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34 entries from July 2007

From the other side of the fax machine

We received a response from one of the fax-spammers. Though we haven't heard from this company since we asked to be removed from their list, so I can only say that they are doing "the right thing". It would be nice to hear from Victorian Tourism Centre and see what their excuse is for leaving us on their database (seeing we actually spoke to real people who told us they removed us from the list while we were speaking to them on the phone).

Anyway, this email from Great Oz Scapes comes as a response to this post we made back in May last year:

We at Great Oz Scapes may have a similar product to Getaways Downunder and Victourisim however we have absolutely nothing to do with either of those businesses and we all operate off completely different data bases.

We know of a number of reasons why a fax number is not deleted,

1)       the person rings the removes line and leave the following message “ remove my number from your database” then hangs up

unfortunately we don’t not employ clairvoyants to guess at the fax number that should have been left on the message bank

2)       BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP

This is a message bank checked by a person who can’t interpret touch tone phone signals and the message does ask you to SAY your number after the tone to have it removed

3)       They leave their phone number not the fax number.

4)       They have a diversion on their phone from an old number which is the one we might be faxing

5)       They call on a mobile or portable phone with black spots and we hear “please remove click crack 32 click shhhh 97

6)       They say their number so quickly, loudly or with such a heavy foreign accent that although we listen to the message a dozen or so times and sometimes by more than one person we still cannot interpret the number.

We want to remove the fax numbers of those who will never avail themselves of our service each fax costs our company money. So our apologies if you are still getting faxes from us please feel free to call or email and I will take care of your request personally. If you wish to quote us on your blog please feel free.

Regards

Susanna Meijer

Customer Service Manager

Great Oz Scapes


The 'Preferred Supplier'

Here is a question to you.

If you hire a venue and you're going to run an event at that venue, the functions manager may give you a "preferred supplier" recommendation for your AV (Audio Visual) needs. If you then get a quote from that supplier, and find it too expensive, you might then ask the functions manager if you could bring your own outside AV supplier in and not use any of the venue's in-house systems (which are owned by their "preferred supplier") at all.

The functions manager might then say to you. That's fine, but in that case you'll need to pay for a 'Technician On Duty" at $74.25 per hour from bump-in to bump-out. They explain the 'TOD' is needed:

  • To protect the Fabric, Furnishing & Fittings of the venue while hardware is being handled and operated within the designated function spaces;
  • To ensure all outside contractors work within the regulations and boundaries of the venue's Events Department & Management Team;
  • To be in the assigned room at all times except where, under their duties, there is a requirement for them to be elsewhere;
  • To observe the work practices of outside contractors to ensure that they are in line with the venue's policy, and advise on relevant safety matters in conjunction with the venue's Fire & Safety Officer;
  • To act as a source of Technical knowledge and information regarding the venue;
  • To provide access, advice, and assistance in the patching of various signals through the infrastructure within the venue;
  • To provide access to the existing rigging infrastructure;

In your opinion, is this a scam?

Before you answer, let me give you a little "behind the scenes" info.

To become a "preferred supplier" all you need to do is to agree to give the venue a certain percentage of any work they generate for you at their venue. This is usually around 40%.

Of course, if the client hires an outside AV company, the "preferred supplier" gets nothing, and the venue gets 40% of nothing. Thus, the venue has created the 'TOD' so if you hire an outside company, they will still get (for an average 10 hour bump-in to bump-out period) $742.50 (of which a very small amount actually goes to the technician).

PLUS - The outside company is required (by the venue, not OH&S) to have Public Liability of an amount that most small AV companies simply cannot afford (but the "preferred supplier" can.) And any outside equipment that's brought into the venue (from extension cords and double adaptors to mixing desks and lighting consoles) must be "tagged and tested" by a licensed electrician, a cost which the outside AV company must pay for themselves.

The simple solution would be to use the in-house "preferred supplier" but, as they have to pay such a large "commission" to the venue, their prices are usually over-inflated. (So much so that many speakers and entertainers report they miss out on bookings once the client discovers the cost of hiring a basic PA system for the act from the "preferred supplier" is more than the fee they're paying for the act! (And, if the act brings their own PA system, the client gets hit with the TOD charges...

The other point is that, in order to cut costs, most of the "preferred suppliers" we have encountered pay their technicians such low wages that we end up working with techs who are extremely inexperienced.

Last week, we did a show with "preferred suppliers". We arrived to do the sound check and had to wait until they finished whatever they were doing. That's fine. Then when we told them we needed to patch in our mic & minidisc, they said they had no microphone leads. They told me the client had surprised them with extra lighting effects they didn't know anything about (the client hadn't) and they had to use all their mic leads in the ceiling to operate the dmx lights. Eventually, the tech said he'd go look in his van to see if he happened to have any there, then came back with mic leads.

Then, during sound check, they said my Countryman E6 headset was no good. They said the element had popped and that's why they couldn't equalise it. (I used it a few days ago patched into a very basic pub sound system with no equaliser at all and it worked fine.) They said I should use their lapel mic instead of a headset as I'd get better sound (which is the opposite of what is true in audio). I took my Countryman lapel unit out instead of using theirs (which they would charge the client for) and they tried, unsuccessfully, to get that working. Finally, after announcing to everyone that my mics were no good, they gave me their basic Shure radio lapel mic and spent the next 15 minutes (while guests were arriving) trying to equalise that.

You might think that radio mics are beyond the ability of all but the best techs. You'd be wrong. In a venue where they've spent the day setting up a soundsystem (or in  this case, it's the in-house system) it should take 5 mins at most to get a lapel mic working, and 2 mins to get a headset happening.

But it doesn't end there.

Yes, the lapel didn't sound great during the show. It got feedback and they kept playing with the volume. But, when Sue-Anne went to get changed after the levitation she looked at the stage and saw I was pretty much in the dark. The client was paying $5,500 for lights and sound and was getting neither.

Later in evening, it was an auction night, things were being sold off to help the club. Things like $1000 worth of tanning sessions went for $1000. $500 worth of car care products went for $500. No bargains, just fund raising. The "preferred supplier" had kindly donated $3000 worth of AV. It attracted only one bid and went for $500.

To cap it all off, at the end of the night a guitarist came on to play. He simply had to plug in to the 'DI' box on stage. When he did, feedback filled the room as the techs scrambled to try to get his guitar amplified properly.

So, I ask you again.

Now that you know the money that changes hands behind the scenes.

Now that you know the quality you get for the big dollars you pay.

Now that you know that the only ones who benefit are the venue and the "preferred supplier".

In your opinion, is this a scam? 


Suit is the new road

I'm starting to think suitcases are the new roadcases.

We travel A LOT and take a lot of our show in a custom-built suitcase-table made by a roadcase builder and, because it's all aluminium on the outside like a standard roadcase, it always has to be marked 'fragile' by the airlines and go down the 'special baggage' chute. That, we can deal with, but what's getting impossible is having to go into venues through their loading dock instead of the front door.

Certain venues insist, and I can understand why, that you bring your equipment in through the loading dock. But if you want to use their loading dock you have to do OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) tests, get a special pass issued, and wait until a staff member comes to unlock the dock and accompany you through with all your gear. At some venues, this takes up to two hours!!! Then, at the end of the night, the staff who can open the dock for you have magically disappeared.

However, if you carry your gear in standard suitcases... you can check in through the front door and, if it's a hotel venue, you can give them to a porter who'll take them straight into the venue for you.

If it's not a hotel, and you need to cart your gear through a restaurant or casino area to get to the function room, carrying roadcases can just look really bad. Wheeling suitcases goes unnoticed.

Roadcases have their advantages: they're strong, they protect your gear, they look professional.

But they also have their disadvantages: they're expensive, they're heavy, they can look very out of place in many venues, you look like a roadie when you're carrying them in, and they get treated extra rough by the airlines. (Our metal roadcase is on it's last legs while the cardboard box we made for another prop to travel in is still going strong. The baggage handlers see cardboard and are much gentler with it).

390So my theory is, get a whole bunch of suitcases, and pack our gear inside them. Use padded lunchboxes (see left) and bubblewrap to protect them and see how it all goes.

I know how good it feels to rock up to a venue with slick looking roadcases, but sometimes you just have to sacrifice style for practicality...


The Simpsons Movie

Simpsons_movie_logo

We saw The Simpsons Movie yesterday (and you really must visit the official website). Although I really enjoyed the film, I couldn't help but feel a massive sense of deja vu.

Sure, we get a completely new opening sequence (which is great, especially Bart's message on the blackboard) and there are some elements they could never have gotten away on the small screen (like Bart's full frontal), but when you look at everything that happens in the movie... it's already happened on the small screen (in different episodes and with slight differences). It's a small gripe but with all the hype surrounding their crossover to the big screen (7-11's around the USA became Kwik-E-Mart's during July!) and with a script they began writing in 2003... I was really expecting to be pleasantly surprised as well as entertained. Plus, there wasn't even one big musical number (I still catch myself humming "See My Vest" from time to time).

To some extent, I guess I was hoping that the movie would be familiar, but also bring something fresh to the show. Well, it was definitely familiar. It almost seemed as though they have taken some of the best moments from the last 18 series and woven them together into one big story:

SPOILERS COMING UP - DON'T READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE YET

  • Lisa falls in love with a new boy who is also an environmental campaigner. Season 12, Episode 4: Lisa the Tree Hugger Original Air Date: 19 November 2000 Lisa's crush on an environmental activist inspires her to live in a tree threatened by loggers.
  • Bart considers leaving the Simpson family for the Flanders. Season 7, Episode 3: Home Sweet Home-Diddily-Dum-Doodily Original Air Date: 1 October 1995 Marge and Homer lose custody of the kids, who are sent to live at the Flanders' house.
  • The Simpson home is destroyed and they start an idyllic new life in another town. Season 8, Episode 2: You Only Move Twice Original Air Date: 3 November 1996 Homer takes a new job in a new town. However, his friendly new boss might be a super villain bent on world domination.
  • The Simpsons become hated by the whole town. Season 15, Episode 21: Bart-Mangled Banner Original Air Date: 16 May 2004 An accidental photo showing Bart mooning the American flag makes the Simpsons the most hated family in town.
  • Bart skates naked through Springfield. Season 9, Episode 25: Natural Born Kissers Original Air Date: 17 May 1998 Homer and Marge's attempt to spice up their marriage leads to the couple being chased naked through Springfield.
  • Homer gets a pet pig which he becomes obsessed with. (He did something similar with his monkey in this episode) Season 9, Episode 21: Girly Edition. Original Air Date: 19 April 1998
    Bart and Lisa become locked in competition when they anchor a children's news program. Meanwhile, Homer adopts a helper monkey.
    (And with a lobster in this one). Season 10, Episode 7: Lisa Gets an A Original Air Date: 22 November 1998 Lisa cheats on a test and has a moral crisis when her perfect score qualifies the school for grant money. Meanwhile, Homer can't bring himself to cook a lobster, so he adopts it as a pet instead.

Having said that though, there is one saving grace (pre-empted in the trailers) that really made this movie well worthwhile for me, though maybe I'm just really easy to please.. :)

Spider Pig, Spider Pig, does whatever a Spider Pig does.

Can he swing, from a web? No he can't, he's a pig.

Look out! He is a Spider-Pig!!!!!!

 


Spam by fax is legal in Victoria

If you've read THIS POST then you'd be aware that we have been hounded by spam faxes from THE VICTORIAN TOURISM CENTRE since May 2006. A week ago, after AGAIN guaranteeing me they had removed our fax from their spam list, they spammed me again, so I wrote to ASIC (The Australian Securities and Investments Commission) as their website says they are the people to talk to about that.

Today I received a letter from them telling me that they WEREN'T the people to talk to about it... and I also received ANOTHER spam fax from the liars at Victorian Tourism Centre.

I called Consumer Affairs Victoria, as ASIC advised me in their letter, and they in turn referred me to the Australian Communication and Media Authority. However, they told me they only handle spam emails, sms, mms and instant messenging. They explained that THERE IS NO LAW regarding spam faxes. But, "in the near future", another government body will be considering having a discussion about this matter and I am welcome to express my views to that committee then.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

They then went on to point out to me that they get spam faxes too, and there's nothing they can do about it!

So folks, if you, like me, are sick of the Victorian Tourism Centre lying to you that they have taken you off their spam fax list, then continuing to spam you regardless... all I can say is IT'S OPEN SEASON on the Victorian Tourism Centre.

Their fax number is 03 8317 4430.


Phoney Phollow Up

02Last night, on the way to two shows, my O2 XdaII carked it. It wouldn't let me make any calls, it froze up, then turned itself off. I rebooted it a few times with no success.. which was annoying because 1: I was running late and I wanted to call the booker to let him know, 2: The addresses of both shows were on the phone.

Luckily, it turned itself on and off a few more times during the journey and I was able to get the addresses. I was also able to check that it wasn't just drained. Nope. 23% battery left and 100% of reserve battery.

About two weeks ago it started doing weird things, like freezing up during phone calls so none of the buttons worked. It did that during one call. It disconnected me, but when I checked it later that night, it was still logging the phone call... over 5 hours! Thankfully it had disconnected from Optus and was just amusing itself (and scaring the heck out of me... that would have been a $200 call!)

I've read other reports about the new O2 phones doing similar things straight out of the box, people say they make a great PDA but a lousy phone. Add to this my experience two years ago when I lost the charger (I've only had the phone 2-3 years). The shop where I bought it from couldn't help me, they said they can't get parts from O2 and the local service centre had closed down and all repairs were down through Queensland.

Dopod Imate_jasjam_3g850_2 My brother recommended the Dopod 8380 phone or the IMate JasJam. Both are pretty much the same phone, and Telstra sources tell me the return rate on faulty JasJam's is very high, and my local Optus dealer confided that he sold 17 Dopod's recently and they all came back faulty! Popular phones, but not very reliable.

Other than that, the only other PDA phone I can find that will sync to Outlook are the Blackberries,Treo but I hate the tiny pretend keyboards which take up half the surface of the phone and leave you with a smaller screen. Even the new O2s have a much smaller screen than my XdaII.

Even the HTC Touch has a smaller screen.. but from what I can see it looks like being the best out of a very small selection... and we won't get the iPhone here in Australia for another 12 months at least...

Good news though! My Optus dealer has ordered some Touches in and they arrive Tuesday morning. Give me a few days roadtesting the thing and I'll give you a report. You have to admit though, if you visit the website, it definitely looks like a pretty cool toy for gadget freaks. (Gadget freaks who can't have iPhones...)


A Phoney Adventure

My 02 XDAII has been playing up (it's almost THREE YEARS OLD!!) and I need to get a new phone. So when I saw this press release I decided I should take a look at the new HTC Touch. The release was issued on July 5 and said:

The HTC Touch will be available around Australia next week through Optus and OfficeWorks, along with selected PC and mobile phone stores, with an outright cost of $699.

However, this week has proven fruitless in my search for the phone.

Htc_touchA call to Officeworks Preston on Monday revealed that they didn't have it in and didn't know when it was coming in. (I popped in again Wednesday and they had a demo model sitting on the cash register counter, but the staff member working in the Tech area said he had no idea when it was coming in). A visit to Telechoice at Northcote Plaza, they hadn't heard of it but they were interested and called Optus only to be told Optus had no idea when it was coming in. (I popped in again on Wednesday and they still had no word about it).

Today I visited Telechoice in Greensborough and the lady behind the counter hadn't heard of it, but pretended she had, and she asked her manager who was busy serving someone else. He said, "We don't have any in stock, we have to order it in for customers. It's a speciality phone and we don't get many people asking for it." Then he went back to his customer and the lady didn't ask "Would you like us to order it in for you." She just stood there. It was an extremely poor lie. I think she realised I would not be returning to their store.

I popped in to Telstra at Greensborough, and I know they won't be handling HTC Touch, but I thought I'd ask. A man came out of the back towards me, smiling, and asked if he could help me. I said "I know you probably don't have it, but I'm looking for the HTC Touch." He said they didn't have it, then walked away. I was the only customer in the shop, he didn't offer to show me anything else. I guess the phones must sell themselves at Telstra...

Finally, I stopped in at OptusWorld in Preston today, and they looked it up on their files. They found it listed, told me the pricing, and said that, as the pricing came out on July 13, the phone should be in store on July 27.

So... I guess I'll go back next week.