There are updates to this story – Lloyds are innocent. I’ve left the original post unamended for posterity, with updates at the bottom…
Although I realise mine is a somewhat biased view, I’m pretty certain that Brenda here is the best mum who ever walked the planet.
And she’s the bravest person I know. This is the last photograph of her with her own hair. As she sat on that same stool, her head was shaved before the effects of chemotherapy took it from her.
But it seems that she has an admirer…
In the beginning…
A few weeks ago, my dad (also pictured – he doesn’t have cancer, he’s just bald) visited our local Lloyds Pharmacy to buy some things for my mum, including a bottle of own-brand Ginseng capsules. Because he had a lot on his mind (and because he was standing in a ‘reputable’ pharmacy), my dad never thought to check the expiry date on the bottle. Luckily, because she’s neutropenic as a result of her chemo, my mum *did* check it before taking the first one, just a few days later. The capsules were out of date by a few weeks. For those who don’t know (I was with you until last week), neutropenia is a condition whereby your immune system is basically ‘offline’. The common cold or a mild stomach bug can prove to be fatal, and consuming anything that’s past its expiry date is a big no-no.
After kicking himself, my dad trundled the (full) bottle of Ginseng caps back up to the same branch of Lloyds where he bought it. Because he didn’t have a receipt, they refused to help him in any way – obviously Ginseng fraud is a major concern these days and the branch staff figured that Lloyds simply couldn’t take the £4 hit that a refund or replacement might cause.
On Monday 14 October, Dad completed the ‘contact us‘ form on their website, outlining his unhappiness that he’d been made to feel like he was trying to pull the wool over their eyes, as well as the fact that he’d been sold out of date products in the first place. He filled in the optional field which asked for a phone number. That, it seems, was a mistake…
An admirer calls…
On Tuesday, 15 October, just before midday, my parents’ home phone rang (yes, they still have one of those – they’re in their 60’s) and my dad answered. According to him, a man in a call centre environment spoke to him and was quite abrupt. The conversation went roughly like this:
Caller: “Is Brenda there?”
Dad: “Who’s calling?”
Caller: “I need to speak to Brenda”
Dad: “Okay, but who are you?”
Dad: “Jonathan from where?”
Jonathan: “Are you going to let me talk to Brenda?”
Dad: “Not until you tell me what you want”
Jonathan: “Put Brenda on the phone”
Immediately, the phone rings again…
Jonathan: “Can I talk to Brenda?”
Dad: “Why do you want to talk to Brenda?”
Jonathan: “I want to stick my cock in her” *click*
Really, Jonathan? REALLY? She’s MARRIED, FFS. Get your own woman.
In an uncharacteristic moment of technological genius, my dad dialled 1471, which gave the number 02476 709090. He called it back, and someone answered, “Good afternoon, Lloyds Pharmacy…” Whoa.
He explained to them what had just happened, and a manager promised to look into it. Shortly afterwards, the manager called back. She said that there was no record of any calls being made to my parents’ house, and that they’d listened to some call recordings and found no evidence of abuse. Despite this, she offered to send them a £25 gift voucher – a little odd if there was ‘no evidence’, no? Anyway, that was that. Nothing more we could do, really. Until…
The admirer can’t let go…
Tonight, just before 8pm, the house phone rang again. My dad answered it to hear a now familiar voice say, “I’m closer than you think.” Needless to say, my parents are pretty terrified and have involved the police.
I’m not terrified in the slightest, I’m just angry. I’ve gone back to where it all began – the ‘contact us’ form, and added some feedback of my own. I hope Jonathan sees it:
Having previously worked in the CEO’s complaints team before I joined the social media massive, I’m fully aware that customers aren’t always sweetness and light. And let’s face it, that’s even less likely when you’re dealing with a complaint, right from the off. I’ve no doubt my dad was pretty stand-offish when ‘Jonathan’ first called and demanded to talk to mum; he can be like that. But rude? No. Aggressive? No. Even if he had been, isn’t that the type of customer that complaints staff are paid to deal with? My advice to you, ‘Jonathan’, is this: Go find a job that you’re actually capable of doing (probably one that doesn’t involve much walking, just in case I ever get my hands on you).
So what happens next…?
Police: Like I said, the Five-O are now involved. My parents called them about 20 minutes after today’s threatening call. They said an officer would be over within 24 hours, he was there in less than an hour. They’ll pass it to West Midlands Police, who will visit Lloyds’ HQ in Coventry tomorrow. Impressed so far.
Me: As some of you know, I don’t take kindly to people badmouthing my mum and this time, I’m on the warpath. I’ve tweeted about it, posted it on Facebook and now I’m writing this. Tomorrow, I’m getting in touch with the press and hitting Lloyds with a Subject Access Request.
Others: A friend with a rather popular blog (one with more than two posts on it *cough* must blog more *cough*) has been in touch and offered to spread the word a little further. And, well, you know how social media can be…
Lloyds Pharmacy: To their credit, Lloyds’ Social Media Manager (Jo) has already contacted me on Facebook and asked me to email her, promising to investigate the issue personally. I have to admit, I’m very impressed – it was midnight when she got in touch. Even though they have a bad apple somewhere in that building, it certainly looks like their social media team are getting it right – and that’s something I can appreciate. Obvs.
Let’s see what, if anything, Jo can deliver.
Thursday 17 October
Firstly, an edit note – I got the day of the first call wrong – it happened on Tuesday 15 October, not Sunday 13 October. Don’t blame me – I don’t sleep much. I’ve changed the text in the original post to reflect this update.
This afternoon, I received a call from Victoria, who heads up customer service across the whole of Lloyds Pharmacy. She had good news and bad news. The bad news came first: there was still no trace of a call originating from their building to my parents’ house, other than the legit one from the first manager who investigated.
The good news is that I have absolutely no doubt about Victoria’s shock at this, or about the sincerity of her promise to do whatever she can to find out what’s happened. She offered to get in the car and drive up to visit my parents, and she’s keen to also involve the police from their side. She did mention that it could be someone calling from elsewhere but presenting their number for caller ID. Although I know this is possible, I have to say that I think it’s unlikely; the fact that the call came just one day after the ‘Contact Us’ form was sent is a little too coincidental. Despite suggesting this theory, she wasn’t dismissive of what I feel is the most likely scenario, and accepted that the call could indeed have originated from within Lloyds. Investigations continue…
In short, Lloyds Pharmacy as a business is falling over itself to help us, and I don’t think it’s just to save face. Reputation aside, no business wants a dangerously incompetent moron like ‘Jonathan’ having access to their complaints data – I got the feeling that Victoria was particularly keen to find him and remove him, if that’s going to be possible. I can’t say I blame her.
Oh, and our friend ‘Jonathan’ has called again, today at 16.25. Seems like his enthusiasm’s waning – my dad said he couldn’t speak to mum, so he just hung up. The pathetic little moose knuckle.
It has now been established that the call did NOT originate from Lloyds. The investigating police officer told us that something happened which neither he or his colleagues have ever seen before; it seems that the call from Lloyds, which yielded their number, came in at the EXACT split-second in which dad hung up on the obscene caller. This meant that no call-waiting was triggered, but the phone didn’t ring.
I want to say here – a huge thank you to Lloyds Pharmacy for the effort they put into investigating this, and for their uninhibited cooperation with the police. And also – I’m truly, genuinely sorry for the negative attention that this brought to your door – you handled it superbly, both publicly and behind closed doors. Mum’s really ill at the moment, but once things are calmer, I’ll figure out a way to put the £25 voucher to charitable use.
The police continue to investigate. At the moment, they’re looking into a ‘cash for gold’ type business, based in London. We’re waiting to see what happens next.