Friday, 26 March 2010

Removal Group: the nightmare

I finally find some time to describe what happened when we decided to move from London to Volos (Greece) at the beginning of 2010.

As we have never done a house move before, we thought about scanning the web for offers and then settle with the removal company that seemed to offer the best service overall. To us, the main driver was delivery time, the shorter the better.

So, after some web surfing and e-mail quotations, we decided to choose Removal Group. It has been the worst ill-fated decision I have ever made in my life.

Keep in mind that none of the companies offered cheap quotes, and price was not really an issue: but keep also in mind that our house removal cost 4,000 GBP, and we did NOT have any furniture to move except 3 small drawer chests and a small library (1 meter by 1 meter more or less). It was all books, clothes, baby toys, kitchen stuff and so on.

After the first contacts via e-mail and phone, we fixed the removal date for the 8th of February. We asked for the professional packing service (300+ GBP) as we did not have time to pack all our stuff alone. Remember this issue of the professional packing, as it will be a recurrent point in my post.

They initially said our stuff would arrive in Greece after 10 days, 2 weeks at worst. Dream on.

This is what happened finally, in chronological order:

  • We declared a specific volume for the move (15 cubic meters), but after a conversation with the RemovalGroup agent she convinced us to reduce it (based on her experience, 8 cubic meters), but in the end the volume was closer to what we declared at the beginning (13.4 cubic meters), which caused additional delays in the procedure and further payments from our part;

  • No professional packing has been done, although we paid for it. The removal team (which consisted only of 2 individuals) arrived having no idea that they had to pack our stuff. Their worksheet reported that they just had to transfer boxes from our house to the lorry. As a result they had to borrow boxes and materials from another company from around the corner which caused additional delays in the procedure. We have been promised that the full packing service would last 2 hours, more or less, but in the end it lasted 6 hours and our stuff was randomly packed with no "professional" attitude. I currently don't have on my PC a picture of how the "professional" packing has been done, but my wife in Greece has taken one in which you can see our daughter's sleeping bag stuffed inside a metallic shoes rack with a shoe on top of it. Not to mention the mix of clothes and kitchen pots, books and baby clothes, shoes and bed sheets. It was a mess;

  • During the week following the move, we were never contacted by any of RemovalGroup agents, we were forced to call them to ask for information and updates and during one of these calls we found that we had extra volume that we had to pay for and that was 5 days after the packing day which also caused additional delays in sending the stuff;

  • After the stuff was finally sent to Greece and 5 days after the arrival to the deposit of the collaborating Greek company in Athens, we received a phone call from that same company informing us that RemovalGroup has ceased collaboration with their agent in London due to other financial/logistic problems between RemovalGroup and the Greek company: then they denied for days the delivery of our stuff although we had already paid the full amount weeks in advance. The Greek company said we were the unlucky ones that we had to interfere in order to force RemovalGroup to solve the problem with them. Moreover, the Greek company said that we have to pay deposit expenses for a week;

  • We have been promised by the RemovalGroup coordinator that our things would be delivered in 10 days: overall more than 5 weeks have passed before we saw our things;

  • 3 of our wardrobes and the library arrived in Greece with extended damages. One of them has already been thrown away, the others have been fixed by a carpenter. Fragile things usually get at least bubble-wrapped, and wardrobes and wooden things do have polystyrene protections on the bases or angles to avoid damages. If I know this, surely the movers would have known that in advance, wouldn't they? All our fragile stuff was thinly paper-wrapped with no protection whatsoever. Even the Greek movers were surprised and astonished by the packing, and that says it all (!)

In conclusion the whole service of RemovalGroup has been awful from the beginning till the end (not to mention the e-mails we sent to the coordinator to which she never replied and thus we always had to look for her over the phone in order to try to resolve our issues).

This post and the signature in my e-mail are just small steps I implemented to save other people from doing the same mistake I made in choosing RemovalGroup. There is nothing I can do against them as they don't care at all about complaints (even written ones), they're not scared of bad publicity and I don't have time, money and will to bring them to court. The only thing I am doing right now is complaining with the Watchdog and trying to spread the news as much as I can.

I strongly believe that you, reader of this message, can help by making this post easier to find by Google and other search engines, or by sending the link to friends looking for a removal company, or using Facebook, Twitter, anything you like.

Thank you for visiting...

A stressed Andrea.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Chapter 2: at the airport

It's been a while since I posted last time: time spent with my family, work and other things kept me away from this blog. Do not even start to think that with 2 posts I am finished with London. Far from it.

Anyway, we booked a flight from London to Milan so that my parents would have a chance to see our sweet little daughter before the big holidays. Obviously, when you bring a 5 months-old baby with you on a trip, your hand baggage must contain something more than the latest Cussler book and a pack of paper tissues. We brought her pram, some expressed milk in a bottle, dummies and toys (some of them contain a small amount of water to soothe her teething pains).

At the security gates:

  • Procedure in Italy (known): Security Staff: "Anything baby-related is allowed, please pass through the metal detector with the baby securely buckled in the pram, we don't care if the metal detector blips or not. Have a safe flight". Elapsed time: 1 minute.
  • Procedure in Greece (forecasted): see above.
  • Procedure in England (known): Useless, slow, unhelpful security staff scratching his ass: "Remove the baby from the pram, put the pram in the conveyor to be X-rayed, hold the baby with you and pass through the metal detector". If it blips, strip yourself and the baby naked and repeat. Taste the baby milk, you might have put arsenic or explosive in it. Scan all the baby toys and the hand bag with a ridiculous small detector. Confiscate the gum cream we use to soothe our baby's aching gums. Confiscate the small toy our daughter gnaws because of her teeth, as it contains 10 ml of water. As I try to protest, I get reprimanded by another idiotic security guard, who looks and act so stupidly it must be the security boss. Elapsed time: 20 minutes.

Now, do you want to know how many incidents/accidents due to unscanned liquids happened on flights departing from Italy or Greece? Zero, none, zilch.

In England, the security people must have learnt a single procedure for security checks at the airport and they are so stupidly square-minded that no exceptions are allowed, no possibility to say: "OK, you're bringing a small child with you, we will be sympathetic". As if I really wanted to blow up a plane with my wife and my little daughter flying on it. You idiots.

Luckily enough, the London experience is about to finish: the only place worse than London I can think of is the US. I hope my bosses will not take that country into consideration when my contract expires. For the rest, I'll leave the description of US' horrible flaws to Michael Moore.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Chapter 1: at the bus stop

05:45PM: "spring" has arrived in full power in London: 6-7 degrees, freezing gusts of wind coming from every possible direction, pouring rain, people miserably waiting at the bus stop for the f*****g 44 bus.

06:00PM: still no sign of the bus, but we notice an anonymous bus parking behind another one, in the spaces reserved to the "not in service" double-deckers. We can't see the bus number, but we are confident that it can't be a 44 (!)

06:10PM: still no sign of the bus, dozens of people are now crammed at the bus stop: wet, impatient, resigned, but still quiet, passive and submissive. Not a surprise. They're English. We see a constant stream of other empty or half empty buses (82, 8, 11, 211, 52, 2, and so on...) passing by. All of them, except the 44.

06:15PM: I start to wonder who actually planned the bus routes and times in London. Did they ever bother to make simulations before releasing the bus schedule? My impression is that they didn't even take the hassle of drawing a bus scheme on the back of a f*****g napkin.

06:20PM: I can't take it anymore, so I start walking towards the taxis in Victoria: I come close to the anonymous bus described before... and guess what? It's a 44! Its driver is happily talking with a friend/colleague, relaxed, laid-back and comfortable in his seat, while dozens of people have been waiting for 35 minutes under the implacable rain. At this point, my Italian blood takes the lead and I throw at him all the possible insults I know in English. He doesn't even reply, but he obediently starts the bus and pick us up at the bus stop.

Now I understand why, on every bus stop, a little signpost says: "Don't take it out on our staff: we press for the strongest penalty on assault". Not sure if an English could ever react as I did, but for sure Transport for London has had few problems in the past because of assaults to TFL staff. And, noting the way TFL staff behave, I am not surprised at all. YOU press for the strongest penalty on assault... what should WE, commuters, press for because of your ineptitude, uselessness  and incompetence? 

We are not travelling for free, public transport in London is almost the most expensive in the world. What about a little re-thinking of your glorious bus-schedules? What about at least make the bus drivers respect your flawed schedule? 

Friday, 8 May 2009

Startup :-D

After 3 point something years of life in the UK, I decided to start this simple blog to record my personal experiences in The Doomed City, namely London. 

Some of my earliest (bad) memories are already starting to fade, and I don't have the Harry Potter's magical Bucket of Thoughts (or whatever is its name), but I am sure that by digging long enough in my brain I'll be able to remember.

I know this blog will not change anything about the Her Majesty followers way of thinking: nor could Destiny, Chaos, God, Walhalla or Mr Chunky Chips. Their attitude has been ingrained for centuries. But I will use this blog to yell out my frustration. It might become interesting in the future for my children to read, and to all the london-fans, neobrits and England-cheerleaders who know nothing about living in London.