Thursday, 2 April 2015

Look out for the danger signs this Easter

"Don't let a lack of information on refund and exchange policies ruin your Easter,"  warns Geoff Johns, your local trading standards officer.

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IF, like me you love chocolate, Easter eggs can bring unmitigated joy and pleasure, for the old, the young - even diabetics! But, in this upcoming holiday season, for every happy bunny, there's always some unlucky person who ends up with a raw deal - which can all too easily end in petty arguments, family feuds, divorce - and ultimately, prison and financial ruin.
Every year we see problems for the consumer, so a little preparatory advice here - from your local Trading Standards Department - can go along way to solving any issues you may have when buying and consuming Easter-promoted comestible and perishable goods.

                                                            UNWANTED EGGS

ONE seasonal Easter 'chestnut' for consumers is buying an unwanted egg. We've all had it happen to us; say your Grandma has bought you a cheap 99p egg from Woolworths, without realising that decimalization occurred in 1969.   You wanted a more upmarket, modern egg - perhaps made of Swiss or Polish chocolate.  Returning this egg or exchanging it for another can prove to be a real headache. So here's a few golden rules to help you survive the Easter holiday.

LESSON 1:  Are you ready to be shocked?  Because that is what   many people are when they realise that if the egg is wrongly chosen (rather than having a fault), the shop that sold it to you has NO legal obligation to refund or replace them. Unfortunately, every Easter we deal with literally several disappointed consumers who discover this problem to their cost.
The Sale of Goods Act 1868 lays down the rights of the customer and details the requirement that goods bought must be of a 'satisfactory quality.'    
This unfortunately means free from faults rather than unwanted or unsuitable for the recipient.
So, what can you do about this glaring loophole when you purchase your chocolate eggs?

Well, in order to be vigilant, you need to have an action plan drawn up on your kitchen (or dining room, any EU approved height regulation) table before you even THINK about heading out for the shops.
Point 1 makes the first vital step - you need to discuss the shop's exchange and refund policy when buying an Easter egg.   Upon, entering the premises, immediately inform the retailer that you intend to purchase one (or several) Easter eggs (a) gift(s).
Firmly establish with said retailer that, if it proves unsuitable, you can return the item(s) for a refund, or perform a suitable exchange.
If the shop agrees to this, identify the name and position of the person you spoke to to confirm your agreement, or better still, get the retailer or manager to confirm the policy on the back of your receipt. e.g. 'Will exchange or refund if unwanted or returned unused,' should suffice.
This statement or agreement will, in effect, create a contract between you and the shop, and will allow you to pursue the retailer for a suitable refund or exchange, or take your case to the Small Claims Court, or, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.
As you are escorted out of the shop, pat yourself on the back that for having had such foresight!
LESSON 2:  The other area of concern for consumers is whether the egg you are purchasing is safe - especially when dealing with imported confectionaries.
All chocolate eggs must conform to standardised European safety regulations, and should bear the 'CE' or 'Communaute Europeene' mark.
Before buying, you must of course also look out for all the safety marks listed at the bottom of this page; the British 'Lion Mark', and the British Standards Institute (BSI) kite marks on safety standards, quality and performance.
If your egg does not feature ALL of these marks, my advice is to throw the chocolate away - as that is the only measure you can take that will ensure complete safety.
Better still, drop off your unwanted eggs at your nearest Trading Standards Office with a concise explanation of when and where you purchased the goods.
I do hope my tips will help you enjoy a happy Easter holiday, and ensure that you come through this sometimes dangerous holiday period unscathed!

Monday, 8 April 2013


In a move that is eerily reminiscent of one of her own policy initiatives in her 1980’s heyday, the rights to run the funeral of Margaret Thatcher have been put out to tender, with the winning bid going to the lowest cash offer.

Westminster Council are said to be furious - having already submitted a £2 million bid for the rights, with a blueprint - already approved by the former three-time Prime Minister - for a similar state funeral to Winston Churchill, with a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral and topped off with a concert orchestra playing some of Iron Lady’s favourites - like Land Of Hope And Glory and the Rolf Harris’ Two Little Boys.

To save costs during the recession, the former 87-year-old had said that she did not want the public to see her lying in state or a military fly-past at her funeral. She has also turned down Elton John’s perennial offer of reworking one of his old songs to raise money for charity on the A-side, whilst - in a tribute to traditional Thatcherite values - cannily keeping the money from the B-side.
Sir Elton is believed to be disappointed, but understands Lady Thatcher’s family were concerned that a rousing version of ‘I’m Still Standing’ may reduce the funeral to ‘a cheap and tawdry spectacle.’

However, with the funeral subject to a furious bidding war, all bets are now off as to how the ceremony will be conducted, with at least NINE confirmed new proposals said to be on the table as we went to press, the first one being a tentative ‘olive branch’ bid from the National Union of Mineworkers, whose life president Arthur Scargill is offering to light her funeral pyre in Hyde Park 'for free'.

Other propositions are said to be more controversial, and variously include suggestions for a Himalayan sky burial, Bin Laden-type burial at sea, paramilitary ‘shots over the coffin’ from balaclava-wearing men, and even a Mousetrap style ‘flipped into a bath’ ending. Harrods boss Mohammed Al-Fayed is believed to be financing a Pharaoh-style mass burial, where several right wing sacred cows such as Norman Tebbit, Michael Portillo and her son Mark will be killed and interred alongside their heroine. Part of that package may include right wing polemicists like Peter Hitchins or Richard Littlejohn having his internal organs removed through the, nose using a special long spoon.

Meanwhile, German anatomist Gunther von Hagens has offered ‘full plastination’ for free, whilst ex-Smiths singer Morrissey has suggested a guillotine.
One of the most contentious ideas - suggested by Guardian writer Polly Toynbee is for the former Tory leader to be given a traditional ‘Gadaffi-style’ send off, complete with grainy mobile phone footage and dubious duty of care.

Latest betting odds:
Scargill lights funeral pyre 7-1
Osama sea burial 50-1
Himalayan Sky burial 5-2
Pharaoh mass burial with killing of several right wing sacred cows 12-1
IRA paramilitary rifle shots 66-1
Gaddafi-style removal 1000-1
Gunther von Hagens plastination 12-1
Mousetrap style end 15-1
Morrissey / guillotine 50-1
Traditional Churchill style state funeral  20-1

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Spare a thought for London’s homeless this winter, as many are out in force this season to bring some much needed festive cheer to the capital’s weary Christmas shoppers.
The growing dishevelled community are out in their hordes on London's streets, making the West End and other main shopping and tourist areas light up - with a little bit of holiday happiness by wearing cheery santa hats, tinsel and flashing fairy lights.

The homeless lights were officially turned on by the cast of Made In Chelsea last Friday, and have proved to be an instant success.

 “Some wear tinsel on themselves or their cute dogs, and others actually wear twinkly blinky fairy lights - its wonderful and it really lights up the darkened streets in winter – and what's more its a free treat for the shopper!” remarked a delighted Bond Street visitor Amanda Burlington- Arcade.

And Downing Street agreed: “I just want to 'big up' the homeless this Christmas,” Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted, as he entertained The Queen at a cabinet meeting, “Their marvellous lighting up of late night shopping on our streets is a fab idea. The homeless really have made an effort and made their own contribution – in their own teensy way – to the big society. Well done.”
However, some shoppers had their reservations about the newly lit-up beggars, with one, Sally Hambleton-Bogthrush tweeting: “Beautiful fairy lights on drunk old man glinting in gloom of Sloane Square. Brightened my day and even made the smelly old tramp seem almost bearable for once. Still – couldn’t give him a hug though!  Retch!! Lol!!”

Others thought that they had seen several static displays of the beggars, with an excited Guy Hipster from Hoxton tweeting, “This morning I saw one of those new lit-up beggars - it was quite rigid and cool to touch – epic. Thought it was new Damien Hirst or Banksy installation – but turned out to be simply a man sleeping rough who'd frozen to death overnight with his lights still flashing. Took LED lights home for tree - good to recycyle. Thanks homeless!”
"Bit disappointed in the end it wasn't Banksy though,” he tweeted to his hundreds of similarly attired red lumberjack-style shirt and dark, thick rimmed glasses-wearing followers.

Friday, 1 June 2012


In another boost to the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, it has been revealed that in private the monarch has the most marvellous sense of humour.

Never-before-heard statements (apart from those made during the last anniversary) from such luminaries as wide ranging as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Cliff Richard and John Inverdale, have paid tribute to her  'quick wit' and 'fantastic sense of fun.'

Archbishop Rowan Williams said he was often witness to what he described as 'the hidden side of The Queen' - away from the confines of her Royal duties; "She is a wonderfully funny woman, who often entertains her private guests with a seemingly never ending series of uproarious anecdotes. Anyone who was lucky enough to meet her would almost always be in absolute stitches. Such was her sense of fun and bonhomie that Archbishop of York John Sentamu and I would often roll around the floor laughing like drains!"

Sir Cliff Richard revealed that Her Majesty was behind the satire boom of the 1960's - gently prompting Peter Cook to set up Private Eye, 'You are a very funny man, Mr Cook - you should set up a magazine and invent satire,' she is believed to have told him - before suggesting the funny speech bubble cover, and quietly submitting sketches to be used by him and his partner Dudley Moore on their TV show.
Later on that day she arranged for the two strands of Oxbridge comedians that became the Monty Python team to meet up at a Royal Variety Show.
"However, the 1970's was much quieter for our Queen," continued Sir Cliff, "As she knuckled down to concentrating on her duties - submitting anonymous sketches to the Two Ronnies Shows (everyone thought it was Ronnie Barker, but I was privy to the real story) before helping Eddie Braben out with the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Specials."

Things slowed down in the eighties, and The Queen restricted herself to the occasional Young Ones series and helping Richard Curtis to write Blackadder, before another foray into the publishing world as a rather surprising silent partner behind the bawdy Viz magazine.  In the early nineties, at a post Royal Variety Show line-up, she openly mused with Steve Coogan on whether he should 'move away' from doing bland impressions and join with an upcoming spoof news star she was working with, Chris Morris.

John Inverdale added; "Nothing surprises me with The Queen, she was always dignified in her manner when anonymously writing sketches and scripts and helping British comedy to become the best in the world - whether it be That Was The Week That Was, The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin, Spitting Image, Brass Eye or The Inbetweeners."