CUNNING WHEEZES

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CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 24 Feb 2012, 06:17

Here's an article I wrote before the new platform arrived. It triggered a topic and after seeing a programme last night on the iniquitous manipulation of ticket prices on C4 Dispatches it struck me that it could be a good forum to report advertising scams and other cunning wheezes.

CUNNING WHEEZES

We all have to watch the pennies these days and one of the advantages of having the sort of upbringing many of us had is that this is second nature to us. 'Making do' is a way of life and consequently we are always attracted by a bargain. The orange labels in the Co-op always attract my attention and there's nothing wrong with a BOGOF as long as it is not too perishable. I'm old enough to remember when there was a 'recommended retail price' and a bar of Sunlight soap cost the same no matter which shop you went to. The modern economists tell us that this was a bad thing as it discouraged competition but in many ways it was a stabilising influence and encouraged the use of small local shops, I think we can all remember our mothers getting the groceries at the same shop every week, building up a relationship with the shopkeeper and occasionally being rewarded by a good weight or the availability of credit on the shop book if times were hard. I don't know about you but Vera and I used to operate the same way.
Then came modern advertising, particularly on the TV. As far as the retailers were concerned it was all about market share and eventually the supermarkets took over the bulk of the trade competing with, and in many cases, driving local family-owned shops out of business. We see these fears expressed in the latest moves to introduce a large Tesco store into the town. We are told that this is good, that increased competition will drive prices down but I wonder if all is as it seems?
The modern catchword is 'convenience' and we are told that our lives are so busy nowadays, that the world is moving at a faster pace and the ability to supply all our needs in one store is a 'good thing' and an aid to modern 24x7 living. Well I'm sorry but I don't buy it. We are lucky in Barlick in that we still have family-owned businesses and a short walk round the town centre will give us some much needed exercise and with a bit of investigation will reveal many items that are cheaper than they are at the supermarket. We meet more of our friends and acquaintances as well! However, this isn't my main point, I think you all know my attitudes to supporting local traders.
Groceries aren't the only place we are offered bargains. Anyone who watches TV advertising or has used the internet will have come across the plethora of offers of everything from cheaper energy and internet access to better insurance prices and offers from banks to pay you money to switch your account to them. I saw one bank advert last week that offered £300 if you switched to them, held one of their mortgages and used their credit card. I heard a government minister telling us that high energy prices were our fault and if we changed suppliers we could save up to £300 a year. Really? One of the things that we hear time and time again from people advising us on how to detect fraudulent offers is that if it sounds too good to be true it's usually a scam. I think we ought to be using this principle when we look at 'special' or 'introductory' offers.
Many of these so-called bargains involve entering into a fixed term contract with the provider. These often involve taking a 'package' which at first glance contains all that you need and is indeed cheaper than what you have been paying to your previous variety of suppliers. I think this is where you have to start asking questions. How long does the introductory offer last? Is there anything in the pages of small print which very few people read or understand that could lead to down the line increases or penalties? Do you really want to be locked into one contract, does this have implications for the quality of customer service because once you are a captive customer you don't have to be wooed into staying. Another buzzword is 'choice' but when you think about it you have reduced your choice if you lock yourself in.
There was a time when these major suppliers could be trusted. They were easily accessible in case of complaint and the general impression was that they were honest dealers, concerned with keeping your custom and relying on personal contact to maintain a good relationship. We all knew our local bank manager, we could talk to the staff in the electricity or gas showrooms, we paid our rates across the counter to a lady in the Town Hall on Jepp Hill. It was human scale, friendly and accessible. Consider what happens today, if you can manage to speak to anyone it is often a young person in a call centre, not necessarily in this country, who knows nothing about you, your life or even your locality apart from the details in front of them on a computer screen. Properly managed this can be an efficient if impersonal way of getting action but if, as in so many cases, it is under-staffed and under pressure it can be torture.
I think you are getting my drift, these 'bargains' might not be quite what they seem. This raises a further question, why is it that the businesses no longer seem to have any respect or consideration for us. What has changed? Surely the basic principles of good service leading to customer loyalty are still uppermost in in the business mind? Sadly I think that those days are gone and we would do well to recognise that the motives driving these big firms have changed. Ethics and morality seem to have withered, market share and profit are the only things that matter. Every one of these businesses has a 'Department of Cunning Wheezes' but they don't call it that, it's called marketing. Their job is to dream up offers which on the surface look too attractive to ignore but which are designed in the long run to squeeze more profit out of the customer. The incentive for this is the 'performance bonus' at the end of the year given to whoever has attracted the most new business. The shareholders can't be expected to police the activities of their board because they get a share in the form of a bigger dividend. So my advice is to be aware, read the small print, question the down the line costs and avoid getting locked into contracts which may not prove to be as attractive as they looked in the original offer. Remember the department of Cunning Wheezes!
There are some free offers around if you keep your eyes open. I didn't realise until yesterday that the tree next to the flower bed in Valley Gardens is a Walnut, there's another outside Barlic Bite in Albert Road as well. This is a genuine something-for-nothing offer. Don't miss it!
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 25 Feb 2012, 11:40

Thanks for raising this again Stanley. We've all got to keep up our guard if we are going to avoid being stung by the Department of Cunning Wheezes. I can't help but feel that folk used to be more aware and cautious, and less likely to be taken in. But many now seem to be so brainwashed that they'll go for the 2 for the price of 3 if offered it!

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 26 Feb 2012, 06:06

Going back to our discussion about annuities. I'll bet you listened to Paul Lewis yesterday talking about the rip-off artists who take your pension pot, give you half back and fritter almost all the rest away in fees and dodgy investments.
How about the one where when you ring to validate a new credit card instead of getting the bank you get a whizz-kid trying to sell you card protection. The banks refuse to divulge how much commission they get from each sale. This should be a secure connection direct with the bank! Definitely a cunning wheeze to get even more money out of you. I listened to the CEO of the company wriggling on the hook now that shares in his company have been suspended. I wonder if these people realise how shifty they sound when they respond in 'corporate speak'? As soon as one scam is knocked down the DofCW comes up with another.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tripps » 26 Feb 2012, 11:30

I did an internet connection speed test on the Talk Talk website. Next day I received a call from their rep offering to discuss my phone and internet requirement. I hung up. Got another call next day, and it seems that by doing the test, I agreed to give them my number, and to be called. This overides the Telephone Preference Service scheme. I've been back to their site, and cannot see where I agreed. They won't let me do the speed test again though. The only saving grace was that the phone number was not hidden, and was in Manchester. Strange that both the operators had S, African accents. I think it's called globalisation.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 26 Feb 2012, 11:36

Thanks for warning me about the subject of Paul Lewis's programme yesterday. We recorded it and will probably listen to it over lunch today, but your warning will allow me to fortify myself with cider to prevent apoplexy! It sounds just like my experiences with Aviva when trying to get my personal pension transferred and set up as an annuity. It was with HSBC but they give a poor annuity rate, so I did as the government and all the money advisers say - look at the league table for annuity providers and see who is offering the best rate and then use the `open market option' to transfer your pot to them.

Aviva usually top the table so I contacted them first. They won't communicate by email and you're forced to phone them. I answered a stream of questions then the Aviva man said "I'll transfer you to someone who can advise you". I told him I didn't want advice, I knew what I wanted and simply wished them to take my transferred fund and use it to start a plain and simple, basic, bog standard annuity. "Can't do it sir, you have to speak to an adviser". So I spoke to `an adviser' and he immediately wanted me to take a lump sum which I didn't want. We argued over this and in the end he lost his tether and just said "Right, the quote will be in the post". In the end I ditched them and went to Legal & General who gave me a smidgeon less but did as I wanted.

I now realise that Aviva can offer high rates because they browbeat people into taking a lump sum and then have them invest it in an Aviva policy which they say will give you more money overall than just taking the standard annuity. This makes more money for Aviva, and the tele-salesmen (so-called `advisers') make commissions which is why they are so gung-ho about the lump sums. Some day this cunning wheeze is going to be another mis-selling scandal, like PPI, and Aviva will end up paying compensation to tens of thousands of pensioners. But by then the executives responsible for this flawed and cynical business strategy will have moved elsewhere or be living on their own inflated pensions.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tripps » 26 Feb 2012, 13:12

I half listened to Paul Lewis programme. I think it referred specifically to people getting round regulations, and gaining access to their pension funds early, ie before age 55. Just assume that everyone who offers you financial services is trying to rob you, and proceed accordingly. Problem is that you can't say all you want, because everyone needs a bank account, and they always have the option of showing you the door.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 27 Feb 2012, 05:42

I begin to realise how lucky I was in 2000! This ploy of over-complicating matters in order to bamboozle the less financially savvy is spreading to many other areas. I am convinced that this is why we are constantly bombarded to take out a 'comprehensive contract' for communication services at a a ridiculously low offer price in order to lock people into open ended contracts after which the cost goes up. Paul Lewis did a piece on this not long ago describing how people found that even after a year of contract they were still locked in and there was a penalty clause in the fine print. This is the reason why I refuse to change my arrangements. It costs me slightly more perhaps but I am free to do what I want and not what their small print locks me into.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 27 Feb 2012, 11:19

I listened to the recording of Paul Lewis and, yes, it was more specifically about taking pensions early. But it gave me a chance to vent my feelings about the annuity scams!

One of the biggest Cunning Wheezes now is what I call the `black is white' trick. It's very simple - the company makes up its own definitions of English words and phrases. Npower probably pioneered this Wheeze with its 10-month year. It told people they were getting an energy deal for a year but defined a year as 10 months in its T&Cs. Luckily some customers created an almighty row, the Press got hold of it and eventually the regulator forced Npower to compensate. But watch out, it hasn't deterred other companies (I wonder when the Government will catch on to this trick?)

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 28 Feb 2012, 07:32

See the geology book thread for a scam I found on Amazon. They advertise a book for sale and accept the order even though, via the thread on our site, it turns out that all the existing copies of the book are in a house in Barlick! I have cancelled the order. In addition, on the Amazon site there was an advertisement for a used copy at £84! This is the same scam as I found when I looked my books up. There were used copies for sale at vastly inflated prices.
It's a minefield out there....
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 28 Feb 2012, 10:16

Very common on Amazon, Stanley. When you are buying on the Amazon site you may be buying from Amazon or it might be from Amazon Associates which is anybody who signs up to Amazon's scheme allowing you to sell your goods on their web site. When I buy from Amazon I always try to do it direct from Amazon - if you are searching for an item on the site, look down the left-hand side where you can refine your search. You can select `only items with Amazon Free Delivery' and these usually seem to be direct. If you buy via the Associates your rights are not so powerful or easy when it comes to rejecting goods. And you can see there are lots of scoundrels using Amazon Associates as a way to trick people into paying way over the odds.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 29 Feb 2012, 05:59

See the topic 'Section P' for an extension of the Building Regs which makes even minor electrical jobs more difficult. I know we need regs for H&S but one wonders how far they can go to restrict our options. Gone are the days when a competent householder could install a plug socket. I wonder how serious this matter was in terms of problems with repairs. Is it another instance of the modern culture that demands 100% safety?
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Whyperion » 29 Feb 2012, 16:46

All things bought thru amazon ( for EU based sellers ) you have the same rights , any problems amazon refund if reasonable proof of wrong stuff sent or problems of mis description or faulty item. Amazon Associates is actually someone with a link back to amazon from their own website earning referral fees and commissions for items bought off the amazon site accessed by the refering site,

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 29 Feb 2012, 20:16

Whippy, perhaps I've used the wrong name for the Amazon programme that I described above. The programme exists and is very prominent on the Amazon.co.uk, and it's responsible for a lot of the problems that Stanley and I have described. I thought it was called Amazon Associates but I've looked it up and that seems to be a different scheme. This link shows the sellers' programme that I'm referring to. Do you know what it's called, other than `Sell on Amazon'? LINK

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Whyperion » 29 Feb 2012, 21:34

Yes , they have changed the name and profile of how to use amazon as a selling platform a couple of times. Certain bulk sellers tend to be preferred by Amazon, particulary in the Electronics categories.

You do have to watch sellers descriptions as Amazons' PLU references / SKU references can be incorrect at times and sellers link onto the wrong thing , normally they have their own description which shows any differences. Generally too the postage charge is extra to the price shown , which is a problem if you do a bulk purchase from many vendors , amazons system only shows the prime cost and the total of all the postages - which you may find inconvienent. You can look at your purchase history to check to see if everything you have ordered and been charged for has been delivered to you.

I am not aware of significant vendor problems in excess of any other mail order suppliers. The high pricing of certain items has been discussed on other internet discussion forums , this partially relates to the Amazon selling platform automatically adding some overseas postage costs which do not relate to the true cost from England, so what might seem excessive from UK is reasonable for a targetted international location from a UK supplier , but you cannot exclude UK if you are offering items on amazon from a UK base. Used books can be sourced from review copies ( some Journals and Magazines sell off the review copies they get sent ). Some vendors use an automated system which takes the base Amazon price and multiplies it by a preset percentage - its possible someone has put a decimal point in the wrong place - take a few examples and compare the amazon new to the offered used price - I think you will find it a constant.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 01 Mar 2012, 04:49

There definitely is a scam on overpriced used books, especially obscure titles. Same applies to the Abe Books Bookfinder site.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 01 Mar 2012, 10:39

Whippy, Stanley's right, there's a big scam with inflated prices. It took only a few seconds to find an example with one of Stanley's books. A seller is asking £31.06 plus £2.80 postage for a secondhand copy of the book which is available new, direct from Amazon, for £12.75, postage free. See this page: LINK

I've spent 16 years as a publisher and bookseller and seen my books for sale on Amazon frequently and continuously at many times the correct price.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Whyperion » 02 Mar 2012, 02:45

Strange seller , as has mix of normal expected prices , assortment of bone fide books not due for publication until april 2012 at lower than declared RRP and a mix of the cobbled together from freebie internet sources that are appearing across amazon , abebooks and so on ( I will have to find some of these at the british library - quote ISBN and see if legal deposit have recieved the statutory 5 copies ! )

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 02 Mar 2012, 04:25

A very old cunning wheeze is the legal limit on packs of aspirin etc. You can only get I think it is 32 at a time at inflated prices. I can remember when you could get a bottle of 500 at Boots and my cupboard is full of supplies bought in the US. 500 in a bottle and ridiculously cheap because like UK supplies, most are made in China. I haven't looked but I'll bet you can order on Tinternetwebthingy cheaper than you can buy in UK.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tripps » 02 Mar 2012, 11:11

I think you're a bit out of date with your facts here. Yes , there is a limit on how many aspirin you can buy on one occasion, but they are very cheap indeed, and you can always go round more than once to a different till. I speak with some recent experience in the matter. Stick to generic own brand of course. For example Neurofen about £2, whilst own brand Ibuprofen are about 30p. Same thing.
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Tizer » 02 Mar 2012, 11:51

Pharmacists were stopped from selling large packs of aspirin many years ago because of frequent cases of people overdosing or using for an extended time and dying from the consequences. Aspirin irritates the gut and can lead to internal bleeding and ultimately death if the dose is very high or if you keep exposing your gut to it for long periods. My mother found her neighbour dead from the chronic effects of aspirin. She bought large bottles of the drug and took them all the time and eventually her stomach perforated and she bled to death.

We ought to clarify that nurofen and ibuprofen are not alternative names for aspirin but a different drug. Don't want anyone popping ibuprofen thinking they are `just aspirin'. The incidence of emergencies from ibuprofen overdose has gone up too since they were put on open sale instead of prescription only, even though they are sold in small packs.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by catgate » 02 Mar 2012, 20:18

I heard of a very cunning wheeze today.
Apparently if you should happent to buy a left hand toilet roll by mistake, it can still be used quite successfully by inverting it, before installing it into its holder, in such a way the it unrolls in the opposite way to that to which you are accostomed.

Edit :- It is apparently something that you can do at your own convenience.

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Bradders Bluesinger » 03 Mar 2012, 01:36

The mention of toilet rolls reminds me ...........
I'd been living with my ex-partner for about 5 years , when one night , whilest visiting friends ,the subject of toilet rolls came up . (as it does)....
More specifically , the annoying way that you sometimes get the perforations of the two plies tearing about 3/4" apart , when you start a new one ......
I though everyone knew that you just take the outside layer round once , and the perforations line up again..........
Not My Janet...she said she'd always thought it was just a "bad roll" and had been prepared to put up with it ...!
adding.."They always seem to correct themselves eventually......"

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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 03 Mar 2012, 05:17

Brad, I've told people about that cure and when they have found it works they regard me as some kind of magician. Not enough maths being taught in schools!
I hear what you say and understand about the aspirins but my general point about the high price of over the counter medications holds. I got a 100cc bottle of Elliman's embrocation yesterday at the chemist's for £3.54. It was described on the label as 'lotion'. I looked at the formula and all it had in it was a small proportion of Oil of Turpentine and some acetic acid, the rest was milk powder as a filler and a bulking oil. Didn't even smell like Elliman's! I mixed it with the small amount I still had and added some Wintergreen Oil and Oil of Terebinth and shook it up. In future I'll make my own! Definitely a large profit in the original ingredients!
Gone are the days of Dr. Sloan's liniment, they tell me it is no longer made!
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Stanley » 05 Mar 2012, 05:06

What caught my eye last night watching TV was an advert for 50+.com, a sort of Evans selling size 14 and upwards. Funny thing is that the model used in the advert was a sylph-like 14 at the most!
Have you noticed Sky plugging their exclusive on F1 motor racing? They're promising 'uninterrupted viewing'. Does this mean no adverts? Or that they show the whole race?
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Re: CUNNING WHEEZES

Post by Big Kev » 05 Mar 2012, 08:19

Tripps wrote:I did an internet connection speed test on the Talk Talk website. Next day I received a call from their rep offering to discuss my phone and internet requirement. I hung up. Got another call next day, and it seems that by doing the test, I agreed to give them my number, and to be called. This overides the Telephone Preference Service scheme. I've been back to their site, and cannot see where I agreed. They won't let me do the speed test again though. The only saving grace was that the phone number was not hidden, and was in Manchester. Strange that both the operators had S, African accents. I think it's called globalisation.
I check mine with http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/ never had any calls after I've used it...
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