Whenever I’m asked what I enjoy most about being a financial journalist and editing stories at This is Money, the response is always along the same lines.
Tackling our eclectic mix of reader problems head on, helping fight unfair decisions and battling terrible customer service.
Nothing beats the feeling of making a difference and winning back money for our loyal readers.
Time flies: Grace on the Case celebrates its first birthday this week – and with it, plenty of money won back for our readers
It’s an adrenaline rush akin to scoring a goal in a football match. We may not pull our shirts over our heads and celebrate Fabrizio Ravanelli style, but it’s tempting. We care.
Often, these stories end up snowballing into something bigger.
Take, for example, the £1billion underpaid women’s state pension scandal unearthed by Tanya Jefferies and our pensions agony uncle Steve Webb, all of which was sparked by one reader contacting us. It resulted with a mention in the Budget and a National Audit Office investigation.
We can’t pick up every single injustice that comes our way, but we attack as many as we can.
Often, we will focus on ones where we’re simply baffled the correct decision or outcome – in our eyes – hasn’t already happened.
It shouldn’t take our involvement to right these wrongs and we’re rather it didn’t, but sometimes it does. That’s where our brilliant weekly Grace on the Case column shines.
This week marks a year since its launch by our senior reporter Grace Gausden, amid another pandemic-enforced lockdown.
The idea had been born a little while before, where many of the best creations unfold: at the pub.
Since then, Grace has helped our readers claw back about, £381,000 – more than £1,000 a day. There is no problem too big or small that she won’t delve into, trying to find out just what has gone wrong.
It started in week one with Grace tracking down what had happened to a £750 order of Ikea wardrobes that our reader was struggling to contact the Swedish furniture giant about and she managed to fix (flat pack assembly not provided by us, fortunately).
I thought about that case the other day when MDF was mentioned in the ONS inflation report as soaring 61 per cent in price in the last year.
We’ve had the big wins: £106,000 in July 2021, helping to secure a life insurance payout, and then in August unlocking some £76,392.60 from a savings account for a grieving husband.
We’ve had the bizarre: My favourite is when a reader wrote in to say a white recliner armchair from Sofology which cost £1,100 quickly turned a dark colour.
In turn, a technician turned up and said the only way to avoid transference of colour was to sit on the seat unclothed, or if a white sheet had been placed down first. After our involvement, the armchair was replaced and naked TV watching averted.
Other strange ones include the year-long eBay dispute after a seller sent a weight in the post rather than the item; the Ford Fiesta bought from a dealer that was stolen and then turned out was already stolen when purchased, and finding out who was responsible for damage to a wall after a driver crashed… but had been pushed into it by another car.
Writing this weekly column isn’t a simple task. Some cases we receive reach dead ends and take hours of careful handling. Sometimes, we decide that, actually, the company in question is perhaps right.
Often, it can take weeks of chasing various staff in various departments to get the answer, all of this goes on in the background, while Grace is writing breaking consumer news stories.
The cases range from retailers to banks, travel firms to telecoms giants. This week, we’ve got a medical case in which an MRI scan was messed up and our reader wasn’t offered a refund.
It didn’t involve the biggest sum of money in the world, but our reader was ignored and it’s the principle that counts. This is the same mantra we carry throughout this weekly series.
We don’t just feature the bad and the ugly. Each week, we also shine the spotlight on the companies doing the little things in difficult times that our readers believe are worth mentioning.
Grace always ends the column on this little bright note and sometimes, it can make me a little teary eyed that good customer service exists and plenty of staff do go that extra mile to brighten our lives.
And talking of teary eyes (sorry, it’s been a long year) the power of this column often blows me away.
Recently, Grace investigated the case of a cancer survivor who had an overdraft debt of £2,000 that had been passed on to debt collectors.
She had agreed to a £50 a month payment plan she was happy with. This was then suspended in the pandemic and after the hold was removed, for whatever reason, she had to reapply to repay this amount.
She was subsequently threatened with a CCJ against her name – a harsh and cruel move for a person who should be focusing on her health, rather than this stress. Grace managed to get her back on that plan and we believed that was the end of it…
Until two of you lovely readers wrote in and offered, anonymously, to clear her debt. She was blown away by the gesture but politely declined – insisting that there were charities out there that needed the money far more than she did.
At This is Money, we’re always on your side and we will continue to fight your financial battles, even if you’ve given up hope.
Grace, Tanya and Steve are proof that not all superheroes wear capes. They can often be found pouring over reader correspondence, with a chocolate digestive and cuppa, ready to pick up the phone or tap out a ferocious email to tackle the baddies.
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