Here in the UK many families join a hamper scheme to help with the financial overload of Christmas. Basically, an "agent" would collect weekly payments throughout the year and just before Christmas the "hamper" would arrive. At one local school where I teach from time to time many families use the hamper scheme. Now some people would argue that such schemes are expensive, and that a weekly saving plan with a local bank or post office would be better. However the fact remains that often the mothers who join the scheme have young families to look after and no transport, so even if they did save up and had a set amount to spend at Christmas the two factors of local shop choice (limited) and children in tow are significant ie they would have to use local transport to go further afield for choice, with children in tow and then have the problem of carrying heavy shopping back home. So you can see why the hamper scheme is ideal for them. They get quality, luxury foods delivered to their doors. I remember one pupil I taught... as the Christmas Holidays approached his eyes would light up as he listed the items on their way in the hamper... "Luxury ham Mrs Nesbitt, in it's own jelly!" to give you an example, and he could equally describe, with fine detail the contents of the hamper. He would have been ideal for the current Marks & Spencer Food Adverts! Each Christmas his teacher would receive a box of luxury belgian chocolates....from the hamper. One Christmas he announced that there would be no Christmas Presents for any of the family that year because as a family they had been offered a good deal on a car, so each ot them would help contribute towards this by not having any presents, then they as a family could benefit from days out in the car, and spend quality time together. This was the case and each Monday I would read of the family outings in the car, a bit like the bike adventures I share here with you. Here in The UK a hamper firm has ceased trading, taking such family's money with it! Here is an idea of what has happened... New bid to help Farepak families Customers protesting at Farepak's HQ Angry customers protesting at Farepak's HQ in Swindon The government is to meet the British Retail Consortium in an attempt to help thousands of families affected by the collapse of Farepak. The Trade and Industry Minister, Ian McCartney, told the Commons he is also meeting the Office of Fair Trading. He wants to tighten rules to avoid such a situation happening again in the future. Farepak has been asked to provide an insolvency report as soon as possible. Under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, failed companies must detail the conduct of all directors who were in office in the last three years of the company's trading. Mr McCartney says he will see what could be done "in advance of Christmas as a goodwill gesture to help the most difficult and needy who've lost out completely". Anne Snelgrove, the MP local to the Swindon-based company, raised the issue in the Commons saying the situation amounts to 'robbing thousands on low incomes from their Christmas savings.' These companies should not be able to have access to customers' money until all orders have been met Adrian Hendry Farepak fiasco: Your stories She asked Mr McCartney if he did not agree that the situation 'stinks' as the company had made a profit of £1.2m a year and a half earlier. The company runs a savings scheme where customers can put money aside for vouchers and Christmas hampers - but administrators now say that no orders will be fulfilled. Mr McCartney says he is also liaising with the Hamper Industry Trade Association (HITA), of which Farepak was as a member. Customers and agents of Farepak were further let down after finding out that company's cash bond guarantee with the Association did not cover any money for refunds. Hundreds of people have lost thousands of pounds and are furious that it has been allowed to continue trading despite warnings it was in trouble. Farepak website Farepak's website described the scheme as "safe and reliable" Ms Berry worked as an agent and had paid £3,730 on behalf of customers. She is planning to pay them back out of her own pocket. "I too feel morally obligated to give my customers their money back... I have therefore taken a loan to do this, but am furious with the whole situation. As a single mother, this is a burden that could bury me." Another disappointed customer, Adrian Hendry, has lost thousands of pounds saved up throughout the year. "I have collected and banked £6,500 religiously over the last 10 months. These companies should not be able to have access to customers' money until all orders have been met." All people affected should keep an eye on the HITA and Farepak websites to check for any new information. I was in school yesterday and was talking to a member of the family mentioned above. He did not look happy at all and said "Mum is worried, we may not get our hamper this Christmas!" I will keep you posted!