh
Chief Executive
British Airways Plc
PO Box365

11th April 2008

Dear Mr Walsh

No doubt you will have been inundated with correspondence of late.

I have just returned from a television market in Cannes – and I write on behalf of myself and my five colleagues who I travelled with to Nice on Sunday, 6th April.  None of us could have foreseen the subsequent fiasco of the day’s events.

We were due to fly out on the BA348 at 15:25 and according to the check-in desk, there were no delays expected.  After a hurried lunch (somewhat ironically we did not think we had enough time for a sit-down meal), the departure board informed us that the flight was delayed to 19:00.  The first blow, although comparatively minor to what was yet to come.

When I asked your staff in the business lounge for an explanation “only one runway working in Lisbon”, “air-crew rotation” and “the weather” were blamed by turns. Apparently there was also not enough provision for de-icing the aircraft.  With a mere five to ten millimetres of snow – and most of that melted by midday, our friends in colder climes (where they really do have extremities of weather to contend with) must think this a joke.  And with the British propensity to blame the weather for all manner of things, I cannot believe British Airways does not have the foresight to have a back-up crew.

After four hours, my colleagues and I were directed to the gate where we continued to wait patiently until 19:45, when a voice on the Tannoy imparted the bad news of our flight being cancelled.  Mayhem ensued.  A heart palpitation-inducing cocktail of forty-five minutes until the next flight at 20:30, having to reclaim our baggage and re-check in – not to mention the fight to obtain a standby ticket amid everyone else  on the cancelled flight all keen to attend the television market in Cannes.

There was a touch of Dante’s Inferno about the baggage hall.  Stifling heat, and there was the anarchic dumping of baggage from two other cancelled flights – not on a conveyor belt, I hasten to add, but on the floor.  It took us a while to realise that our baggage was still being unloaded and so there was the disturbing prospect of rummaging through floor-strewn suitcases which all looked the same.  And of course, time was running out.

My luggage was the last off the conveyor belt, and after a gut-crippling sprint with my suitcase, I rejoined my colleagues and the other passengers from the cancelled flight in the cattle market that was the check-in desk.  Lucky for us, we managed to obtain the final six standby tickets.  But all the while was the nagging doubt that this flight could well be cancelled too.  As it happens, the flight was not cancelled – but there was the matter of crew, plane and captain.  This second flight was delayed until midnight because the crew, plane and finally the captain, went missing in succession.

Eventually (and having lost all confidence in British Airways) we landed in Nice – and one would have thought the problems would end there.  Unfortunately, due to our extremely late arrival, the taxis booked to take us to our hotels had given up and we had to wait another two hours for a cab.  Once in Cannes, there followed another bartering session, this time with the hotel reception at 4 am – who, because of the tardy check-in, wanted to release our hotel rooms.  In fact, when I eventually got to my hotel room, there was a stranger sleeping in my bed.

This is nothing short of appalling.  I feel so disturbed by what happened I cannot find the words.  I expect a full refund for all our flights at the very least.

Yours sincerely

Ingrid Stone


The Response:


24th April 2008

Dear Ms Stone

Thank you for your letter of 11 April 2008.

The time you have taken to write to me in such detail demonstrates just how strongly you feel about the way you were treated on your journey to Nice.  Clearly, you had a frustrating and tiring start to your journey and I can make no excuse for the poor impression we have left you and your colleagues with.  Please accept my sincere apologies.

I fully understand your disappointment at being told your flight was cancelled – this was certainly not a good start to such an important trip.  The initial delay was due to bad weather.  The resulting disruptions meant many of our cabin crew and flight crew were out of position.  This left us with no alternative but to cancel your flight.  To have to collect your baggage and return to check-in must have been extremely frustrating.  Arriving in Nice so late to find your taxi had not waited must have felt like the final straw.  I am sorry for the distress this obviously caused you.

You are a valuable customer and I recognise we have let you, and your colleagues,  down.  With this in mind, I would like to offer each of you a complimentary ticket in our Club Europe cabin.  My Executive Assistant will send you details of how to book these.

Customer satisfaction is my absolute priority and I am committed to getting all aspects of our service right.  I very much hope we are able to restore your confidence in us – and soon.

Yours sincerely

Willie Walsh

Express Herbs – 17th March 2008

12 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 8

Response still pending.

By Email to Express Herbs


Dear Sir / Madam


I receive emails daily (sometimes bi-daily) from your company about the benefits of enlarging my penis.  As a fully-fledged woman in my mid-thirties, I have never – and will never be the possessor of a penis – let alone feel the need to increase any other of my apendages by 1 to 3 inches.

Please remove me from your mailing list.

Many thanks.
Yours faithfully 

Ingrid Stone

Corus Hotel Hyde Park – 18th October 2006

12 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 6


Compensation: One free night’s stay in one of the Corus Hotel Hyde Park’s executive rooms with breakfast.

Ron Cox
General Manager
Corus Hotel Hyde Park
Lancaster Gate
London W2 3LG

18th October 2006

Dear Mr Cox

I stayed at the Corus Hyde Park with my partner on Tuesday, 10th October, while waiting to move into our new flat – and we were delighted by the hotel’s beautiful location and lovely-looking reception area.

Unfortunately, that pleasure was short-lived.  While we accepted the small size of our room, we had no idea that our night at the Corus Hyde Park would turn out to be one of the worst night’s sleep we had ever had (quite a feat during our stressful house-moving time).

The bathroom switch (which sat outside the bathroom facing our bed) was illuminated at all times and a bright green light shone directly at the bed – so much so, it was like trying to sleep at the foot of a traffic light.  My partner, who is on crutches and usually a sound sleeper, was so fed up with it that he hung his jacket over one of his crutches to prop against, and to block out the light.  And then there was the mattress.  So apparent were the springs, I can only describe it as like sleeping on cotton-covered chicken wire.  As for the cherry, there was the matter of the heat.  Hot, insufferable heat.  We gave up on opening the window because the noise from the Bayswater Road was intolerable.  So we tried the fan – but then had to switch it off immediately because it sounded like a small fighter aircraft – and with the walls being as thin as they were (we could hear someone snoring in the next room), we did not want to wake up our neighbours.

If we were lucky, my partner and I might have clocked up three hours’ sleep between us, but all-in-all, I can only say that our experience of sleeping at the Corus Hyde Park hotel was akin to enduring a night in Orwell’s Room 101.

For a four-star hotel at £149 (excluding a very poor and mean-spirited breakfast – the ‘continental’ breakfast consisted of cash ‘n’ carry ‘value’ style croissants and Laughing Cow cheese triangles), I find this shocking.

Yours sincerely

Ingrid Stone


The Response:


20th October 2006 


Dear Mrs (sic) Stone

Thank you for your letter following your visit to us on the 10th October. First and foremost, please at least allow me to apologise for giving you cause to write in the first place, certainly not my intention I assure you.

I’m afraid I won’t insult you with any silly, bland excuses, but I will put my hands up and agree with some of your sentiments, because that is without doubt one of the smallest rooms which is usually left as a ‘last let’.  As such, it should never have been let to you. I would only say, in a somewhat meek defence that it is the first complaint I’ve received about the green light since they were installed two years ago.  Generally they’ve been well received, by avoiding the often fumbling about in the night looking for the bathroom in a strange room.  But I take your comments on the chin, as a gentleman.

What I’d very much like to do, if of course you have a strong enough constitution, is invite you and your husband back as my guests, when I hope you’ll see why we’re so busy, largely with repeat guests for the past few years.  The offer will include a full English breakfast (I note your views on the continental breakfast, so wouldn’t be so foolish to go there), and an executive room, so with luck, your last memory might be erased, or at least dulled somewhat.

When you have a date in mind, simply call or email me.  If I’m away, call the hotel number on this letter and ask for Customer Services who will make arrangements. Dates we’re currently already full are the first 10 days of November and the first week of December, otherwise, being something of an irrepressible optimist, I look forward to hearing from you and perhaps meeting you both.

Yours sincerely

Ron Cox
General Manager



That particular complaint letter had an especially happy ending.  My partner and I had a very enjoyable stay in the executive room (room 1025) offered to us at the Corus Hotel Hyde Park.  I briefly mentioned to the General Manager that we would be staying there for the anniversary of when we met – and we arrived to find a huge bouquet of flowers, plus a box of Belgium chocolates and a bottle of Champagne waiting for us in our room.  And the next morning, following breakfast in bed, my partner asked me to marry him – albeit over a Laughing Cow cheese triangle.

SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare – 23rd August 2000

12 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 3

Compensation: Postal order to cover purchase costs incurred, and a pledge by SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare to forward the said dental floss sample to their Quality Control Laboratory for analysis.

Customer Issues Department
SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare
Brentford TW8 98D

23rd August 2000

Dear Sir / Madam

I felt it necessary to put pen to paper and highlight the problems I have experienced with your dental floss (please find enclosed).

This dental floss not only feels like string, it is so difficult to get in between the gums that it actually cuts them – if we were living in Dickensian times, this floss could have been used for extracting patients’ teeth.

I am very rarely driven to complain, but at the very least, I expect a full refund.  After using your floss, my boyfriend and I were nursing our cut, bleeding gums for some time afterwards.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours faithfully
Ingrid Stone

The Response:

31st August 2000

Dear Ms Stone

Thank you for your letter concerning Aquafresh Dental Floss.  We are sorry to hear of the problems you and your boyfriend experienced whilst using our product.

Although it is unlikely that the pack of Aquafresh Dental Floss that you used is in any way defective, we have forwarded the sample you returned to us to our Quality Control Laboratory for analysis.  We will contact you again when we have received their report but must advise you that in some cases this may take several weeks. We should point out that Aquafresh floss is thicker than traditional floss but thinner than dental tape.  People whose teeth are more closely spaced may therefore experience some problems in using the floss. If you or your boyfriend are at all worried about your condition, we recommend that you contact your dentist for medical advice if you have not already done so. Because you have returned the product to us, I have enclosed a postal order to cover the purchase costs incurred.

We apologise for the discomfort and inconvenience you have been caused.  Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention, and please be assured that the matter will be thoroughly investigated.

Sincerely for




Alison Sutherland BPharm

Medical Information Executive

Pilot Pen Co. UK Ltd – 4th November 1997

12 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 2

Compensation: A3 Jiffy bag filled with assorted Pilot Pen Co. UK Ltd. pens – including ballpoints, fine-liners, silver decorative pens and florescent markers.

Public Relations Department
Pilot Pen Co. UK Ltd.
Hi-tech House
Malton Avenue
Bucks SL1 4DE

4th November 1997

Dear Sir / Madam

As a regular user of Pilot products, it is with great regret that I must put pen (not Pilot, I’m afraid) to paper and return a packet of Ballpoint GIs.

In my quest for the perfect shorthand pen, I thought these looked just the ticket: “A New Adventure in Writing” – attractive, good value and a thickish point (0.7).

These pens were most definitely a “new adventure” – not only that, they were also a new challenge – so much so, I could not get the bloody thing to write properly.

I am fed up with forking out money on pens that do not write, and I am returning these pens to you with their receipt for a refund.  You really should give your pens a thorough test before merchandising them – especially when poor sods like myself are seduced by lies on the packet e.g. “smooth feel”.  These little blighters are the pen equivalents of a Robin Reliant.

Yours faithfully


Ingrid Stone