GRACE ON THE CASE: I waited 9 hours for RAC after my classic car broke down 1

GRACE ON THE CASE: I waited 9 hours for RAC after my classic car broke down

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My classic car broke down in October so I rang RAC and was told a patrol would take up to two hours to attend.

Despite numerous calls to them after this time had passed, all I got were updates informing me they were busy.

Someone eventually turned up nine hours later. I was asked to submit a complaint and claim for food, parking charges (I’d limped the car to Chieveley Services) and the cost of my son doing a 100 mile round trip to bring me a coat and attempt a repair.

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Beyond an acknowledgment at the end of October I’ve heard nothing and the RAC have not responded to a single email. When will I get the funds? G.E., via email

The owner of this Ford Thunderbird was left broken down for 9 hours after a severe delay from the RAC and not sent the compensation they were promised

The owner of this Ford Thunderbird was left broken down for 9 hours after a severe delay from the RAC and not sent the compensation they were promised

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: You were nearly having a break down yourself after waiting nine hours for the RAC to help you fix your car.

Your car is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird classic, which means you are very careful with any issues that occur with it and are keen to keep it in the best possible condition.

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The issue occurred when you were driving en route from Bristol to Hayling Island and you found the gears were not working properly.

Having sought advice from a garage you were advised that driving further in low gear could damage both the engine and transmission.

Therefore, you slowly drove the car to Chieveley Services.

Upon pulling into the car park, you immediately called the RAC for assistance at 2.40pm and reported the fault to the operator.

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You explained the car was not drivable, towable or likely to be a roadside repair.

The RAC advised the service was busy but you could expect a patrol in one to two hours.

This did not happen and afterwards, you called and were given a multitude of messages promising updates in 30 minutes.

After yet another call, a decision was taken to send a third party recovery agent out and you were told this was imminent, however, it wasn’t.

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GRACE ON THE CASE 

Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

[email protected]

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By this time, it was 7pm, five hours after you had broken down and your son had driven up from Hayling Island with transmission fluid, a torch and vacuum hose in case you could patch something up. 

None of these potential solutions worked so he waited with you.

Finally, you got an estimated arrival time of 11pm with Westbourne Motors, the third party recovery service, finally arriving just after 11.30pm meaning you had waited over nine hours.

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You ultimately found out the issue with the car was a loss of drive in the auto gearbox and you were able to get it repaired by a local garage the following week. 

However, aside from being furious at the wait, you were also incensed after it was suggested that you leave the car at the services overnight and travel home with your son. 

The RAC promised to reimburse the driver for his parking fines, food and sons fuel cost

The RAC promised to reimburse the driver for his parking fines, food and sons fuel cost

You say the car is a 56-year-old American classic that was likely to attract the wrong type of attention and you would never leave it.

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Fortunately, after the services turned up, they agreed to transport your car home.  

After all the hassle, to compensate, the RAC promised to reimburse the two parking fines you received when waiting, the food you bought and your son’s fuel cost for his 100 mile round trip.

However, it has been nearly two months and this hasn’t been received nor have you received any compensation for the long delay by RAC. You add the firm is now ignoring your emails. 

Nine hours is definitely far too long to wait for assistance with no real concept of how far away help is, so I contacted RAC to find out where your money was and why it had taken so long.

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An RAC spokesperson said: ‘We’re very sorry we let Mr E down. We’ve apologised for his poor experience, refunded his expenses and given him a gesture of goodwill to help restore his faith in us.’

Fortunately, you have now received the £49.55 in funds for the parking and food as well as a £200 gesture of goodwill.

Whilst happy with the outcome now, you were nearly driven to changing provider due to the poor service.

I waited in for a week for a Christmas tree that never arrived… 

This week, I got a taste of what many of our readers go through on a daily basis – bad customer service.

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The problems started after I ordered a 5 foot Christmas tree two weeks ago from a website called Send Me a Christmas Tree for £48.

Whilst it might sound like I was begging to be conned, I had it on good authority from a close friend that the website was legitimate and she was happy with the Christmas tree she had received and the service it provided.

Taking her word for it, I ordered the tree and selected my delivery date of last Monday. 

Excited to finally get the decorations up, I stayed in all day for the tree but by 7pm, it still hadn’t arrived.

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I couldn’t get through to the firm to find out where it was so waited until the next day, when I was told it had tried to deliver the tree but no one was in and a calling card had been left.

I checked my post box and no calling card. I had also been in all day so knew no one had tried to deliver it. After relaying this, the company admitted the delivery firm had made a mistake and said it would ensure the tree would get to me tomorrow – meaning it was already three days in a row I had to wait in. 

To cut a long story short, I waited in all week for the tree to never arrive, all the while becoming increasingly frustrated.

I chased the team at Send Me a Christmas Tree multiple times but was constantly told it was on its way and just to wait.

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I was also told there were no tracking details available and as it was with a third party delivery company, it could offer no more details other than ‘it will arrive soon’. 

The Christmas tree I ordered never arrived after a week of waiting in for the delivery

The Christmas tree I ordered never arrived after a week of waiting in for the delivery

Finally, on the Friday, after a week of staying in with no tree to be seen and my patience completely expired, I demanded a full refund which has since been received. 

Frustratingly, this also meant I had to go out to buy another tree and lug it home up three flights of stairs to my second floor flat – the whole reason I had ordered a tree to be delivered in the first place. 

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Although customer services were apologetic, throughout the week they had consistently ‘guaranteed’ the delivery would arrive the next day which it never did – leaving me to waste much of my time waiting to no avail.  

A spokesperson for Send Me a Christmas Tree said: ‘We understand that a real Christmas tree is not your average parcel and that, as in your case, it can cause particular disappointment and frustration for our customers when there are delivery issues.

‘We feel that frustration too and this year unfortunately issues in the courier industry have had a knock on effect on our customers and our business.

‘Whilst it’s always a difficult time of year for couriers, and whilst it’s still a relatively small number of customers affected, this year there do seem to be significantly more delivery delays and lost trees.

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‘This is costly for our businesses and also a sad waste of trees that in some cases have been growing for 7 or 8 years. Most importantly it’s inconvenient and frustrating for customers eagerly awaiting their Christmas tree, and we’re sorry that not all customers have received their trees on time.

‘Our courier, Tuffnells, have informed us that because of ongoing shortages of drivers and other industry issues, a larger proportion of their deliveries are being carried out by subcontractors.

‘This in turn means that customers and ourselves are unable to track the deliveries accurately, and it can take longer to get updates on the whereabouts of parcels.’

Courier delays are understandable due to the difficult circumstances we are all currently dealing with – but when will companies learn that simply palming off their customers with feeble promises is unacceptable and will ultimately end up in them losing business. 

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I certainly won’t be shopping with it again.  

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

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Miss: John Lewis came under fire from reader, Peter, this week.

He said: ‘I bought a Samsung 65 inch TV in 2017 with a 5 year warranty for £3,300. It broke in August 2021 and John Lewis were informed by their approved repair techs, that parts to repair where unavailable.

‘Therefore, it wrote off the TV and offered me a replacement, a refund via gift card or a refund to my credit card.

‘I opted for the replacement TV but there were some ordering problems in store and so John Lewis said I could order online, if they sent me a gift card to the value of the TV which I agreed to.

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‘The TV arrived and it was obvious after setting up that the screen was not as good as my previous one.

‘After some discussions with John Lewis I rejected the TV and opted to have a refund sent to my credit card, leaving me free to shop around.

‘I bought another TV from a different retailer but after a week passed, I received an email from John Lewis with an e-card refund of £1,699 – the cost of their recommended direct replacement TV.

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‘Now I have been trying for weeks to get the refund to my credit card as promised.’

Obviously this has been a very frustrating experience as you are now thousands out of pocket on the assumption the money would be paid back into your account.

I contacted John Lewis to see what happened – and why you hadn’t got a proper refund.

A John Lewis spokesperson said: ‘We’re really sorry to hear about Mr G’s experience – this isn’t the level of service we strive to provide. We’ve contacted Mr G directly to apologise and have issued him with a full refund to his card as well as a gesture of goodwill.’

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Fortunately, you have now received the funds into your account but next time let’s hope that John Lewis have a better screening process.

A John Lewis customer was given a gift card rather than a refund to his credit card as promised

A John Lewis customer was given a gift card rather than a refund to his credit card as promised

Hit: In happier news, reader Marion, wants to praise the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

She said: ‘I was a sole proprietor who closed my business in 2019. I was due to get my state pension in September 2021. Checking my tax account it stated that I had an incomplete year for 2019/2020 and no contributions for 2020/2021.

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‘I had contracted out of State Second Pension so would get less than the new state pension. I called DWP at the beginning of June 2021 to find out how much it would cost me to pay voluntary contributions.

‘I was told it would cost me approximately £1,500 for the two missing years to get an extra £10 per week pension but realistically I had to live for 3 years and after that I would be in profit.

‘At the end of the chat, the service advisor asked if by chance I looked after a child at all. I look after my 4-year-old granddaughter for a couple of days a week as my son and daughter-in-law are key workers. He then mentioned the Specified Adult Childcare Allowance.

‘Although my daughter-in-law earns over £50,000, thereby not getting child benefit, the advisor said that as long as she was registered for child benefit even though not claiming it, I could apply and this would give me enough credit so I wouldn’t have to pay voluntary contributions.

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‘He added there may be a delay until after my state pension kicked in but it should be backdated.

‘This conversation was beginning of June. I sent off the completed forms mid-June, had confirmation fairly quickly and it was confirmed I would get the £10 uplift before I got my state pension mid September this year.

‘It was absolutely brilliant. I had never heard of the Specified Adult Childcare Allowance and yet I am fairly savvy regarding finances but obviously not savvy about pensions.

‘My pension arrived at the higher rate exactly as it should.’

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The DWP often gets a bad rep so it is good to hear from someone who has benefitted greatly from its help.  

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