I’m seven months in to an experiment with how I spend my money online.

  • if I can’t buy something online because a website doesn’t work, or keeps trying to force me to a call centre…
  • …I look for staff on social media, and contact them to try and complete a purchase, or get an answer
  • if this doesn’t work, I buy somewhere else

Why? Because I don’t like organisations advertising at me, when they can’t get the basics of customer service right, online.

There was a difficult decision to be made in January. I had a friend visiting and I wanted to take him to my favourite local pub/restaurant. Their online booking form doesn’t work, and they don’t respond on Twitter. We went somewhere else, and I felt bad for the pub, but still determined.

Runners Need benefited from my spending when I needed new trainers and one of their staffers came to my aid on Twitter, in February.

I’ve also made some fairly sizeable decisions around hotel and venue bookings, based on how usable the online service is, or if it isn’t (frequently the case), then the speed and personality with which staff come to my assistance on social media.

I was spurred on by Nottinghamshire Foundation Trust, who read my original post:

I also saw this, which made me laugh, and persuaded me to get more ambitious in terms of retailer and money spent:

Things were going OK for a while: I booked an entire weekend’s worth of logistics in Norway, online. Partly thanks to an OK airline booking experience (Norwegian Air), but also having had to resort to Facebook for accommodation, because the Norwegian tourism website is a bit of a mess.

I elicited some real-staff reaction from a very big brand, after blogging about some thoughtless advertising.

However, things have started to go wrong when it comes to moving house.

Solicitors and estate agents are tricky to procure online. I accept there needs to be some real-world interaction (not meeting people was never part of my plan), but websites lacking in information, and rambling email correspondence is totally at odds with my world of work.

Cancelling my TV licence was a nightmare thanks to a poor online transaction. I basically gave up, and didn’t bother pursuing any staff online, which was a mistake. The transaction that I abandoned somehow landed in someone’s in tray, and now I’m £65 better off. Bonus.

Car insurance is the one transaction where I have completely buckled. Again, I understand that they need certain types of information, but the basics such as quotes and changes of address should be serviced online. Rather than find a company who supports this, I broke my commitment from December and went with the cheapest option, which involved three painful phone calls. And stamps.

So how am I doing? A mixed bag at best, but I’m going to stick with my resolution and see how far I can take it.