Rip Off Britain? Sacre bleu – try France….

You may know that I have had an involvement in Nottingham’s presence at the property show in the south of France each year for the last three. The show is called MIPIM – and the worlds property folk descend on the Filmic Cannes. We pay for the privilege – and it’s a lot!


Last year our highlight dinner was in the 360 degree restaurant in the Radisson Blu. It is a stunning location – although at nearly £200 a head for dinner – it should be.

In essence you pay for the room privatisation and then for the food. I was pleased to see that the food has remained the same – at e120 per head, drinks similar at e26 per person.

But the room has gone up – a bit. Last year it was e2,000.

This year it is e10,000… a five fold increase!

I did query this with the Hotel and their response (you need to put on a French accent) “That is correct”. That is correct that we like ripping off repeat customers? I’m not sure.

I have two theories. Firstly they have double booked and need to price one party out of the market. The alternative is that they simply have no qualms whatsoever in ripping people off. The price per head now ill go to around £325.

Sacre bleu! And I thought this country was a rip off at times….

Nottingham’s parking problem

I have a had a post in my my mind for some time. During last half-term break I had to go into Nottingham for a meeting. It was a mistake as the place was rammed – there were major queues for the main car parks. I got pushed into the NCP car park on Stoney Street in The Lace Market.

I arrived at 12:56 and left at 15:00 – 2 hours and four minutes. The fee?


Ten Pounds and Fifty Pence.

I had to double take the machine,. I didn’t carry that much cash (must be my Royal lineage?) So the credit card was used for which NCP charged me another 26p for the privilege!

I didn’t blog this at the time as I thought you might think I was a grumpy old man…


But then in the week my son Jak sent me this brilliant picture he took – near the top of Maid Marian Way.

It is a case of utterly brilliant ‘yellow-lining’. Clearly anyone who could wedge a car in that gap deserves a ticket. But when you look I’m not even sure a smart car could find its way in there!

Brilliant. I’ll know not to park there…

iphone 5 – update

My iphone 5 is nearly two weeks old. I like the style of it. It has the usual Apple finish – but four observations for Apple..
1. The battery life is terrible. I doubt it lasts six hours. The staff in Apple Regent Street said it was because i had Bluetooth, push notifications and wi-fi turned on. And I made calls and took photographs… Er – isn’t that the idea?
2. £15 for a spare cable is just a rip-off.
3. £25 for an adaptor to connect to all the old stuff we all have is a bigger rip-off – well it would be if you could get hold of one!
4. I had to go to Paris to get a cover – Apple Regent Street said they would have some in a couple of weeks – but try Amazon / Ebay. Really?

The good bit? The panorama camera is brilliant!

Ripped Off ?

I was reading great reviews of a new Lowepro Camera bag – which by all accounts has caused a sensation. I don’t really need another camera bag, but I was interested in the idea of a rucksack style bag – so I could spread the weight of my gear.

Getting hold of the Lowepro Photo Hatchback in the UK is not easy. But Jessops do stock them – here. At £119.99 though it’s not a cheap option.

So I headed off to my favourite shop in the whole world. B&H in New York. A proper boys shop where ou can spend a day and not get bored. And, guess what – the same bag is $89.95. Or in proper Queens money at todays rate £56.67. Lees than half the price of the UK stock.

In fairness B&H are usually cheaper than anyone else – for the sheer amount of stock they carry, but this is a sign of how we get ripped off in the UK. At £56 the bag is a bargain, at £120, it’s a rip-off.

Needless to say, I’m not buying one here…

But next time I venture to New York, I might be tempted!

The Olympics – not quite the moneyspinner?

I was in London this week; despite the warnings about not being able to move for the crowd of millions heave-hoing from one Olympic venue to the next. I needed to be be there for a number of meetings.

It was amazingly quiet! St Pancras was a bit busier than normal, probably down to the kettling one-way system – and the people stopping to be given free ice creams? Oh, and the very confusing signs.

I suspect that what has happened here is that the ordinary working population of London have stayed away. They have worked from home. Or travelled at times when the paying crowds are ensconced in their seats. In the week I heard an interview with a hotelier from the Lake District who told us that the Japanese tourists had all but gone – presumably at the Olympics. But in their place were some crafty cockneys – who have clearly abandoned ‘the smoke’ for the quieter lanes of Ullswater et al.

I had also heard some stories about Hotels trying to charge over-inflated room rates (£500 per night) who had seen bookings tumble and they were having to offer at £75-100. It serves them right for joining the rip-off Britain ranks.

But I can’t help but wonder if London (or perhaps more importantly – the UK) will have really benefitted from the games? Have the influx of people simply cancelled out those who are there everyday ordinarily. I can’t help but wonder. I guess though that we’ll never know. The evaluation of the cost benefit analysis of the games will be clouded by fuzzy headlines – around ‘profile’ and ‘feel-good’ rather than hard cash.

East Midlands Trains – one rule for them, one for me?

I have been in London quite a lot recently. East Midlands Trains have a monopoly on how I get there as driving isn’t really an option. Flying is a bit impractical too. So I take the train (and get ripped off parking*!)

I always try to pre-book my train (but not my seat – although they will insist on doing this for me). First Class can be relatively cheap – around £55 return if you avoid peak times and pre-book – which is reasonable value for money.

This week though I got held up on the tube (I have to wait for three carriages before I imitated a sardine) and I missed my train by 4 minutes. On the way to the smoke the day before we were delayed by 15 minutes – so my timekeeping was better than theirs?

Except that it wasn’t.

The miserable lady behind the (contradiction in terms) ‘customer services’ department took some pleasure in telling me my ticket was then invalid – and I had to buy a new ticket. A single day ticket. The cost £136 for Frst Class or £86 for Cattle Class.

I did get the perfunctory apology for them delaying me on the way out – it was due to some signal failure – which made me feel better. To rub salt in the wound, we were 8 minutes late on the way back too.

The cash flows one way only though…

East Midlands Trains – this is nothing short of a disgrace. You employ that great monopolistic place where I have a choice – take it or leave it. If I had a real choice I would not patronise you. Oh, and I do know that I signed my life away in the small print so I have no chance of winning.

It seems there is one rule for them and one rule for me?

* I thought Nottingham was a rip-off for parking but Derby took £25 out of my wallet for 2 days parking…

Car Parks and going backwards

I stopped using Nottingham Station a while ago when they closed the car park – to build the new shiny and funky car park. I started to use East Midlands Parkway – a station literally in the middle of nowhere – not even in a village. Just under the cooling towers of the Ratcliffe Power Station. But it does have a great car park – and is only a few minutes out of town.

But this week I accidentally bought a ticket from Nottingham and fearful of the ear bashing I had last time for getting on at the wrong station* I parked in the new shiny funky car park.

It might be shiny and funky but I didn’t realise that it is not actually connected to the station. Over 100 years ago a bridge was built which got you access to the old station car park. But this has now been chopped off. So you have to come out of the car park and walk around. I know it is only 5 minutes – but it is a walk outside and when it rains … you get the idea.

Have we really come so far in 2012 that we forgot to connect the station car park with the … station? Was it really that difficult to make the connection? All of that expertise and engineering know-how and we can’t join the dots?

So, it’s back to Parkway for me next time – where I know I’ll have to walk for 5 minutes, but there are principles at stake here.
Oh and the small matter of it being cheaper – it cost me £18.80 to park for 15 hours at Nottingham!

Integrated transport this is not. Poor design and a lack of forethought it most definitely is.

It’s not rocket science – it’s concrete.

* I once bought a ticket from Nottingham but got on at Parkway (a shorter journey) and got told off because I had got on at the wrong station. My ticket clearly stated the starting point – and I had cheated. Logical Mr Spock. No.

Sainsbury’s brutally honest about overcharging me…

I dislike going to Sainsbury’s – people park next to me when there are 300 spaces nearby.

But it’s not just that – they now tell me that if I had shopped at ASDA or Tesco I wouldn’t have paid quite so much for my shopping. They know precisely how much I would have saved by going to their competitor store. £1.06 to be precise.

So having told me they have scammed me for a pound – did they give me the cash back? No, they gave me a voucher for that amount to get me to come back to recover the amount I overpaid. And presumably get ripped off again?

I think this sort of ‘offer’ is rubbish. It tells me I could have saved money at their competitor. But my reward for being overcharged – to come back again with a voucher. It’s a self perpetuating rip-off.

Very irritating.

The alternative is I won’t go shopping (you might have guessed I didn’t anyway?)

New York – 6 months on, the prices are still fixed!

I blogged last September about my observations about Messrs Walsh and Branson having coincidental prices for flights to New Yoork. You ca read that rant here.

I was having a look at the weekend for flights again. It’s time I was back in New York – it has been nearly four months! That is far too long to be away from the worlds greatest City!

Guess what though? The prices have gone through the roof. Last September it was around £675 return on Premium Economy. At the weekend that had risen to £1,105 -for the same flight. An increase of around 65%. This is just outrageous and cannot be justified – can it? I know that fuel has gone up, but not by this amount. Most other costs are being held.

But what is really amazing is that the prices I managed to obtain on-line (flying from London Heathrow to JFK) for the same days and approximately the same times (within an hour) were:

Virgin – £1,105.16
BA – £1105.16

Clearly this is the second coincidence on price fixing. That is an amazing coincidence too. The prices match to the penny (again). At least they don’t try to pretend that they are calculating the prices I suppose. If it would have been 5p difference then they might have a defence?

I wonder who investigates this sort of thing? It surely warrants an investigation? Price matching (like the John Lewis system) is one thing – as this means that there is a lower common dominator. But this looks to me like there is a clear price fix – and the consumer doesn’t benefit. The prices have just climbed up…

Looks like Skegness beckons? And premium economy seats too?

How many tickets do you need to board a train?

I am getting into that dangerous territory of becoming a grumpy old man. Children , windows logos and now trains – all in the space of a week.

There's no collective noun for a group of tickets - a pack perhaps?

I was in London this week and purchased my tickets on line. This relatively pain free on the east-midlands trains web site. You collect the tickets at the station. The machine took an age – mainly as the train was pulling up to the platform. It was like watching the kettle boil – it always takes longer when you watch it? That wasn’t my gripe.

On the way back I was earlier than anticipated – and had pre-booked a seat on the 4.15 train. Ideally I wanted to swap, but knew that on the train if you board the wrong one – you buy a whole new ticket at full price. So, sensibly, I went to the ticket office. I was ripped off £30 to change on to an earlier less busy train. Irritating.

But look at how many tickets and bits of paper I accumulated:

2 x tickets outbound
1 x ticket for underground
2 x tickets for return
1 x receipt on card
2 x tickets for ‘new’ return (I have lost one!)
1 paper receipt for ‘new’ return rip-off charge
1 x credit card paper receipt for ditto

10 pieces of paper / card. I need a new wallet to hold them all.

My warning though is that fortunately I hadn’t thrown my ticket away – because when I needed to upgrade the cheery lady told me that I needed every piece of paper the (slow) machine produced earlier on that day. So you do need a bigger wallet?

Come on East Midlands Trains – we surely don’t need all these pieces of paper? It cannot be beyond the wit of man to print everything you need on one (or perhaps two) pieces of paper. I am sure that in foreign climes they clip your ticket as you use it. EMT scribble on it – very high tech!

Oh, and one other thing, I don’t want a reserved seat. I don’t get a choice. I am perfectly capable of choosing a seat myself. I don’t need your computer choosing a tiny seat on the two-seater tables with the only other person in the carriage sitting opposite me! Especially when there are 25 empty four person tables…