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Manchester City Football Club Treats Supporters as Marketing Material

LARGE football clubs such as Manchester City (MCFC) are owned by billionaires to whom human rights may not mean very much. Manchester City is a great club that we support, but it is digitally a disgrace, Adobe Flash and Microsoft aside (their Windows-powered site has always been terrible, slow, and inaccessible to many). But today I found out that it is actually a lot worse. The awfulness goes well beyond the site itself.

They are spying on people, selling their data, spamming them without prior approval, then making the “unsubscribe” form intentionally broken. I tried it in 3 mainstream Web browsers, on 3 different PCs, and the buttons are not clickable. It’s usually not a coincidence; slimy companies like these do not want people to opt out and definitely not delete their accounts with associated data.

Manchester City has a really large turnover; there’s no excuse for this sellout to a malicious ‘industry’.

If So-called ‘Ownership Rights’ of Money Are Deprived, Mainstream Media Should Speak About It

LAST year I wrote a rant about how I could not withdraw/retrieve my own money from the bank. It was new to me that banks can simply deny withdrawal of one’s deposited money. I actually had to spend many hours and make many visits to the bank to eventually get my own money. A lot of that was to do with limited supply. There was also a surveillance element to it (the bank looking for ‘proof’ of how I would use the withdrawn money as if it’s any of their business).

These things seem to be getting worse over time.

I had a chat with a friend of mine today. He noticed something which, as far as I’m aware, nobody in the media is writing about.

Britain recently changed its coinage and banknotes. It changed these very fast. I was surprised if not shocked. Within just a couple of months they claimed that the old physical currency would no longer be accepted, except perhaps in unusual circumstances. Machines stopped accepting the old coins. What does that mean for Brits living abroad or people keeping their own money (physically)? Not on some computer in some bank or a virtual/digital account…

Either way, the push towards full surveillance of financial transactions is in full swing. And it’s getting harder to ‘opt out’ so to speak…

“I’m not sure if it is significant,” my friend told me, but there is a major cash shortage in Sweden since they replaced all the coins and bills last year.” There is this report about it (automated translation from Swedish).

“This second link shows that there are more than 3 orders of magnitude fewer medium-sized bills in circulation,” my friend continued.

So they may be making wrong assumptions about demand for cash, or rather making a self-fulfilling prophecy about it.

“It looks like they have aimed at forcing the cashless issue through deliberate hardship,” my friend bemoaned/ranted over this. “And, yes, there are obvious privacy implications among many other problems.”

“Has someone out there written an article about this in English,” I asked him. “If not, maybe we should.”

And hence the point of this post. I read a lot of articles every day, almost all day long. Rarely if ever is the subject of payment privacy brought up. The only site that habitually covers it belongs to Rick Falkvinge or his business (VPN). He is Swedish and he is familiar with this subject.

“Rick Falkvinge has mentioned it in passing during his many posts about Bitcoin,” my friend told me. “His main site is not really available and has only a placeholder left, it appears.”

My friend wants to read the site, but JavaScript has rendered Falkvinge’s obsolete. I told Falkvinge about it quite a few times in the past; he said he would look into it, but he never tackled the issue. But I digress…

“There were some articles about an old lady who tried to cash in her savings but was denied by the banks,” my friend recalls, “losing her life savings as a result. She died a short time after that, family claim that the economic blow hastened her death. As it costs a lot of money to keep anything in the bank and more to get anything back out of the bank the economically wise thing to do in Sweden for about two decades has been to keep it in the mattress.”

I did read several articles about that debacle (at the time). It showed that the old practice of keeping one’s own money is becoming too risky. There is a hidden cost (inflation/interest rates) and a high risk (not just of someone breaking into one’s house to steal the cash). See what Modi did some months ago in India. It was incredible. I was shocked that many Indians fell for the propaganda (as if only criminals keep a lot of cash) and tolerated what Modi had done. This reminded me of that time Cyprus denied bank withdrawals and simply grabbed a large portion of people’s personal savings, demonstrating in that particular case the very high risk of keeping money in the bank, not outside it (see what people in Argentina do nowadays). That goes back to the point made at the start — my point about things getting worse over time. Money was always a man-made concept if not an illusion, but over time we see more visible indicators of this. Some cash machines too have been letting me down lately. Years ago I surveyed shops around here to see which ones make it possible to purchase a mobile phone with cash and also top it up with cash (to maintain anonymity).

With few exceptions (sites like Zero Hedge), the subject is grossly unexplored and corporate press rarely touches it.

“I digress,” my friend told me, as “the short answer is that I have not run across any such articles. Do you think that Rick Falkvinge would have interest in collaborating on such an article? It’s kind of his area subject-wise.”

My friend too recalled what happened in India: “India has been having problems like that too and might be included. And don’t forget what China is doing in that area either. Of course, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and the others all want to be the sole gateway for payments. Failing that, they want a large piece of the pie.

“One of the official lines that gets repeated every time though is that it will inhibit tax dodging (small fish only, somehow they are not concerned by large fish) and illegal transactions. It occurred to me a few minutes ago that Sweden has a growing yet already massive black market economy in and adjacent to their 61 no-go zones. So maybe this is a low-key attempt to get society back.”

Withdrawing Large Sums of Your Own Money? Not a Chance

Run on the banks (in the UK) cannot happen and “war on crime” is a convenient excuse for it

Fiscal issues in the UK are a hot topic. The Pound/Sterling has been in a freefall since the Brexit vote (see this chart) and Brexit politicians — people like David Davis and Theresa May — can probably make a lot of money trading/swapping currencies while they make our policy. It’s like they have insider information because it’s them who call the shots and can rock the Pound with just a stroke of a pen or some words uttered to the media.

Falling Pound/Sterling is no laughing matter. Depending on what currency one compares it to, the currency here lost nearly 20% of its value in just a few months. Can one take one’s money out of the bank while it still (potentially) has a higher value? Not quite. It is almost as though you need to ask for permission to get your own money.

Remember what happened in Cyprus a few years ago. It’s a European (ish) country whose economy was collapsing. It used daily limits to impose — in a rather Draconian fashion — sanctions on people whose savings would soon be confiscated by their government. It looked like a movie plot or fiction, but even in a sane world with no hyperinflation such a thing can already happen.

Both Halifax and Nationwide, banks with which I have active accounts, impose limits which they do not state upfront, except perhaps in the fine prints somewhere. Natwest never really had such limits, at least not in theory. I closed my main/current account there and stopped paying anything into it.

Natwest’s practices are not the important topic here. But its services can be appalling sometimes. If a person tells you that withdrawing the money should be possible the following day and you even bring all the documents he or she asked for (after consulting higher up workers), then you might expect a withdrawal to be possible. But no. They put barriers and additional requirements just to put some more barbwire around the money — the same money you deposited there.

Treating everything as suspicious by default (or until proven otherwise) is unwise. It makes services rather appalling when the customer is assumed to be dishonest or dodgy. It’s almost as if war on drugs or whatever now justifies limiting people and their access to their own cash. In hypothetical case of financial emergencies, these pretexts can suddenly be exploited for other reasons like preventing a run on the bank.

Did I manage to get money out? Yes, but barely. At numerous points I was driven close to the point of surrender, but I kept insisting and escalating through three layers of management in two different banks. The process which all in all took about three hours (minimum) involved all sorts of forms which include the equivalent of financial surveillance or essentially the tracking of all payments, including cash payments. It is not hard to foresee a future which is not just optionally cashless but one in which this becomes obligatory. Nowadays when you purchase not only a flight ticket but also a rail (train) ticket they ask questions like purpose of travel as if that matters at all.

To specify some of the finer details: 3 trips to Natwest were required in addition to one online. Nationwide was two trips and two instances of online access. Halifax was a short trip and politely arguing with management took over an hour, putting aside queuing and long periods of waiting time for those who were with me (family). This whole ordeal reinforced my claim that Natwest has become a terrible bank that makes false promises and does not provide a service if there is nothing for it to gain from it. I actually left this bank after many bitter experiences (when I joined 16 years ago it was actually okay, as noted several times in the past in this blog) and having to ever visit the bank again for any purpose would give cause for hesitation. One can simply not take their word.

The bottom line ought not be Natwest but the systemic problem and the danger which is banks not having much cash at the back and not dispensing it upon demand from the clients either. Advance notice does not quite cut it as there is a lot of laborious paperwork and the equivalent of interviews (lots of questions) as if one applies for a mortgage when simply asking to withdraw the amount of thousands of pounds.

It is not impossible or implausible that years or decades down the line these mechanisms will get misused to separate people from their money at times of economic panic.

Wilko (UK Retailer): The Customer Services Fiasco Continues

Avoid Wilko

Nearly a fortnight ago Wilko’s ATM stole my money and many hours of work later (and some major inconveniences other than loss of time and money) the issue remains uncorrected. A week ago I wrote about my second visit to the store. The manager gave me a call but was unable to offer a satisfactory solution, still just offering a bunch of forms for me to fill in or me visiting my own bank rather than the ATM suppliers fixing their own error (which they can see). I asked to escalate this, having spoken to their customer services people, but they were delaying if not stonewalling until I repeated myself several times. Here are the chat logs:


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The mistake was made not by your bank but a faulty machine of yours, I shall protest against your very poor handling of this situation

Jun 3


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I have begun writing articles about my experiences with your company. This is the first: Wilko (UK) Uses Faulty ATMs that Crash, Will ‘Steal’ Money and Then Wilko Will Lie and Divert, Not Even Naming the ATM Supplier http://schestowitz.com/Weblog/archives/2016/06/03/wilko-atm-faulty/ …

Jun 3


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I’ll have to contact he authorities and ask them to revoke the rights of #dcpayments #infocash to have ATMs out there. Unfit for purpose.

Jun 7


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In the mean time, please provide me with contact details (email or phone) for Nick’s bosses. I would like to make a formal complaint.

Jun 7


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

please provide me with contact details (email or phone) for Nick’s bosses. I would like to make a formal complaint.

Jun 8


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

please provide me with contact details (email or phone) for Nick’s bosses. I would like to make a formal complaint.

Jun 8


Wilko

Hi, please can you confirm what this is regarding to see can ensure this is dealt with correctly. Alternatively, please contact our customer care department on 08000 329 329 and they will assist you further :)

Jun 8


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is regarding DCPayments (Infocash) and the way management at the Wilko store in Manchester dealt with their machine’s fault. I need contact details (E-mail/Tel) for central management, not local branch (I don’t trust the Arndale staff anymore, having spent an hour speaking to them in person on a couple of visits and still not getting the issue properly tackled to its full depth). I wish to escalate this to central management. Please provide me with the E-mail address. Kind regards, Roy.

Jun 8


Wilko

We would like to pass your contact number to the regional manager for the store so that they may contact you further.
Please can you provide a contact number so that we may pass this on for you? thanks, [redacted name].

Jun 9


Dr. Roy Schestowitz

[redacted number]


Wilko

We have passed your contact details to the regional manager and they will contact you further to discuss this. Thanks, [redacted].

Jun 10


That was more than a day ago (Friday) and I still haven’t received a phonecall. They never give me numbers, they just take my own number and then rarely call. So we shall see…

Wilko (UK) Uses Faulty ATMs that Crash, Will ‘Steal’ Money and Then Wilko Will Lie and Divert, Not Even Naming the ATM Supplier

Avoid Wilko

WILKO’s ATMs have a reputation for being a piece of rubbish. Quite often when I come to the shop members of staff kindly ask people not to use these, so what’s the point having them there in the first place? These machines are so amateur that one can, in principle, pretty easily pull the power cord or the Ethernet cable out, essentially pulling the plug on the machines. That’s how insecure these pieces of trash are. But worse — there are apparently lots of software bugs in there (these are often not operational, probably because something made them crash earlier in the day) and earlier this week I became a victim of one and lost money (they actually took money without giving any cash before crashing), whereupon I was transfered between no less than three members of staff (totally clueless!) before actually speaking to someone who seemed helpful. In retrospect, this manager was as useless as it can get as she made false promises (I insisted that she should pursue this and phone me if there are any issues) and now that it’s Friday the issue is still not corrected and I never received a call. I was unable to make any additional financial transactions that day due to Wilko’s error and I spent extraordinary amounts of time and effort thereafter. I also spoke to them online and it was equally useless. They’re running me around expecting me to jump through hoops before there’s any hope at all of getting my money back (the money they took and still owe me).

More than three days later I have completely run out of patience. Days of anger are just not worth it and Wilko still refuses to say which company is responsible for these buggy ATMs that are unfit for purpose. The dialogue below (with names removed) may help provide some additional context and shows how slow and useless this whole experience has been. The conversation below spans several days and at times there was radio silence from them, hence the multiple consecutive messages from me.


Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

Arndale Manchester shop, they say would correct the error and call today; not corrected, no calls

Wilko:

Hi, can you explain what has happened? I will email the Manager for a reply to your problem. would you like us to contact via email or phone once we have a response? Thanks Claire

Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I already spoke to the manager and left my number with her (“Roy”). She should phone me to explain.

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

The error is STILL not corrected. Please tell them to phone me to explain why I need to go through all this trouble, why they fail to correct this issue, etc. otherwise I’ll do public shaming again and we’ll just stop shopping at Wilko for good.

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

I am still require to know, aside from the huge hassle this caused and failure of staff to do their duties (the manager made false promises), which company provides these ATMs so that I can campaign to revoke its certification to operate

Wilko:

We’re sorry to read of the inconvenience this has caused you. We are currently investigating this with the store and will come back to you as soon as we have an update. Thank you

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

48 hours later and three hours after promises (as before) I am still waiting for issue to be rectified or phonecall to be made

Wilko:

I’m sorry for your the delay, however as previously advised we are currently investigating this incident and will come back to you as soon as we have an update. Thank you

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

Almost 72 hours later the error made by the Wilko ATM remains uncorrected and staff (managed) failed to call me as promised.

Wilko:

Good morning – please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your message.

We are currently investigating this matter with the Arndale Store.

Are you able to confirm if you have contacted your bank about the problem you encountered?

[Redacted]

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

I have not, they said they’re no need as they would correct the error

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

I wish to know the name of the supplier of the ATMs at Wilko so that I can campaign to revoke their licence. Buggy, unfit for purpose.

Wilko:

We are currently unable to confirm those details however, I can arrange for a dispute form to be sent out to you.

If you could kindly confirm your address & I will arrange for this to be sent.

Thank you
[Redacted]

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

what’s in it for me going through this lengthy process? Unless you are willing to compensate me for the trouble I had to go through that day and until now….

Wilko:

As previously advised, it would be your bank who needs to look into this further. If you would like me to send you out a dispute form then please let me know of your address and I will of course arrange this.

Thank you
[Redacted]

Dr. Roy Schestowitz:

The mistake was made not by your bank but a faulty machine of yours, I shall protest against your very poor handling of this situation


This is not over. They still owe me money, they probably need to get rid of their supplier and if they refuse to tell me the supplier’s name (apparently has lots of victims out there), I will try harder to find out myself and campaign to ensure their machines cease operation. These are not production-ready and they embarrass an otherwise fine store whose staff is obviously rather incompetent as after all this time and effort they’re still not solving the problem. Maybe the supplier of the ATMs is being unhelpful to them.

We won’t be shopping at Wilko anymore.

Getting Soaked in Beer at EasyJet flight When EasyJet Staff Foolishly Gives Plenty of Alcohol to Heroin Addict

Confrontational, loud, rude passengers are not all that unusual. What’s more unusual are serial offenders (with the police at their back), who barely make it through airport security, smuggle illegal amounts of tobacco through the plane (by their own admission), have a history of severe drug abuse (the worst drugs that exist) and who enjoy the service of sales-happy flight attendants who serve them unlimited alcohol on a plane, despite already seeing abusive and antisocial behaviour.

My wife and I happened to have been allocated seats next to the worst type of person. Worst possible! I never thought it was possible for such a person to even board an airplane (especially in such a state). We were constantly interrupted for hours and the staff hardly cared at all. To make matters worse, then gave him a lot of beer, which he repeatly spilled on my wife (seated next to him) and myself (2 seats away). She got soaked and so were her sandals, bags, clothes and so on. A 5-hour journey next to a non-stop talker (sometimes to himself) heroin addict (by his own admission) can be very unpleasant.

If that’s not bad enough, EasyJet staff refused to take responsibility for this. All they seemed to care about was making money by selling beer. As much as possible! They were unhelpful and they made an effort to even blame the victim of this, as if it’s not acceptable for the customer to make a complaint about 1) failure to identity potentially problematic passengers; 2) failing to reallocate seats once abuse was reported (probably too late at this stage as much damage has already been done; 3) serving a lot alcohol to an already-abusive passenger, who based on the smell of his breath was already drunk when he got on board.

EasyJet not only gave a terrible flying experience (worse we even encountered) but also attempted to distance itself from responsibility and and paint the sufferer as the problem, probably for fear that admission of guilt would make the company liable for other such complaint.

EasyJet is a horrible company. Not will you get what you pay for; you’ll get a lot less and then be blamed, too. Better not to fly at all then to fly with EasyJet.

PayPal Steals Money and Runs (No Real Support Mechanism)

I never chose to use PayPal. I did, however, choose to use eBay nearly a decade and a half ago (eBay is not perfect either, even for technical limitations and lack of APIs). For almost half a decade I was among the very few eBayers who were sending cheques, basically refusing to set up a PayPal account, but eventually I gave up and accepted this villainous entity, which based on this latest news is going to remain a necessity for all eBayers, even after the companies separate/decouple (almost exactly one decade after the buyout). PayPal is generally a very greedy and nasty company. It even bans accounts and potentially confiscates money for political purposes. It’s a foe of FOSS, it’s a proponent of some truly horrible new laws, and nobody should forget what it did to the likes of Wikileaks.

I have just become a victim of PayPal’s bad systems and bad service as well. I lost money due to their error and they’re not even fixing it, they’re just wasting time, probably hoping that I will lose interest in pursuing this any further. I already provided all the necessary details to the vendor, which after a couple of days said that this issue was at PayPal’s end and that PayPal needs to be contacted. What I didn’t quite know is how much trouble this would be. First of all, PayPal tried to bounce me back to the vendor (playing ping-pong basically) and then replied very slowly (days apart) without taking any action, just wasting more time and taking another day… and another day… now almost a week. These people don’t seem to want to be held accountable to their own mistakes and their own server glitches.

If possible, avoid PayPal. By any means. Companies like PayPal deserve to fail.

Update (3/9/2015): Over the past 10 days or so I’ve nagged PayPal on almost a daily basis to rectify this matter. Earlier today they even tried playing ping-pong again (referring me back to the vendor), but after hours of nagging they finally rectified the matter. It wasn’t worth the time. To just issue a just correction worth several pounds I had to spent a very long time and do a lot of legwork. Here is the final message from PayPal:

Dear Roy Schestowitz,

Thank you for contacting PayPal via Twitter. If you did not initiate this contact, please let us know immediately by replying to this email.

I’m sorry to hear that you were unable to locate those account credits and would be happy to assist you further.

From reviewing your account, I can see that 2 credits in the amounts of £2.78 GBP each were issued to your PayPal account balance today (transactions [redacted] and [redacted]).

_____

Prior to these credits being issued, you had received £10.00 GBP from [redacted] (transaction [redacted]), which left your PayPal account balance at [redacted] GBP. After those credits were issued to your account, they brought your account balance to [redacted] GBP. You then received £10.00 GBP from Annette Trevelyan (transaction [redacted]), which has left you with a current balance of [redacted] GBP.

If there is anything else that I can assist you with, please let me know.

If you would like to reach me directly, my telephone number is [redacted] and I work Wed, Thur, Sat and Sun from 6:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Central Time. In addition,please feel free to contact PayPal’s Twitter Support Team at askpaypal@paypal.com if you have any questions or concerns or if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

[redacted]
PayPal Twitter Support
PayPal, Inc.

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