Today after months of delay a man with a white van arrived at my French property with our long awaited luxury bathroom suite from Victorian Plumbing Supplies in the UK.
I feel I must share this story with you as a cautionary tale if you are not sure about the upcoming British EU referendum and think ukip and eurosceptic Tories have a point about the vast majority of UK Small and Medium Enterprises (UK SME) having nothing to gain from Europe and are only needlessly tied down by EU red tape.
Note: French DIY products are ridiculously expensive. Customer service is non existent in France. There is a great market opportunity for UK services sector here!
Our quest for a new British style luxury bathroom suite started in the January sales after visiting our kids and grand kids in East Anglia. Walking around various B&Q and Homebase type of shops we knew what we wanted and we could not get at Leroy Merlin or Brico Marché in France. All of this shiny showroom stuff is for ordering and home delivery only, but when you ask if it would be possible to divert that home delivery to the continent at our cost the silly sales girls’ jaws just drop in amazement like you’re from Mars.
Venting my frustration at a local plumbing merchant a guy who knew his stuff advised me to check out Victorian Plumbing on the Internet who allegedly delivered in France.
Here is my first caution, do not mistake Victorian Plumbing for a rip-off internet site called Victoria plumb. The latter are con artists of the worst kind probably trading on the reputation of the first mentioned. They took my money and promptly changed the delivery date from February to end May, as if I could just stop my project while they sourced non existing stock in their spring sale. It took me threats of legal action to get my money back.
While praising UK SME Victorian Plumbing for having the courage and conviction to dip their toes into that huge untapped consumer market conveniently right on the UK’s door steps they still have a lot to learn about eCommerce outside of the UK!
What gave me hope was when I saw at their check-out procedure Victorian Plumbing actually had a drop down list of all the EU countries they can export to without filling in a single customs form. What was disappointing is that after entering ‘country = France’ and my French ‘code postale’, the estimated delivery costs field remained stubbornly empty. (see screenscrape above) There was just a pop up message customer services would contact me soon with a delivery quote. So I waited. I waited a few more days. Then I called customer service who said they’ were waiting to get senior management approval. Must be the deal of the century my order? Come on guys, if for every EU sale, one paid for with a UK Barclay Card to boot, you have to bother senior management you still haven’t cottoned on to the EU opportunity you claim to want to grab.
So then I started tweeting to @Victorianplumb to vent my frustration. What is good about companies with a social media presence is that the bright internet savy kids they employ for that purpose know that in social media response has to be immediate. But of course they still are faced with some ukip voting middle management twat that thinks he has to authorise sales to British ex-pats in France because we must present a credit risk with our UK bank cards???? So while it’s nice to tweet to someone who cares and is just as frustrated as me with the rest of the company letting the export side of business down frustration still was mounting by the day.
God know how long later I finally get a ridiculous quote for a pallet delivery to France for £175,- I was shocked. Note that a month earlier I had a heavy woodburning stove bought on eBay UK, delivered straight from a Bulgarian Factory to the same address in France by DHL for just £50,- This was the ballpark transport quote I was expecting and now waiting for, for a good three weeks.
Naturally I declined their offer of EU transport and made use of Victorians ‘Free delivery anywhere in the UK for orders over £500,- Googling just one minute brought me into contact with a second anti #brexit UKSME who knows which side of their toast is buttered in the form of ParcelHop UK specialising in delivering where other UK companies fear to tread. Their quote was a much more realistic £75,- home delivery and they even were kind enough to let me add a UK sourced tractor tyre from Vulcano Ltd. to my delivery which saved me another small fortune compared to tyre prices in France. So yet another UK SME operating from a UK homestead who is not afraid to give great service just because a customer sounds a bit like a forringer 😉