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You Know Your Economy Spins Out of Control When…

US debt

There is nothing “normal” about this…

Workers Should Never be Forced to Work in an Office (for Jobs That Can be Done Equally Well From Home)

Think of the environment, too (commuting should be minimised)

You can't defeat me: coming to the office; you; COVID-19

TWO years ago I took a train down south and traveled to the office, probably for the first time in about a year (usually that’s the interval to be expected, owing mostly to company Xmas parties; that annual ritual of socialising with colleagues). I did not know it would be the last time. Last July we shut down the physical office, due to COVID-19, without intentions of ever reopening it. There was not much practical use for it anymore (regardless). That was almost exactly one year after I went there to sign some papers. I started working from home around 2007. Back then there wasn’t much need for me (anymore) to have physical (face-to-face) meetings, so I could get stuff done from home and occasionally travel if a meeting was strictly necessary. It took another 13 years before that sort of ‘work style’ (or ‘lifestyle’) became sort of ‘normal’.

Companies which try to compel staff to return to the office or force people to get vaccinated risk losing that staff altogether. Some companies that planned to pull staff back in (where bosses can oppress them from behind their shoulders, physically/literally) keep pushing back the dates, seeing that COVID-19 isn’t going away, with new waves and/or variants showing a resurgence. Here in the UK we’ve totally lost control of the thing — a subject I’ve written about extensively in this blog lately.

Working from home, for my kind of job, makes sense. It’s a lot better for me physically and mentally. I’m close to our pet fish, I can cook proper food (not some junk), and I can dress as it suits me (for comfort, not looks). I bathe every time I need to (no communal showers), I have privacy when I take or make voice calls, and I can run in nearby parks, far away from busy centres of towns (where there’s no safe place to run — away from pollution and traffic).

I totally understand why those who invested heavily in office estate are panicking. But they took a risk by gambling the money on a future of so-called ‘open offices’ with very steep rents; let them suffer from their poor investments/decisions. Don’t compel workers to lower their standards of work (and living) to ‘retrofit’ someone else’s bad investments.

NatWest Wants to Create Another Financial Crisis, Make More Staff Redundant, Sell Customers’ Data to NSA and Others

NatWest – where the bad things happen all at once

Prism NatWest

Back in 2000 I finally quit Barclays. It was horrible, I had suffered enough. Someone at HSBC advised me to look into the offer from NatWest, so I went there and have stayed their client since then. Everything was more or less okay, but in recent years NatWest became greedy, incompetent, outright insulting, and even corrupt. I would recommend NatWest to nobody. There are some local/small banks which may not have the same level of facilitation and accessibility, but at least they don’t treat people like merchandise (to be sold, exploited, herded like cattle).

Earlier this year I confronted NatWest over PRISM, having discussed the issue with them even before the NSA leaks (which merely helped confirm what some of us had known for years). After the leaks I took it a step further by demanding that they disclose their privacy violations. I eventually (after some nagging) got a call from a manager/PR spinner from NatWest; he prepared for his discussion with me, keeping careful not to openly admit what I already knew. He danced around the issue of privacy and could not deny that NatWest relays financial details (data) of its customers to spies in the United States. To NatWest, we are like a product. They sell dossiers about customers. Recently, through a cashback programme, NatWest also created an incentive for customers to give up anonymous purchasing, making it more expensive for people to pay with cash. It seems likely that NatWest will therefore sell data about customers to some unnamed marketing entities and somehow allow itself to do this by adding some shrewdly-worded phrase to the terms of conditions customers will sign. As NatWest is helping the NSA harvest financial information about customers, why not do this with the commercial world too? More money for NatWest, the Facebook model foisted on your bank without your knowledge.

What really broke the camel’s back was an experience I had yesterday. It was the last straw in a sense, proving that NatWest does not care about people; neither customers not employees. I stood at the line for a teller to service me, but a guard diverted me from a teller to a machine. I told him, you’d make tellers redundant. He said it was “good for customers”. That’s just spin. There’s a hidden cost there. I was tempted to tell him that his job too could be made obsolete if he did nothing to defend the tasks which are better done by human beings (faster, less error-prone, and also with a personal touch like personalised advice).

I am generally no fan of banks, to say the very least. Like my father in law, I only ever go there when there is no other choice. I would take all my cash elsewhere if I knew of a safer alternative, but we live in a banks-dominated world and the bank (or central bank) uses inflation to push people into reliance on banks.

Here is one last item of interest. Yesterday NatWest advertised and even GLOATED about accepting 9 out of 10 requests for a mortgage! Imagine a university advertising itself like this. It’s like a new advertising campaign and they use cookies (plus coffee) to lure people into so-called mortgage ‘advisors’. Yes, not to worry! They just accept 90% of requests. And they brag about it. Another crisis coming, eh? Where they lend out 10 times the money they have — my money, your money, every saver’s money. If you or I did this, we’d be in prison for creating a Ponzi scheme, but big banks enjoy protection from the government, which is just too happy to throw our money (or growing national, i.e. collective, debt) at them. They lend out to almost everyone, never mind credit ratings, history, capability/inability to pay back. They seem to rely too much on bailouts and just count on bulk interest payments in order to increase profit as well as risk. See Cyprus to witness what this means to savers. Their money can get literally confiscated, robbed. And NatWest is clearly part of the problem. It’s not selective at all, it just gives savers’ money to any Joe and Jane that walks in.

Avoid NatWest. It’s a scam and it doesn’t give a damn about people. It’s everything that’s wrong about banking. Not to mention downtime of their on-line banking service (which seems to require many reboots because it Windows-based)…

BT’s Culture of Outsourcing

Emergency phone

MY BT Internet connection has been faulty since the beginning of this year. I have spent no less than about 10 hours speaking to support representatives in an offshore call centre, all of whom go through the script and a list of steps that “test” the connection, never mind if a dozen people before them ran the same tests. I have been polite but assertive, especially after these issues persisted for months. But never ever did they send out an engineer (meaning, a UK-based person paid at UK rates) to address the issue. At one stage they sent out a replacement router, but unsurprisingly this did not resolve the problem.

Imagine having a flaky connection when you work from home (in the employment sense). Calls are dropping, SSH sessions are dropping, IRC logging and conversations are choppy, and even Web browsing is very erratic. Imagine this going on for about 4 months. Imagine having your ISP refusing to just fix the issue by sending an actual person to the site for investigation.

My issue have been escalated internally numerous times and I have just spoke to their manager about it. No compensation can ever recover or make up for the time and work lost due to BT’s systemic incompetence. But wait, it gets worse. Not only is BT too ‘cheap’ (must increase shareholders value!) to send out an engineer; it is unable to even follow up with calls that it promises to make. The automated phone reminder which says they would call works correctly, even phoning me to wake me up at 7 AM on a Sunday. But the actual representative ‘forgets’ to call. Oops. I guess the customer does not matter enough to inform. If the customer stays home for a 2-hour time slot allocated for a call, they can just be left out in the cold, right? Well, that’s BT.

My issues with BT were serious back in 2011 when they were unable to simply set up my connection, incurring weeks in delay. I should have taken the hint and taken my money elsewhere, but BT has a monopoly on the lines. So I stayed with BT, only after their cancellations department was very insistent and successfully persuaded me to give them another chance. They also compensated me which was an admission of guilt more than it was a compensation for all the time lost and the agonising experience lasing weeks.

BT’s issues are not technical. BT’s issues are systemic. The company assumes its customers are dumb. It insists on running simple tests rather than addressing low-level issues that have been ongoing for months. It would rather have you suffer for days and talking to poorly-paid employees than send out a person who — through direct physical contact with the infrastructure — can probably remediate the issue immediately.

BT is not a company that cares about people. It cares only about money to the extent where it forgets what customers actually mean and why bad service will give them bad reputation and discourage new customers from joining,

Today, after months of bad service, BT said they would send an engineer (at long last!) to my house, but only in two days from now (I stood firm on quick action), meaning that I would suffer from faulty connection for a couple more days until I go on vacation (Monday). I also need to wait at home for a five-hour time slot on Saturday. Great, eh? See how much bad service from BT impacts one’s life on a daily basis.

If you never relied on BT for anything, do yourself a favour and never do. BT doesn’t care about people, it will take your money and run up a tree, then tell you that you must be dumb and the fault must not be theirs. You are just a fool with his/her money

British Workers Call for End of Tax Breaks to the Wealthy

eBay Sucks: Deletes Customer Accounts With Perfect Feedback/Reputation, Offers No Solution

TODAY, for the first time in about 8 years, I wanted to place a bid in eBay UK. I had already bought about 17 items there. To my surprise, my account there no longer exists. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what’s going on and then struggled to find my way to a real human rep.

Finally, once I found a chat app of eBay, I was passed around between 3 different reps, none of whom could solve a simple problem caused by eBay. I know for a fact that I had a user account and I know its full credentials (I even have old cache pages to prove it). All I could get from eBay is an “account does not exist” response. Oh, really? I know that. This is why I contacted eBay’s reps. Rather than rectify their error they suggested that I create a new account, which defeats the purpose of me contacting them in the first place.

Mark Clarke
Welcome to eBay Live Help, my name is Mark Clarke. Please give me a
moment while I check your account details.
Mark Clarke
I have verified your account. How may I assist you?
Mark Clarke
May i have user id of your account?
royss2000 is my account
I have not logged in since around 2004
And ebay US and UK both say it does not exist
which is strange
I have 100% positive feedback on it
so I don’t want to start from scratch
Mark Clarke
What I can do is connect you with our concern department. Keep in mind
there may be a wait time once you get connected with this department. If
this chat disconnects please feel free to come back into eBay Live Chat
by clicking on our link on the eBay homepage.
May I go ahead and connect you now?
Mark Clarke
I’m just checking to see if you’re still with me.
Mark Clarke
Has transferred you to:Diana B.
please connect me with whoever is suitable to restore this account, it
took me time to earn account reputation, I wish to keep that account; I
guess ebay purged accounts not logged into for a long time
hi DIana
Diana B.
Thank you for contacting eBay live help my name is Diana. Please give me
a moment to review what you’ve discussed with the previous representative.
My name is Dr. Roy Schestowitz
I am rather upset that my account is treated as though it never existed
Isabelle Valentez
Welcome to Live Help, my name is Isabelle. How may I be of assistance?
“Chat Session Ended, Goodbye. (5009)”
Not sure what happened there
I suppose Diana didn’t hang up
Isabelle Valentez
Can you please tell me the matter so tha tI can help you?
Isabelle Valentez
the chat might be disconnected due to technical issues.
ok, hang on
Isabelle Valentez
this User Id does not exist.
Isabelle Valentez
I ahev just checked.
Isabelle Valentez
I have web pages saved from many years ago where I can show it that it did exist at the time
Isabelle Valentez
You may register a new account with email address and User ID royss2000
I don’t
wish to
Isabelle Valentez
Any ways the feedback on eBay are now reset every 12 months, so they will be again 0 now.
that’s why I contacted you
I already had an account, but ebay seems to have just deleted accounts with good reputation
ah, okay
That’s a new rule
So I shall registerfor a new account
Thanks very much
This still does not explain why ebay flushes old accounts
without warning to the customer
I will write an article about this
Isabelle Valentez
You are welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
No, but thanks for being patient. I am disappointed that ebay as a whole generally does not value customer accounts

That last point is not even true. As pages like this one show, the reviews go back 12 months, but not the overall ranking, which is aggregated for a lifetime of an account. The reputation in eBay does matter because it assures trust. It makes business easier.

Half an hour later eBay seemed to have realised that it hds a bit of a blunder in its hands and the advice given, again, is that I should start from scratch (beating the purpose). To quote the E-mail sent to me:


This is in response to your Live Help Chat about the status of your account “royss2000″. I understand you’re concerned as you’ve been informed that this account is no longer registered.

I’ve looked through our database but haven’t been able to find an eBay account “royss2000″ linked to this email address “”.

What I suggest you to do now is to register a new eBay account. Here’s how:

1. Go to and click the “Register” link at the very top of the page.

2. Enter your contact & personal information. Click “Register.”

3. Enter your email address.

4. Read and accept the eBay User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

5. Choose a user ID, password, and a secret question and answer.

6. To verify your account, an email will automatically be sent to the address you registered.

7. Check your email. Click the “Activate Your eBay Membership” link in the email.

I trust this information is helpful and wish you all the best on eBay at the future.

Kind regards,

Diana Bell

eBay Trust & Safety

eBay let me down. It’s likely that I won’t use it again and I will never recommend it to anyone. This is unprofessional.

One of My Favourite Documentaries: BBC Dissecting the True Evils of PR

The programme is broken down into several episodes, each delivered in parts due to time limits in YouTube. Here is the first part of the four episodes.

Part 1 of 24:

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