Picture 7 Stagecoach and Virgin win East Coast mainline rail franchiseStagecoach and Virgin have joined up to form a consortium and have won the franchise to run the East Coast mainline route. Get out the bunting and bottles of Warninks.

They’ve promised to invest around £140 million in the route over the next eight years, and will cough up £3.3 billion to the government for the contract.

The London to Edinburgh franchise has been publicly run since 2009.

That RMT union called the return of the franchise to the private sector “a national disgrace”, which suggests they’re not that happy.

The other bidders in the running included FirstGroup and a venture involving Eurostar and Keolis.

The Stagecoach and Virgin consortium, named Inter City Railways, said plans included 23 new services from London, and 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020. It will also be rebranded Virgin Trains East Coast.

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “Passengers using the East Coast mainline will benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of infrastructure investment and service improvements over the next decade. Together with Virgin, our innovative plans will give customers new services, faster and more frequent trains, and easier, more personalised journeys.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains. We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.”

However some people aren’t happy. Take RMT general secretary, he said the contract was “an act of utter betrayal”.

“The government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.”

The government reckons it always intended to return the route to the private sector, but transport unions have been pushing for the franchise to remain in public ownership.

A million odd gas customers have been overcharged

November 27th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

British Gas 300x193 A million odd gas customers have been overchargedMore than a million pre-paying gas customers have been overcharged due to faulty meters.

Industry body Energy UK believe customers could have been overcharged by as much as 25p for each top-up. According to them, around 1.5 million meters haven’t been working correctly for as long as seven years, as the meters were not properly calibrated to measure the cost of the gas being used.

In the worst cases, some customers may have been rinsed for as much as £110 extra.

“We apologise unreservedly to customers,” said Lawrence Slade, the chief operating officer of Energy UK. ”We have acted quickly, and we want those affected to get their money back as soon as possible,” he told the BBC.

Gas customers will be refunded by their energy dealers, and their cards will be updated when they next need a top-up. British Gas, have already said more than 700,000 of its customers may have been overcharged.

Regulator Ofgem has called for a timetable for refunds and repairs, and it is thought that refunds will go out before Christmas.

“That overcharging has been going on for seven years shows the second-class service prepayment customers get,” said Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, adding: ”Prepayment meter customers are already paying higher charges than direct debit customers, so this is adding insult to injury.”

Twitter introduces Offers

November 26th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

twitter offers 300x277 Twitter introduces OffersTwitter have just introduced a new thing called Offers to US users.

Twitter will work with a variety of brands to offer up deals on various things, and they’ll be able to redeem discounts from the social network.

Once an offer gets linked to your card, you can then use it to buy where the discount will be activated. Also, Twitter will also be able to focus deals to particular users based on their Twitter habits and which brands they engage the most with.

According to a Twitter blog post: “Starting today (in the US only), we’re beginning to test a new way for advertisers to connect with consumers on Twitter and convert them to loyal customers in their stores, on their websites and in their apps.”

“This feature, Twitter Offers, enables advertisers to create card-linked promotions and share them directly with Twitter users. As we continue to learn and improve based on the experience of our advertisers and users, we’ll make this feature available for more advertisers.”

It sounds a bit Groupony to be honest, but no doubt we’ll embrace it when it arrives over here at some point in the New Year.

Spar Guy sticks up for consumers

November 26th, 2014 3 Comments By Thewlis

a man in his shop 227x300 Spar Guy sticks up for consumersHere at Bitterwallet, we’re always banging on about sticking up for consumers, but a shop assistant in Dublin has gone far and beyond the call of duty in sticking up for his customers in Spar. Henceforth he shall be known as SparGuy and imagined in lycra and a cape.

While everyone is both entitled to hold their own opinions, and dress how they like, when one customer expressed his homophobic attitude towards a ‘flamboyantly dressed’ fellow customer in the queue, SparGuy did not quietly ignore the incident as most of us might have done, he decided to stick up for the person who was rudely insulted while simply doing his shopping.

Mr Insult Pants, who was in the queue with a lady friend, reportedly smirked “look at the faggot in the shorts” before laughing with his companion, while just inches in front of said shorts-sporting customer. SparGuy came to the rescue, however, and flat refused to serve the antisocial customer who felt entitled to insult other people just because he wanted to.

Of course, there are no laws to prevent people insulting other people, and we all know a few who could do with a good slanging match, but in Spar, SparGuy is King, and Spar rules allow all shoppers to shop insult-free as far as possible. And to pre-empt ‘whatever happened to freedom  of speech?’ thoughts, remember: you are free to say as you please, but not free from the consequences of saying them. That’s called ‘House Rules’ that.

Anyway, after some discussion, the insulting customers left without their purchases, and the insultee told his tale on social media, with Twitter commenters roundly lauding SparGuy’s actions. Spar were also impressed by their employee, commenting “We believe in respect for all people and therefore we’re very proud of #SparGuy.” There are no faggots in Spar. Not even Mr Brains’.

sparguy pic 500x198 Spar Guy sticks up for consumers

But Spar won’t be out of pocket, in case you were wondering about the lost sales to the barred customers, as Twitter users have claimed deliberate patronage of the Dublin store to show their appreciation for SparGuy’s stance on homophobia.

Or perhaps it’s just a stance on being a decent human being to other human beings.

And in the spirit of human concern, we also join some Twitter users in recommending the man saved by SparGuy think harder about his choice of clothes in future- not for sartorial reasons, but just to ensure he doesn’t freeze to death wearing shorts at the cold end of November…

Super Wi-fi throughout the UK could be a thing

November 26th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

WIFI icon 300x300 Super Wi fi throughout the UK could be a thingThe UK looks set to be super WiFi’ed up if a plan to use old TV frequencies gets the go ahead.

The idea is to broadcast super WiFi throughout the land, which will mean you’ll be able to get an internet connection literally anywhere. The new WiFi would travel through walls far more effectively than current systems and has a range 100 times greater than current routers.

According to researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the fast connections could be made available to the public for free.

The WiFi would use up the white space between TV channels, and offers speeds similar to 4G

It all boils down to the government allowing people to use it, rather than sell it off to telecoms companies that they may have interests in.

Arnd Weber of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology said: “Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences. Individuals, institutions, and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit.”

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology hope that governments can discuss the issue at next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference. Which sounds like quite the party.

Amazon and the Post Office: together at last

November 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

amazoninstant Amazon and the Post Office: together at lastAmazon have just partnered up with the Post Office! No really. It’s happened. Bolt the doors.

Don’t panic, it’s not forever or a bid for the Christmas No.1 or anything, the online retail giant have teamed up with the posties, to allow buyers to have their parcels delivered to the branches directly.

That’s quite good news for anyone whose postman stashes their items with the neighbour but neglects to inform the actual recipient.

10,500 Post Offices are now added to Amazon’s Pickup Location Programme – which sounds slightly unsavoury. This however brings the total of Pick Up posts to 16,000 in the UK.

It’s an odd but good move for the online shop to team up with the very thing it was trying to destroy, which is quite a nice festive message for us all to take from it.

Oh but of course, there has to be something in it for Amazon too, so the service will be yet another incentive to sign up to its Prime subscription deal; free with Prime, Post Office deliveries will otherwise cost standard First Class post rates.

Google nix homophobic games and trolls

November 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

asshunter 300x199 Google nix homophobic games and trollsGoogle have got rid of a game that required the gamer to kill gay people. Which is nice.

Ass Hunter had already been downloaded over 10,000 times and had 200 five star reviews, but was eventually pulled by Google after some people online went “Yeah, that’s a bit iffy”.

Basically you play a hunter with a shotgun – such a good look – and you must kill naked men before they approach you. Nice! If you fail to kill the naked men, they pounce upon the hunter and bum him. Enlightening.

In the description of the app, its uploaders AppDay – who sound like charmers – described Ass Hunter as a “Legendary game, where you are hunter and your mission is to kill gays as much as you can”.

When the game went up on November 5th, the description read “Popular game hunting on gays is now on Android! Play and do not be gay!” (Seriously. Someone has received money for coming up with that tagline). Making homophobia justifiable with such taglines as “Remember! When they catch you they will do with you whatever they want.” the game was also exempt from classification so anyone could download it.

Well done everyone. Genuinely, give yourselves a round of applause. Anyway, it’s gone now, but if you’re desperate there are versions of it lying around the internet.

In addition to that, Google have gone after trolls. Not particularly willingly, mind you. The internet giant lost a legal battle with a man who took them to court for extreme trolling.

Daniel Hegglin, a former Morgan Stanley banker, had took action in an attempt to block links to the “vile and abusive” posts about him from appearing in its search results. He’d been accused of being a murderer, paedophile and Ku Klux Klan sympathiser by one particular troll who we could surmise ‘had some form of grudge’, with posts saying as such on over 3,600 websites. That’s literally ‘a bit too many’.

Hegglin settled the case with Google yesterday, despite Google’s lawyers suggesting that the case could have enormous implications., with the search engine basically being held up as the internet police.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, acting for Mr Hegglin, told the court that Google had taken steps to remove the material: ”Whilst I am not in a position to disclose the details, I am pleased to report that the parties have now settled the matter,” he said. “The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google hosted websites and from its search results.”

Now Hegglin plans to bring the troll to justice, however he doesn’t know who they are. Oooh – this is slightly worrying now: ”Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content. It will, however, continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches applicable local laws.”

A Google spokesperson said the company had “reached a mutually acceptable agreement”. Now: why can’t everyone just play nicely?

the sun newspaper 300x168 Supermarkets bend to demand to cover up newspapersSlightly over the top parents are celebrating today after two supermarkets announced that they will cover up front pages of newspapers on their displays.

Yes, because it is quite a big thing. No end of impressionable children are lead into darkness by seeing a display of newspapers.

Waitrose and Tesco have agreed to work on new display methods as so not to upset the precious ones.

This move comes following months of pressure from campaign groups No More Page 3 and Child Eyes, who have heralded the decision a victory.

Newspaper front pages can sometimes be unsavoury, yes, but you get the impression that much of the way modern life has been lived, is going to upset somebody. Both parties had expressed concern at sexualised images of women being one of the key things that they didn’t like seeing. Exactly how ‘in your face’ and massive are these newspaper stands anyway?

A spokesman for Tesco, said they’d had made the decision after consulting with customers and campaigners, and so now that the papers will be displayed with just mastheads showing.

He confirmed that all large outlets, known as Extra and Superstore shops, will receive the new display units by the end of November 2014.

Tesco’s Customer Experience & Insight Director, Tracey Clements, said: “We are first and foremost a family retailer and it’s important we do everything we can to promote the right environment in store.”

“We’ve asked our customers what they think about the issue and we have spoken to campaigners. The change we’re making will strike the right balance for everyone.”

The Child Eyes campaign was formed after a rash of little darlings were seen to go on a sex and drug fuelled rampage after seeing a cover of the Daily Mirror.

Founded in 2012, it campaigns to stop sexualised, sexist and damaging images being displayed at child height in shops and public spaces. Child Eyes claims that newspapers are frequently displayed at children’s eye level, often right next to the comics that children are drawn to, and use easy-to-read words which catch their attention.

“This is a real victory for all the supporters of the Child Eyes Campaign, who have been trying to make their voices heard on this issue for so long. We’re feeling really positive and excited that the other supermarkets, and then also smaller shops will follow on to make the UK more family friendly.”

‘Make the UK more family friendly’. Jeez.

A spokesman for the kids said “yeah, whevs” before bypassing their parental controls on the computer and surfing for porn. They’ll be asking people to no longer stick baby’s heads on spikes next. This country.

child saving money 300x204 Solve the pocket money problem and stalk your children. Win/win.For those lucky enough to have children, the issue of pocket money rears its ugly head sooner than you might think, although it could be said that you are never too young to learn about how to make the most of a small amount of money.

However, with a myriad different ways to pay for stuff these days, none of which involving actual cash, the practicality of paying out pocket money can become a problem. Who has that many pound coins. So modern technology comes to the rescue again with some apps that take the hassle out of paying pocket money AND give you an innocent way to stalk your child.

There are two main apps, GoHenry and Osper. Both work on the basis of parents funding a bank account for the child, and the child has a debit card (partnered with either Visa or Mastercard respectively) that allows them to spend their money wherever a debit card is accepted, or to withdraw cash from a cash machine. They cannot spend what isn’t there, so there’s no risk of them getting into debt, but it does allow them to practice saving and spending before they are let loose on the world of credit cards at 18.

As an added bonus, the apps, through which you manage actually paying your children their weekly/monthly income, provide you with an instant notification of spending on the child’s card. This means that you can check-up on your little darling to make sure they are where they say they are, provided they are spending money doing it, of course.

But while this is less likely to be an issue for the eight year olds (the youngest age you can get one of these cards), they can run right up to age 18, although whether the pocket money will still be flowing at that point is perhaps another question. You will need access to at least one device (smart phone or tablet) so that the parent can manage the funding, and the child can check their balance and purchase history. Cards can be blocked immediately should the card get lost (likely) or stolen.

Of course, these people are not providing this service out of the goodness of their own hearts and there is a charge. GoHenry currently gives you three months free, and then charges £1.97 per child per month. Osper is free for a year, and then costs £10 per card per year.

So if you don’t want to pay out anything extra in pocket money, or you just don’t like the idea of an eight year old with plastic, you could try Roosterbank which is an app that does it all virtually- basically keeping a record of how much you owe your child in actual money. The child can save their pocket money for something (and earn ‘interest’) and you can deduct ‘money’ from their account when you buy them something. Basic membership is free, but has limits on the number of transactions. The app also includes games (with premium features) and a shop selling actual toys etc, although they can’t physically pay for things themselves as there’s no real money in their account. Again there is an iPhone app, but there is also a desktop version. Roosterbank also allows you to pay children extra for doing extra chores. Bit like bob-a-job. But a bit more expensive.

Beats on all iPhones by March

November 21st, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

beatsbydrdrelogo Beats on all iPhones by MarchApple are planning on forcing more stuff onto your iPhone. A new iOS update in March will automatically install the Beats Music app to all iPhones.

Apple bought Beats back in May for $3 billion, and it looked like they’d lost interest in it when little was mentioned of it back when they launched the iPhone 6.

This follows Apple’s foisting of U2′s latest album into everyone’s iTunes and shoving iBooks in with the iOS 8 update.

The Beats streaming service will have two different subscription plans $9.99 (£6) per month or $99.99 (£67) per year.

This will no doubt ruffle feathers going up against Spotify, who do a monthly subscription, but not an annual one as yet.

Apparently Beats Music currently has around 110,000 subscribers, which looks set to sky-rocket should Apple’s evil plan work. Can we just ban all bloatware now?

Aldi to launch pop-up restaurants

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi to launch pop up restaurantsAldi are entering the restaurant business… sort of. The discount supermarket have announced that they’re opening a few pop-up restaurants around the country ahead of Christmas.

The restaurants will be serving up a meal planned by chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

The events will happen in selected hotels such as Blythswood Square Hotel and Home House between November 21st and December 10th.

You can try your luck to win a reservation by tweeting @AldiUK using #AldiFestiveFeast as your hastag.

Naturally all the food served will be sourced from Aldi’s Specially Selected range, including such fare as caviar, crab, turkey wellingtons and Christmas pudding.

(Actually their Christmas pudding is well nice).

Joint managing director of corporate buying, Tony Baines said: “Jean-Christophe Novelli has put together a luxury menu that shows off our festive range to the full and offers better value than other supermarkets. We hope that our consumers will enjoy it.”

Tesco launch Secret Scan-ta app

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Tesco Clubcard are hoping to help you find the perfect gift via Twitter! They’ve teamed up with We Are Social to create a campaign that endeavours the find the ideal gift for people via Twitter.

The Secret Scan-ta (OH GOD YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE) app will focus on the cheaper end of goods they offer, rather than stuff like tellies and fridges.

secret scanta 500x363 Tesco launch Secret Scan ta app

Both Clubcard customers and non-customers can input the Twitter handle of a person they are buying the gift for, and then Secret Scan-ta will sift through that particular Twitter account sourcing info on what sort of people and organisation the user follows.

Then using this data – which they’ll probably store away and cite you as a stalker or something in the future – the Scan-ta will offer up gift solutions which they have in stock.

Clubcard members who input their Clubcard vouchers at the start of the search will find their voucher value doubled and deducted from the gift’s price if they go ahead with the purchase.

And that’s not all, each week five winners will be selected at random from those who have used the app to receive 5,000 Clubcard points, and one ultimate winner will be in with a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy S5.

Katie Aust digital marketing manager from Tesco Clubcard, said: “Christmas, although a happy season, can often bring with it panic and stress of buying gifts. This campaign gives the buyer get a bit of genuine insight into what the recipient is really interested in, resulting in a personal, and thoughtful gift. It also promotes the huge offerings of the Tesco gifting range and the benefits of joining Clubcard and boosting vouchers.”

So, ‘gifting’ – we’re saying that now, are we?

fat and happy Has the recession made you a sad, scruffy fatso?*People are always interested in how consumer behaviour changes, particularly after big events like a recession. New research from Kantar Media now show that, compared with five years ago, consumers these days are miserable, minging slobs, or “unhappier, unhealthier and less concerned by their appearance”  as they put it.

Since 2008’s downturn, consumers’ health, appearance and happiness have all taken a “significant knock” according to Kantar, leading to “profound behavioural changes” in the relationship between consumers and food.

Kantar claims that the dark days of the recession led consumers into finding comfort and reward in more indulgent and less healthy foods, with the proportion of adults who said their diet was very healthy falling from 41% in 2009 to 36% today. Today’s consumers are also  ”less fussy” about their appearance, with only 54% claiming to look after the way they look, down from 62% in 2009. In some areas, we reckon the percentage is even less…

But even if you are still clinging on to your health and your looks, chances are you aren’t happy. Today, only 49% of adults are “happy with their standard of living” down from 58% in 2009. Similarly, the proportion of adults who say they are happy with their life as it is has fallen from 63% in 2009 to 57% today.

The problem, according to Kantar, is that we are now associating junkier food and takeaways with happiness- after all, the recession meant that going out for a meal was often replaced by a cheeky takeaway. Little pleasures. But this isn’t just bad news for our waistlines and looks, producers of healthier and organic foods are also down in the dumps.

“The consequence of this declining happiness amongst British consumers and its link to healthy eating is that interest in the likes of organic and fair trade food will be unlikely to pick up again until the economic recovery not only improves consumers’ quality of life, but also ultimately delivers higher levels of happiness,” said Anne Benoist, director, Kantar Media TGI.

“The fast food industry has, to a certain extent, repositioned itself during the downturn so that it is no longer so synonymous with junk food…This has helped consumers feel less guilty about what they eat. The healthy food industry needs to undertake a similar re-positioning so that eating healthily is no longer equated with unhappiness in consumers’ minds.”

So we may now be glum, gelatinous and grotty as consumers, but it could be worse. We could be eating healthy food and be even more miserable…

*assuming you weren’t one already.

Cars getting too big for car parks

November 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

car parking 225x300 Cars getting too big for car parksCars are getting bigger and car parking spaces are getting smaller, according to a new report.

A rise in minor accidents and the like is costing UK drivers around £750 million a year in repairs and, apparently there’s more than 500,000 collisions per year – working out at approximately 1,373 per day.

The Accident Exchange report revealed that car park incidents are second to rear-end shunts as the most common car mishap, costing motorists an average of £1,428 each time to repair.

The report says there were an estimated 2.2million accidents on UK roads in 2011 of which ‘general car park incidents’ represented nearly a quarter (22.78%) of the total.

A spokey for Accident Exchange said: “Most parking incidents take place at slow speeds but that does not stop motorists damaging doors, wheels, bumpers and other parts of the bodywork.”

“A possible contributing factor is that today’s larger vehicles are now squeezing into smaller parking spaces.”

The findings that emerged from their survey of car parks was very illuminating, discovering that the average car park space is an eye-opening  7ft 9.5 inches (237.5cm.) However, the average car has grown in size over the years, and even the smallest models of yore have at least another foot added to their size.

Yet due to the pesky Transport Department, parking space sizes have remained the same since 1994

It’s no joy for the drivers either, they’re getting taller and fatter and are causing themselves pain trying to get out of tight spaces. Well, it needn’t be painful if you know how to work it.

Liz Fisher of Accident Exchange said: “Looking at the statistics, you’d think there is chaos in car parks up and down the country and that drivers are literally battling for spaces to park. But the fact is that drivers are having to squeeze their larger cars into smaller spaces and there are many more car journeys made than just a decade ago.”

Car parks being a load of rubbish – who would’ve ever thunk it?

Swipe your Co-op card to win things

November 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

The Co-op have unveiled a new promotion!

Entitled Swipe and Win, any Co-op member can swipe their card in a food store, and then get entered into a daily draw thing where there’s a prize budget of £1.3m, with booty such as vouchers, tellies and fridge freezers.

swipe and win offer banner live 500x212 Swipe your Co op card to win things

There’ll also be instant prizes such as a £20 voucher or just some freebies. The promotion runs until December 9th, so you’ve got a good couple of weeks or so to try your luck.

Steve Murrells, CEO retail at The Co-op Group said  “We hope our members will enjoy taking part in Swipe and Win,”

“Of course, there are many other facets to membership of The Co-operative which enables people to have a say in the running of the business, join campaigns and to take part in organised events with other members.”

Hark at him with his ‘facets’.