Archive for October, 2008
Sweet muscular Jesus. We’re a sturdy bunch at Bitterwallet, but even our stomachs turned at the sight of this. It’s a garishly awful, pointlessly bulky bookcase that changes into the singular biggest waste of space ever to grace a Spanish games arcade:
Why, it’s a personal Whac A Mole game from the barnports at Hammacher Schlemmer (really?) who think that you may have $35,000 to blow on one. Seriously. The good news is that if you order by November 10th it’ll be with you in time for Christmas. A which point there’s no doubt that friends and family will kick your face off for wasting money on such nonsense. And you’ll deserve it.
Hoo-haa… it’s the weekend, and I’ll be cracking open a can of strong booze approximately 30 seconds after I’ve finished posting this guff.
But I’ve paid heed to the ad below and I’ll be sure to have a Mars Bar or something with it otherwise I’ll get drunk and cause Halloween havoc on my local estate tonight.
Elsewhere, the ‘Don’t Drive Drunk’ message is just as strong in galaxies far, far away too…
The US has indicted Israeli hacker Ehud ‘The Analyzer’ Tenenbaum over allegations that he hacked into financial institutions.
Here are the indictment charges (in PDF).
Tenenbaum is a pretty smart cookie; he even escaped extradition in 1998 after hacking into the Pentagon. He was recently arrested after stealing US $1.7 million from Direct Cash, a pre-paid debit card service.
How? He was caught on camera.
According to Wired, “Tenenbaum and people associated with him were caught on ATM video cameras withdrawing some of the cash.”
Not that I advocate fraud, but how a worldwide hacker phenomenon who managed to inject code into a secured financial MySQL server to withdraw over $1 million dollars forgets to put on a face mask when withdrawing money… that’s just appalling.
But no fret. Your money may still not be safe. Online identity firm Garlik and criminologists said that plenty of other people are turning to financial crime due to the worsening economic climate.
With online financial fraud growing by nearly 20% to 250,000 incidents in 2007, compared with 207,000 in 2006 [Computer Weekly], I’m sure the sale of ski masks will be on the uprise this quarter.
As the new James Bond movie hits the screens today, we don’t have a Quantum Of Solace, but we do have a Quartet Of Savings for you to hunt down and ruthlessly assassinate. Our men and women in the field are all working for the secret organisation know as HUKD and they’ve provided some tips to help you become a real live budget Bond.
If you want to be taken seriously as a smooth-as-f*** super spy, you’ll need a tuxedo. Them ain’t cheap, but there’s a 70% off sale at Debenhams at the moment. You might not get a tux, but there’s some lovely v-neck sweaters and ties to help get you started.
Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t give a rat’s arse about Pepsi or Norfolk Police. But when the UK Border Agency decides to follow in their footsteps and blow £30,000 of our hard earned taxpayer’s money to change their logo (read: remove the crest, add a deeper contrast to the purple line, and change a line), that really got me going.
I mean look at it. This is just ridiculous. Why would it cost £30k to do what a kid with paintshop on Windows 3.1 can do in 5 minutes?
In response to these questions, Immigration minister Phil Woolas said that it cost £12,000 in design fees, plus £17,000 for “a set of templates and guidelines to cover all applications of the logo”. Then, to explain “how to use the logo”, they spent another £1,200 to print manuals to guide them through this very complicated process.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, stated rightly: “It is all but identical. You might think this is money for old rope, to use the old design and charge £12,000. I don’t think a change of logo should have been the priority given the state of the immigration system at the moment.”
Please don’t even get me started on ‘the state of the immigration system’. Mr Green’s got it quite right. A year ago, I sent in approximately £1k, my original passport, my birth certificate, graduation certificates, driving license, tax paperwork, payslips and more to the UK Border Agency. And guess what? A year on, I have still not received them back. Numerous phone calls, emails and letters later, they finally wrote back and said “due to the changes taking place in our offices right now, we apologise but we’re unable to locate your documents.”
Compensation? Nil. Now I see what they have been so busy ‘changing’.
Have you ever tried to get hold of Ticketmaster by phone? We have, just now. There are no phone numbers displayed anywhere on their homepage; there isn’t even a Contact Us link in the page’s footer. In fact you’ve got to click on Customer Service, click the correct options on two sub-menus on their FAQ page before you discover this, which just can’t do enough to put you off calling. Of course you may be taken in by Ticketmater’s Contact us link on their Customer Service page, which lets you do no such thing.
Not a great example of going above and beyond to look after your customers, but probably not the worst. After all, Ticketmaster’s phone number may be harder to find than a chocolate eclair at a Weight Watchers meeting, but at least it’s there, somewhere. What about websites that stubbornly refuse to provide any means of two-way communication? If the UK takes its lead from Europe, change may be on the way.
In a recent German court case, a consumer body attempted to force an online insurance company to provide a contact number on their website. The long and the short of it was that the European Court of Justice weighed in and ruled that companies must provide a means of contact on their websites in addition to their postal and email addresses; this could be a telephone number or a contact form that is answered within an hour.
Great news for consumers, but unlikely to work in principle. The ruling isn’t law in the UK, although if a similar case was brought to court, it’s likely a judge would have little choice but to follow the ECJ ruling.
Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com reckons: “The ruling could be interpreted as saying that businesses should have a team of people ready to answer customers’ questions – which would be a huge problem for lots of companies.
“I can’t see eBay opening a call centre just to deal with European users’ queries.”
We can’t either, but does that mean they shouldn’t? At the very least, surely there needs to be some requirement that allows customers to engage companies in near real-time conversation?
In the meantime, let’s name some names: which companies actively refuse to provide anything other than an email and postal address? Which websites do have contact details, but bury them, like Ticketmaster, deep within some Egyptian-style maze of options and menus?
Got a G1 Google phone yet? If not, why not? They’re pretty cool, apparently, if not quite as sexy as an iPhone. They’re stolen plenty of the iPhone’s best features, but built on them too. For example, they’ve done away with iPhone’s frankly rubbish two megapixel camera, upgraded the spec, and then done some very clever stuff with it. Like CompareEverywhere.
It’s an application that uses the phone’s camera to let you scan bar-codes on goods while out shopping. It then instantly searches dozens of online and local stores, so you can compare price tags and scoop up the best deal. It also trawls online for product reviews, so you can see how whether stuff is worth buying in the first place.
We’re yet to have a play with CompareEverywhere, but it sounds like a consumer blessing. If you’ve bought your fancy new G1 phone and had a go in Woolies’ toy department, let us know what you think.
There’s an art to dragging out a consumer complaint for any length of time. Sooner or later it begins to feel like a sport, usually because the company involved refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part. Unfortunately, it’s a sport along the lines of chess or snooker, rather than anything involving guns and hostages.
Even so, the game can still turn sinister, especially when you’re dealing with a Government department that sets the debt collectors on you when its patience wears thin. Like the DVLA, for example.
The Register takes up the story of what happened when one man upset the DVLA; not only did they call in the heavies while an issue payment was still in dispute, it seems they were possibly a little too generous with his personal data.
Genuine concern for treating its customers badly, or a PR stunt to increase sales so more folk will want to punch a cow in frustration? We’re always going to side on the latter, but you never know. Well, you probably do, but let’s give O2 the benefit of the doubt. At least until we rumble them, which doesn’t take us very long.
The mobile company is to revamp its mobile broadband offering, after its own research showed one in ten customers think they’ve been mis-sold their current deal.
One in five mobile broadband users complained they couldn’t use the service anywhere – presumably those wanting service on a moving train, Saddleworth Moor or the centre of the Earth. Nearly one in three customers complained the monthly costs were higher than they’d been led to believe. It’s hardly world-shattering stuff, but it’s girded the company into “action” – unsurprisingly, it’s that brand of ineffective pointless action that isn’t going to improve the situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Bitterwallet rides the topical news cow all around the town with today’s advertorial offering. It’s an exceedingly young-looking Jonathan Ross pedalling pints of ghastly Harp lager from way back in 1986, when his mate Russell Brand was just 11 and probably had just a smattering of an interest in shagging.
See how super-cool Jonathan effortlessly pulls an attractive young lady? That’s ‘cos he drinks Harp. Wonder if he boffed her after the ad then rang her granddad to tell him all about it? Probably not – simpler times, see.
If you’re not happy with the service you get, complain about it. Or so they say. But there has to come a time when you back off and learn to keep your trap shut. Even if you’re a proud 94-year old who served dutifully in the Second World War, fighting for the right to air your views without sanction.
Well tough luck Stan Lee (right, and no, not the Marvel comics one) because your local pub are refusing to include you in their Meals On Wheels service any longer. They’ve had enough of your claims that the meat is “like old boots”; the gravy tastes “like trench water”; the peas are “like bullets”; the stuffing is “like cotton wool”; and the carrots are “limp and floppy”.
400 people eat those meals every week Stan and you’re the only one who’s got a problem with them. So there’s no more for you – you’ve cooked your goose. Or rather, you’re going to have to from now on.
Hooray! Another pointless computer application that’ll have you wasting away your precious leisure time! Poladroid is a natty bit of software that turns your photos into genuinely poor Polaroid reproductions. While the point of Polaroid cameras may well be lost on a generation born into the digital age, there are those of us who were transfixed by their three minute developing time and strangely tarred appearance.
The other, slightly more serious point to this, is that Poladroid serves a timely reminder that the days of Polaroid are all but gone; stocks of film for the camera have been dwindling away since production halted earlier this year. Still, don’t be too melancholy, because now you can pretend you were at that swingers party in Barnsley circa 1977. If you weren’t there the first time round, that is.
HSBC, the “World’s Local Bank”, continues the ‘two sides to everything’ concept in their latest television advertisement, a cinematic production with police, bears, dogs, lumberjacks and environmentalists of tear-jerking proportions.
Produced in both a full-length 90 second spot and a shorter 30 second version, the commercial shows tree-hugging protestors being forcefully removed by police from a wooded area that lumberjacks are waiting to level.
The synopsis of the story is that everyone is just doing what they believe is their job, but one person’s job inherently hurts another. The protestors are crying and hanging on as if their own lives were being taken. A woman gets arrested, thrown into prison, only to be released by her husband… who turns out to be one of the loggers.
You could possibly even shed a tear watching this. But what does any of this have to do with banking?
Slate editor John Swansburg received some insight from director Tracy Britton:
“HSBC caters to a sophisticated clientele, many of whom have interests overseas. The aim of this ad isn’t, it turns out, to sell me a Choice Checking account—HSBC has other campaigns touting such products. “Lumberjack” is supposed to reinforce the bank’s global experience to customers who own real estate in Belgium, say, or a small business with clients in Cambodia. The loggers and tree-huggers are metaphors, deployed to show that HSBC understands the diversity of viewpoints in the world—which in turn allows the bank to better serve customers in New York and Phnom Penh, alike.”
No matter how much inspiration Tracy Britton derived from Ayn Rand, a female environmentalists who cared so much about trees is probably not going to marry a lumberjack in the first place.
You can ask Bitterwallet anything at all, and we’ll always do our utmost to deliver. Red or brown sauce on fish finger sandwiches? Red, obviously. Salt first, or vinegar? Vinegar, because then the salt will stick to your food. What about ambiguous labelling on toiletries? Um.
I’ve just noticed the on the label of the Sainsbury’s Basics Shower Gel that turned up in the shower the other day it says:
“Sainsbury’s are against animal testing and fund research into alternatives.”
What this label doesn’t say is that the product isn’t tested on animals, which I’d expect it to say outright rather than in this hazy way. Does this mean that Sainsbury’s do test these products on animals and just pay a bit towards “research into alternatives”? Maybe Bitterwallet could contact Sainsbury to clarify for me…
An excellent question, given the wording is hardly clear cut. As Ducky says, it could mean that Sainsbury’s are squirting cheap conditioner into the swollen eyes of hamsters but aren’t particularly happy about doing so. I put that exact wording* to Sainsbury’s earlier this afternoon, and here’s the reply: Read the rest of this entry »
Long cold winter nights have been salvaged today by the long awaited arrival of the Google G1 Android phone, now officially released in the UK as of 7am this morning.
Sold exclusively in T-Mobile stores and on their website, sources say that over 1.5 million pre-orders have already been taken.
With lines forming as early as 5am this morning at T-Mobile’s flagship store on Oxford Street, enthusiasts are joining more than 25,000 users who have already registered their phones since the initial unveiling in New York last month.
You can get the new G1 free with a £40-a-month T-Mobile Combi and Flext contract, which includes “unlimited” web browsing. The HTC phone includes a number of high-end features including GPS, wireless internet access, and currently over 50 built-in Google applications free to download.
One of these apps may win over the hearts of many saavy consumers by helping them save money when shopping. According to The Telegraph, even ‘experts’ are raving about this clever function: Read the rest of this entry »