Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I spent 850 hard earned dollars on a brand new Samsung refrigerator in October 2009. It started making a little ticking noise in about September 2011, but still worked perfectly well, so I thought nothing of it. In early December 2011 I took the fridge to the house in Mallacoota. I left it unplugged for a week, to allow the gases to settle, then turned it on. It worked for about an hour, then shorted-out, taking half the power in the house with it.

Long story short – the fridge mechanic in Mallacoota (who is the auto electrician, of course) had a look at it and pronounced the compressor dead. The fridge was only just out of warranty – but the compressor has a FIVE year warranty. You with me so far?

Since then I have made at least nine phone calls to Samsung, and sent three emails. Each time, I have had to go through the entire sorry story again with yet another call-centre operator whose main prerequisite for the job would appear to be that English is not their first language.

First Call
‘The fridge is in Mallacoota.’
‘That’s outside the service area.’
‘OK, there’s a mechanic here who can fix it as long as you have the part.’
‘OK, email us your proof of purchase’
Email #1, with proof of purchase attached
Second call
 Preamble (fridge out of warranty, failed compressor still under warranty, fridge outside service area etc etc)  plus ‘Can you just replace the part?’
‘Yes, ok. Email this address and someone will contact you within 24-48 hours.’
Email #2 sent, 
48 hours later, no call.
followed, a week later, by email #3  
I went to England. In my absence a letter arrived. My daughter contacted Samsung and gave them the address to send the part to.
Third call, over 3 weeks later.
Preamble (recited slightly less patiently) plus 'The part you said you would send hasn’t arrived.’
‘We don’t send parts to customers.’
‘You told me you did.’
A letter from Samsung arrived, asking me to send the letter back to them(???) Confused, I made the fourth call.
'I'm not sure why I'm supposed to send this letter back to you - what is the point of this?' (They couldn't tell me, but so began The Amazing Samsung Run-around. Nobody was sure what the letter meant. I just wanted my bloody fridge sorted!
Fourth-eighth calls, all on the same day a week later – I was told so many different things by different people, who would put me and my (Samsung) mobile phone on hold, then get back to me (or not) – or leave voicemail messages for me to call them back – and then I would have to explain the entire thing again. Someone actually told me I hadn't sent my proof of purchase! I offered to resend it, and quoted the date of the email I had sent several weeks earlier. In the end, with a vein throbbing in my forehead,  I just lost the plot.
Preamble plus ‘PLEASE - Can someone just tell me how the heck I can get this under-warranty compressor fixed?’
‘You have to take it to a service agent.’
‘It’s in Mallacoota. I’m in Canberra. There’s someone in Mallacoota who can fix it, but you need to send him the part.’
‘We don’t send parts out to customers. We send them to authorised technicians.’
‘There’s a fridge technician in Mallacoota.’
‘Get him to call us with his details so we can authorise it.’
The Mallacoota guy who fixes fridges is the auto-electrician, right, so he is licenced to gas up car air-cons, not fridges. Samsung will never authorise him. Never fear though, because the real estate lady in Mallacoota knows an engineer who can do such things.
‘I’ll find out his details from the real estate agent.’
By this time, my left eye is twitching and I am in serious danger of imploding.
Turns out the engineer is retired – therefore, he may be perfectly capable of fixing my bloody $850 fridge, but I just know what Samsung will say about that – it’s not even worth phoning them again. My head is in my hands, I'm ready for a straitjacket and I want to take to the $850 fridge with a baseball bat.

So. In disgust and desperation, Mark & I find an ancient op-shop fridge that costs $80. We clean it up and put it in the house. It works like a charm. We bring the offending two year-old, $850 Samsung fridge back to Canberra.

Right, Samsung. Now you have no excuse.

Today’s phone call.
After reciting the preamble and adding that I brought the fridge all the way back to Canberra so it would be within their service area, they gave me the names of two service agents. Oooh, now I’m getting somewhere.

Wrong again. Here’s the story – the compressor is under warranty, so Samsung will provide it to the authorised agent. Paying for the service call-out and the labour will be my responsibility. 

Bottom line. The throbbing vein is back. To fix my two-year old $850 Samsung fridge with the shitty compressor that only managed to last until the actual fridge itself was out of warranty, it will cost me $116.60 for the service call-out (and first 15 minutes), then $33 per 15 minutes after that. The workshop informed me it would be about a 2 hour job. Do the numbers – that’s $347.60. Add the cost of fuel getting it back to Canberra (about $50) – and the same to get it back down to Mallacoota again when it's fixed - and the $80 op-shop fridge in the meantime – that’s more than half the cost of another brand new Samsung fridge! All to replace a part that (a) is still under warranty, and (b) should’ve lasted a damned sight longer than 2 years! I don't think I can be bothered.

When I move to Mallacoota I will buy a new fridge, yes. But guess what?  
It won’t be a Samsung. 
Oh no, Samsung, this loyal customer is now a very frustrated and angry ex-customer, and you are on my shit-list. I've had two Samsung fridges and four Samsung phones in the past. My next fridge will be a Kelvinator or a Fisher and Paykel, my next phone will be an iPhone rather than a Samsung Galaxy, and I think I'll go for the iPad option, rather than the Samsung Galaxy Tab I had been eyeing off. So long, Samsung!

In which Betty has house guests in paradise

What better way to end the school hols than a ride with friends to my favourite place? Originally we were going to ride to Bright in Victoria, but the accommodation there was all booked out, so we decided Chez Betty in Mallacoota would be a lovely alternative.

The ride down, via Cann River, was lovely, although it was rather warm. I chucked a Mr Bean by the roadside, removing my thermal undershirt without removing my (over)t-shirt. (Deb, pls forward photographic evidence of this marvellous feat!)

It was baking hot in Mallacoota and the March flies were biting. This was the only blot on an otherwise fabulous trip. We visited the community markets and my bikie buddies bought me a housewarming lizard for the back porch (ta heaps guys!) Going to Betka Beach on our bikes was, er, do-able but not comfortable – the beach itself was magnificent, but donning bike gear afterwards, over sandy bods and feet, ensured I looked like the proverbial beetroot by the time we got back to the house. This is because I dare not ride without all my protective gear – call me silly, but with my history of falling off my bike…  Note to self: a car is a useful thing for such activities. When I live there full-time I will have my car on hand for chauffeuring duties.

Cruising the bottom lake, which is enormous, on the 100 year-old ferry, the Loch-Ard was brilliant – a running commentary by George (the Captain) and chat with Pam (the Admiral) complemented the stunning views – and I don’t have enough superlatives to describe the majesty of the sea eagles. We learned that they are quite fussy, and saw for ourselves that they prefer mullets (the fish, not the haircut) to mackerels.

At home again, the roos in the back paddock were entertaining, the night sky was unimaginably starry, the wine was abundant and I befriended a rather large visitor (see pic) who liked the carrot I dangled over the back fence.

 As the hostess, I felt I should stay behind to wash the sheets & towels etc, so bade farewell to my fab travelling companions on Sunday. It was roasting weather, so I imagine their ride home wasn’t very comfortable – but it only took an hour for the washing to dry, which was nice!

Peter and Margaret from Adobe Mudbrick Holiday Flats, treated me to a lovely dinner at The Tide on Sunday night – many thanks, my friends!

The high winds of Sunday arv continued overnight and when I woke on Monday morning, all ready to pack and head for home, there was already 13mm of wet stuff in the rain gauge, and more falling from the sky. Naturally, my wet weather gear was in Canberra, where I had discovered that a certain cat (I’m not certain which cat, mind you!) had peed on it and rendered it stinkily unwearable.

What to do? Stay another day? (but it’s back to school on Wednesday!) Ride home in the wet and get my lovely leather jacket all soggy and disgusting? (yuk, and clammy…) Go into town and look for something waterproof? Brilliant idea! I waited for the rain to lessen a bit, loaded the bike, locked up and headed to the hardware shop. I bought myself a bright orange waterproof, which would probably get me barred from the Harley-riding fraternity, and which pretty much guaranteed an immediate stop to the rain, and a sauna all the way to Bombala. Well, most of the way – I was glad to have its sauna-inducing properties on the high parts of the Imlay Road, when I rode through some very cold, very low cloud.

Speaking of the Imlay Road – now the roadworks have been finished, it’s a brilliant run again. 60kms of sweeping turns, and in that whole time I only saw 6 logging trucks, one campervan and one Forestry ute.

In Bombala I removed said waterproof, pretty much guaranteeing I would be rained upon, and continued home. A few random raindrops hit me when I was about a kilometre from home.

As I close the door on Mallacoota - for a few weeks, at least - and face the inevitable, imminent return to school for a new academic year, I feel rested and revitalised, ready for the challenges of 2012 – one of which will be to lose the blubber that I found over the holidays!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Travel Bug(s) - I got the lot!

In which Betty has literary adventures, finds the English heartland and succumbs to some travel bugs.
So the rest of my English sojourn taught me several things:
  •  England, despite being the country of my birth, is a foreign country. And a cramped and crowded one.  And overheated in the winter, except for the train that I took from York on a freezing morning – the heating in my carriage had broken down, and the air-con was blasting colder air into the already frigid air. I could barely feel my toes by the time we reached London – and it was warmer off the train than on it.
  • Heating problems notwithstanding, it’s far better to catch a train than a bus – road traffic is an abomination over there. Gridlock on a Sunday arv at Clapham Junction ("Ladies & gentlemen, due to works on the railway line, please change to the bus") stretched what should've been a one-hour train trip into a two hour road-ordeal.
  • English birdsong is magnificent.
  • I have no immunity to English germs.
 I don’t think I could live in England again – it’s so crowded. However, I had some wonderful times. Cousin David drove me and Auntie Min around Epsom to show us around – we went to Epsom Downs, where the famous Derby is held, and the Epsom Well (reputed to have therapeutic waters). 
Epsom Well  

Epsom Well again - up close
 I had a family New Year at Cousin Helen's, in Kent - great fun.
Auntie Min tripping the light fantastic with Helen on NY Eve. Cousin Ray makes sure he gets a photo of this momentous event before heading back to the wilds of Penzance.
 I visited my other aunt and uncle in the (very) little village of Coleby, in Lincolnshire. It’s the England you expect after watching The Vicar of Dibley, with endless green fields and hedgerows, old stone houses, a village green, an old parish church with an old churchyard – English heartland stuff. I went to one of the (in)famous village parties and met lots of neighbours.
Jan & Brian, my 'village people' aunt & uncle. You can tell from Brian's impish expression that he's about to say something wicked. He's a (very funny) mine of information about architecture, English history and the difference between toffs and the middle class, and Jan filled me in about family history and showed me the how and why of setting up binoculars properly, to further my birdwatching education. The pair of them also made me eat lots of Chorley Cakes. Had an absolute ball!

The village green (and I think that funny structure may be the old well?), Coleby
 I fed my love of literature and history when we motored through the Wolds and visited Somersby, where we went to the tiny church of St Margaret and I touched the baptismal font where Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was christened (his father was the rector there.) We saw the Dambusters memorial in Woodhall Spa, and looked at Windsor chairs in an antique shop. 
The tiny St Margaret's Church, Somersby, where Tennyson was baptised
 I had a Dickens experience, visiting Gravesend and Rochester in Kent, and a bit of a Jane Austen moment on an outing to Box Hill in Surrey when Cousin Janet came visiting from the West Country. Ann and I drove past the place where Charles Kingsley is buried.
Kent: The house where Charles Dickens honeymooned, and did a bit of writing

Rochester Cathedral, seen from the walls of Rochester Castle
The lookout at Box Hill: Jerry, Janet & Auntie Min
 I went stomping around York with my friend Abhay until my legs almost dropped off. It seems that no matter which way you go, you end up going past the Minster. York is beautiful, and the National Train Museum there was great fun.
York in Turner-esque morning light

York - monastery ruins, courtesy of Henry VIII
Australian ruin (oooh my aching feet!) courtesy of my youthful, long-legged guide Abhay (left)
 I found myself in awe of the driving skills of the Brits – so many of the roads are far too narrow for two way traffic – especially when cars are parked along both sides of the road – and yet they manage somehow.

RANT:  found myself not a fan of the NHS when, the day before I was due to fly home, the Killer Sore Throat bug was worsening rather than improving. I had no voice, couldn’t swallow, was shivery and miserable, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane home. Auntie Min was also a victim of the bug, so we taxied to the doctor.  Here’s where I got cross. I had to pay fifty pounds to see the doctor, and the receipt they gave me was just a cashbox receipt – no indication that it was from a medical practice – I will never be able to claim anything back (despite the reciprocal agreement that England and Australia have regarding doctors’ visits...) To add insult to injury, the doctor said the bug was probably viral, not bacterial. He prescribed antibiotics anyway, telling me they would probably have limited efficacy – and then the chemist told me that as the doc had prescribed capsules rather than tablets, the prescription would cost thirty seven pounds to fill, rather than five. Rather a lot for something that the doctor doesn’t expect will be very useful anyway, don’t you think? I told the man in Boots "Thanks but no thanks, a funeral would be cheaper", and took my germs and my prescription away in disgust.

Some fast talking (well, squeaking) on my part and a kind-hearted community-minded pharmacist who must unfortunately remain nameless (i.e., not Boots!) took pity on me and let me have the tablets instead. For God’s sake, the actual drug and dosage were the same – but ridiculous prescription rules mean that if you are prescribed a 250mg erythromycin capsule, you have to have the 250mg erythromycin capsule, not the 250mg erythromycin tablet. Duh!

The tablets were far more effective than the doctor had led me to believe. Within 18 hours I felt human again.

So – that was the rest of my trip. Because I was so sick I wasn’t able to catch up with Ann again, or my friend Fran in London – and my plans to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum had to be shelved. Bugger. Perhaps next time.

Because there will be a next time! It was very hard to say goodbye to everyone. As long as I have family in England, I’ll keep going back. I’ll try to avoid germs next time though.