On Tenter-hooks

As a child I recall getting several common day-to-day phrases completely and utterly wrong. I suspect it stemmed from a childlike lower vocabulary. I was, after all, more of a scientist than a language scholar and, when it came to reading, Biggles was it. One hears a phrase, doesn’t immediately understand all the words that might be therein and plugs in words that are familiar, sound right and that seem to make sense at the time. I have a suspicion that I wasn’t the only one. How I chortled when I read some other poor soul referring to “… in one fowl sweep” instead of “… in one fell swoop”. It is entirely understandable, of course. Who on earth refers to fell in that sense other than J. R. R.Tolkien?

I think my personal worst howler was being convinced that the phrase, “to toe the line” was, in fact, “to tow the line”. I had particularly vivid visions of a team of people pulling some huge weight behind a rope over their shoulders. People in the team who were not “towing the line” were not doing their fair share of the work, in my mind. Whoops! Another phrase, again that I suspect is understood by few, was “being on tenter-hooks” which I thought were “tender hooks”. I blame the film, “A Man Called Horse” who was strung up on hooks through his pectorals. Now that would be tender. Yukko!

That’s enough introduction: I’ve just spent a complete week on tenter-hooks. Having agonized for what must be two years over which expensive, more powerful lens to buy, if any, for my nature photography, I finally jumped in with both feet and ordered one online. Especially with my interest in birds, I’d started feeling that the camera was not the limiting factor but the glass was. I considered plug-compatible lenses like Sigma but settled on the grandly named original “Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM”. Wow, what a mouthful!

Having spent so long researching which lens I should buy, I uncharacteristically forgot to research the company supplying it. Since I appeared to be able to save ~£140 over my usual preferred supplier, Warehouse Express, on Tuesday I leapt before I looked and ordered it from Simply Electronics. My order went well and was soon showing up as “New” on their system.

About a day later I received, via Twitter, a note from some well-meaning incognito individual, a “mention” saying that Simply Electronics was “appalling and best avoided”, accompanied by a link to a shopping review site. I looked and my heart fell.There were, indeed, several folks with horror stories about this outfit’s after-sales customer service: credit card debited immediately, goods not appearing, orders cancelled and refunds not appearing. It seems that Simply Electronics was a Hong Kong based organization. Their “M.O.” is to debit one’s credit card immediately and then worry about supply and shipment, it seems. Wail! Moan! Tremble! What had I done?

The following day my order showed as “Processing”. It remained that way for two more days. The website claimed that delivery usually occurred in 2-5 working days – 1 week to you and me. I was having a week of sleepless nights convincing myself that I had wasted £1300 and would have to fight to get it back. I was getting to sleep but would awake early and that was that. Fret!

On Saturday (day 4) the order still showed as “Processing”. I was convinced noting would happen over the weekend and looked no further. Since Monday was the first working day after the weekend I didn’t check then, either, having resolved to look on Tuesday. Imagine my surprise and utter relief when, on Monday evening I found an email saying my order had been processed and handed to DPD for delivery. The note came complete with a tracking code and link to the DPD website. On Monday evening my fancy new lens and filter were apparently in Newbury.

Early on Tuesday morning I checked again. My fancy new lens and filter had been confirmed in DPD’s Dunstable depot. Shortly after 9:00 AM my fancy new lens and filter were “on the van for delivery, arrival time expected between 13:34 and 14:34 PM”.

My order turned up, as advertized, at about 13:45 PM on Tuesday, precisely one week (5 working days) after I had placed the order. Furthermore, I knew pretty much when it was going to turn up, and the estimate was accurate. I was a very relieved and happy camper.

I know this is a statistically unrepresentative sample of one but I have had no other delivery that I could track as well. I didn’t care for waiting 5 days for delivery, the next day would be much better, but I did save 10% and, after the initial 3 days of “Processing”, I seemed to know what was happening. Having received an email telling my goods had been dispatched, that same email encouraged me to reply when they had been safely delivered. I did so and received another follow-up email. I’ve never had that from anyone else. Clearly several people have had bad experiences and, had I seen those ahead of time, I would not have placed my order with Simply Electronics. This order did, however, “do exactly what it says on the can”.

Could it be that Simply Electronics has taken notice of its bad press and done something about it? It’s tempting to think so although, it must be said, that most problems seemed to be with refunds, or lack thereof, when things went wrong. Normally credit cards are not debited until goods are available. When things go right, any company provides good customer service. It’s things going wrong that sorts the men from the boys.

Now, I’d like the Canon 1.4X II extender to go with my new toy. £240 plays £290. Can my heart take it? Hmmm!?

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