Regular readers will know that it is not my general modus operandi to stir up trouble. No. “Out There” exists to celebrate and wonder at the many ways in which the modern world has gone a bit mad. So, when news reached me last week that Angelo Mastropietro, 37, had finally completed his “ultimate man cave” – a one-bedroom bolt-hole built into a Triassic sandstone hillside in the Wyre Forest, Worcestershire – it felt only right for this column to mark the event.
Mastropietro is no stranger to media attention – the Mail has followed his story and Channel 4’s Grand Designs sent Kevin McCloud there twice. To add an element of “journey”, both outlets reported that the catalyst for Mastropietro’s proposed retreat was a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that led him to “rethink his lifestyle”. In the second Grand Designs report, Mastropietro greets McCloud in his slippers and declares the wi-fi enabled, underfloor-heated home “comfortable enough for myself”.
So, it comes as something of a shock to discover that the “Rockhouse” is now a £228 per night “unique luxury romantic retreat”, a fact that has never been mentioned. I call the number on its website. Mastropietro answers. “At what stage did you decide to let the cave out rather than live in it?” I ask. Mastropietro goes Neanderthal, gabbling about how “It pisses me off giving you people my time for free and you question my integrity and don’t use your ears to listen to what I’m saying and print total bullshit.”
Unique romantic break? OK with you if I yabba dabba don’t?
Apropos of nothing much except a post by a man called Ernie Smith on his blog Tedium (tagline: “the dull side of the internet”), there have been a number of articles in the United States recently questioning the wisdom of those little sachets of ketchup that you most likely have a few of in your fridge or car. Despite their having been around since the late 1950s, a number of troubling questions persist. Can anyone open them without using their teeth? Why do they contain so little sauce? Do the contents ever go off? Are the packages recyclable? And so on. (Answers: no; it’s complicated; yes; no.)
But the detail that caught my eye was the fact that, for the past five years, ketchup users in the US have had access to a container called the Heinz Dip & Squeeze, which contains three times more sauce than the 9g sachets and allows people to choose between peeling the foil cover back for dipping purposes or tearing off the cap to squeeze out the contents.
Why, I ask Nigel Dickie, director of corporate affairs for Kraft Heinz Europe, do we not have Dip & Squeeze here? “In the UK, our range has evolved separately with sachets, pots and the SqueezMe! pod,” he says. “We have no plans to introduce the Dip & Squeeze pack here.” Quick, someone start a Change.org petition now!
I’ll get my coat
This week’s lesson in how to tarnish PR gold comes from Zulily, the online retailer “obsessed with bringing moms special finds every day”. A few weeks ago an American customer called Kelly Blue Kinkel posted on her Facebook page about her experience of trying to return an unwanted coat to Zulily. Instead of telling her to return the item, a customer service agent told Kinkel that he would refund her money and suggested that she give the coat to someone “who needs it or donate it to a charity”. “I hope this post goes viral,” Kinkel wrote. And verily, it did.
With Zulily becoming more popular in the UK, I couldn’t help wondering if this was company policy. Maureen Shea, Zulily’s vice president of service operations, says: “Our ultimate goal is to deliver an exceptional customer experience. In an instance such as this, when a customer reaches out to my team, we want to make sure that we do our best to have the customer leave with a positive interaction and experience with our brand.”
Still awake and waiting for a straight answer? I’m guessing it’s a no if you’re thinking of trying to get a new coat gratis.
Get the glow
In need of an antidote to all those “new year, new you” stories? Last week, a company called Bondara launched its Clean Living range. Available in coconut-oil flavour and with kale, quinoa, avocado and flax seed to follow, the products might not seem like a remedy to the horror of January, until you discover that Bondara is an “adult toy” retailer and the Clean Living range is, erm, a selection of lubricants. “Eat clean, play dirty”, they say.
No rhyme or reason
Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events.
On a great day for good news to bury,
A couple appeared looking merry,
In a week full of grief,
Some most-welcome relief,
Was provided by Rupert and Jerry.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies