eBay Global Shipping Programme – What a shambles !

Ah, how those money grabbers clever chaps at eBay come up with new schemes ! Yes – welcome to the eBay Global Shipping Programme. This is a new wheeze from those magnificent marketeers at eBay designed to help themselves to  more money, whilst they lay off all those pesky extra minions no longer needed. The programme enables sellers to sell anywhere around the globe and eBay will carry the load – for a fee, natch ! Wonderful – no more shipping blues or confusion. Fully tracked. Just get the seller to send the goodies into the eBay GSP depot. They will combine packages, adjust the costs and track it all the way to a satisfied buyer. Job’s a good ‘un.

Except, its not. Here is my tale of woe.

In I plunge, buying two sets of LiPo batteries for a thrifty £4. Yes, 4 of Her Madge’s Quids. Oh, and as I am buying something else from the same seller, I can use the cart mechanism to combine purchases and save money. Swell !

Oops – there “has been a problem” with my purchase and I can no longer use the cart. OK. I’ll process them separately and the seller can combine postage to give me a discount. Simples !

Er, not so. The charming seller advises me that, as shipping via eBay using the GSP,  we will have to wait for the final quote from eBay on shipping to advise of, and provide, any reduction in cost. I start to sweat a little as the postage via GSP is £18 – eighteen quid – for a £4 item. In fact, my total postage is £45.80 for items costing £46.21. Yup indeedy; a truly coffer-filling shipping overhead of 99%. You gotta love them apples, eh, eBay ?

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Scientology Targets Schools

Hello Scientology

Hello Scientology (Photo credit: StephenMcleod – International Man of Mystery)

Possibly not news to many but that most ‘celebrated’ collection of cultist crazies, the Church of Scientology, is targetting children. This global parasite is a perpetual engine which promotes its  bonkers ‘religion’ in a quest to swell its own coffers. And it is calling schools to gain access to the curriculum.

Dianetic Dogma

Scientology is a business model based on the numbers game and founded on L. Ron Hubbard’s apparent twin aims of self-deification and wealth. Articles, opinion and information abound on the internet and it is easy to get the inside track on this huge organisation. John Sweeney’s much publicised documentaries and book are well worth a look. An interesting summary of Hubbard’s life and personality intertwined with a description of Scientology practices can be found on xenu.net.

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Air Traffic Control Humour

Cute AircraftFor a little light relief, some actual exchanges between pilots and control towers, nabbed from joke emails currently doing the rounds.

Oldies but goodies :

Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles!”
Delta 351: “Give us another hint! We have digital watches!”

Tower: “TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees.”
TWA 2341: “Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?”
Tower: “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”

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British Democracy By The Numbers

Gerald figured the best way to challenge accus...

Gerald figured the best way to challenge accusations about fiddling his second home expenses allowance was to brazen it out (Photo credit: bobfranklin)

A smart but unverified article doing the rounds on Facebook, which would be highly amusing were it not sounding a strong note of authenticity:

Can you imagine working for a company that only has a little more than 635 employees and has the following employee statistics:

  • 29 have been arrested for spousal abuse
  • 7 have been arrested for fraud
  • 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques
  • 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted 2 businesses
  • 3 have served time for assault
  • 71 cannot get a credit card due to poor credit rating
  • 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
  • 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
  • 21 are currently defendants in various lawsuits
  • 84 have been arrested for drunk-driving in the past 12 months

and collectively, in the same 12 months, have cost the British taxpayer more than £92 million in expenses.

The name of this august body of civic paragons: The House of Commons

Makes yer proud !

Those Terror Alert Levels In Full

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of...

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of the Ministry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This ditty on terror alerts has been doing the rounds but well worth another post ….. John Cleese has it about right:

“The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

— John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person

More Tesco Turf Talk

Tesco value

Tesco value (Photo credit: waldopepper)

A woman has been taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from Tesco. Her condition is said to be ‘stable’ A spokesperson from Tesco said they are not sure yet how they are going to get over this ‘hurdle’.

Tesco Quarter Pounders: The affordable way to buy your daughter the pony that she’s always wanted!

Had some burgers from Tesco for my tea last night….
I still have a ‘bit’ between my teeth

Tesco are now testing all their vegetarian burgers for traces of unicorn.

Anyone want a burger from Tesco? Yay or neigh?

“I’ve just checked the Tesco burgers in my freezer… AND THEY’RE OFF”

I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse…..”

Tesco now forced to deny presence of zebra in burgers, as shoppers confuse barcodes for serving suggestions.

Said to the Mrs, these Tesco burgers given me terrible trots.

 Thanks to Friday Offcuts for these little gems
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Dodgy Domains

Whoops ! In their rush to get domains online and their message across, owners and authors frequently forget to pause and consider precisely how they have branded their internet pride-and-joy

Worst. Domain Name. Ever.

Worst. Domain Name. Ever. (Photo credit: TJCoffey)

Thanks to those observant chaps at Friday Offcuts, check out these (real) domains:

1. ‘Who Represents’ is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is:

2. ‘Experts Exchange’ is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at:

3. Looking for a great pen? Look no further than ‘Pen Island ….’ It can be found at:

4. Need a therapist? Try ‘Therapist Finder’ at:

5. Then there’s the ‘Italian Power Generator’company. Check it out at: www.powergenitalia.com

6.’IP computer’ software, there’s always:

7. And the designers at ‘Speed of Art’ await you at their wacky Web site:

Love it !!


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Fun : Bob A Job At Barclays

You gotta laugh …

Corking advert for Bob A Job Week at Barclays

Corking advert for Bob A Job Week at Barclays

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Concorde 1969-2003 and perhaps beyond

Concorde on takeoff

Image via Wikipedia

It may seem a daft idea in these straightened times but there is a group working hard to bring Concorde back to life. The aircraft – or more properly the original project to create a supersonic transport, or SST – represents possibly the financial and political equivalent in the 70’s of the Suez crisis in the 50’s. Born from an occasionally grumpy and grudging trans-manche alliance – bettered only by the Chunnel – it came of age during a worsening global economic outlook. Poo-pooed by the Americans and challenged by the Soviets, it remains a wonder how this political hot-potato ever took flight. Since its demise in 2003, the current global financial meltdown is a singularly bad time to be talking about putting money into its resurrection. Concorde is certainly the least eco-friendly transportation system ever launched, accessible only by the privileged and an economic failure. However, a dedicated group of engineers, pilots, celebs and plain old enthusiasts are working to preserve and even to fly one of the remaining 12 airframes. It is a tall order. Most were brutally decommissioned and left rotting outside.

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Hell (Pizza) Hath No Fury

Hell Pizza

Image via Wikipedia

Yay ! Hell Pizza have responded (again) to the original New Zealand Herald article about their ‘missing’ donation to the KidsCan charity and the snotty outpourings of one of its directors – the charming Warren Powell. It has taken 3 weeks to get the latest version of the originally released response – which was pulled within an hour of publication – edited for public consumption. This latest release is a much watered-down version. No apology for Powell’s original (“… these dorks …”) email. No glowing tribute to the work of KidsCan. Still, they have coughed up as originally committed – it took a public shaming and pressure but, hey, PR makes the world go round.

We can confirm that we have now contributed $10,000 to the KidsCan Charitable Trust. We would like to acknowledge that the plight of the youngsters who benefit from donations to KidsCan telethon far outweighs any misunderstanding that may have occurred between HELL’s Pizza and KidsCan. We apologise to KidsCan for delaying our donation as a result of our misunderstanding.

“Misunderstanding” it may have been but it is a bit rich of Hell Pizza to write that “we are pleased that [Kidscan] have agreed to use the money donated … to help relieve the pressure on those children who face each day without sufficient food or clothing”. Typical that they manage to snatch arrogance from what should have been a well-meaning apology. Oh well. Apparently, Hell Pizza have already given “more than $175,000 to the Canterbury earthquake recovery”.  So that’s alright, then.

Compare their new and old PR releases:

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Cut Both Ways – Withnail & Star Wars

Withnail and I

Image via Wikipedia


Hilarious stuff – the enterprising Raff Jones has cut “Withnail and I” dialogue/soundtrack into “Star Wars”. It’s a must-see and turning into a series on YouTube …..

Related articles

Digging Down To Hell

Hell's Pizza

Image by Brandon Koger via Flickr

No word from those not-so-terribly-nice chaps at Hell Pizza in New Zealand in response to claims they reneged on a charity donation. Despite suggesting via Twitter that a response would be forthcoming, it has all gone quiet – well, from the company at least. Articles and tweets on their tight-fistedness and the ever-present charm of director and scourge of “dorks” everywhere, Warren ‘Otis’ Powell, abound. Monday’s article here on Babble Talk remains the second most read feature on the site, after the UK mobile hacking story. The inevitable Facebook page has been spawned. If @HellPizza666 was expecting the story to simply die ………. ooops.

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A Hell Of A Pizza Guy

Warren Powell - wanker who works for Hell Pizzas and lost his wallet

Wanker who works for Hell Pizzas, lost his wallet and is a bit lost on “charity”

Warren Powell is a founder and puff executive for New Zealand pizza franchise outfit, Hell Pizzas [sic]. The marketeer has been hauled up in the New Zealand Herald today for refusing to pay a promised 10 grand to a local Telethon. Going back to the Big Night Telethon in 2009 in aid of the KidsCan charity, this charming chap initially agreed that Hell would cough NZD10K “in exchange for exposure” at the Telethon. Powell had promised organisers that Hell staff would make and provide pizzas too, emphasising that all “proceeds from the [pizza] van [would go] to Telethon”. Nowt was coughed up and KidsCan declined to waste money chasing the dosh in Powell’s pockets through the courts.

Not quite the philanthropist, Powell is reported as writing to colleagues, saying …..

“So how does this work ? We gave away pizza by the dozen to these dorks and raised good [sic] knows how much; now am I expected to give them a chq in return for nothing?”

Er, well, yes, Warren, sweetheart. That’s why its called “charity” !

Having sampled Hell Pizzas, I am not a fan but did like the product concept and the way it has been promoted; equally it would be naive to assume that all companies give of their time and money to charity selflessly. Still, Powell pops up here as a rather grasping soul who is no doubt destined to plumb to his corporate namesake come the day of judgement. Tweets following up on the Herald story suggest sour grapes on the part of a disgruntled employee were behind it (see #HeraldHELL) but it would be interesting to hear Powell actually refute the quotes attributed to him. The official response (on Twitter by @HellPizza666) says he is away and cannot therefore comment. Meanwhile, time to promote others and boycott the rather lacklustre fare from Hell Pizzas and its mean marketing muppet. Helluva nice guy ? Nope. Give me Dominos any day.

NHS Cuts with a smile

Photo of upper and lower cosmetic eyelid surge...

Image via Wikipedia

The British Medical Association has weighed in on the new Prime Minister David Cameron’s health care proposals.

The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.

The Gastroenterologists had a sort of a gut feeling about it, but the neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve.

The Obstetricians felt they were all labouring under a misconception

Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted.

Pathologists yelled, “Over my dead body!” while the Paediatricians said, “Oh, Grow up!”

The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it.

The Surgeons were fed up with the cuts and decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.

The ENT specialists didn’t swallow it, and just wouldnt hear of it.

The Pharmacologists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, “This puts a whole new face on the matter….”

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea.

The Anaesthetists thought the whole idea was a gas, but the Cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the arseholes in London

(Thanks to the small, but perfectly-formed Barbara King for this gem)

Telecom New Zealand Broadband – Not Great

Telecom New Zealand

Image via Wikipedia

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Whilst TalkTalk still carry the flag for all that is bad in Broadband service provision and customer service in the UK, a recent trip down under gave me the chance to measure Telecom New Zealand’s home internet service. A friend has a 40GB prepaid service – beyond which she is charged per KB for traffic. Telecom also offers a version which will cap the Broadband at 40GB and then throttle the bandwidth to 64Kbps Up/Down once the cap is reached. An error on their part put my friend onto this cap-and-throttle offering so it would seem a simple phone call could resolve the problem and get service back to speed, albeit with a bill for the excess.

Not so. Telecom NZ, it seems, have a penchant for outsourcing Customer Services to various teams across both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Contacting their Customer Services number seems to send you to India or perhaps the Netherlands, judging by some of the accents encountered (we finally established, after 6 phone calls of 30 minutes plus each, that the centre is in the Philippines). Fair enough but, as we in the UK can wearily attest to when dealing with offshored call centres, the keys to good outsourcing are good process, procedures and training for the minimum-wage peeps stuffed into the call reception centres. It took almost 10 days to get the service problems rectified. Worse still, Telecom NZ – should you be lucky enough to get one of their New Zealand On-shore call handlers – are irritatingly patronising about how bad their off-shore colleagues are. It’s an old tactic – blaming some other team for the fact that the service the customer is paying through the nose for cannot be fixed until manana. However refreshingly honest Telecom staff are trying to be, it really is the same old story. Bad management, poorly executed offshoring and a low-margin/high-volume product with poor service description, procedures and systems. This coupled with a service that uses a large amount of Line-Of-Sight backhaul and technical problems abound (just watch the throughput dwindle when it rains !). And then there is the killer blow – the price. The cost of this service to my friend is NZD285 per month – that’s almost £150 a month for a less-than 2MB down (250Kbps upload) service ! This is 10 times more than what is paid in Europe for a similar service. I had expected better from Telecom NZ given some of the examples of superior infrastructure in NZ, such as EFTPOS payment in all shops and the quality of retail banking generally.

Bit scary then for the populace when it was recently announced that Telecom – and not some of its smaller rivals – has been given the lion’s share of the broadband expansion that the government here is promoting. Their huge market share is about to be increased and it is unclear whether urban broadband users will be expected to subsidise the rural network. Some reports suggest that Telecom NZ will have exclusivity but I am assured that this is not the case. For the Kiwis’ sake, let’s hope their incumbent learns a bit about service provision and management before then !

TalkTalk / AOL : The Undercover Broadband Business Model

The next logo for AOL, used from 2006-2009
Image via Wikipedia

Home broadband is now as important a household utility as the gas or the electric. Competition in the UK is high, albeit to supply services of a lower specification and quality than supposedly less developed countries. Nothing particularly new in this viewpoint, nor in commenting on the parlous state of support for customers of broadband operators in the UK. Those folks at Talk Talk really do deserve some sort of prize for the heights of frustration to which they can push their poor customers.

As a professional techie, I sometimes get asked to help friends and family sort the occasional problem. My brother has AOL Broadband at home – now part of the financially challenged Talk Talk business under Carphone Warehouse. Having had to deal with their over-enthusiastic selling of broadband to my 86 year old mother (she has no computer but was convinced by their charming yet relentless cold-calling to buy it) I was looking forwards to checking out the quality of their broadband support.

No shocks – it was bloody awful. Sadly, little insight here – just a rant. Here are the stats:

5 phone calls made over 3 days.
Average wait time for initial agent : 30 minutes (max was 55 minutes)
Average 1st level handling time (India) : 6 minutes
Average wait time for 2nd level (Ireland or UK) : 18 minutes
Average 2nd level handling time : 12 minutes

All in all, I clocked up around 3 and a half hours on the phone, or a minimum of £12.44 including VAT for those Talk Talk coffers. (OK minus the cut from the number provider, assuming Talk Talk don’t host it themselves; and of course, the funding costs of their ‘offshore’ Call Centres in India and Ireland). I was eventually told – on my 5th call – that it was a fault at the exchange which was already known to their Customer Services team when I had made my 3rd call. This was rectified over a week after the original fault call was made to AOL/TalkTalk.

It was a similar story some months ago with trying to get Mum’s missold broadband service cancelled. No wonder they offer a £9.99 monthly deal. Actually giving you the service is a lower priority. Is getting you to call their ‘Customer Service’ line a lucrative second string to their revenue model ? You have to wonder whether some companies actively factor in calling revenues from mystified, muddled or just plain mad mugs like yours truly !

Short version: steer clear of Talk Talk and AOL for your phone or broadband. In the words of the late, great Terry Thomas, “they’re an absolute shower !”

Could Not Resist – More Tory Posters

Check out http://mydavidcameron.com/posters2.html for more hilarious examples. Nice to see the public really does have a sense of humour …..

At last relief from embarrassing itching ..........

Fun : Tory Poster Campaign

Now - where is the poster for Brown !

To while away a few minutes of boredom, become your own political PR guru and design a new Cameron poster, courtesy of Andy Barefoot. What fun ! Just need a Labour/Brown version now (for balance, natch !).

Click here to jump to the site and have a go

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New Year Getaway – Picking An Online Travel Agent

From upper left: Manhattan south of Rockefelle...
Image via Wikipedia

The bigger European online travel sites for booking late deals are all much of a muchness. Digging a little deeper, which fare fairer and which deal dearly ? Planning a Christmas break, I took a quick punt on Opodo, Expedia and the market-making Lastminute.com. My mission was to pick either a week in the sun or 7 nights in the Big Apple. Here briefly are my experiences:

Worst of the bunch – LastMinute.com

The golden calf reared by Martha Lane-Fox and Brent Hoberman was my first stop to seek a quick and inexpensive getaway. The simpler layout on hitting the site is welcoming and the Flash adverts draw the eye towards some interesting packages. However, the initial looks were deceiving. Having dug into New York breaks without luck, I was tempted by the many adverts for Egypt all-inclusive packages. Pre-Christmas, I skipped through the links to be presented with a tempting array of sun, sea and sand options at tempting prices. Once I got far enough to determine the particular combination – and this exercise had taken 15 to 20 minutes – I was maddeningly informed by the site that the selected package was “…no longer available …”. This outcome was so common that I was beginning to think the site had a major bug so I did a few random flight searches which succeeded. The ‘draw’ of the package deals, then, proved to be a set of frustrating mirages. Lastminute.com adds in insurance and Carbon Offset automatically to the final itinerary (can be removed) and whatever package I selected, the price always jumped by a few pounds from the original quote for no other apparent reason. As with prior experiences on this site when searching for theatre and weekend jaunts in the UK, I will steer clear of LM in the future.

Middling Opodo

As much an aggregator with a less sophisticated interface, Opodo.co.uk yielded results with a relatively simple mechanism to customise the selected combinations of flights and hotels. Slow but steady, the system initially told me it had “… no packages for New York City” but then going via its City Breaks links generated over 100 hotel + flight combinations at reasonable prices. More fool them that I had to persevere with the site to get what I wanted. Flight selections in particular were sporadic and complicated – sometimes including layovers where I had asked for direct only. A poor selling site, then, but with a reasonable yet slow interface.

Best of the bunch – Expedia.co.uk

Expedia was a snap. Straight to a list with a suggested package that, whilst not the cheapest, was pretty close to my ideal. I could quickly run through the hotel and flight combinations and adjust my booking to create the perfect package. The jump to hotel details was smooth and informative. The combined itinerary was well presented with options available but not automatically added (unlike Lastminute.com) so that the base price is what was quoted on the initial search. So impressed, I added in limousine collection and helicopter trips which were not especially cheap but added finesse to a reasonably good deal. (I plumped for this and committed my credit card. The limo service in particular was excellent and avoided hassling with cabs on reaching Newark – having arrived 2 hours late amidst the worst East Coast snowstorm this year.) The onwards links to airline, hotel and ancillary booking systems were seamless and for the most part, transparent.

Neatly executed, honest and clear. Expedia is to be recommended.

The Fine Art Of Political Spin

Thanks to Dani for this excellent contribution : Political Spin – How It Is Done !

It’s all in the wording you see. It just all depends on how you look at some things…

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California , was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Congressman Harry Reid‘s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows  in  Montana  territory

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory in 1889

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: ‘Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.’

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle. Believe it or not, Harry Reid’s staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed..

Congressman Harry Reid:

Congressman Harry Reid

Congressman Harry Reid

That’s how it’s done, folks ! Realpolitik 1O1.

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