Where have all the bookstores gone?

I worry for the future of hard copy books and newspapers in this modern World Wide Web of Internet connections and the new frontier of cyberspace. I worry about them from a physical historical records point of view.

Oh the power of having important texts written in stone, inscribed on parchments or printed on paper to be passed on down through the eons.

The Internet is a fickle and fleeting thing; it depends on electricity to exist and just like silverfish in the hard copy world electronic diseases can corrupt data rendering servers, data bases and texts useless. Without electricity, which historically along with paper has been among the worlds most environmentally destructive industries, e-books and Internet information would forever be “lost in space”.

I think that hard copy books need to be kept as a fail safe and as a historical record. We trust in technology at our own peril when we move everything onto the web. It is so easy to update and change a piece of text in cyberspace, morphing its information and style. What was original is lost forever and replaced, and updated with modern trends.

How would Shakespeare speak if he was writing for the Internet today?

Hard copy books need to be kept to freeze a snapshot of history in time. How people wrote, spoke, thought and shared ideas in certain times in history is important and is at risk of being “lost in space”.

Once upon a time proof readers, editors and publishers peer reviewed and made sure a text passed rigorous quality and or truth requirements before it was approved and sent for printing. These publications were expensive to print and were kept for posterity. The unrelenting march of industry, new technologies and the Internet has created faster and easier publishing trends that have eroded the historical quality of literary works. The sheer amount of information texts streaming onto the web is mind boggling and presents a minefield of propaganda and opinion.

While the Internet has made the sharing of information quicker and easier, connected people socially like never before and been a major driving factor for economic advantages, it has also had some adverse implications for the physical elements of everyday life, how we think and feel about the world we live in and history for future generations.

I for one support the hard copy industry and purchase physical editions. I use the internet everyday for work but I also try to stay in touch with the real and physical world every day.

Computer keyboards, new texting languages and the speed of the Internet has implications for the loss of traditional hand writing, the way we use language and the way we interact socially. Survival skills are shared around on the internet and while it is good to read about them it is even more important to actually physically practice them for them to remain relevant and useful.

All things hard copy, skilled and traditional are at risk of disappearing in the great expanses of the new frontier of cyberspace.

Its a little bit scary when you really think about it…

Do you have a comment or a difference in opinion? Please feel free to express your thoughts and leave a reply.

The Great Australian Money Grab

Continuing on with the money grab topic from last week, what’s up with this global money swiping legislation?

Are Australian governments and our economy and the global banking systems and economies in so much financial trouble that they feel the need to secretly pass legislation that makes it legal for them to take the hard earned nest eggs and savings of citizens?

People the globe over already pay unreasonable taxes, GST, account keeping fees, high interest rates, and higher gouged out prices? Why do the governments and the banks need to devise new and underhanded forms of enforced monetary gain?

Unscrupulous banks and their regulating governments have already swooped on the bank accounts of the people in Cyprus and according to the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia they are planning to do the same thing in Australia.

United Kingdom Publication, The truth Seeker informed readers during March 2013, “The day is coming when the U.S. government will claim it “owns” a portion (30%) of all our bank accounts, and it will electronically drain our accounts of money in a grand theft scheme designed to pay off the banksters while decimating private savings.”

According to a Citizens Electoral Council of Australia flier handed to me on the main street of Brisbane 18th June, “legislation is being secretly prepared to give Australia’s banking regulator ‘bail in’ powers to confiscate the savings of the Australian people, just as in Cyprus.”

Do you think it should be the responsibility of citizens to pull banks, governments and councils out of financial debit?

The Financial Review told readers “The government sought to rush the legislation through Parliament. This was opposed by the finance industry, as well as independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Craig Thomson. A spokeswoman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said that under the new legislation, the government would pay interest on lost money to preserve its real value until it could be reunited with its owners,” as early as February 2013.

In May 2013 Australian Consumer Watchdog Today Tonight informed viewers, “Under new legislation, if a customer fails to use a bank account for three years, the money in the account is transferred to the Australian Security and Investments Commission.”

There have been several articles disseminated in the media describing old ladies having their hard earned savings swiped and retired couples having their life’s savings snatched just to mention a few.

It gets worse than that.

People who pass away unexpectedly without a will run the risk of having their savings and workers compensation funds snatched before loved ones can legally access it. Freedom of information laws and privacy of information laws clash making it nigh impossible for loved ones to access the needed information to make the claims.

To the banks and governments of Australia, why do you need to invest tax payer’s precious dollars in researching money grubbing tactics such as these? I would think that living within your monetary means the same as the citizens would be a much better financial plan. The people pay and pay again and then have to put up with watching the stupid, frivolous and wasteful spending of their tax dollars.

People are homeless and starving in this country and yet our government sends billions of dollars in aid to other countries, houses refugees ahead of its own citizens and spends millions on new Centre Link logo’s and further billions on fleets of cars and pay rises.

Where’s the peoples pay rise?

I think it’s high time you government bureaucrats tightened your treasury belt buckles the same as the rest of us and made a back to surplus plan that has a longer time frame.

This savings tax is just legal daylight robbery. Most people had to scrimp and go without to save that hard earned money. Don’t touch the money of the poor people. If you need to tax, tax the very well off.

I for one don’t feel like keeping my savings in a bank account for it to be forcibly raided by greedy ailing governments and banking systems.

I wonder how you would all fare if the citizens removed their money from your institutions?

Interesting…

Have you got an opinion on this subject? Please leave a comment.

What’s up with the extra charges for calling 1300 numbers these days?

Once upon a time 1300 numbers were free, or consumers were charged the same for them as local or national calls. Why are they charged differently now and why are all companies providing 1300 service numbers for which we customers have to pay extra for.

Is it the companies who have 1300 service numbers or is it the telecommunication providers that are reaping the profits from these new charges?

It all seems to be a very big money grubbing tactic if you ask me.

In the past, 1300 numbers were a courtesy number for customers to call…now consumers have to pay extra for help or to make a complaint. How is that fair and helpful to a valued customer?

Apparently customers are no longer valued especially when it comes to telecommunications service providers.

I was recently ringing around asking for phone and internet deal prices (using 1300 service numbers). I was spoken to rudely, hung up on when I refused to provide personal information and insulted when I asked an operator to speak a little more clearly. One operator was speaking so fast I could not understand a word of the gibberish that was pouring through my telephone receiver. The person spoke sooo slllowwwllly after I had complained that it was downright insulting…how rude!

Once again, big brand businesses need to be hauled into line. Ring-a-ding-ding…here’s the thing…you do not have a business without customers! So…treat them with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

Your bottom line, your profits, your positive brand identities depend on paying customers who are…wait for it…HAPPY :) and satisfied with your products and services.

I recently chose to leave my very well known and popular big brand telecommunications provider. It was a hard and hurtful decision…almost like leaving a marriage. I had enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my service provider for over six years. I payed my bill and they provided me with a satisfying service. I was brand loyal and happy. That was until they started charging me extra for 1300 hundred numbers, adding in account keeping fee’s and other hidden charges. When I rang the provider and complained I was told that if I jumped up to a higher plan for which I had to pay more money everything would be as it was before. I felt like I was being held to ransom to pay more money for a bigger plan (which by the way was the same as the one I was currently on…go figure).

I have left messages for a manager to call me back in the past…on three different occasions, and I recently left another message to which I still have not received a call back. They just ignore me, take my money, demand more money for nothing extra and cut me off if I am late to pay or complain about poor service. My Grandmother would have spanked me good and proper if I treated another person like that. Polite, honest and good quality service has flown out the window it seems.

Unhappily I began searching for another provider ever so disappointed that my current provider was unfazed that I had chosen to leave them.

I found a new provider that gives me the same service (without charging extra for 1300 numbers or hidden charges) for half the price…NICE ONE! Needless to say I now plan on being happy and brand loyal with another company. The new providers will gain from my regular paying dollars and the old provider’s will lose out from my departure; I guess their fat ass bottom line will be a little lighter this month.

You should crack a Jenny Craig at your telecommunications provider and shop around for a better deal. Brand loyalty does not mean a happy and satisfying relationship these days…mores the pity.

Have you had a similar experience lately or have something to add? Drop me a line or two in the “leave a reply” section at the beginning of this post.

Do you like to have a little press on the pokies?

The sound of a Champaign bottle popping its cork, the clink of saluted glasses and the sound of cheering and applause emit from the machine just before a musical rift signifies a winning roll. An encouraging sentence pops up during the serenade exclaiming ‘you’re a winner.’ The number of credits won rolls up in a blur of rushing numbers. Other patrons stop to look on with interest. A feeling of success momentarily washes over me as I press the button for another spin. Clunk, clunk, clunk…brrrrrrring; three bookies tote bags bursting with money appear on the reels and the machine regales the room with another musical rift signifying a special free games feature. The machine racks up twenty seven dollars worth of won credits. Again, patrons stop to watch the spectacle.

I pressed the start feature button to begin the fifteen free games. After several unsuccessful rolls, the machine sounded another loud brrrrrring. Three more tote bags yield another set of fifteen free games within the first set of free games. What luck! Excitement mounted inside me. I now had twenty three free spins and thirty five dollars worth of won credits. I pressed the start feature button again with excitement looking around the room with triumph at the jealous patrons craning their necks to see. My husband stood behind me to watch the thrilling moment. The machine sang and applauded merrily as it payed out credits for rows of symbols. Ladies wearing fashionable hats salute us with champagne flutes. I was excited and bursting with happiness at the prospect of having a decent win on a poker machine for a change. The feature continued to spin and gave me 10-1 odds on two horse head symbols. The machine regaled, the credits rose and the onlookers gathered.

Owned by Aristocrat, the Spring Carnival poker machine replicates a day of betting at the horse races. This colourful machine features 9, 10, J, Q and K card symbols as well as ladies, horses heads and tote bags. The tote bag is a scatter symbol and also presents a fifteen free games feature when three or more appear on the reels. Most poker machines follow a similar set of playing rules using different graphics, images and gaming themes.

Brrrrrring, the machine sounds again after several more rolls, adding another set of fifteen games to the already existing free spins tally. My husband stands with a look of pleasure on his face; his face aglow with the bright fluorescent light emitting from the machine. Several patrons edged closer to get a glimpse of the spectacle and share in the exhilaration. I was so excited that I could hardly sit still. I was starting to cheer, bouncing up and down in my seat. The free spins tally now read thirty seven and the credits won numbers were climbing towards sixty dollars. I pressed the start feature button again. Brrrrrring, the machine peals as corks pop, glasses clink, crowds cheer and music plays. The credits rolled ever increasingly higher in a blur of hurrying numbers. The feeling was delightful; like a dream come true.

Former problem gambler turned gambling reform activist and Drum TV journalist, Tom Cummings says ‘poker machines have a return-to-player percentage of anywhere between 85 per cent and 90 per cent, depending on where you live and what kind of establishment you’re playing in. The rule is that the poker machine has to return 90 per cent of money gambled… not money inserted. And there’s a huge difference.’

‘Those who defend poker machines often point to the high rate of return as one of the reasons that pokies are just “good, clean fun” for most people. The reality is that every poker machine can meet this “rate of return” requirement while still leaving the gambler broke,’ Tom said.

A strange sound broke through our heady haze of winning ecstasy like an emergency siren breaking through the fog of early morning sleep; beep bop…beep bop…beep bop… The screen went blank, the regaling melody stopped and the free games tally disappeared but the won credits numbers were still rolling up. I still had three dollars of my original five dollars credit to play. I called the attendant. She slapped the side of the machine and it responded with another alarming beep bop…beep bop…beep bop. I looked back at the screen and the scrolling winnings had disappeared. I looked at my residual credits and it now read fifty cents. A feeling of panic and dismay washed over me as I complained about the loss of my original three dollars credit. This money had nothing to do with the winnings from the free games features. It was my money still yet to be gambolled. My husband stood quietly watching. The other patrons slowly disperse, going back to their own machines. The attendant says ‘I will have to ring head office.’ I wait patiently for her return staring at the machine with disbelief. The attendant returns momentarily, speaking to someone on a cordless phone. She opens the machine, puts her hand inside, flicks a switch and closes the door again.

Problem sorted right? Wrong! The machine automatically reset to the first set of fifteen free games and the twenty seven dollars of won credits that went with it. However, the residual credit bar still read fifty cents. I was taken aback. What happened to the over sixty dollars of won credits, the almost thirty free spins and the three dollars of my original money that I still had left to play with? I tried to explain to the attendant that this was not right and the machine owed me two dollars fifty. She argued the point, and spoke to me like I was trying to cheat the house. My husband started to become angry about the situation demanding that the establishment give back our original playing money that was now missing. The attendant ran away and hid in the cashier’s office. We played the games out that were now left on the machine and walked away with thirty dollars of winnings.

We broke even that day last year but I still felt I had been ripped off by a poker machine; shame on the gaming industry. I felt cheated and violated. It was legal daylight robbery. It was not the loss of a poultry two dollars fifty that upset me; it was the ethics and morals of the whole situation. I was left wondering how many other people get ripped off like this during the course of a normal poker machines gaming day?

Colloquially termed, ‘one armed bandits’, poker machines take around ten billion dollars a year, from players, and funnel it into hotel owners, club and casino managements and state governments coffers. The catch phrase of the gambler is ‘you have to be in it to win it’. A Productivity Commission Report on Gambling during 2010 found that in 2009, approximately six hundred thousand Australian adults were ‘in it to win it’, spending around nineteen billion dollars on the entertaining past time. According to Uniting Care Australia’s Uniting for Change Organisation, hundreds of thousands of people have problems with gambling.

A flashy new Casino has been promised for Sydney in the next few years.

According to the Relationships Australia Counselling Organisation, people who gamble are influenced by a number of factors. ‘Gamblers often think they can guess when the next payout or win will occur, but of course this is impossible to do. Financial stress, boredom and depression can also be influential factors,’ the websites states.

Independent Senator for South Australia and advocate for pokie reform Nick Xenaphon believes that the poker machine industry is based on exploitation. As a result, ‘poker machines lead to at least 400 suicides annually and poker machines are the second highest cause of crime in the community after the illicit drug trade,’ he said.

As I stalked out the door of the establishment I took one last look at the machine that had affronted me so. Several of the patrons who had witnessed the fiasco were now rushing toward the machine to place their bets. Their expectant and hopeful faces illuminated in the enchanting glow emitted from the machine.

According to the PokieWatch Organisation, ‘the largest Australian operator of poker machines is Woolworths Limited/Safeway and its associated companies.’ Coles/Wesfarmers were described as another close contender.

A Gaming Technologies Association (GTA) fact sheet describes. ‘Australia had 2.4 percent of the worlds gaming machines’ in 2008. That equates to around 33,000 machines Australia wide. An article in the Age newspaper states this number has increased by about 15,000 between 2008 and 2010. According to the World Count of Gaming Machines, ‘NSW has by far the most machines of any state, with 97,103, Queensland is second with 47,318 followed by Victoria with 29,262.’ That equates to 173, 683 machines for these three states alone. That is far more than the 33,000 machines Australia wide as described by the GTA. An ABC Four Corners program estimated that in 2007 there were 200,000 gaming machines in Australia.

On the 18th April 2013, Australia’s consumer affairs television program Today Tonight aired a story about another individual who experienced a similar problem. The pensioner clocked up a win of 1.3Million dollars which his local sporting and recreation club refused to pay claiming the machine had malfunctioned. A very short time in which to appeal the decision that the pensioner was unaware of legally clinched the clubs right to refuse payment.

Poker Machines are not the only form of gambolling in Australia. There is also a massive scratch and win tickets industry, Lotto sweepstakes played every day of the week and a pub or club bingo style of gambolling called Keno with a game running every few minutes. Even some highly reputable charity agencies use gambolling to raise money for charity from the sales of raffle tickets offering houses, boats, cars and cash prizes. There are also puzzle magazines that make money from Australia’s love for punting by offering household goods and prize money in exchange for raffle entries.

Even local schools delve into the revenue raising practice, offering Christmas or Easter hampers and other prizes in exchange for raffle tickets sold to parents, extended family and local communities by primary school children. The law states that one must be 18 years of age to gambol in Australia, yet we teach our children to gambol at a very young age in schools.

Where do we as a society draw the line?

Please share your opinions on the reply link at  the beginning of this post.

POKIE FACTS:

*38.6% of Australian adults play the pokies
*In 2003/2004 gamblers lost $16.21 billion ($9.1 billion on pokies)
*It is estimated that there are over 300,000 problem gamblers
*The average payout percentage of pokies is 90.89%
*Average chance of winning the jackpot playing 1 line is 1 in 50,000,000
*Average chance of winning the jackpot playing 20 lines is 1 in 2,500,000
*The highest jackpot you can win in a pub is $10,000
*The average player loses $380 dollars every year
*The average problem gambler loses $12,000 each year

The Rudest Taxi Driver

I recently had to visit a Brisbane Hospital with a sick child for medical tests. I have lived in Brisbane in the past; but not for about 7 years now. We managed to find our way around the public transport system without much ado. It was wonderfully quick and easy. The train station attendants and staff and city bus drivers were polite, positive natured and helpful. We got to where we needed to be without much fuss. The public transport system is a credit to the Australian government; pat yourselves on the back all you public servants who make it work. It is a great success as far as I have experienced.

The next leg of our journey was from the Hospital to our overnight lodgings. Thankfully these were on the Hospitals grounds and were close. I figured a taxi would be able to deliver us and our luggage to the motel door without a problem. BUT that was where I was wrong.

I flagged a taxi from the front doors of the Hospital. A Silver Service car pulled up and I asked the driver did he know where our lodgings were situated. The driver knew exactly where they were and pointed to an area at the top of the hill in front of me. Not looking forward to dragging a sick child and luggage up a steep hill I put my child and our suitcase into the back seat of the cab and hopped in the front.

The taxi driver stared at me with an incredulous look on his face. I asked him to take me to the front door of the address. He was obviously dismayed at the request. He shook his head, mumbled under his breath, snarled answers to my questions and gave me glaring daggers for eyes all the way to the top of the hill. It was a very uncomfortable ride.

Not one to put up with crap from people I asked him out right what his problem was. He spat vehemently that he had sat in the taxi queue for two hours waiting for a fair and my very small fair was not worth his time.

Is that really my problem?

I waited until the cab pulled up at our lodgings. The fare read almost $6.00. I gave the taxi driver a $20.00 note and told him to keep the change. I was just grateful to finally be at my destination. I was tired and had been travelling all day.

The driver looked at me with surprise and I told him to smile, the world was not all that bad. You have good days and you have bad…so smile. The anger and dismay that had made his face so ugly and intimidating only moments before changed to one of shame; and so it should. He didn’t offer the money back though. He shoved the fair in his pocket and watched impatiently as I struggled to get my child and our luggage out of his vehicle. I would have thought that with such a large tip he would have at least helped with my bags. What a rude little man; fancy treating a tired mum with heavy bags and a sick child with such selfish disdain.

Have you had a crappy taxi ride experience lately or even a fantastically good one?

Tell me about it.

Beware the New and Fantastic Fictitious Dissapperaing Company

Everything I seem to buy lately is just absolute rubbish. I am talking about large items that cost a few hundred dollars or more and should have a bit of quality about them.

A few months ago my husband and I bought a price reduced air compressor from a well known branded hardware store. The item still cost a considerable amount of money even though it was one of the cheapest models on the sales floor and on special at the time. The branded name of the machine was not a well known or trusted name; it was a very new contender in the market place.

Hubby got the machine home, ensured he followed all the manufacturers’ checks, safety and other requirements were adhered to and then began using the contraption. After several weeks and several uses the air compressor began blowing water, losing compression and leaking oil. Needless to say we found the photocopied receipt and took the product back as it was still under replacement warranty.

At the counter the service manager gave us a dumb look and said “we no longer sell that brand here” and handed us back our receipt saying we needed to take it up with the manufacturer. He gave us a web address on a card and told us we could contact the company online. I could not find the company online; an error message said, “this web page is down or has permanently moved to another address.” (Crickets are chirruping)

When asked about this scenario the branded warehouse declined to comment and told us to take it up with the consumer commission. My husband had already become so angry with the situation that he had thrown out the broken air compressor and its receipt giving it up as lost money from a bad business deal. His trust of the hardware store from which we purchased the item plummeted to an all time low.

We went back to the stores air compressor section to view what was now on display. There was a new range in stock. They looked exactly the same shape, size and model as the one we had previously purchased except they were a different colour and had a new but similar brand name.

We bought the new air compressor only after the store’s manager reassured my husband that they would take care of us should anything go wrong with it. We were dismayed to discover that this new brand came complete with exactly the same operating faults and oil leaks as the last one.

Is this the new trend of branded sales deception?

Is this a new kind of escape from reimbursing a customer for a faulty appliance? Fake, disappearing companies that morph and shift into alternate brands selling the same dodgy product under another name and colour.

My husband was furious and once again we presented at the store for a replacement under warranty. We did get a replacement however this time hubby pulled the machine apart and checked gaskets, tightened bolts and screws and ensured the quality of air hose fittings and seals. The gasket was not fitted properly, the screws and bolts were loose and the air hose seals were not correctly installed and had to be refitted.

I envisioned factory workers rushing to put all the compressors components together to meet deadlines and daily distribution quotas. Instead of placing the air hose seals properly and securely to ensure quality the worker had hurriedly jammed the rubber into place in order to meet a demanded quantity deadline.

The worker gets paid.

The manufacturing company and their retailers reap the profits.

The unsuspecting paying consumer deals with the loss of time, money and income through faulty manufacture problems and in our case a fictitious disappearing company.

Once again, unsuspecting and trusting consumers are being treated like sheep lead to the slaughter. Being treated like they are too dumb to realise they are being ripped off by unscrupulous manufacturers. While labour costs may be reduced in cheap off shore factories, product quality is also reduced destroying the long standing and positive reputations of well known, popular and trusted brands that have been built up over long periods of time.

So I ask you big brand manufacturers and retailers…Are ever increasing profits more important than your ongoing and lasting organisational reputations for providing trusted and consistent quality?

Does it really make good financial sense to lower manufacturing costs when it also lowers your product quality and company esteem in the eyes of your dollar wielding brand loyal customers?

Quantity over quality makes sense in the accounting department but quality means more to the brand loyal customers after the point of purchase. I know I would much rather spend the extra dollars to get a better quality product that is guaranteed to last and can be handed down on the second hand market. This makes sense to me not only from a value for money point of view but from a sustainable environmental stand point as well. Local landfills the globe over are struggling under the strain of cheap quantity driven commercial consumerism.

It is disgusting that big business can pretend to be environmentally friendly while at the same time perpetuating consumerism and demanding increased profits from the sale of poor quality products designed to deteriorate quickly and perpetuate the ongoing purchasing cycle.

It drives me mad to save up hard earned money to make a necessary purchase only to be forced to make the same purchase again in a few weeks, months or years time. The second hand market has no quality products to purchase and is a very scary place these days. Consumers are trying to rip off others just the same as they were ripped off at the point of purchase in an attempt to regain their lost dollars. This kind of behaviour is breeding mistrust everywhere.

It is time the market place and the governments who supposedly regulate them got their priorities right. This greedy, environmentally, and economically unsustainable increased profits grab, poor quality products and disappearing companies needs to be put in check.

What do you think?

If you have something to say about (for or against) please feel free to leave a comment.