Archive for GRRRR!!!

Flip Ultra HD not charging?

Is your Flip Ultra HD camera not charging?

Cut away the plastic so the 'slope' of the tab isn't covered

I bought one of these. Love the video quality, hate the unreliability of the recharging process.

I’ve only managed to charge it successfully once – which is why it’s currently lined up for return. Mine came with odd ‘dimples’ on the ends of the batteries (like someone had poked them with something) and plastic cut away around the tops of the battery.

A bit of research showed me that a lot of people are having the same problem with this device. The main fix out there says to cut away the plastic sheathing the batteries where it overlaps the top end of the batteries. I tried that but still it wouldn’t charge again – not directly from the MacBook USB, or from a mains USB charger or even a USB extender connected to the MacBook. I.e. nothing.

I registered to return the item, printed out the returns forms and read one more bit of advice: to cut away the plastic around the smaller of the two plastic ‘arrow’ tabs on the battery (the one that points into the body of the camera when the battery is in place). I presume that tab tells the camera that the battery is inserted it.

'Dimpled' battery end like someone hit it with something??

I noticed that the plastic sheathing on my battery came up to, and slightly over the ‘step’ on that tab. Logic told me that, as a result, the tab probably wouldn’t seat fully – and possibly, therefore, not do its job. So I cut that away too.

The result is that – at this moment – the camera IS charging (attached to the MacBook by an extender cable – mainly because it doesn’t sit properly when plugged directly into the MacBook due to the different depths of each gadget). That’s handy because I need it tomorrow.

Note right contact: is it supposed to look like this?

For the moment, this camera is in limbo. If my ‘repair’ has cured it, I might avoid the hassle and keep it – despite the clearly ‘pre-owned’ battery (and the ‘pre-owned’ mark on the lens) because, in reality, all I’d get back would be a camera I’d have to do the same DIY fix on anyway.  Flip – that’s a pity. You need to take ownership of this design flaw and make this ‘fix’ mainstream to avoid getting a poor reputation.

Charging now... but for how long?

Dixons customer service: finding out the hard way

How good is Dixons’ customer service? If I ever get through to them I’ll let you know

I made the mistake of buying a laptop for my son’s 18th birthday from Dixons.

As I checked out, I was given a delivery slot of 23rd of Dec between 5 and 8pm. As it happened, we weren’t able to be home at that time but there was no note to indicate that a delivery had been attempted.

On Christmas eve, I tried to login to Dixons’ website to track my delivery. When my password didn’t work. I initiated a password reset. Twice. I didn’t receive an email from either. I also found that I had no confirmation of purchase emails either. A friend thinks this has to do with my email hosting provider. Maybe – but I think it may have to do with Dixons not sending them in the first place.

Today, I headed for Dixons’ website to begin the painful process of trying to contact Customer Services. I say painful because according to the reviews I’ve since read, I’m going to be in for a miserable time. I was concerned to find the website down – leaving only that distinctly unprofessional landing page. I checked out @dixonsonline on Twitter but found only a cheery message from Christmas Eve. Talk about missing the point of social media. What’s the point in staying silent when people most need to hear from you?

UPDATE 28th December

I blogged about this problem (no response). Tweeted about it (no reply). I went to Get Satisfaction – a forum that connects people needing customer service with the businesses they’re customers via a highly visible pubic platform – and found a lot of other people very unhappy at Dixons’ service. I also noticed some very good customer service agents at work there, to the company’s credit.

I lifted the email address of one of their agents from someone’s thread and emailed her directly outlining the situation and inviting her to help.

Within a couple of hours I had a response. A very efficient, polite and helpful response too. Hopefully, they’ll sort out my missing laptop tomorrow and deliver it to my son’s address…

I am impressed by the skills of the people representing Dixons on the Get Satisfaction website. I don’t think, however, that many people would find their way there as it’s not clearly linked from Dixons’ website and, when all’s said and done, if Dixons’ are paying cheap and employing rubbish couriers to deliver, then they deserve the reputation it seems they’re getting.

If you’re stuck, I can heartily advise going to Get Satisfaction and talking to the Dixons people on there. They, at least, know how to treat people well – thanks!

Unclaimed Prize Rollout: Macintyre and Dodd ‘Break law’ according to High Court

Spot the Unclaimed Prize Draw mailshots...

LATEST NEWS: Macintyre and Dodd Marketing is breaks law with ‘prize promotions says High Court Judge – Feb 2nd 2011

Well, finally.

The OFT has taken MacIntyre and Dodd to the High Court and finally, more than £13m of your money later, won a ruling that M&D (and other DM Plc companies operated by Mr. Adrian Williams and his various business partners) have acted unlawfully.

Read the BBC report in full here.

According to the OFT “The defendants profited from misleading people, and this judgement means they will have to change their conduct considerably”

Adrian Williams - the man behind Unclaimed Prize Rollout (etc)

While I’m as pleased as anyone about this ruling, the reality is that these people, like all scammers, will just change shape and carry on in another guise until (several years and a few million more pounds of your money later) the OFT wins another ruling and the cycle will begin again.

The fact that these people have been profiting from this scam right up to and including the very day of this High Court ruling (see site stats, above) should convince you they’re not about to change their ways.

If you really want to put an end to this kind of exploitative practice, the simplest thing to do is to stop making yourself vulnerable to people like Andrian Williams and DM Plc in the first place.

How do you do that?

Learn the discipline to NOT respond to free offers / competitions / lotteries / scratch cards for starters. Become more critical about on and offline direct marketing i.e. assume that everything you DIDN’T ask for is a promotion designed to con you out of your money. At best, it’s a hard sell of something you almost certainly don’t need. At worst, it’s the kind of scam that Adrian Williams and his partners deliberately put together to fleece more you out of your money.

No OFT, no bloggers, no BBC reports are going to stop people trying to exploit other people for easy money. You need to protect yourselves first – it’s the only way.

First Great Western refunds: cynically designed to make you just not bother

First Great Western refund system designed to make you give up

I’ve been complimentary about First Great Western in the past for good reason. The fares from Plymouth to London are reasonable (by comparison with the rest of the country); the staff have always been very friendly even in the most trying of conditions and by and large they’ve got me to London and back on time, safely and in reasonable comfort.

The only areas where First Great Western gets it wrong are the online booking system and – worse – the refunds system.

If you’re just booking one ticket every few months it’s bearable. If, however, like me you have to book a month’s worth in advance you’re heading for trouble. Booking the tickets is slow but reasonably workable. You plod through adding one ticket at a time and then pay for them all in one go. You then get the option to text the booking reference for each journey to your phone. Fiddly but not impossible.

Picking up your tickets is a game of getting your phone out, getting your credit card out and finding the right booking reference amongst multiple booking reference text. Assuming you get that right, you’re on your way.

The real trouble begins if you have to try to change a booking and get a refund. It’s bad enough trying to do it for one, but for several it becomes a nightmare.

At the beginning of the month, I booked 4 return journeys. A week later, something came up at work and I had to travel to different locations throughout the month, with the result that only 50% of my month’s journeys already booked were still relevant.

‘Super advance’ tickets of the kind I’d booked cannot be refunded directly. You can, however, get a refund (minus £10 administration fee) providing you re-book the same journey on a different date AND you pay the new fares at the point of booking. IF you send the printed tickets by recorded delivery to Edinburgh you will then get the refunds (- £10 for each booking) credited back to you.

In my case, I had to call the helpline in India to change 3 journeys. To prepare for this call required printing out this and next month’s diary in order to choose days on which I would rebook the new journeys. I also had to have to hand the original online booking references for each of the bookings I wanted to change. This all took about 30 minutes of intense concentration to find.

The call itself took 18 minutes. Booking by booking, I had to give the original reference number, specifiy which journey I wanted to change, specify the date and time of the new journey, give my debit card details and recieve a NEW online booking code. I repeated this process 3 times (save repeating the card number).

By the end of the hour, I had 3 new 1/2 journeys booked into next month (meaning that when I come to book that month, I had to omit booking those parts of my month’s travel); I’d lost £30 in administration fees, received 3 new online booking codes which I have to write into my phone by hand AND earned myself a trip to the Post Office (time I can’t afford tomorrow) to send – at great cost – my old tickets to a PO Box in Edinburgh. Oh, and I ended up with bookings next month NOT in the quiet carriage because the Indian booking office clearly doesn’t have access to the seat allocations in the quiet coach.

So what was my payoff for all that trouble? £60 refunds redeemed against some oddly booked single journeys next month.

Sorry, First Great Western. I can’t help but think you’ve set it up this way to avoid having to give any refunds. I should know. I just tore up one £36 ticket that I didn’t use last week simply because at the time I was too busy to face the hassle of trying to get a refund on it.

Erik Erikson and Gospel tv strikes gold

Erik Erikson, founder of Gospel TV uses the lure of gold to secure donations in a distinctly ungodly way

Gospel TV is not a good channel for me to watch.

A few weeks ago, I came across Peter Popoff ripping off the faithful with his ludicrous (but hugely lucrative) ‘Supernatural Debt Cancellation Miracle Water’ scam.  No, I’m not joking. Read that post and weep.

Last week, I came across Erik Erikson, founder of the Gospel Channel, talking to (surely be-wigged?) Welshman Robin Rees. They were talking about gold, not god. That struck me as odd – on a religious channel.

According to Erik, God told him to ask his viewers for donations for the Gospel TV channel. But not just a straightforward donation of the kind we’re familiar with. No, this was different. Special. Valuable. Different. According to Erik, this donation isn’t just a donation, it’s an investment.

If this was the Dragon’s Den, you’d see Deborah Meaden suddenly sit up and start paying attention. An investment? That sounds more promising. The numbers, Erik, what about the numbers?

‘Well, it works like this’ he’d say ‘you send us $1000 and we’ll keep half of it as a donation to Gospel TV and invest the other half in pure, 24 carat gold and send it to you’

WOW, you can hear the old folks thinking

‘Then over the years, that $500 worth of gold will be worth more than the original investment’

They then launch into a long and confused ramble about the massive rate of growth in the price of gold year on year.

A fellow outraged internet scam-baiter, who recorded, the show wrote to me afterwards to say:

Despite waffling, Erikson said that gold increased against the pound at 32% a year over the past ten years and at 45% over the last five which Rees described as ‘threefold’.  According to my reckoning if it increased at 45% a year over five years that amounts to an increased of 6.4 fold so he underestimated the increase that would have happened if Erikson’s statement was true; the ten year increase I estimate would have been 16.1.

After the strange statistics Erikson then went on to say that some people have said the increase will be even greater in future. He’s clearly using this as a selling point, all the while smiling benignly like a dodgy salesman.

You can almost see Deborah Meaden shaking her head and Duncan Bannatyne looking at the floor in disgust.

All that’s happening here is that Erik Erikson is using a shiny ‘gift’ (er… purchase) with the promise of a great future value as a crude device to lower the critical faculties of the gullible viewer so they’ll part with the money.

It would be laughable if it were not going on night after night – and lining the pockets of BSkyB in the process.

And as for Gospel TV – the new home of religious fraud Peter Popoff? A quick check this morning revealed that at least 6 of the channel’s listed celebrity preachers have scandalous past or present lives.  More to follow soon.

Volo TV: in-your-face TV oversteps the mark

First Great Western’s Volo TV oversteps the mark and invades my personal space

Click to enlarge


As a result of our feedback and this post, Paul Soor, MD of Volo TV contacted me today to tell me that the company is abandoning the ‘can’t switch it off’ policy that I complained about in this post. The reprogramming will take 1 – 2 days but Paul assures me that it is definitely going ahead.

He has also invited me to stop by the office to discuss my feedback and to try out the system for free on my trip to Plymouth tomorrow.

Paul’s getting in touch is an example of good social media monitoring and a willingness to hear and act on feedback -to his and the company’s credit.



Introducing ‘Volo TV’, a personal TV built into the back of the seat in front of you on the train. A nice idea? Well, no.

With more and more of us owning portable media players loaded with all the content we want, this screen-in-the-back-of-the-seat idea with it’s £3.50 per trip monetisation model misses the…ah, train.

Everything about it is unwanted and unwelcome. And it’s way too close to my face, leaving me feeling claustrophobic and trapped. Worse yet, it’s also permanently on. ‘Since this TV replaces the Safety Card’ says the touch-screen blurb ‘it is not possible to switch the screen off’. Unbelievable. So it sits there, running through its promotional videos and pumping out heat – and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. Well, almost nothing.  The woman in front of me had hung her coat over her screen. Good idea. A quick scan up and down the packed carriage showed nobody watching their VoloTV.

Currently, there’s no advertising – but it IS on its way, and judging by the complete lack of paying punters on our journey today, you’ll be seeing it pretty damn soon. So that’s advertising pumping out of a screen you can’t switch off 8 inches from your face? No f*****g way, First Great Western!

Few things create such a universal and instantly negative reaction as Volo TV did today – and that fact alone marks it out as a stunningly bad move. In fact the invasion of my personal space was so unpleasant that I found myself wanting to break the screen.

Instead, my colleagues and I staged a peaceful protest, sticking king sized post-it notes over the screens and leaving First Great Western in no doubt whatsoever as to our feelings.

User reviews into Adwords??

What’s Google doing adding reviews to Adwords listings in search results?

For some time I’ve been thinking that the anonymous user review + the competitive environment of Google search = a disastrous formula for all concerned.  Why? Because anonymity pretty much guarantees that reviews end up being used to ‘game’ the market. This isn’t me being negative about human nature, this is just pragmatism.  If 97% of all email sent everyday is spam…well, you get what I’m saying.

Now, Google is going to put user reviews into the search results beneath paying advertiser’s ads. But which reviews? Apparently, those that come from a ‘closed’ system provided by a partner,  According to this report, review information will only be added from a review system if the organisation using it agrees.

(picture from Earthblog News)

So who’s going to want truly open and potentially critical reviews turning up in the search results next to their carefully crafted, paid-for Google ads?  Er, no-one. They’re going to want nice reviews that will make their ads look more attractive. Bye bye transparency.

All of which continues to make a mockery of the noble ideas about feedback and transparency that social media pundits like to talk about. The true value of feedback in business (as in life) is its role in driving learning, development and change but Google – like every other business dealing in ‘user generated reviews’ – is only interested in feedback as a commodity it can trade to businesses seeking competitive advantage.

So what’s Google doing adding reviews to paid ads in the search results? Just more of what it’s always been doing from the start: converting human knowledge into cash via the technology of the ‘keyword’.

Don’t be evil? Don’t make me laugh. I can’t help think that Google has been nothing but – and that we’ve colluded with it every step of the way ;-)

Action Fraud: The UK’s national fraud reporting centre

No wonder people get away with the business directory scams with a reporting system as bad as this

Each time I find a new ‘fraud helpline’ I’m disgusted to find there’s never any mention of any of the business directory scams that has cost these people so much in time and money.

What is it about our Government and police that makes them incapable of taking a stand against a crime that many of us online have been reporting for years – and which is still going strong? These people are still bullying hard cash out of people all over the world – cash happily banked by upstanding establishments like Barclays.

This evening, I found ‘Action Fraud‘  which calls itself the ‘UK’s national fraud reporting centre’. Now, I treat ALL such sites as inherently suspicious.  Why? Because there are plenty of scamming sites out there pretending to help – but just waiting to rip you off again with premium rate ‘help lines’.  Given that environement, Action Fraud doesn’t exactly reassure me on first impression.

I first had to Google ’0300′ call rates to make sure this site wasn’t also a scam. How many of you reading this know that ’0300′ isn’t some kind of premium rate?  Action Fraud could make this clear – it would go some way to reassuring people.  Then I tried to report the Expo Guide business directory scam using the online ‘Report a fraud’ tool.

I have to say, it was a complete waste of time.  By the second click, I got a ‘call the police now message’.  So I went back and avoided the answer that prompted that, in the hope of being able to report Expo Guide and the fact that I get people every day posting on this site about being ripped off.

Sorry to have to say this, Action Fraud, but it was a pointless exercise. You should try reporting Expo Guide, World Business Directory, European City Guide or any one of the numerous versions of this scam yourself using the ‘tool’.  Then you’ll see why those scammers are laughing their heads off, out there in sunny Cyprus (or wherever).

I guess that leaves the ’0300′ number.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

How to complain…. about PayPal or eBay?

Look at how PayPal and eBay deal with this question online.

Then look at how other ‘real world’ companies deal with it.

A little over a year ago, following my brother’s experience of a ‘buyer dispute scam’ (buyer receives goods, claims they’re faulty or not as described, gets refund from PayPal, keeps what you sent them and returns whatever they feel like returning) I tried to research who regulates PayPal.

I spent the best part of a day talking to people at the Financial Services Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service and posted their best advice (which frankly didn’t amount to much) in the form of a step-by-step guide for readers to follow if they needed to complain about PayPal’s conduct.

Continue Reading…

Chinese Communist Party Paranoia: The Great Firewall of China

You don’t need to be a web expert to smell the paranoia behind The Great Firewall of China

It’s there in the language.

The erection of the so-called ‘Great Firewall of China’ is a pre-emptive strike against possible potential destabilising factors getting worse

Possibly, maybe, potentially… maybe if…
From where I stand, the real issue here isn’t what it pretends to be (‘good’ Google facing off  ‘Evil’ China), it’s two information superpowers fighting over control of information – each in pursuit of its own interests.

That self-interest also explains Google’s apparently ‘amoral’ stance throughout its years of collusion in the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship of its peoples’ access to information online (and it’s ongoing collusion to do the same in India).

Mind you, while UK lawyers seem to think they can gag the British press to stop them reporting the heinous crimes of Trafigura, the sexual infidelities of football stars and golfers or stifle the publication of books and documentaries about the Maddy McCann case, who the hell are we to preach about the freedom of information?