Monday, 19 December 2005

ASDA Idiots

I’ve had it with ASDA. Too often what I want is not in stock, promise to call and explain but never do, and then they insult me at the checkouts.

I’ve explained previously what I think of ASDA but I was still under the illusion that being nearby was the same as convenient.

To often my nearby journey is frustrated and wasted because they don’t sell what I want. Here’s the latest run-in with the idiots that are ASDA.

…and when I call ASDA I don’t mean the staff (most of them) but the incompentence of the organisation and it’s inability to satisfy the customer who is trying to give them money.

In this case though, I specifically mean one of the checkout supervisors.

No milk today

I’m fed up of no milk from ASDA. No milk was always the customers perogative to the milkman, not from the milkman. Not so from ASDA, who no milk me too often.

I was trying to buy 24 pints of organic semi-skimmed milk in the form of 6 x 4 pint bottles at £1.41 each. They only have 6 x 2 pint bottles and 82p each (thats £1.64 per 4 pints, and only 12 pints).

I empty the shelf into my trolly with all 12 pints and my other shopping. I’ll try my usual trick which is to arrange to by 2 x 2 pint bottles at the 4 pint price; after all why should I pay extra just because ASDA can’t keep their shelves full? This usually works fine, but this time someone new was on the checkout and it was her first day, so she called over a checkout supervisor.

We ask the supervisor if I can buy 2 x 2 pints at the price of 1 x 4 pints. She says we can’t. (Strange) but the reason is even funnier. We can’t because 4 pints cost £1.41 and 2 x 2 pints costs £1.42 (I corrected her to £1.62 and the cashier corrected me to £1.64). So yes. We couldn’t buy 2 x 2 pints for the price of 1 x 4 pints because 2 x 2 pints cost more than 1 x 4 pints.

So she would let me buy them at that price if they cost that price. But then I wouldn’t have had to ask, would I?

So I explain that I don’t want to buy 2 pint bottles anyway, I really want to buy 4 pint bottles. I don’t even want just 12 pints, I want 24 pints in 4 pint bottles, but they don’t have it.

Why doesn’t she understand that it’s bad enough not to be able to buy the sizes I want, but making me pay extra for the inconvenience is an insult?

She calls up to a higher manager who lets me do it “this once, because it’s Christmas”. I try to explain that I do this regularly, but she’s stopped listening. The cashier can’t work out what the problem is, they sell 2×10 cigarrettes for the price of 1×20 cigarettes when they run out of twenty packs.

And whatever the checkout supervisor said, I would have got what I was asking. If I had to, I would have left my shopping unloaded on the checkout, tipped my head back and bellowed to the ceiling (Never bellow at the staff):

Why is it that you never have enough milk in stock? it’s bad enough that you don’t have the right size in stock, it’s bad enough that you waste my journey, but why are you trying to charge me extra for it? Whats the good of low low prices if you don’t stock it and try and sell me something that costs more instead?

So here’s what I’ll do, I’m not daft.

I’m off to Morrissons for my groceries, but I’ll go to ASDA for my cheap petrol and DVD’s when I’m passing. I don’t mind bleeding them dry with their loss leaders, I may even enjoy shopping at ASDA in those circumstances.

Oh, and S______ never did call back to explain why they stopped selling maternity towels like they promised.

Trying to buy from ebuyer

I’ve always had a dim view of ebuyer since I read around 100:1 bad press on google searches before I attended a job interview there.

But its hard to see how that preconception could be the cause of my experiences, which (see part 3) possibly will have a happy ending after all.

Part 1

As I said, I’m not inclinded to order from ebuyer, the consensus I discovered was that if you get what you ordered on time, then everything is fine, if not then you are doomed.

A colleague is fortunate to never have had the problem and suggested I order from ebuyer. We needed some company supplies… so ebuyer it was. Idiots.

Within seconds of me placing the order, ebuyer cancelled the order without reason. When the goods didn’t arrive I discovered this, and ordered again, this time with next day shipping. I figured I ought to get next day shipping free as ebuyer cancelled the order, but it would cost more in my time to get through on support that the free shipping was worth.

Well… I placed 2 more orders with ebuyer for the same things; each one cancelled without reason.

2 or 3 support calls and numerous etickets later my order was re-instated and shipped.

This experience was too hard. I knew I should have gone with CPC.

part 2

Well, this time I had a bigger order, nearly £200, and my colleague suggested ebuyer again. Well… we have an online account, so why not!

But within seconds of my order it has been cancelled - again without reason!

I’ve been here before, so I’m straight on the phone. The call handler suggests that it is some kind of security screening! Since when did screening cancel an order without warning? Without giving me a chance to sort it out? Will it ever come out of “screening”? And how do I cancel a cancelled order to stop it coming out of screening if I decide to get it elsewhere? Why isn’t it called screening? I think she’s talking rubbish so I call back again.

The seconds call handler puts me on hold twice to consult someone else and suggests that some element of our billing data is on their fraud list, but can’t tell me any more. She offers to have someone in accounts phone me before 5.00pm. As I ordered next day delivery this doesn’t impress me much, so I say that if they can call in the next half an hour we’ll try it, but if not I’ll be ordering from somewhere else.

I meant CPC of course who charge decent prices and and a decent returns policy and lots of special offers.

Part 3

Hey! Someone at ebuyer phone back! It turns out that our address is on their negative list for no good reason. The negative list is a clever piece of process (i imagine) that involves annoying customer by deleting their orders without explaining why. My most excellent call handler (who is new to ebuyer) will attempt to resurrect my order (apart from 6 belink cat5e cable economizers that I since orderd from CPC). If she manages this, then she earns a top class complimentary email as feedback that she can show to her boss. 3 cheers for I____ who is new to ebuyer and lets hope she doesn’t get tainted.

Monday, 5 December 2005

Your own idiot savant

I’ve been reading cnet on Spear-Phishing which confirms something I’ve been telling friends for a long time. You computer is an idiot savant and can’t be trusted. Yes, it does some cool things, but you don’t know half of it. And you won’t either! And this is why you can’t delegate the decision of trust to your computer; should you trust your computer when it tells you that something is trusted?

The current computer model of files, and processes sharing a common space is dieing and passing on our closest secrets with each gasp; but what secure model can replace it?

I’d like to suggest something FORTH based; as a self-hosting system the inner core can be a few hundred bytes - small enough to verify manually (plus the bit that can verify everything else). It can then verify and boot up from verified text FORTH libraries to a trusted system (assuming if the hardware is not tampered with). I now have a machine that I can trust. Forth is prone to it’s own problems of careless programmers (who are a big part of the problem) so it’s not a no-brainer solution - in any case it requires someone degree-capable in computing to verify it- most people want a computer whose trust they can take for granted. Is there one?

A tune by any other name

It’s hard to create anything new without being affected by the old that has already been created. Copyright and derivative works claims seem to indicate that the relationship between the old and the new must not be obvious… However I can’t help recognize similarities between these popular music items; I list them here as I come across them, there are many more which won’t come to mind as I hear them, so check back…

The introduction to Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles and A Town with no name by Madness.

Wrapped Around your Finger The Police and Lemon Tree Fools Garden.

Rock This Town Stray Cats and Good Hat, Good Dog, Good Boat Them Eastport Oyster Boys

Super Freak Rick James and U Can’t Touch This MC Hammer

The introduction to Where the streets have no name U2 and Survivors Phil Collins

Here Comes The Hotstepper Ini Kamoze and See Me Melanie Blatt (written for the film Robots but somehow didn’t make the soundtrack album even though it plays in the closing credits)
The main verse lyrics of Hotstepper

No no we don`t die
Yes we mul-ti-ply
Anyone test will hear the fat lady sing
Act like you know, Rico
I know what Bo don`t know
Touch them up and go, uh-oh!
Ch-ch-chang chang

Has darn similar tune to this part of See Me

I’m gonna look to fly
I’m gonna touch the sky
I will not compromise
Don’t want to hide all my life

HP Printer Hacking

Looking at I saw a cool .net hack for displaying custom messages on an HP printer LCD.

I’m a bit of a .net fan from a distances, which is to say I’m an ex-delphi afficionado, having done some cool hacks like 16 bit multithreading and form inheritance in Delphi, and I’m waiting for .net to be the cross platform “delphi” that Kylix never became (if only they used wxWidgets, but who was to know then, eh?)

Well anyway, .net seemed a bit of overkill for HP printer LCD hacking so I replaced it with a small shell script instead

#! /bin/sh


message() {
printf "x1B%%-12345X@PJL RDYMSG DISPLAY = "%s"rnx1B%%-12345Xrn" "$*"

# try to use bash tcp redirection if enabled
if exec 9> "/dev/tcp/$printer/9100"
then message "$@" >&9
else message "$@" | netcat -q 2 "$printer" 9100 >/dev/null

Invoke thus:

./hpmsg hello joe wassup

of course, this is hardly just a small shell script as it relies on all of bash, and possibly netcat. (My ubuntu bash doesn’t seem to have build-in tcp redirection, boo!)

Saturday, 3 December 2005

When ASDA don’t stock

ASDA have been really annoying lately being out of stock of various items; mainly organic milk which costs about 5p more per 6 pints and tastes smoother and less harsh, and perhaps less dodgy hormones in it (here’s hoping).

They seem to have sorted out the Organic Milk problem by changing the colours of the bottle tops from blue or green, to white - which presumably stops them from getting mixed up in the warehouse, thus they can always find it and deliver it; so far so good. I’ll forgive then from being short of suet 2 consecutive visits because it is Christmas pudding season.

This time it was maternity towels. I don’t know why ASDA stopped selling maternity towels, but a nice man named S____ is going to find out and phone me back on Monday or Tuesday.

The point is; and I made this very clear; if I have to go to Morrisons to get maternity towels, I may as well get all my shopping there; “..don’t you think?” I asked S_____. He wisely refrained from answering. I suggested that I might even prefer Morrissons if I tried it; but S_____ would not be drawn.

Maternity towels aren’t something a person needs very often, and it looks like someone at ASDA foolishly thinks thats the point. The point is this: they had better be darned sure I’m not going to prefer Morrissons before driving me in that direction.

I may never come back; and as maternity towels indicate a new family member thats a lifetime of shopping they could be missing out on.

On small moments…