iPad – An expensive fashion statement!

I’ll start this quick post by being completely honest. I don’t own an iPod, iPhone, Mac or iPad – and never will. Simply put, I don’t like Apple’s business model of controlling customers and am not persuaded by the hype and marketing.

The new iPad so many people are raving about is just one more gadget to draw in the fashion victims, rather than something to take us away from our beloved netbooks and laptops. Apple may wish you believed otherwise, so I thought I’d just comment on the things I’ve read about the iPad recently. If I were in the market for something like this, these are the cons that would have me looking elsewhere.

To add to their woes, it appears there may be issues with at least some iPads failing to connect to and keep a wifi connection…as reported by the BBC here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8606727.stm

Some of the following reasons I’ll spend my money elsewhere also apply to other Apple gadgets, such as the iPhone:

  1. Multi-tasking – What decade are we in again? I remember having a multi-tasking OS on my Commodore Amiga over 20yrs ago. Yet, Apple can’t manage to include something so fundamentally necessary in the year 2010. Seriously? This glaring omission alone is enough to stop me ever buying an iPad or iPhone. I’ll stick to Android on my mobile phone, thanks.
  2. Apple in control – Another huge deal breaker is the control Apple has over any of their products I might own. If I buy a netbook, I can expect to install any OS or software on it I wish. Not so with the iPad/iPhone. If Apple don’t approve of your choice, tough. Sorry, but if it’s my equipment, then I won’t be told what I can and can’t do with it.
  3. No Flash – WTF? Flash is used in a huge number of websites and seems to be one of the benchmarks for judging smartphones, yet the iPad doesn’t have it. Another nail in the coffin for me!
  4. No removable battery – The iPad is meant to be a portable device. For me, having the option of inserting a fully charged spare battery into my netbook/laptop is a must when I’m away from home. Yet, you cannot get to the battery in the iPad. FAIL!
  5. No camera – A normal camera is probably a silly idea on the iPad granted, but what about a webcam? Isn’t that another normal feature on most mobile devices these days? Oh dear.
  6. No standard USB port – Well, what can I say? Unforgivable. Not conforming to the industry standards is just stupid and arrogant.
  7. No external memory slot – Music, movies, ebooks etc. Was it so hard to add even something like a MicroSD slot? Another FAIL!

So, in addition to the pain of constantly quitting one app to allow you to open another,  and not being able to view a good percentage of modern websites properly, and not being allowed to run any software you like, or unable to plug in your own standard USB peripherals or SD memory card – it looks like a great bit of kit. Yes? No actually. It looks like a very expensive fashion statement to me, the same as many Apple products.

All in all, the iPad might be very desirable if you’re in the market for a portable device, no doubt because it’s got the Apple name engraved somewhere prominent. However, in practical terms, my Acer Aspire One wipes the floor with the iPad for all the reasons given above, and more besides. Granted, it’s not an Apple product, but that’s my point really. I wouldn’t swap my freedom for the shackles provided by Mr Jobs and co.

Let the fanboys come….!

Jim

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Hoyle Bros – Customer Service second to none!

Ok, to even the balance a little and as we’re on the subject of used cars…here’s an interesting experience we had a few years ago with another local car dealership. This is an example of excellent customer service and restored my faith that there are some good car dealers out there.

The dealer in question is Hoyle Bros. They are based in Denholme (West Yorkshire) and specialise in 4X4’s, mostly Japanese. We were looking to buy a Landrover Discovery and Hoyle Bros had one in stock that fitted the bill. The price was good, it looked to be in good condition and was automatic. I had a test drive (Note: actually before having to do any deals!) and decided to buy.

My wife and I sat with one of the owners and sorted out a mutually agreeable deal over a coffee. There was no pressure, no hard sell and it was all very informal and friendly. Perfect! They were more than happy for us to go ahead with an AA inspection too. So, subject to the satisfactory inspection, we had a deal.

I booked the AA inspection for the next day, at a cost of £250 to myself. I would very much recommend this to anyone who knows as little about the mechanics of a car as it can save a lot of money in the long run. To cut a long story short, the AA inspector couldn’t get the car started on the day and found a major fault with the vehicle. It turned out to require a repair costing around £1,500.

This turn of events surprised everyone, not least of which, the guys at Hoyle Brothers. I was going to put this one down to experience. After all, it’s got to be better to lose £250 than have a £1,500 repair bill on a car you just bought! I needn’t have worried though…

Hoyle Brothers were obviously not happy about any of this and were very apologetic. My wife and I said, no problem, no hard feelings. They explained that they’d checked the car over as usual and had it prepared for sale. Nothing had shown up as being a fault. Even my test drive was fine.

As a gesture of goodwill and because they pride themselves on good customer care, Hoyle Brothers offered to refund the £250 we’d spent on the AA inspection. They were adamant that their philosophy is to make the experience of buying from them and the after sales service good enough to make people want to come back. To say we were impressed by this is an understatement!

If this is typical of the sort of service people can expect from Hoyle Brothers, then I cannot recommend them highly enough. I would buy a car from them without hesitation in future.

Jim

Wilsden Autos – No sale, no test drive! Eh?!

What a day! I’ve just returned home after spending the past few hours of this glorious Sunday wandering around used car showrooms. Not my ideal way of relaxing, but it needs to be done.

Anyway, in almost 25 years of driving, I have purchased a number of used cars and spent many hours in literally dozens of showrooms, shopping. In all that time, I cannot remember ever encountering the strange and rather illogical way in which Wilsden Autos (Wilsden is a village just outside of Bradford in West Yorkshire) do business. Perhaps they have their reasons, but I’m damned if I can figure them out, or more to the point, am willing to put up with them as a “customer”.

I had a twenty minute walk around Wilsden Autos this afternoon, looking at the cars they have in stock. All well and good. They do have one make and model in particular that I’d been looking at for a while in general and knew I’d want it.

The car they have in stock is around about the right money, age and spec and I have the money sat in the bank waiting to be spent. I’m fairly easily pleased and would hardly have been a difficult person to make happy as a customer.

So, after a quick sit in the car, I asked the hovering salesman when I could make an appointment to test drive the car. He asked when I’d want to? After a brief discussion with my wife about working times, we agreed any evening next week and suggested as much.

The salesman said “So, are you happy with the car, spec and price and can we do a deal?”. Not so fast. I decided not to say what I wanted to in response, as I really detest pushy sales people. I asked him how much he’d be willing to drop the price and he said a couple of hundred.

Anyway, this is the punchline and the part of the very short conversation when I thanked him for his time and walked away….

Apparently, Wilsden Autos don’t let people test drive their cars until a deal is already done. Nope, this isn’t a joke! This guy actually wanted me to do the paperwork and agree to purchase a car for £6,500 without my actually driving it! Erm, hello?!?! I don’t know what the weather is like on his planet, but it’s sunny here today.

He flatly refused to let me test drive the car until I did a deal and just said “That is how we do business. No deal, no test drive. That’s it”.

Now, here’s a direct quote from the front page of Wilsden Autos website. Which in light of their salesman’s comments, is very misleading: “We welcome any trial or inspection of our vehicles…“. Call me picky, but doesn’t the word “trial” mean “test drive”? How can you “trial” a car without driving the damn thing? Isn’t that the whole point?

Here’s another I found quite ironic under the circumstances: ” We are committed to providing the very highest level of service to all of our customers…”. I wonder if anyone imparted that little gem to their salesman?

I said my goodbyes and will spend my money elsewhere. Perhaps I am a little niaive, but it seems fairly reasonable to me that I should be allowed to have a go in any car I may wish to buy before signing away such a huge amount of money?

Anyway, my wife and I are still quite perplexed by the business philosophy of Wilsden Autos. So, I’ve decided to email them with a request that they comment on this blog post with an official explanation as to why they choose to lose customers in this way. Perhaps their salesman just couldn’t be bothered moving a few cars (at their convenience!) in order to let me test drive it? Was he suffering from sun stroke?

Never let it be said I don’t give people a fair crack at the whip. I will give the people at Wilsden Autos a chance to balance out this post with their take on it. As I have done in the past, I will post their reply (within reason) here for all to see. I sit with baited breath awaiting their reply. Definitely watch this space…!

The really disappointing aspect for me is that I always try and support local businesses if possible and would rather buy from a local independent dealer like Wilsden Autos than one of the multi-region franchises. I also do have the money to spend and would have bought the car without a second thought after a decent test drive as I did fall in love with it. Oh well, maybe Wilsden Autos make so much money in this booming economy that they can simply put people off who are cheeky enough to ask for something so fundamentally obvious as a test drive up front!

Jim.

E.On – Heartless and Useless!

Here’s yet another tale of woe about one of our seemingly out of control utility companies. Not content with cocking up in other ways, it appears they try to outdo each other with their callous and bloody minded methods of treating customers.
The BBC have reported on a story about E.On (crap name by the way guys!), one of the UK energy suppliers. An 84yr old man, who also happens to be a veteran of WWII tried to take his own life due to a mistake made by E.On. Yep, their screw-up led this poor man to attempt suicide.

The upshot is that when they installed new meters in his home, they wired them incorrectly. As a result, the gentleman had been charged thousands of pounds more than he should and simply couldn’t pay the bills.
Energywatch, the ombudsman found E.On to be culpable after conducting a report. They didn’t mince their words and slated E.On for their incompetence and horrendous treatment of this man. E.On were told to write off the £6,500 bill and apologise.

So, chalk one up to another great UK company who doesn’t give a toss about the people who they are supposed to be looking after as customers. Stories like this make me sick. There is absolutely no excuse for it and no reason why anyone should have to suffer this indignity. Shame on E.On.

Well done E.On. You have almost taken first prize for the most heartless and incompetent company in the UK!
If you’d like to read the story yourself, go here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7490287.stm

Jim

Amazon – What happened?

I can’t say I’m overly impressed by Amazon any more. In days gone by, I knew I could shop with them in confidence, have my order dealt with and shipped by Amazon and that I had a single point of contact for help. Not any more. Now, it seems the majority of things for sale on the Amazon site are sold by 3rd party organisations. The companies who set up as merchants or partners are just using the Amazon site as a virtual shop window. This brings us lots more choice and potentially value for money. However, it also brings up a number of issues for the customer to be aware of.

1. Gift vouchers – I recently received a £20 Amazon (UK) gift voucher for my birthday. There were a couple of things I wanted for my PC, so I spent ten minutes looking through the products and picked one. It wasn’t until I got to the checkout that I realised that I couldn’t use my voucher to pay for this item. As it wasn’t a product being sold directly by Amazon, my gift voucher was useless. When I looked back through the list, Amazon don’t actually sell the item at all. It’s very frustrating and a bit sneaky of Amazon to keep this info to themselves until you get to the point of actually paying!

2. Postage – As Amazon have many merchants and 3rd party companies selling through their website, it now means that you can’t guarantee you won’t be stung for postage! Not only does each vendor have their own pricing structure for shipping, but if you buy several items which all come from different sellers, you’re going to end up paying seperate postage charges to each of them!

3. Reliability/Ratings – Each merchant has a rating, similar to the feedback system on Ebay. This is fine, but what happens when things go wrong? As you’re buying from the Amazon site using their payment systems, but actually purchasing from another company, who’s liable for sorting out problems or following up and actioning complaints?

Jim

Black Horse Finance – Absolutely Bloody Useless!!

So, I’m after a new car. As I’ve dealt with Black Horse Finance in the past, I thought I’d give them a ring this evening when I got home from work to enquire about a new agreement.

I rang their main number (0870 242 7878 ) as quoted on some correspondence I had with them and was greeted by their very irritating automated menu system. Nice idea, but the voice recognition just couldn’t understand my postcode no matter how clearly I spoke.

Eventually, I managed to get to the queue for speaking to someone. This was at 5:45pm. I was still on hold at 6:18pm when the line began ringing at the other end. Woohoo, I was through to someone…..Well, no.

Here’s how the phone was answered:

You have been forwarded to a voicemail service. However, the person at 7998 does not subscribe to this service.
A valid attendent identifier number could not be obtained.

Followed by the continuous tone when you get cut off. Aaarrrgggghhh! Almost as bloody useless as BT eh? I wasted 33 minutes of my time and however much on my BT phone bill for nothing!

Well, screw Black Horse. If they can’t be arsed answering the phone, I’ll go to another company. I wonder how much money they throw away each year by having a crap phone system?

Tossers!

Thanks for reading,

Jim

CCLOnline – Caveat Emptor! (UPDATED 10/04/08)

I have shopped with the local PC and peripheral supplier CCL Computers for many years. Their service has generally been ok (not brilliant, but just ok). Until today.

I placed an order yesterday morning (Monday at 10:10am) for a new DVD writer. On the order page, I could go through the process of doing it through their website, or I could click a button and do it via the express method using my Google account. I decided that was the option for me. Rather than the normal delivery of several days for around £5, I chose next day delivery and paid £6.99.

I received an email confirming the order, with a note to say I’d get another when the item was shipped. After checking my (still empty) inbox this morning, I decided to ring CCL to check why there was no confirmation of shipping.

According to CCL, Google didn’t pass the order to them until after 5pm and I missed the cut off time for next day deliveries (bearing in mind I have an email with order confirmation time of 10:10am yesterday). I said that with all due respect, that was CCL’s problem. As I’d paid extra for next day delivery, I wanted the item today or a refund for postage. CCL refused.

They said their terms and conditions clearly say that delivery is NOT guaranteed, unless you go for the “guaranteed” delivery option. That’s just semantics and they were happy enough to take my extra payment!!! I pointed out that at no point in the ordering process was it mentioned that deliveries were not guaranteed and that it is therefore misleading. CCL weren’t interested.

So, in a nutshell, CCL can charge their customers whatever they like for express and next day delivery, keep the extra money and basically deliver it when they feel like it, quoting their lousy terms and conditions when customers get a bit miffed? As it’s in the “small print”, customers have no come back? I can’t believe that’s even legal! It’s a license to print money.

So, thank you very much CCL. Whatever happened to good customer relations and good will eh? That’s fine. Screw you in future!

I wonder what Trading Standards would have to say about this?

I have emailed Customer Service at CCL to request their comments on this blog post. I will publish their reply here.

Jim