Do Not Call means just that

We've received two telemarketing calls from the Police Citizens Youth Club soliciting donations in the last week. Being a charity, they're legally excluded from complying with the government's Do Not Call Register. So they can't be fined for ignoring my stated preference of not being called by telemarketers, but they need to understand that they're giving their organization a bad name by ignoring the list.

Yesterday I used the online form on their site to complain about their telemarketing activities, and to point out that I will now never donate money to the organization. Very quickly I got a response from a Reg Woodleigh:

Thank you for your request.

Unfortunately we do are not able to access this register, and if we were, then we would be happy to honor these requests as it is not in our interests in community support to ring people who prefer not to be called.

For this reason, we maintain a 'House' register. If you can provide a telephone number, we are able to add you to this, and ensure no further calls are made to that number.

I got this initial response really quickly afterwards, but my request for clarification of why they can't access the register (using the signup form on the government's web site, perhaps?) but I haven't received an answer. I can only assume this guy was lying, and the organization is happy to stomp all over the preferences of the people they call.

Rather shortsighted, don't you think? And you expect me to go to every charity in the country and register that I don't want to be called?

No more donations to Oxfam

Dear Oxfam

I'm writing publicly because you've completely ignored the email I sent you about this matter. Nice one.

I've been an Oxfam supporter for many years. You're one of the more respectable aid NGOs around. Non-religious and effective. Unfortunately your fundraising methods are getting more and more intrusive. Your use of charity muggers annoyed me, particularly when I worked on Little Oxford Street in London and got hassled by them every single day.

The final straw has been you placing me on your tree spam mailing list when I donated to your Burma cyclone appeal. You don't actually offer an option to notprivacy policy says "Oxfam Australia will provide you with the opportunity to opt out of receiving future communications from us". Except it doesn't work!

So goodbye Oxfam. I'll have to find another aid charity for my donations.

Tank Stream tour, despite their best attempts

I've wanted to see the Tank Stream, Sydney's first water source, for a long time. While it provided clean water to the original white settlers, it quickly became polluted and these days is little more than a sewer. It was replaced by Busby's Bore in 1830 following Sydney's first major engineering project cost and time blowout, a tradition followed today by all major engineering projects in the state.

Anyway, in February this year I found a form on the Historic Houses Trust site that claimed I would be notified when the next ballot for tours of the Tank Stream were being announced. Except they didn't tell me that there's there'll be tours next month as part of the Sydney Open 08 thing, which sees a bunch of properties open for tours.

Fortunately I spotted it and put today into my calendar. I now have tickets to do the tour on 2nd November. If you want to see the Tank Stream, get in now. We're doing the 15:45 tour.

Those poor, poor banks

RBA cash rate, 7%

So the banks are crying poor, claiming there's not enough liquidity in the market. You'd think this would mean their savings interest rates would be hovering somewhere around the RBA Cash Rate so they could encourage some deposits.

My bank's "high interest" savings account is currently paying its loyal customers a "huge" (their word) 6.75%. But new customers get 8.1%. Nice way to treat your existing customers!

If getting bought by one of the big four banks wasn't enough incentive to find another bank, this treatment of long-term customers is!

NSW Department of Fair Trading shows how not to do publicity

Step 1: Issue a press release that is reported on but doesn't give enough detail for consumers to take any meaningful action.

Step 2: Don't put the press release in the "Media releases" section of your web site, and put no information about the issue anywhere on your web site, least of all the home page. This works even better when the company involved doesn't seem to have a web site.

Step 3: Wash your hands of the problem, after all you did warn everyone! Too bad if nobody can work out exactly what products have been recalled.

I suppose our recently-installed bathroom light/fan/heater is okay since it is branded "IXL" which isn't in the ABC article's list. Though I've got no confidence about anything being accurate there.

Fastway do it again!

Fastway courier forges delivery signature again

Yet again, Fastway couriers fraudulently forge a signature to "prove" delivery. At least this time they didn't forge my own name. In this case, the courier didn't bother to knock. We were in bed at the time and heard the delivery.

If you run a business selling things by mail order, do not use Fastway couriers. There's a reason they're the cheapest! You pay less and gain extra disgruntled customers.

In other news, my fruit trees have arrived! Can't wait to plant them out.

Do not call!

I just had a call from a telemarketer at my private health insurer (don't get me started on being forced to have one) trying to get me to sign up for their "Extras" cover. In case you don't know how this scam works, it's basically where you hand your insurer some more money, and they hand some of it back to you for things like running shoes, glasses and gym membership.

Now to my mind, insurance is all about things you can't budget for. Your house burns down. You get some debilitating and expensive-to-treat illness. I know I need to buy shoes, glasses and gym membership occasionally, and I budget accordingly.

What I've taken to doing with telemarketers who aren't covered by the government's Do Not Call register (like this one, where I am already a customer) is to point out that even if I wanted their product, I would very specifically not purchase it from a telemarketer. Here's hoping some of these places have a "does not respond to telemarketers" flag in their database. Saves both of us time and money.

Why steal music?

Wow, can't imagine why people might download music illegally when the legal avenues are just so easy. I just tried to buy Gotye's first album Boardface from Creative Vibes. First, their system charged me twice somehow, so I've ended up US$19.80 when it should have been US$9.90. Next, to download the files they send an email with a link for each file in the album, rather than something that's a convenient single download. The downloads also all seem to cut off around the 1'30" mark. Then they're tagged as the artist being "Creative Vibes". Ferfuxxake, the quality of experience is vastly superior with torrents!

I won't be buying from Creative Vibes online store again. And I'll now need to try and get a refund.

Goodbye St George

I've been a customer of St George Bank, and before that one of the previous incarnations, Advance Bank, for many many years. Since I was a teenager. They had one of the first online banking systems, and their service has always been pretty good -- pretty good by Australian bank standards, which is admittedly a pretty low standard.

It seems they're about to be gobbled up by Westpac, one of the behemoths of banking here with a well-deserved reputation for baroque systems and surly service. St George seem to be preparing for the merger by degrading their own service.

When we moved house last December, I changed the address online and, from what I could see, it was all there. We haven't been receiving our printed statements. Earlier this year I used their online contact form to ask about this, and received no response.

Now I need those statments to reconcile mortgage payments. Online records only go back 90 days. I phoned up to have the address updated properly and request the statements, and they want to charge me $4 for each statement going back to December! They offered to send me the last two for free, which isn't very useful given I can see that online. Given I pay $6/month for my account, which includes statements, and their system fault means I didn't receive them, it's pretty bloody rich!

I've lodged a formal complaint and will see where that goes -- though given the last time I tried to contact them through the same channel (I can't find a postal address for complaints!) I received no response, I'm not holding my breath. Their response to this will determine whether they keep my business. Though to be honest, if the merger with Westpac goes through I'll be looking for another bank anyway.

Fastway: such great couriers

Fastway forges my signature

I've ordered something online and been given a tracking number from the company supplying it. Here's what I just saw when I looked up the tracking number.

I can tell you three things: One, I haven't taken delivery of the device. Two, I wasn't at home at 09:09 this morning. Three, that's not my signature. So whose signature is it?

I can only hope they've delivered it to my neighbour or something, otherwise the courier has committed fraud. Moral of the story: don't use Fastway!