Year: 2010

A good reason to write a blog

Blog posts are a snapshot in time. Just as a photograph can tell you a lot about someone, so can a blog post, even when they talk about seemingly trivial things. Even memes, those things that seem to go around like a craze in primary school, can be meaningful.

I have been sorting through old drafts that were never published, and I found this one from October 2008:

Ten years ago I was:

  1. Working on the implementation of a new computer system to prepare for Y2K
  2. Sharing our new house with my sister’s family until theirs was ready to move into
  3. Wondering how long my mother’s new marriage would last (not long)
  4. Planting Australian natives in the garden
  5. Spending too much money

Five things on today’s to-do list:

  1. Give the cat his antibiotics (done)
  2. Call my Dad to see how my step-mother is doing (trying)
  3. Go and see my step-mother in hospital
  4. Meet an old friend for lunch (will do)
  5. Do some neglected housework (not done)

Five snacks I enjoy:

  1. My sister’s brownies
  2. Yoghurt
  3. A banana, or some grapes
  4. dry-roasted cashews
  5. Did I mention my sister’s brownies?

Five places I have lived (in no particular order):

  1. Beautiful leafy Hornsby in Sydney’s northern suburbs (for the last 20-odd years)
  2. Dubbo in Central Western New South Wales (where I grew up)
  3. A flat in Rockdale in Sydney’s south (while I was at uni)
  4. A semi-detached house in inner-city Stanmore (when I was finishing uni and starting work)
  5. Suva, Fiji (for about 6 months when I was 12)

Five jobs I have had:

  1. Salesgirl at Woolworths Variety when I was 14 or 15
  2. Sales assistant at Angus and Robertson book store in Dubbo between school and uni
  3. Bar attendant at a couple of southern Sydney pubs while I was at uni
  4. Clerk for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for a couple of years when I finished uni
  5. Computer programmer at the gas company

Five places I would like to visit:

  1. Ireland – Northern Ireland and the Republic
  2. The National Archives of Fiji
  3. Namibia (again)

None of this will have any significance for anyone outside of my family, I suspect. For my close family, however, it may mean a great deal. Not only does it say to anyone who is interested some details of my past and present life, but it has some bearing on other events that had great significance.

I suspect that I didn’t finish the post because of what was going on at the time. I did talk to my Dad about how my step-mother was doing, and I went to see her in hospital every day and sat with her while my sister, her daughter, raced home to get things done. We moved her home when the hospital could no longer do anything for her, and after a few days she passed away, in her own bed with her family around her. Only 11 days after I wrote this.

It still hurts that she was taken so soon. 60 is young, these days. Her father lived much, much longer.

I also remember meeting the old friend for lunch. He told me a trick to do with parking near the hospital before the afternoon peak hour.

It was a shock to read through this post after all this time. I thought I would share it with my family, and anyone else who is interested.

Adi, Christmas 2007


I don’t think this is the post time I’ve been moved to write about the weather. I suspect that many of our ancestors constantly had an eye on the weather, especially those on the land.

In the old days we had to just wait and hope. Then we could read a forecast in the daily or weekly newspaper. Now we can look at the radar images online.

This is what’s coming my way right now:

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Radar image

I’m in Hornsby, a small dot in the centre. The storm is coming from the south-west to the north-east – right towards me.

It’s coming, and it’s getting loud!

Adventures with customer service

I have had two encounters with customer service departments this week as a result of online shopping experiences. Both had happy endings against my expectations.

Mobile phone company

The first was with my mobile phone company, Vodafone. My mobile phone, a Nokia E65, is over 3 years old, which doesn’t sound old by normal standards. A lot has changed with mobile phones since then, and I decided that since it was my birthday I would upgrade to a smartphone. My E65 was able to connect to the internet but with the small screen and the need to scroll the mouse up and down and across internet access was slow and tedious and I tended not to use it.

I shopped around and checked reviews and decided on a HTC Legend. My current mobile phone company has this phone, and for that and other reasons I decided to stay with them. I had a play with it in the store and made my decision. I would replace my $20 per month sim-only plan with a $29 per month contract and pay an extra $10 per month for the phone of my choice – $39 per month. This was equivalent to me buying the phone outright somewhere else and staying on my $20 plan, with the added convenience of spreading the payment for the phone over 24 months.

I ordered it online. Part of the process was to tell them my existing phone number so I could transfer my number across to the new plan. By ordering online I could get a $100 credit and surely it would arrive in a reasonable time. I had ordered the Nokia online and had had to spend time on the phone with Customer Service to sort out the account, so I was prepared to have to do this, and decided it was worth the $100 credit I would receive.

After a week the phone hadn’t arrived so I phoned Vodafone. The nice man with the accent assured me that the phone had been picked up by the courier company and gave me the consignment number. When I asked about swapping my accounts to the new phone he assured me that all I had to do was move my sim card to the new phone. The courier company did not have the consignment number on record and said it would take another couple of days, so I was disappointed when I went out the next day, thinking I was safe, and there was a card saying my phone had been left with the post office.

No matter. I picked up the phone, swapped my sim card over, gave the old phone to my husband, and away I went. I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to use it and playing with Facebook and Twitter and searching for information. I reminded myself to check my account online to make sure I wasn’t paying for all this extra internet usage.

I did, and I was. I had racked up $55 worth of downloads in a couple of weeks. I was still on the old sim-only plan. I was furious. I rang Vodafone and spoke to a nice lady with an accent. She put me on hold, looked into it, and promised to ring me back after she’d spoken with her supervisor.

She did ring me back, the same afternoon. She hadn’t been able to find a $39 plan so had put me on a $49 plan. I exploded. She asked me to allow her to finish. She had put a recurring $10 credit on my account, and had refunded the $55 extra charges. So I now get more free calls and a much higher data limit for the life of the contract.

I’m happy! I just wanted to be put on the contract I’d signed up for. I didn’t expect anything extra. Because Vodafone went to the next level to keep me happy, they have made me a satisfied and loyal customer. At least for the 24 months of the contract.

Printing services

The second experience was with a printing service. A company called ?Vistaprint has been marketing very aggressively lately. They were offering 140 free address labels that you could design on their website, with only postage to pay. I played around on the website and ordered some labels for my business, Heritage Genealogy, with the picture that I use on my website to appear on the labels.

They arrived, and I was happy with them. There was a mistake on the website but that was my fault, not theirs. I rarely forget to put the .au on the end of the website address, but this time I did. No matter, I thought, I can write it in.

I have received, since then, numerous emails offering bargains, and on one of them they were again offering free labels. Since they were free I figured I could correct my mistake and improve the picture, which I did. Once you have completed the configuring of the labels they offer other products and show you pictures of them with your picture and address inserted. There were pads and post-it notes at very low prices, so I ordered one of each. My order came to about $10, plus postage.

When I was checking out, the website offered me an additional pad and  post-it notes with free postage. Since the amount of the postage came to about the same total as adding these items I agreed, thinking I was getting free postage for ordering more items. When I realised that it just meant no further postage would be charged I tried to go back but the order had been placed.

I was furious. I am reasonably savvy when it comes to computers and websites, and I felt I had been tricked into ordering more at the last minute with no opportunity to change my mind.

I think that if this had happened a few years ago I would have chalked it up to experience and left it at that. It was only about $15 more. No. I found the Contact Us page and told them what I thought of their website and their marketing practises.

That was a few days ago. This morning I received an email to say that they had given me a refund on the extra items I’d ordered and an apology for any inconvenience. The extra items have not been cancelled and so they are sending them with their compliments. I have already received notification from PayPal that the refund has been received.

So I’m less furious than I was, and happy that I will be getting what I thought I was ordering in the first place. I still think their website is misleading and I imagine most people who get tricked this way just let it go. I will probably use them again and be more wary, although I now have enough labels, post-its and pads to last me a good long while.

Lessons learned

  1. Times are getting tougher for businesses, mine as well as the bigger ones.  Repeat business is important, and for customers to keep coming back they need to be happy and think well of your business. It pays to give a little something to keep them onside.
  2. Don’t be afraid to complain when something isn’t right, even if it’s only $15 worth. If they are a business worth sticking with they will fix your problem and go out of their way to offer you more than you expected. They don’t know about problems unless we customers tell them.

Free images courtesy of Ekaterina Gorelova on Dreamstime