Australian Consumer Law

If, like me, you tend to glaze over when a shop assistant asks whether you want to buy an extended warranty with your speakers, laptop, tablet etc then maybe it’s time we researched Australian Consumer Law. You can never be quite sure whether you actually need an extended warranty and what that would even cover. Disconcertingly, a recent study showed that staff at major electronic retailers ignored or were downright ignorant of their responsibilities in Australian consumer law. That’s why it helps to know your rights as a consumer and to be wary  of warranty advice they are given in stores such as Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi included in the study. It helps to know things like you cannot be charged by a retailer for fixing a product that is not of acceptable quality or that if there is a major flaw in the product you can request a refund or replacement. Lifehacker has some nifty resources including a guide to the new laws that came into play in 2011

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Telehealth Benefits

In the modern age receiving health care and monitoring is even more accessible than the beginning of Royal Flying Doctors in 1928. As internet access gets cheaper and more readily available more medical software programs are being utilised and tested.  Telehealth and telecare technology “supports people to live independently, take control and be responsible for their own health and care” (UK Government System Demonstrator Programme – Headline Findings December 2011). The technology can assist doctors in monitoring everything from blood sugar levels to heart rate, remotely and wirelessly. The aforementioned study lists such benefits as reducing financial pressures for the chronically ill, reducing emergency room visits and admissions and even reducing the length of hospital visits. This technology can also help remote patients in rural areas too far remote to visit doctors. Technology and healthcare have always worked hand in hand and as time wears on the benefits (and life expectancy) can only increase.


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Refurbished Apple Products

If you are not one of those people that have to always acquire the latest cutting edge Apple technology and would like to save money on their often updated devices, then maybe buying a refurbished model is for you. All the products are covered by Apple’s one-year limited warranty and purchasing them this way could save you 10 – 20 percent off the original price.


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Image Manipulation Detection Software

We are all well aware of the fact that images in media, particularly advertising and magazines have been retouched in Photoshop at some point. These digital manipulations can include anything as slight as adjusting the brightness of an image or as drastic as shedding a few dress sizes and removing blemishes and wrinkles on models. One research team trying to combat all the ethical and self-esteem issues arising from such alteration is Image Science Group at Dartmouth College. In 2010 Dr Hany Farid and his team developed software that rated on a scale of 1-5 the level of adjustment done to an image. This innovative software is also designed to help determine the credibility of evidence submitted during court cases of digital images or video.

Whilst Photoshop is great for enhancing images not just changing the subject entirely, this software focuses on truth and transparency in images that make up part of our world every day, not about detracting from art.


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Rainy Days

If you’ve ever lived on the land in a drought you’ll probably never hate rain. When you see scrawny life stock and that your back lawn is just dirt and burrs it has an effect on your long term memory. A visit to a country town would not be the same with a bunch of locals talking about the weather and how much rain they did or didn’t get. Living in on old farmhouses bring back the memories of how rain truly smells and there was nothing better than hearing rain on the old tin roof. Sometimes my family would literally be jumping for joy in the rain as it quite exciting and brought on a positive outlook, as long as it didn’t turn into flood!

The last couple of days has tested my fellow city folk as it has been fairly inclement weather. I missed a rare picnic in the park which was cancelled and watching my housemates play footy wasn’t as appealing on a wet night/afternoon. However I still enjoyed the weekend indoors and outdoors. I was swimming laps when a storm hit yesterday and it actually made me stay in the water longer and I reckon I swam faster. Just a bit of a pain getting home as the rain set in. I enjoyed an afternoon with a mate at a local hotel and enjoyed looking outside as the rain kept coming down. I also got to enjoy some “me time” in my unit safe from the tempest outside and it was quite comforting.

Funny went to work today expecting more of the same weather in fact worse but it hasn’t really eventuated. Somehow I think a lot of workers out there expected the worst and extended their weekend. My work colleague and I noticed it was quiet on the street and on the transport system. Guess well the only point I really wanted to make in this blog is that if you think negatively about the weather you’ll probably have a bad day. There is always a positive side when considering rainy days. I guess if we had 100 days of rain that may change my attitude.

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Customer Service – My Pub Observations

A friend of mine recently came back from a holiday in the US and spoke about customer service. On pretty much every aspect the Americans are leagues ahead of Australians in the area of customer service. Obviously they rely on tips but still there shouldn’t be that much difference. I thought I’d write about some of my recent service experiences especially pubs.

I am a country boy by heart and there is even great divide between basic bar service in the bush compared to the inner city of Sydney. Jobs are hard to come by in the bush and a town rely a lot on reputation and gossip on determining where one drinks. I’ve found country bar staff more polite, attentive and great to have a yarn with. In my town of approximately 15000 people there are at least 10 drinking establishments making it competitive and good customer service is critical.

I’ve also found that pubs out in the suburbs are far more similar to those I’ve experienced in the country. They cater a lot for tradespeople and other blue collar workers. Basically regular drinkers will not cop bad service and they’ll get found out real quick. In the inner city it is still competitive but somehow the service is not so consistently good and unfortunately many below even minimum standards. My pet hates are that bar staff who are having a conversation whilst you are waiting to be served. After hearing what they are getting up to post shift they begrudgingly ask, “you right?”

The inner city has seen the emergence of many innovative pubs who have come up with affordable comfort food like tacos, American style burgers and hot dogs. A lot of these joints attract the 20+ and 30+ inner city trendy crowds. Some great ideas and great food being brought down by young stuff strutting around entertaining each other behind the bar. I sense they only want to serve the good looking young people and taking my money is almost an inconvenience for them. Just recently the same bar staff member annoyed my mate, his wife and myself on 3 separate service matters. Basically this young lady should not work with the public and she ended copping a spray from the 3 of us. She argued back and suspect we’ll never ever go back there. It’s a shame but that’s all it takes, 1 bad memory.

Customer service is around us every day in all forms of our daily lives. I am very confident that the service desk that I work with provide high quality service. I can only judge them from my daily communication and feedback from our customers. Anyway it would great to hear your feedback about customer service in this city or observations from overseas.

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Escape From Parking Lot Yellow Lower Ground Level

My daily blog is a great opportunity to share experiences from living in this city. A work colleague of mine shared her distressing experience.

When you think parking lots at major shopping centres you think stress. As a child I remember my parents would suddenly turn into bickering hillbillies when they couldn’t find a park at the big Chatswood mall. Then you deal with those shoppers who could not park a shopping trolley and certainly not a car. Well my colleague’s problem was that she couldn’t exit her local Eastern Suburbs parking lot and ended up spending what seemed to be an eternity trying to escape.

No problem finding a park and my friend was off to buy some yummy pastries for her grandchildren. As she smelt freshly cooked sourdough and Danishes she believes at this point her parking docket may have blown out of her purse. These things happen! Another couple of errands completed and she was ready to be on her merry way. However once she got to the boom gate she could not produce that docket. At this point the charmless parking attendant advised that she wouldn’t be able to leave the lot and really didn’t care of her circumstances. Maybe they select frustrated customs rejects to do this role. Time ticked away, all steps had been retraced but no sign of the docket. At this point the checkpoint offered 2 alternatives either pay $60 or be taken away in a parking paddy wagon and be incarcerated in the parking dungeon, well that’s how it felt.

My friend came up with an ingenious plan and even sort legal advice. She wasn’t going to surrender to these parking Nazis, it was the principle. She called her son who came quickly to the rescue drawing a ticket and then reversing without going into the lot. Well the docket came up as invalid as it needed to go over a certain point to register. More conversations with big brother parking people and they warned that she had been monitored by the video footage. No sympathy or the old Aussie adage, give me a break. Maybe this mob should run our borders and detention centres! Or had they already been through that process?

My friend’s legal adviser for such affairs advised that a manager or equivalent must come down and face the offender. This did not happen, after much time and frustration lapsed- they finally allowed my colleague to leave the parking lot without payment. For the rest of the day she had the jitters and needed a strong scotch that evening. She in effect won her battle but lost 2 hours she’ll never get back. Lawsuit is pending!

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Comfort zone

Last night I was given a compliment by my young English flatmate that in retrospect I’m really chuffed with. Basically she said that prior to coming to Australia that she would not have tried some of the food and meals that I have prepared. We share cooking duties in a house of 4 and now she is trying to tackle new meals herself. I still haven’t got her to try fresh seafood but hey I am still working on it. I have met so many girls from the UK who have this same dislike or phobia for fish. Why is it so? They are missing out on so much especially in this city.

I guess people are unwilling to change habits on a lot of things. I call businesses every day discussing their IT and many are contempt with their current arrangements. That is fair enough for many reasons mainly they might have no driver to change. Even in cases where people are thinking change due to performance/cost they are still concerned about the process and consequences involved. In my job the reward I get is when a business takes the opportunity to find out more and even better when they take us on. I’ve found the majority have got something positive from speaking more in depth with my company.

In summary I just wanted to reflect on the value of giving new things a chance. We are all conservative about something or a lot of things but most people want to try new things at some stage. Let’s all try a new food, experience or anything from the norm.
My flatmate is getting kangaroo served to her tonight! With a chicken as a get out clause!

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Rat race

Some days I reflect how lucky I am to live in this city of Sydney and work for this great company. I walk to and from work every day as I have no viable public transport option. I enjoy walking and I guess it is a good excuse for not going to the gym that I pay membership to. In recent weeks our Sydney Mayor opened the new Prince Alfred Park pool and kindly announced it will be free for the first 6 months. Might be fair enough as it was several months overdue and as long as I don’t pay for that in my rates.

So lunch time I can speed walk through the tunnel under Central, swim 20 laps of this fantastic pool and get back to my desk all under 1 hour. I sometimes walk home through the long tunnel which is always bustling with students, workers, weirdos, cheap haircuts and buskers!

On today’s lunch time walk a spruiker was spruiking 20 different styles of onesies in the shop near the exit. What is it with the onesie phenomenon? I then was accosted by a group trying to sell the left wing newspaper the red something. Then came the buskers. The older couple who really enjoy their jazzy numbers and take their busking fairly seriously. Then a girl who really could play violin (she was on debut from my account), a mean looking street rapper who had his own sampler cd’s and then this young lad whose guitar always sounds off tuned. I always catch him singing Chasing Cars and at least he thinks he sings it well. It’s like Australia You’ve Got Talent every day and really there is some fantastic street performers, regulars and guest performances. So as I swerve through the commuters like a horse coming from behind in the Melbourne Cup I get to judge a number of acts on a daily basis. It certainly entertains 1 rat in the daily rat race!

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Mysterious Patterns in Gobi Desert

In 2011 there was a lot of speculation over some painted patterns in the Gobi Desert discovered on Google Map images. Some put forward that they were aligned with alluvial flows, designed that way for experiments. Others theorised that the tracks related to mining, as there is a large excavated rectangle half a mile to the left. Still others thought that the lines were designed as landscape guidance for missile trajectory. Some even postulated that the Chinese were trying to communicate with extra-terrestrial entities. The most put forward theory was that the lines were used for satellite calibration, which was half right. In the end it was discovered that the grids were almost certainly used to calibrate Chinese spy satellites. Apparently China were already known to operate spy satellites and in fact so do many other countries including the USA. This gives a whole new meaning to the ‘Brother’s Little Keeper’ episode of The Simpsons where Major League Baseball have their own spy satellite.

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