Chocolate Express (Jersey) Review – Not Express at All!

This is a review of my recent experience of:

Central Market Confectionary (sic – the fact they can’t spell confectionery should have been a clue!) Ltd, trading as Chocolate Express, 75-77 Central Market
Halkett Place, St. Helier, Jersey, JE2 4WL
Telephone: 01534 873834
Registered Co Number: 69169

Thinking of ordering from Chocolate Express? Don’t bother.

I ordered a box of chocolate cherries as a Christmas present for my Mum on 7th December on the basis that the site promised next day 1st Class shipping. The ‘Delivery’ tab on te product page gives you every indication you will hav ethe product in 3-5 days. See the screen grab below. Chocolate Express Delivery

Despite there not being any indication that the product may be out of stock did not receive a shipping notification until 14th Dec. However I have my doubts that it was shipped at all as I still haven’t received the product on 24th December (Happy Christmas Mum!!!), certainly not 1st Class if it has shipped! In my experience it’s normal practice to let people know if you are likely to be outside delivery times indicated on your site, or am I being too demanding Chocolate Express?

Over the last 2 weeks I have emailed 3-4 times, tweeted, phoned numerous times (always get the answerphone), none of which have been replied to until an email I sent yesterday, 23rd Dec, to which I received a reply today saying “We are now closed”. This was sent by a human despite an attempt to disguise it as an autoresponse as it didn’t arrive until today (autoresponders are always instant – I sent another just to test, no response, they think I’m stupid), so they could have addressed my concerns. So someone is there, they have just chosen not to reply to any of my attempts to contact them.

This company doesn’t make the products so they are entirely about customer service and added value. They knew this was a present and they didn’t have the decency to let me know I wasn’t going to get it in time, just awful and damn rude! I order stuff every week online and have done for many years. Quite often stuff is late, sometimes not in stock despite the site indicating otherwise, arrives damaged etc etc. Things go wrong from time to time, nobody’s perfect but always, always I have either been informed of what is going on without prompting or I have received a timely reply to an email or call addressing my concerns. Not with Chocolate Express. Quite clearly someone at Chocolate Express has seen my emails, chosen to ignore them and even written a pretend autoresponse rather than take my concerns head on. Woeful customer service, just terrible as well as downright deceitful. Don’t even think about buying from Chocolate Express, there are plenty of other places to buy chocolates. Even the name is a joke – Chocolate EXPRESS indeed!!

Killing Chinese Comment Spam

Is any body else suffering from considerable amounts of comment spam from China? Is Chinese comment spam managing to bypass your Captcha plugin? I seem to be getting an awful lot, most of it from Putian in China. I have 3 WordPress sites yet only one of them is really badly affected – this one! It’s as if it has managed to get itself on a list somewhere and just gets bombarded by up to several hundred spam comments per week.

Now, I have Akismet installed and believe me, if you don’t have it you must get it, it is just fantastic. All the spam goes straight to your spam folder and it misses very little. Plus it learns all the time from other WordPress users what is and isn’t spam. I have also been using SI Captcha Anti Spam which appears to have done nothing to reduce the amount of Chinese spam. Although Akismet firmly places it all in the spam folder, it is still a pain as it can quickly mount up to several hundred spam comments making it a bit of task to skim through to double check no ham has slipped into the spam folder.

I can only assume either the Chinese spam bots have a clever way round SI Captcha or there are people happy to get paid not very much for sitting there and manually commenting on blog posts.

chinese spamEither way, I think that I have found a way round most of it that suits me. If you rely on traffic from China, this method will not be so great. I installed Wordfence which is also a fantastic plugin for protecting your site. I won’t go into full details here as I am just focusing on spam but have a look, it has many great features and is a real doddle to set up.

Wordfence has a feature that enables you identify and ban individual IPs and even whole networks. Now a bit of patience and persistence is required initially but over just a day or two you can pull the IP addresses from your spam comments and either block individually or block the network.

To get you started, here is a list of Chinese networks that have been spamming me:

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 27.159.0.0 – 27.159.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

31 blocked hits
Last blocked: 5 hours 45 mins ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 27.153.128.0 – 27.153.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

12 blocked hits
Last blocked: 3 hours 43 mins ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 27.148.0.0 – 27.151.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

6 blocked hits
Last blocked: 12 mins ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 222.77.0.0 – 222.77.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

73 blocked hits
Last blocked: 26 secs ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 59.56.0.0 – 59.61.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

156 blocked hits
Last blocked: 25 mins ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 220.160.0.0 – 220.162.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

28 blocked hits
Last blocked: 2 hours 44 mins ago

IP Range: Block visitors with IP addresses in the range: 117.24.0.0 – 117.31.255.255
Browser Pattern: Allow all browsers
Reason: Spamming

58 blocked hits
Last blocked: 36 mins ago

All these hits were in the last couple of days. You could make things a lot easier by just paying for the premium version of Wordfence and getting the additional Country level blocking feature.

Anyway, I hope this helps and just to make absolutely clear, I have no connection with Wordfence and as far as I am aware, they don’t pay for referrals, I’m certainly not getting anything from them, I just like the plugin and don’t like people spamming my blog.

Good luck!


Epson Printer Service Reset

Apart from one Canon Printer I have always used Epson Printers. No specific reason but at the time of buying, reviews, prices, and my own increasing bias due to no previous problems led me to buy Epson. At the moment I have two; an Epson Stylus Photo PX700W and the more recent Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD. I think they’re called Artisan rather than Stylus in the USA but they are essentially the same. I use the PX700W for everyday printing and the PX730WD reserved for photo printing.

I don’t really do a lot of printing on either so I was a bit disappointed when I got an error message on the PX700W “ink pads are nearing the end of their service life” and indicating that the only person who could sort this out was an Epson Service Engineer. Do Epson really think that anyone is likely to call a service engineer for a several year old printer that cost £150! My guess is replacing the pads professionally would cost fairly close to the price of a new printer.

What are the ink pads? They basically sit under the print head and soak up any excess ink. More expensive printers will actually have a tank.

Anyway, before committing the printer to the recycling plant I did a bit of research on the error. The message is indicating that the pads that soak up waste ink are getting full. Only it doesn’t actually indicate that at all, the message is set to appear after a set number of prints. After a further pre-determined number of prints, bang, printer shuts down, no more prints… even the scanner stops working. This is in spite of the fact it is actually still a fully functioning printer and scanner.

Stylus Photo PX730WD
Stylus Photo PX730WD

Now I find this a bit annoying, especially when I’m paying in the region of £1,500 PER LITRE for ink! That’s right, work it out, what do they make that stuff with? The irony is that if the printer had just conked out, I’d have been perfectly satisfied that I’d had a relatively cheap item last as long as it did but having it shut down because it’s programmed to really sticks in your throat.

Anyway, a bit more routing about on the internet I found a piece of software designed to reset the counter in Epson printers. In fact it will do a full service check and make adjustments of just about every parameter of your printer. I know for sure it does 700 series because it reset my PX700W in 20 seconds and the printer is now running fine again. It may do 800 series and possibly a lot more.

So, here’s the software exactly as I downloaded it. Before you do download it, be aware that it is NOT Epson software, I have no idea of its origins and it is entirely your responsibility to make sure it is virus free. I’ve obviously checked it and it has caused me no problems whatsoever but just making it clear that whatever you do with it is your responsibility. If your printer is still within warranty, get it fixed by Epson. Any damage caused by this software is down to you.

Click here to download Epson Reset Program

Once extracted, double click the .exe file, select your printer (it needs to be switched on), select ‘Particular Adjustment Mode’ then ‘Consumables Maintenance Counter’ from the list under ‘Maintenance’. You can then load up the current counter values and then reset them with the ‘Initialization’ button, done!

The pads obviously do actually get full eventually causing ink to saturate the paper on both sides. However, Epson err on the side of caution and commerce and mostly you can reset the counter and carry on printing no problem at all. I’ve hard of people re-setting 3 or 4 times without problems. Theoretically it is possible to wash the pads but it’s not something I’d want to try after going to work for a week with a black thumb just replacing a black ink cartridge, I can only imagine the mess!

Remember, all at your own risk!


Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013

Enter the competition

Enter Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 and take part in one of the world’s most prestigious photography events.

The competition opens to professional photographers, amateurs, young and old, worldwide from 7 January 2013 until 25 February 2013.

Adults may enter up to 20 images for £20.00.

Entrants aged 17 and under may enter up to 10 images FREE.

Please make sure you read the 2013 adult rules and category definitions or young rules and category definitions and the image editing guidelines in advance.
Reasons to enter.

    1. Compete for one of 2 coveted grand winner titles, plus a share of the £30,000 prize fund.
    2. Win a trip to London to attend the exclusive awards night at the Natural History Museum.
    3. Be showcased in the world-renowned exhibition and delight millions in venues across 6 continents.
    4. Revel in the critical acclaim of the global media spotlight.
    5. Be published in a limited-edition hardcover portfolio book.

Full details on the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the 2012 results can be found on the Natural History Museum website.

British Wildlife Photography Awards

Call for Entries – Open from 1st February

Your chance to win a prestigious photography award and cash prize of £5,000. With an overall prize fund worth £20,000, winners and commended entrants will have their work showcased in a national touring exhibition and stunning book, published by AA Publishing.

British Wildlife Photography Awards
The 2012 competition closes on 12th May 2012. If you’re thinking of entering, or just want to know more, you can sign up for their free email newsletter by going to the British Wildlife Photography Awards website

Nest Box Camera Live for 2012

I have now activated the nest box camera for 2012. A few blue tits have been having a look round both inside and out. A great tit was also showing interest but I’m not sure the access hole is big enough. Theoretically it’s not; I made the hole 28mm I think and great tits need about 32mm apparently. Continue reading Nest Box Camera Live for 2012

500px.com

I’ve just signed up at 500px.com. It’s a bit like flickr but somehow has managed to keep the quality up, although there is no editing as far as I can tell. Overall, it seems easier to use, more intuitive, faster, cleaner and not quite so cluttered as flickr has become. Also, with flickr it’s a bit too easy to get positive comments and I’ve found it’s turned into a mutual back slapping excercise; join our group and comment on 2 photos and we’ll comment on yours – a sort of pyramid comments scheme!

Anyway, here’s a link to my page and the 500px.com site: