Category: Why Aren’t You Angry?

Across the world pictures showed the unrest in London recently and with it the commentary from the news organisations.  Much has been made of the actions of the groups of youngsters and most of what people will have seen will have been portrayed in an entirely negative light.  Many may think this is quite correct and that no matter what the causes such wanton vandalism and destruction of property should never be condoned.  Others including a great many on the left have stated, perhaps more understandably, that whilst they understand the concerns of the younger generation they do not feel that their actions will bring about any change.  The young could level the same accusation at those of us who took to the streets in our millions against the wars in the Middle East for it had less immediate impact than their actions last month.

I will not dwell on the riots themselves, much has been said by people who were closer to it and can give a better insight into what was really going on rather than the media whitewashing that took place.  I have been asked by many of my more moderate friends to actively condemn the riots but I have been unable to do so.  I would not condone actions that put other people in serious danger as with the isolated acts of arson but the damage to property that will already be insured is of little concern to me.  I would like to point out that to those of us with a solid middle-class education and surroundings it is very easy to presume that people should seek dialogue and collective and constructive action to make themselves heard.  Is it not us who are the naive thinking that if our voices are loud enough that we may be heard?  Government policy in recent years has not upheld that assumption.  The young in this instance have not concerned themselves seeking dialogue with those who would not even bother to understand the language were they even prepared to listen, they are not burdened by the self-importance of the educated presuming a right for their subjective rationality to be heard.

The government were quick to condemn those involved and equally quick to try to use it as a graphic illustration of the fall in moral standards amongst the youth.  The term “feral underclass” came into being, a crasser piece of media-posturing and complete lack of understanding of the world as it is one could not have found.  Should we be surprised that a group of public school boys who breezed through both school and university without ever a fear of failure, penury or unemployment should fail to understand the situation as it affects the vast majority of the population?  The truth is that since 1979 the pervading establishment line has been of individualism, commercialism, consumerism and capitalism such that the worth of a man or woman is solely judged by their material possessions or the money they have as the potential to have these material possessions were they to choose to do so.  Thatcherism did not stop when Thatcher left power, it became more insidious, more caught up with the very fabric of society.  What seemed deeply wrong in the excesses of the 1980s became normal, accepted, heralded.

Social responsibility has not decreased because of the younger generation, it has done so because of the very actions and policies of those who now complain about it the loudest.  If you create a society such as this and then marginalise vast swathes of it without hope, education, prospects or surroundings that they can take any pride in could one really expect the outcome to be anything other than what happened?  If you create a society based on a comparison of material possession it is inevitable that you will further entrench the divide between those that have and those that have not.  Where the fluidity between the two factions does not exist it is understandable that people will look at what the alternatives are, be they gang membership, drug dealing, theft, looting etc etc. as a criminologist at the University of Bedfordshire pointed out “if you don’t want these people to be in gangs then you have to ask where do you want them to be?”  The rioting is not something done with the express purpose of offending, it is something done by people to re-engage at least a little in what this society considers to be normal.  Why should any section of society owe an allegiance to a system that so clinically alienates them?  So often is the idiom ‘you have to earn respect’ trotted out that it is a wonder that none of the people who say it seem apply it to themselves.

David Cameron appears to have launched his crusade on fatherless families, who must, according to him, shoulder much of the blame for the decline in social cohesion which Cameron says the government intends to take action to deal with this.  However as yet the full details are unclear either as to what he means by this or what form exactly this action will take.  Indeed what Cameron and his cronies actually know about fatherless families other than what they read in the Daily Mail, that paragon of truth and justice, is decidedly open to question.  Perhaps the plan is to make it more difficult for families to split up?  Do they really think that locking people into loveless marriages will help either parents or their children?  Or is this a cynical exploitation of a situation to pedal arcane religious values that should have been rejected a great many years ago?  Already as the law stands unmarried fathers risk total lockout from their children if the mother wishes to exercise it, so why not seek to reform the rules in that area so as to protect the rights of children to maintain a relationship with fathers who have done nothing more than removing themselves from what is likely to have been a volatile relationship situation.

Maybe the great leaders resplendent with their Stepford wives and opulent lifestyles believe that not being married makes the fathers of the great unwashed more likely to just up and leave on a whim?  Have they bothered to research this?  I can state categorically that leaving my children behind with a woman I had grown to detest and fearing for their very well-being was not at all a decision I took lightly, or quickly.  I did so because I knew that to provide both me and my children a home and an environment with values that I believed in was the only thing I could do as a responsible parent to make the best of a situation that was already bad and getting ever worse with each passing day.  It has been a decision that has led to an iniquity of consequences that remain 9 years later.  Would being married have made me more likely to stay?  I would prefer to ask the question of given the circumstances would my staying have benefitted the children more than my leaving?  Is there any evidence that those who try to stay together for the children do any less harm to themselves or their offsprings?

The Conservatives have reacted to the riots the only way they know how, by appeasing those that have and those that own and removing anyone who gets in the way.  They have sought to exploit it for their own political purposes, as if this should be any surprise.  Imprisoning many participants with sentences that would make many violent criminals pale, or for that matter dishonest and/or corrupt MPs.  Statistics published by the Guardian appear to suggest that sentences for rioters are 25% longer than normal whilst most have been remanded in custody awaiting trials.  The imprisonment rate for these cases has been 70% as opposed to the usual 2% in Magistrates courts. This is clearly no coincidence, such action is not that of the odd hanging judge but the subject of political intervention. This in a climate where we have been told constantly that the prison numbers have stretched the system to the very limits of its capacity.  The implications of this are severe, firstly the cost to the taxpayer is immense, in a time where we are being told that public spending must be reigned in this seems like an unnecessary form of expenditure.  Secondly facilities whilst in prisons will not be available to many of the inmates and without the chances of rehabilitation it is well-documented that re-offending is far higher.  So who is this policy designed to protect?  Is the public in grave danger if those involved in the riots are left to go about their business on the streets?  Much of the justification for this has been that it should be a deterrent to others thinking of doing the same.  Here we are really getting to the heart of the matter.  Ministers have no problem making the taxpayer foot the bill for the cost of keeping property safe for doing so is their primary concern, they benefit directly from doing so.  However in perhaps the most despicable case of double standards the millionaires daughter who stole £5500 of goods and made off in her car was granted bail on the grounds she submit to a curfew in her parent’s large detached farmhouse with land near Orpington, Kent.

In order to ensure that the “feral underclass” get the message there are efforts to remove benefits from convicted rioters, as if the spell in prison and a criminal record deemed enough for murderers and rapists is somehow insufficient in this case.  It is difficult to see this action as anything other than petulance at best and more likely a sustained program of social engineering.  There is little point in having the argument about what prison is for with these people for it represents a brushing under the carpet, an abdication of moral responsibility and an act of retribution for the act of offence.  Rehabilitation is for the soft liberals, why bother paying money on people who have done wrong?  It is not worth having this argument because no matter how incorrect and short-sighted their position may be they are too blinkered, too stupid or just too damn bigoted to accept the truth that if you are going to pay money for convicted criminals then the investment yields greater return if targeted at rehabilitation, the trouble is that yield has no bottom line and no profit which is the only language that these people really understand, one condensed even more than the text speak of the people they despise.

So what is the alternative solution to the quandary?  Many might say that police manpower will have a bearing on the level of control that can be exacted, others have said that water cannon and rubber bullets should be used, as if the evidence of their use in Ulster has done anything at all to quell unrest, in fact quite the contrary respect for the police and army could not have sunk any lower during the draconian period of the British government in the 6 counties.  According to the police themselves in order to police better they need more officers and better resources than now and if they are to be compared in statistics and response to cities like New York then they should have the same level of subsidy.  The Tories are thus presented with a problem because their plans had not included such increases in spending and public spending reforms are in fact likely to expect the police to do more with less.  It would. however, surprise me little if the Tories were to divert funding from other areas in order to stem this supposed moral collapse (which sounds to me much more like right-wing rhetoric using an emotionally emotive event as the metaphorical sledgehammer to crack a hazelnut.)

Would increasing the police numbers really have made a difference?  It rather depends on a couple of factors, firstly what it is it that the increased numbers of officers are charged with doing.  If there as more of a response to events that have already broken out then I would dismiss this as posturing and neo-fascist enforcement of the move to a police state (see graphic novel V for Vendetta), if however it would be to increase community work and enfranchise the areas and the people therein where the trouble is so frequently breaking out then this idea may have some merit, but only if in conjunction with a host of other measures.  Where for example is the education reform?  Where the plans to get people to work in ways that they can do in conjunction with their benefits rather than instead of?  Where the apprenticeship schemes that enable trades to be learnt and both trainer and trainee to benefit?  Where the empowerment of the dispossessed, the housing of the homeless, the facilities for the teenagers to learn and enjoy themselves?  Where the preventative healthcare system saving people from long periods of pain and unproductivity?  These would be examples of worthwhile public spending, things that made not just a tangible difference to those in receipt of the money but to the wider society as a whole for is it really only the individual who benefits from a reintroduction to society?

Would that I had the ear of the policy makers and were able to make them see sense but I have no more prospect of this than those who took to the streets.  More likely is that the continuation of disaster capitalism is using this as a battering ram to push even more human rights abuses into the mainstream now that the war on terror has been quiet for a while.  The backlash will be severe as can already be seen and yet the morally-bankrupt rich who have for decades milked and manipulated the system will continue to be allowed to do so without censure.  Does that not make you want to take to the streets in your droves?

Song Of The Day ~ Labi Siffre – I Don’t Know What’s Happened To The Kids Today

The spending review has been digested a little more now and people have begun to pick over the minutiae, it is of course the first time in many years that we have had the opportunity to see what the 13 years in opposition has really done to Conservative thinking and policy and we now have the answer…. You’re already making up your own jokes aren’t you?!

Many have assessed and commented on components of the spending plan with a great deal more expertise than I can but I would like to look at the actual premise of the whole thing, but not before I have outlined where I fundamentally disagree with the current spending review as outlined.

Firstly there seems little doubt that the poorest 10% are the real scapegoats in this. The benefits system is to be ramped back massively on ideological grounds, this is not a ‘get people back to work’ plan this is a ‘cut the benefits off and they’ll find work somehow’ plan. Iain Duncan Smith has said as much with his getting on the bus comment. Ironically not one week after his ‘bus comment’ Leicestershire County Council put up notices advising that the local bus service to my village would no longer exist. Now I grant you the likely level of unemployment here is potentially lower than in urban areas but for 16 year olds it represents a significant problem. This policy is coupled with the slashing of housing benefit for those out of work long term. This policy has already caused dissension in the ranks of the Conservative party with Boris Johnson, now suddenly the standard bearer for London’s working classes, exclaiming that he will not allow social cleansing on his watch. Conservative sources (by which I include now any Liberals based on their acquiescence) have scoffed and said this will not happen but realistically how can there be any other outcome. Much of the cutting of the benefit system requires jobs to be available for people to fill. There are already an estimated 2.45 million people out of work which represents 7.7%, this will likely be well over 3 million once the public sector cuts are forced through. There is as yet no clear indication that any jobs will be created in the public sector merely an assumption. I remember coming out of school to a job market that had 1.6million unemployed in Summer 1990 rising to 2.5 million by the end of 1991. I was forced to spend many months on the dole, jobs where they existed were short-term and poorly paid with little progressive conditions and most relied on scratchings from manual labour jobs through agencies. You often didn’t know if you’d have a job the next day so you had to get the bus to the agency offices and hope. I couldn’t travel outside my immediate vicinity to look for jobs or go for interviews because I couldn’t afford it. Yes I worked probably a little more than half the time but I received no training, no qualifications, nothing that stood me in any stead for future employment and my savings were entirely exhausted. This in no small part contributed to my being unemployed a couple of years later when I returned from Germany, a country in which I had no problem finding work even in the deepest recession it had seen since the war. At the time I was unqualified but had A levels, in this country I was seen as over-qualified for some jobs and under-qualified for others, by which they meant I was either likely to leave this menial work when I found something better or that I had no work experience at all and they could afford with some many applicants not to take the risk with me. Each full-time job garnered hundreds of applications, I worked once in a factory sticking labels on boxes where I was the least educated of all the temporary staff and all we did was take boxes out of boxes, stick a new barcode over the old one and then put the boxes back into the bigger boxes. There was a chap there with a double first in his degree doing that, if I found it all soul-destroying how did he feel? How would he feel now if he had tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt accumulated getting that double first?

I am troubled that people should be standing by and watching as the least financially able and least enfranchised members of the population are being plunged into ever further ruin and debilitation, in fact I find this even more surprising than the fact that people stood by and let the government plough billions of £s into the errant banking sector with no sanction whatsoever. Did the whole country become so anaesthetised, or is it that so much of the “moral majority” now have bought into the concept of Thatcherism that unless it has a direct effect on them they aren’t interested? What people seem unable to grasp is that the disenfranchisement of such a large section of the population has a massive detrimental effect on a great many others, not those at the very top perhaps but then they are not the majority. Don’t get me wrong I’m not expecting to be able to put forward the solidarity for ones brothers and sisters argument! This is about real tangible problems particularly with regard to social exclusion and crime but with knock-on effects on the proliferation of services and rent prices in particular areas. This is not simply something that will happen to others.

In truth I could sit and nit-pick at all the minutiae in the actual spending review but realistically it is simply a classic piece of conservative thinking entrenched in the new phenomena of disaster capitalism. So you may ask if you don’t want to cut public spending how do you solve the problem of the deficit? Let us start by taking the uncontentious points, not merely the ones that no-one seems to be arguing over as that can often be a red herring but the points that appear, at least according to the sources we have at our disposal, to be factually accurate. The over-arching point in this regard is the central one, we as a country are in a lot of debt. This is nothing new of course most countries in the developed world are in debt, the USA is in massive debt and generally speaking the issue is the amount of debt and the confidence of people that you remain in your depth. Being in this level of debt mean that a great deal of government expenditure must be on repaying interest on this debt and this indeed is a waste of taxpayers money and better if reduced to as little as possible. So let us start from a benign presence that we are all in agreement that some of the debt has to go. Now we reach the large crossroads, how are we going to pay for it? The main political parties have spent most of the year vying to contend to be the party that would cut most off the public sector so whatever Labour’s bleating now might have us believe they would have done the same had they won the election, they said so, many times. What is not talked about anywhere in mainstream politics are the alternative methods of reducing the debt ie by raising revenue.

Naturally one would not expect the rich to wish to have to pay more money that’s why they’re rich but if you come at the problem with the ideology that those most able to pay should shoulder the greatest burden then this can be the only starting point. Closing tax loopholes would save the country a substantial amount of money, an estimated £1.6m from Gideon “We’re in this together” Osborne for starters. If the rich feel aggrieved by this then point out that the amount they will have to give to the taxman will be mitigated by the lack of huge fees to shit hot accountants so the only people with legitimate complaint are the accountants and this is a shame, for them, but if I had to choose between butchering the education sector and butchering the accounting sector I would naturally put my personal ideology to one side and look at what was best for the country and I think it would b a safe bet for education to win out every time.

Once one has closed the tax loopholes one must then gravitate to the next fairest form of levy which is income tax an this must be put up. This is always unpopular as people notice a hit every month in their pay packet so politicians frequently shirk from it, furthermore it tends to hit the rich the hardest and they employ lots of people to ensure that doesn’t happen so the rich people in government tend not to like to harm their own. Income tax though is one of the only methods one can be sure of a fair distribution because almost all the other forms of levy do not take into account someone’s ability to pay.

In addition to this I believe the Robin Hood Tax would also be a fair way of levying money, a small percentage on each transaction is a very very small step to making the banking sector redress some of the balance from the absolutely scandalous fiasco they have presided over that we have then paid for. The bankers are not cowed and contrite far from it, anyone who saw BBC’s Question Time last week will have witnessed an odious hedge fund manager telling a labour politician that the baking sector did not benefit from the situation it was the politicians who benefited and that they had made the mistake in misjudging the situation and to prove it had been voted out of office whilst he, the hedge fund manager, remained in place. After my initial dumbfoundedness at the sheer crassness of the comment I semi-consigned it to the bin because of its ridiculous revisionist interpretation of the facts however it is worth bearing in mind in the context of a banking sector that is still paying itself vast salaries, bonuses, pension contributions whilst at the same time sitting around Tories and “Liberals” nodding wisely when cuts are being talked about across the public sector.

The public sector does need reform. People need to rediscover their motivation and feel sufficiently part of things that they have a stake in it. There needs to be a redressing of the balance between those who work in the public sector and those who manage those who work in the public sector to put the emphasis back on the indians rather than the chiefs. This is the unique thing about the public sector with which the private sector cannot compete. Public servants work for all of us which includes they themselves and they therefore have a stake in what they are doing. Many in the private sector has argued, I believed fallaciously, that the public sector has an inevitable level of incompetence and waste. They cite absentee levels as one such example. What they fail to point out is that a great many people in the private sector don’t get paid when they are absent and long-term absence is likely to result in dismissal. The public sector absentee level is such because it is declared, people have the time off they require and then return to work, for anyone to believe that it would be better to roll the clock back and to force people back to work too early because they cannot afford to stay away strikes me as lunacy.

Song Of The Day ~ Solar Powered People – Awhile

There was a time when I thought online auctions fun, a little wheeler dealing and a way to find some of the more obscure things someone might want especially in the case of computer bits. There were some years ago quite a few auction sites to choose from ebay only operated out of the US and was generally used to buy small parts from the States because you could only list in dollars, however in the UK we had plenty to keep us going with ebase5, QXL, ebid, bidworld, freeserve auctions etc. If you were a regular you might get to know many of the other protagonists, I knew most of the people in the UK that were online and selling 2nd hand Apple Macintosh parts and they knew me, the site fora were active places between users and administrators and the experience was relaxed and most of all it was free.

QXL was the first to go on the offensive, founded in 1997 in the UK two years after ebay started in the US, lamentable customer support and a more profit-focused agenda selling shares and charging fees made QXL very much a no-go for personal sellers. Industry sources in 2008 cited ebay and the rise of online fraud as being to blame for QXL’s demise but you could see it coming far earlier than that. Which is not to say that it probably didn’t make somebody some money in the interim but as such was never going to be able to compete with ebay.

I first used ebay whilst it was still and sold an item, I don’t recall what it was but it was as most of the things fairly worthless at the time and made no more than a couple of quid, I had listed it on a free listing day that ebay had advertised which gave me the impression that free meant free. I wasn’t used to being charged a secondary fee to sell so when I got a bill for about $1 I ignored it. Ebay did not and I got an unfriendly reminder to which I responded and explained that I was new to this whole thing and hadn’t realised about the final value fees and that in order to send an amount of $1 through the banking system would cost me substantially more than it was worth. I never received a response just a number of threatening reminders. I ditched my account and created another and for a long time afterwards used it only for buying. Ebay’s system would every so often catch up with me through my address or telephone number and pursue me for the $1, usually resulting in them suspending the account, each time I would pack up and move on.

Ebay is now a corporate giant, and it acts like it, for many years it has steadily implemented policies that have denigrated the whole experience. They have vastly increased their own profits due to the changing in listing and final value fees, they have made it far less cost effective for personal sellers to list cheap second hand items whilst business listings take up so much space in many categories it puts a number of people off. It used to be a given that you came on ebay to pick up a bargain, something you might want but not wish or need to have brand new and therefore not have to pay top dollar for. Likewise for sellers it used to provide an environment where you could quickly shift things you no longer had a use for, you wouldn’t make a fortune but if you took the time to list well you’d make it worth your while. I knew people in fact who gave up their day jobs and made a comfortable living using their expertise to root around and buy things either underpriced, or broken or sold in job lots and make them properly marketable before selling them on for a modest profit. Ebay even survived the bubble bursting, principally because it didn’t actually do anything it merely provided a forum for others to do stuff and provided others were still doing ebay was still creaming it’s bit off the top.

But although one might say ebay had a right to cream a transaction fee for the use of their site, there were flaws in the processes and they were at times system-wide and international and they could be and were often exploited wholesale. I sold a camera some years ago. It was a Minolta of which I was very fond, but that isn’t important, the guy I sold it to had contacted me whilst the auction was still ongoing and asked if he could bid from the US and send it to his cousin. I said provided he paid in advance and understood I could only post ‘international signed for’ then this was fine. I am aware there may be many now aware of the stories who are seeing the direction in which this one is going but I remind you this was some years ago, much of the online community still functioned on goodwill. He bought the item, paid in timely fashion, and asked that the camera be sent to the Ukraine. I stressed again that I would send the item signed for but that this method of postage made no guarantee of arrival, he agreed to the conditions and I duly dispatched the camera, he even left me positive feedback and I reciprocated.

One might have thought the matter was then concluded, and for 30 days so it appeared, until I received a notification from Paypal to tell me that the buyer had notified them that fraudulent transactions had been made on his credit card and Paypal had the authority to investigate and if they found evidence of this to issue a chargeback which meant refunding the buyer’s money. I was not worried by this, I know credit card transactions are subject to insurance for this sort of thing so I responded to Paypal’s investigation with what I knew and expected the matter to go away. Some two weeks later I was informed that the chargeback had been agreed and I was therefore liable for the £250 originally paid for the camera. I asked Paypal what sort of an investigation this was where I should lose my camera and the money when there was not as far as I was aware any implication that I was involved in the fraud. Their only response was that I had sent the item to a non-confirmed address and was therefore not covered by any Paypal seller’s or buyer’s protection. I replied to them that at no stage had I been informed that this was a stipulation and that having looked at the terms and conditions it had taken me the best part of two hours to locate the relevant section, and that perhaps they might like to issue this caveat before such time as a seller ships since they are aware of whether or not the address is confirmed at the time of purchase. At this point they shut down communications entirely and said they were merely the financial agent and declared that therefore this was none of their doing.

I decided to investigate a little and found, quite easily, that a number of people had been ripped off in the same way by the same person, not only that but that one of them had been conned after the point at which my transaction had been registered as fraudulent. This was the final nail in the coffin for any definition of the buyer’s case being authentic as I would have thought on his part the first course of action in such instance is to shut down the credit card and ebay account as it has clearly been compromised. This was not done, either by the buyer himself or by Paypal informing the financial authorities. Furthermore for Paypal to allow a subsequent transaction to go through after they have been notified of fraud smacked at best of negligence and at worst of direct complicity.

I decided not to let the matter rest and reported it to Trading Standards and my local Police. Trading Standards were friendly to the plight but said that as the actual fraud hadn’t taken place in this country there was a grey area for such things and they were currently investigating what could be done in such situations. The police said they’d log it, I never heard from them again. Paypal chased me for a while for the £250 and even threatened to send me a summons to court, at this point I responded and said I would be delighted to discuss the matter in court and looked forward to them furnishing me with a date. Surprisingly enough I heard neither from Paypal nor their solicitors again. I wondered at the time what someone in the same situation would have done had they been less bolshy or less fiscally challenged than I am? I think I already know the answer to that question.

This was not the only problem I had with online auctions and the like but it was by far the worst and concerned a potential loss of the greatest amount of money from my side. It was also the most blatant and easily verifiable episode of financial fraud that I had come across. What struck me was how little anyone appeared to be doing about it. It was as if the issue was in the words of Paul Keating a shudder looking for a spine to run up! All parties wrung their hands and made noises that it wasn’t their jurisdiction, or they were just the 3rd party or the crime was committed outside their patch etc. No-one disputed a crime had taken place, no-one disputed that I was not the perpetrator of the crime, no-one disputed that it highlighted a fundamental systemic flaw in the online transaction system, and no-one was prepared to do anything about it.

I have continued selling on ebay though the pleasure is long since gone and I use it merely for the fact that it is the most plausible way of parting with things that I can’t really afford to give to the local charity shop. My dislike for the system now has undoubtedly benefited the local charity shop who have had to accept bags of stuff that I simply did not want to waste my life away seeing whether or not I might scratch a few pounds here or there. A disingenuous way to give I’ll grant you but if that is a silver lining from this cloud then so be it I’ll take it.

The reason my hatred for ebay has returned from its simmering on the back burner is due to recent events surrounding a couple of items I sold recently. I sold a jacket, I did not get the money I wanted for the jacket but it was not one I wore and due to moving house the need to be rid of unwanted items outweighed the disappointment at the lack of revenue generated by it. I sent the item off along with a rugby shirt bought by the same bidder. Some considerable time after I was surprised to find I had received two negative feedbacks from this buyer. I had not been contacted to say there was a problem so I contacted him. He told me that the jacket was covered in cat hair and he was allergic to it. He said he was going to put it in the bin. I told him that I wasn’t aware that the jacket was covered in hair as it had been in a bag all the time but if he wished to return it to me I would give him a refund. This is standard contract of sale practice. He didn’t mention anything about the rugby shirt.

Before he responded to me personally he opened two ebay cases for both the items claiming they were “items not as described.” I responded that I had already offered him a refund if he returned the jacket and would do so if he particularly wanted to return the shirt too. (For those not familiar with the ebay claims system, as I wasn’t until this point, the buyer can make the case and suggest what his or her favoured action would be. In this case the buyer requested full refund. The ebay system allows you to refund the buyer at any point in the process in fact they entice you to do so by saying that you will have your fees refunded if you do however there is nothing either in procedure or guidelines that accounts for the returning of the items in question.)

[Now you wouldn’t expect to go into Tescos and state that you had bought an item with which you were unhappy and having disposed of the item yourself you would like your money back now, or at least you wouldn’t expect Tescos to honour your request would you?]

At each point I requested the buyer return the items he said he would but also kept saying he’d put the jacket in the bin. I confess I do not know how often the bins in his area were taken, it appears not as often as I am used to. My initial thoughts were that I would have expected if he had an allergy to want to send the items back as soon as possible. Twenty days later and they have not materialised. I am sensing a pattern here. Now this issue would be merely a matter of a chancer trying it on were it not for ebay’s subsequent action. After 14 days had elapsed on the case the buyer has the option to escalate the case to the ebay investigation team. Sadly the ebay investigation team constitutes an automatic acceptance of the buyer’s position and an immediate refund. There is no actual investigation, the whole process is electronically fulfilled with immediate effect. Thus buyer now possesses the goods and his money and the seller is left with nothing.

I decided to call my old friends at Trading Standards, but they don’t talk to you anymore, you have to speak to Consumer Action, who I believe themselves are in potential breach of the Trade & Descriptions Act because ‘action’ appears very much the last thing on their mind. They do give you a case reference number though. They are effectively the business world’s firebreak, the person offering you a cup of tea and a chat when you’ve informed them that the metaphorical world is about to end.

I know I’m not the most capitalistically-minded person but this does strike me as being slightly skewed in favour of the buyer and fundamentally flawed in terms of the flow of goods and capital. Ebay has so often quoted the old Latin ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware) but in this instance I think this should be replaced with caveat vendor for you appear to have no recourse whatsoever and if this information gets out it would allow buyers to run rampant thus surely bringing the whole system down…

In conclusion I have thought for a long long time that online auction sites such as ebay have had their day, the user experience for buying and selling is pretty bad and the customer service next to nil, that has always been the case but that they should have been able to get away with the sort of financial dealings usually reserved for the banks strikes me as being a step that most people must consider too far. Where is the alternative coming from, and when?

Song Of The Day ~ Everything Everything – My Kz, Ur Bf

This is the first in a series of posts looking at the modern world and asking why you are not angry about it, I’m genuinely interested in any answers because I look at such things and wonder not only how we have got here but where the hell we’re going if people are prepared to accept so blithely what is happening now.

Once upon a time advertisements told you the name of something and what it was for.  One of the principles of the old Eastern block that one might wish had survived was the functionality of adverts, since all products were produced by state factories there was no need for competitive oneupmanship and adverts could confine themselves to be factual.  In the Western world however we have long since been used to adverts eulogising about their products, often to the point of ridiculous hyperbole and/or sometimes using carefully manipulated statistics, look for example at the current Andrex advert which uses the term – “unbeatably long” as part of the loud spoken section of its advert.  Now read the small print bits which they are advised to put to pay lip service to the Advertising Standards Agency rules “*excluding longer lasting double roll products.”  Now forgive my pedantry but ‘unbeatable’ is not an ambiguous word, it does not mean things that are quite good in their field it means something that is without compare and since, by their own admission, the Andrex product in fact can fail some comparisons it is a denigration of language to allow them to use the word ‘unbeatable.’  I would argue that to use the terms ‘excluding longer-lasting….’ is pretty underhand because of the precedent this sets.  Anything can be claimed to be the best in trumpeted terms delivered by money-hungry celebrities with the footnote that this ‘excludes things that are actually better.’  What this means is that we are heralding mediocrity, celebrating things that may be a bit shit but have a good marketing campaign.  (I’m a Mac user so don’t even get me started on that argument!)

This is nothing terribly new though, in fact after the ASA rules changed as to what was acceptable adverts were even allowed to make directly derogatory remarks about their competitors, under the guideline that any such claims must be quantifiable and correct.  No loophole that one might drive a bus through there then…

This is in fact easily manipulated, as in the example of Asda who have been maintaining for some time now that a basket of shopping is cheaper with them than with the other supermarkets, or rather that an independent price comparison website has been carrying out the survey.  How many people after seeing the advert have attempted to check what items are supposedly in this basket, whether the supermarkets know in advance which products will be checked, or how is funded?  I’m not saying at this stage that there is definitively any conspiracy, that is for you to find out, the point I want to highlight is the general level of acceptance on the “factual” basis of adverts without any objective questioning.

It was bad enough that we should allow companies to publicise false or misleading claims, after all a survey of 200 people conducted by a cosmetics company should not then suddenly be turned into a representation of the entire female gender as a whole without at the very least the publication to substantiate just how representative that group of 200 really was.  If, as one might suspect, such claims are based on white middle-class middle-aged females it becomes far less likely to appear representative of everyone.

I dislike the asinine nature of most of the adverts and how condescending they are so often to us mere mortals however there appears to be a new trend that I find a great deal more insidious, perhaps because it seems to be using much wider semantic techniques or perhaps because it shows that not content with pulling the wool over our eyes in the many ways they already can companies are now prepared to take it a step further.

I first noticed it with Direct Line car insurance.  At the beginning it was mentioned that Direct Line didn’t use price comparison sites so as to cut out the middle men but they have since dropped this and seek to imply that this is in some way doing you, the consumer, a favour.  What might this favour be, to consign you to having to speak to each individual insurance provider for a quote as we had to do before the comparison sites were set up?  What is far more likely in fact is that price comparison sites are bad business for companies not generally at the forefront of the cheapest providers and having originally been part of them Direct Line no longer take part.  Now one might argue that Direct Line choose to stand against these sites because they take a commission, though this does not affect the consumer, or that they have a potential conflict of interest as some of them are part-owned by insurance companies, these would be valid criticisms and a force for increased consumer information, but they do not do this they choose to dress up their stance in a crusading way, the price comparison sites are depicted as crow-like beings being shooed away, this is very clever imagery.

Sky Sports News were the next offender, lauding their removal from the Freeview package as part of some elaborate football transfer read by vacuous smiling faced newsreaders telling you that this was a major story, it was going to be big, and dressing it up around Sky’s plans to grow bigger whilst actually clearly contracting, at least in terms of the user base able to view the channel, retracting it to be only available to those who pay to view.

Like the Direct Line example this is all anti-consumer practice which far from being brushed under the carpet where it might later be exposed it is now vaunted as part of deliberate policy to help you and me.  I believe this tactic is new, at least it is in my experience obviously one expects companies to behave cynically they are in the business of making money and must therefore make you part with it by any means necessary and within the context of an educated population that understand this is the way capitalism works this is fine.  But we are no longer such an educated population and a good deal of the horseshit that is shovelled at you now on the television is now accepted wholesale, we are perhaps but one small step away from the Fox News hegemony where you are told what to think.  For anyone who knows either 1984 or Metropolis this is seriously chilling stuff indeed.

Song Of The Day ~ Model Morning – Sinew