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Amazon

Most of us have an Amazon account. If not for ebooks, then for general online shopping. The wish lists accommodate other web sites, for £80 a year you get free next day delivery on a large number of items, and media streaming thrown in. On the surface, shopping with Amazon appears to be a no brainer.

We’re all aware that they use loopholes to avoid paying tax, that’s not what this is about. It’s other little things that on closer inspection, make you question things. Whether or not keeping an Amazon account is worth it?

Recently Amazon faced criticism for stopping competitive streaming devices like the Chromecast and AppleTV. On paper Amazon’s Fire TV stick beats the Chromecast hands down, but once again, reality doesn’t quite gel with what’s on paper.
The Chromecast offers much more variety. It’s also much easier to set up. What I can’t get past is that Amazon Prime doesn’t work on the Chromecast. Initially I thought it was unlike Google to be so uncharacteristically childish, not approving Amazon so they could push the Play Store. After all, Google gave us Earth, Street View and so much more. For a high profile company they’re altruistic not childish.  Then logic kicked in and you realise almost everything works on it, Google make the developers kit available to everybody for free! The only reason why Amazon Prime wouldn’t work on the Chromecast is if Amazon never bothered to… ah. Could it be that they wanted Prime to only work natively with their newly released Fire TV? Surely not.

Amazon recently switched their courier, from the very favourable DPD to Amazon Logistics.
DPD have delivered here for a few years. Amazon Logistics, a few months.
DPD email me to say they’re in possession of a package. This is in addition to Amazon’s email saying something’s been dispatched which now includes a tracking number that only works after logging in to Amazon.
DPD email me saying they’re delivering that day, delivery should be expected between very precise times like 12:37 and 13:37, the driver’s name and a link to track the van the package is on using GPS. Amazon Logistics are happy with the email Amazon sent earlier to track your parcel, but after logging in you find the details are limited to ‘on the van’.
If DPD cannot deliver, they photograph your front door to show they’ve actually been there, and email you while the driver walks back to the van. Amazon sends you an email saying ‘We tried but failed to deliver your package today’ without even a card through the letterbox!
What annoys me is that there has been no knock on the front door. I have CCTV footage of Parcelforce passing the door and knocking on the front window because there’s been a light on [their delivery driver said he wastes far less time returning to properties after knocking on a window instead of a door – clever guy].
Amazon also has my mobile number for SMS updates about deliveries. No text message has been received. Nothing saying anything is to be delivered today, nothing from their driver saying he’s approaching or at the door, no calls, nothing.
This isn’t the first time Amazon Logistics have claimed to have knocked. With such little communication, and no evidence at all to say they’ve bothered at all, it’s difficult to say whether they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t care, or the driver finished his shift before finishing his deliveries.

I really hope Amazon Logistics is nothing more than a trial. If not, they need to get their act together or leave it to a company that knows what they’re doing.

But to anyone who delivers anything at all, and I cannot stress this enough, don’t try to blag. Following an RTC, I’m unable to go anywhere without assistance. I need help to get out of the street. Our son gets excited following a favourable school report / parents evening because he’s always rewarded with a little something; to us it’s just a Hexbug Nano but to him it means so much more. We even take in things for neighbours because they know there’ll be someone in.

If you’re going to claim you’ve been to the a house and had no reply, make sure the package isn’t valuable to its recipient, make sure you have no phone numbers, make sure the customer isn’t disabled, and above all, make sure you’re not delivering something to a hyperactive child who’s on tenterhooks about a knock at the door!

Police Station

Lost balance.
Crutch went out to regain balance.
Crutch hit son’s Lego Police Station at full force.
20 minutes trying to work out which piece belongs to the Police Station and which bricks are standard (non kit) Lego, where they go and if it will all fit afterwards.
All this so an eight year old won’t come downstairs in the morning, see his work in pieces and have a bad day at school.

In hindsight I should’ve told him the Lego criminals broke out and blew the place up.
That would’ve been much cooler!

In App Purchases

In app purchases

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of in app purchases (IAPs).  People have had issues with them not transferring to new phones, upgrades, replacements, and secondary (usually work) phones.  I much prefer to buy a separate unlock key/app.  This way you know it’s tied in to your Google account and not something like your IMEI (the handsets serial number) which will almost certainly change over time.

I saw something last night which both shocked and appalled me.  A game by Disney with a medium rating showed IAPs ranging from £3.08 to £61.63!  That’s around US$98!  This is something that my seven year old son would positively love to play but if I told him it would cost him over £60 to buy part of the game, and unless he paid it he wouldn’t be able to play that part or buy something he’d need, even he would say it didn’t matter.

Only recently, Amazon was sued by the USA’s regulators over child IAPs.  The European Commission and the EU regulatory body asked Google to stop calling apps containing IAPs free by the end of September.  Apple say they promise to tackle it, but offered no date by which they must do this.

After looking at Google Play and Apple itunes it’s interesting that while the Play store charges £61, Apple’s iTunes charges nearly £70! (US$111.10)

We all know that Disney has faced hard times.  Their reputation diminished hugely, which possibly influenced them to buy Pixar.  They simply haven’t kept up with modern times.  Their merchandising may have no shame, but this is disgraceful.  It’s disgusting and looks thoroughly extortionate.

At £60 to £70 this is the most expensive IAP I’ve ever seen.  Considering Disney is associated with young children I can’t see how they could possibly think their demographic could afford to pay it.

Exploding Hand Boiler

In good time for Christmas we bought our son a Hand Boiler from Hawkin’s Bazaar.  It’s the sort of geeky thing a seven year old finds fascinating.  For £4 it seemed like a bargain, and until today it was.

Thankfully nobody was near it when it exploded, showering glass shards all over the room.  We don’t really want to think of what could have happened.  Naturally, all the pieces were swept up.  The room was vacuumed and the shards put in the bin, but not before we took photos.  We know that Hawkin’s isn’t the only source for these curiosities, they’re available at Amazon and no doubt numerous other places, but we’ll be writing to Hawkin’s Bazaar asking them to stop selling them.

If you have a hand boiler please be careful.  We certainly wouldn’t let our son near another one.

Children's Hand Boiler bought from www.hawkin.com/hand-boiler

Children’s Hand Boiler bought from www.hawkin.com/hand-boiler

Memory

When I was young there was always one man, a friend of my Dad’s, who knew more fascinating (sometimes almost completely useless) facts than anyone I’d met, certainly at that young age. You could pick any subject and he could tell you something obscure about it. I remember checking up a few when I grew older, partly because I was sceptical that such fascinating ‘facts’ were true, and partly because if I was going to pass on this information to others I wanted to be able to tell them a little more about it (I never once found anything he said to be false or even exaggerated).

Today, I was able to educate my son with a true rarity – a fact I’d remembered from QI (a staggering achievement considering my medication). More often than not I’ll watch the half hour programme (or 45 minute QI XL) and be unable to remember a half dozen facts from it. A phenomenon Billy Connolly once mentioned in one of his gigs – the ability to leave a two hour gig and be unable to repeat anything from it.

My son stood, aghast in shock of what he’d learned, replying only “reeeeeeeeeeeeeallllllllllllly?”, as kids do. He held a look of surprise before the almost inevitable “I’m so going to tell [school friend’s name] tomorrow!”

From now on I’m getting armed up. I’m going to scour @qikipedia@scienceporn and @learnsomething daily for something to pass on. I want to be able to say that ‘x’ is a fact and that ‘y’ is an urban myth. I want klaxons going off each time someone says something as fact from QI’s General Ignorance,  but even I know that’s taking it too far.

I want to become that man I admired so much, and I’m thoroughly ashamed to say I can’t recall his name.