Monday, 17 March 2008
Not exactly what it says on the tin...
Just under a month ago I spent a few hours painting some decking with Cuprinol Garden Shades - once so loved of the BBC's Ground Force gardening make-over team. Black Ash was the colour selected for the balcony of a period property. "Beautiful long lasting colours to transform and protect ALL your garden wood" (Cuprinol's emphasis) gushes the claim on the front of the can.
After less than a month of exposure to the British elements the 'long lasting' colour has simply flaked off. Disappointing - as I am an experienced DIY'er - and carefully followed all the directions on the can. I waited for a dry spell, sanded and cleaned the deck and applied 3 coats, with the manufacturer's directed intervals in-between each application.
This morning I re-read the can. Have you noticed how many companies now invite us to interact with them about their products? A quick survey of the larder contents reveals freephone numbers on products from beans to crackers for Tesco, Sainsburys, Heinz, Branston, Jacobs et al. Only M&S and Morrisons hide behind postal or web addresses.
Cuprinol, the ICI owned makers of Garden Shades say they would also like to hear from us. They're careful to label their helpline 'advice' not 'customer satisfaction' - as some others do - and they choose to charge for their premium (national rate) 0870 service. In a moment of frustration, I idiotically decide to phone Cuprinol and ask why the 'long lasting' product appears to be washing off after less than a month, when I had followed the instructions so carefully. After selecting from a menu of products I was connected to a well trained and apparently knowledgeable girl.
Apparently I've used the product at the wrong time of year:
"We really wouldn't recommend using the product outside March to September - the climate is too damp for the product to get a long lasting hold in damp conditions."
I ask where among the lengthy instructions Cuprinol advise customers of the seven months of the year when the product actually works.
"We're not saying it won't work during the other months - but conditions must be dry. Although you may not see it, the dampness at night affects the product."
When I point out that they don't seem to be very interested in customer feedback and that the product doesn't seem suitable for year-round use she invites me to send in some flakes of the paint for laboratory analysis if I believe the product has suffered a technical failure.
At this point Cuprinol's 'customer advice line' has told me all I need to know. I'm an imbecile who would be better off using a product which does exactly what it says on the tin. Funny that, isn't that precisely the claim of Cuprinol's main competitor, Ronseal, for their outdoor wood-care products?