Mummy Pig Goes to Prison

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If you need me, I’ll be at HM Prison Bronzefield.

Seriously, one day, I fear the nice staff on the tills or the online end of my favourite shops will politely yet firmly ask me to step aside whilst security take me ‘out the back’.

I am a ‘serial returner’, often knowing that the item will inevitably be returned. Poor size, poor quality, poor performance. Whether it’s for me, my kids, my husband or my home, in order to be a keeper it has to be perfect and sometimes I will only know that once I’ve got the item home. The amount of duplicate sizes of things I buy for my kids is insane. Or normal it would seem, as friends seem to experience much the same.

I am a Libran through and through: ‘kind, gentle and lovers of beauty, harmony and peace’. Sounds good so far but: ‘one of the most difficult things for a Libra is to take a decision. When faced with a choice, it is very tough for them to select what is best for them, which can become a big hurdle in their path.’  Yes, I know. First world problems and all that.

Yup. That’s me. Indecisive as hell, swinging like a pendulum as to whether I am completely sure about something, especially when there is such a broad choice. (Over 10 years into my marriage, he is definitely beginning to grow on me. Plus, he is well past his return date and I know my Mother in law wouldn’t take him back.)

I shred all useless receipts – and by useless, I mean I’m definitely not returning it/them. A box of red Lindor for example. Hardly going to have an issue with them now am I?

Stationery, supermarkets, restaurants. Those kind of receipts will usually be shredded. I’d love to say I check them off against my bank statement one by one like a fastidious friend of mine, but it gets to insanity point and takes me way back to University days in Manchester when the itemised phone bill would come in. My 5 housemates and I would sit round that farshtunken kitchen, as if we were FBI agents going through classified intel looking for clues. In reality, we were just cross-referencing who was racking up the lions share of calls, circling the ‘unidentified numbers’ and subsequently calling said number to discover who had made the original call. It was a false economy as we would inevitable do the it again next bill, querying the same number. All to save a couple of quid. (Although in fairness, £2 got you a round of snakebite n’ black in the 90s.)

“Hi, who do you know living in Mabfield Road, Manchester?” It wasn’t all fruitless – one call to a Birmingham number resulted in a marriage. True story.

So what of the ‘to keep’ receipts?

Well, these get removed from my wallet, kept in an interim clear plastic wallet, until they can be properly dealt with and filed in this receipt storage book (Hurry. There’s only 4 left according to Amazon.)

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She may not look a beauty, but this receipt storage book is flawless to me. (It’s the accountant’s daughter in me.) There is also a whole shelf of lever arch files and folders for instruction manuals, guarantees, warrantee and assembly instructions. Sometimes I may be a little too steadfast – am I really going to need the installation manual for my hob and downstairs loo? Unlikely. (Will keep for a while longer, just in case.) If something breaks, tears, shrinks, malfunctions or falls apart, I am ready with the receipt, guarantee, or Allen key that came with it. (My toolbox is a whole other blog post.) I don’t have time to search – a return needs to be made immediately, especially if it is dangerously close to the within ‘xx days’ return policy. So far, the system has yet to beat me. Even on out of guarantee items. Some people excel at parking ticket loopholes. Stores are my thing.

But not all returns are made the same.

I’ve highlighted a small selection of frequented shops. Feel free to comment with your own experiences and tips:

H&M (They do the best homewares which people often overlook. In my basket amongst kids leggings and plain white t’s, I often sneak in a few candles, bowls and napkins to add finishing touches to my home)

When returning an item, you think you have got off lightly with just one signature so you pass the pen back to the till person. But hold on. Not so fast. They operate a TWO part signing, including name, address and another signature. I am now ‘au fait’ with the fact that I don’t need to write out my full address – just the postcode is sufficient. (And good luck reading my handwriting.)

In general I can’t bear returning things to H&M – the queues can be vile (ditto some of the queuers). If I have no choice, them I try to return things to the Menswear section as it’s normally quieter. If you’re local to Intu in Watford, the upstairs bit in H&M is a brilliant hack as it’s normally really quiet. There’s no lift or escalator available so all the parents with buggies (who are generally the bulk-returners) can’t access this level. Hurray! I’m not being mean here. I used to be one of those people. However, I am now ‘BF’ (buggy-free).

If you ordered from H&M online then an alternative return service to the post office or to store, is to use the free (unless otherwise specified) myHermes service. They deliver and collect for stores including H&M, New Look, Next and that one I can’t pronounce, Vertbaudet. The first time I got a text to say ‘Your Hermes delivery is on the way and will be delivered between 15:00-16:00’, I honestly thought I was about to receive an extremely generous birthday present from the husband in the form of a Hermès Birkin bag. Ah, but not so. Hermes/Hermès. Such a subtle yet enormous difference.  (And yes, it took me about 6 attempts to get the accent grave over the ‘è’ from my laptop. At least on my iPhone is does it automatically.)

But no, Hermes ‘sans accent’ is a great courier service that delivers stuff you order online and then if you don’t like it, they come and collect it at a time that suits you.

Round my way, there is a lovely man called Barry that covers the local area. Everyone knows Barry. He’s like Postman Pat but without the cat. A local friend said she had a different Hermes delivery man, called Gary. She described him. His car. His bluetooth earpiece. The shorts he wears in all weathers.

Nope. That’s Barry. You’ve just been calling him Gary.

 

M&S (linking to the BEST diffuser out there IMO – come sniff my downstairs loo)

Not much to say here really except, whatever you do, don’t return to store. You have far better things to do with your time. You may think you have got there as the store opens. You may think you will be first in line for customer returns, but somehow, through clever store design, you turn the corner to the customer services department and WHAM! Straight into a line as long as 30 Colin the Caterpillar cakes. It’s not worth it. Collect+ is the way forward. If you order online – and have it delivered usually next day to your local store (even ‘Simply Food’ stores), just pack up your ill-fitting vests, tops and cigarette trousers that looked quite ‘Marant‘ online but much more ‘Matalan’ in the flesh. Then, find your local Collect+ store by postcode and just drop it off. Easy as M&S Steak Pie. (FYI, I love Matalan – they have some brilliant finds especially for my daughters, so no offence meant. Purely for comparison purposes and I’m gunning for the .)

 

Boots (taking you through to ‘Mummy’s special carrots’ as my youngest refers to them…)

My local branch is unfortunately quite small and lacking in range, but sometimes even by visiting a larger store I find I’m still short of something specific. Online ordering. It’s brilliant. Everything I need. And more. Plus there’s advantage card points. Offers are much easier to spot and click straight into your online basket rather than getting to the till in store and being told it’s ‘buy one get one free on toothpaste’.  Who can be bothered to weave their way back through the store? I normally go for the self-service tills, aiming for the thrill of a fuss-free transaction with no ‘unexpected items in the baggage area’. A rare but fulfilling experience. Much like M&S, you can order to any local Boots store and expect a text within a couple of days to say your order has arrived in store. All packaged up in a nice box, so no-one has to see your super plus Tampax carton poking out of your carrier bag. (Sorry, ‘bag for life’.)

 

Next (I want this for the Summer  – all 6.5 days of it if we’re lucky…)

Pretty on the money I’ve got to say. Returns are piss-easy. Just be careful you don’t make the mistake I recently made. Each item has a unique barcode. They don’t even need your original receipt anymore as they can tell if the order was made online, bought in-store, gift card, stolen (!) and then match it to the payment method. Unfortunately one item I was returning was a gift that I wanted to exchange. The payment went back to the gift bearer. Let’s hope they don’t check their receipts as fastidiously as I do…

 

Z

Zar

Zara

Sorry, I just can’t.

Ok. I’ll try. But only because I want to help others.

Zara (these I want for when the weather gets warmer)

Once the balance of ‘sale vs new collection’ is restored to a more sensible ratio, you can really see all the lovely things they have to offer.  (As opposed to a tiiiiiny corner with a couple of new tops and a pair of black palazzo pants, completely hidden by rail upon rail of sale mayhem.)

Zara is lovely. Zara has such nice stuff. Zara have finally added a ‘refund and exchange till’ to most of their stores. It used to be that you could duck into the back of the not-too-busy kids department for a swift return, but I think everyone cottoned on to this and as a result, Zara now staff it with the most miserable and moody staff members they can possibly find. This is how I imagine their interview process:

“Show me moody…”

“Show me miserable…”

“Show me your most audible ‘tut’… ”

“Show me your stapling skills…”

Some say don’t bother turning up to Zara for an exchange without proof of purchase or a gift receipt. I beg to differ. See me after the blog for more information. (You CAN beat the system. Trust me. I have intel.)

Instead of store purchases, online is pretty good but can take up to 3 weeks to arrive so it’s a risk you have to take, but be warned – I once got caught on an E&R trip (exchange AND return). Multiple receipts, frazzled staff member. It was a fiasco. And then she ran out of staples. I thought the girl was going to faint. Enough with the staples Zara. One receipt. With all the information on it. Come on Zara. You can do it… Take a leaf out of River Island‘s book – they seem to have it sussed. (And you still get a paper carrier bag)

 

The White Company (some say the kids nightwear shrinks. Wash it properly and I beg to differ. It’s beautiful, pretty, long-lasting and I always bag PJs in the sale for my girls)

If you’re paying full price, you’re obviously a tourist. I reckon I could re-paper my lounge with the amount of loyalty cards that pop through my door. You are probably carrying 3 out of date ones in your wallet. Yes. You. Bin them. And the WHSmith 20% off card from Christmas. Or is it of sentimental value?

Kudos to the White Company on their smiley staff, lovely range and serene stores, but 9 times out of 10 customers are buying items as gifts. That’s a sh*t load of tissue paper, wrapping, sticking and ribbon-tying in front of you in the queue. Even the staff apologise to you with their eyes for the long wait. Online all the way for me.

 

A recent trip to America and I have to say, they’ve got it right in their stores:

  • Staff members wandering around with handheld devices, taking card payment from people waiting in the queue
  • The ability to return an item at ANY till point within a department store
  • Plus, FREE CARRIER BAGS!!! Although, I’ve got to say, through habit, it’s been heart-warming seeing the array of bags for life that us environment-aware UK citizens are keeping on us, not to mention the Lakeland trolley bags in the boot of my car that I love to whip out.

On the flip-side it kind of makes me miss my Maclaren buggy and all its super useful bag-hanging properties. But then, how would I get to the upper level of H&M…?

 

 

Spring Car-leaning

 

Every week without fail, my husband inspects my car like a skilled forensic at a crime scene. Yes, there is food, yes there are wrappers, yes it’s a bit of a mess, yes I promised to keep it clean. Yes, yes, yes. But you see, my car is not just a piece of metal getting me from A to B (Arkley to Bond Street). No, it is a tank, a larder, an office, a sanctuary.

I have every intention to clear the crap out at the end of each day, but it’s raining or I need to get dinner on or there is homework to be supervised. Just ‘or’. I rarely procrastinate over things and I am fastidiously tidy at home, but everyone deserves a ‘secret closet’ like Monica from Friends. My car is that cupboard.

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Shameful findings that journeyed with me on a daily basis

So with half term fully in swing, here in no particular order, were the top 10 things I found:

10. One ‘borrowed’ country hotel umbrella rhyming with ‘Poor Treasons’. Numerous novelty kids brollies, many of which were broken, with pokey-out bits. I got rid of broken ones. Kept a couple of Disney ones and the one that looks like a giant frog. Kept the ‘Poor Treasons’ to satisfy the rebellious thief in me.

9. An unopened litre bottle of water I’ve had in the boot since last Summer ‘in case of emergency’. For example, dying of thirst on that exceedingly long trip home (from Westfield). I binned it. Well, watered the plants with it. And immediately replaced it. Just in case.

8. Snacks. Spanning the full culinary spectrum of sweet to savory and back again I found crisps, crackers and all other high-intensity crumb contributors. Plus a full set of Ikea clip things. My husband bans food in the car, but needs-must during the half hour lag time between sibling collection from school. (Nature Valley are the most lethal.)

7. Toys. High on the list were the four-pack of duff little pencils that always come free with a notepad or colouring book. Kept one full set – useful for dashboard notes such as ‘ticket machine not working’. (Best thing EVER – fk da system …) Also found the source of the rattling noise coming from the back every time I took a right turn. Kinder and Happy Meal toys. “NEVER THROW THIS WAY – IT’S MY FAVOURITE THING EVER!” say my kids. Relegated to the passenger door pocket after a day and duly forgotten about. Binned.

6. Paperback AtoZ – yes, I know. Should Google maps, my in car SatNav, or a phonecall to my Dad let me down, this would be my resort AFTER the last resort. Even the charity shop didn’t want it. I don’t think it even featured Canary Wharf.

5. Cutlery. I can’t resist an M&S cling-wrapped fork at the checkout. If I can’t have a free bag anymore, I’m filling my boots with cutlery. Never mind the oil lasting for eight days, at the rate I’m collecting, I should have enough to see me through Passover 2016. Along with the plastic glove collection from petrol stations.

4. Some nappy bags and a Potette, which saw me through many a roadside emergency. And petrol station gloves came in handy. Bearing in mind my kids are 9 and 6, it was time to free up the netting side pocket thingy in the boot. Oooh.. so many options.

3. Parking machine tickets. Especially the sticky 2-part ones. I have a friend who drives around with out-of-date ones stuck on her window, like white tinted glass. That I would never do, but there was a serious stash shoved down the side of my door, the majority of them with a discarded piece of chewing gum stuck on them. *hangs head in shame*

2. Various writing implements. I am considering opening a stationery shop to rival WHSmith. I managed to bring it down to a couple of pencils and a few biros.

1. Much like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman in reference to the condom selection she offered (“I got red, I got green, I got yellow… I’m out of purple..”), I am planning on attending Simchas 2016 and hosting a stand with the kippah selection that I discovered my husband had accumulated and chosen to house within my car. ‘Just in case’.

“I got suede, I got leather, I got crochet..”

They were in the glove compartment, side door, armrest and even in the secret pop down compartment that’s meant for your specs. Everywhere. Complete mess.

He should be ashamed of himself…

 

I DID IT!!!

Today, Tuesday 9th February 2016 I celebrated: (in no particular order although #3 is my bestest)

  1. Pancake Day – Pagan-shmagen, there’s food involved so I shall celebrate it. I am a Jew. All of our festivals revolve around food. Richard Burr‘s pancake recipe with Biona Organic coconut oil was far better than when I tried with butter. Big score for Mummy

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    Pile o’ pancakes

  2. Chinese New Year – Year of the Monkey and good excuse to make Damn Delicious‘s recipe of sweet and sour chicken plus sesame chicken balls for the dinner. Massive score for Mummy. I think the family liked it, but may have only eaten it to gain 3rd Nutella pancake of the day for dessert. I will never know.

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    Basic kids layout of the sesame chicken balls, sweet n’ sour chicken, some basmati rice and broccoli stir fried with garlic and ginger. A kids meal isn’t a kids meal without cucumber slices. And the fancy julienning of the carrot is purely to entice the kids to eat them. Seems to work although I julienned my left palm a little…

  3. THE DAY I STARTED MY BLOG!!! All thanks to Building Feasts creator, Hanna Goldsmith