Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Personal shopper services (and the SQ plane fire)

I cannot imagine what it is like to be on a plane that has engine problems and catches fire upon landing. I’m glad everyone (222 passengers, 19 crew) are safe.

I was just taking a long haul flight myself and wondering why they bother showing the safety video, since these days you don’t really find the need for such things (planes disappear; they crash; you rarely hear about how putting on one’s lifejacket saved your life).

As an aside, a lot of the photos (and a video) seem to come from a Ms. Lee Bee Yee, who was presumably flying to Milan to perform “personal shopping” services (she is the proprietor of a site called Premium Mall). A simple search of her name reveals that she’s been 43 for quite sometime! Emerging Trend of Online Retailers Attempting to Evade GST Jan/Feb 2015, Singapore Airlines plane catches fire on Changi Airport runway; no injuries reported. I’m sure there are such “personal shoppers” operating in Malaysia too; I can only imagine what happens when customs catches up.

The Star in Malaysia recently reported that the future might be personal shoppers, in Parkson’s decline a sign of the times for retail stores. The whole article is worth a read, because Malaysia in this respect, seems “backwards” to what is taking much of the retail world by storm (key: nationwide e-commerce needs to rock; too much just focus on the Klang Valley). But the fancy quote for one to think about:

The future wave could be the birth of “personal shoppers” where they shop for others for a fee.

A “personal shopper” acts as a conduit to connect individual purchasers with online websites in other countries such as the United States that do not provide delivery services of their products to this part of the world.

The personal shopper takes down orders, secures an appropriate price and sources for the products in a foreign country. The personal shopper then handles the delivery from the foreign country to the customer.

And it is all done at a fraction of a cost compared to what the boutiques charge.

At the moment, celebrities generally engage the services of “personal shoppers” also known as “personal groomers” to source for their clothes.

In recent times, services of “personal shoppers” have been engaged by professionals and the working crowd to get the best bargains from the Internet.

Tab Sweep – 26 June 2016

Its Sunday evening here in NYC, and it would seem that I have a huge amount of tabs open in my browser. On the flight here I just read Running Lean by Ash Maurya, tried to catch up on some past issues of The Economist and The New Yorker, and work at clearing out Instapaper.

Ad blocking

I know I run ads here, but I really don’t think Google AdSense is bad. What is really annoying me? Video, animated graphics, heavy ads, even on sites that I’m paying subscriptions for to read. I’m happy with a subscription and AdSense, but they’re not doing just that! They are consuming my CPU cycles, ensuring that when I’m working on the battery, these tabs are just taking away precious power.

I thought of using AdBlock Plus, but I recall there were some issues with it in the past (maybe around being paid to be whitelisted). So my solutions of choice in the Chrome browser now:

I’m whitelisting some sites, logging into some others (e.g. Forbes), or finding out that some extensions like Buffer is broken (easy fix: on the first site that you try to use the extension on, just whitelist it in Privacy Badger and things will “just work”).

I’ve been on the Internet for over 20 years, and this is the second time I’ve decided to use ad blocking software. Maybe when we’re respected as readers (see: going back to Google AdSense), I will disable the above extensions. Till then, I’m more productive on a battery for just that little longer…

Uber and the Black Cab

My residence in London is the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill at 30 Portman Square. I’ve been staying there for years and find it to be a phenomenal location with phenomenal staff.

I’ve ordered many Uber’s from there despite there being a taxi rank right outside the hotel. One of the reasons I dislike taxis in London is that not all of them accept credit cards or any form of electronic payment — I’ve got to have cash handy and it is a real hassle.

So why not Hailo? Hailo kind of works but has horrible customer service. Every time I’ve used them be it in London, Singapore or Barcelona, it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. Cabs will claim to have arrived starting the 2.5 minute timer long before they have arrived; if it’s raining enjoy looking for them while you call them only for them to tell you they’re not where they claim to be. In addition they’ll give you £10 coupons that will “expire” on you so you end up paying full fare. The crux of the Hailo problem is that a cab driver is always going to be a cab driver…

During rush hour traffic in London, a Hailo may make sense (since cabs can use lanes reserved for them). So will a UberTAXI. 

Anyway, this isn’t about Hailo. Today I finally tweeted to Uber about the fact that their maps are inaccurate and most drivers never arrive at the front of the Hyatt but at the side, on Seymour Street. It’s incredibly annoying to have to call to get them to come to the front or walk to the side – it’s all added inefficiencies.

The @ replies from the taxi drivers tend to be strong encouraging you to use their services. I’ve never seen this in any market I’ve used Uber in. It’s smart – take it on to social media.

Twitter Notifications

Later on in the day I did take a cab. I wanted to go to Harwood Arms from the Natural History Museum. Of course the cab driver didn’t know where it was so I stated the street name, Walham Grove. Lo and behold, the black cab driver had no idea where this was! I even provided the post code if it helped.

He asked if I had it on my maps. I said I did. He wanted to know the cross road. Even after I told him Farm Lane, he took out the maps and had it in his lap for the whole journey.

This is the same guy whom represents the lot that have studied The Knowledge. In an Uber, at least they would have used the maps. And if there were route inefficiencies I would just complain to Uber from the app and get a refund. Here I paid for the drivers mistakes. In cash.

Are cabs safe from the losing fight?

Live hidden, live happy

A phrase I have often liked comes from a French poet, Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. In order to live happily, live hidden.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

So when I read about Li Younghi, in the FT (paywall, Li Yonghui, Chinese self-made ‘everyman’), it resonated well with me to see the Chinese saying men sheng da fa cai, which translates to “keep quiet and prosper”.

New Year’s Note, 2016

This year we spent New Year’s Eve in Vienna, Austria, and I have to say it was a lot colder compared to being in Phuket, so I think we’ll do it in a more tropical country going forward.

I didn’t take the TripIt stats that I should have taken, but I do have a visualisation: 328178 miles (so 528,151km versus 435,271km last year), 15 airlines flown, 33 airports and 116 flights. So we’ll assume the 33 airports are “cities”, so I visited a lot less than the 49 cities. I was on the road for 281 days (as opposed to 264 days in 2014).

I guess this is one of my heavier travel years, and we’ll see how 2016 pans out. In the meantime, back to enjoying Vienna. And here’s hoping TripIt either improves, or I have to make a service that does better (post-Concur acquisition, things have been going downhill generally).