Friday, December 28, 2007

Fantastic Christmas Present

So Christmas is almost over for another year and I just thought I would mention the favourite toy received this year (by my son, not me) Those clever people at the BBC and Marks and Spencer created a fantastic toy:

Radio Controlled Car Football

Much fun was had by all and this is definitely a toy suitable for childrens of all ages if they have any interest in football. Ideally played on a smooth hard surface like laminate floor or lino, so you can get creative with sliding tackles etc.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Poor design in a potentially dangerous situation

I was travelling back from Paris this week when just as the Eurostar train pulled out of Paris we were hit by a power failure affecting the whole area. All the trains in and out of Gare Du Nord were stranded for over 2 hours whilst we waited for the problem to be fixed.

The Eurostar staff were very helpful and friendly, but one comment really struck me as bizarre and unhelpful - but also quite funny.

The train had emergency power, presumably some sort of battery and the announcer said: "In the event that we are stuck here for a long time, it is possible the battery power will run out and the train will be in complete darkness. In this case none of the doors between carriages will operate (you pull a lever and they open automatically), but you can open them manually by pushing the black button above each door"

So that must have been a bad day in the carriage design team - "If we lose power and the train is in darkness, lets allow people to open doors by looking for a small black button black button above their heads - tee hee"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amazon Can't Spell!

I received an email last week from and was amused to see that they can't spell Trilogy.

One mistake possibly, but three times in one email - come on guys this is basic stuff!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Stupid Things

Last year I wrote about few stupid things I had seen - article is here, one specifically was about blocking fire doors. Well last weekend I was out shopping with Theresa in Bristol and we were going through large automatically revolving door out of a shopping centre. On the door it had a sign, "In case of Fire Alarm sounding this door may stop and reverse direction"

I should have taken a picture and will add one later, but obviously not the place to be if there is real fire and you are trying to escape...

Update 1/1/08 - picture added

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What a great idea

I saw this story om BBC news today and thought what a great idea - taking something that is a bit of a pain to do and making it really useful. Top marks to some very smart people!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Elite Secretarial Services

Theresa also reminded me this weekend that I hadn't mentioned her new business on my blog, so will write a longer piece later, but for now, if you need any short term admin, secretarial support, check out her new website: Elite Secretarial Services.

(And if you know me personally, I may be able to get you a discount :) )

I knew I was famous...

Had to laugh on Friday, my partner Theresa sent me this link:

I can't believe it - a whole channel dedicated to me - let's hope you don't get bored :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Poor Functionality Part 2 (I think) - or "How to check in Online with Alitalia airline"

I was on a business trip to Milan recently and it was a very early start - 6.00am, so naturally anything that would help speed things up in the morning would be welcome, such as Online check in.

For anybody who is not a regular traveller, online check in allows you (with a good airline) to check in up to 24 hours before you fly, print out your own boarding pass and just go straight through security when you get to the airport.

So on the day before, I went to the Alitalia site to check in for my very early flight. Most airline sites will allow you to check in based on your airline locator code - a 6 to 8 character code unique to your reference and your surname or airline loyalty card number.

On Alitalia, I tried several time to get into online check in suing this code and my other details but it would not recognise me - then I realised they were actually asking for the e-ticket number which is something much longer atleast 13 characters and not usually used by any passenger - first mistake.

So I tried again with this much more difficult number and still couldn't get in. Now as my flight was so early in the morning, I decided not to give up and go to the airport even earlier and rang Alitalia customer services.

I explained my problem and a very bored sounding person told me that she knew exactly what the problem was. She asked me to try and login again using the e-ticket number, but when typing in my name she asked me to add MR to the end of my first name, e.g. DaveMR.

This I did and wonder of wonders I was in and could select my seat. In fact, I could select any seat - I could see clearly that almost nobody must use this system as every seat was available for me to select and after my experience I am not surprised!

Sky Customer Service Complaint Update

It had been nearly a week since I wrote my letter of complaint and I had no response. So I rang up Sky Corporate offices again and asked to speak to Mark Andersen. Once they knew I had written a letter of complaint, I was shunted straight through to somebody in the escalation department. Unfortunately she couldn't find any record of my letter being received, but on looking at the account was happy to resolve things there and then and wipe clean the outstanding debt.

No real apology mind you and no explanation as to why this couldn't have been done much earlier, so either:

  • The fact that I had written a letter to complain bumps you higher up the priority and gives them more reason to act, or
  • Their customer service is so inconsistent that its pot luck as to who you get through too and if they feel like helping.

Personally I think its a bit of both and the moral of this story is don't be afraid to stand up for your rights and complain - it takes a bit of effort but is worth it in the end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Poor Customer Service - this time from Sky Television (British Sky Broadcasting

After the Talk Talk broadband pooor customer service saga last year, I am now in a dispute with Sky television, regarding what should have been a simple change of name on an account.

After separating from my wife last year, there has been an ongoing list of things to do, transferring various accounts, such as utilities into a different name. Most have been no problem, but Sky Television (also known as Sky Subscribers, and British Sky Broadcasting) have excelled themselves in providing misleading, inconsistent and what I would describe as "jobsworth" customer service. Below is the timeline of events, tell me if you think I am wring to pursue this?

Sky Subscription Dispute – Event Timeline

21 April

Phoned to ask for change of account name as my wife and I had separated and I no longer lived at the address, told that I can’t do that on the phone and I would need to write in – was given the customer services address:

Sky Subscriber Services Ltd
Customer Care Department
PO Box 99
West Lothian
EH64 7PR

I sent letter asking for the name to be changed – no mention that I would need to give 30 days notice nor that a new account would need to be opened.

25 April

Sky received letter and replied that this was not possible and that my wife needed to open a new account in her name. I have mislaid this letter, but I do not recall any mention of the 30 days notice to cancel the account.

1 May

My wife notified me that she had opened a new account but that I had to call to cancel the old account. This of course means that there was no break in service at 4 Chiltern Close and no lost revenue for Sky

21 May

Being very busy at work organising a marketing conference overseas, several weeks passed before I had time to call. I rang to cancel the old account, talked to Jim (no reference number) and was told that I had to give 30 days notice – first time it had been mentioned to me. I was also told that I would be liable for outstanding costs for a service that I could not receive - the property I currently live in does not have Sky and I cannot get it installed due to an issue with the management committee for the building.

I have no Sky equipment at my address, no dish, no cabling, no box.

I complained about this and was told, nothing else could be done. I complained again and asked for note to be made that I would give the 30 days notice under protest and I had no intention of paying the bill.

29 May

Letter arrived dated 26 May, stating payment outstanding and that all my services had been suspended – I wondered how you can suspend a service that I do not have? I ignored it

30 June

Another letter arrived, dated 27/6 – same as above but this time threatening debt collection agency if no response within 10 days. I ignored it

17 July

Letter received, dated 11/7, from Intrum Justitia stating that they have been authorised to act on behalf of Sky Subscribers to recover the debt of £70.70

I called Customer service and asked to speak to a supervisor – I talked to Craig (7CB61) and explained the situation. He told me that he could see where I was coming from, but that there was no other option but to pay. I asked to speak to his manager and was refused. I asked for a telephone number of Head Office and was refused; I asked for the senior person within Sky responsible for Customer service and was refused.

I looked up the main head office number and called asking for information about who has overall responsible for Customer service in Sky and was put through to Customer services helpline – I hung up.

I called again and repeated my request and was told that if I had a complaint then I needed to talk to the Customer Relations Team – Escalation department and was put through.

I spoke to Lynn (84430) and was told that there was nothing they could do and the only way I could proceed with my complaint was by writing in. I was advised to go onto the Sky website to the My Sky area and submit an email using an online form.

When pushed, Lynn told me that the person responsible for Customer services was Mark Anderson.

I called the main switchboard and asked for Mark Anderson’s job title – Customer Marketing Director, but when I asked to speak to him or his PA, I was told he doesn’t take phone calls and if there is a complaint to tall to customer services.

I telephoned Intrum Justitia and notified them that I would not be paying the debt and that I was in dispute with Sky. They said they would suspend activity for 7 days and I must copy them on my letter to Sky.

25 July

Posted the letter off today (thanks Theresa) and we will wait to see what happens - watch this blog for more details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nice Viral Video from Triumph for the new Rocket III

I saw this nice viral video from Triumph today, promoting the new Rocket III motorbike. I read the story about it here and you can watch the video below:

Let me know what you think

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Garden Chef

Friend of mine from work, Luke, just shared his blog with me The Garden Chef. Very interesting reading if you're a bit of a foody. I especially found this post interesting - a new type of food smoker.

p.s. Nice picture Luke!

Very Useful Software

Have you ever tried to save an SMS message from your mobile phone? Surprisingly its quite a hard thing to do, well it is for my phone Sony Ericsson K800i.

My phone allows you to save just 10 SMS messages separate from the inbox for long term storage - which is useless. Not only that, I couldn't find any way to actually download multiple messages off the phone. I want to do this as I like to keep a long term record of important SMS.

Then a friend of mine sent me a link to this site: FJ Software development and a fantastic product MyPhoneExplorer.

This is a really cool bit of software, for Sony Ericsson phones that allows you to view, sort, edit, archive and delete your SMS, as well as contacts, calendar etc.

The software is very professionally produced and is exactly what I am looking for - check it out if you have a similar phone.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Mutton Girls

Was just looking through my Google Analytics for this blog - wondering how on earth I get so many visitors when I haven't written anything for ages.

Surprisingly the top keyword resulting in a visit is "mutton", unusual I thought for such a generic keyword. I did a quick Google search and found this blog listed on page 2 - that is if you use the Google toolbar search box - if you go direct to and search - this blog didn't appear at all on the first 10 pages! Any suggestions as to why are welcome.

Anyway, back to the main reason for the post - just below my blog was a link which said "We're Mutton and We're Proud" - so I had to click on that and found a site dedicated to "The Mutton Girls" and their comedy sketch show "Mutton".

The show is described as:


For most women, approaching the age of 50, and worse, 60, can be a daunting prospect. Women deal with this mid-life crisis in many different ways, but there are probably very few who have seized upon it as a way of opening new doors of opportunity in their lives.

Well, three 40/50 something ladies have done exactly this and written a comedy sketch show poking fun at the trials and tribulations of the menopausal years.

The result is “Mutton”, a new, unique and brilliantly funny show that will appeal to women of all ages and the men that have to live with them.

I see from their tour dates they are visiting Guildford soon, I wonder if I dare go?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Amazon PS3 PreOrder Fiasco

The one thing I can't stand is poor customer service - as regular readers of my blog will know, last year I wrote a lot about Talk Talk Broadband.

Well this month its Amazon in the firing line. I few months back I signed up to be notified when the PS3 console would be able to pre-order - launch date is March 23rd.

After Sony announced the final pricing recently I have been waiting for Amazon to let me know when I could order and watching with interest whilst other stores both online and in the High Street launched their offers. Finally, last Saturday, I received an email which said:

"Dear PlayStation fan,

The PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system is set to unleash a brilliant, high-definition entertainment experience when it's released in Europe on March 23. Whether you're into gaming, Blu-ray movies, music or online services, the PlayStation 3 will change your digital lifestyle. You can pre-order yours at from February 15, during business hours (9am - 5pm GMT). We will stop taking pre-orders once we've pre-sold all the consoles Sony have allocated to us for release day. Order early to avoid disappointment! If you're not lucky enough to get hold of a PlayStation 3 in our initial pre-order window, we'll email you when we get more stock in. "

So, anticipating strong demand - as they must have emailed that message to thousands of eager gamers like me - I set my calendar to alert me at 8.45 this morning to be ready to place the order. From about 8.55 onwards, I started refreshing the product page to get the Preorder option and place one. Come 9.15, no button, so I waited some more. By 9.30 I was getting a bit cross and wondered if I had a page cache problem - so I rebooted my machine - still no button.

At 9.30, I thought I would send an email to the Amazon customer services - not really expecting a quick replay - but I fired one off anyway. I then had several friends check the site from their PCs - still no preorder button.

From about 10am, I have been going back to the page every couple of minutes and refreshing the page - still no button. Then I received an email response from Amazon - at 11.02 about 90 minutes after my email - so 10/10 for the quick reply, but 0/10 for the answer:

"Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.
Sony PlayStation 3 Console (60GB Premium Version) is currently not available to pre-order.

Please note that the console will become available for pre-order during UK business hours (9am to 5pm) today, and that we are unable to specify an exact time.

In the meantime, keep checking back on our site to see if Sony PlayStation 3 Console is available to pre-order."

Very similar, but subtly different from the email sent on Saturday. The big difference being that I, like many other customers, thought that the first email made it clear it would be available to order from 9.00am onwards - not at some unspecified time during the working day!

The email then goes on to refer me to the FAQ that Amazon has about the pre-order, which states:

When will I be able to pre-order my PlayStation 3 console?
From Thursday, February 15, 2007, during UK business hours (9am - 5pm GMT).

Not clear at all that it will be a some undetermined point during the day.

Overall, a poor experience and as I have more important things to do today - like work - I don't think I will be ordering my PS3 from Amazon

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Will we evolve more arms?

Doing a lot of travelling this week and worked out that we need to evolve into a next generation human with more grasping limb than just two. Why? I hear you cry, well quite simply to cope with the demands of modern security at airports - and it can only get worse.

Take today for example, flying from Oslo to Stockholm, waiting in line for security I had already deposited all metal coins, phone, etc. in my coat and pulled my laptop from my bag. As I got closer I noticed that this airport lets you put things into the little plastic trays before you actually get to the x-ray machine. So into one goes my laptop, into another goes my coat and little clear bag with essential liquids that may or may not be bi-polar explosives - who can tell just by looking at the packaging through clear plastic??

Then I get asked to remove my shoes and belt and move over to x-ray machine - so I am now trying to carry:

  • Two plastic trays
  • My shoes
  • My belt
  • my bag

Somehow I struggle across to the x-ray machine and get a angry stare from the security guy as I dump all this on the belt at the same time. He says something in Norwegian and then after my typical blank English abroad stare, he repeats "one at a time, please"

I think I will look at the cost of video conferencing, or work out how to emulate a Haggunenon