Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Adopt a vineyard row in Italy

I believe in giving back to the community, so I have been a volunteer for different causes for several years. Since I have become a parent, my charities of choice have been the NCT and the Breastfeeding Network. I have been involved with NCT newsletters since 2007 and with the BfN since 2008. I'm currently editing/designing the Cambridge NCT newsletter and volunteering as Breastfeeding Helper at local NHS baby clinics. But what has a picture of a vineyard got to do with all this?
When I visited my family in Italy in August, I heard of another good cause, which I'd like to showcase here. I grew up in a small village called Castagnole Lanze, located in Piedmont between Asti and Alba. For those of you who don't know the region, the capital city is Turin, where the 2006 Winter Olympics were held. Asti is renown for its Palio and wines (don't be fooled by dire Asti Spumante versions sold in supermarkets), Alba has a donkey Palio and a truffle fair. That's where the prestigious white truffle comes from - its nickname 'the white diamond' says it all. Piedmont wines are hearty and full of body (Barbera, the famous Barolo, Barbaresco... click Piedmont wines for more info).

Now, this initiative, which struck such a cord that it made national TV news, is championed by local residents with the support of the council. All is explained at www.lanze.it, which has an English version. All you have to do is to download a form, fill it and email it back with your payment.

The adoption contract consists of:  
  • Choice of the row in your favourite vineyard
  • Name and surname of the adoptee on the adopted row wooden head stake
  • Instant information on the status of the adopted row by webcam on the website
  • Opportunity to visit and attend the row processing, harvesting and winemaking
  • A minimum of 12 bottles of 0.75 litres of high quality Barbera
  • Personalised label with name and surname of the adoptee, row number and name of the vineyard
  • Possibility of presenting the row to friend or loved one as a unique gift

These are the objectives of the campaign:   
  • Land and wine landscape safeguard and protection, as a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage List
  • Ensuring the survival of grapes producers, custodians of the land
  • Search more high-quality product in the bottle
  • Creation of tourist itineraries in the territory
  • Encourage and reward "loyal Tourism"
Interested? Visit www.lanze.it for more info.

    A row of Barbera

    Sunday, 19 September 2010

    Dodgy internet buys


    I'm not an ebay buff but have bought and sold stuff online through various websites.

    I have never had problems until now, except the time we bought a faulty stroller from Gumtree (from a private seller). I have some dodgy purchases from high street retailers too but have complained and got results in all cases.
    Now I can claim I have had the worst customer experience from an online retailer. I bought a child bike seat in June from a third party seller on Amazon. After two uses the attachment broke and I emailed the seller through Amazon to request replacement/repair.

    The seller insisted it was my fault as I had tried to detach the seat from the bike, which (unusually as all seat are transferable) is not remarked in the instructions. I asked if they could send me a replacement as per guarantee. Amazon did some mediation but they couldn't help further as the seller didn't even want to recognise my right to a guarantee. (Amazon has a guarantee program but it doesn't apply to items that become faulty after delivery).

    My partner, who fitted it was not happy about the safety of the seat as it has no safety standards and required constant readjusting (which also contributed to the fault according to local bike shop owner), so we emailed again requesting a refund. The seller didn't even reply. So I contacted Amazon again and they advised contacting the Office of Fair Trading and they said they would assist in any enquiry. Unfortunately they advised me to do what I had already done and if the seller would not oblige I could take the seller to the small claims court (which costs more than product).

    I'm stuck with a useless product and I'm really annoyed. Furthermore my day job is product testing for a parenting website so the lack of any safety standards numbers (common in children's products) should have alerted me that it's not a suitable product.

    I can't believe the seller's attitude. If I bought the product at any retailer they would have at least repaired, replaced it or refunded the money if I was unhappy with a product that wasn't properly presented in its description.

    I might sound like a crazed consumer but I can't let go... So I have contacted Watchdog, posted on moneysavingexpert's forum, reviewed the product on Amazon (click Amazon to read the review) and are going to twitter this too!

    Do leave me a comment if you had similar experiences!

    Here are some useful websites if you want information on customer rights:
    Office of Fair Trading
    Consumer Direct