Last month (doesn't time fly!) I wrote about improving my jQuery, whereby I wanted to just improve the code I'd been using on this project I've been working on for 3 months now. I'm all for more efficient code, and of course as with most programming languages, the more you use it, the more you learn, and the more efficient and improved your code becomes.
With thanks to Sam Hampton-Smith and Marc Grabankski (who is the developer of the UI Datepicker, a fantastic jQuery popup calendar), I managed to get my questions answered, learning plenty in the process! I said I'd write up what I actually did so that it's maybe of use to others (as I couldn't find a complete answer online anywhere).
(Yes it's another rant about a business!). It's a bit of a scam really in my opinion. It depends on whether you phone them, or if they phone you, and who you speak to. That's what it seems like. I've been a customer of Vodaphone's for the past 6 years, spending around £900 per contract (18 months in recent years). When I worked abroad I'd often spend a few hundred a month, once I topped £400 for the month. Okay, so it may not be much to a company like Vodaphone, but a 6 year old customer spending more than the average individual consumer is surely who Vodaphone should be wanting to please? Clearly not.
Note whilst this is my experience with Vodaphone, I believe it happens with all the main mobile phone operators, so this isn't a rant against Vodaphone just against them as a whole!
Last month I called Vodaphone about my contract renewal. I'd set my sights on a Nokia N95 telephone. I've had an N73 for the past 18 months and whilst it's a great phone, it's lacked wireless connectivity which would be useful to me. The N95 has that, plus an even better camera plus flash (the N73 has flash too) and numerous other handy features. On speaking to the upgrades team I asked about getting this phone. The guy I spoke to first tried putting me off it, saying how it broke a lot, I was told that about the N73 and had no problems there, so I shrugged them off. Then he told me it would cost as the phone wasn't cheap to buy. Although I doubt Vodaphone pay the high street prices that we'd have to pay as individuals. Okay, I appreciate a small fee, despite paying them over £900 for the last 18 months contract. He offered me a 24 month contract at £30 a month (I currently pay £35) and the phone would cost me £80. 24 months is a bit longer than I'd want to sign up for, 18 months is long enough really, so I said I'd go think about it. I then tried phoning again and got someone else, who offered me the same contract that I was on and the N95 for £160. I asked why new customers got it for free and existing customers had to pay – 'oh it's because the phone is quite expensive to buy'. But hang on, a lot of these new customers would pay the same as I pay, get the phone for free and probably leave once their contract was up and go get the next free phone elsewhere. That didn't make a difference, I couldn't get the N95 without paying over £100. Note, I was never offered a 24 month contract second time around.
Then she asked me why I wanted it, which I replied for the wireless feature, GPS and decent camera. She offered me the E65 for free, with no changes to my contract. As I'm really not very good at arguing my point (I'm a wuss!) and the camera wasn't so important (the E65 has a 2MP camera, no flash), I agreed, possibly because I figured there was no chance of getting the N95 and I was pretty tired and stressed with all the work I had on at the time.
Fast forward to last week, when Dave called about his upgrade. He's also with Vodaphone, been on the same contract as I have for the last 18 months and has been with them for 3 years. He got a little further from the upgrades to the promotions department trying to get the N95 but they told him no, despite him threatening to leave and go elsewhere where he could get the phone for free. So he was all intent on moving elsewhere, then today he got a call from the upgrade team. He told them he'd already tried upgrading but was told he couldn't get the phone he wanted so he was planning to leave. He told the person that he wanted the N95 and about 5 minutes he hung up saying he had the phone on its way, he's got the first 2 months line rental at half price, his monthly minutes have been increased by 20%, he's been given unlimited SMS messages, plus he has another feature which got taken away from me (kind of like unlimited landline calls, but not quite). He didn't even have to argue much for the phone and the rest was just given to him on a plate.
Clearly my 6 years of customer history and over £6000 in bills means nothing to them, yet someone who's been there just 3 years and paid out maybe £2000 in bills does. It's nice to know how the companies you're loyal to treat you in return. I had no change or improvements to my contract and the phone I got was a sideways move, not an improvement. I've lost features that the N73 had, and gained features. The N95 puts the features from both together.
So yes, it's a big scam. It depends on who you speak to, whether they call you or you call them, and how much of a good mood they're in no doubt. Being a long term, good paying customer means absolutely nothing to them I guess, and I'm sure the same goes on throughout the mobile phone industry. I think I may move my business elsewhere in 18 months, shame I can't do it now.
Last night I went onto the RyanAir website to have a look at the cost of a return flight to Dublin for a long weekend away for us. On reaching the site I saw an advert on the front page showing flights for £1 each way. After a quick search I found we could fly out on a Thursday afternoon and back on a Monday afternoon for £2 return. Sounds great right? £4 for return flights, yet the final cost was £52! Okay, before I start, £52 is pretty cheap and I expected to pay more than that anyway so from the cost point of view, we're happy. However how did we go from £4 to 13 times more?!
- RyanAir charge for putting bagging in the hold. We've got one case so that would be an additional £8 each way.
- If you want to check in baggage then you have to use the airport check in as opposed to the free online check in, so that's a further £4 each way.
- Even though we're only checking in one case, because there's two of us in the party we both have to do airport check in (so one couldn't get the free online check in), so another £4 each way (at this point I'll mention that yes I could have done two bookings, but is £8 really worth the hassle of doing everything twice?!).
So, so far we have:
£4 – Flights, fantastic price
£16 – baggage check in, understandable
£16 – airport check in, understandable by why do we both have to do it?
That's £36. So that's what I thought, £36 for two return flights, that's £9 each way, a bargain. I realised there were fees for paying by card (how else can you pay online?!) but from past experience I knew that a credit card was more expensive than switch, so I grabbed my bank card and used that to pay (without checking the fees list I admit). Final page, £52 charge! So I've just paid £16 to pay by Switch??!! I then checked the fees for the cards. All but Visa Electron (which is free for some reason) would cost £4 per person per flight. Who on earth thought up that system?
I still have the screen shot from our flight to Rome in January, so just 7 months ago. We paid:
£0.04 for the flights
£20 for 2 cases, £5 per case per flight
£8 airport check in fee, so £2 per person per flight
£39.96 for the taxes and charges usually added to the flights
£2.80 to pay by switch
So why did it all change? Okay, I can understand inflation, the cases have gone up by £3 each, that's understandable, petrol prices have increased and more weight means more petrol needed. Thank god they don't weigh us too! The airport check in has doubled in price, again I can understand why they have the fee but 100% increase in 7 months is a bit steep, especially as all members of the party have to do the same as the other. However, the most important point here is that 7 months ago I paid £2.80 charge to pay by switch card. I know they don't get charged that, I have worked in retail before, but I don't begrudge paying a small fee. But £16??!! That is simply ridiculous, especially when they charge per person and flight. So if I'd just been flying on my own but paying the same amount it would have only cost £8. How can a switch charge increase for each person flying?
I'm not a fan of hidden charges. I hate dealing with companies who forget that not all of us are not VAT registered. I get prices quoted to me without the VAT and sometimes no one mentions VAT so I assume that's the final price. Or going to a site, selecting items and then suddenly having VAT whacked on at the end of it. I've got used to RyanAir's system of only display the cost of the flight and not the taxes. Then came the baggage hold fee, and there's always a card charge, but to advertise flights for £1 each way when, unless you are a small minority who own a visa electron card, you will be paying an additional £8 for a return flight.
As I said, yes I do realise £26 return per person is cheap and I'm not disputing that, it's the charge that has gone up over 500% in 7 months, which usually costs most businesses about 20p in bank charges. If I'd known it was the same price for Switch and a credit card I'd have used my credit card for a start, get some points back on it at least!
Should airline sites still be allowed to get away with these types of charges? Is the £16 switch charge only there because the flights were so cheap? I'd love to hear from anyone who's recently used RyanAir and how much their card charge was. Still, roll on October!
Heh, was it ever here? Okay, it's not been that bad I guess, at least not as bad as last year. Our best week of sunshine was actually in January, when we went to Rome! However, it's probably not so bad as I'd have hated having to spend all of my time indoors working, when the sun was out, so I guess it's worked out okay. I just wish the sun would come back for the weekends (if only we could control it that easily!).
Business is still very busy, however I'm finally getting a little more organised on projects and have got a bit of breathing space which is definitely needed. At the moment I need to leave the house to get away from everything, which isn't really a good position to be in! However, this past weekend was a long weekend here in the UK with yesterday being a bank holiday, so we took the opportunity to go away and visit various friends, all of which have just had new babies. The weather wasn't too bad and it didn't rain until we were heading home.
The garden's been going pretty well this year considering the weather. We've had a few tomatoes already, with more ready for picking. I've got a lot of lettuce on the go, plus a few courgettes ready for picking with more to come. The chilli plants are all doing well too, so that'll keep Dave happy! I've also acquired an aubergine plant and a pot with some fine bean plants in. Not sure if I'll get anything out of either of these but it's worth trying! Everything I've got growing is in pots still, besides one chilli plant, which I found a space for and put it in. I'm yearning for my own garden to be digging up and expanding all the plants into, but I'm not prepared to put the time in at the place we're at, which we want to move away from when we can. We've got a few ideas for a potential house buying option so we need to look into these when we've got the time.
My back, which I wrote about last month, has been fine now. After trying everything I could think of (for free, chiropracters are a little out of my price range!) I realised that I'd been sitting awkwardly when at the computer and when downstairs, watching TV. Clearly after months of putting my feet up to the left of me had taken their toll and the pain in my back exploded. Once I stopped doing this, about 48 hours later the pain had pretty much gone! I'm glad the pain has gone now but am frustrated that I caused it in the first place! I'm certainly more conscious of how I'm sitting now. Thankfully I can get back to playing on the Wii and using my Wii Fit now!
So, that's a bit of a round up. I'm off to cook dinner and play some tennis!
I'll be back to normal soon!nnOh and another $450 month last month