Flight to nowhere now boarding
While I’m the first in line to moan about airlines, this article in today’s Sunday Times made me realise that we don’t really have a whole lot to be complaining about, all things considered.
So it is true, Apple has, as promised, broken lots of unlocked iPhones. The company said that a new software update would leave devices unlocked by owners who wanted to choose which mobile network to use “permanently inoperable If you have a broken iPhone here are ten things you can do with it
Well, I never!!! MCD have sort of ‘fessed up and announced they’re going to give all those people who complained about facilities at the recent shambles of a Barbra Streisand concert in Co Kildare refunds. The diva’s turn in front of around 17,000 wet and muddy people with questionable taste in Castletown House in Celbridge in July was one of the most expensive concerts ever staged in Ireland with tickets costing up to €550. It was anything but alright on the night however and thousands of fans complained about massive tailbacks, a lack of stewarding, seats that were either stolen by “opportunistic fans” (MCD’s words) or didn’t seem to exist and mucky conditions underfoot. Twink even claimed to have been forced to throw away a pair of trainers after the event ‘cos they were so mucky. In a statement released today, MCD said it had received the report of a committee set up to investigate complaints. It said it received 1,144 letters representing around 2,500 people following the event. It said around 200 complainants who had to stand because their seats were taken would get all their money back. Another 560 people who paid for dearer seats than they got will be refunded the difference while 400 people who had parking or other problems will be given vouchers.
If you ever wondered where your stuff goes if an airline loses your bags, the answer may be Alabama. The BBC has a feature on a giant warehouse filled with all the stuff that goes missing in the US and is never reclaimed. I particularly liked Abby Gentry-Benson, who “is festooned with diamonds, silver and gold jewellery all purchased at the Unclaimed Baggage Center”. She’s been going to the warehouse for more than 30 years and feels no guilt at all that all her fancy jewelery is other people’s heirlooms and precious keepsakes. “Most of the pieces that people have lost, they got the insurance money from and have bought something to replace it. Somebody like me that loves it and cherishes it every day, it’s got a good home you know.” Well, that’s alright then.
Ronnie Sheehan is a Corkman living in exile in Dublin, and is fond of visiting a city centre pub for a pint of Murphy’s. “To my surprise earlier this week, the price of the pint had risen from €4.30 to €5.30 – an increase of 23 per cent,” he writes. “When I queried the increase, I was told by the manager that Murphy’s had recently rebranded its stout – it was served in a continental-style glass with a stem.” He says he was told the brewery was attempting to reposition it at the more expensive end of the drinks market.
We’re not accustomed to dealing with rock stars at the PriceWatch desk but that changed last week when Paul Noonan from the band Bell X1 got in touch to complain about the blatant discrimination he says he received at the hands of an insurance company. Having just recently earned his first no-claims bonus entitlement, Noonan decided to shop around for the best insurance deal. He contacted FBD and, after dutifully answering all the questions about age, driving experience, make and model of car and more, he was asked for his occupation. “Musician,” he answered. He was then put on hold for an age with no option but to listen to “some awful version of Mr Bojangles”.
Some time later the insurance man came back on the line to tell him that FBD didn’t quote musicians. “I am new to this business of getting car insurance, but have long heard that we music types should lie about what we do when applying for it, as it’ll be insanely expensive or they’ll not quote at all, like some bouncer taking a look at your footwear and general unkemptness, and saying ‘not tonight, bud’.”
An advert for Stella Artois that suggests a single family has been brewing the lager for 600 years has come in for criticism from the British advertising watchdog. The ad made the statement: “A family dedicated to brewing for six centuries.” In a decidedly optimistic and arm-chancing defence, InBev UK – the firm that makes Stella – said the reference to “family” was meant to give an overall impression of the Artois heritage and its “family” of beers, and was not in any way meant to suggest that an actual family was involved in the production of the beer. The Advertising Standards Authority didn’t buy it and ruled that readers were likely to interpret the claim to mean that “one family of common ancestry had been involved in the brewing of Stella Artois for six centuries”.
If you’re worried about falling house prices, rising oil prices and a global banking system buckling under the strain of a chronic credit squeeze, you might be able to take some comfort by hanging a dead bird in your garden and setting aside some space in your fridge for tights, candles and nail polish.
Dead birds swinging silently from your trees scare the bejaysus out of their more alive cousins, while tights, candles and nail polish left overnight in your fridge last longer. These are just some of the top tips contained in Jim and Irma Mustoe’s Penny Pincher’s Guide Revisited which was published last week.
For next week’s pricewatch page in the big paper I’ve interviewed the couple behind the Penny Pincher’s Guide, a book which, amongst other things, includes dozens of Viz-like tips on how to save yourself a few bob. They’re left in the ha’penny place by a New York family featured on the BBC site today. They have resolved to live without a fridge, TV, air conditioning, electricity, toilet paper, shampoo or toiletries of any kind for at least a year in order to see if they can reduce their carbon footprint to zero. The man behind the idea is No-Impact Man and here is his blog.
News out of Britain is that 02 is to become Apple’s sole partner for the much anticipated release of the iPhone in November. The deal with O2 – part of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica – is apparently exclusive and “multi-year”. It it seems likely that same company might get the Irish rights too although O2 were keeping schtum today. The German iPhone distribution deal looks set to go to Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile while France Telecom’s Orange is set to sign on to Apple’s dotted line later this week. And what’s with all the exclusivity? Surely it’d be better for Apple and for phone users if people on all networks could use the fancy phone?
I see that Brian Cowen this morning reassured Northern Rock’s Irish customers that his British counterpart Alistair Darling’s reassurances about the bank’s solvency would also hold good for them. All the reassurance seems to have worked as the queues outside the bank’s branches in the UK have dwindled today and the bank is reporting most of the calls to its helplines are from people wanting to reinvest in the bank. That may well be the case and if so it is to be hoped the bank have learned some lessons from the last week’s debacle. Apart from everything else it is absolutely baffling that Northern Rock’s computer systems were so ill-equipped to deal with the volume of traffic to the site in recent days. If its main job over the last ten days or so has been to reassure customers that their money was completely safe, then a starting point may have been to get some extra servers in to allow those customers access their accounts. Seems to me that they have made a right pigs ear of the whole thing. I was going to say that if the bank’s share price fell any further, I’d be able to buy it myself but I see it has rebounded slightly this afternoon.
Earlier this month, British consumer group Which? published a survey showing that most shoppers in the UK hadn’t a breeze what their rights were, particularly when it came to returning faulty goods. Half of those polled thought something could only be returned if it was in the original packaging, while a slightly higher percentage assumed they were entitled to a refund just because they had changed their mind about their purchase.
It wasn’t just shoppers but also retailers who had a less than firm grasp of consumer law, according to Which? Shop staff were frequently to be found incorrectly insisting to disgruntled customers that they needed to complain directly to the manufacturer about faulty goods. Many also claimed that store receipts were an absolute requirement to get a refund, when the truth is that any proof of purchase, including bank statements or credit-card bills, will suffice.
“Everyone’s seen and wondered about the phrase ‘your statutory rights are not affected’, but how many people actually know their rights?” asked Malcolm Coles, editor, of which.co.uk. “We weren’t entirely surprised, when we looked into this, to find widespread confusion about what you can return, and why. Often, shop assistants are just as ill-informed about shoppers’ rights as their customers.”
While the study was carried out in Britain, it is likely that a similar number of Irish people are as confused about their rights. If the PriceWatch mail box is anything to go by, other commonly held misconceptions in an Irish context include the belief that, if an item carries a dual sterling and euro price, we can pay for it in the better-value sterling price, and the notion that stores are legally obliged to sell us an item at the lower price if the price tag and the till don’t match.
Southwest Airlines the US airline that Ryanair modelled much of its business on – except for the smiles, charm and good manners – got into a rare spot of bother recently after one of its flight attendants told a woman to cover up as her mini skirt was too short. The Church of the Customer has the full story.
Boffins at Sony HQ in Japan have released a camera which won’t take a picture until the subject smiles. The cyber-shot “smile shutter” camera are selling for around €300 (it’ll probably be a whole lot more than that by the time it gets here later this year) and they use face-detection technology to detect smiles from the shy grin to the full on belly laugh. It goes on sale in Japan next week and globally later this month.
Not a good day for the banking sector in Britain after it was confirmed that Northern Rock - which has nearly 25,000 Irish customers with €2.4 billion on deposit – is in financial difficulty and is being bailed out by the Bank of England in its capacity as “lender of last resort”. The Financial Regulator here says it is “close contact” with the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) and is monitoring developments. Financial experts here and there have been very quick to reassure customers that everything is grand.
Italians are boycotting pasta today in protest at price rises which have seen the cost of their national dish climb by 20 per cent in the last 12 months. The price increases can be explained by a dramatic rise in the price of wheat in recent months thanks to global warming and the growing use of durum wheat as a bio-fuel. (more…)
The good folk over at valueireland are carrying the info needed to set up the ITV and extra BBC channels on your Sky Digital service, which might be of use to people interested in watching the rugby world cup. Apparently ITV4 are showing many of the games for nuthin.
10758 V 22 5/6 (ITV4)
10832 H 22 5/6
10891 H 22 5/6
10906 V 22 5/6
The BBC channels are as follows:-
10733 H 22 5/6
10803 H 22 5/6
10847 V 22 5/6
I tried it and it seems to work handily enough. No more expensive trips to the pub to watch teams like Agentina wallop teams like Georgia for me. And talking of Georgia does anyone know how they came to play rugby?
I’m down in Galway where the ‘soup of the day’ seems to have been replaced by the much more impressive sounding ‘soup of the moment’. Until Monday I’d never even heard the phrase before but within three days in different restaurants I saw it listed on menus twice. Bored, I’ve just googled “soup of the moment” and come up with 584 matches – 587 once the search engines sweep this page – while soup of the day yields nearly a million. Soup of the day sounds so static, so tired when compared with the constantly changing, dynamism of a soup which can alter from moment to moment depending on the capricious whims of the chef and it really doesn’t matter that on both occasions the soup of the moment was farmhouse vegetable.
Catherine Corrocher from Marino has been in touch with some good news. “I would like to recommend our local restaurant, Kennedy’s Cafe in Fairview Strand, Dublin 3,” she writes. “It has only recently opened, but is already a firm favourite. It serves coffees, lunches and dinners. Their cappuccino is the best I’ve tasted in about a year,” she says.
A reader from Glasnevin in Dublin has been touch to complain about the repeated absence of plastic bags from her local Tesco. “On a Monday at the end of August, I went shopping in the Clearwater Tesco and, as I had forgotten my regular bags, asked the man on the till for six plastic bags,” she writes. “He proceeded to count out the fairly durable plastic bags that Tesco sells for 35 cent. “I said that I didn’t want those bags but the regular bags which cost 22 cent,” she continues.
The marketing people at Cadbury must have thought all their Christmases and Easters had come at once when this summer’s web-inspired campaign to bring back the Wispa gathered steam.
Nearly 14,000 users of Facebook, the social networking service, started the ball rolling, then fans of the bar stormed the stage of Iggy Pop’s Glastonbury gig waving Wispa banners, online petitions were set up and Wispa ads from the 1980s started appearing on YouTube.
At a much anticipated gathering in San Francisco this evening Steve Jobs announced the release of a number of new iPod thingys. Centre stage was given to the iPod Touch, an 8-millimeter-thick device that can store photos, music, videos and other digital data. It has the same 3.5-inch, touch-screen display as the iPhone and has wireless Internet access and a Web browser. “It’s one of the seven wonders of the world, it’s just incredible,” Jobs said, not at all overstating things. He also unveiled other new iPod models, including an iPod Nano with a 2.5-inch video monitor for watching movies and playing built-in games. Does anyone really, really want to watch videos on a 2.5 inch monitor?
If it’s not lead it’s pocorn. A US doctor has warned that consumers may be in danger from fumes coming from the buttery flavoring in some microwave popcorn. A potentially fatal disease – called “popcorn lung” – has already been the subject of lawsuits by hundreds of workers at US food factories exposed to chemicals used for flavoring but now a Denver pulmonary specialist says he has found the first case of a consumer who developed lung disease from the fumes of microwave popcorn. Before you get too concerned however, it should be pointed out that the man in question ate tubs of the stuff several times a day, everyday, for years.
It’s been a bad few weeks for Mattel, the world’s biggest toymaker and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. Today the company announced its third major recall of Chinese-made products in under a month. This time out, three quarters of a million toys including Barbie doll accessories and train sets are being recalled because the paint used on them has too much lead. Mattel has apologised while the Chinese government insists people can still have confidence in Chinese-made products.
A very annoyed reader from Galway got in touch early last week to complain about her shabby treatment at the hands of Irish Rail last weekend as she and her four children were returning home from a trip to Dublin last Saturday evening. Concerned that they might not get seats together, she took the precaution of getting to Heuston Station at 4.50pm, a full hour before her train was due to depart. She was second in the queue and pretty confident of getting seats. With just 10 minutes to go before her train’s scheduled departure, the queue had swelled to about 50 people when her well-laid plans fell apart. (more…)
A Co Kildare reader contacted Pricewatch after her father’s very new and very fancy phone first went on the blink and then went missing altogether. In January her father bought himself a Nokia 6021 Bluetooth-enabled phone to use with his car’s satellite navigation system. After a couple of months, the phone’s battery suddenly stopped charging so he brought it back to the Newbridge shop where he had bought it. The shop – which, she says, was an O2 outlet – took his phone without any problems and said it would be ready for collection within a couple of days.
However, when he went back to collect the phone days later, the shop had closed. (more…)
Interesting debate between Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland and Brendan Burgess of askaboutmoney on credit card surcharges in The Irish Times head2head section today. A poll is being carried on the site too (so you can have your say) and so far 95 per cent are with Dermott Jewell in calling for the surcharge to be banned. I’m with them.
Hats off to the Delta Airlines pilot who, after informing his passengers that he was forced to divert his plane from Phoenix to JFK to Syracuse because of thunderstorms last week, phoned down to a local pizza parlour and ordered takeaway pizzas and soft drinks for all his passengers to make their wait more palatable.
And as if that wasn’t enough, according to the New York Times , flight attendants helped to serve the pizza while the pilot made regular announcements from the departure desk about the prospects for getting en route again.
Car dealers could be putting customers’ safety at risk by giving them bad advice, according to a report published last week by British consumer group Which? Undercover researchers posing as potential customers asked dealers three safety questions and found that just one in four answered all of them satisfactorily.
Dealers gave inconsistent advice when asked about carrying a six-month-old baby on the front passenger seat. They were often unclear about the benefits of electronic stability control and many dealers did not know what “active” head restraints which reduce whiplash were and which cars had them.
The world’s oil reserves are dangerously low and its temperatures dangerously high. And the search for alternative energy supplies aimed at reducing the damage caused by fossil fuels both to our environment and our wallets has, unlikely as it may sound, focused on cheese – Dubliner cheese.
Last week, Maxol started pumping a new biofuel for standard petrol vehicles out of its 150 petrol stations. Dubbed E5, the new fuel is a blend of 95 per cent unleaded petrol and 5 per cent bio-ethanol – a by-product of the Carbery cheese plant in Ballineen, Co Cork.
Unusually, perhaps, for an environmentally friendly product new to the market, the fuel will cost the same as standard unleaded petrol. Tom Noonan, chief executive of Maxol, says the company’s embrace of bio-fuels should help Ireland meet its EU energy targets. He described it as “a win for consumers who benefit from lower emission fuel at no extra cost, a win for agriculture which can now develop interests in ethanol production and a win for the economy in that it could potentially reduce our imports.”
The move, while commendable, is unsurprising. The Government wants 10 per cent of our energy needs to be met by biofuels, including petrol-ethanol mixes, biogas captured from sewage and other waste materials and biodiesels made from rapeseed or palm oil, by 2020 and will soon impose biofuel conditions on all oil companies. Maxol was jumping before it got pushed, but at least it jumped before its competitors.