If you want that tailored, personal, hand-holding experience…shop local!

A series of articles highlighting the ‘seven months pregnant’ Today FM broadcaster Paula MacSweeney’s ‘horrible experience’ in a store which describes itself as ‘a global home furnishing brand’ last week, have been doing the rounds in many national publications.

Describing how she was left “crying”, Paula, who’s expecting her third baby, recounted how her trip to this store was soured when “several employees observed me struggling to load very heavy boxes onto my trolley in the warehouse. They were laughing in groups, and many were on their phones”. This must have been a very distressing experience for the poor woman.

Wow, for a company whose website declares it’s “a huge, welcoming team working to make a positive impact on millions of people around the world”, this global enterprise clearly needs to up its game when it comes to customer support and care.

Having only ever shopped in this establishment once in my life – an activity which occurred while I wasn’t pregnant – I can safely say I won’t ever be darkening their doors again. Before I go on, let me add I don’t blame this emporium for my own disappointing experience, I mean it’s not their fault I don’t go for the pared-down, minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic (even though like everyone, I’m living on a strict budget, and probably should be veering towards the uncomplicated and the affordable).

However, despite the fact it’s hugely popular with anybody who loves ready-to-assemble products, as a woman who hates anything ‘flat-packed’, going into “meltdown” (hubby’s words) if bits are missing from the box, places like this store, though apparently ‘revolutionary’, are definitely not for me. Besides, browsing for furniture in what looks like a massive, characterless warehouse (‘holding areas’ at Dublin Airport spring to mind), chock-full of people in a hyper-shopping state, pushing trolleys overflowing with basic, bland looky-likey plastic kitchen utensils and smelling of Swedish meatballs is not my idea of a happy shopping experience!

On the other hand, as a woman who likes to spend time browsing, I will admit that this large store is certainly ideal for that. However, if I have a query (and I always have a query, although hubby calls it nit-picking), or if a shopper needs help (à la Paula), I prefer the hand-holding type of customer service I get at a local, family-run, Roscommon business. The type of tailored, personal attention, which is, I believe, only possible from people who’re passionate about the service they provide, people who’ll go that extra mile to help you find what you need, as opposed to allegedly responding to a heavily-pregnant woman’s request for help that “it’s self-serve only, get it yourself”!

Disgraceful! That would never happen in a Roscommon store. Why? Because in this finicky nit-picker’s experience, Roscommon storeowners are not only receptive to their customers’ needs, they also produce authentic products, as opposed to mass-produced black, white or uninspiring, unfinished wood items.

I’m no medical professional and I most certainly don’t wish to sound patronising, but as it’s considered a general rule that pregnant ladies shouldn’t lift heavy items (and a definition of ‘heavy’ would differ from person-to-person), I’d like to make a suggestion for Paula, and it’s this: the next time she’s embarking on a shopping trip to purchase ‘a new nursery’ that involves hauling ‘nine boxes on a trolley’, maybe it’d be a good idea to have someone like, oh I don’t know, her husband or a friend, go along with her to help with the heavy lifting? I wish both mother and baby well.


Ryan must end our headline-making PR travel mess

For weeks we’ve been hearing horror stories regarding the shenanigans happening at Dublin Airport, ranging from the DAA’s inability to deal with a surge in holidaymakers desperate for a post-Covid adventure, leading to stark scenes of queues snaking outside the terminal, to cancelled flights and large piles of luggage going AWOL.

However, just as it appears things may be on the up, with proposals to have the army on standby to help curb further chaos for fed-up holidaymakers, security staff at the airport have indicated they’ll ‘refuse to work alongside (or even help train) soldiers drafted in to work’ with them.

How odd. Am I missing something here? Surely this type of obstinate behaviour will only serve to defy logic, never mind adding to the wider sense of utter frustration and anxiety being experienced by passengers. Then again, perhaps they have a valid reason for not wanting members of our Defence Forces to help alleviate the pressure on them in the event it’s needed.

Is it any wonder that given the utter chaos, a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll has shown the plan to bring in the troops has the support of 64% of the survey’s respondents? While I wasn’t one of the poll-ees (and I often wonder whose opinions are represented because neither myself, nor anyone I know, has ever been polled), if I had been, my answer in this instance would be that Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan needs to do whatever’s necessary to end this horrendous, international headline-making, PR mess – because we’ve become a laughing stock and the buck stops firmly with him.

On the subject of PR, and ahem, nightmares; as irate passengers bombard Aer Lingus with complaints regarding cancelled flights and missing luggage (rightly so, I’d be fuming), is it just me or is anyone else concerned that Michael O’Leary – a man who thrives on controversy – isn’t sticking the boot into our national flag carrier?


Strokestown proudly showcases new Great Famine experience

Following its €5 million refurbishment initiative, the state-of-the-art National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House & Gardens has finally reopened, and as someone who brought my granddaughter (when she was younger) to visit their enchanting Victorian Christmas Experience, I for one cannot wait to visit again.

When people ask me why I chose to relocate from my beloved Dublin to Roscommon, I’ve often replied that I feel so lucky to be living in a county that offers peaceful, natural, seasonal, and above all, unaltered and unexploited resources and attractions. For me, the facilities at Strokestown Park House tick all of those boxes…and more!

Well done to everyone involved in this important tourist initiative. I’m looking forward to bringing my now history-loving, socially-conscious teenage granddaughter back to experience the devastating effects of An Gorta Mór, which, in my opinion, is one of the most painful and defining periods of our nation’s history.