Tuesday, 16 January 2018

I did take a course in economics.

I did do economics at university - I failed, as it happens, but I also did Maths at O, and A level. I can do "adding up", honest.

Having borrowed one of these things to press reset buttons and remove SIM cards from iPhones, off my son, and then lost it, I thought I would get another. They are very useful and I am amazed that Victorinox don't have one as a standard tool on a pen knife.

So I googled, and Amazon offer them... And just to check I understand this, it is from 19p each but actually for one you pay 50p, for two you pay £11.37, and for three you pay £19.48

OK, I know I failed economics, but I think this one makes no sense to anyone.

So I did a bit more googling, and found someone selling for a more reasonable price, 3p.

Of course, buying something for 3p is a tad crazy, as postage will easily cover a lot more than that, so how does the price break down work on that I wonder...

Seriously, this is 2p at 50 units and 1p at 500 units. I only need one, maybe two so I have one too, but seriously?!

Given lowest postage option was like £4.35 I decided I may as well buy 500, I mean, really, I don't need 500 but, WTF.

It quoted £5 for 500, as you expect, at 1p each. But they it gets complicated.

The actual total for the 500 items was then shown as £7.38 so 1.46p each, hmmm, OK... But the invoice listed them as 2p each so £10 total in the itemisation.

In all, with postage and card surcharge (non EU), I have spent £12.14 which works out 2.42p each. I should have gone for 1000 clearly.

Next question is what I do with 500 pokey things!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Emergency plumbing...

Well, this happened...

Acting quickly

Obviously that is somewhat distressing, and before anyone else says it, yes I did turn off the water before making a video or tweeting. The water tank is sealed not open so draining that did not work, but even so it took some time for the water to stop. I think we must have had quite a lot in the ceiling still to leak out. Now it is eventually down to a drip.

Even so, it was probably 30 minutes before it had reduced to a drip.

Insurance (Hiscox)

I was not sure what was covered but remembered something about "Household emergency cover" for exactly this - i.e. sourcing (and paying for) a plumber to turn up on a Sunday lunchtime!

I had a scan of the renewal on my machine so had a quick look and saw the paragraph about improving the Household emergency cover this year, so great, I called the number.

First issue was it was 10 minutes on hold before someone answered, which surprised me slightly, water kept pouring out.

Then, they said they could not see the cover, so I re-checked, and to my surprise the emergency cover was "not selected". I am not sure why I did not select it, but read on, I may have been right not to!

They said that was no problem, they could call someone out just the same, it just meant I had to pay for it. Of course the policy may cover some of the cost anyway and I could make a claim later. Paying is not the issue to be honest, the issue was a small lake and shower in my kitchen!

So this means I was getting the same treatment as the "emergency cover" just on a "customer pays" basis.

I got a call from some company they use who confirmed details and said they would check who they have on call and get in touch.

That was around mid day.

Nothing happened!

Seriously, nothing! No call, no plumber. So in hindsight I am glad I did not bother paying for this as an insurance. At least this way they don't get paid having done "nothing".

In hindsight I would have been better googling a local plumber. As it happens the plumber we usually use is happy to come 9am tomorrow so we'll put up with no water until then.

So, overall, not impressed.

Why nothing happened?

Listen to the call.... Maybe skip the music...

Update: Next day (Monday) having had no water over night...

Sadly the kitchen ceiling needs re-plastering and decorating now. The problem, seems when old shower was removed many years ago the plumber at the time just used a push fit stopper. It finally gave up. Real plumber this morning cost me £20 and took him like 5 minutes at most. I dread to think what the emergency call out would have cost.

Update: Hiscox are taking it on as a complaint even though no claim.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Innovation at its best

Some times my son does actually impress me that he will come up with an idea and then make it work. Sadly he has not managed the (horrible word) "monetising" of such ideas yet, but making them work he can do. These are skills many people lack...

The problem...

Electric cars parked at charging points block other people from charging if still there for longer than they need to be. This is handled in many ways including :-

  • The car management app on your phone telling you it is charged.
  • Some chargers actually having surcharges for over staying.
  • The fact that some chargers are literally at service stations next to Starbucks so you are right there to go get in your car and drive off when you need.
However there are cases where this is not so simple and over staying can happen. There are also cases where you are just charging because you can, and don't need to stay there if someone has a more urgent need. There are parking spaces in car parks where people work where you end up parking all day, but would be happy to move if someone else needs to charge. Park and charge spaces at shopping centres are also a fun thing, as you are paying for your stay in the car park anyway.

This is also a problem for people parking for deliveries and I am sure lots of other cases where someone is being a temporary inconvenience and contacting them would solve this.

The typical solution...

Leave a mobile number in the car window.

The problem with that...

You don't want to give the world your mobile number! Changing it if someone starts being a pain having got it is a nuisance. Handling a call from someone who may be cross or unreasonable is not good.

My son's bright idea...

A QR code in the window with "scan this to ask me to move" type message next to it.

You scan the code, and have the option to "ask me to move". Originally it asked to move on scan, but we figured people will scan random QR codes in passing, so a secondary big friendly button to ask someone to move would be a good idea.

The driver is then notified by some means such as pushover or tweet DM or some such, and can respond in a deliberately limited way. They can say they will be there in X minutes to move, or that they are going to be charging for X minutes, etc. This status is shown to the person that scanned the code.

They then have the option to say "never mind", to cancel the request. If a status like "charging until XX:XX" is recorded, anyone else scanning sees that rather than sending a notification to the driver.

Obviously it has to cope with saying "there was no reply" and so on. It also has to cope with a second person scanning the bar code, reporting the current status, etc. There are actually a lot of edge cases and possible abuse cases to consider.

Anti spam

The key thing is that this provides a specific set of options as a very limited means to communicate and does not allow general messaging or calls or "spam".

Indeed, a key point is bar codes can be revoked and new ones made as much as you like. Make several in advance and have printed in the glove compartment. If someone is a pain, just delete that barcode and use a new one next time.

It limits possible abuse by limiting the communication options.

Does this exist?

I'll update here with the URL when it is all working, he only had the idea today and mostly it is working already but probably tomorrow for being actually properly usable. The fact he has this mostly sorted in a day is actually good - he is not a programmer but is starting to get to grips with how to make a "system" work, and expectably thinking of the ways people can abuse, break, misuse, or simply get confused with such a system.

P.S. Chargebump

My understanding is that there is an app for this, chargebump. Unlike that this does not require either party to install an app, and it is not tied to the registration plate so mitigates abuse by allowing bar-codes to be deleted and replaced whenever you like.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Discount for cash! No!

OK I hate doing new blogs like this to make a point. However, I really want to make it simple.

Making cash and card the same does not mean card is cheaper, it can mean cash is more expensive!


A seller could charge a fee for payments by different methods. They had different costs for card (depending on card type) or cash (that has a cost in many cases) or bank payment by different means, and could choose to charge a fee depending on the cost to that seller handling that payment method.

That is fair!

It means the seller is covering the cost that depends on the buyers choice. Simple.

This did not help the seller, they simply allowed the buyer to choose a means that reduced costs by choice of payment method, and benefitted the buyer as a result.

Now (from 13th Jan)

The seller cannot charge a fee depending on payment method in most cases.

But the seller still has costs, and this change means the seller may have increased costs as people can choose to pay by more expensive means at no cost difference to them.

The seller still has to cover those costs somehow. Yes, they are "the cost of doing business", but they are now costs that cannot be added to the bill, so have to be in the overall costs somehow. They mean a change in price or a "service charge".

Everyone pays the same!

This is the key thing, and the whole point and spirit of the change of the legislation.

It does not matter if Just Eat charge a service charge or charge the restaurant - the latter means prices for everyone goes up to cover it, not just those using Just Eat. So worse in many ways.

The key change, and the whole point of the change, is that you can no longer have something cheaper by your choice of a cheaper payment method. That is the point.

I really do not understand why people do not immediately look at the converse. A discount for X is a surcharge for not-X. Remove a charge for Y and it is a charge for all not just for Y.

Not cheaper!

Nothing in the legislative changes expects or requires that costs to the consumer are cheaper in some way. Remember that! The whole point is to make it the same regardless of payment method, so those choosing to pay by a cheaper method do not get any discount. That is the point of the law.

The spirit of the law is the same charge for everyone, so Just Eat changing from a charge for "card payers" to a service charge for "all", that is the whole point and spirit of the change in the law.

Discount for cash? No!

Pay by cash, and get a discount, that is how it was, and that is what this legislative change outlaws. Why did you think it was otherwise? Why was this any surprise to anyone?

Just Eat

I am not sure what to say?!

News is Takeaway food app Just Eat slammed for introducing new 'service charge' shortly before card fee ban comes into force

But surely this is entirely the spirit of the changes in legislation.

Previously a company could charge people more if they chose to use payment methods that caused them to have higher costs. That makes a lot of sense and is "fair". It means people choosing payment means that caused lower costs could have a lower price.

The change is to say that you can no longer do that, so you have to treat all payment methods the same. That is the whole point and spirit of the change in the law. It is not to make prices cheaper, it is to make all payment methods equal.

So now you charge people all the same, everyone has a "service charge" to cover those costs you have, even if they choose to use a payment method that costs you less. That is the WHOLE POINT of the change in the law. People can no longer choose one payment method over another to help the seller save costs and so pass on that saving to the customer.

The cynic in me says that is the point - encourage trackable cashless society.

But even, as some suggest, Just Eat could just up the charge they make to the restaurant the end result would be everyone, not just Just Eat, but walk-in and take-away, paying more to cover the extra costs. Even worse in terms of "fairness". This law is obviously and clearly not about being "fair" in any way at all.

What the hell am I missing here - surely that is the whole point of the change in the law?

Seriously if you had before "you can change people more if they use a payment method that costs you more" and you to change to "you have to charge people the same", the result is "all people pay more and nobody has the option to choose a cheaper payment method to get a lower price". That is the whole point of the change in the law, is it not?

Fake News

For a change I am not actually having a go at churches or religion on this post, but pondering how the recent apparent moves to clamp down on "fake news" could impact them...

Religion is fake news!

Sorry if this sounds like I am having a go, I am not. Religion is about presenting unverifiable information as fact. That is what it is - I am not saying if that is good or bad, or if there is a god or not, just that this is how religion works, simple as that. Even if I was religious, I would recognise that a church is expecting me to have "faith" to believe unverifiable facts, that is the point, I think.

Firstly, if the information was not presented "as fact", I seriously doubt a religion would continue. This is just my opinion, but if saying "you may go to heaven but nobody knows" is not going to cut it. I have been to churches (mostly for weddings and funerals) and been shocked by the unequivocal statements made, the "you can be certain he has gone to heaven and is with Jesus now", etc. Certainly the Christian churches I have ever been to make statements "as fact", and I suspect most religions do the same for obvious reasons. If not, then great, let me know.

Secondly, the statements are unverifiable. This has to be the case. If the statements were verifiable then they would not be a religion but a scientist or researcher or teacher and there would be no faith involved in accepting the statements made. We would not call such an organisation a church or a religion in such cases. Indeed, religions make a point of the fact that the statements are unverifiable as a positive thing - that you have to have "faith" to believe the unverifiable, and this is somehow a good thing.

To be a religion the statements have to be made "as fact" and be "unverifiable", which is pretty much the definition of "fake news", surely?

What is fake news?

To be news something has to be presented as "fact". That is what differentiates it from fiction and hence not news.

To be fake, it has to basically be unverifiable or has to be verifiably false. Religions make verifiably false statements too.

So what happens if fake news is banned?

Well, for a start, it can't really be banned anywhere that allows "freedom or expression" and "free speech" I expect, but maybe that can be curbed where "presented as fact" when unverifiable, perhaps? I can see that being hard to manage. It can however happen on private platforms like Facebook and twitter if they so wish.

There will have to be exceptions for satire. This is arguably not "presented as fact" though - it is "presented in the style of actual news" but from a source that is clearly stated as satirical. So probably OK. The tricky bit here is that a lot of recent "real" news is so whacky you cannot tell satire from reality these days, which is quite scary when you think about it.

But what of religions and churches? Will they have an exception to allow them to continue to push fake news. Will they want one, as it is admitting that they push "fake news" if they ask for one?

If that is the case, how long before newspapers, and even Facebook, register as a religion / church? That would allow publication of whatever the hell they like (worse than now) under the cover of religious freedom. Indeed, I am almost surprised that has not already happened.

P.S. I like the Pastafarians, and of all religions I have heard of, Buddhists seem the most sane... Though I like the Norse gods if I had to choose... Thankfully I can choose "none of the above", which is a right I have that so many did not for so many centuries.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Why can't people make workable laws, FFS

So I blogged on lack of card surcharges. Someone asked if it applied to B2B (Business to Business) transactions, and it does...


A payee must not charge a payer any fee in respect of payment by means of— (a) a payment instrument which—
(i) is a card-based payment instrument as defined in Article 2(20) of Regulation (EU) 2015/751 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29th April 2015 on interchange fees for card-based payment transactions; and
(ii) is not a commercial card as defined in Article 2(6) of that Regulation

So, you can charge for use of a "commercial card" (at up to your costs). This is not down to whether B2B or not, it is the type of card...

"commercial card’ means any card-based payment instrument issued to undertakings or public sector entities or self-employed natural persons which is limited in use for business expenses where the payments made with such cards are charged directly to the account of the undertaking or public sector entity or self-employed natural person;

OK, some of that is definitive - charged to the business/self employed account. That is a simple matter of fact and the banks could have card prefix ranges for "commercial cards" that are so charged to company accounts, and so allow retailers to charge a surcharge in such cases, except...

This is the unworkable bit of law: "limited in use for business expenses", because that is down to company policy. If a small company wants to not be paying card charges for B2B using its "commercial card", all it has to have is a company policy that states "company cards used for non business expenses will have the amount deducted from salary payments or repaid to the company within 30 days if greater". Now the card can be used for non business expenses and so is not "limited" to such use, so the exception no longer applies and surcharges cannot be charged.

That means the company no longer has to pay any surcharges for use of the card, bingo!

The fun thing is that companies that issue staff with purchasing cards for expenses always have such a clause to allow them to recharge for abuse or simple mistakes, obviously. The card itself is not "limited", none of them are.

Hence the magic, and long winded, exception in that law is pointless and unworkable, so why the fuck do they bother?

P.S. My guess is that "commercial card" is a term in the industry and someone managed to lobby for an exception for commercial cards, but the legal definition got muffed to include the "limited in use for business expenses" making it a definition that depends on unknown company policy and not on simple facts. My expectation is some people will try and charge for use of a commercial card - if they try it with us (as the customer), they'll have an argument on their hands.