Tragic marketing

A Westpac ATM ate my card over the weekend, and told me that it was expired. Since I know it was due to expire in February 2011 I was not impressed.
Anyway I marched on down to the branch (luckily they are open until 12:30 on a Saturday to give them an earful. But no, they told me that as my card was  a handycard, and they had issued me with a whiz bang (but not wanted)debit card this was normal, and it was my fault for using it when it had expired.
One of them kindly explained that it would have expired about 10 days after the first issuing of debit card. NO, cause said debit card was received last Feb, about 2 weeks after the new handycard arrived. Oh, well 10 days after I used, also a negative as it was first used about 45 days ago in NZ.  Turns out that Westpac  had decided that 1 Jan was the end date of all handycards (i am not the only one!) and unilaterally expired them.  WITHOUT telling branch staff, or those pesky customers.  (insert naughty word of choice)

Now the thing is, the new cards are more secure, and with the recent card skimming issues,I should be happy.  But I am not, thanks to the incompetent people in Westpac marketing.

They sent the new debit card (which I can still use like a handycard + pretendy credit card) about 2 weeks after I had been issued with a new handycard. Unsolicited debit card.  My first reaction was that someone had tried to request it for me, so not a win on the security front.  Next thought, after a totally unreassuring call to the bank, was that it was illegal.  ASIC agrees with me, and stared prosecuting them, about a month ago, Westpac won.

Firstly, was it really that hard to go through the files of who was receiving a new card soon, and just issue the debit card as the replacement?  At least part of my problem was that it was issued two weeks after my other card. (which arrived with about a month to spare before my original card expired).  I have done that kind of mailout.  It isn’t hard to talk to IT and create the right reports, that identify the right situations.  So total failure of forethought.

Secondly, if the letter had given me a good reason to use the card, I may have more accepting.  As it was it told me how wonderful it was that I know have a debit Mastercard.  Hm, I already have a real mastercard, with Westpac.  And, since there is usually more money on that than in my account, I do appreciate its benefits.  Kind of pointless having two.

If they had told me upfront that this card is more secure- hey probably things would be fine.  but they didn’t.  The one real, positive element I would appreciate, they didn’t bother to tell me.  Sooo  don’t know if it is really.  Failure of actual marketing skills.

We won’t get into the bit where the PIN was different (so it isn’t *just* like my old card then), and the fact that I now need to hit cheque rather than savings when using an ATM or EFTPOS.  (that is actually really starting to annoy me too, as I keep forgetting).

Then we get to the point that the old cards were unilaterally cancelled on New Year.  SO, if I had gone out, and just taken my usual card and some id to go out (as I have done in the past) I would have been in a bit of a pickle at the end of the night.  How hard is it to send a letter, or an email to people.  It isn’t like they don’t have the information. But no, the ATM just ate my card. stupid

This isn’t the first time they have done the whole significant change with no warning thing to me.  but it is going to be the last.  Goodbye Westpac.

The reading list

I haven’t stopped reading, but I have slipped a little in the tracking of the books I read. This being a new year, its time for a new book diary. Generally, these are old desk calendar/diary types – usually for a previous year (they are cheap!) as I use the spaces to note books, but they don’t correlate with the date I finish the book. This year it is a Far side calendar from 2000. And I get to start it with some books I read over the holiday.
How to get things really flat by Andrew Martin.   This is a nonfiction book, about a man who does housework (sort of) and his arguments for why men should do more of the housework (to win points with their wives/girlfriends).  It was entertaining, not least because while he does housework, including  the ironing, some cleaning and the weekly shop, he isn’t exactly a perfectionist.  He has done his research, so I now know how to really iron a shirt(starch!), but on the whole advocates the reasonable approach to housework.  I like that approach much more than the pristine comepletely antiseptic approach.   He answers suc questions as Why wash up, and why vacuum along with much more esoteric queries on steam generator irons.  Very entertaining.

The Alaskan Royals series, by Mary Janice Davidson. The Royal Treatment, The Royal Pain, and The Royal Mess.    I read these electronically, on my whiz bang little PDA (no I don’t have a real ebook reader yet, because the makers of those haven’t yet really thought to extend their facilities to countries other than the US or UK. Yes I am bitter that I will pay more for the privilege of downloading books, because I have to go through Amazon’s preferred telecom provider and they charge international dialing rates. Sony has not yet deigned to extend their ebook to Australia and the less said about the Nook, the better.  I wish to point out to all of these entities that this type of stupidity and rigidity regarding geographical boundaries over electronic devices has given us the international piracy problem in music and movies and tv.  You would think that someone would have learned by now).

Anyway this series is fairly light and fluffy, but distracted me quite effectively for a few days.  I haven’t really been a devotee of her other books (Greg likes the vampire ones, hence the books presence in my PDA) .  These are essentially romance novels for the modern world- there is no garish pink cover or bodice ripper picture, but the story line is essentially girl meets boy, they have argumentative but chemistry laden interactions, they have energetic (and clandestine) sex, they get married.  The premise, that Alaska was not bought by the US in the 1860’s, but instead fought for its independence form the Russians, and has an eccentric and energetic royal family, is entertaining.  At least it means no Sarah Palin!

And that is all the books I finished over Christmas.  Pretty slim, but then I am still working through one of my books, and didn’t have much time for reading, despite the rain.

Happiness and thankfulness

According to new studies (and fairly self-evident) happiness is influenced by the people around you.  If you spend a lot of time with unhappy, complaining people, you too will become unhappy and complaining.  If you are surrounded by happy people, this too will leak in.  A positive attitude towards life can make a difference.  I do not believe that it is the ultimate cure all, but it can help.  SO in that vein of thought, I am trying to think of things that have made me happy/thankful this week.

Firstly, I am so happy that I live in the time and place I do.  I have freedom to follow my interests, to work in just about any career, and to choose my reproductive and sexual paths.  This is something that has not been available for everyone through history, and is still not available for many.  I don’t think we appreciate this freedom as much as we should.  We complain about the burdens it places, the endless choices and the cost of those freedoms, but at the end of the day, I would rather have those choices, even if they make me a little less happy and content with my life.

Yes, our society has problems, big and small.  We are not on an ecologically stable path, and not everyone receives the ame opportunities.  But compared with other civilisations and societies, we are still so lucky.    I may not pay attention to this freedom every day, I am too tired out by the work and the constant balancing of the schedule, but I do occasionally realise how much freedom I have compared to someone 100 years ago who did not have that choice, who could only stay home and be responsible for the cooking and the cleaning and the washing and who was not considered to be intelligent enough to vote, or own property in their own right or to open a bank account without help from a male relative.

So, thank you to all of those who fought and argued and worked to make this world a place where we do have those freedoms, and we do have those choices.

The postcard project

Back when I lived in Japan, I would amuse myself before going to work by sending random postcards to friends and family. In part this was driven by the amazing variety of postcards on offer at the local stationery store, changing with the seasons, and in part by the relative cheapness of postage.  Boredom probably played a part, as did the fun of receiving real mail.

I have collected postcards since I was little, and have amassed a rather large collection of cards from museums, tourist spots and random free postcard things.  Too many infact.  I have realised that I am never going to frame them and hang them on the walls, and they sit in boxes, taking up space. from this, the postcard project was born.

The first box of cards is being scanned.  These will be posted on my photo bucket account:

Send me your address and I will post a random postcard out to you.  Random is the operative word, I will post the one that takes my fancy at the moment.  I will include the name of the person I send it to on the notes for the card on photobucket.


It would be nice to receive postcards in return.

Books I have read recently – May

I had a cold the other day, so was home from work, and had the chance to do some light reading.

Miracle and other Christmas stories
by Connie Willis
I have owned this one for a while, and have dipped in and out- a selection of Christmas stories, most with happyish endings. Amusing, and she definitely prefers miracle on 34th street to It’s a wonderful life. Some good stories about the original Christmas story, and some thoughts on the meanings. Sometimes what you think you want is not what you want.

Remake by Connie Willis
More of a novella than a novel, but an interesting story on where movies are going (studios own the copyrights of old movie stars and endlessly remake movies using computerised images of those stars, rather than real people). Also a story about addiction and obsession and dreams. Interesting, I understand it better this reading than I did a few years ago.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones
Another favorite author- I have been dipping in and out of this book for a while, but this time I found the esrliest folded page and read to the end. Another in the Chrestomanci series, looking at the villages around the castle and the hidden magics there. She is always an enjoyable author, and this was a fun read. Another variation on the what you think you want is not what you want theme though.

The guilty pleasures section
I tend to read trashy romances when I am bored- it is my trashy reading habit- I don’t generally buy trashy gossip magazines, this is my variation. I usually don’t hold on to the books, but will read and move on. I have developed some pretty strong guidelines- certain authors are good, others are awful and certain types of stroies are not worth it.

More than a mistress by Mary Balogh
Regency era romance – and there are quite a few for this era. I have read this author before and she is not bad, although I occassionally feel like I am reading a variation on a classic- this time it was a very simplified Jane Eyre. A young woman interupts a duel, and as a consequence the hero is shot in the leg. She ends up as his nurse for three weeks while he recovers. At the same time there is a scandal soing the rounds of a young lady who has apparently killed a man and robbed his family. needless to say it is the same young lady. All is resolved in the end, but the use of the name Jane and the creation of a teasing relationship and the master and highly placed servant brings on Jane Eyre moments.

I didn’t read all of theese end to end on the one day, I was mostly finishing off books that had been started before. It is interesting how certain books can start a chain of related books though- because of the Miracle book, I went and found Remake.

Romance and accuracy

Of late I have been reading several regency romances by Stephanie Laurens- the Cynster series and the Bastion Club. While both of these series are enjoyable, and have a balance between the romance side and the mystery that drives the story, I am starting to have issues with the historical accuracy.
I like history, but I would not have called myself an expert on early nineteenth century Britain. Unfortunately, neither is the author. There a few areas where I doubt whether the details are accurate, and there are some where I know the details are inaccurate. For example, in one book, set in the early 1830s, the main characters pay a visit to Harrods. Thankfully it is not described in much detail, but it is still interesting that they manage to visit a store that will not open for another few decades.
Once these details are spotted, they start to niggle and the whole construct of the story is shaken by distrust of these details. Was horse racing really like that in the 1820’s? other sources indicate not. Was Vauxhall Gardens still a popular high society entertainment in the mid 1820’s- sadly probably not. A lot of the areas are ideas about the regency (references to Prinny), ideas about London (that have no idea of the geography) and ideas about England that are more myth than reality.
The books are still readable, I just don’t use them as any type of reference material.

what i am reading

While at the library I ran across the Andrew Morton biography of Tom Cruise, and decided to read it. While not a massive fan, but not a naysayer, I thought it would be interesting to read. It was not viewed with favour when I brought it home, and when my mom visited a few days later she was oddly fascinated. Mr Morton does a good job of busting a few of the myths of TC’s childhood, and showing his rapid rise to fame. I really hadn’t realised how young he was when he go his first breaks. He really didn’t have any time at all wen he was a starving actor.
The story gets a little boring when it starts to go into the various romances- primarily because he seems to conduct them in a very odd way.
The Scientology bits are odd, to say the least. They really went after him to join and have put a lot of effort into catering to his wishes.
Given the level of control that TC generally has, and the aggressive methods used it is very interesting to find a book that outlines so many details of his life. That said he does break a few of the more persistent myths down (TC is gay and the ‘tom wanted to be a monk’).
Not my usual reading material, but a nice break.