In addition to viewing my wonderful pictures on Flickr ( 🙂 ) you can now check them out on the Why Dont You Gallery. In addition to this, Heather is currently working hard to create a gallery / ordering system where you can buy prints or purchase digital rights to a wide selection of images. If all goes well the Ogum site should be up and running in time for Christmas. Feel free to purchase some huge prints to hang on your atheist walls 🙂 .
Now, given that this blog has an amazingly technical readership (who often put Heather and me to shame) it will probably come as no surprise to most of you that Ebay is actually a more expensive way of buying things. However, it was a bit of a shock to me.
Today, I was looking around for books on the CISSP course and out of idle curiosity I did a search for CISSP for dummies (yeah, yeah). On ebay today, the cheapest I could find was £13.99 plus £2.75 postage (visit auction page – auction ends 12 May 08 so the link might die).
Compare against Amazon.co.uk where the same book costs £13.49 plus £2.75 postage (here).
Now this is a trivial example, and most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid over saving 50p (I would but that is because no one ever makes donations here and I am poor). However, if we look at it a bit further…
Ebay has the CISSP Exam Cram 2 book available as a Buy It Now for the discounted price of £21.37 plus £2.75 postage. Can Amazon beat that?
Well, yes. On Amazon, the CISSP Exam Cram 2 is £14.99 (postage seems to be a grey area here but I think it will be £2.75). That is no mere £0.50 saving, that is a whopping £6.38.
There is a change in the balance of power over the CISSP all in one exam guide (Ebay, Amazon) where Ebay is actually about £3 cheaper, but by and large you actually pay for the privilege of using Ebay. It strikes me, from talking to all the ebayers I know, that people have a strange attitude towards Ebay. When people go to shop there, the idea of checking prices becomes alien.
For some reason, people seem to get caught in some weird mindset when they are faced with an auction and apparently regularly pay prices close to, or in excess of, the market rate for an item. I have experienced this a bit in the past when I’ve been bidding on cameras or camera parts – I have never won a single auction because almost every one of them has gone over the price you could buy it from a camera shop.
Why on Earth does Ebay have this effect on people? Great for sellers but, methinks, not so good for the buyer…
Now, in the past I have been very quick to rant here about the slightest customer service infraction – mainly this is because Ebuyer and Pipex are terminally bad companies – so it is only fair that I try to re-dress the balance at least occasionally.
So, with this in mind, I need to say a big well done to Amazon.co.uk. They have an actual understanding about customer service and appear able to maintain their promises.
A few months ago I was sent Â£20 in Amazon vouchers, so eventually I decided to spend them. Not really having anything in mind, I spent quite a while searching Amazon looking for the right combination of things to hit the Â£20 mark exactly and not incur any P&P charges (yes, I am that cheapskate). Eventually I found some filters for my camera so I ordered them. Everything went smoothly and the order was processed then confirmed.
A few hours later I glanced over the confirmation email and, to my horror, I realised I’d ordered the wrong size filter (52mm instead of 67mm if anyone cares) and panicked trying to cancel the order. In previous dealings with e-commerce sites, this is normally where everything goes wrong, however with Amazon it was painless, quick and effective. They were even able to refund the gift voucher without any problems at all.
Being unable to find any suitable filters of the correct size, I cracked and bought a few books (history, Pratchett and the like), going over the Â£20 but not by much. As I live a few miles more remote than the middle of nowhere, I was expecting the delivery charges for this (heavier) bundle to be painful. When I have bought from other suppliers (who also use Royal Mail to deliver) postage charges have been astronomical but no, Amazon offered the normal range of options, including the free “standard delivery.”
Despite the site being littered with warnings about the Royal Mail strikes causing problems to post etc., I decided I was in no hurry and standard delivery (estimated 5-7 days) would be fine. This was during the evening of 10 Oct 07. I placed the order, got all the confirmations (and this time there was no panic over the thread sizes…) and all was well.
Today (13 Oct 07), I get home from work only to discover the parcel has arrived. So, in effect, the standard delivery took less than 3 days to complete. To be honest, this is pretty good going. If some one posts me a single page of A4 it normally takes that much time to get here, if not longer. When I have ordered from other companies, I have had to pay a fortune (often as much as 20% of the cost of the total order) for items which have taken a week or two to get here from the centre of England.
I realise it is strange to say well done to a company for doing what they should do (i.e. serve their customers), but sadly it has become a rare thing in my experience. Companies no longer care about negative opinions, because largely they are all rubbish. In this instance though, Amazon have exceeded my expectations and, in doing so, have greatly increased the chances I will shop there again. Will they care? I doubt it. But I will.
(Note 1: Interestingly, in this instance, Amazon exceeded my expectations by ensuring they were low to begin with. Amazon emphasised how the parcel could take up to a week, longer with the postal strikes. This meant anything less was a bonus to me. Too many e-commerce organisations try to boast about getting things to you before you even realised you wanted them that disappointment is sure to follow.)
(Note 2: One negative point. Despite the books being supposedly “brand new” all four show distinct signs of wear. One is pretty dog eared and all smell of stale tobacco. If I was planning to sell these on eBay, I would never get away with calling them new… The parcel used to wrap the four up was open at both ends, so I am amazed nothing fell out and was lost. I think this includes a well done to the local postie. )
[tags]Amazon, e-commerce, society, culture, raves, Good Shop, Postal Strikes, Royal Mail, Books, Shopping, eBay, eBuyer, Pipex, Customer Service[/tags]
Jessops is still a bad shop. Last week there came a point at which I was going to write a big, apologetic, post here about how Jessops had redeemed themselves in my eyes. Sadly is it not to be, and they have firmly entrenched themselves in my “Bad Shop” books. Interestingly, today I have a comment from someone who seems to be defending Jessops and I will deal with that in this post. This is quite a convoluted tale of woe but I will try to keep it simple.
First, the comment by Tycoon. For those of you who haven’t read the previous post, and its comments, this is what he wrote:
Once again, this is a typical example of what you think the website tells you, rather what it actually tells you.
1 million other customers who have used the service since it launched a few months ago, didnâ€™t have a problem.
Wow, where do I start with this! Obviously I have no idea if this person works for Jessops or their web site people, but if s/he doesn’t it is an oddly worded comment. I have never engaged Tycoon in discussion before, so I dont know what “once again” is supposed to mean – other than this is a disgruntled help desk employee.
Critically, this is not an example of me making a mistake over what the website was telling me. The website explicitly informed me the items would be ready for collection. However, I have admitted it is possible I made a mistake, and it is. The fact 1 million (or how ever many) other customers have not had a problem is irrelevant. I had a problem and there was no system in place to make it better for me. Does Tycoon have any figures as to how many other online customers have had problems but not bothered to complain about it? Or the people who never got the site to work properly for them in the first place? It strikes me he is more concerned with the least important numbers.
Anyway, this is all in the past and I don’t want to descend into an argument over pedantry. Jessops is still a bad shop.The problem with my order continued and has affected other people I know. Now, there is the outside chance that the two shops in question are just badly managed, or that the people I know are just unlucky, but you have to start to wonder…
Looking at my order first, eventually I received a text message saying the order was ready and I could pick it up. Overjoyed – and tempted to forgive Jessops for my initial ranting – I took time off work, jumped in my car and drove the eternity to the town where Jessops is. I happily paid the Â£4 parking fee and went to the shop (I could have waited but the next time we were planning to go into town was two weeks away). In all the time between getting the text and arriving at the shop was just under two hours. In the shop there is a huge queue – comically the person at the front was complaining about an online order they had made, but I didn’t get the full details.
When I eventually get served, the assistant brings up a huge box with my name on it and starts to show me the items. Everything is there — except the camera and lens. After a search, the assistant draws a blank and seeks the managers advice. It turns out, they are out of stock of the camera – the last one they had was sold two days previously. So it seems that despite the text message sent to me telling me the order was ready, it actually wasn’t. I am sure this is not a case of me thinking the website was telling me something different to what it was really saying.
Now, at this point, there was nearly a huge row in the shop. I was furious at having taken time off work, driven all the way to town, all on a complete fabrication. Fortunately for my blood pressure, the manager diffused the matter by coming to a deal where I would take away the shop’s display model (heavily shop soiled), then when they had new ones in stock I could exchange it for a new one. This seemed reasonable enough for me, so off I went.
Having forgiven Jessops for their sins, my wife decided to purchase a tripod for me. This was double and triple checked on the website (it was in the collect@store special deals) to ensure it was available. It was, so the order was made. An hour later, my wife duly received the email and text message confirming the tripod was available for collection – so she goes into town to collect it – and ask if the camera was ready for exchange.
Shockingly, two people in front of her in the queue was a gentleman who purchased the last D80 they had in stock (nice of them). Still, no massive deal, so she asked to just collect the tripod. At this point, the assistant apologises and says they don’t have any in stock. He defends himself by saying they are on order and should be in by Saturday. So away she goes – with nothing. When we get home, we check the website – it is still marked as being in stock and check the emails. All point to the tripod being ready that day with no explanation as to why it wasn’t.
Saturday comes, we phone up this time, and neither the tripod nor the camera are in stock but a delivery has arrived and will be unpacked over the course of the day. In the afternoon we phone again – nope, they are not there but a delivery is due on Monday. Today, my wife has called them again and neither the camera nor the tripod are in stock, but a delivery is due… yeah, I am sure you get the point.
Add to this, a friend from work made a collect@store purchase for a Canon EOS400D camera (seeking the Â£10 saving). He went through the exact steps I did, got the store (a different one than I used) only to find out there were none left in stock but some more were on order. This was four days ago – it still hasn’t arrived and he has given up and bought it elsewhere.
It looks like I will end up doing the same for the tripod. I am still left with an excellent – if shop soiled – camera which I paid full price for and no signs of a possible exchange. The savings from using Jessops are quickly eaten up by the difficulties involved with actually getting hold of the goods. It doesn’t surprise me that Jessops are closing nearly a hundred shops over the country – with this sort of sales skills, I suspect more may go as well. Collect@Store is pointless if it doesn’t work.
Sadly, the staff in Jessops are wonderful (if poor at stock control) and know the subject very well indeed. It will be a shame to see the shops close, but at least then I will no longer be tempted to buy things from them and I can do the sensible choice and shop elsewhere.
[tags]Bad Shops, Jessops, E-Commerce, Camera, Nikon, D80, Digital Camera, Online Shopping[/tags]
The current line of ranting on technological subjects continues… This time it is the result of some mixed experiences with Jessops, a camera retailer with both on- and off-line shops.
Surprisingly for a High Street retailer, Jessops price their camera systems competitively with most online shops. For anyone who has not been unfortunate enough to try an dip their toes into the world of Digital SLR cameras, the whole thing is a muddle of choosing a camera body and lens from an array of options that really are mind boggling. Annoyingly, there are few retailers who provide the best price on everything, one will have very cheap lenses, but expensive camera bodies, another will be cheap bodies but extortionate shipping costs and so on.
As a result of this muddle (and wanting to have my new toy right now!), I eventually came to decide that the best solution would be to buy the camera and a kit lens from Jessops (I went for the Nikon D80 and a Nikkor 18-135mm lens for anyone who cares), then order other bits and pieces from cheaper, online, retailers (Warehouse Express is very good value for lenses). Continue reading
This is a stunning photograph taken in the Yorkshire dales by Ian G7KXV. This really appeals to me as a photo and I love the way the clouds work around the sun and the boulders. Apparently (according to flickr) this was taken with a Nikon D80 DSLR and it has gone a long way to influencing my choice of camera 🙂
Anyway, the main purpose for this post is to whine about flickr. Today I finally cracked and tried to upgrade to a pro account. I dutifully entered all my details as required and pressed “next.” Flickr realised I had made the mistake of selecting “Master Card” when I mean “Visa” and asked me to re-enter the card number. When I did, I was presented with a pop up page telling me that those card details were “already known” to flickr (or Yahoo, not sure which) and could I use a different card.
What madness. What does “already known” mean?
Given the furore about e-Commerce, and the emphasis placed on it by organisations such as flickr (which, surely, would cease to exist without it), why is it so bloody difficult to buy anything?
A while ago, the customer service of ebuyer infuriated me to the extent that we went about creating a new category here (bad shops) and I genuinely intended to never buy from them again. Sadly, market forces have worked against me and I find myself about to make another purchase from the customer service vortex that is ebuyer.
Recently I have discovered that I need to get a DVD-Recorder. This is OK, because they are reasonably cheap now – Tesco’s sells Liteon models for under GBÂ£70. As I was looking through the shops, considering which model to get (I want one which has built in DivX for example), I found Sainsburys sells a DVD-recorder which is DivX and has an 80gb HDD for Â£130. How can you turn that down? I went home and checked online to see if there were any other deals and, blast,Evil ebuyer do a Liteon DVD-recorder with a 160gb HDD for Â£124. Blast and double blast. It is hard to mentally justify spending the same amount of money for a machine with half the capacity, so another order with ebuyer was put together. I hate myself for it.
Comically, ebuyer seem to have done everything in their power to stop people purchasing products there. The DVD Recorder I want to get is the Liteon HDA740GX which I have seen in Currys for Â£182 and on Froogle should cost over Â£156. It is, from what I have read, a good model. Most shops (eg, PC World) sell the 80GB version for the price eBuyer is asking for the 160GB monster. Ebuyer, being cheaper than anyone else I can find by a fair amount, get the order. Blast, double blast and triple blast.
Now, the strange thing about ebuyer is when you try to navigate back to the product page you come across this conflicting bit of information. If you look at the second and third entries there you can see what I mean! (screen capped in case they ever fix it… 🙂 )
For some reason, the e-commerce site returns two identical products with different prices. One version, with a manufacturers part number of H DA740GX is going for the reasonable price of Â£124.5, but should you be foolish enough to buy the HD A740GX you will have to fork out Â£202.93. As far as I can see (with admittedly only a basic search for the manufacturers details), these are identical products.
Hopefully ebuyer will manage to deliver this to me by Wednesday as they have promised (and I had to pay for, as they don’t deliver for free to the remote places in the UK) otherwise I will have to resort to my somewhat impotent ranting against them and boycott them again (until I need a new tech order…)
On the e-commerce front, it isn’t just ebuyer which is insane. I was in PC World today (in the real world shop) and I saw a Belkin WiFi Phone which looked interesting, but there were no prices on it in the shop. Basically, this is a phone that connects to your Skype account via a wireless connection to your router. So, no need to have your PC on to use Skype which overcomes the main hurdle I have to using this wonderful service. Now, to prove this product exists you can look at it on the Dell site (which seems the cheapest) or on Froogle. It is real. It is what I wanted and it was in the shop I visited – they had dozens and it looked like they had been there for ages.
On the PCWorld website, however, can you find one? No. I tried searches for “Belkin Wifi” “Belkin Wireless” and even “Belkin.” At best I got a list of cables and network cards. No signs at all of the phone. Crazy.
Still, Dell sell it, so anyone reading this and looking for a present to buy me – consider it!
[tags]Bad Shops, Ebuyer, PCworld, Dell, E-commerce, Technology, Customer Service, Shops, Society, Froogle, Skype, Belkin, WiFi, Wireless, Telephony, Phone, LiteOn, DivX, Tescos, VoIP, Sainsburys, Currys[/tags]
We live on a planet where almost everything is tagged as the property of someone. Someone trousers a few pounds every time we eat or drink, and if breathing is still free, we know it’s only because no one’s worked out how to charge us for it.
You might think the rest of the universe was different. Well the rest of our solar system isn’t, apparently.
Chunks of the moon and other planets are being sold at the rate of 1,500 a day, according to a BBC report. The man who started it says he has already made Â£4.5 million and that 1.6 million sq km of moon property has already been sold, but don’t fret, there is still plenty left. Phew.
The Lunar embassy claims to be the world headquarters of extra-terrestrial sales. It sells plots of land through resellers, such as Moon estates in the UK. It’s quite impressive the way they word the sales pitch to avoid any accusations of blatant fr**d, e.g. Continue reading