Thursday, 20 February 2014

The curse of the voucher

We all like to get something for next to nothing and about a year ago, having been badgered by friends who were forever telling me about the wonderful bargains they'd got from Group or Wowcher - cheap holidays, shoes, even computers - I signed up. And soon realised that buying deals wasn't always a case of what you see is what you get.

I have had a couple of excellent, good value spa days; in fact, I shall be having another next Monday in a central London hotel. I've bought enough Oral B electric toothbrush heads to last for the next two years - the toothbrush will probably die before I run out of brushes for it. I have a year's supply of antihistamines for my itchy eyes and drippy nose. All truly useful and good value.

On the other hand, the size L thermal leggings would have been too small for a stick insect and the torch refused to shine. I got the latter replaced, but had to wait weeks for it to be processed, and as the leggings came from Taiwan, I decided it was easier to pass them on to a very tiny friend.

Just lately, having filled my bulging cupboards with everything I could possibly need, apart from a deaf, mute man with a tongue like an anteater and a PhD in computer skills, I launched myself into self-improvement, shelling out £49 for a £499 course in how to build your own website, with a company called Skillsology. The blurb on the voucher site claimed that the course was 'suitable for beginners'. Huh! I reckon I could have done them under the Trades Description Act because, once I'd redeemed the voucher on the company's website, which meant I could no longer claim a refund from the voucher company, I was told that before I could download the course, I had to fill in an on-line questionnaire.

It turned out to be no ordinary, simple, dumbed-down questionnaire, of the 'did you find our p&p charges excellent, good or poor' type. There were 43 questions, they were timed - you had 30 minutes in which to complete them - and you weren't allowed to change your mind and go back, you had to plough on. I looked at Q 1. It was pure technological gobbledygook. I clicked a random answer. Q 2 also made no sense. I only understood one word in three, as the rest referred to things like WX3Z26 protocol, or some such thing. By the time I found myself staring in bemusement at Q5, 20 of my 30 minutes had already elapsed and I had collapsed. I realised I had as much chance of designing a successful astronautical reverse wormhole thruster as I had of correctly answering even one question correctly.

Almost in tears by now, I emailed Skillsology, complaining that the course was absolutely not suitable for beginners and asking if it was possible to get my fee refunded. That was a few days ago. So far, they haven't bothered to reply.

Meanwhile, this morning a friend forwarded a voucher offer for a course on how to format your e-books for Kindle, including designing a cover. Only £29 and sounds just what I need! But then, so did the website one. Let's face it, I'm about as techy as an amoeba. There is no hope. I shall end up like my mum, who gave up on televisions once remote controls were invented. Thank heavens video recorders have bitten the dust. I was still trying to work out how to use mine when they invented the DVD! Though I'm not as bad as someone I know - male, too - who, unable to work a mobile phone, goes out with a walkie-talkie phone. Tin can and a piece of string, here I come!

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