Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Archive for September 2008

The risks of ordering tangibles online

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Until this week, I had never ordered anything tangible online (other than CDs/DVDs & 75% less than high street priced USB cables), for the simple reason it is all so unpredictable. We have all heard about or you may have even experienced the nightmares associated with the alternative to walking into a shop where you get to see, handle, purchase (and if need be, return), your goods. Purchasing/downloading something digital that immediately appears on your desktop or in your music ordering/playback system of choice is fairly foolproof, so less problematic. Digital downloads asside, breaking my own rules, I recently ordered a number of electronic goods and experienced stressful time consuming problems with almost each order. I also got to discover just how more and more businesses out there are exploiting the potential for fraud or terrorism for their own gain – and loss to the gullible consumer.

  1. If one is placing an order for the first time, online resellers now insist that the first order is delivered to the same address that the credit or debit card it linked too. So, how do you have something delivered to a friend? And what if you’re in a hurry? Seems to me they just want that first order as extra business. Think about the time and inconvenience of this rediculous policy!
  2. If you order a small item, such a tiny USB stick that itself costs say, £9.95, the ‘shipping’ fee will be around £4.00 – and it will take 2 to 4 days to arrive! Yet, if you pop the same item in an envelope and post it first class for what, £0.75p, it will arrive at its destination the next day. I know, I have just sent two different items first class, and both arrived the next day. (UK to UK.)
  3. If you order something from a company and they don’t process the payment until the next morning, they REFUSE to deliver the item the same day, even if it is ready and waiting. They will wait until the next day! Huh? Just this week, (I rarely get angry), in a very very tense and venomous phone call I threatened a fairly well known company with bad publicity if they did not get me something I had ordered for next day delivery two days ago by the time I demanded. And it worked, they got it to me 2 hours earlier.
  4. On not one but two occasions on the same day, I placed orders and was informed my payment had gone through succesfully. The next day, by email (not phone call!), I was notified that the item was out of stock or disontinued. If this is the case, why did the stock level indicator show otherwise at the time of purchase?

We all know the reason for most of the above issues. It is for the same reason that in an age of electronic communications, cheques still take 3 to 8 days to clear – to earn interest on your money. The same greedy motives lie in being charged 25% of the cost of a small item for ‘shipping’.

Fight back club: If writing and complaining fail, avoid doing business with any company that behaves like this. Threaten them with bad PR – ensuring you maintain a log of every order, call (and who you spoke to), payment, complaint etc in case you need to take or respond to legal action. Avoid business with any company who charges any more than standard First Class postage for next day delivery. First Class is First Class – you’re not dealing with a motorcycle courier! Companies like FedEx and others exist to handle special direct orders to specific individuals pronto, but regular postal mail exists to handle all else. Related to my previous post, all this greed is messing up poeple’s lives and it is time it was stopped in it’s tracks before a fully automated planet makes protest impossible. Don’t go wobbly now people!

And if few businesses exist any more that are fair, start one yourself. There are many people out there looking for alternatives. For every problem lies opportunity.


Written by Oflife

September 18, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Posted in eCommerce, Fraud, Greed

Time for change

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The enlightened amongst you who question everything, will have known that issues such as this (© The LA Times 2008) would rear their ugly head once the effects became mainstream. (I have been warning my friends about plastics for over 10 years.) Likewise, the events in the financial markets are unsurprising, not due to capitalism (a force for good), but because any entity that goes too far and relies on greed rather than common sense ethics is liable to collapse when the rotten foundations give away. This writer has no experience of the corporate world – being an every day consumer – however, if the big financial houses attempt the same shenanigans as the hight street banks, one cannot imagine the level of hardship some individuals or businesses must be put through. A recent example that has lead to some successful consumer lead lawsuits of late is that high street banks will intentionally or through incompetance ignore any courtesy warning from a customer who knows he or she may slip into the red while some payments clear. The bank will subsequently impose a fee for even the smallest oversight, for example, a £25 charge for an overdraft (OD) of £10. So, you are now £35 over. And guess what? A few days later, a pre-arranged small payment of £15 automatically direct debits from your account (mobile phone? sports club? etc), so you are fined another £25 for that breach of your increasing OD! And so on until it steamrollers out of control. At the end of the month, you are dealing with fees of anything from £50 to £300. No wonder people are strapped for cash and cannot feed the economy! This is fairly common, but most Brits are too embarassed to say anything and the process of challenging that huge electronic entity in the sky is too complicated, with real sit down and chat managers surplanted by overseas call centres manned by pre-programmed staff who are unable to stray from the beaten path. (Effectively, they are robots.) On a more serious scale, and of course, this is why the banks are also in meltdown, why did building societies both sides of the Atlantic offer mortgages to people who had no hope of repaying them?

We are also seeing more and more services whose essential telephone lines begin with 084X, 087X, 09XX etc, leading to unexpectedly large mobile and landline bills from ‘trapped’ or unsuspecting consumers. Just today, I called an 00800 number for what appeared to be a UK based company (UK prices, Union Jack on their home page!), and ended up talking to an office in Canada – on my mobile! (I await my bill.) Finally, there is the massive dumbing down of society across the planet, denial of climate change (it’s real) and invasion of privacy by terrified governments who are actively attempting to destroy the intelligent, thoughtful and vital middle classes – who are the greatest threat to all this nefarious behavior.

Each issue has been discussed on my older blog for years and will be imported to these here pages in due course, with external links to provide vindication of most pertinent matters.

I am sure many of you have seen films, read books, or even thought about the writings in the leading religious texts that discuss multiple threats to humanity arriving simultaneously, followed by significant changes and then, well, things get better. This time may well be upon us. The way forward is for people to revolt against any entity that it is plain obvious is a threat to our freedom. Start by ceasing to do business with them and if you are really feeling brave, start your own venture to offer a superior more considerate alternative. Don’t forget that the main focus of my blog is to highlight the usurping of democracy by technologically ominpresent and callous ‘corporations’. Cut off their income and they will die. That’s capitalism at its finest!

P.S. Remain optimistic.

Written by Oflife

September 16, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Elbow win Mercury Awards / iTunes 8

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Have you ever secretly believed you are the only person to be a fan of a band? You make a secret discovery, perhaps hearing a track on the radio or as a more subtle component of a movie sound track? Well, having ‘discovered’ Elbow a year or so ago after watching the trailer for a failed US Television Thriller about the end of the world, I used the Google and ended up finding out the name of a song played over the trailer. (“Forget Myself”) I subsequently previewed and purchased a few Elbow tracks from iTunes and was blown away by their attention to detail and sound. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, they deservedly win a major award! Great stuff!

On a related note (boom tush), just downloaded iTunes 8 and the Genius feature works a dream. Like Elbow, recently discovered Teddy Thompson and bought his latest album ‘A Piece Of What You Need’. Used iTunes Genius to find similar music and it works spookily well. The recommended tracks are just up my street. So, if you are into the mellow rocky bluesy folky country-ee sound, give Elbow and Teddy T a try – and then use an Apple Genius to find more like it. Note: If you buy toons from iTunes, they will NOT play on your non Apple device thanks to Apple’s robust DRM. Best option is to buy non DRM tracks or a CD and rip the CD to iTunes and then sync with your mobile device – as I do with my Nokia E71*.

*See E71 review elsewhere within Vision Aforethought. Hey WordPress guys, why isn’t it possible to simply hyperlink to another posting using a pop up dialog? I have to physically visit the destination posting, copy the URL and then return to the posting where I want to embed the hyperlink. Where’s the forward thinking? Did you not do use case scenarios in the design process? Tut tut.

Written by Oflife

September 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Music

Another invasion of privacy through CCTV

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This (© BBC 2008) will be moved to the ‘Towards Distopia’ section in due course. One of the reasons CCTV is unacceptable without rock solid legal control (if acceptable at all) is the risk of footage being viewed by for profit and/or morally dubious entities, whether the gutter press or even ‘friends’ who by co-incidence may through their job get to view such footage. I hope this great guy wins his case and that the Americans, no matter how flawed their society, will never allow their dignified attitude towards privacy of the individual to be challenged by the total break down of common sense this side of the Atlantic.

Written by Oflife

September 9, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Beware McCain’s VP

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This article in The Independent is why if Mr. McCain’s VP ever gets into a position of power, America is going to further isolate itself from the rest of the world and undo so much progress when it comes to preserving our dwindling areas of outstanding natural beauty. Her stance is the very opposite of what we need right now when it comes to forward looking energy and pollution policy. To trash Alaska for a few more years of filthy oil is an appalling scenario to consider. Whatever you do America, never allow McC VP to influence McC or become President – no matter her foreign policy. If you want an example of what big oil does to an area, visit Houston, Texas – as I have. The people are horrifically overweight and the city is polluted. They just don’t give a damn. Tag: Selfish. Hardly characteristics encouraged by the bible that so many of her supporters follow.

Written by Oflife

September 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm

UK pub closures, children & recycling

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With the ban on smoking killing off pubs quicker than their punters, two factors have been overlooked beyond the destruction of a core British institution. Both relate to the increase in availabilty and sales of low cost supermarket beer:

  1. ‘Families’ now consume beer and cigarettes at home exposing their children to the twin evils of semi-drunk parents and second hand smoke. (No one can deny that cracking open a can in conjunction with a cigarette is all part of the Euro trash experience.)
  2. In a pub, beer and other drinks are consumed from glasses that are of course cleaned and re-used. Now assuming (extremely conservatively) that your typical punter consumes an everage of two pints per casual (weekday) visit to the pub, this translates into three or four cans of supermarket beer. Therefore for every person abandoning their local to pre-packaged alchohol, there are now an everage of four aluminium cans (or bottles) added to their trash with all the known consequenses related to disposal. (Cost, hassle, ecological effect, use of dwindling resources, public eyesore etc.) This is almost five times as much waste as would be produced by milk bottles and cartons! Just take a look at the recycling bins here in the UK.

For the record, my view on the smoking ban is that each establishment should have been allowed to choose whether to allow smoking. Many other man made inventions kill a significant number of people, from fatty foods to cars, yet they face no restrictions whatsoever. If people are educated to the pros and cons of what they consume then they can make an informed decision. (Bar staff were/are never forced to work in a smoke filled environment.) What is far more serious is the effects of second hand smoke on children squashed into a crammed family living room.

Written by Oflife

September 1, 2008 at 8:39 am

Posted in Ecology, Environment, Society

Tagged with ,

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