Posts Tagged ‘News’

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.”

TAX MONKEYS HMRC publish list of tax avoidance schemes, so theres no excuse for rock starsHM Customs and Revenue has published a list of 800+ schemes that they reckon are being used to deliberately avoid tax and as soon as they get brand new legal powers, happening in August, HMRC will be demanding the disputed tax as “accelerated” payments.

Celebrities such as including David Beckham and Arctic Monkeys have been those accused of using such schemes.

It has been forecast that around 33,000 people will receive tax demands for billions of pounds from HMRC over the next two years. They will be given 90 days to cough-up what’s owed and, should a court decided in the celebrities’ favour, then they will get their money back.

There’s going to be a lot of work in the courts, isn’t there?

The published list shows a series of numbers, known as Scheme Reference Numbers (SRNs), because those who come up with these schemes don’t give them jazzy names like ‘Sleb Cabale Tax Hole’ or ‘The Fu’coffers’. You can have a look at the most boring list in the world, here.

However, those filling out tax returns have to put these numbers on their forms, so they should be able to spot whether they’re owing money to HMRC pretty easily.

Of course, we can’t expect pop stars to be good for much, and in the case of Katie Melua, she admitted she’s been thoroughly “clueless about tax” when she signed up to a tax scheme. She’s paid off all the tax she owes though, so she’s alright.

That said, the main gripe here is not necessarily that pop stars and celebrities are avoiding paying their taxes, but rather, that they’ve managed to ferret all that money away and still be gigantically boring with it!

What ever happened to feeling a tax code and buying a crumbling French mansion and taking loads of heroin with models and the like?

Lidl goes FANCY

July 15th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

Châteauneuf du Pape AC Aldi Lidl goes FANCY In a direct attempt to wooooo middle class shoppers who would rather flagellate themselves with uncooked quinoa than set foot in a Lidl, the German budget supermarket is now offering fancy French wines alongside the off-brand dodgy cider and cans of beer with ‘BEER’ written on them.

Yes, Lidl is seriously stepping on the other supermarket’s toes here, offering wine from the Chateauneuf-de-Pape vineyards for much cheaper than anywhere else. Prices start from £4.99 for a cheeky white Cote de Gascogne (nothing to do with Gazza mercifully) to £21.99 for a 2006 Chateau La Tour.

Lidl are spending £12 million – the most they’ve ever spent – on this product launch, and are hoping to change the way the budget supermarket is seen by the middle classes – and lure them away from Waitrose.

Ben Hulme, senior buying manager for wines at Lidl, said: ‘Our choice offers extraordinary value for money for some of the best wines in the world. Our pricing is transparent and open, unlike a lot of the permanent ‘offers’ on the High Street.’

Of course, everyone knows that the middle classes secretly shop at Lidl anyway, buying up parmesan and Parma ham undercover of darkness while wearing joggy bottoms to hide their shameful privilege…

British high street 300x180 Retail growth slows right down thanks to interest rate panic According to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium, we’re not spending again – this time because we’re worried about interest rates.

Retail growth rose by just 0.6% last month, which is the slowest growth since May 2011. Demand for big exciting things like appliances was weaker, and we didn’t spend as much money on food, either, preferring to shop cheaper and rely on offers.

And despite the healthy housing market, it seems we’re holding off on getting that new kitchen or buying accessories for our houses. David McCorquodale from KPMG, who helped to compile the figures for the BRC, said:

‘June saw the brakes applied to spending as shoppers put purchases of big ticket items on hold whilst they waited to see if the Bank of England would take action on interest rates. Even sales of home accessories and furniture flatlined, which is surprising given the UK is reportedly in the midst of a housing boom.’

So it seems like we’re putting everything in the mortgage pot for a rainy day. But Helen Dickinson from the BRC said it was OK, the UK is still on track for economic recovery. She puts it down to competitive food pricing which has changed shopper’s attitudes.

However, once interest rates do rise, we’ll be spending NOTHING. We’ll see what happens to the economic recovery then, Helen.

Recycling Mixed Containers ‘Bin decision’ costs taxpayers £200 million a year Local councils who can’t agree on a standard size and shape of recycling bin are costing us a fortune, according to a new and exciting recycling report.

With so many lovely designs around – ‘the green one with the lid’, ‘the brown one with the hole in the top’ etc. – councils simply can’t make their mind up, and that means that each bin costs us £5 more than it would in other countries where all bins are a standard type.

Overall, their disjointed and quite frankly RUBBISH approach to bin selection and recycling in general is costing the UK £1.7billion.

The report from the Circular Economy Task Force suggests that the UK could actually generate £2billion in private investment in recycling plants. But because the UK recycling market stinks, not enough produce is collected to make private investment in new recycling plants profitable.

At the moment only 30% of plastic is recycled in the UK – two thirds of it goes to companies abroad, losing the UK more money. And so it goes. The circle of crap, as they sang in the Lion King.

‘Local authorities spend more on waste management than housing or planning. Valuable raw materials are lost while businesses are frustrated by a lack of usable recycled materials.’ Says Dustin Benton, who compiled the report (known as ‘Dusty Binton’ to his mates).

‘The system both stymies demand for recycled materials and prevents businesses investing. The problem is structural. The Government could easily turn this around by reforming the system to help businesses get the UK moving toward a circular economy.’

FCA proposes 0.8% payday loans cap

July 15th, 2014 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

payday loans FCA proposes 0.8% payday loans capJust what are we going to do with payday loan companies? They’re not doing anything illegal per se, but no-one likes having them around.

The Financial Conduct Authority have come up with a plan.

They want to see a cap on the amount that payday lenders can charge their customers, and they’ve announced what they’re going to do.

The short version is that payday loan rates should be capped at 0.8% a day of the amount borrowed, and the FCA add that in total, no-one should have to pay the loan companies back more than double what they borrowed.

These changes will come into play in January 2015, and some say that those desperate for money will avoid companies like Wonga and Quick Quid, and go back to old fashioned loan sharks who will reclaim debts with thumb screws or whatever it is they do.

The new rules say that there’s also going to be a cap on default charges, which is probably being set at £15.

FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley said: “For the many people that struggle to repay their payday loans every year this is a giant leap forward. From January next year, if you borrow £100 for 30 days and pay back on time, you will not pay more than £24 in fees and charges and someone taking the same loan for 14 days will pay no more than £11.20. That’s a significant saving.”

“For those who struggle with their repayments, we are ensuring that someone borrowing £100 will never pay back more than £200 in any circumstance.”

The FCA predict that these new rules will see payday loan providers losing £420m in revenues each year.

tax 215x300 Scary new powers for scary taxman to deduct what he likes from your salary (without telling you)HMRC seems to be getting more sinister by the day. Hot on the heels of regulations allowing HMRC to forcibly remove cash in unpaid tax debts from your bank account, new regulations out for consultation would allow HMRC to change an employee’s tax code, which governs how much tax is deducted from salaries before reaching their bank account, without telling them- for up to 30 days. This means employees could receive far less (or presumably more) wages than they were expecting with no prior warning. Which seems a bit off.

Currently both employer and employee are immediately informed when a tax code is changed, and this allows the employee to contact HMRC should the tax code be incorrectly amended. Figures released last month showed that the number of taxpayers who had paid an incorrect amount of tax rose to 5.5m last year, so it’s not like the system is foolproof either. The proposed delay would mean people only find out when it is too late to correct the mistake and the money has already been deducted from their monthly salary.

Lesley Fidler (her real name, honest), a tax director at Baker Tilly, said: “When you are counting the pounds in your pay packet…you are thinking ‘have I got enough this month?’…People will effectively be lending to the taxman out of their salaries.”

However, Lin Homer, chief executive of HMRC, insisted that the powers would only be used in extreme circumstances and would never leave taxpayers short of “enough money to live.” But before you start chuffing about how on Earth the stonkingly well-paid Chief Exec of a public body would be able to gauge what is enough to live on, don’t worry, because HMRC propose to be able to judge this perfectly by gaining access to 12 months of the target’s personal spending habits. That’s not terrifying AT ALL.

An HMRC spokesman said that the delay is only likely to be used in “limited circumstances” at busy times of the year, such as around the self-assessment deadline and that it was all OK as “HMRC anticipates savings for the taxpayer of several millions pounds in printing and postage costs, as a result of these changes.”

HMRC will, however, welcome “comments on the detail” of the regulations, before finalising them “in the autumn.”

The proposals are currently out for consultation until the end of July.

Britain is getting a SPACEPORT

July 14th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

space 300x168 Britain is getting a SPACEPORT Apparently ministers are drawing up plans to create a Space Heathrow somewhere in the UK.

They’ll unveil the 8 possible locations for the UK’s first spaceport at the Farnborough Air show tomorrow, which are thought to include sites in the North of Scotland, Bristol, Norfolk and the Outer Hebrides.

But won’t just be Richard Branson and his rich Virgin Galactic berks who will use the spaceport. It’ll also be for manned space missions and satellites.

Talking of Branson, he’s launching his first Virgin Galactic flight later this year from a spaceport in New Mexico. But he’s already been talking about using Lossiemouth, on the east coast of Scotland, as a possible UK base for Virgin Galactic flights.

So will the spaceport be the same as a regular airport, except the departures lounge will be weightless?

Will we still have take off our shoes and put our toiletries in a clear plastic bag?

And will there be a WH Smiths selling a free Mars Bar and Galaxy with every copy of the Daily Teleport?

Apple Store Fifth Avenue 300x225 Apple can now sue if your shop looks like itApple have stirred up a nest of palaver after securing the right to register its store layouts as a trademark.

This follows a similar trademark registration in the US in 2010.

The ruling now means that if anyone thinks you’ve pinched their store layout, then you could be forced to change it or even be shot at* (*sued)

A chap name David Dalziel, who is the creative director at retail consultancy Dalziel and Pow, said to Design Week: “I am really surprised about this ruling, it doesn’t seem to be defendable to me.

“It is one thing to protect against the direct copy, which can and does happen in some developing regions where design is less sophisticated, but to attempt to protect a store layout would seem to be too broad, too sweeping to defend.

“Stores designed with a rigid table plan existed long before Apple was invented and will continue long after Apple evolve their concept to their next iteration. That is the nature of retail design.”

Of course, there have been outrageous copies all over the world, as previously reported on Bitterwallet.

The European Court’s judgement reckons that Apple’s store layouts fulfill the three main criteria  – they constitute a sign, are capable of graphic representation and can distinguish the goods sold by one company from those of another.

Nobody else seems to be remotely bothered about this ruling, however now Apple has stirred it up, it means that more companies can start copyrighting its store layouts and sue other retailers if they feel that they’ve been copied.

Of course, it’s just another layer of bullshit that we were doing really quite well without until yesterday.

God help us if there’s a war.

barclays bank limited 300x300 Robbery! Robbery! Ha ha ha, Ive got all the money! Poor, dumb Teslim Adedibu. He was £9,000 in debt and thought his benefits were being slashed, so he decided to do something about it.

No, he didn’t call Step Change, or email the Money Advice Service. Instead he went to the flagship branch of Barclays in Piccadilly, kicked over a security screen and stole a piffling £910.

While yelling ‘Robbery! Robbery! Ha ha ha, I’ve got all the money!’ packets of dye he’d also accidentally pocketed went off in his rucksack – and he ran down Shaftsbury Avenue in a cloud of fetching red smoke.

Before he kicked down the screen and made his rather fabulous ‘getaway’, unemployed Adedibu had tried and failed to get money out over the counter because he was in thousands of pounds of debt.

So, thinking up a novel way to pay off his overdraft, he turned up five minutes later and demanded £10,000. He was caught the next day after his details were traced from his original (failed) transaction.

‘I’m sorry,’ said a now subdued Adedibu, as he was escorted to jail for 18 months. Bless him.

bank sign 1 in 4 want digital banking, says inconclusive survey A survey says that one in four of us would use a purely digital bank. No ‘banking ambassadors’, no counters, no humans. Apparently, we don’t care. A large percentage of us wants everyone to leave us alone and shuffle numbers about on a screen and then forget about it.

Unsurprisingly, the survey, by Accenture, found that folks between the ages of 25 and 34 are the ones most in favour of digital only banking, and are happy to only access their bank via the internet. And 80% of the 3600 current account holders surveyed are using internet banking regularly – however, the figure using mobile banking is just 27%.

BUT, there’s a bit of paradoxical confusion going on, too. It also found that there was a rise in customers using branches – up to 52% from 45% in 2012. And the biggest rise of all was between 18-25 year olds – the people you might assume would be all over digital banking like a rash.

‘This year’s survey underscores the growing complexity in how consumers want to interact with banks in the digital age,’ said Peter Kirk, from Accenture’s financial services group.

So what do we want? People or machines? Or both? Or do we just want that thing that seems so elusive – a bank that doesn’t annoy the crap out of us?

China: Child labour and iPhone paranoia

July 14th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

china China: Child labour and iPhone paranoiaUnsurprisingly, there’s some strange news coming out of China.

The first bit of news is that Chinese state media have warned their people that Apple’s iPhone is a threat to national security. Why? Well, iPhones can track you and transmit data back to the firm, which of course is paranoid and wei… hang on.

China might have a point there.

A report on China Central Television (yes, the acronym for that is ‘CCTV’, which is just hilarious really) said that the iPhone’s “Frequent Locations” function was dangerous and intrusive to Chinese citizens. ”This is extremely sensitive data,” a researcher told CCTV, before adding that iPhones could well tell everyone about the Chinese economy and “even state secrets”.

Cast your mind back to Edward Snowden’s claims that he once taught a course in “cyber-counterintelligence” against China, and things that may have been dismissed as the hootings of crackpots look far more probable.

Apple’s notes on the Frequent Locations service says: ”Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device and won’t be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.”

CCTV have previously referred to Apple as “incomparably arrogant”, which is also funny.

However, Samsung have been pointing at China, saying that they’ve found evidence of “suspected child labour” at a factory of one of their suppliers. Say hello to our old pals at Dongguan Shinyang Electronics again!

Samsung undertook an investigation after the group China Labor Watch accused them of hiring children, with the tech-makers suspending business with the factory while they look into everything.

“If the investigations conclude that the supplier indeed hired children illegally, Samsung will permanently halt business with the supplier in accordance with its zero tolerance policy on child labour,” Samsung said in a statement. “Furthermore, Samsung will strengthen its hiring process not only at its production facilities but also at its suppliers to prevent such case from reoccurring.”

Dongguan Shinyang Electronics have decided to stay quiet for the time being.

So there you have it. In China, it seems it is okay to work children like dogs, but if you tell Americans about their whereabouts, then you’re ‘incomparably arrogant’.

bwbest 300x255 News round up – the best of the week’s storiesThe Best of Bitterwallet

Is cheap food just dodging tax? bitterwallet/taxfood
The government are spying on you, which is nice bitterwallet/snoop
HOW MUCH FOR A DOMINOS?! bitterwallet/pi££a
Network Rail – officially awful bitterwallet/trains
New iPhone wants you to stab it bitterwallet/stab
Track your children, creeps! bitterwallet/kiddies
EU gets the hump over food labelling bitterwallet/nom

The Best of the Rest

Amazon allowed kids to spend, spend, spend! pcworld/amazon
How much did the Royal Mail float cost us? citywire/float
Church of England sell Wonga stake FT/cofe
Insurers have to be clearer bbc/renewal
M&S finance dude jumps ship to Tesco reuters/finance
Free WiFi for Glasgow! heraldscotland/wifi
Customer test drives Ferrari. Guess what happens next. mirror/oops
What will sell best this Christmas? retail-week/christmas-already?

Use your iPhone at depths of 300 feet

July 11th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

waterproof phone case 300x300 Use your iPhone at depths of 300 feet You would think that the seabed would be the last place you’d want to take your phone.

But if your online narcissism extends to taking selfies while deep sea diving, or you just want to capture the magnificence of the Barrier reef and boast about it on Instagram, then you might want to get yourself this new waterproof iPhone case from Thanko.

The chunky aluminium case basically turns your phone into a submarine, and costs a whopping £172, but it’s a small price to pay to show off underwater. The case will keep your phone dry and safe to depths of 300 feet.

The only problem with it – although if you pay £172 for a phone case you can take underwater, the problem might also be you – is that you can’t use the phone’s touch screen.

So what you have to do is make sure you disable autolock, and put the iPhone camera icon at the bottom of the screen, so it corresponds with the touch sensitive points on the cases’ clear screen.

Then get into your scuba gear and away you go.

#coralreef #help #ohmygodimdrowning

 Fortysomethings deemed ‘too old’ to get a mortgage Your forties might be the decade when bits start crumbling and falling off, but you wouldn’t exactly say it was OLD, would you?

Well, mortgage companies – including Halifax and Nationwide – seem to think so. They’re asking prospective homeowners to prove their retirement income from state pension age, even if you intend to work until you’re 70.

And some people who are only in their 40s are being turned down for mortgages on the basis that they’ll be borrowing into their retirement.

If you’re in your late 40s or early 50s and you want a 25 year mortgage, you might hit problems because banks are determining that your retirement age will be 65 (or 62 if you’re a woman) – regardless of when you might actually give up work. Nationwide are even demanding that you must have a private pension in place if you’ll still be borrowing in your 60s.

So it doesn’t matter whether you’re good for it – you might be considered too old for it. Financial adviser Alan Lakey, whose clients were turned down for a mortgage despite being financially solvent said:

‘There is a lot of foolish, tick-box decision-making at the moment. There is no logical explanation why borrowers such as these should not be approved for a loan.’