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Putting the ‘personal’ into personal finance – The Guardian (blog)

This week I’m truly putting the “personal” into personal finance: three money issues have affected me directly – and they’re tangled up with national stories.

Trains The number of passenger journeys has doubled since 1997, says the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) in a volley aimed at Jeremy Corbyn’s renationalisation dream. Yet for a journey from London to Hastings last week for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, the fare would have been £33 return, or £66 for the two of us. Taxis to and from the station would add another £15, making the total £81.

Instead we hired a car from Hertz, from Friday 5.30pm to Monday 5.30pm, at £59 plus the £17 that the petrol cost, or £76 in total. It’s bonkers that car hire can be cheaper (and more convenient) than using public transport. This weekend I’m heading to Dublin at a return air fare of £47, or a third less than the cost of a train from Euston to Manchester. Whichever way you look at it, Britain’s train fares are wildly overpriced, despite what the RDG suggests.

Avis and Airbnb Our Consumer Champions have unearthed a staggering practice at both companies. Press “cancel” at Avis and the car rental is deleted – but Avis keeps the money unless you separately request a refund. Earlier this year at an Avis counter I was told I had accidentally double-booked, although I had never received two confirmation notices, so I thought it unlikely. The assistant asked if I wanted to cancel the other car. Of course, I said. But did he refund the money? I have to dig through months of online-only credit card statements to find out if I have been double-charged. Thanks, Avis.

At Airbnb it’s different. If you cancel a booking the money is not returned automatically to your bank account. Airbnb keeps it, assuming you might want it for a future booking. Yeah, right.

John Lewis Last week this column highlighted concerns about its online service, following allegations put to us by a worker at its Capita-run customer service centre. Not only is the company using outsourced staff to answer the phones as “John Lewis”, it is also sending orders direct to the manufacturers to fulfil, as Amazon Marketplace does. This saves money, as John Lewis doesn’t have to stock the item – but also means it no longer has internal control over handling the order and its delivery. “If you order an item from John Lewis and it is fulfilled by a supplier, then there is almost no chance of getting it on time,” the whistleblower claimed.

This week my landlord said she would purchase a fridge for our kitchen, and proceeded to order it from John Lewis. Was I surprised when she emailed later to say there was an issue with delivery? I might have to stay in all day to receive the fridge, she warned. The reason? She may have bought through John Lewis – which generally offers two-hour delivery slots – but she was told it was being handled by the provider directly, which could only promise a delivery some time across the day. Given how many of you responded to my column last week with tales of woe, I should perhaps be pleased if it even turns up on the day.

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Putting the ‘personal’ into personal finance – The Guardian (blog)}

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