The following may indicate how some customer service could put visitors off a repeat trip to the Isle of Wight.
Don’t get me wrong for the Isle of Wight is a beautiful place especially when the sun is shining down on you.
There is so much to see and do here for the holidaymaker when the weather is good. You can also eat yourself fat with the amount of cafes, pubs and restaurants serving luscious food stuffs in mega portions for reasonable prices. There are enough things here to keep people occupied for more than a week or two and to tempt them back.
However, some things are sent to try us even on such a wonderful island and the reason that the tourist could become frustrated with the island is due possibly to several of the services they do not receive here.
Let me tell you about my recent experience as a tourist on the Island and you decide if this is possibly indicative of why many local small businesses don’t survive well.
My scenario this week involved a couple of the bigger businesses
1. Island Roads
I go to visit my sister and sit her house while she travels on holiday. I am basically a tourist although I have lived here myself in the past. I go off to visit many people during the few days I will be here and arrive on a Friday afternoon.
On Saturday my sister departs on holiday and I travel out to events and meet with friends on the Saturday and Sunday. On the latter one of these, I take the bus over to Ryde to visit friends (going through Newport as this way with a bus change is faster than the round island route).
I stay overnight, have a great time catching up with friends and after a busy day return to sisters’ house by bus on the Monday – or so I think!
Having purchased a “value for money” bus pass for 7 days at £24 I am expecting to have a cheaper way of getting about. The regular bus fare is £4.50 per trip!!!! So the deal is a great one.
However, unbeknownst to me there are road works happening on the Monday and Tuesday night from 1830 – 0600 on the final part of my route. I say unbeknownst to me but actually apparently very few of the residents of Wroxall have been informed that the roads are being resurfaced and the road will be closed off for this period.
In fact I am already en route to home at 2030 when the lack of proper customer service and advice starts to show its face. We are part way on the final leg of my trip back to Wroxall when I discover the road closure.
Questioning the bus driver as to why we are not going to Wroxall, he tells me that yep it’s closed! He does tell me though that there is a shuttle running but he is not sure where it goes from or when it goes. Then he suggests two alternatives:
1. Go back to Newport and wait for a shuttle
2. Go to the pub in Ventnor where the bus stops, get a cab and then get a refund from Island Roads for not telling us that the road was closed!
I opt for the latter option as there is nowhere near enough to get off and walk faster by now as it is already nearly 9pm and getting dark and I am tired and alone to do the walk after a hectic 24 hours.
So I get to the pub the bus driver has suggested to order a cab and they have 2 cab numbers. The first one I call is telling me to wait an hour. The second one is switched off so I go back to Taxi firm number one and book him. Have a cider in the pub while I wait and eventually am home by 10.30pm.
Apparently my cab driver is the only one working in Ventnor area at this time of the night – the other taxi number I was given stops work at 8pm!!!!
Once home I am a little miffed (to put it mildly) so I get online and decide to call up the Island Roads customer service number to see if I can get a refund on my taxi fare at least!
The sweet girl there informs me that:
1 They wrote to householders in Wroxall to notify them about the road works. As I am not one of these people I have no way of checking until my sister comes back from her holiday. (when she does return later that week I discover NO letter was received!)
2. They announced in the Local paper and the radio that the works were happening. II do not read or listen to these as I do not live here!
3. They are not responsible for refunding me the taxi fare. It is my responsibility to KNOW when road works may affect me! She also mentions the fact that these things happen in London as well and people must make themselves aware.
What she forgets is that normally in other parts of the country they put up signs a month or two ahead of road works to give adequate warning of this on the routes that people usually travel.
There were no noticeable signs that I saw over the preceding 3 days to this effect. However, AFTER the roads were back to normal I came across one hanging on a post in a bush BEHIND the bus stop shelter!
2. Southern Vectis/Island Buses
I decide to talk to the bus company as there was no notice re the roadworks (in my line of sight anyway) displayed to show me the buses were restricted or diverted at all.
In fact as I was connecting in Newport and saw no sign and the bus had nothing written on it so I had simply jumped on it flashed my “value for money” pass and proceeded on the journey.
When I bring the issue up with the customer service woman in the bus depot next day, she asks me if I requested the bus to Wroxall. I tell her NO as I had a pass and just jumped on the Ventnor bus that states that it goes via Godshill and Wroxall.
Aha says she. Well if you had mentioned this to the driver he would have told you that the road was closed.
Aha say I, so when do the shuttles run instead of the bus which normally goes every 30 minutes?
I will check says she/ Aha they run at 1835 and then 2340!!!!! TWO bus shuttles only! So I would have been stuffed anyway as it was 2035 when I got the bus and I would have had to spend 3 hours hanging around or pay for a cab there too!!
Ask her for a refund for the taxi = NO chance of a refund but also NO signs on the bus stop or in the station detailing this either! How bloody stupid is that?
Having paid for a 7 day “FREEDOM” pass I don’t feel much freedom when the buses are restricted and I then also have to pay for a cab fare of £7.50 on top!
Due to the fact that the following night was also same status I had to cut short a visit to my friend in Cowes in order not to miss the final bus from Newport at 1805 or be stuck there until 2340..
On this second night I met a lovely lady who is a resident in Wroxall who had received no letter from Island Roads and also knew NOTHING about the bus stopping times and road works EVEN THOUGH Island Roads had told me that they wrote to all the residents to notify them! Go figure!
Finally, two days later and because I was actually SEARCHING for some notices or signs everywhere on the route of what was happening, I finally saw this sign.(Look to the right of the bus stop!)
It was placed behind the bus stop in Wroxall on a post in a hedge. As it was behind the bus stop the chances of everyone seeing it were miniscule as most people wait at or in front of the bus stop.in the sheltered part!
So anyone going to the Isle of Wight DO check all bus and road works sites to see if you will be presented with challenges when you visit this lovely island.
3. Royal Mail / Postal service
As I am currently travelling all over the place while I am in the UK visiting people, I occasionally leave an odd item somewhere. Normally this is NOT a big deal as I can do without the odd piece of underwear or jewellery for a time – if not permanently. I had not reckoned for the Isle of WIght though.- a slightly different scenario there!
As I am travelling by foot throughout towns mainly and I also suffer with bunions, I have two pieces of valuable footwear with me this trip. A pair of flip-flop rain shoes and a pair of comfortable trainers.
Unfortunately I left the trainers at my sisters in Kent last week but she was kind enough to mail them to me on the Isle of Wight as I would be there a few days before flying off again – this time to Spain.
I did realise the mailman may call while I was out and that he would leave a note. No worries there as I was prepared to get a redelivery or a collection. So when this happened I checked online and noticed that I could get them delivered in a variety of ways – to the house, another address OR (most conveniently for me) to the local post office.
So as I am in and out a lot and the mail tells you it could come at any time from 0900 – 1800, I opt for the local post office which is 3 minutes along the road. I will have to pay a small fee for this – a charge of 75pence but no worries I think. Convenience often has to be paid for after all.
On the appointed day I pop to the local post office and am met by a grumpy old man who tells me.
1. Nothing has been left and he knows nothing about this.
2. Maybe I should come back tomorrow and check again!
Not satisfied and having made a special trip down the road before I head off out (on one of the Island buses of course!) I call up the customer service helpline. Very pleasant chap there informs me it shows that a redelivery attempt has been made or is in the process of being picked up!
NO I tell him, not by me it has not been picked up – so please look into this and call me back.
No-one calls back but I have a missed call (unknown caller) at 3.15 that afternoon so I call the office again to be informed there is no further news and it was not them that called me!
I get home that night after a theatre outing to find a further card on the doorstep advising me the mailman came at 2pm to try to deliver the parcel. He has also circled AND starred the bit saying – we redelivered as requested!!! – Obviously this is NOT the case as I had requested the Post office as the drop-off point.
Next morning I call up the service again and am informed redelivery can be done again in a further two days!! As I would not be there on that day I decide toget the bus to the Ventnor post office and see if it is there (as suggested by the card). Bear in mind that this would have cost me £4.50 each way if I had not had my 7 day bus pass!
Having got on the early morning bus and travelled in the glorious sunshine I quickly find the Mail depot and a very lovely lady who gives me my parcel. I mention the story to her as I am annoyed the delivery was to the wrong place and she now informs me:
OH NO SORRY – we never leave parcels at the Wroxall post office because Mick there shuts early (at 1pm she said although I noted he shuts at 1.30) and he doesn’t like it if people don’t pick up their things so he sends them back if they are not collected!!!!
So the online service is not up to date with the local service and there is a definite lack of communication on this one. However, this royal mail lady redeems it all (added to the fact it was a glorious hot sunny morning of course) and she gives me their office number for the next time any parcel arrives and there is a procedure to follow. This I have subsequently passed on to my sister as I do not anticipate having to get a parcel at this location again……although you never say never!
Having collected my parcel, I wandered along the cliff in the sunshine and then headed down to the beach (Shale only sadly) to see if I could grab breakfast there.
It was 0915 and nothing opened there until 0930 but after a stroll I was then able to sit on the seafront with a sun-burnt croissant and coffee relaxing finally.
People on the Isle of Wight often refer to themselves as Caulkheads but as Ian Dury & the Blockheads would tell you there are always Reasons to be Cheerful…..….one, two three!