Q. Last Christmas, we had a special arrangement with Santa Claus whereby he would say a quick hello to our five year old twin daughters while he was delivering the presents around midnight. I waited with the children on the landing until we heard Santa come down the chimney. We then ran down to greet him. Our two dogs, Bert & Ernie, burst into the sitting room ahead of us and although, normally they are very nervous of strangers, they both jumped onto Santa Claus, licking him and barking in delight. Unfortunately, their welcome was so effusive that they knocked him down and he in turn fell against the Christmas tree, knocking it to the ground. Thankfully, Santa was very quick on his feet and he ran into the kitchen with the dogs behind him and came back in to the sitting room, closing the door behind him. Santa was most good-humoured about it and explained to the girls that the previous year, he had spent quite some time playing with the dogs and that that was how they had remembered him. The girls were delighted with the story and the meeting was very successful in the end. I would however like to caution all parents to keep their dogs in a separate room in the event that you should be so lucky as to have a personal visit from Santa Claus. He does seem to be a great dog lover but that can have its drawbacks and when my husband came home later that night, it took both of us some time to restore the tree to its former glory.
A. This is very helpful for a reader to share this advice with all our readers. This event ended well but obviously, it is very important that Santa is not injured in the course of any meeting with a family pet, no matter how friendly or well-intentioned the greeting. I am sure this reader will have her dogs safely tucked away in their beds in another room on this Christmas Eve.
Q. Last year, on Christmas Eve, we were woken to the sound of screaming . My three children woke up with the noise. I asked them to stay in their rooms while I went downstairs to check what was going on. I cautiously opened the door to the sitting room and found my husband on the floor nursing his arm. Apparently, he had come to the rescue of Santa Claus who was being attacked by our neighbour’s cat. We were looking after our neighbour’s cat for the holiday as we were away. She must have taken a dislike to Santa Claus and was lying in wait for him and pounced on him apparently as he was placing presents under the tree. My husband was a bit shocked but happy to report that he managed to save Santa Claus from a similar injury. We subsequently relayed this story to our children and, although they were disappointed to have missed Santa Claus, they were very proud of their father who rescued Santa Claus from a grave danger. I just wanted to mention this to other readers as they too may be looking after neighbour’s pets for the holiday season and would not be as familiar with their temperament.
A. This is very helpful advice indeed thank you for same. As previously suggested to readers, pets are best kept in a separate room during the night of Christmas Eve/ Christmas morning to ensure that neither Santa Claus nor any family members are either injured or frightened as a result of the activities of nervous pets in unfamiliar surroundings.
Q. When my daughter came down on Christmas morning to open her presents, she discovered that Santa had left his rig-out behind! It was left in the back kitchen but she discovered it before anyone came down. She was very confused about that and very worried that Santa might have had to continue on his rounds without proper clothing. I just thought readers should take note and perhaps have a good look around the house before they retire to bed.
A. We have come across this before. Santa travels with many spare rig-outs. The weather is unpredictable at this time of the year and he can get a soaking going from one house to another. Probably, your daughter found the rig-out draped over a radiator and Santa probably changed into his new rig-out in your house. This is a very exciting thought for your daughter. However, he obviously forgot to take the old outfit with him and it might perhaps be a good idea to leave this out for Santa with a little written reminder to take it with him this year. Thank you for alerting us to this concern.
Every year we like to have a fire going on Christmas Eve to greet Santa and keep him warm. Unfortunately, it seems as if Santa’s beard got singed in the fire as he was filing the stockings over the fireplace. Fortunately, we had left a big bucket of water for the reindeer and Santa used this to put out his beard. He left a note behind asking us not to light a fire this year as he said that it has taken him a whole year to grow his beard back to its former length and he does not want any repeat of this episode. I would just like to advise all readers’ accordingly.
It is very wise of you to share this information with our readers. Open fires can be dangerous, even for Santa Claus. Thankfully, however, he does not seem to have been too put out by this episode and I am sure that you will make the necessary changes to your living room this year. All readers should take note.
My children, unknown to me, stayed up until the early hours of Christmas morning waiting to see Santa Claus arriving. To their surprise, they did see Santa Claus arriving but he alighted from a van at the front of the house and proceeded to bring in the presents with what looked like another male adult and not one of Santa’s helpers. The presents were all delivered and they were very happy with them when they came down the following morning. However, they did ask me why Santa had arrived in a van? The question took me by surprise at the time as I was not aware myself of any difficulties with the sleigh or reindeers last Christmas. Perhaps you could be of assistance?
We have made enquiries on your behalf and we have heard that the reindeer last year took a short break to have some refreshments during all the deliveries. Santa is always very thoughtful and considerate of his helpers. The nice man who provided the food and refreshments for the reindeer and elves, offered to help with some of the deliveries during the 30 minutes or so while the helpers were resting. Our enquiries revealed that your area was the place where Santa’s helpers all had their rest and the nice resident helped Santa to deliver all the presents to the children living in that area. We have heard however that, this year, Santa will have two teams of helpers and, while one is resting, the other will take over. There should therefore be no repeat of this incident again and hopefully your children’s restlessness will be rewarded with the sight of Santa arriving by sleigh in the usual way.
Once Christmas is over many of us will have received gifts or purchased items for ourselves some of which may not be fit for purpose, the question arises as to how we should complain and what is the best way to make sure that our complaint is dealt with. The following is a brief synopsis of your legal rights.
In Ireland, we are not great when it comes to complaining. When it comes to effective complaining, it is essential that we know our rights. Indeed it is also important to know the rights that you don’t have. All too often, we hear about consumers complaining about retailers who refuse to sell them a product for the much lower price it was incorrectly marked at on the shelf. This is a common complaint but the reality is that retailers are NOT OBLIGED to do that. Until money changes hands, there is NO CONTRACT in place. So, if a consumer spots a pricing error before actually buying the product then, the retailer is perfectly entitled to demand that the consumer pays the higher price.
In addition, consumers do not have the automatic right to a refund or a replacement if a product turns out to be faulty or flawed in some way. A provider can instead offer to repair it. If it breaks down again, they can offer to repair it again. They can’t keep repairing it forever but, they are entitled to attempt to repair the item two or three times before they have to consider either a refund or a replacement.
If you pay a deposit for something and then change your mind, you must not automatically assume that the provider of the Goods or Services will give you your money back. They might, but this will be down to the individual Retailer’s policy. They do not legally have to give you your money back.
If you get a replacement product under Warranty, the Warranty clock is not reset to zero. So, if your laptop breaks down after 10 months and you get a new one, do not be surprised if the manufacturer tells you that the new laptop has a Warranty of only two months being the 10 months since the original purchase plus the additional two.
If you are going to make a complaint, it is always worth looking up your consumer rights under the law. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website www.consumerhelp.ie has extensive information on this in the section entitled ‘Your Rights’ you can also call the low call helpline at 1890-43 24 32 if you have a question about your rights. A word of warning however, do not under any circumstances call the helpline number from your mobile number. It will cost you an absolute fortune if you are on the line for any length of time. If you need to make contact with the organisation using a mobile phone call them at 01-4025555. It will save you money.
It is also important to remember that if you buy a product in a shop, you have no rights under Consumer Law if the product is not faulty or if you simply change your mind. There is no point whatsoever in creating a scene in a shop if they won’t entertain your pleas for a refund or a swap of something you thought was fantastic at the time but have decided to now return. In addition, a shop does not have to entertain you if a problem develops as a direct result of something unfortunate you have done to the item you purchased. So, if you drop your phone in the sink don’t expect to be given a replacement. Similarly, if the fault is pointed out to you at the time of purchase and you go ahead with the purchase, you have no right to a refund.
When preparing to complain about anything, it is always a good idea to read the terms and conditions first. Knowledge is power. The terms and conditions can be set out in a manner which is tedious but, it is important to be aware of your rights and to read the terms and conditions. You are most likely to succeed in complaining if you set yourself clear goals before you start. You should always have an idea of what it is you want before you start the process. Work out whether you want a refund or will be happy with a repair. Decide if you want compensation or will be happy with an apology. It is important not to make it up as you go along. It is always important to be flexible and polite. Being aggressive rarely results in winning an argument. People react better to a polite complaint. Apart from that you probably do not want to be the person who shouts at the poor unfortunate staff member working in a shop on a minimum wage or similarly in a call centre. It is also important to make sure that you act quickly if you want to make a complaint. If you buy something that is clearly not fit for purpose or is not as advertised and you don’t return it for months, your case will be significantly weakened. Similarly, if you complain about the steak you ordered after you have eaten most of it the Waiter will be perfectly entitled to question your argument. Remember also that when it comes to certain things, there is a Statute of Limitations on a complaint. If, for example, you are making a complaint about a package holiday that went wrong, you have to do it within 28 days of returning home. Always go to the effort of finding out to whom you should direct your complaint. If possible, you should first make contact with the person you dealt with in the first place or a company’s Customer Care Department. If things are going badly and you are on the phone to a Customer Care Agent, ask to speak to a manager or a supervisor. It is true that almost inevitably, you will be told that there is no one available but you should at least ask. Request the name of the person you were speaking to and ask whether the call is being recorded. Above all stay calm. If your phone calls are falling on deaf ears you have no choice but to put your complaint in writing. Try to make it as concise and polite as possible. To be fair, it has never been easier to make a complaint in a very public way using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media platform you are fond of using yourself. Remember again however to be polite. These sites are populated with enough trouble makers already. You don’t want to be just another one. When it comes to sharing personal details on such sites, limit the amount of information you put in the public domain.
Good record keeping is essential when it comes to complaining. Keep notes of what happened and when it happened. Write a quick timeline of your grievances or at least the serious ones. If, for example, you are complaining about the milk you bought being sour, such a timeline is probably not necessary but for serious issues record the sequence of events and include dates and times of phone calls or other conversations. Write down to whom you spoke and what was said.
It is important not to allow yourself to be fobbed off by a shop assistant who says that you are to blame for whatever has gone wrong. Some young worker in a phone shop is not qualified to tell you that your iPhone has suffered water damage because you dropped it in a sink even if that is true. They have to send the part off to be properly assessed before that decision is made.
If you are going around in circles trying to get a problem resolved, you will have to make a formal complaint in writing. Make sure that the letter is sent to the right person or department. Ask for the name and address of the most senior person you can contact who deals with written complaints. You might also be able to uncover this information using Google. When you are sending a letter of complaint if at all possible have it typed and send supporting documentation but copies only. You may need to keep the originals for a later date. Set out the history of your case and who you spoke to, explain what the problem is and what you would like to see done. Include a reasonable time frame for a problem to be resolved and make it clear what will happen if the problem is not resolved. You can go to the Small Claims Court, send a letter to Pricewatch or indeed make contact with the local media. Send the letter by registered post. It will cost a little more but it ensures a proper paper trail.
Some services are covered by an Ombudsman or Regulator. Find out if yours is. There is a Financial Services Ombudsman, A Pensions Ombudsman, a Taxi Regulator and Comreg for starters. But remember, they can rarely be your starting point and you will have to exhaust the complaints procedure for that sector or deal with the company you purchased your product from before the Regulators will entertain you.
Some organisations sound like they have more clout than they actually have. The Consumers Organisation of Ireland, for example, is great when it comes to advice but do not expect it to fight your corner as they do not have the resources. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission similarly do not take on individual cases. Ring for advice by all means but there is little point in using the Commission as a bargaining chip when dealing with bad traders.
The Small Claims Procedure on the other hand does have clout. It is a cheap, fast and relatively simple way to resolve some types of disputes without having to use a Solicitor. The application fee is €25 which is non-refundable and the service is provided in your local District Court Office. You can use the Small Claims procedure if your claim is for €2000 or less, but only certain claims will be entertained. It does not handle debts, Personal Injuries or breaches of leasing agreements. Nor does it does it deal with most claims about rental properties as these can be dealt with separately under the PRTB.
Following on is a sample letter which might get you started with your complaint and works as a check list to include all the significant and relevant information-
On (insert date of purchase) I bought (description of the product, including model or serial number or any other identifying details). I attach a copy of my receipt for your information. I am writing to you because (outline the problem). The product is faulty and is no longer working and/or the product does not do what it is supposed to do and/or the product is not as described.
On (insert date) I rang and spoke to (insert name of person you spoke to) but (insert outcome here, for example I have heard nothing further since). According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commissions website, www.consumerhelp.ie goods purchased from a shop or Retailer should be:-
a) Of acceptable quality.
b) As described.
c) Fit for purpose.
d) Corresponding to sample
Under Consumer law my contract is with the seller of the goods as such I am writing to you to seek (state what you want the supplier to do e.g. offer repair, replacement or a refund).
I would appreciate your response within 10 working days. If you wish to discuss this further, I am contactable by telephone/email at (insert day time number/email/address (optional)).
We wish all our clients and those visiting the site a very Happy Christmas this holiday season and may we also take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year!