It's all part of the service'

PUBLISHED: 16:55 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 22:30 28 May 2010

Maybe I m getting paranoid But I reckon I ve stumbled on a widely applied practice - a plot almost - to make it difficult for shoppers to exchange faulty goods. I am no shopping expert. Like most of my gender I tolerate it, having learned over the years t

Maybe I'm getting paranoid But I reckon I've stumbled on a widely applied practice - a plot almost - to make it difficult for shoppers to exchange faulty goods.

I am no shopping expert. Like most of my gender I tolerate it, having learned over the years to nod sagely at opportune moments while out on buying trips with my wife.

Despite major reservations I made a big effort at the weekend, pulled my face into a pre-arranged smile and agreed to take part in two (yes two) major shopping expeditions.

After arriving home, exhausted and irritable at the end of the second excursion, I was flicking through the receipts, deciding which should be kept and which could be binged. It was then that I spotted the plot.

Most receipts told me I had been served by Jane, Emma or Troy and gave me the date and time of the purchase, plus loads of other information, except what had actually been bought.

They just offered the rather unhelpful: 'One item' followed by its cost.

So in a few weeks' time when this item has broken down or fallen apart, neither I nor my wife will know which bill relates to which purchase.

Another neat touch in this 'let's stuff the customer' crusade is that the bills are regularly so faint they are hard to read. In the coming weeks they will fade even more, making them totally unreadable, thereby guaranteeing victory over the bemused customer.

My wife didn't seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation. "Just write what we've bought on the receipt," she snapped.

Which, of course, is sound advice. Except that most of us don't, and won't, do this.

There will be times when we will wish that we had. By then it will be too late. We may want to exchange our purchase or seek a refund but, faced with a pile of useless receipts, we will decide it's all too much trouble and give up. Game, set and match to the retailers.

This could be a classic case for an EU edict. Or perhaps Tony Blair might like to put this right before he rides off into the sunset later this year.

I know the world has more pressing problems, but a solution to this one would make at least one grumpy old man a little less so.

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