Deathwatch: Crocs (Hurrah!)

July 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

crocs 300x137 Deathwatch: Crocs (Hurrah!)Crocs, the ghastly footwear, are in crisis.

Once upon a time, back in the last decade, Crocs became a thing, as the comfy waterproof clog-styled footwear-eyesores were bloody everywhere.

Today, they are looking at laying off 180 staff and closing 100 stores worldwide.

And no wonder. Look at them. Completely vile.

The company’s profits slumped more than 40% last year, with outlets in America and Asia noticing a big slump, whereas over in Europe there’s been a mild growth.

The company plans to simplify its range to save $10 million, although one would motion that they could simplify it easily enough by destroying every trace of Crocs in the universe.

Six months ago, Blackstone, the private equity firm, invested £117m in a 13.5% stake in the company, which has about 600 stores around the world, including three in the UK. They won’t be happy.

Andrew Rees, the Croc president, said: ”We have a clear, well-defined strategy for addressing these issues and improving performance. Work is under way already to drive significant change throughout our company.”

Originally conceived as a sort-of boat shoe, Crocs came to attention when the likes of Jack Nicholson and George Bush started hoofing about in a pair.

By 2009, profits took a dive, as everyone saw sense and went “URGH GET THEM AWAY FROM ME”.

Atari: Doing it for the gays

July 22nd, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Atari are launching a new game aimed at the gays.

After a variety of complaints that some computer games are a bit too heterosexual, Atari have come up with a LGBT-friendly title for iOS and Android called Pridefest.

pridefest 500x291 Atari: Doing it for the gays

The game is a social sim that invites players to create their own pride parade in a city of their choosing.

Currently in development for tablets and smartphones, the mobile game involves designing parades with “attractions and entertainment” in order to increase the happiness of a town. How jolly!

No doubt you could fill it with leathermen singing Male Stripper and your community will benefit greatly from it. Although one imagine it could bring the overall vibe down if you choose Sinitta to headline your Pride, like London did. That sort of madness leads to self-harm.

Players will be faced with a series of puzzles and challenges as they aim to unlock new decorations and festival supplies in order to increase the vibrancy of their respective parade.

Atari CEO, the humourously named Todd Shallbetter said: “We are excited to be developing Atari’s first LGBT-themed game that will give players of all backgrounds the chance to play a fun and unique game that represents a passionate cause.”

This move marks an interesting new direction for the beleageured Atari.

The company responsible for classic titles such as Pong and Centipede filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013, and then took to specialising in social casino sims and various mobile games thereafter.

Now, like everything else, it’s relying on the gays to help ‘em out.

Stop being bad! says the internet

July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

illegal downloading 269x300 Stop being bad! says the internetThem people who constantly download and share pirated content will start receiving warning letters from their internet service providers from next year.

Anyone whose connections are believed to have been used to hawk copyrighted material, could receive up to four letters a year, although there are no sanctions as yet for those who continue to ignore the warnings.

The aim of the letters is to boost consumer awareness of the wide array of legitimate online content services and help reduce online copyright infringement, or in other words, stop people nicking stuff.

The warning system, known as the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of negotiations between ISPs and industry bodies representing the UK’s creative industries, including the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry).

There had been the original enforcement regime, which was outlined in the Digital Economy Act, which was rushed through parliament under the previous Labour government in 2010.

That Act called for an escalating series of sanctions on persistent file-sharers, starting with sending letters to illegal downloaders and culminating in slowing down the connection speed of offenders or temporarily suspending their connections.

Yet no one really gave much of monkeys, as it was heavily opposed by ISPs, who argued that the anti-piracy measures were inconsistent with European law and would breach the privacy of their customers, as well as driving up costs for providers and consumers.

The consortium of companies that make up Creative Content UK, said it will play an important role in educating consumers about the huge range of entertainment content that is available from legal and licensed sources.

It will also operate within the wider context of programmes aimed at combating copyright infringement, such as the blocking of illegal sites and working with advertisers and payment processors to cut off revenues to such sites.

Let’s tolerate some words from Business Secretary Vince Cable: “The creative industries in the UK are one of our brilliant global success stories. Yet too often that content is open to abuse by some who don’t play by the rules.”

“That is why we are working with industry to ensure that intellectual property rights are understood and respected. Education is at the heart of this drive so people understand that piracy isn’t a victimless crime – but actually causes business to fail, harms the industry and costs jobs.”

Everyone involved seems quite into it, as Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI described it as “a real step forward for digital entertainment in the UK”, and Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk, said it would help consumers “make the right choices about how they access content”.

Figures published by communications watchdog Ofcom last year revealed that more than 1.5 billion files were downloaded illegally in the UK in 2012, accounting for almost a quarter (22 per cent) of all content consumed online.

Only a quarter of the people who consumed the most illegal content said they would stop if they thought they might be sued, according to Ofcom, and one in five said they would stop if they received a letter from their ISP telling them that their account had been used for copyright infringement.

Although one would imagine you’d have to shifting some serious amounts of unpaid-for and effectively stolen goods for the ISPs to take notice.

Four strikes and you’re… well… nothing will happen.

EE apologise for being annoying

July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

zzzw EE apologise for being annoyingEE has apologised after it hassled customers with texts over the weekend.

How much hassle? One user complained of receiving more than 90 marketing messages from Orange, one of EE’s brands, in a four-day period.

Well EE have certainly done themselves no favours in the past, and this latest wheeze looks like seeing off what customers they had left.

These text messages were reminders that the customers were eligible to add to their plans numbers that they can call for free, and the usual old toss that corporate text messaging throws out.

Naturally, customers took to social media and had a good moan about it.

The messages read: “Hi from Orange. Congratulations: you can now add another Magic Number.” It included a link customers could follow to do so.

Trying gamely to underestimate the levity of this shitstorm, a member of EE’s community team named as Miles wrote on Sunday that the firm was “having an issue” with the text message service.

“This reminder should only be sent once, but some customers are getting multiple reminders. If you’ve received any of these duplicate messages, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience. Remember: you’re not charged to receive magic number reminders.”

Is this the final straw for you, remaining EE customers? You better answer quickly or you’ll get asked the same question 90 times.

Sainsburys now running on old shit

July 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys now running on old shitA branch of Sainsburys in the West Midlands has become the first retail outlet in the UK to come away from the National Grid.

The Cannock branch of the supermarket chain is being powered by food waste alone, and is working together with recycling company Biffa on new technology, allowing them to run solely generated from anaerobic digestion.

As of today, the store will run solely from outta date food and stuff that would otherwise end up in landfill.

The supermarket has stressed that they still donate any food to charity and also animal feed and  items that simply cannot be re-sold on to the customer. Fr’instance Waste bananas from its Prescot Road store in Liverpool go to Knowsley safari park to feed the monkeys.

Sainsbury’s is already the UK’s largest retail user of anaerobic digestion, generating enough energy to power 2,500 homes each year. Food waste from the chain’s supermarkets around the UK is delivered by lorry to Biffa’s plant in Cannock, and turned into bio-methane gas which is then used to generate electricity that is directly supplied to the supermarket via a newly constructed 1.5km-long electricity cable.

This is all amazing news, although anyone fancying diving into the skips at closing may be advised to be careful and stay sharp in case they end up becoming electricity.

Amazon to offer unlimited books

July 21st, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

kindle 300x289 Amazon to offer unlimited booksAmazon have pulled the covers of their next wheeze, a Netflix-style subscription.

The plan is to allow unlimited access for e-books, which is going to put the cat among the book pigeons for sure.

The $9.99 per month Kindle Unlimited offers access to 600,000 titles in the Kindle format.

Subscribers will be able to access the books on Amazon’s Kindle tablets, as well as other devices with a Kindle app, including iPads and iPhones, Windows devices and Android-powered mobile gadgets.

Amazon is using a model made popular by Netflix for films and television programs, but also by services such as Spotify for music.

This all sounds a bit like rum news ahead for the world of publishing, but Colin Gillis at BGC Partners reckons the move to subscriptions is part of a trend toward ”a ‘rent, not own’ society. We see it with music, with movies. It makes sense that they would do that with books.”

Understandably not everything will be available immediately on the service, but future releases could come as part of a deal to lure people into the service.

Publishers meanwhile are resisting the subscription model because it effectively cuts the price of books and royalties paid.

Despite this, Amazon knows that some of its readers will be up for it, said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research: ”Amazon knows its customers,” the analyst said. “They know if you read a mystery every week, they know whether they are in a position to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

“If you’re a one book a month reader and a best seller person, this isn’t going to work for you,” McQuivey said.

The Kindle Unlimited service will also include audio books available through the Audible service. The service is initially being launched for US customers, with other countries likely to follow.

Aldi offer cheapest school uniform yet

July 18th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Aldi uniform 2976900b 300x187 Aldi offer cheapest school uniform yetThe schools have barely shut and already the BACK TO SCHOOL offers are a-happening on the high street.

Previous years have seen the likes of Asda and Tesco get into the cheap school uniform market, offering them at next to nothing.

Now Aldi have waded in for the second year running, offering the cheapest deal yet, in the shape of the £4 school uniform.

The German supermarket is selling a round neck sweater, two plain polo shirts and either a pair of trousers or a skirt for £4.

Asda are offering the same deal, but for £7.50, making it now one of the most expensive options for supermarket school uniforms. Tesco and Sainsbury’s currently charge £6.75 and £7.33 respectively.

Noticeably, Aldi had been selling school kit since last year, but as the chain has had something of a magnificent 12 months, and as shoppers are less brand-conscious and more thrifty, their offering this year poses a real threat to the competition.

Just in case you feared the uniforms were being knocked up by some orphans in a toilet, a spokesman for Aldi said: ”As a responsible business, we are committed to respecting the human rights of workers in our supply chains and we continue to work with our suppliers towards continuous improvement in ethical standards.”

“We promote workplace practices and conditions that are safe, fair and legal for all those involved in making our products.”

It makes sense. Kids seem to go through school uniforms like they were made of paper, and they’re not that bothered about brands and the like until they hit the 9/10 age. Then you’ll be doing six jobs to buy them some trainers that some bully will rob off them at knifepoint.

Ah, childhood!

Bad car parking praised

July 17th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

car parking 225x300 Bad car parking praisedA parking campaigner has been praised by his local council.

A mysterious chap who wishes to remain anonymous – although the report says “Stuart” so let’s hope that’s not a cock-up – has been posting photos of bad parking from around his area of Lowestoft, Suffolk online.

“Stuart” has set up a Facebook page – Park It Right Lowestoft  - to shame the residents of Lowestoft (trust us, this is as exciting as it gets for them, The Darkness’ ‘coming from Lowestoft’ is a long long time ago now).

While shaming and that is no new thing, with Park It Right pages springing up for all manner of areas, plus there’s this site that showcases moronic motoring, this is the first time a council has applauded an individual’s tireless crusade.

“Stuart” admits that some of his friends and family think he’s demented

“There’s never any parking wardens around and the whole of Lowestoft seems to be getting worse”, he said. ”Some of my friends and family think I shouldn’t be bothering, but some of the parking is just dangerous and selfish and it’s annoying.”

However Waveney District Council have applauded “Stuart’s” efforts.

“Any public support and awareness for considerate parking can only be a good thing and if people wish to report incidents to us they can call us or look up ‘nuisance parking’ on our website.”

Aldi is Top of the Pop(ular buzz brand)s

July 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi is Top of the Pop(ular buzz brand)sAldi is the nation’s No.1!

No, really. In a YouGov BrandIndex thing about brands that create the most positive social media buzz, Aldi has abseiled in from nowhere and knocked the BBC off the top spot, and Lidl is into the Top 5 at No.4.

Also, some website called MoneySavingExpert.com arrives in at No.8, indicating that shopping habits have indeed changed a fair bit in recent years. Although Dyson is holding strong, and they’re hardly cheap.

It’s grim news for Samsung (falling from 2 to 9) and Waitrose (5 to 9), however the BBC still have a good showing with both the corporation itself and its iPlayer at 7 and 3 respectively. Of the big four supermarkets, Sainsbury’s cling on at No.10.

A lady named Sarah Murphy, BrandIndex director at YouGov, said:

“The budget grocery stores are making deep inroads into the supermarket sector and are also shaking up the retail landscape too, with Aldi coming in ahead of established brands such as John Lewis.”

“Consumers want to do their weekly shops affordably while losing nothing in terms of quality and they believe these German brands do this.”

All the wow and flutter of British and American brands counts for nothing – what do British people want? A bargain.

Beats By Dre Beats headphones are too bass heavy claim madpeopleBeats by Dre, or rather its president, has defended the sound quality of the company’s headphones.

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, Luke Wood pooh-poohed the idea that the headphones were too bass heavy.

“I’ve certainly heard that as an opinion on the headphone, I disagree. We didn’t go to build a reference headphone, something you build in the studio that is really a technical tool to hear when you are recording.”

Adding: “If you look at Dre’s pedigree, Jimmy’s (Iovine) pedigree, even my pedigree, we are all recording engineers. What we did is build a headphone for playback. What does it sound like right when it is finished? And that is what we’ve accomplished.”

Exactly, surely the idea of buying some headphones invented by people who enjoy a bit of bass, saying that they’re a bit bass heavy defeats the point somewhat.

Wood also refused to discuss pesky rumours about sockets on Apple products being changed to accept only Beats headphones following Apple buying Beats earlier this year.

“I’m not here to talk about Apple with you today,” he said. “The truth is that the deal has not closed with Apple, which it will shortly, once it goes through regulatory approval. And at that point we’ll actually sit down with Apple and figure it out. But right now, the truth is there’s absolutely no plans made.”

As you may recall, Apple is set to buy Dr Dre’s Beats Music streaming affair and headphone company for $3 billion, which is nice seeing as Dre can’t be arsed to make music anymore.

“Bass heavy”. Honestly. You Herberts want the moon on a stick.

Not quite over for Clover

July 16th, 2014 4 Comments By Ian Wade

 Not quite over for CloverFake butter news now, and Dairy Crest have revealed that sales of its Clover brand fell in the first three months of its financial year.

This grim news comes at a time where the firm continues to face a difficult spreads market.

While sales of Cathedral City (cheeses), Country Life (butter) and Frijj (purports to be a milkshake) have grown by 5%, Clover has gone almost into decline.

The myriad of reasons as to why this could be happening lay at the door of the humble wrap and other bread solutions non-reliant on a spread, and also because of higher milk prices.

The company said in May it would cut the price it paid farmers for milk on standard contracts by 1.25p a litre to 31.2p a litre at the start of this month.

Naturally some new TV advertising campaign will be unveiled soon, and people will hopefully come running back in the arms of Clover.

Overall though, the group said sales grew 4% across all four key brands and it’s on target to cut group costs this year by £20 million, with distribution costs and its dairies the focus of this.

Carrier bags: more popular than ever

July 16th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

tesco bag 300x187 Carrier bags: more popular than everCarrier bags, or at least ‘single-use’ (ie: plastic) are back on the rise.

The number of bags handed out by UK retailers rose for the fourth year in a row in 2013 to more than 8.3 billion.

In England alone, the number of single-use bags rose 5% from just over seven billion in 2012 to 7.4 billion in 2013.

The Government are all up for the 5p levy that will be introduced in October 2015, but what about the bags NOW man? They’re there. Accumulating up like a mountain of manky plastic. Suffocating us all slowly.

The Government was forced to admit plans to also exempt biodegradable bags will not come in when the levy is introduced, because no such bag currently exists.

Northern Ireland saw their bag numbers plummet by 71% as a charge was introduced in April 2013, whereas Wales saw an 18% increase last year, but its use of carrier bags is a fraction of other parts of the UK following the introduction of a 5p charge in the country. The number of bags handed out in Wales has fallen by 79% since 2010. In Scotland, which is bringing in a levy this year, there was a 6% increase in the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers.

It’s good news for the more robust “bags for life” as they’ve almost doubled since 2006, up from 245 million that year to 424 million in 2013.

A unnamed spokeswoman for the Environment Department (Defra) said: “Countries with the 5p charge have seen a dramatic fall in the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets – that is why we are introducing a charge in England from October 2015.”

“Our approach will help us reduce plastic bag usage and the litter they cause, while also protecting small and medium-sized businesses from any regulatory burdens at a time when the Government is supporting new growth in our economy.”

Bags.

telephone operator Comcast, and the customer service call that wont ever endSometimes, you have to ride out the spiel that people in call centres are paid to dish out. Their bosses make them do it and it can often be quicker to simply let them blurt it out as fast as they can, so you can give an answer and move on.

However, customer retention teams are a different breed altogether. They want to keep you on the phone and seduce you.

They’re the pick-up artists of the business world, all needy and determined like that Ted fella from How I Met Your Mother.

When Ryan Block, co-founder of Engadget, wanted to cancel his Comcast contract, he was met with a member of staff who is absolute agony to listen to. That’s right! There’s a recording! And now Comcast has issued an apology after their representative kept Block on the line for around 18 minutes.

Have a listen to the call here (and don’t worry, it isn’t 18 minutes long).

Block said that him and his wife wanted to switch provider, however, when Block’s wife was transferred to Comcast’s customer retention guy, the employee wouldn’t accept anything for an answer. The Block got involved and more of the same occurred.

“I started the call by (very nicely) saying that we were moving, and that we needed to cancel our service,” Block’s wife, Veronica Belmont, wrote in the description of the recording on SoundCloud. “He asked if we wanted to move our current service. I said no, thank you, but we’ve already signed up for Astound.”

“The representative continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone,” Block wrote in the audio description. “Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun.”

A Comcast spokeswoman provided the following statement to ABC News today about the recording: “We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

Cabbies go cashless

July 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

london cab 300x225 Cabbies go cashlessLondon, and it seems that to get around these days, you don’t need any cash.

Well actually you do, to charge up your Oysters and all that, but a London cab driver is trialling Barclay’s Pingit app for the next week.

It allows the fare on the meter to be transferred between bank accounts within 30 seconds.

Mr Cable, who has been a London black cab driver for 23 years, told the Independent: “I am always up for trying new technology to help make mine and my passengers’ lives easier.”

He’s Mr Future basically, as he was also the first cabbie to accept chip and pin cards in 2004.

“It means I have more time on the road to earn money – rather than stopping off at the bank to pay in my earnings or pulling up at ATMs for passengers with the risk of getting a hefty parking fine,” he added.

Of course, you can still probably get away with doing a runner if you’re that way inclined, but we’d never advise readers to do anything like that.

A man named Darren Foulds, the director of Barclays Mobile and Pingit, said: “We are always keen to support new ways to make people’s lives easier. This trial really demonstrates the huge potential for mobile payments as they gain more widespread use.”

The app will use QR codes (SEE? THERE IS A USE FOR THEM AFTER ALL) and can access any bank account when cash is needed for their fare.

Uber, meanwhile…

National parks get phone signals

July 14th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Green Park London   April 2007 300x200 National parks get phone signalsA deal between mobile operators to boost mobile coverage in England’s National Parks has been agreed.

The Mobile Operators Association (MOA, obvs) represents O2, EE, Vodafone and 3, and have said that themselves and the parks have settled on an agreement, without ruining the natural beauty and loveliness of the parks.

Now you can do a selfie with a deer and share it instantly rather than go through the agonising wait until you reach civilisation [This could make for some really fancy hook-ups with Tinder and Grindr and the like - Ed.]

It will also help boost the lives of those who work and maintain the parks, and they can alert people quicker to them with a simple “leg in mantrap lol” and not be left to rot there for a fortnight.

A chair named Jim Bailey, from the National Parks England and the North York Moors National Park Authority said: “Today’s agreement will be good for the thousands of businesses and people living in our National Parks, for the millions who visit them, and for the stunning landscapes and towns that are the lifeblood of our rural economies,” he said.

The work will cover the 10 National Parks of England: The Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.

Splendid.