Posts in "Moans"

Howzatt, Mr SCB?

A few months ago I ranted about the stupidity of the Indian banking system and the ineptitude of Standard Chartered Bank and how they were making me jump through hoops just to set up a silly little bank account. Nearly 3 months on, I thought I’d give an update of where things stand and how spectacularly bad Standard Chartered really are.

At the end of December I finally got confirmation from the Indian immigration office that my visa extension was processed and ready to be collected, this meant that I could now send another document to Mr. SCB to prove that even the Indian home office was satisfied that I am Peter Claridge and I live in Chennai and I work for an Indian IT company. Rather reluctantly, I feel, they admitted that yes, with this final bit of paperwork it was likely that they could open an account for me.

Not long after that I received my “Welcome Package”. It turns out that I’ve not been given any old bank account, oh no, I’m a truly valuable customer to SCB, so they’ve given me a HOWZATT!!! bank account – and yes, it is spelled all in capitals and there really are 3 exclamation marks after it.

Upon investigation I discovered that ‘howzatt’ is not an official banking term but some kind of special lingo for the game of cricket, which you’ve probably never heard of because no one plays it in England. Anyway, in India, cricket is an obsession, so to target these new upwardly mobile 20-something IT nerds, Mr. SCB decided to get “hip, cool and radical” (their words, not mine) and prove that they are the best and trendiest bank to be with…

“Hey look at us, you love cricket, and we love cricket too! We even have a bank account called “HOWZATT!!!” how totally awesome, you should open a bank account with us because we’re all cricket fans after all. Click the Like button to share this with your friends on MyFace.”

So according to Standard Chartered, my special HOWZATT!!! bank account takes the “joy and passion” of cricket and mixes it with the “fun of banking“. (I’m really not making this up, the same text is on their website). Now, for every transaction or action that I make using my HOWZATT!!! Debit Card (more on that later), online, phone or SMS banking then I earn “exciting points” which I can redeem for attractive prizes like, err, cricket crap.

But the thrill of cricket (or maybe banking) doesn’t end there. Every time the glorious nation of India scores more goals than the other team in a cricket match then I am rewarded with double or even triple points. If I make a purchase of Rs 4,000 (about 55) on the day after India win then I win a Man of the Match award and get 60 points added to my score!

Good golly, Mr. SCB, you really are making banking fun and exciting.

(It should be noted that I’m reliably informed that in the entire world only 5 countries actually have cricket teams so I’m guessing that there are not going to be many opportunities to take advantage of the offer above)

I know that by now everyone outside India is green with envy that I get such an amazing bank account ‘loaded’ with “unique and differentiating features“, and I know that you want to tell all your friends that you have got a bank account called HOWZATT!!!, but unbelievably, there is one final benefit that quite simply blows every other bank out of the water. As a special HOWZATT!!! bank account holder, I’ll even get to participate in Cricket Mela’s (according to Dictionary.com a Mela is: “a religious fair, especially one held in connection with a festival.“) where I can meet my “favourite cricket stars!!![1]“. This would be quite amazing because I didn’t even know I had a favourite cricket star…Jiminy Cricket maybe?

After being completely bowled over by all these incredible features and benefits that Mr. SCB was offering me, I looked in to the terms and conditions a bit more.

The first thing I noticed is that in return for maybe not being able to meet my favourite cricket star, they charge me a whopping Rs 1500 PER YEAR if I don’t maintain my bank balance above Rs 25,000 (about 140). Quite literally Mr. SCB is charging me money even if I have money in my bank account. I can understand being charged if your account balance goes overdrawn, but charges because you are not keeping enough money in your account? Absurd!

In my previous rant I noted that my salary meant that the banks were falling over themselves to offer me a “I’m richer than thou” platinum (which was actually black) debit card which meant that I could enjoy some wonderful benefits like, umm, having a black card in my wallet. Now though, they have decided that I’m eligible for the…(*drum roll*)…Titanium card, which I think is one up from Platinum? Anyway, Mr. SCB didn’t ask me if I wanted any of this, they just gave it to me. The Titanium card comes with no additional benefits other than it will cost me an additional Rs 500 rupees a year to put it in to my wallet.

Oh no, wait, that’s a lie, there is one outstanding benefit of the Titanium card. According to Standard Chartered, I’ve helped the world “go green” and “saved the planet” by ‘choosing’ a biodegradable card. To be honest I don’t remember there being an option to select a planet destroying non-biodegradable Death Star-type debit card, but I’m glad that Mr. SCB is helping me do my bit for the environment. Quite how biodegradable this card is could be a matter of debate since the expiry is 2018! So is Mr. SCB claiming that by his terms, biodegradable means over a millenia?

Incidentally, Standard Chartered take it upon themselves to prove time and again just how useless they are. I received my “Welcome Pack” in early January with a promise that my new HOWZATT!!! Titanium Debit Card would be with me shortly. A few weeks later and still no card. Out of the blue I get call from an unrecognized number and the person on the other end asked me if I had received my debit card, I replied that I hadn’t so he asked me for personal details like date of birth and account number. Naturally I declined and he replied, “But sir, without these details I cannot help you”. So hang on a minute, you call ME, using the number on MY account, to ask about MY debit card and then you ask ME to confirm my details? Useless bank.

So the possible Standard Chartered employee informed me that if I hadn’t received my debit card I will need to go to my local branch (many kilometers away) and ask one of the cashiers to have it resent. I said “yeah, whatever” and then the next day my card magically turned up! Coincidence?

As part of the HOWZATT!!! banking package I get completely, 100% free[2] access to online banking[3] and SMS banking[4] which enables me to manage my bank account directly from the comfort of my own home! Seriously, Mr. SCB, are you from the 90’s? Even the state run banks of India have online banking facilities and you’re trying to tell me that this is one of the main features of the HOWZATT!!! account?

To activate my online banking I had to fill in a few dozen online forms before being told that a fatal error occurred and they couldn’t proceed further. So I could have a 100% free access to online banking, but since Mr. SCB couldn’t organize a piss up night of getting drunk in a brewery, I can’t even access something which I should get for free.

And now, to cap it all off, I’m getting spammed left, right and center (that’s email, sms and phone calls to you) asking if I want credit cards, home loans, personal loans, financial advice etc. No, I don’t want any of your crap, I want you to close my account and leave me alone!

Honestly, to sum up, I can’t say one good think about Standard Chartered Bank, they have proven themselves to be the most useless, unorganized, inefficient bank in the whole of India…and that’s not something that can be achieved lightly, you really need to work at being this bad.

So Mr. SCB…HOWZATT!!!


1 Cricket stars may not be attending
2 Some fees may apply, see terms and conditions for details
3 Internet connection required
4 SMS fees charged at your standard operator rate. Additional fees may apply, see terms and conditions for details.

Sidenote: Standard Chartered are actually a British bank, headquartered in London and listed on the LSE. They have a massive presence in many of the emerging markets like India, Singapore, Vietnam, UAE and Brazil. They are currently trading at 1700p per share on the LSE and frankly given their huge presence in all these rapidly growing markets they could well be a very attractive stock in the long term.

The 3 Lions or the 3 Kittens?

Chennai, India. 10:20pm. Despair.

So the England football team have lived up to the darkest secret that all Englishmen know in their hearts. We are shit. Not just poor. Not bad. But truly abysmal. Every football fan knows that England is a team of individual superstars that just can’t play together. And yet every tournament the English media builds up the team and raises the expectations of the nation to a point where we briefly, foolishly, willingly, forgo reality and allow ourselves the faintest of hope, the smallest of dreams; this could be our year to finally shine and we heed the call…

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Henry V – Shakespeare

You know, we don’t (or try not to) get carried away or anything. That’s not the British way. We don’t expect to come back with the trophy. If we are beaten by the likes of Brazil or Argentina then fair play, they are the greatest teams in the world. But if we are to be beaten, then at the end of the 90 minutes not a single England player should be able to stand. They should have given absolutely everything as they played with the pride of the nation resting upon their shoulders.

2010 Is An Epic Fail By The England Team

So how can we accept the utter lackluster approach by our players? The complete capitulation in the field of play? England have just received a master-class in football by a team that should be playing for the Youth side, not the national team. Yet England were out-classed, out-played and humiliated time and time again as the players showed no desire, no effort and no heart to even suggest that they cared enough about their country.

The entire 2010 World Cup has been shameful and painfully exposed just how little it means for the players to be representing England. A nervy affair against the Americans (who count football – sorry – soccer as their 6th most popular game) resulted in a nail-biting draw, a shocking performance against Algeria, a country ranked 30th in the world, and an uninspiring and unconvincing win against Slovakia (ranked 34th and have a population less than 10% of England) provided ample ammunition for England to be ridiculed.

Roots and Branches

When Capello was hired, it was after what the FA declared a “root and branch” review of English football was required. What they failed to focus on is that the common denominator in our last decade is the players simply aren’t fit to wear the 3 Lions on their chest. There is not one player that can be singled out from this embarrassing World Cup who can be held up high for his commitment, his passion and who has given his everything for the team.

Even Rooney, normally the lion heart, failed to spark. Us English fans, and other nations, can’t figure it out. How can a team of some of the top players in the world fail to beat teams that until a few years ago didn’t have a national side? How can teams like Serbia, population 4m, beat a team like Germany and then when England have a crack at it we are left looking like a side of Sunday leaguers?

There is no doubt that the blame is probably going to fall most on the shoulders of Capello; but that is entirely unjustified, we have had manager after manager trying to coax a spark of life out of this team of individuals. Capello doesn’t need to go – I think he’s a bloody good manager and is as confounded by the team performance as everyone else – it’s the over-paid players themselves that need to be shown the door.

Hold On Lads, I’ve Got An Idea!

What I think England needs is something radical. Forget taking players from the top league, they earn their millions of pounds each year, if they lose a match, they are still loved by the club fans. They still drive off in their Bentleys, Ferrari’s and Aston Martins. They still go home to their impossibly attractive model / actress / singer wives. There is no incentive to play for the England team like there is for their club; not one single player can be said to play better for country than club.

So here is what I propose. Forget these over-paid darlings, let them draw admiration and respect from their club fans. Let’s take the England players from the lower leagues – the young men who make the same amount of money as you and I. They suddenly have everything to play for, they will play with passion, with drive and with the battling spirit that the English love.

Sure, we’ll probably lose even more than we do now, but bloody hell, when we can’t even beat USA and Algeria with a team of multi-million pound stars who are held up as the finest examples of footballing ability in the world, what difference does it make? By fielding a team of lesser players who will play with heart, the expectations of the nation will not be raised and destroyed in a mere 90 minutes. If we win, we will be euphoric. If we lose, hey, they played their hearts out, we can’t ask for anything else.

Why Can’t England Be Like This?!

I watched North Korea play against Brazil in one of the early matches. Sure they lost 2-0 2-1 (thanks, Ed!), but by God they played their hearts out as if playing for the team actually mattered to them. They then went on to lose 7-0 to Portugal and 3-0 to Ivory Coast, but you couldn’t fault them for passion and desire. For 90 minutes in each match they ran their legs off, and that earns the respect of fans.

Or how about New Zealand? Ranked a measly 78th in the world, their star striker is a full time bank employee and had to request time off to attend the tournament, and yet they didn’t lose a single match, narrowly missed out on getting to the knock-out stages and came above Italy (winners of the 2006 World Cup) in the group stages.

England last won a major trophy 44 years ago in 1966. To be frank, after watching teams from emerging nations like Ghana and Paraguay and non-footballing nations like USA and Japan, I don’t think England are going to have a hope in hell of winning anything ever again.

It was Nelson who said it best when faced with an enemy that was superior in numbers at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was simple, it was to the point and it was oh so British…”England expects that every man will do his duty“.

Likewise in football, England expects every man to do his duty, but when the players show complete disinterest and unwillingness to get stuck in, it’s time to take some radical action.

As the Lightning Seeds once said of England back in 1996…

Everyone seems to know the score,
They’ve seen it all before,
They just know,
They’re so sure,
That England’s Gonna throw it away,
Gonna blow it away,
But know they can play

Possibly never a truer word was spoken of the England team.



I’ll be here again for Euro 2012, and I know it will kill me to watch England play so badly, but I will continue watching them. It’s become a bit of an English tradition, it’s like pay back for the Empire or something, now you must sit and watch how awful your national team is. See how they look like a Sunday league side, squirm as they fail to break down the minnows of Europe, despair as qualification for the next tournament goes down to the last must-win match in which we must also rely on another team doing us a favour.

But There Is A Silver Lining To Every Cloud

But still, all that said, it could be worse. We could have had a 2010 World Cup like France. Now THAT is a team that needs to do a lot of soul searching.

Give a Little Respect

Something you will discover about India is that there is a huge patriotic streak that runs through every citizen, but it only surfaces when they feel threatened, or as I believe, insecure about something – I have sat through frequent rants about how India is so much more enlightened and a better country than the West will ever be, usually after having made an innocuous statement like “India has poor people”. There is an inbuilt resistance to not wanting to hear anything bad about the country and in some ways I guess that is quite patriotic.

Oh yes, if you are Indian and you are reading this then I should forewarn you that you might get a little bit upset because I’m about to insult your country and your litter culture. While I welcome your comments and thoughts about the Indian attitude to littering there is no need to vent about something unrelated like the “western superiority complex”. The issue at hand is litter. Stick to it 🙂

The modus operandi for Indian citizens is to have a mutual dislike with neighbouring states, much like the rivalry between England and Scotland. The dislike intensifies when talking about North India and South India. The South believes the North are all stupid (and given the latest case of student visa fraud in the UK, they may have a point) and the North generally regards the South as prudish and socially repressed (which again, is a fair point!).

But that all changes the moment someone insults or makes fun of India and you suddenly find that you have 1.2 billion very angry citizens to contend with.

Jai Hind. (roughly translates to “Victory to India”).

Take for example the racist attacks in Australia. The whole of India is currently united in their hatred of Australia with the forums and blogs full of tirades denouncing Australians as fundamentally racist.

(This of course coming from a country with a thousand years of the Caste system and where low caste communities have barriers and walls built around them to stop them coming near areas of high caste community, or where low caste people have to be buried in separate cemeteries to high caste people, or can’t even enter a temple of their faith)

Anyway, for a country that can be so patriotic and united, they appear to have very little respect for the land in which they live. It’s perfectly normal to be driving along, drinking a bottle of Coke and when you are finished with it, wind down the window and chuck it out, no matter where you are, or who it might hit.

Car interiors are kept spotlessly clean because whenever you are finished eating or drinking anything the packaging goes straight out the window. It doesn’t matter if it’s paper, plastic, metal, with not a thought for the environment (or who it might hit as it’s launched from the car) it gets unceremoniously dumped.

Thinking of taking the family out (and this is India, the immediate family will consist of 40 people) for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon? They will certainly come back with less than they took because all the food packaging, wrappers, containers etc. will be left behind, not even placed in to a bin, joining the rest of the litter from other family picnics.

When my company had a sports day, catering was laid on, plastic cups and plates were provided along with water bottles. At the end of the day when people were leaving what happened to all that rubbish? It was left behind, strewn across the playing fields, a job for someone else to pick up.

The point I’m trying to make here is that having a disregard for the environment and others around you isn’t a problem of the minority of people or even a majority of people. This is EVERYBODY. It cuts through age, gender and socio-economic boundaries.

I was on a very scenic railway while in Ooty – it’s actually a UNESCO world heritage site. I was sat in the first class carriage and a very wealthy middle class man in his early thirties was with his family. He was giving drinks and snacks to his young daughter and as she finished them he simply threw the packaging out the window, despite signs all over the place pleading people not to throw their litter.

I’ve challenged a few people on why they just throw their rubbish in the street instead of waiting to find a rubbish bin or taking it home and putting it in a bin there. The answers range from “why should we make our car get dirty” to “I feel tired carrying it around” to the ever arrogant “poor people can pick it up and sell it as scrap“. Yet bizarrely the same people will also agree that dumping rubbish is a big problem and people shouldn’t do it but without acknowledging that they are responsible for it.

Just why people drop their rubbish without a thought could take a deeper understanding of Indian culture than I’ve got in the last two years, but my own theories extend from the fact that middle and upper class people are so used to having other people do their dirty work (even I have a maid who cleans my apartment each day) that they are able to drop things in their own home and the maid will clean it up instantly. Whether it’s food packaging or spilt drink, the culprit rarely has to clean it up themselves.

Even in the office, an office boy will hand out small paper cups of tea and coffee and then has to go around clearing them all up as the office staff will not put them in the bin, or worse, simply drop them on the floor.

Another classic example of this just happened tonight at the restaurant where a portly middle aged gentleman knocked his glass off the table shattering it and spilling water everywhere but made no attempt to help out or even acknowledge the fact, he was more concerned about getting another glass of water. Even as the water and glass sat on the floor the waiters continued as if nothing had happened. Eventually a small boy came along with a dustpan and brush and cleaned up the mess – the gentleman in question didn’t even apologise or thank the person for cleaning it up.

I think it’s this “I’m too good to clean up any mess” attitude that they take with them when they go out of the house, to them dropping their litter and trash is as normal as breathing, they’ve always done it, everyone else does it, so what’s the problem? As I said, there just isn’t any thought about how it might affect others or the environment, as long as the used packaging is no longer in your life, who cares what happens to it.

This uncivilized and thoughtless attitude is carried over to the incredible beauty spots all over India. Despite a million signs and rubbish bins, Indians continue to drop their litter as if they are too good or too worthy to be carrying rubbish and somehow it’s the responsibility of the poor and low caste to clean it all up for them.

Now, I’m writing this blog post in Ooty, one of the most beautiful places in all of Tamil Nadu with breath taking scenery everywhere you look, and yet despite the awe inspiring views around me, I found that I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the middle class Indian for the complete and utter disrespect they have for their country, other people and ultimately, themselves.

What should have been an entry of stunning scenery instead turned in to a rant about disrespectful Indians with no civic sense whatsoever. It’s not even as if they can claim there is no where to put their rubbish as there are bins literally everywhere.

I’ve included photos in the hope that it shames at least some people to think twice before throwing the empty water bottle, cigarette packet, tissue, crisp packet or coke can out the car window when they are finished with it.

DSC00660-blog

DSC00337-blog

DSC00336-blog

DSC00324-blog

DSC00321-blog

DSC00319-blog

Now, cue angry responses from Indians who claim they don’t drop any litter at all!

Would You Just Sit Down!

Part of being a grumpy young man is the ability to find something to annoy you in every conceivable situation. The situation that has been getting on my nerves recently is people’s Neanderthal like behaviour the moment they step on to an aircraft.

It first really came to my attention when I took low cost airlines around India (which, if you were to compare them to the no-frills crap we have in England is like a 5 star luxury travel experience). India is quite renowned as a nation of people who don’t follow the rules. This is quite understandable because if you tried to follow the rules, you’d never get anything done. However, it becomes particularly apparent on a low cost airline.

So yes, I thought it was specific to India, people’s behaviour on planes, but after taking some crap no-frills airlines while back in England, I’ve been forced to reconsider this opinion.

Mobile Phones

This is my biggest annoyance. Everyone knows that they ask you to turn your phone off when you are on the plane, yet people insist on walking on to the plane on the phone, sending text messages, shooting off emails on their blackberry etc.

On the flight back to Chennai the guy next to me was sending messages all through the announcement about turning off your phone, it was done in English, Hindi and Tamil so he had no excuse other than being a knuckleheaded buffoon.

I understand that 99% of the time, use of your mobile phone has no bearing on the performance of the plane, but I have read stories whereby the pilot has been unable to communicate with the tower because of the buzzing interference of a mobile phone. Maybe I’ll get my pilot friend to comment further on this matter.

Anyway, the point is, I’m sure if everyone used their phone, there could well be some problems, you are not special, particularly if you are sitting in cattle class with me, so don’t be an ejit and use your phone.

But it gets worse, the moment the plane touches down, people nowadays seem to be so addicted to their mobiles to which one can probably draw comparisons with smokers and the urge to have a cigarette, because the plane is still on the runway and they pull out their mobile to check for messages! No one loves you anyway, so save it till you get in to the terminal. Oh and if you do get a message, don’t kid yourself, it’s only the local network welcoming you to the country.

Seat Recliners

Oh, this annoys me nearly as much as mobile phones do. The people who make use of the seat recliners are the sort who have no consideration and nothing but contempt for another human being. You can pick out the self-centered bastards of the world by those that choose to use the recliner, thus inconveniencing the person behind you who suddenly has an LCD TV shoved in to their face and even less room to move around in.

But what gets me more is that on every single bloody flight, the attendants ask you to put your seat in the upright position. So what’s the first thing these inconsiderate morons do when they board the plane? Recline their seat, I mean, what in God’s green Earth are they thinking? Anyone who’s been on a flight knows the seat has to be upright for take off, why tell everyone you’re an ignorant waste of space right from the start?

Again, I’ve been on a plane which is still on the ground and a cabin crew have asked someone to put their seat forward and not a few minutes later, they recline it again. What makes them think they are more special than someone else, other than winning the most inconsiderate award.

In my somewhat lopsided view, when I looked around the plane virtually everyone had their seats fully reclined, those that didn’t were mostly westerners. When I challenged some Indian friends on this, they replied that they recline their seat because they can, it hadn’t even occurred to them that it could possibly inconvenience the person behind them – something (not considering others) which I think is pervasive throughout Indian society simply because the sheer number of people forces you to do so.

So next time you are on a flight, don’t be an arsehole, leave your seat upright. If you want to sleep, stop being a cheapskate and upgrade to a class that lets you stretch out fully, don’t inflict your pig headedness on others just because you are too tight to pay for a better seat.

Seatbelts

Does personal safety mean anything to anyone? Then why do the cabin crew have to come around and ask you to put your seatbelt on before take off?!

There must be some kind of psychological problem with some people, they have no fear of death but an irrational fear of being restrained or something because they don’t like wearing that seatbelt!

It’s like, as soon as the plane touches down, you hear the click of people removing their seatbelt and almost letting out a sigh of relief, as if they can finally breathe now the restraining belt can be removed.

And if that’s not enough, on flights in India, people are actually standing up before the plane has left the runway – leaving the poor cabin crew to beg and plead with people to sit back down!

Safety Notice

Yes, I know that by now we all know where the doors are located on a plane and that the life jacket is located under the seat and in the event of an emergency we’ll all scream, panic and possibly do something involuntary but even so, keep quiet during the safety instructions!

This was a huge problem on the European flights, the safety notice began and people carried on talking, raising their voices to be heard over the PA system! Eventually the cabin crew had to ask everyone to be silent and started all over again. I’ve noticed on the internal Indian flights the passengers do give the cabin crew their full attention, although I feel this may have more to do with the fact that they are slim and very pretty rather than male, like in England!

I mean come on, would it actually kill you to be quiet for a few minutes while the cabin crew give some instructions which may save your life?

Toilets!

Bloody hell this annoys me. Why does it take some people 10 minutes to go to the toilet on a plane?! Especially when they can see a queue of people outside.

I think airlines should start charging for use of the toilet, your first 2 minutes is free, after that it is a £1 / $1 per minute. No one should be taking more than 5 minutes anyway! Not unless they are in the process of joining a certain exclusive club.

If you have an aisle seat, don’t complain when people get up!

In the day and age where you get to select your seat before you board, or in the case of the low-but-hidden-charges cost airlines a free for all once you get on the plane, if you choose an aisle seat, don’t complain when someone gets up to go to the toilet or has to wake you to get out!

On the way back to India, I saw one middle aged totally ignorant gentleman refuse to move to allow a lady (who was about 80) get out – the knucklehead of a man made her climb over and had the audacity to look put out by this!

The guy wasn’t the smallest and there was another bulky guy sitting next to him who also tried to get out, the comedy of seeing two fat guys trying to squeeze past each other, one stubbornly refusing to get up and the other trying to get through, it just made him look utterly ridiculous, I almost felt like saying to him, “what the hell, move you fool!”

So I don’t know what it is about air travel that makes people lose all sense of etiquette and consideration for others, maybe the irrational fear of flying overrides all other emotions and actions of people and turns them in to little balls of selfishness with not a thought for their fellow passenger.

What annoys you about air travel?!

Home of the Ridiculous

So here I am, back home. Back in England and back to Western culture. India is wonderful of course, but there’s only so long you can go before you start craving the Western vices (like beef burgers). Last year I managed 12 months, this year I didn’t do so well and had to come back after just 10 months.

Well, I say had to come back, the words of my father are still echoing in my ears “son, if you don’t come back for your mothers beep birthday, you may as well not come back for Christmas.” No one ever even mentioned the word ‘threat’.

So I have come from one country which by all accounts is utterly random to another country which I firmly believe has lost its marbles.

Anyway. The first thing you notice moments after walking through arrivals is how stupidly expensive everything is here. When you are used to paying £3.50 for an excellent two course meal, coming to England is like diving in to a pool of ice; you become numb with shock.

In my first day back in England, I got the train from Heathrow Terminal 5 (which is amazing by the way, even my Dad, the man that could find fault with the Sistine Chapel begrudgingly conceded that they had done a fair job with T5) to South London which cost £10.

From there I went and had a pint (from landing to first pint in 90 minutes is not bad going) which cost £3 and then it was off to buy a Pay As You Go sim card, (topped up with £20 – enough to last you three months in India) and some toiletries.

Three hours in the country and the total cost so far was £35.

That evening, I went to a pub to meet up with some old uni friends where we had dinner and many drinks. Dinner was £9 and drinks came in at around £15. By the time I got to bed I’d managed to spend nearly £60 since landing.

The next day I went and had my first McDonald’s (you honestly don’t realize how much you miss Quarter Pounders until it’s no longer available!) before catching a train up to my hometown.

Now in India, you can travel the length and breadth of the country for about a £20. This will get you a nice air-conditioned carriage with a full length bed since the train journeys can last for days (and not because the train gets lost like in Darjeeling Limited!).

England, on the other hand, seems to think that everyone is as rich as Mr. Monopoly, so a basic 1 hour train journey costs £39 if you want a single or £41 if you want a return – simply proving that someone, somewhere failed their maths GCSE.

Having been in the country less than 24 hours, I’d managed to spend a grand total of £100 (and a bit more). Utterly ridiculous, I hadn’t even gone very far or bought anything of any value, simply ate to stay alive and took public transport to get from A to B.

Back in my adopted country (which doesn’t want me back), £100 lasts you a month! And you get to live like a King!

But rip-off Britain gets worse – and for any Brits reading this, you don’t know how bad it is until you go to other countries – once back home, I had to get a hair cut which ended up costing £8.80 for a quick buzz round the back and sides and cut short on top. Admittedly, there were no hair raising experiences (pun intended) this time, but honestly, £8.80 for a haircut! We’re in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930’s, people can’t afford to go around spending £8.80 for a bit of cranial topiary!

The world has gone mad. And Britain has become ridiculous.

Oh. And it’s still bloody raining here!

Things That Make You Go ARAGH!

Today has been a very frustrating day. The God of Karma has been saving up all my bad luck from the 14th August and rained it down on me all day. They say things come in threes, and I wouldn’t want to disapoint an old cliche with my own series of three unfortunate events.

(I do find it a little odd that both this post and my previous one talk about bad luck, but hey ho, that’s the way the cookie crumbles)

The first happened early this afternoon. I went to a friends house and she was complaining about the internet password used by her former housemates. Without going in to too many details, it was sick, wrong and twisted. No problem I said, I’m a guy (of the deadly hunter-gatherer variety), we enjoy fixing things for women.

Changing the password for your wireless internet is a job of about 30 seconds, access the router (duh! By going to http://192.168.0.1 stupid!) update the password, click save then update the passwords on the computers accessing the wireless network. No biggie, I’ve done it loads of times before on other routers.

Except this time, sods law caught up with me and what should have been a 30 second job turned into 2 hours of frustrating, hair pulling, pleading and bargaining time spent trying to get the damn computers to work. My friend was convinced I’d broken her internet, but it’s not supposed to work like that, it’s just damn unlucky that the moment you mess around with someone elses computer to ‘fix’ it, everything goes wrong.

After wasting two hours of my time, I did eventually fix it, but the lesson was learned, never offer to fix anyone elses computer. Even if it’s for a girl.

The second round of bad luck came early this evening. I invited a Kenyan expat over to watch the Man U v Arsenal match and we decided to order a take away. Calling up, I was unconvinced that they understood the order. Regardless, we opened a couple of beers and settled down to watch the game.

A couple of hours later, it was apparent that no food was going to turn up, so we got an Indian friend to call up the place. Typically, they had no record of our order, so we went ahead and tried to place it again, the conversation went something like this.

Friend: “We want 3 chicken rolls and a mutton biriyani. M-U-T-T-O-N. Oh, no mutton, umm, ok, fine, chicken biriyani.”

A few minutes later we get a phone call.

Friend: “oh, no chicken biriyani either. Fine, we’ll just have 5 chicken rolls. OK? Good”

I should point out that this is a very regular occurance in restaurants in Chennai, it’s really not uncommon to have the waiter come back to you after placing the order and tell you that that dish or drink is not available. A classic case is illustated in one my previous posts about my quest to get some idlies. Anyway, you can’t get stressed about it, it’s just TII 🙂

Eagerly expecting our food, the phone rang again a few minutes later…

Friend: “What? No chicken rolls? OK, what about paneer rolls? OK, fine. No paneer rolls. This is a take away restaurant you are trying to run here, right? You’re not moonlighting as a stationary shop or something? What? Oh never mind. No, we don’t want anything else, cancel the order. No, we don’t want to order anything…No, we don’t want the paneer rolls because you said you didn’t have any! Sorry, am I talking to a chimpanzee?”

Sidenote: Anyone searching for information on Tandoori Wala in Chennai, avoid at all costs! They don’t speak English or Tamil (we were lucky we had a Hindi speaking friend), they don’t take down your orders and they never have any of the food on their menu! What kind of mickey mouse restaurant is this? On top of that, the prices are at least double what you would pay else where.

So another lesson was learned today. Tandoori Wala in Chennai should be avoided like the plague.

By this point the God of Karma was having a field day and looking down on me in glee as I carried on watching the match, albeit very very hungry. Still, I had my beer, right? Well, so I thought…

The final round of bad luck came during the game. In what can only be described as a freak series of unfortunate events, the way everthing came together at the right moment to create utter destruction verged on the poetic.

First off, we were watching the Man U v Arsenal match. It was the second half and I went to the fridge to pour a couple more cold beers. As I stood behind my friend to hand him his beer, Arsenal decided at that exact moment to have a very close shot on goal and my friend threw back his arms, knocking the beer flying across the room and smashing against my baby laptop (my wonderful Asus eeePC 🙁 ) spilling beer all across the floor and all over my keyboard.

Without thinking, I carefully (even your unconscious mind cares about beer) put the other beer glass down by the chair I was sitting in (which was on the other side of the room) and scampered over to my netbook which was making a worrying crackling noise. Meanwhile my friend also leapt in to action and rushed to get a mop and bucket to clean it all up. As I was tending to my netbook, he shoved my seat out of the way, sending the other beer glass flying and giving about half a dozen shoes a proper beer shampoo.

I learned my final lesson of the day (and hey, every day is a school day, right?): don’t invite Kenyan expats round to eat, watch football and drink beer!

The rest of this post is only for uber-computer geeks. Normal people can stop reading now.

(seriously, unless you actually own a minimum of two computers and have a computer parts graveyard somewhere in your (moms) house, don’t even bother continuing)

After spilling beer on my precious baby laptop, many of the keys became stuck / stopped working, for example the Num Lock key was permanently on with no way to switch it off (which rendered the U, I, O keys useless unless I planned to do lots of spreadsheets) and so was the F1 key, so every programme I opened up, it kept opening the help pages and would go in to a loop of “help automatically opens” => “manually close help” => “help automatically opens” => “manually close help” (you get the idea).

So I did some research and found that you can manually remap (change / swap) keys on your keyboard. I downloaded a free program called KeyTweak and was able to disable both the Num Lock and F1 keys, making my keyboard usable again. This is probably very useful if you’ve spilt your drink all over your laptop keyboard and some keyboard keys have stopped working or default to the ‘on’ status.

Boo To MeWebHost

This is a broadside shot at MeWebHost.com who have just deleted my PayPal directory from their servers. It provided a directory of thousands of merchants that accepted PayPal in virtually every category available.

There was no warning sign, just an email landed in my inbox saying “your site is using too many resources and has been deleted under our terms and conditions”. And nothing else, no chance to contest their claims, not even a chance to make a backup – just gone.

The most annoying thing (aside from losing all the data) is that the site was raking in over $400 a month – and anyone that owns a directory knows that that is a phenomenal amount!

So thanks MeWebHost, you’ve just screwed up a nice little earner for me!

Mosquito Bite Count: 4 – the little buggers have returned! 

2 Stupid Adverts From Marketers That Just Don’t “Get It”

There are plenty of awful adverts on TV, I’m sure people can reel off about a dozen ads that do their nut in too. I’ve got a couple of ads that really annoy me, not because they are bad ads (they are actually mildly amusing) but because the marketers that made the ads are so far off base and out of touch with the consumer market they might aswell be trying to sell AK-47’s to the Peace Corps.

I know that I’m playing into the hands of these marketers by showing these ads here, but I don’t care. I need to vent my fury at the stupidity of whoever made them.

The first ad is for an alco-pop called WKD. It’s the drink of teenage girls, and underage kids looking to get drunk on something that tastes ‘nice’.

So why then, given that these are the sorts of people that drink WKD, are they marketing the drink at young 20 something lads who drink beer lager and if they don’t drink lager they drink vodka red bull. It makes me mad. The worst part is, these ads appear when there’s a football match on because that’s when the majority of lads are watching football.

Dear Stupid Marketers…You have it all wrong! Redo your demographics, guys just do not drink alco-pops.

Here’s the first movie:

Yes, it is quite funny, but it would be far more effective if it was selling beer.

Wouldn’t you know it, but I’ve completely forgotten what the second advert was. I will try and remember and edit this post later on. Actually, next time I watch football the entirely inappropriate advert will probably come on. It might be some of those new age ‘moisturisers and skin care’ products for men from Nivea.

Do you have an ad that really annoys you because the product is aimed at completely the wrong person

GoDaddy Update: I Am Not Alone!

A few weeks ago I posted about how bad I though GoDaddy were and how bad the website interface was.

Well, I was doing a bit of reading the other day and it turns out that I’m not the only one who has issues with GoDaddy (we should probably all sign up to therapy and get a group discount). While the whole RegisterFly saga was unfolding, there was one site that everyone went to called RegisterFlies.com.

They were one of the first sites to break the (bad) news that GoDaddy was buying the RF customer database and transferring all the domains.

Anyway, I came across this post:

http://www.registerflies.com/myblog/godaddy-and-shady-transfer-policy.html

Which talks about GoDaddy’s shady transfer policy that is allegedly in blatant breach of ICANN’s policy (ICANN is the American based non-profit organisation that overseas and controls all .com domains – often referred to as ICANN’T due to their inability to take action).

Amongst some of the comments to the above article I came across some gems:

Here are some other reasons godaddy sucks.
1 they lie on there website and make you agree to not transfer your domain if you update your whois. This is just dishonest. Nothing in ICANN policy allows for this.

2, They have a reputation for shutting down sites based on uninvestigated complaints.
If someone complains that you are spamming with your domain they shut you down without any investigation. The burden is on you to prove you weren’t

3, They have a link in there whois to report false whois. Let me ask you; what qualifies any joe blow who looks up my domain in the whois to determine if the whois is false. This is asking for abuse. The type of abuse that led to the theft of familyalbum.com

By the way, and this is an aside. I found a domain I wanted the other day at godaddy that had false whois- bad email. Nothing can stop me from puttiing in a back order for it with godaddy and then reporting the false whois.
But I degress, let me go on.

4, Their control panel is the worst in Biz.

5 when You try to renew you have to deal with nonsense like having the renew auto set to 2 years and being upsold tons of junk on the long road to checkout.

6 [snip]

7. There is no grace period after your domain expires. The day it expires they will charge you a boatload of money to get it back. Reputalbe registrars dont pull this kind on nonsense. Why would anyone who knows anything about domains put up with this.

8 When you buy a domain at Godaddy or change your DNS to Godaddy, they steal your traffic for at least three days. That’s right folks you heard it hear first. They steal your traffic for at least three days. At any ohter registrar you can start using your domain right away. By the way this is grounds for a class action lawsuit and I am sure some clever attorney will get on it eventually.

The list goes on, but if your are stupid enough to use godaddy you probably already stopped reading

You can read the rest of the comments on GoDaddy on this page:

http://www.registerflies.com/myblog/godaddy-and-shady-transfer-policy.html

Many people seem to have issues with the frustrating checkout process that GoDaddy have where they attempt to upsell you every product and service they have, try to get you to buy other domain extensions, default the registration period for two years and so on. For seasoned webmasters and domainers this is just tedious and infuriating. Definitely at the very least I think they should have an option in the users profile to have a quick checkout option that bypasses all that crap.

I’ve also come across this site that gives various horror stories about GoDaddy:

http://www.nodaddy.com

The Problems With GoDaddy: Part 2

This is a continuation of the post I made on 26th June which you can read about here. I’m carrying on by explaining what I think is wrong with the GoDaddy website, interface and ordering process.

Messy & Confused Website

In an attempt to offer every internet service under the sun, the GoDaddy website is mishmash of information. Assume you want to purchase a domain name. You assume they are all $8.95 or lower because that’s what the pretty image above the search box says. You notice some * marks above the prices which usually means there are some terms and conditions involved. After searching on the page you find that the * mark could mean that the domain costs $0.99 or $6.99 or maybe $5.99. It could even mean that there is a $0.22 ICANN fee added to the final cost. Who knows?!

So you type in the domain you want (and maybe get a little confused by the plethora of domain extentions that are available) and choose the .tv extension because your site will be about a TV show.

Continue reading