Monday, 16 May 2011

Jumping Jack Flash...

Some of you might remember, a while ago, my post ('It's a Gas') about the British Gas/Sainsburys energy partnership. I was invited - along with a restaurant full of bloggers, journalists and other interested parties - to the launch of the new initiative and came away with an appointment for a free energy efficiency survey among other things. My post, at the time, was entirely positive. The presentation was good, the aims clear and the partnership between a ubiquitous high street name and a team of energy expects seemed so obvious and beneficial that you wondered (or at least, I did) why it hadn't been done before.

Well, I'm now (almost) at the end of my extended 'trial' of this new service. Once my new boiler is fitted in a couple of weeks time the process that began at the Walnut Restaurant on Thursday 17th February and included an inspiring presentation by The One Show's Lucy Siegle will be at an end. My slightly superstitious nature is urging me to hold off writing this until the last rivet is in place and the new boiler (which I'm paying for, lest you get the wrong impression) is merrily burning a fraction of the gas used by our old one whilst giving twice the amount of heat and hot water. But no. I'm going to review the service, as requested. And as demanded by you, I'm going to be honest and open. And that means telling you that everything was not as I had expected.

For a start, the 'energy efficiency' survey seemed to consist of a glance in my loft, a check that the cavity walls were insulated and a rather long attempt to sell me a variety of 'energy efficient' products, from kettles to radiator panels. Oh, and new boilers. I resisted all but the final one, partly because I was told that - if I was quick and booked the appointment there and then - I'd qualify for some 'part-exchange' payment which was otherwise due to expire that very day. Well, our boiler is old and inefficient and I thought, 'no harm in having someone round to deliver a quote'. So an appointment was arranged.

At that point things looked up, because the chap who came to assess our need for a new boiler (apart from delivering the bad news that there never had been any kind of part-exchange that I'd have qualified for) was helpful, courteous and efficient. Which is more than can be said for his team back at the office.

We agreed to go ahead; I duly received a 'phone call from HQ, told them how impressed I'd been and how desperate I was to part with nearly three grand. Thence followed a period of radio silence. The promised follow-up did not occur. No one 'phoned or wrote a letter. Nothing.

Now I'm not usually in the habit of going out of my pay to part with hard-earned cash, but I swallowed my pride and I 'phoned them back. Of course, they were very apologetic and things moved swiftly from then on. An administrative oversight, no more, no less.

I'm happy - that glitch excepted - with the boiler side of the arrangement and very happy with the competitive quote I received. And, of course, it was a quote. In writing. So when they came back to measure up and order parts and found that we'd need considerably more complicated flue arrangements than originally thought, they agreed to stand the extra cost. Fair enough, if you ask me. And they spent a considerable amount of time making sure everything was just right.

Which is more than can be said for the chap who 'phoned about the solar panels. At my so-called 'energy efficiency' survey I'd expressed an interest in having someone check out the potential of my roof. In my inexpert opinion, it's excellent: a thirty-metre stretch facing due south. You'd think they'd be falling over themselves to sell me some photo-voltaic panels wouldn't you? But no. Turns out they couldn't even be bothered to take a look. Well, not in person. The 'expert' did 'phone and tell me he'd looked me up on google earth. We had a discussion about whether he'd seen the right property, prompted by his insistence that I had no more than a twelve inch gap between mine and my neighbour's property. But in essence, I just don't think he could be bothered coming out to take a look. He tried telling me that my south facing roof was in the shade of the house next door, which it might be, very slightly. But the fact that the house next door is but two storeys high and mine is three seemed to have escaped him. Oh well, I thought... if you don't want the work.

So it's all systems go for a new boiler. And boy, do we need it. I won't tell you how long it took to have my shower this morning. But if there are any solar panel engineers out there who'd actually be prepared to come out here and take a look, do let me know.

Because British Gas and Sainsburys don't seem that keen, between them, to take my money.

Not that there'll be any left once I've paid for the boiler.
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