Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I talk about customer service and the Covid vaccine roll out. Also, some exciting news about a new addition to our family. First, the Quote of the Week.
Quote of the Week
There has been a recurring theme in my blog, where I blast companies that provide poor service. I want to look at this from the opposite side though, and look at how good customer service is based on a relationship between the customer and the business.
Everyone reading this, at some point, will have been offering a service or product and had a challenging customer. There’s nothing wrong with being a challenging customer if you are polite. It’s the lack of courtesy that ends up producing poor service.
In the last couple of weeks I have had a number of friends in different types of business confide in me that they have been reduced to tears by customers who were nasty and abusive. I don’t get this mindset. It takes more effort to be an asshole than to just be polite, and a normal human being.
Everyone has their own limit and their own red lines, which when crossed, result in that person shutting down. The one that bugs me the most is when people just interrupt at every opportunity. If you ask me a question, please give me time to answer it. Also, understand that if you are talking to someone on the phone, or in a shop, even when you are talking to a manager the chances are they have absolutely no input in deciding policy. If you shout and scream you may get what you asked for but this does not necessarily mean you were right and the company was wrong. It just means the company made a business decision to pay you money to shut up and go away.
Some of the things I have heard customers say are just awful. In a previous job I was handling a complaint for a customer who was stating that a member of staff had terminated their call. Upon listening to the call, the customer had shouted that they hoped the staff member’s children “got AIDs”. I mean, seriously? What goes through a person’s mind for them to say these types of things?
All companies will get things wrong, but in my experience most staff will go to great lengths to resolve errors for people if they are treated with civility and respect. Simple things like saying, “hello” or asking “how are you?” at the start of an interaction can make all the difference. It’s just basic human decency.
Another week down on my journey to FIRE. My mental health is still not great and I do spend a lot of time just doing nothing. It’s like there is a complete absence of mental energy to do anything, and so I just sit and read or listen to an audiobook. I need to get to a point where I can exercise regularly again because that has proven time and time again to be the best way of keeping me sane and content.
I have some exciting news though. We have a new cat. His name is Bob, although I have taken to calling him Bobby, Bobbles, Bobbity and when we’re feeling a little more formal, Sir Robert. He’s 12 and very nervous. He has spent much of his time hiding but has come out a few times for food, head scratches and a drink. We are just giving him space to explore our apartment and when he’s ready, he will settle down.
Bob came to us because his owner, who had him since he was a kitten, met a new partner who is allergic to cats. She must be heartbroken at having to give up her friend of over a decade. Animals aren’t just things that can be discarded. They become family. If my girlfriend was allergic to cats it would be awful. It would be such a wrench but in the end I would help her find a new home.
I have had my second Covid vaccination and fortunately I did not have any real side effects this time. I did feel a bit tired and light headed, and my arm is bruised. This is a far cry from my first jab when I was shivering and had cold sweats. The organisation behind the vaccine roll out has been fantastic. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to all those NHS workers and volunteers who are working on the vaccine project, as well as those researchers who created the vaccine. It’s a testament to human ingenuity that we were able to create this vaccine so quickly, ignoring for a moment all the mistakes made by world governments in not controlling the spread more effectively.
2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021
1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg. (Current weight 120.5kg).
2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 40).
3 – Complete RO3 for my DipFA. (In progress).
4 – Complete RO4 for my DipFA. (Not started).
5 – Complete RO5 for my DipFA. (Not started).
6 – Complete RO6 for my DipFA. (Not started).
I’ve made good progress with my reading since the last post. In the past week I have read an absolutely fantastic book called The Fuck It List by John Niven. The book is set in the near future in the United States where Trump has been elected for a second term in office. The protagonist receives a terminal cancer diagnosis in the first few sentences and decides to just, “fuck it.” I will not say more for fear of spoiling it, but it was just incredible. It was funny and horrific in equal measure. The book seems primed for a film adaptation and I think the Coen brothers would be perfect for such a project. I’ve popped the link to the Amazon in the image below. If you use that link to purchase the book, it means I will earn a small commission.
Premium Bonds: £1,200.00 (up £200.00 from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £22,768.74 (up £101.47 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £849.42 (up £200.71 from last update).
Crypto: £453.27 (down £208.72 from last update).
Pensions: £44,913.83 (up £438.64 from last update).
Residential Property Value: £199,355.00 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Property Value: £128,644.00 (no change from last update).
Total Assets: £398,184.26 (up £732.10 from last update).
Credit Card: £1,049.13 (up £240.68 from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £139,949.54 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,121.57 (no change from last update).
Total Debts: £234,120.24 (up £240.68 from last update).
Total Wealth: £164,064.02 (up £491.42 from last update).
Investment Income in 2021: £476.35 (target £5,000).
By the time of the next post I should have received another instalment of rent, as well as some dividends from my stocks. It might just take my investment income for the year to over £1,000. I’m annoyed at my credit card balance because it should be much lower. I’ve made several payments to the card but because Virgin Money’s systems are rubbish, the payments have been delayed.
Cryptocurrencies have been hammered in the last few weeks. I don’t fully understand crypto and that’s why I’ve not allocated a huge amount of money to it. I’m concerned by the fact that these types of currencies are not backed by anything. Their volatility also concerns me. The other factor that I’m not comfortable with is the environmental impact of crypto. Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity and the carbon footprint of it is getting worse all the time. Recent reports state that Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is roughly the same as New Zealand’s.
I don’t know what the future holds for crypto but I just can’t see a world where all these competing currencies take over from traditional, national currencies. There is too much at stake for the big economies of the world to have their currencies undermined.
How to do Business
I don’t like playing games or haggling when it comes to business. I prefer an open approach where all parties just say it like it is. All the cloak and dagger stuff just annoys me. Just be transparent in how you do business and it’s better for everyone.
A few days ago our letting agent emailed to explain that our tenants contract is due to end in a couple of months and the agent wants to charge us £120 to renew the tenancy. I exchanged a few emails with the manager of the local office and I was deliberately playing down how much I knew about tenancy renewals. I explained that I wasn’t comfortable paying any sort of fee based on the service we’ve had so far. The manager offered to reduce the fee by half. I went back and asked why any sort of fee was necessary because when an Assured Shorthold Tenancy ends, it normally just reverts to a rolling monthly contract. There is literally no extra work for the agent to carry out. The manager came back and said that we could move on to a rolling contract at no cost. The thing is, this option was never actively made clear by the manager. All the communications were based on the assumption that we had to pay a fee to renew the tenancy.
I know that if we moved to a different agent there would be fees to pay, but I’m almost tempted to do that just to give this agency the middle finger. Throughout our, albeit brief, relationship they have been unclear with their communications. It’s starting to become a pattern.
For now, I think we will just stick with the agent whilst we have this tenant. Once the tenant moves out I think we may look for another company. Changing agents at this point just adds another variable to this situation which I really don’t feel like handling right now.
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Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com.