Martyn James column: the times they are a-changin - from pricey pints to loss of cash in a post-lockdown UK

Consumer money expert Martyn James goes through some of the changes he has noticed as lockdown restrictions ease amid Covid pandemic
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After a year of restrictions and rules, the easing of lockdown and the appearance of the sun has given people a reason to feel optimistic about the future.

But many of the people I’ve spoken to feel a little... well… nervous about going outside and getting back to normal.

If you do venture out, you’ll find lots of things have changed. Here are some examples and things to be aware of. Remember though, if you don’t think things have changed for the better, make your voice heard and send the business a complaint.

Some pubs were charging upto £6 a pint after the first lockdown ended, says Martyn James. (Pic: Shutterstock)Some pubs were charging upto £6 a pint after the first lockdown ended, says Martyn James. (Pic: Shutterstock)
Some pubs were charging upto £6 a pint after the first lockdown ended, says Martyn James. (Pic: Shutterstock)
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Pricey pints

In the first wave of lockdown easing, people rushed to pubs and restaurants to freeze around outside tables.

Shortly after, I began to hear complaints about price rises – with some pubs charging £6 a pint! The leisure industry has had a tough time so while there’s some sympathy for short-term price rises, it remains to be seen if that patience lasts as time goes on.

If you feel that some big business chains are profiteering, make a complaint regardless – if enough people speak up, businesses have to listen. And make sure you ask the staff if they get the in-app tips too.

Musical chairs

Theatres and concert venues are opening soon, but many have introduced ‘bubble’ or reduced seating which has resulted in higher prices and less cheap or promotional options.

This has priced many people out of the arts, worryingly. It’s likely that this reduced seating will ease when further lockdown restrictions end so if you’re willing to hold out until further into the summer, you might get a bargain.

Loss of cash

If you prefer to keep an eye on your finances by withdrawing the cash you need, you may find that more and more businesses are insisting on card payments only.

Smaller traders in particular have moved on to card-only systems but increasingly, some bigger retailers are flirting with banning cash too.

This has huge implications for people who rely on cash, so complain if you feel these policies cut you out of the loop. Keep an eye on the many campaigns to keep bank branches, ATMs and businesses using cash too.

Queues and table service

Even if all restrictions are lifted, businesses can still set the rules about how they operate. So expect queues to get into popular venues for the foreseeable future.

The same goes for the removal of changing rooms leaving people to have to try on outfits for size at home. Expect table service to stay in bars and restaurants too. So in the modern world, we will need to have a smart phone, QR scanner, WiFi or good phone reception and lots of patience as we register before we buy.

I’m currently looking into the information these apps are gathering – and if they need it.

Loss of customer service

Anyone who’s tried to make a complaint over the last year can’t have missed how hard it’s become to contact some firms.

Even telecommunications firms are now actively hiding telephone numbers (somewhat ironically) and most businesses try to fob you off with rubbish online Q&As and live chat or chatbots.

This is really unacceptable. I’m working with a number of prime-time television programmes to highlight this issue, but we need you to ‘shop a firm’ if they are failing to provide basic customer services.

Train seating

It’s only in the last few weeks that people have started to get back on public transport in significant numbers, which has led to much confusion about the rules.

I’ve seen people squished on to buses and trains because they’re unsure if they can sit next to others. It’s the responsibility for transport companies to explain the rules so watch out for posters and announcements.

If you’re booking a train, chances are you’ll need to have a reservation even if you have an open ticket. Don’t expect to find a spare seat and – for now – it’s one person every two seats and masks on all the way.

- You can use Resolver to make your voice heard about pretty much anything – and it only takes a minute or two.