You’d have thought Waitrose would be totally geared up to parties. One phone call or one visit to a store and you could order glasses, drink and food. No such luck!
My partner Chris was having his eightieth birthday party, for about 90 people, on Saturday 21 July. His daughter Jess and grandson Louis came over from Australia and on Monday 16 July they went to Waitrose in Thame, naively confident that they could place a large order and have the party licked by lunchtime. It was not to be, and if it wasn’t for Jess’s tenacity and patience I don’t know what would have happened.
They started at the ‘customer service desk’ with their list of requirements (principally glasses, wine, cheese, salads and raspberries) and first asked for glasses. They were told there were no glasses available. While Chris cruised around the wine department to identify his needs, Jess pressed for more information. The assistant went online and said there were glasses at Henley, but Jess would first have to book them by phone.
So they went home and Jess phoned Henley Waitrose who said they didn’t take orders over the phone! Jess argued that Thame had told her to do this and at last Henley said it would ‘make a non-routine booking’ provided they went to Henley that day to confirm the order.
They set off for Henley, feeling quite upbeat that they could order everything there. But again it was not to be. At the ‘customer service desk’ Sylvia was pleasant and polite but could not produce the goods. Although the glasses were now booked, in the food department Sylvia could only book the pasta salads and cheese – ‘but it’s too late to order brie de meaux, we need six days’ notice’. The rest had to be done over the internet.
Back home they trudged, feeling tired and deflated. Jess spent a long time on the phone to David in the customer service department at head office, explaining the rigmarole she had gone through and he agreed that it was not good. He eventually arranged, in another ‘non-routine booking’, for Craig in Henley Waitrose fruit and veg to take an order over the phone for raspberries. Then Jess phoned Wine Direct, as advised by David, only to find the minimum order was boxes of 12. No good.
I went to Henley Waitrose later that week to buy the wine – and of course Henley did not have the brands which Chris had identified in Thame so I had to find out from him what would be acceptable alternatives. I was thus forced to do that which I abhor, make phone calls from the store (but I did keep my voice down, unlike many people in Henley Waitrose).
The upshot was that we spent a vast amount of time and petrol, not to mention the stress, and there were numerous separate collections and deliveries just for the one party. Everyone had tried to be helpful but they gave conflicting messages. Moreover, the stuff which we ordered by internet came with far too much packaging and there wasn’t a ‘no plastic-bag’ option.
Despite all these tribulations, the day seems to have been enjoyed by all. And perhaps by the time we celebrate Chris’s ninetieth, Waitrose will have got its act together.