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June 25, 2010

Be Careful Whilst Buying Phone Cards to Make Cheap Calls

We all eagerly wait for services, which could provide us with cheaper rates whilst making international calls. You can make cheap international calls to any country from the UK with phone cards but never forget to make a few simple checks before buying phone cards.

Buying  phone cards from newsagents,shops is not wrong, but the major set back is that phone cards industry is not regulated by government agencies. If you happen to  see any advertisement and the features shown in the advertisement may not complement with their services. Such misleading acts could be found whilst using services.

Your call to destination will measure two elements, first will be cost of calling the UK access number and second element will be cost of  international call. For second element you receive a credit on the phone card. Do not forget to add VAT to existing phone card and usual VAT tax is 17.5 per cent. Some sellers may tempt you to buy phone cards without  providing you with receipt and you are offered with heavy discounts, it is unlawful so do not follow such custom.

The rates are sometimes rounded to the nearest penny, for instance price may be listed as 5p per minute but actually it may cost 5.5 per cent . So be cautious. Some services may provide you with calls that  register high charge for first few minutes and later lessen. Surcharges are normally applied when you make a call from any public booth and they may go up to 25 p per minute. Another important thing you are to aware of is you will be end paying much higher charge whilst making a call to mobile phones.

Phone card working period is  90 days , keep a note of time and usage then go for buying. Otherwise, you may not be able to use to its full value. Be careful some cards collect daily maintenance charge so be careful as you will be for sure charged even on non usage. em

Make sure that you make calls for long duration as that will cost you less when compared to small duration calls. Some companies may fail to provide you with good quality line and this may badly hinder your call. You may also come across some companies which may remove the credit from credit balances and you as an user may not notice it. So, follow those points and then buy Phone cards.

Nov 19, 2006

Orange upgrades : worse than the rest, or standard for the industry?

I'm not at all happy with Orange right now. I've been a loyal Orange customer for over 4 years, keeping the same handset for all that time and paying them £30 per month on contract. With my phone coming to the end of it's life I wanted to upgrade to the best phone I could get and keep that for (hopefully!) the next four years.

Before I go into my experience - I'd love to hear how you've faired. If you have upgrade stories (good or bad) please either blog them or add comments to this blog.

OK - my story. Popping into the Orange shop there are a wide range of phones clearly available for free on contract. My choice - the Sony Ericsson k800i.

"Sorry sir, that's only available to new customers - you can have that phone for £100." What? The phones on offer for a free upgrade were singularly uninspiring. Phoning Orange and threatenning to leave dropped the price to £89 - the best they could do. They explained that while they would like to upgrade me they had to position their offers to attract new customers.

My understanding of business is that it is much easier to keep your existing customers than to find a new one and that you should *never* neglect your existing customer base. I was until that point a happy existing customer.

Close to moving to a new provider I phoned The Car Phone Warehouse to see whether they could upgrade me for free. They could - and sticking with Orange. Yipee! I was offered a 12 or 18 month contract and was happy to sign-up for an 18 month contract, moving to the Orange Puma 30 plan. I was told I'd get 375 any-network minutes, 450 land-line minutes and 75 texts per month. Great.

First statement arrives and I have 200 any-network minuts, 100 landline minutes and 100 fixed line minutes - that is a 12 month contract. A call to Orange. "Ahh - yes sir - you're on a 12 month contract. When you upgrade and get a new handset your 12 month contract is actually 18 months." Now I clearly had the choice from Car Phone Warehouse of 12 months or 18 months. I clearly requested 18 months and was clearly told the number of minutes etc that I would have.

A call to Car Phone Warehouse. Hmmm - they aren't sure what's happened but the person that dealt with me will definitely call back. Well of course they didn't.

So - have you upgraded with an existing supplier recently? Are they *all* as aweful as Orange? Do they all treat their existing customers as something they've scraped off the sole of their boot? Questions to ask:

  • Do they give you the same choice of phone at the same price as new customers?
  • Do they lock you into different terms to existing customers?
  • Are they up-front with what they are offering? Look around the Orange shop or web-site - they are full of 'free with £35 contract' - no mention anywhere that if you are an existing customer you might as well not bother looking round their shop and may as well bin the Orange brochure they have.

I'd like to know because as soon as this contract is up I'm moving from Orange. They have lost a hitherto happy customer. The rest of my family will follow in due time so that will be 3 lost customers.

My recommendation is never upgrade with Orange. Always move away from them. What is your experience?

Mar 31, 2008

Do gadgets make you feel like a dummy?

Technology "improves" with time. This improvement is often epitomised by "Moores Law". You don't have to understand Moores law in any way other than to mean that every few years your gadgets have the capacity to do twice what they could only a few years earlier. It's miniturisation that's driving this. Only a decade ago a basic mobile phone was the size of a brick - and all it did was make calls. If you wanted a camera, a "pocket" computer, these all came as their very own brick.

Miniturisation. It's great. A phone no longer needs it's own brick - it can share a much smaller brick along with a camera and a mobile phone. This is the most obvious example - but most gadgets have gone down this route. Even the humble toaster - although limited by the size of a slice of break - wants to do more. I saw one recently that can also poach an egg for you.

Is this good?

Well - the Geek Squad have just released some comments and views from their clients. This isn't particularly rigorous research but is interesting for all of that. With gadgets doing so much more it's not uncommon for the manual to be the length of a short novel - covering 50 pages. You gadget might does what you want it to do - you just have to find out how.

Increasing technical capacity has almost lead to an arms race in some areas. More functions coupled with shorter time to market and (because of lower lifespan for a product) lower overall profits often lead to :

  • Less testing with real users leading to complex user interfaces
  • Less testing full stop leading to products not doing what users expect them to do
  • Post-purchase software upgrade mechanisms tempting vendors to ship products before they are ready to meet a deadline and relying on shipping the finished software later.
  • Low sale value (because anyone can churn out a half baked product) coupled with short life-spans mean when customers do complain the after sales support is often close to non-existent.

The result is often a poor quality product that attempts to do too much and in that attempts does none well. A "jack of all trades - master of none".

Unfortunately that same technical capacity has given rise to the Internet - and an opportunity for a dissatisfied customer to vent their frustration to a wide audience. Just look at some of the comments posted recently on GadgetSpeak. The Funai HDR-B2735 being a great case in point - over 30 comments and hardly a positive note amongst them.

So what's your worst gadget? Why? Because it didn't do what you wanted? Because it broke not long after you bought it? Do let us know!

Dec 5, 2007

Is ebay just too big for it's boots?

Ebay was a great concept and virtually created the on-line auction paradigm.

Like many successful organisations that grows fast - there is a danger of loosing sight of what makes their business successful. If my friends experience is anything to go by ebay is entering that arrogant phase that very rapidly growing businesses seem to go through just before they have to eat some humble pie.

How do ebay make their money? By selling things - except unlike most businesses the things they sell are not their own and they are not buying from bulk suppliers. They are simply a middle-man sitting squarely between the seller and the customer. They provide a channel and should consider keeping both ends of that channel happy.

It would appear that bay is loosing sight of this - particularly of it's relationship with it's sellers. My friend, an occasional ebay user, sells various things on a non-commercial basis through ebay and has done so on and off for a number of years. She has a 100% reputation and no negative marks.

Today she received and email entitled "eBay Listing Removed: Keyword Spamming". At first this was taken as spam itself - but a quick check at ebay showed her listing had in fact been removed - completely - deleted. A message in her in-box explained why - in ebays unilateral opinion she was 'spamming' - for which ebay has a different definition to the rest of the world :

"Keyword spamming is using brand names or other inappropriate keywords in an item title or description for the purpose of gaining attention or diverting buyers to a listing"

The offending keywords? "as new" in the listing title. This product has been out of the box once - used once - then put back again. It is "as new". Specifying something as new is not listed as a banned description on ebays spamming page, neither does that fall clearly into any of the practices that are not allowed.

How else is one to describe a product 'as new'? On Amazon 'as new' is a whole category! Yes, it will make that listing stand out from others that are maybe a year old and been in continuous use. Maybe 'old and well used' would have similarly fallen foul of these arbitrary rules.

As for "for the purpose of gaining attention or diverting buyers to a listing" - ebay is a shop front. You want people that want to buy an X to find your listing. I guess listing something and then in the title just say 'I have something for sale' would be fine here - no way that's going to stand out in ebays listing!

The process by which ebay distributes it's justice is similarly authoritarian. An email and automatic removal. Not just de-listing - but deletion without the option to edit and repost. Anyone that has used ebay knows how time-consuming their interface is to get anything listed in the first place especially if you take pictures (which of course should be similarly banned because that makes your listing stand out from others).

There is no opportunity to appeal - no warning beforehand - no automatic checking when you post a listing and no one to talk to. No recourse at all.

In this case the product had been listed for 3 or 4 days, and had attracted 6 bids.

Of course ebay have added the immortal words "We value you as a member of our community and wish to continue this relationship, so we must ask you to refrain from further breaches of the User Agreement and eBay policy" - so that's OK then.

She has now closed her account on ebay and they have lost all her future business. Not much admittedly, but if ebay continues to treat it's suppliers with this level of contempt it's likely to loose more.

My friend also sells on Amazon. Apparently it has a much friendlier interface, is easier to use and seems to have some respect for people that list products, which is strange given that Amazon could quite happily survive without individual suppliers, whereas ebay arguably couldn't.