What you can get on the Starbucks Secret Menu

Starbucks Frappucino

If you’re a regular customer at Starbucks or enjoy a Caramel Frap from time to time (let’s face it, who doesn’t) then the chances are you order the same thing when you visit because you’ve tried the menu a million times over and you have found your favourite choice. But what if I was to tell you, there’s a whole world of new and exciting drinks available on the Starbucks ‘secret’ menu that you’ve been missing out on all this time?! Apart from becoming extremely overwhelmed that there is more choice than the already coconut/soya/almond/skinny, decaf/matcha/extra shot options available, you’re probably excited about the concept of new flavours and drink options. I’m sure you have all heard vicious rumours about the secret menu in the past, but you have probably shrugged them off as just that, a rumour. However, the hidden menu is definitely bigger than you could ever imagine, with some of the greatest creations on earth, available just around the corner. So ditch the Americano and even the white chocolate mocha (as good as they are) and ask for something different instead. Tip: try whispering when you order, it is a secret after all…

More Sizes

There are actually two more sizes on the Starbucks menu  – a ‘Trenta’ which is basically a large (grande)…and then some and a ‘short’ – a very small coffee for those that prefer it strong and authentic. The short coffee is only 80z in size, but is bound to pack a punch.

Extra Strength

If a double shot just doesn’t do it for you, and you need that little extra kick in the morning, head to your local Starbucks and order a ‘red eye’ – a regular coffee with an extra shot added – a ‘black eye’ will then add an extra two espressos and if you have had a particularly heavy night a ‘green eye’ will add three and guarantee to have you totally and utterly wired. The next step (and only for the brave) is the ‘liquid cocaine’ option which is pretty much as dubious as it sounds. Four espresso shots with four pumps of white chocolate syrup poured over ice. Pure caffeine and sugar – for emergencies only.

The Nutella Latte

Yes. You read that right. If a regular Mocha isn’t good enough for you (i mean, why have anything else when you can have Nutella) then you can ask your server to make you a Nutella Latte by simply adding a pump of chocolate syrup and a pump of hazelnut and then drizzle it with caramel. This concoction can be added either to a regular latte or to an iced coffee or frap. If you want to jazz up your caramel frap and make the ultimate Twix Frappucino, you can add hazelnut syrup and java chips and Mocha drizzle. Genius.

The Coldbuster

Forget Lemsip or Strepsils, Starbucks may have the ultimate remedy for those annoying sniffles. Also known as the medicine ball, the cold buster is various remedies known for treating colds, all put together in a steaming hot mug of tea. To make the medicine ball, you put a Jade Citrus Mint tea bag and a Preach Tranquility tea bag in half a cup of boiling water and fill the rest of the mug with fresh, steamed lemonade, add honey and a tiny pump of peppermint syrup and your shivers will be gone in no time at all.

All the Frappucino’s

Apart from the regular coffees that have popularity wherever you go, the Starbucks Frappucino’s are probably their ultimate seller, everyone knows what they are and everyone has had one at least once – if you haven’t then, without being too dramatic, you haven’t really lived. Starbucks do have firm favourites that remain on the menu all year, such as the chocolate, the vanilla, the strawberry, the caramel and the coffee and they do bring out exciting seasonal flavours, especially in the summer – popular past flavours being the white chocolate creme and the mango passionfruit. However, the Starbucks secret menu has some mouthwatering, inventive flavours that before now, only existed in your dreams. Warning: not suitable clean eaters, vegans or anyone on a diet.

Candy Floss Frappucino

Simply order the classic Vanilla Bean Frappucino and add a couple pumps of delicious raspberry syrup. Top with whipped cream for a truly indulgent treat.

Banana Cream Pie Frappucino

This is exactly how it sounds – a drinkable dessert made in heaven. Ask for extra added vanilla flavouring to your vanilla frappuccino, with a pump of hazelnut and a sliced banana (this can be blended with the flavouring and the ice). Again, no Frappucino is complete without lashings of whipped cream, so make sure you request some!

Cake Batter Frappucino

Everyone loves to eat the cake mix before it’s cooked – and here you can drink it! (without the risk of salmonella). By adding extra almond syrup to your Vanilla Frapp you can recreate the flavour of uncooked cakes. Want your dessert drinks hot? Order a latte/steamed milk as your base instead!

 

High Performing Cameras under £600

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Whether you’re just starting out in the world of photography, or you’re a seasoned professional on a budget, you can find some great deals online. Below we have compiled a varied list of amazing high performing cameras under £600. All of the cameras below can be found in stores such as Currys, or online stores such as eBay and Amazon UK. q

DSLR

DSLR Cameras are for those looking to explore professional photography a little more. With interchangeable lenses and usually bulky designs, DSLR cameras are perfect for taking the perfect picture. Below are some of the highest-performing DSLR cameras on the market today under £600.

High Performing Cameras under £600NIKON D3300 DSLR Camera

The D3300, although identical in looks to its predecessor (the D3200), is far superior in terms of technology. With a right-hand grip and lip at the top of the camera, you’ll find it can easily be held one-handed if needs be.

The body of this model from Nikon is made from plastic, however, you can still see the amount of quality put into the design, as well as the tech inside. The rubber coating on the grip looks great and is perfect for grasping, and the coating can also be found on the thumb rest, which is situated on the back of the camera.

Unlike the D3200, the D3300 has a new “i” button, which can be used to get past the main menu in order to quickly change the ISO settings. Like most DSLR designs, the Nikon D3300 has a mode dial on the top of the camera. Here you can access Manual Mode, Automatic Shooting and other Scene Modes such as Panoramic and Macro. You can also find a range of new filters on this model – which were missing from the previous Nikon device.

You can buy this camera online from £300-£320, which includes a default lens.

CANON EOS 1300D DSLR CameraHigh Performing Cameras under £600

With the Canon EOS 1300D, you can send pictures easily to your phone with the NFC connection app, which is available on both IOS and Android devices. All you have to do is tap your phone to the side of the camera and the devices are paired instantly. From here, you can move photos easily from one device to the other.

With this device comes the “Q” button. Tapping this will show you various functions and filters, which you can use and see on the screen. You can navigate anything on the screen with the command dial, and make adjustments by tapping the buttons on the dial itself. On this part of the camera, you can also mess around with the IOS settings.

Videos with the Canon 1300D are recorded at 1080p and delivers great quality videos even when transferred from the camera to your chosen device. The longest you can record on the 1300D is 12 minutes when the video reaches the 4GB limit.

The 1300D will cost you around £300.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are for the professional on the go. These cameras are usually small and compact. However, they deliver great quality images and videos for their size and usually feature interchangeable lenses. Here are some of our top picks:

High Performing Cameras under £600SONY a5000

The a5000 is perfect if you’re looking to upgrade from a handheld or even a phone. The model boasts face detection, multiple modes for shooting and full HD video shooting. The screen on the A5000 is 3inches wide and can be flipped up to 180 degrees, so it’s great if you’re a selfie fanatic!

With this camera, you can transfer images onto your phone thanks to NFC connectivity. All you need to do is download Sony’s PlayMemories App. With this camera, you can also retouch images within the phone itself, and you can create time lapse videos thanks to an app which you can download from the app store on your phone.

This camera has an E-Mount, which means it can hold different lenses for the more seasoned professional.

Prices for this camera start at around £320

High Performing Cameras under £600CANON EOS M3

The Canon M3 is an entry level camera which rivals the Sony a5000. Although the Canon is much more expensive, coming it in around £400, it doesn’t offer much more than the Sony in terms of specs. However, the design of the camera is beautiful, and can’t be excluded if you are after a brand name and a lovely design. The M3 has a chunky hand grip, meaning you can operate it one-handed if you need to.

You can also order this camera in a bundle, which comes with a range of lens kits.

The screen is 3 inches and is LCD, which will give you more vivid colours and visibility in daylight.

 

The 25 Most Ridiculous Holiday Complaints Ever Recorded

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If you have a reason to complain, you should absolutely do so – just call any of our complaints hotlines to be put through to the company that wronged you and sort the problem out as quickly as possible.

However, for some people, it isn’t enough to be resolving an issue. Some people don’t stop to consider what the issue even is that they’re supposed to be resolving; or to check whether it’s really a problem; or to check whether it’s really real at all.

Some people just won’t let reality stand in the way of a good complain – and no-one seems to be as good at it as Brits on holiday. Here’s a collection of the most ridiculous complaints ever compiled, by cruise companies, resorts, hotels, package holiday providers, and confused local people.

1. The Unlucky Balloonists

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“There was not a single warning telling people not to go on the hot air balloons if they have a fear of heights.”

2. Local customs are just laziness and should be banned!

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“I can’t believe how lazy local people are, closing the shops in “siesta” time. I needed to buy things over that time and couldn’t! Closing for a siesta should be banned.”

3. I HAVE BEEN DECEIVED! THESE 5 EURO RAY BANS ARE LIES!

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“We bought several pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses from a market stall on the street and they later turned out to be fakes. We paid 5 euros each for them and we want that money back.”

4. What do you mean, the water park isn’t all-inclusive?

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“We arranged a trip to a nearby water park but we weren’t told anything about needing to bring our own towels and swimming gear.”

5. “Custard is about as spicy as I can stand.”

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“In Goa (India) the food choice was disgraceful – nearly everywhere just sold variations on curry! I hate spicy food!”

6. What’s a cup of tea without a proper biscuit?

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“It should be explained in the brochures and websites that none of the shops here sell proper biscuits like custard creams and digestives.”

7. “They’re everywhere. We’re surrounded by foreigners.”

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“I can’t believe how many people here are Spanish. The hotel staff are all obviously Spanish, even the food is all Spanish style! Far too many foreigners here.”

8. The sand is a lie

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“The sand was shown as yellow in the pictures online, but is sort of a yellowish-white colour in real life. It threw off a lot of our photos.”

9. More preferential treatment for the Americans

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“The flight home was nine hours! The Americans made it back in three! Why do they get such preferential treatment?”

10. Terror From The Deep

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“We weren’t told that the sea may have some fish in it. Our children were very spooked.”

11. A Perfectly Good Holiday, Destroyed by Breasts

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“I can’t believe topless sunbathing hasn’t been banned. My holiday was ruined. My husband kept looking at other women’s shapely breasts.”

12. If your hotel staff put up a sign which takes you hostage, call the police at your earliest convenience.

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A woman called the police because she believed the “do not disturb” sign provided on the handle of her hotel room door was a command to remain in the room. She believed she had been wrongfully imprisoned.

13. Don’t compare your manhood to a bull elephant’s

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A sightseer at a top-end African game lodge with a fantastic view of a watering hole registered a complaint that his honeymoon had been completely ruined by a randy bull elephant, which made him feel “inadequate as a man”.

14. The Song of the Sea

“I understand that this is a cruise ship but it must be possible to do something about the noise of the sea. It is unbelievably loud.”

15. When you saw the word “Cruise” and assumed it meant “Tom Cruise”

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“Your company is called “Celebrity Cruises.” There was not a single celebrity on board, despite the obviously misleading name. I would like a refund as I have been lied to.”

16. When the Arctic Circle turns out to be chilly

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“The so-called “Summer Cruise” in Alaska was nowhere near as warm as I expected it to be.”

17. When there’s a lack of cataclysmic lava explosions on your holiday

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“We were led to believe that the resort was next to a volcano, but when we got there we saw that it was just a regular mountain. There wasn’t even any lava or magma anywhere. It wasn’t even smoking.”

18. When the stealthy animals turn out to be hard to see

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“I was on safari for bloody ages and didn’t see any decent animals like a lion or anything, just loads of impalas everywhere.”

19. There’s always the guy who claimed Disneyworld was “too touristy”

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That’s all there is to this one. Some dude literally lambasted DisneyWorld for being too touristy.

20. Don’t compare your manhood to bull elephants, and certainly don’t compare your looks to the locals

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“The women there were too good looking, I started feeling really ugly and down”

21. “How do these Germans read all this German nonsense?”

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“All the street signs are in German! I can’t believe people manage to find their way around.”

22. The appearance is more important than the reality.

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“The animals at the zoo all look so depressed and worn-down. It was so depressing that it made our children cry. Can’t they train the animals to look happy or something?”

23. Try not to let your critics get to you – even if the circumstances of that critique are extremely unlikely.

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A man claimed he had been “rendered impotent with embarrassment” and unable to perform sexually after a hotel maid walked in on him, “giggled to herself at [his] small size” and walked out.

24. “The resort really should implement some sort of vetting process.”

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“The beach was overrun with fat people, it was very unpleasant.”

25. “Seriously, the resort needs to vet out some of these unsightly people, they’re making us feel unwell.”

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“It was impossible to enjoy our otherwise incredible view on your tours, as the tour guide was so ugly. It’s ridiculous that someone so ugly is sent to distract from such a gorgeous view.”

As you can see from this list, it’s possible for a holiday to go badly wrong. It’s possible for your holidays – where the most stressful thing you do includes drinking a martini in the sun or floating on a lilo in a swimming pool surrounded by ancient Roman ruins – into a deeply stressful experience.

What you Should be Watching on Channel 4 this March

what to watch on channel 4 this march

From interesting and thought-provoking documentaries to gripping dramas and hilarious sitcoms, Channel 4 definitely have something for everyone when it comes to their entertainment. Here’s what you should be watching this month…

Extremely British Muslims

In an attempt to try and kerb stigma and prejudice, and just generally for those that are interested, Channel 4 have made a documentary series that gives an intimate insight into the lives of regular British Muslims, including having camera access inside Birmingham Central Mosque. The documentary is shown on Thursday’s at 10pm.

Game of Clones

The concept of this show is a brilliant one. A lonely heart looking for love will design their ideal match using the latest avatar technology. From hair colour to eye and face shape. Once their ideal person has been created, the show’s producers will go out and find eight people who look exactly as the participant has designed. As a result, that person will meet eight ‘clones’ of each other. Weird, yet very wonderful. The show is airing every weeknight at 7.30pm and you can catch up with all the episodes that have already been shown, on All 4.

A Very British Hotel

An exclusive docu-series going behind the scenes at the exclusive Mandarin oriental Hyde hotel in London to really see how the other half live. Filmed during the busy summer season, the hotel staff bend over backwards to accommodate some extremely elite guests from all over the world. The first episode was shown on 2nd March and is available to catch up on All 4 now.

Celebs Go Dating

Another E4 dating masterpiece, Celebs Go Dating features some familiar faces both male and female as they attend ‘mixers’ in the hope to gel with each other. There are blind dates involved as well as some of the celebs being reunited with former flames which is guaranteed to spark a bit of drama. If you love all things celebrity or just fancy a bit of a laugh at a celebrity’s expense then this is definitely the show for you. The show is now into its second series and All 4 is showing all of the most recent episodes including all of the previous episodes as well. Time for a binge.

Mutiny

The new Channel 4 show that everyone is going crazy for, Mutiny has gained so much interest because it is pretty much taking reality TV to the next level and is guaranteed not to be short of excitement. Led by SAS Who Dares Wins’ super tough Ant Middleton, Mutiny sees a group of ‘unbreakable’ men attempt to row 3,600 miles as they replicate the 1789 voyage made by William Bligh on board a ship just 23 feet long. Every detail of the historic journey is recreated, including the rations Bligh and his men had on board, which amongst it includes just 28 gallons of water. The journey will take 48 days. Speaking of the voyage and giving viewers to something to look forward to, Middleton speaks of how he lost 21kg’s during the journey – an indication of just how gruelling we can expect the journey to be. The first episode was shown on Monday March 6th and we can expect the second in a week’s time. Catch up if you haven’t already!

Travel man: 48 Hours in St. Petersburg

The travel man series are both entertaining and educational as everyone’s favourite comedian Richard Ayoade joins other celebrities to make the most of 48 hours in a different European city every week. The most recent episode, shown on the 6th March showed Richard and comedian Rob Beckett as they explored the Russian city of St. Petersburg. A really interesting watch…involving a lot of vodka and fur.

 

 

 

How to Shop the Boxing Day Sales (and live to tell the tale)

sale shopping

You might think we are getting ahead of ourselves, reporting on the post-Christmas sales already, but the fact of the matter is, sale shopping after Christmas is a very serious business that requires a special set of skills. Expect crowds like you’ve never seen before as people head hurriedly to their local city centre to see what bargains can be found with any money they might have required over Christmas. The most notorious boxing day sale of them all is probably the Next Sale which sees queues in the early hours of the morning every year  of hopefuls looking to save some money on their reduced clobber. Personally, I’d rather be at home tucking into leftovers of epic proportions, but hey, each to their own. Everyone in the boxing day sales are no doubt out to buy something they had their eye on before Christmas but have frugally saved their money until it was reduced (often by up to half price) and so you can expect nothing other than chaos. If you are planning on taking  a trip into the sales on boxing day, but are, like many, slightly apprehensive, then read our guide to making sure that you grab the bargains that you are after and, well, stay alive.

Preparation is Key

So if you have officially shaken your turkey coma and decide that shopping is what you want to do the day after Christmas then you need to have a plan. You can’t just treat this like any other regular shopping day where you can have a leisurely stroll around browsing and trying on items. Oh no. As soon as you hit the city centre (that’s if you’ve managed to park in the first place – public transport very rarely runs on boxing day) you will be met with crowds and crowds of people so a route of what shops you want to go in and what order will prevent you getting caught up with the wandering masses. Planning each shop in a certain order means you don’t have to do circles in town as getting through the crowd might be tough.

Go Early!

In some cases (ok, not all) shops begin their Boxing Day sales on Christmas Eve and some even as early as the 23rd. Not only does this mean you could potentially buy some reduced last minute Christmas presents, it also means you can stay in bed on Boxing Day having already caught all the bargains and watch the Royle Family on repeat with a box of Quality Street and a Christmas cracker hat. The crowds are likely to be reduced significantly before Christmas Day and it also means that you can get a fresh pick of all the reduced stuff, as by lunchtime Boxing Day we can’t guarantee there will be even much left!

Go on, have a coffee break

The season of indulgence officially doesn’t end until January begins so the ‘eating everything in sight’ attitude should still be in full swing. Stop for a festive coffee, some lunch or a piece of cake because shopping on an empty stomach is never fun! There will be plenty of great cafes, bars and restaurants open on Boxing Day to choose from, and don’t forget to smile at your server – going straight back to work the day after Christmas is slightly soul destroying!

Check the Refund Policy

Always a good one to remember in a sale situation. Although the same policy should generally apply for sale and non-sale items (usually returns are valid within 28 days if the item has not been worn) there may be changes made when a sale is in place that means you can’t return an item or can only exchange it for store credit. If you are panic buying and not trying items on (as sometimes happens in a sale) then you might be counting on returning some of your items. Check first.

Keep your Dignity

Just basically don’t be one of those pushing and shoving maniacs that can often be seen wreaking havoc and will stop at nothing to get what they want. There’s a time and a place for that and it isn’t in a crowded shop on Boxing Day…#justsayin.

Don’t Buy Crap

Of course, everything reduced in a sale causes huge temptations to buy things we really don’t need, or even want. Ask yourself before you buy an item – would you buy it if its sale price was its original price? A good way of avoiding buying crap is to look in your wardrobe before you leave the house assessing what additions you would like for it and seeing whether there is anything that you absolutely need. This way you can avoid buying clothes similar or the same to the ones already in your wardrobe.

Shop Online

Bit of an obvious one – but if you want to avoid all of what is mentioned above and don’t mind paying a cheeky delivery charge, then stay in bed and get ordering!

 

 

 

 

Avoid Being Scammed this Christmas

avoid being scammed

It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit and spend a little more than we maybe should have when it comes to Christmas shopping for our loved ones (and ourselves). This can be all well and good until you fall victim to one of the many scams that are around at Christmas time as they aim to take advantage of our nation’s frivolous spending habits during the festive season. There is always someone out there to spoil all of the fun, but if you’re careful with where your money is going (yes, buy that pair of shoes, it’s only Christmas once a year) then you’ll be able to have a scam free Christmas. Here are a few precautionary measures you should take to protect your finances when you need them most.

Keep Track of your Statements

According to a study put in place by Nationwide Building Society, out of 2000 UK adults, nearly half of them admitted to not checking their current account as much as they would during the Christmas period, and whilst it is the season to be jolly, it is definitely still worth taking a look to see that your statement matches exactly what you have spent, to avoid missing any fraudulent activity that might have occurred, particularly if you are ordering a lot of goods online. It is thought that fraudsters strike at Christmas due to the fact that people are less likely to check their statements and therefore they are less likely to be discovered. Whilst looking at your statement during December might be scary enough as it is, you will thank yourself come January when you know that the reason your bank account is empty is because of you, and you alone.

Check the site is legit

The biggest place for scams is the world of online shopping, especially when shoppers enter their details into untrustworthy websites, without knowing what they are truly letting themselves in for. Not only can you be scammed out of more money than you bargained for, you can also fall victim to counterfeit, which means you will be sent a fake version of an item you ordered, even though you were under the impression that the product was 100% genuine. 38% of adults out of the same study claimed they did not know how to tell if a website was real or not. If you fall into that percentage then listen up. To check that a website will securely process your transaction you should look for the padlock symbol and HTTP in the URL at the payment stage. If not, give it a miss. If you see an offer that is too good to be true, the chances are, it is and you should avoid it. Too many people fall victim to either receiving fake goods or in fact not receiving anything at all, losing the money that they spent.

Shield your pin

This may seem like basic security, but carelessness really can cost you when you are using ATM machines. If you are hitting the high street to shop this Christmas and getting cash from a hole in the wall, or purchasing an item using chip and pin, be sure that no one is looking when you enter the details. This crafty way of thieving is known as shoulder surfing, and it happens all too often.

Keep your plans to yourself

Christmas is a time to spend with friends and family, and this might mean travelling to places far and wide to spend the holidays. Whilst this is all well and good, posting too much on social media about being away from home may have disastrous results. Anyone looking to break into your home might put two and two together and realise that your home is vacant and therefore see the perfect opportunity for a break in. Don’t give them that opportunity.

Update your anti-virus software

…If you haven’t in a while. Even e-cards spreading Christmas cheer can contain all kinds of malware that can be potentially harmful to your computer and if your computer has a virus, they can pick up on any card details you might be entering. Not only this, but your device can also be harmed beyond repair, depending on the severity of the damage. Anti-virus software will prevent these issues.

Conductors of the study, Nationwide, have informed consumers that if they do order something online with their credit card and it has not arrived when it said it will, then they could be entitled to their money back under the section 75 rule of the Consumer Credit Act. In some cases, there may be a joint liability between the credit card provider and the seller. If this is the case, the customer’s loss can be compensated for amounts of up to £300, to avoid themselves and loved ones being disappointed at Christmas time.

The 10 Most Common Banking Complaints (and What You Can Do About Them)

banking-complaints

Banks are the universal constant – everyone living in the modern world needs a bank account or five, many of us have mortgages, overdrafts, loans, savings accounts, alternate accounts and direct debits, and many of us even do our banking on our smartphones!

With banks being such central figures of our lives, we hope that they won’t let us down, since they are important enough to fall a long way – and the people running the banks are, in the end, only people, so they do mess up occasionally. Or more than just occasionally.

These are the top 10 most common banking complaints, and a little bit about what you can do if they happen to you.

1. Terrible Customer Service

The number one complaint in every industry, at all times, across the board. If customer service is bad, nothing else will be good enough – the greatest product will fall flat. Banks like Barclays can stumble at this hurdle, especially when the customer is calling for a reason which is difficult to resolve. One of the biggest complaints we hear about banks is their customer service departments seeming to flail incompetently at a problem, transferring customers around like a hot potato, without any real movement towards resolution, and often with lengthy hold times included. It can feel like the customer service department is simply hoping that you’ll get tired and go away, but this isn’t the case – try to calmly direct the conversation towards management or get around the issue entirely by calling the bank’s Head Office, where the staff have more authority and can transfer you higher up the food chain.

Doing a little research online is also a great way to prepare for calling customer services – if you know what your problem is, and have some idea of what you need in order to fix it, you’re bound to have an easier time on the phone to customer service, no matter how lousy the bank.

2. Sneaky additional charges

Banks exist to help the customer, that’s true – but they also exist to make money. As a result, many customers trust them completely, and wind up paying more than they need to, or more than they should. Optional charges like overdraft protection are not clearly labelled as optional, and many additional services and coverages are never revealed to be optional bonuses unless you ask directly. The alternative is that you will be told up-front that the charge is optional, but very strongly recommended, pressuring you to take it.

If you’re concerned about falling victim to this phenomenon, we recommend that you call your bank to ask them for more information on the fees that could be applied to you, or to challenge fees which you have just noticed and which you don’t recall having opted to take on – in many cases calm pursuit of these unnecessary fees can result in them being dropped altogether.

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3. Mortgage problems

Mortgages are one of the most important financial services available, and one of the most ubiquitous. Essential for most homeowners, and an important source of equity, when a mortgage experiences problems, it can be a disaster, and the fact that complaints about mortgage issues are on our top 10 total complaints list means that they do happen, and more often than they should. If you are experiencing mortgage troubles, phone the bank’s customer service department immediately, preferably in their head office, and report the problem to them.

If they can’t help, you may need to refinance your mortgage – applying for a new mortgage with your new circumstances and increased equity taken into account. Refinancing lets you take advantage of a number of potential changes, like the ability to reduce monthly payments, shorten the repayment period entirely, ditch a tracker mortgage for a fixed-term one or free up some cash value stored in the house – but make sure to talk to a financial advisor at your bank before committing to it.

4. Payments being rejected, or cheques bouncing

If a bank transfers its accounts to new holdings, if it is bought over, or if it undergoes a rules change, it is possible that accounts which were previously healthy will be “locked” without the owners knowing, or will have their account information altered. If the customer is not made aware of these changes, attempted payments will be unsuccessful, and cheques will bounce. This can be much more harmful than simply saying “oops, better buy it next time instead.” Essentials cannot be bought, time-sensitive payments will be missed – probably incurring fees or losing the product, and if the customer has a deposit down on something which they then cannot buy, it is lost.

If you notice cheques bouncing, the best thing to do is get on the phone to customer services – you can do this in-branch if you like, as the end goal is just to find out why your accoutn won’t pay out. Make sure to keep records of the calls and correspondence. Once you know, a call to the head office should sort it, but it might take some patience – with a problem like that, you may be passed around for some time (see “Bad Customer Service at point #1 above).

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5. No consideration of customer loyalty

When so much of your life and your material success is entrusted to a bank, it is easy to wind up feeling a certain attachment to them, as they have “taken care of you” for so long and helped you through so much by carefully guarding your money. However, the banks themselves often don’t look at this loyalty the same way, despite how much sense it makes to take care of your loyal customers.

Even though it may be frustrating, telling your bank about how loyal a customer you have been for the duration of your many years together may not sway them in dealing with you. Instead, make sure that you have solid, cold evidence to deal with them – facts and figures, written evidence of problems, bank statements, whatever else you feel you need to prove that there has been a problem and convince them to react to it. If worst comes to worst, escalate your complaint to the financial ombudsman.

6. Unkept promises

Incredibly, it is more common that we’d like to think for banks to fail to follow through on promotional offers or deals made. This may be the result of an oversight, a miscalculation of your deals, or the result of the collapse of the structures that made that promise necessary – it doesn’t matter the source, you should feel free to complain. If you were promised something by the bank, and you did not receive it, you can escalate that complaint to whatever level you feel is necessary to get the closure you need.

banking-complaints-customer-service

7. Disadvantaging small Businesses

It isn’t the most common complaint by any stretch, but small businesses often have better luck with community banks, credit unions and building societies than they would with large international banks – that said, all major banking institutions include systems and rules which make small businesses viable and let entrepreneurs take their idea to the world. For more information, get in touch with your bank and talk to them about what they can offer – but don’t forget to shop around and see whether you’d get a better deal elsewhere.

8. Charges going from most- to least-expensive

This one is slightly more niche, but when overdraft charges apply, they will be levied any time a transaction is made past the point of a £0 account balance – and taking the most expensive transactions first, even if they did not occur first in real life, may throw off the account-holder’s financial planning, pushing them into their overdrafts earlier than expected and incurring fees that were not accounted for.

While this may seem like a sneaky tactic to swindle customers out of money, from the bank’s perspective it makes sound sense – handling the larger and more impactful costs first, then dealing with the smaller purchases from the remaining funds. To combat this tendency, the best thing to do is develop a cushion of cash to fall back on above your overdraft – not only will this keep you solvent, and dodge overdraft charges, it doubles excellently as a small “Emergencies” fund.

banking-complaints-helpline

9. Large-scale mistakes

As we talked about before, banks are trusted with the most important facets of our financial lives – all our assets and worldly wealth is tied up in them, and so a mistake on their part can be catastrophic. Unfortunately, these mistakes happen.

Bank errors can lock an account, drain it unjustly, credit it with money that must then be removed and accounted for, close it completely, or cause any other problem imaginable – some customers have come to the point of ruin as the result of a bank error. As soon as the error is noticed, you need to get in contact with the bank – preferably their head office. You should also gather as much evidence of your finances as possible, and, depending on how the conversation with the bank goes, may need to retain a lawyer to ensure that you are not damaged by the error.

10. Terrible experiences in-branch

Once again, it comes back to this crucial point. Customer service trumps everything.

A bad experience in-branch can really sour a customer on the bank as a whole, but thankfully these problems are decreasing as banks take a more customer-focused approach to branch banking. With branch banking as a whole under threat from internet banking, big banks can’t take any chances, and the biggest of them are working hard to overhaul their image and provide a much more customer-friendly approach. If they are to survive over internet banking, they will have to.

Dealing with a Broken Boiler this Christmas

dealing with a broken boiler at christmas

If there’s one thing to complain about at Christmas, it’s the cold weather that us Brits endure come December. A picture perfect white Christmas is all well and good from inside your cosy, warm home, but what happens when your boiler goes bust? Aside from it being just another cost to pay for during the most expensive month of the year, there are only so many pairs of pyjamas, dressing gowns, blankets and hot water bottles you can wear  and cold showers you can take before seeing your breath in the air whilst eating breakfast becomes too much. Unfortunately, it seems that cold weather and boiler failures come hand in hand, along with burst pipes when temperatures plummet to below freezing. Heating and hot water are essential to all of us during the winter months, and getting something like a broken boiler fixed as soon as possible is at the top of everyone’s wish list. However, things don’t always operate as efficiently as they normally would during the build up to Christmas, and although energy companies such as British Gas and NPower have pretty good boiler cover packages available to purchase, there is no guarantee that your boiler will get fixed before the big day. If you are unfortunate enough to be in this position, you might want to read the following survival tips to ensure you can still enjoy Christmas.

According to a study conducted last year, the 1st December is the most common date of the calendar for boiler breakdowns, and other common dates following that fall on the 8th, 15th and 22nd of December. EDF Energy, who carried out the survey, concluded that over 7 million homes in Britain suffer a broken boiler between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day and on average it’s a whole working week until things are back to normal.

Be Prepared

If you are reading this, it’s Christmas and your boiler has already gone into meltdown, you might want to discard this part. However, as it’s still November, there is plenty of time to prepare for disaster, should it strike. Writing down a list of emergency contact numbers is a great way to make sure you are not calling numbers taken from obscure websites in desperation for some hot water in your home or accepting the help from any old plumber who will in fact only make the situation worse and the bill higher. If you have a list of reliable, emergency contacts you can make sure that you are fully stocked up and likely to receive reliable help, should something occur. There are websites of verified plumbers that you can visit, to make sure the ones that you are choosing from your area are approved. A professional plumber will be able to give you a quote before the job, and although prices might be increased on Christmas Day or around the Christmas Period, you still have a right to know how much you will be charged.

If you have a Major Water Leak

Major water leaks can destroy everything that they come into contact with and so it is important to stop the leak as soon as possible. To do this, you will have to turn off the water supply completely at the stop tap, which in most homes is located in the kitchen or if it is a boundary stop tap, next to the water meter. If you have an old home, you might want to consider alerting your neighbours as well, because sometimes operating the stop tap can affect them as well.

…or a Minor Leak

Whilst not as urgent, still a huge inconvenience and can sometimes develop into a bigger problem. Dealing with a minor water leak which is usually an internal issue, can be tricky. The leak can be stopped using isolation valves next to the relevant appliance. This means that you can deal with the issue without having to actually shut off the entire water supply, which is always a bonus. The leak should stop when turning the lever, but you may need to use a screwdriver for smaller valves.

Managing a Gas Leak

Although you can’t see it, a leak of natural gas is definitely the most dangerous problem to occur with a faulty boiler, and it is important that you deal with the problem quickly, even if you are left waiting for professional help. First of all, turn off the gas by using the emergency control valve located at the meter. Once the gas is off you need to take a number of safety precautions such as fully ventilating your house (no matter how cold). Open windows and doors and no naked flames until the area is completely cleared (this includes smoking). You will need to call the emergency services to report the leak, and wait until someone can come out to fix it ASAP.

Although broken boilers do need to be fixed as quickly as they possibly can be, panicking and potentially calling our a rogue trader can land you in a bigger mess than you were to begin with. Take our precautionary methods into account, and research for a certified plumber, who will solve your problem efficiently.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Sure Your Post Arrives Before Christmas

Christmas Post

Christmas is definitely the craziest time of year for the Royal Mail as everyone urgently seeks to send letters and parcels to loved ones all over the world, wishing them Seasons Greetings. Due to how hectic things can get in the post and sorting offices, there are certain cut-off times for post and after a certain point, the Royal Mail can’t actually guarantee that your post will arrive before the big day. Timing your post is a tricky art to master, send it too soon, and you risk Christmas being ruined by someone opening their present too early because it’s been sat staring at them since November, send it too late and it’s an after-thought, you might as well have not bothered, or even sent them a letter informing the recipient that you were simply otherwise engaged when it came to thinking of them at Christmas. Yes, it really can get that personal. And so to make sure that you remain in everyone’s good books (including Santa’s) this Christmas, we have provided a handy guide to making sure you get your post into the Post Office and out the other side before Santa mounts his sleigh.

Don’t Get Left Behind

If you are a scrooge that still believe Christmas is a million years away or simply a busy bee that time passes by in the blink of an eye, you may need reminding that whilst you still have a month to panic buy for your nearest and dearest at home, the Royal Mail deadlines are getting nearer and nearer and now might be the time to think about the parcels and letters you want to post. Assuming there are plenty of you that are planning on leaving it until the last minute (happens every year), it might be worth noting the very last days that will mean your post os delivered before Christmas. Anything after that you’ll either have to deal with becoming extremely unpopular – or deliver it personally by hand. For the Second Class posters, your cut off date will be Tuesday 20th December, and if you leave it a day later you will have to send your mail 1st Class, with their cut off point being Wednesday the 21st. Special Delivery will mean you can post your items on the 22nd and still have them there by Christmas, and if you really have left it until the very last second, you can post it on Friday the 23rd December and request for a Saturday delivery, meaning your parcel will arrive on Christmas Eve.

Posting Abroad

Of course, if your package or letter is going to sunnier (or colder) climes, you will need to give it a bit more time to get there. Please note that unfortunately, the Surface Mail postage dates have been and gone (at the beginning of November), there is still time to send your things via Airmail. To send post to Malta, Turkey, Greece, Eastern Europe and Iceland you will have to get down to the Post Office by the 10th December. For Africa and the Middle Eat, time is of the essence but you still have time to grab a Black Friday bargain and have it packaged and sent by the 3rd December. If your friends are in Central America or the Caribbean for Christmas then you will need to send them gifts by December 8th. For Australia and New Zealand its Saturday 10th, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and Germany its December the 14th. Canada, Finland, Sweden and the rest of the USA you need to send mail by December 15th, for Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Denmark you’re safe until Friday, December 16th and for Luxembourg, Belgium France and our Irish relatives you can do it last minute on the 17th December.

If you have loved ones serving in our armed forces who unfortunately won’t make it home for Christmas, they’ll need all the Christmas cheer that they can get from home. If they are stationed internationally and are currently in operation, the last chance you have to get mail to them is the 28th November. For static BFPO’s you have a little longer, and won’t need to post until December 12th to spread the Christmas cheer.

Posting to the Big Man Himself

Of course, it’s extremely important not to forget about what you want this Christmas, and what better way to make sure you get everything that’s on your list than to send it to Santa himself – that way there can be no mistakes or mix-ups come Christmas morning. But, you don’t have much time because sooner or later your lists won’t reach the North Pole in time for you to get a reply and if you don’t get a reply, how do you know it’s even been read?! If you want a reply from Father Christmas (or your children do) you need to send your letter to Santa by Friday 9th December (Royal Mail, I mean, Santa, will reply free of charge).

 

What to do if your Christmas Party Dress hasn’t arrived

What to do if your Christmas Party Dress hasn't arrived

We’ve all been here. You leave it until the last minute to order the perfect party dress. Sometimes, work and life get in the way, and you completely forget to order a dress altogether! Have no fear, here are our last minute party dress ideas for when your dress hasn’t arrived in time, or even if you are struggling to find the perfect dress just days before your office party.

When your Christmas Party Dress hasn’t arrived

So, it’s now two days before your office Christmas party, and you need to look amazing to impress your co-workers. “why am I so bothered about this?” you ask yourself, and then you realise that you literally dress like a slob 99% of the time and need to prove to people that you can look nice. What do you do?

Well, there are a few options if your Christmas Party Dress hasn’t arrived in time. If you have a few days, why not visit shops local to you. This way, you can buy a dress there and then, or at least find the style you definitely want for the party. Debenhams and Marks and Spencer currently have a great range of party and Christmas dresses for every style. You can browse their online stores and ring their customer service lines in order to check if an item is in stock before even stepping foot in their store.

Alternatively, you can find online stores that offer next day delivery for cheap or even for free. ASOS and Boohoo offer next day delivery, with Boohoo offering Next Day delivery for £1 on certain days. They are both well known for delivering on time.

Getting a refund

If you have ordered your dress or outfit, and it arrives after the Christmas party, you have every right to return it, especially if the company promised delivery in time. If the company dispute your refund with you, explain to a member of staff that, despite them promising you delivery on time, your item did not arrive on time. You should be entitled to a full refund. If not, who hasn’t told lied about refunding an item in the past… Some companies are more likely to accept a refund if you tell them the item is either damaged or not your correct size/style.

Finding the best dress for you

If you haven’t even bought a dress yet (which is totally fine, we don’t judge) and need one quickly, there are a number of websites and stores which can help you find the perfect dress or outfit for you. We recommend sites that are well known for their delivery rates. This is important, especially if you’re thinking of ordering a dress from China that will almost definitely not look like the picture on the website… Many dress sites online are reliable, however, research the company before ordering your outfit.

If you have some time before your party, why not scour the sales pages of some of your favourite websites? Next, ASOS and Boohoo have Black Friday sales all week this week, so we definitely recommend taking a look at some of the amazing outfits on offer from them.

Last minute panic

If today is the day before your Christmas Party, and you’re still sat in your onesie watching Eastenders crying your eyes out, well…Okay. So! Your only option is to upcycle this situation. We’re not saying wear the same dress you wore last year – because people will definitely notice. But, that outfit you wore to your mum’s 50th? Hello! Add some heels and some earrings, get a curly blow from your hairdressers – and you’re ready to go! Re-wearing dresses with different accessories can really spruce up a look and make it on-trend.

The important thing to remember is that panicking gets you nowhere. You will look fabulous on the day no matter what you wear, as long as you believe it yourself. So have fun, drink, and be merry! After all, Christmas is meant to be a time of enjoyment, not panicking over lost parcels and last minute outfits…