New sletter by Aki Kalliatakis, Managing Consultant of Customer Resources Centre
“So this is hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember we were told about the torture chambers? The fire and the brimstone? Old wives tales! There's no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is other people!” ( Jean-Paul Sartre, a horribly pessimistic French existentialist philosopher) A great friend of mine said to me last week: “Aki, What are you so darn grumpy about?” I thought about it for a minute and realised that in this rather eventful year, I'm not so much grumpy as completely exasperated, outraged and furious. The average grumpy person even enjoys his little whinges, whereas I risk cardiac arrest every time I open my mouth. As one actor in a 1980's movie about a TV station put it, “I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!” Problem is, I'm also a bit of a coward, and so in this final newsletter of 2008, I'd like to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the frustrations of dealing with businesses in my life. You see, it's not only “the usual suspects” that lead me to apoplexy. Like the banana politicians around the world who endlessly talk rubbish while their populations suffer; it's not only when big bully arrogant countries that invade the smallest and most powerless little lands; it's not only the endless crime horror stories, or terrible epidemics of preventable and treatable diseases. And, yes, I still get frustrated by the little irritations: the countless, never-ending, useless e- mails offering me various versions of Viagra; and pop-ups on the internet inviting me to buy software to stop pop-ups; and people who borrow your pen and suck the top before giving it back; and being charged R25 for a small bottle of water in a hotel room; and SOS signs on toll roads that claim that the next emergency phone is situated just 5 kilometres from the last one but is in fact much further; and people who wear sunglasses indoors; and men who insist on combing long strands of hair over their bald patches. (They also sometimes wear ponytails, and keep their golf caps on indoors); and the moron in the sports car in Centurion whose number-plate is “U 1 2 B Me”, (“You want to be me.”) No I don't, you pathetic small man!
But as I thought about my grumbling, I also realised that businesses, mainly large businesses,
have the greatest impact on my happiness. Here are some of my favourite rants: • Top of my list of frustrations has to be the lies I see in advertising every day. My bank doesn't really want to know how they can help me, and my other bank has proven that I need to ask for things more than only once. Then there was the movie advert that said, “Colin Farrel IS Alexander the Great.” No, he's not. He's Colin Farrel, a mediocre actor with far too many hang-ups in his miserable life. And then there are the countless posters on poles and billboards advertising events that have long passed – like the last elections. And food stores claiming that the produce we buy is “fresh.” Do you know that the banana that you ate last night was probably picked eighteen months ago? Yes, that's not a typing mistake: they keep it in cold storage, and then use certain gasses to make it ripen artificially. Speaking of foods, when did you last find a prawn in your prawn-flavoured crisps? And why do they say that roast-chicken-flavoured crisps are “suitable for vegetarians?” I also cannot understand why we use the words “New and Improved!” on products. After all, if it's new, it cannot be improved. And for the razor blade companies: how many blades are you going to add to my shaver before you stop? Ten? Fifteen? Enough now, do something different! • There are some products that should not be advertised in any way: all feminine hygiene products, (even though euphemisms are used,) toilet air fresheners, nappies for babies, and cures for constipation. The other adverts I'd like to see banned are those warning us about piracy. There was a time when customers were treated with respect and courtesy. Now we are accused of being criminals and supporting terrorists like we are juvenile delinquents. Hey Mr. Music/Movie/Game/Software Producer, do you want this problem to go away? Start charging fair prices! • The questions asked by network marketing companies: “Congratulations: Do you know you have been carefully selected…?” (No, you found my name on a database that you bought.) “How would you like to never have to worry about money for the rest of your life?” (Did we forget to mention that only one out of twenty people actually succeeds, and that it takes four to eight years of losing your friends before you actually make a living?) “Buy now at this unbelievable price.” (Yes, with the current economy in a shambles, you may find the timeshare deals just get cheaper and cheaper over the next few months.) “You have won either a car, a new home, or a voucher for R100 to eat at a cheap and unpopular restaurant.” (Well, which one do you think you are going to get?) “But it's all concentrated, so you will use less!” (Listen, love, when I have put two-and-a-half centimetres of toothpaste on my brush for 51 years now, I'm not going to change my habits too quickly.) • Airlines who think we are stupid: After at least 500 flights to Durban , I know the flight takes 50 minutes. There's no need to pretend that they are slower, and certainly not to publish that it takes 70 minutes. It's even worse when the pilot comes on and says, “Folks, we have arrived five minutes before scheduled.” And why, as we work our way through security, do we have to zig-zag up and down between poles like sheep, even when there are three people in the queue? Also, will somebody please tell me why I have to remove my laptop from the bag? • So-called “background” music in businesses that completely drowns out everything else. Even worse when it's Boney M at Christmas time. Also at this time of the year, retailers who start their Christmas adverts in October. And I know I'm fussy, but how much ink do you save when you write Xmas rather than Christmas? It's offensive.
• Fashions and clothes: Fat people in low-cut hipsters look awful, and the last thing I want to see is rolls of tattooed cellulite squeezing out of too-tight pants. And why should I wear very expensive clothes with a huge logo of the company that sold it on the front? They should pay me for the free advertising. Why do new socks get held together with small bits of cotton that is impossible to separate without a pair of scissors and a delicate hand? But at the same time buttons fall off my new shirts after four washes. • Is it just me, or is water always just, well, water? Why are different brands of water priced differently? And can you actually tell the difference when you drink it in a blind taste test? It's all about packaging, you pretentious idiots who order it. And you pay more per litre for this crap than you pay for petrol. It also reminds me of the names they give paint colours: variations of orange become Portia for peach, Reverie for light peach, and Candesse for even lighter peach. It's all just orange. Citroen even have a car whose colour is officially “Acropolis White.” How does that differ from Arctic White? • MultiChoice promised us no adverts during movies. True, they kept their promise on that one. But for every 24 hours of broadcasts, on all of the numerous channels, less than 10% of the actual time is actually movie broadcasts. “Series” and cartoons are not considered as movies – and are interrupted by a minimum of fifteen adverts every hour. Nor are the seven news channels, the more-than-ten documentary and special lifestyle/ knowledge channels, and the ten sports channels. And all of these are constantly interrupted by dreary advert after dreary advert. Now, if these adverts were actually from paying customers, which helped to keep my very-expensive monthly subscription cheap, I could tolerate that. But by far the majority are repeated promo's for –DSTV programmes. Drives me nuts! • And finally, prices. Are we really that stupid or gullible to believe that R1999,99 is cheaper than R2000? (Apparently the answer is Yes! Scary) And why do the really nice products, like holidays overseas always say “prices start from…” – until you read the small print. This is in the same category as empty supermarket shelves marked “Best Bargains. (While Stocks Last.)” And that reward card that you cherish so much actually makes everything much more expensive: they need expensive computers and even more expensive people to run the whole thing, There is a huge amount of fraud perpetrated – which you pay for in the end. And just when you've collected enough to buy something meaningful, your points expire. I've run out of space, but there are dozens more where that came from. Just don't get me started now! However, to come back to my mate Harry's original question, I am determined to have a happier year in 2009. I did realise – again – that it's all about choosing your attitude. I love the statement which says: “It doesn't matter which way the wind blows. The only thing that really counts is how you set your sail.” Never a truer statement has been written. So have a beautiful and peaceful Christmas and New Year, and may 2009 bring you all closer to your dreams and goals.
[email protected] Tel: 011-784-6510 Fax: 011-783-0362
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