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This morning, I got some great questions from a reader – questions I haven’t addressed yet. I could have just responded to his comments, but instead I thought I’d put it all down in a post to make the information easier for my readers to find. So here’s the questions:

Hey there,
I was wondering if you could help me understand what Kapooka has to offer in a little more detail.

– I am applying for ‘Rifleman’ within the army. I am aware that I may have to wait 6 – 12 months before i receive a letter of offer but does Kapooka gaurantee me a job within the ADF? or is it just something all applicants must do?

– If Kapooka doesn’t gaurantee me employment however, I succeed, does only a select few get selected for Initial Employment Training?

– If succesfull in gaining employment with the ADF will i have a choice of where I will be posted to? For example if I request Brisbane will I have the opportunity to wait until positions in that location are available or must I be assigned to a unit straight away?

– Finally, is there any age discrimination to gain employment in a role of a Rifleman? I’m 17yrs old but I am very physically capable. So in plain words… Any restrictions?

Some good stuff there. I’ve broken the questions down and answered them individually below.

– I am applying for ‘Rifleman’ within the army. I am aware that I may have to wait 6 – 12 months before i receive a letter of offer but does Kapooka gaurantee me a job within the ADF? or is it just something all applicants must do?

This question reminded me of another recent concern I received from a reader. Kapooka is TRAINING, it’s not an ASSESSMENT. This means that you will be taught how to be an Australian Soldier at Kapooka – not tested to see if you already have the knowledge. If you pass the training at Kapooka, Yes, you are guaranteed employment in the Australian Army.

– If Kapooka doesn’t gaurantee me employment however, I succeed, does only a select few get selected for Initial Employment Training?

Even though I’ve answered the first part of this question above, I wanted to address the issue of IETs. At the completion of Kapooka, you’re trained in the basics of being a “soldier”, but not in a “trade”. So everyone that gets through Kapooka has to then go to an IET course. The issue is that your IET course may not be ready for you as soon as you finish Kapooka. I talk about that specific issue in my post: What happens after Kapooka?

– If succesfull in gaining employment with the ADF will i have a choice of where I will be posted to? For example if I request Brisbane will I have the opportunity to wait until positions in that location are available or must I be assigned to a unit straight away?

Yes and No. From your IET course, your Corps will decide where they want you to go first and you’ll get very little say in that decision. During your first posting, you’ll be asked to provide your “posting preferences” to your Career Manager – the guy in Canberra who manages the back end of your career. You can list THREE units, cities or jobs that you want and ONE that you don’t want. Your Career Manager will take your choices into account when deciding where to post you, but remember that the needs of the Army ALWAYS come first. If you ask for Brisbane, but 1 RAR in Townsville is desperately short of soldiers, you’ll probably get 1 RAR.

– Finally, is there any age discrimination to gain employment in a role of a Rifleman? I’m 17yrs old but I am very physically capable. So in plain words… Any restrictions?

There’s no minimum age to join as a Rifleman. It’s one of the few roles in the Army that ANYONE can be assigned to. In fact, if you don’t perform well at Kapooka, you should expect to be assigned to Rifleman. I thought that defence jobs.gov.au would have info about the specific physical requirements for Rifleman, but let’s face it, that web site is really quite poor.

The physical requirements are much higher than Kapooka. Kapooka will provide a certain level of fitness, but if you’re already quite fit, you might not get that much out of it. Heading off the Singleton for your Rifleman IET course will REALLY put you through your paces. People who were a lot less fit than you managed to become successful Rifleman, so you shouldn’t have any problems at all.

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Bulls**t prison sentences

(2 March 2013)

When I woke up this morning, I was flabbergasted. Weird word, but nothing else really describes my emotional state when I read THIS news article about a Sydney woman killed by a P-Plater. I always thought our justice system was supposed to represent the views of society. After all, isn’t “society” the group who determine what is considered right and wrong? Apparently not.

I’m going to start by mentioning an article from 2012 about a man named Michael Gillard. Michael lived in Canberra and used to look after some teenage girls from time to time, although I don’t know anything about his relationship to the girls. Anyway, it seems that the older girl took a liking to Michael, so on a few occasions – when she was 16 – they had consensual sex.

There’s no real polite way to put this, but one day the girl gave him oral, while her 13 year old sister was in the same room. There’s no mention of what shape the room was, or whether the sister actually saw – or was aware – of what was going on. Michael was sentenced to almost 10 years in prison.

Fair enough, some might say. But Michael’s crime wasn’t rape. He was convicted of “betraying the girl’s trust” while in a position of authority. That might sound bad, but thousands of parents do that every day in Australia, in my opinion.

So back to today’s story. A 22 year old P plater, on a suspended licence, who blew .106, sped through a roundabout, lost control of his V8 and killed an innocent woman. Steven Michael O’Donnell, who obviously already had some kind of driving conviction, since his licence was already suspended, drank SO heavily the night before, that he was still MORE THAN DOUBLE the “open licence” blood alcohol limit in Australia when he got in his car the next morning. And just so you know, the New South Wales P Plate blood alcohol limit is 0.00. That’s ZERO

I’ve been that drunk before, and let me tell you, there’s no “I reckon I’ll be fine to drive” about it. I could barely speak and I could barely walk. What the f**k is a person doing getting into a car in that condition?

Anyway, Steven O’Donnell pled guilty to “dangerous driving occasioning death while under the influence”. So he admitted that he was drunk and that he was responsible for killing someone with his car. His sentence? Maximum of 3.5 years in prison and a 3 year driving ban. They say he’ll be out in 1 year, 9 months.

What the f**k were you thinking, Judge Chris Craigie? As a member of society, this sentence DOES NOT reflect my views, and probably the majority of the rest of Australia’s. And well done you, banning him from driving for 3 years. You’re awesome. You really showed him, didn’t you! I’ll bet you $1,000 at 100-to-1 odds, that he couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the ban. How many days after he gets out of prison will it take before he’s behind the wheel again? 7? 10?

So let’s compare:

Michael Gillard – had consensual sex with a 16 year old, while her 13 year old sister was in the room. Sentence: 9 years 9 months.

Steven O’Donnell – unlicensed, drunk p plater KILLS an innocent woman. Sentence: 3 years 6 months.

So my old mate, Judge Chris Craigie not only seems to believe that having consensual sex with a 16 year old is a WORSE crime than choosing to drive when you’re drunk; than being so far over the legal blood alcohol limit that I don’t know how to calculate the percentage; than killing an innocent person.

I’m curious how many of you out there AGREE with Judge Chris Craigie that killing someone is worse than consensual sex. Anyone?

When will Australia do something about these young criminals? It seems people under 25 these days think they can do whatever the hell they want, and it’s someone else’s fault. And really, who can blame them when you see decisions like this? Steven O’Donnell should have been put away for AT LEAST 5 years, maybe even 10, in my opinion. He took a life. And not a burglar, or a thief, or a rapist. An innocent mother, on her way to work.

I bet that if someone broke into my house (ie: making a decision not follow societies laws) and I shot and killed them, I would get more than 3 and a half years. So why can I go out, with a history of driving offences, and kill someone while I’m unlicensed and double the legal alcohol limit, and walk away comparatively scott free?

Would the judge have been so lenient if the driver killed someone he knew?

They need to not only implement harsher penalties for this kind of crime, but they need to introduce a system – similar to motorbikes – where L and P plate drivers are restricted to the kind of car they can drive. Obviously, putting an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a V8 is ludicrous. The hard part is the way they modify cars these days. I know there’s a lot of modified 4 and 6 cylinder cars out there with just as much power as a V8, so they need to find a way to address that.

I’m no mechanic, so I don’t know the ins and outs of mods. But i’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to limit P platers to UNMODIFIED 4 or 6 cylinder cars. And L plate drivers should be restricted to the family car, or UNMODIFIED 4 cylinder cars only.

And none of this “dangerous driving occasioning death” bullshit for drink drivers. You kill someone – that’s manslaughter. Manslaughter is the legal term for the killing of a human being in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. Isn’t that what Steven O’Donnell did?

Tell me your opinions

Australian retail prices

I read with interest recently, how the Australia Government is finally sending a “Please Explain” to Apple and Microsoft about the prices they charge for their products in Australia. After recent visits to the US, I was appalled to see just how cheap things are over there. And as much as I love to hate Apple, at least their prices are CLOSE.

But when will something be done about retail? I know my readers join me in my anger and frustration at the ludicrous prices we pay in Australia. On top of the crappy job market and our ever-increasing utilities bills, how the hell are supposed to “buy Australian”?

I was born in the early 70’s, so when I grew up, the British Pound (GBP) was worth OVER two Australian Dollars (AUD). That meant, that Aussies going to visit the UK really had to save up, since everything was so expensive. But visit there now – or speak to Poms visiting our country – and you’ll see the tide has turned. I think it’s sad that even Brits think our country is overpriced.

Without really trying, I’ve managed to do some research on retail prices, comparing the USA to Australia. Don’t get me wrong, when you have a population of around 400,000,000 you’re going to have a more affluent retail economy than if you have 25,000,000. With that kind of volume, you can afford to keep your prices down.

So here’s some examples of the differences in prices on certain things between the USA and here. Keep in mind that these are all REAL prices, that I either paid or saw myself when I was there. And at the time, the exchange rate was pretty much 1:1, so you can assume the USD price is the same value as AUD:

Visited Macy’s (big department store in New York City) where I bought two polo shirts and a leather wallet. In Australia, you’re probably looking at AT LEAST $19.95 per shirt (if you get them at Target) and probably another $20 for the wallet – so you’re looking at AT LEAST $60. In Macy’s, I paid $33 – around half price.

Visited Bloomingdales (another big, famous store in NYC) where my wife checked out the KitchenAid stand mixers. At the time, you could get one in Australia for $699 if you were lucky. Now, the RRP is $749. At Bloomingdales, they were $299.

Visited the women’s Calvin Klein outlet store in Las Vegas (they have separate stores for males and females). My wife bought: a dress, a pair of shoes, a pair of CK jeans, two t-shirts, a belt and a few pairs of underwear. I wouldn’t even want to guess what that would be in Australia, but I’d assume the dress would be AT LEAST $100, the shoes AT LEAST $140, the jeans around $120, t-shirts probably $40 each, and underwear here is around $20 a pair. So at home, that list of items would probably be around $500 – $600. She paid $264. And the funny thing is, when we laughed at the total, the sales girl said “I know, expensive right?”

Back to Macy’s, where I bought a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans. Let’s assume $150 in Australia. I paid $40. I also picked up some CK slacks, again probably close to $150 in Australia. Macy’s price? $40. And not only that, but that’s NOT a sale price, and it’s NOT old season stock.

And to me, here’s the kicker. For my purchase at Macy’s, we were attended to by ONE salesperson for almost an hour and a half. The guy took us all over the menswear department (which is two floors) to find what I wanted. He found and CLEANED a change room for me. When things didn’t fit, he went off to get different sizes. When I wanted something that wasn’t on the shelf, he looked it up on the computer and spent 10 minutes in the store room looking for it.

This guy was probably in his 40’s, wore a suit and tie (not jeans and t-shirt), he chatted with us the entire time, and he actually cared about his job and his customers. Then, when I decided just to go with the two pairs of pants, he offered me a 20% discount. And guess what? You don’t tip sales people in the US. So this guy gave us 90 minutes of his time (and he worked hard) for commission on an $80 sale. Try doing THAT in Australia!

Another thing that annoys me is how much we pay our staff here in Australia. America’s minimum wage can be as low as $2 per hour, which obviously helps to keep prices low. But it reflects in the fact that imports can be cheaper than domestically produced items, courtesy of wages. Here’s an example:

At Dan Murphy’s, an “average” bottle of Australian made Sauvignon Blanc will set you back between $15 and $30. Yet you can buy Paul Mas, which is a French brand for $6.99. So this stuff is made in arguably the best wine region in the world, is shipped to Australia, is subject to import taxes and duties, and then gets marked up so Dan’s can make a profit. And it’s STILL $6.99.

So why is it, that wine that is produced in Stanthorpe (about 4 hours from Brisbane) costs me $25? It can’t be volume sales, and it can’t be import taxes. So what the hell is it? And let me say just quietly, that Paul Mas is better than MOST Australian Made Sav Blancs.

And what about Lego? My all time favourite gripe. If I buy a big set – let’s say one of those Lego trains – either in-store in Australia, or through Lego.com, I’m looking at as much as $300. Plus delivery of about $60 if I buy online. Yet I luckily discovered Amazon France, where the SAME SET is $170 delivered, and it arrives in less than a week! You can’t even get mail from Sydney to Brisbane in that time!

So sure, I love to “buy Australian” and I love to support my local small businesses, but not when it more than doubles my final bill. I my CK jeans were $70 instead of $150, I’d probably buy them at Myer, rather than online, or when I travel overseas. If Lego was the same price here as America or France, I’d probably buy it at Toyworld. But I’m sorry, I refuse to pay twice as much as I have to just to support Australia. It doesn’t make economical sense. You wouldn’t run a multi-million dollar company like that, so why run your household budget like that?

So while I do say a big “Thanks” to the government for looking into software prices, maybe they should be looking into the bigger issue of retail prices. Maybe the issue is that it’s the Government themselves who are responsible for the prices, so they’re more reluctant to do anything about it. After all, THEY set the import fees, THEY set the sales taxes, and THEY set the minimum wage for our sales people.

Episode 2

Here it is! Apologies to all my readers who read Episode 1 and have waited patiently for the second instalment. I promised a few anecdotes in the first episode, so I promise to cover them this time around.

Training was hard and never ending. Even though I spent a few years in the Army Cadets before joining the Army, I still learned a lot. And not just ironing uniforms and folding socks! What we found was that the days went REALLY slow, but the weeks seemed to fly by.

Towards the end of training, you do a huge assessment of your basic infantry and field skills, called The Challenge. It’s 15km of hell (obstacle course, dam crossing, section attack, stretcher carry and forced marching), followed by a shoot at the range. You go out field a day or so before The Challenge starts, and on the night before, you go “non tac” (short for “non tactical”, meaning you get to have fires, make noise, use light, etc).

We had a huge bonfire and soft drinks were brought it to accompany our BBQ dinner. In Infantry terms, this was like heaven. We were all chilling out, getting to speak openly with our platoon staff for pretty much the first time, and everyone was having a great time. The temperature was dropping, and I was standing right at the edge of the fire trying to keep warm.

One of the things you learn during basic training is how to harness your inner aggression and how to tap into it very quickly. It’s the key to successful Infantry skills. So there I was, RIGHT on the edge of the fire, when someone walked behind me and gave me a shove. I took a full step forward – into this huge bonfire we had going.

Instantly, my aggression was switched on. I stepped back out of the fire, spun around and got ready for a fight, yelling: “Who f**king pushed me into the fire!” and I’m pretty sure my fists were up. What I saw, was my section commander standing there with a grin on his face. But I think my reaction surprised him, because his smile disappeared and he took a step back. As soon as I realised it was him, I backed off, fearing the worst, and said “Sorry, Corporal”. He responded with “You’ve got balls, recruit”.

Even though he was having a bit of fun, back then I could have found myself in some real trouble. Either facing a charge for swearing at him, or worse – going toe-to-toe with him! He was only a short, wiry guy, but he was Infantry, and at the time he was the toughest bloke I think I’d ever seen. Everyone had a good laugh – including the CPL and I – and we all went to bed early, ready for the challenge.

The next morning we were up early, preparing for The Challenge. It was seriously tough. One of our guys tripped at about the halfway mark, and later we learned he dislocated his knee. It had popped back in, but he was in serious pain for the last half of The Challenge. A few times he wanted to drop out, but that would mean being back-squadded – doing some retraining and then doing The Challenge all over again. Through the power of teamwork, we kept him going right through the end, and he literally collapsed as soon as he crossed the finish line. But he passed.

The Challenge is done right at the end of training. It’s like your final assessment of your skills. So a few days later, you start practicing for the March Out Parade which marks the actual completion of training – which used to occur about a week after The Challenge.

Everyone’s families are invited to the parade, and they usually arrive a day or two early. The day before the parade, they put on a BBQ at the base’s club, and the families get to come and spend time with you for the afternoon. My father and step-mother came and I introduced them to some of the guys from my platoon and my section and we spent a few hours chatting, eating and drinking. It was great.

After the parade, the families were again invited to the club, where we got to drink some more to celebrate and we also had that night off to go into town or do whatever we wanted. Prior to going to Kapooka, I was never really a beer drinker. But it’s a cheap drink (well, it was back then), and on recruits wages, it was the drink of choice. So once again, I got to spend some time with my Dad and my section and drink WAY too much.

And that’s when I realised I was outdrinking my father! The section had gotten into a round of “shouts”, and when it was my turn, I realised Dad wasn’t keeping up with the rest of us. I thought that was quite surprising, since I grew up in a country town, where Dad and his mates used to work on cars and trailers all day – constantly drinking. But to his credit, when a few of the guys wanted to go out on the town that night, Dad tagged along.

Sadly, my father passed away from cancer in 2002, only months before I was to deploy to East Timor – the first major Australian deployment since Vietnam. I knew he was proud of me joining the Army, and if there’s one thing I regret, it’s that after 12 years’ service, he never got to share in the joy of me finally getting to go overseas.

A little while ago, I posted an article about my Kit-Kat challenge in response to Uncle Toby’s challenge. They claim that if you eat a bowl of their cereal every day (in conjunction with exercise and a calorie controlled diet), you’ll reduce your cholesterol. I’m sure Uncle Toby’s Oats taste awesome, but not as good as a Kit-Kat. So with MY diet, you eat a Kit-Kat every day (in conjunction with exercise and a calorie controlled diet) and not only will your cholesterol get better, but you’ll lose weight too – AND you get to eat Kit-Kats!

But now, courtesy of the pressure applied by Jenny Craig here in Australia, I’m going to take my Kit-Kat challenge one step further: If you follow my Kit-Kat challenge, and you DON’T lose an average of 500g each week for 13 weeks, I’ll refund your money. That’s right , out of my OWN pocket, I’ll refund ALL of your money. But in all fairness, if my diet’s conditions are the same as Uncle Toby’s, then my refund offer should be the same as Jenny Craig’s, right?

So I will MATCH Jenny Craig’s conditions: Follow my diet for 13 weeks, and if you don’t lose an average of 500g per week, you get your money back. But here’s the fine print: You get to eat ONE Kit-Kat per day, every day during the challenge. But you also have to exercise every day and control your energy intake (ie: “calorie controlled”). If you do all that and STILL don’t lose the weight, I’ll refund your membership fee (but not the cost of food).

Oh wait. I didn’t charge you a membership fee. Well believe it or not, for a while there, neither did Jenny Craig! And even when they do, the membership fee really isn’t that expensive, it’s the FOOD that costs all the money. So maybe what all this is suggesting is that I start charging people to take part in my Kit-Kat challenge. And why shouldn’t I? Would YOU pay a fee to be able – nay, to be FORCED – to eat a Kit-Kat every day and STILL lose weight? I reckon I would.

Warranties in Australia

I’m a bit of a campaigner for consumer rights in Australia. Not in the sense that I’m out, knocking on doors or lobbying the Government, but I tell as many people as I can about their rights, and how to get what they pay for and what they’re entitled to – sometimes whether they want to hear it or not, lol.

Today, I sent an e-mail to the QLD office of Fair Trading in relation to companies like Nude by Nature, who sell makeup on TV. They change their ad every couple of months and EVERY F**KING time they do, they say this: “This is the last free trial you will ever see”. Naturally, they mean from Nude by Nature, not EVER by ANYONE.

Their ad is illegal, because they say it’s the “last” time they’ll make this offer, and secondly they say it’s free when it’s not. If you keep their products, you have to pay $229.95 to keep them. And they will bill you automatically if you don’t send it back. Both of these statements are designed to get you to buy their products under false circumstances.

But I digress. This post is about warranties. I’ve done some previous posts about warranties and consumer law in Australia, because I hate that some companies deliberately try to rip us off down here. It’s become widely known around the world how expensive Australia has become, and surely that should be enough for us to put up with, without a-hole businesses acting in a way to TRY and make us pay more for our products, or to pay for things we don’t need.

One of those things is extended warranties. The only time I would EVER pay for an extended warranty is when I buy a computer. Nothing else. Ever. Why? Because of a little known law called “Implied Warranties”. In a nutshell, an Implied Warranty says that if you pay an amount of money for a product, there’s an expectation that it will last for a particular period of time – regardless of the manufacturer’s warranty.

As an example, let’s say you buy a new lounge suite. After months of searching, you settle on something you like and you spend good money on it. Let’s say $2,500 (pretty easy to do these days). It comes with a 12 month warranty on the frame and probably a 5 year warranty on the fabric.

So 18 months goes by and one day you come home from a big day out and flop into your lounge, exhausted. But when you do, part of the frame breaks. What do you do? Curse that you didn’t pay for the extended warranty? Hell no. This is where Implied Warranties come in. The law says, that it’s reasonable to assume that if you pay $2,500 for a brand new lounge, that it’s going to last longer than the 12 month warranty you got.

Naturally, nobody can say EXACTLY how long that lounge SHOULD last, but nobody would expect that they would have to pay $2,500 every year for a new lounge, right? So your first point of call is to contact the retailer and tell them what happened. Maybe they’ll be fine with it and help you out, maybe they won’t. But they should. If not, you send them an e-mail, explaining what happened and asking politely for a refund, repair or replacement (which is your entitlement under Australian Consumer Law). If they won’t come to the party, you send them another e-mail, telling them you’re going to speak with Fair Trading (a.k.a Consumer Protection).

SIDEBAR: Nude by Nature ad just came on. It’s 18 January 2013, and the girl just said “This could be the last Nude by Nature free trial you ever see” (notice she used the words “could be”. Nice touch). Then, a big banner appears saying “This could be your last chance”. A few seconds later, another banner comes on saying “LAST TIME EVER FREE TRIAL” (those caps are on the ad), and then my favourite girl says “…for the last time ever, we want you to try it for free.”

So while I was on the QLD Fair Trading website, I found THIS little gem. Basically, there is now a National campaign by Fair Trading to investigate stores getting customers to pay for an extended warranty. The whole reason they’re doing that is because of Implied Warranties.

So if you live in Australia, and you’re sick of being ripped off by unscrupulous companies, do some research on the ACCC website and learn your rights. You’ll be surprised how much you save yourself over the next two years.

Bad Australian news reporting

Yet another reason for me to hate http://www.news.com.au – as if I need yet ANOTHER one! I woke this morning and checked the news, like I often do. News.com had a story that interested me, relating to a group of diners from Seagrass at Melbourne’s Southbank who left without paying their bill.

As much as I HATE sending readers to dodgy websites, here’s the link to the story. In a nutshell, “five young diners” attended the restaurant (4 males, 1 female), where “Over dinner, they worked their way expertly through the menu, ordered and drank fine wines and, after ordering dessert, slipped out “for a smoke”. They kept going.”

This article was posted today (6 January 2013). But it was written and initially published on 27 November 2008. So they’ve recycled a FOUR YEAR OLD STORY. I wanted to leave a comment on the News.com website to express my views on their awesome reporting, but of course they’re not accepting comments for this story. Hmmm, I wonder why?

But that’s not the worst of it. The story tells how these 5 diners seemed to live it up at Seagrass, enjoying what sounds like a banquet fit for a rock star. Yet the unpaid bill was “about $520”. I’m not sure when you last went out for a good meal with a group of friends, but I would challenge ANYONE to meet the description of these diners’ meal and come away with a bill for only $520.

Let’s do some REALLY quick maths – no brains required. The article says “fine wines”, so let’s assume that the author isn’t talking about Grange Hermitage, and that they bought wine at $120 a bottle. That’s pretty cheap from a restaurant. One bottle generally yields 5 glasses, so assuming these guys who were apparently living it up, didn’t just have 1 glass during their meal, so that means $240 on wine.

I tried to look up Seagrass’s menu to see what their mains are worth, but guess what? Seagrass has CLOSED. So great work from News.com, talking about a restaurant that doesn’t even exist anymore. So I’m going to assume their prices are “mid way”. Entrees probably around $20, mains averaging around $37 and desserts at $17. That’s $74 per person (remember, they “worked their way expertly through the menu, ordered and drank fine wines and, after ordering dessert….”

So….$74 per person, times 5 people, equals $370. Add in the two bottles of wine at $240 and we’re already at $610. Again here, we’re assuming there were no pre-dinner drinks or cocktails, that they only drank two glasses of wine each and that the prices at Seagrass aren’t anything to raise an eyebrow at (even back in 2008).

If I went out for a dinner matching the article’s description with four of my friends, I would probably budget AT LEAST $200 per person, so that I knew everyone could have GOOD wine (as described) and not be restricted to what they could order off the menu.

Just another example of the shit news we get in Australia, and how there’s nobody out there keeping tabs on this crap.

Help with Australian Telcos

I just finished writing my post about Oporto, and it occurred to me that I should do something to help my readers. I already get a lot of visitors reading my tips and stories about the Australian Army, but I thought I might share some tips on dealing with Australian Telcos. Thanks to a visit to a “3” store way back when, I have learned some shocking facts and I’ve become somewhat of an expert on dealing with these people.

So here’s some background – feel free to skip this if you’re in a battle and need actual advice, lol.

FACT #1: I live in Brisbane, where the rent for retail space in Queen Street mall is amongst the highest in the world. So guess who has the largest quantity of stores there? That’s right, Telco’s. Most even have TWO store fronts. That goes some way to explain to you just how much money these companies are making off us.

FACT #2: There is a really cool law called Implied Warranties, which basically says that if you pay an amount of money for an item (or service), there’s an expectation that the item will work for a particular period of time. ie: You buy a new TV for $1,999, you would EXPECT it to still work after the 12 month manufacturers warranty has expired, right? THAT is an Implied Warranty. There’s no book that lists every item and how it’s price is linked to it’s lifespan, you kind of have to be reasonable about it when dealing with retailers.

But anyway, most Telcos used to sign you up to a 2 year contract, but only give you a 1 year warranty on your phone. Remember that? And in fact, some Telcos will STILL try to get away with that. The fact is, this practice is ILLEGAL. If you sign a 2 year contract, it’s IMPLIED that you would like your new handset to be in working order for that full 2 years.

Australian Telcos have always known this, but they know that consumers DON’T know this, so they have tried to ignore the law as long as possible. Don’t believe me? I e-mailled the ACCC a while back to complain about it. Rather than send a written reply, a got a phone call, and it seems that was because the guy I spoke to wanted to vent, and didn’t want a written record, lol.

He told me that the ACCC wrote to all Telcos in Australia and informed them that this practice is illegal. Vodafone, to their credit, changed their policy on receipt of that letter. But ALL the others basically replied with “Until consumers make a fuss, we will continue with our current practice”.

You see, the problem is, if nobody complains, people like the ACCC don’t know what the problem is. And then they can’t fix it. Luckily in this case, word spread, and now most companies will give you a warranty period that matches your contract. And if they don’t (or don’t tell you about it), then ask them and they will do it.

FACT #3. Telco’s generally pay less than $50 for a handset which they charge you $500 for.

FACT #4. There is no requirement for ANY Australian retailer to understand the law as it applies to their business. This gets VERY frustrating, since I get sick of hearing “But that’s our store policy” even though it breaks the law. Even when I try to explain to store managers that their “store policy” is illegal, I’ll often here “We’re just a retailer, we only do what <insert Telco name here> tell us”.

FACT #5. Straight from the horses mouth, during my phone call with the ACCC: “Telcos actually work on the theory that Australian consumers are ignorant and will do what they’re told. This kind of thing doesn’t happen overseas”. So this means that EVERY time you walk into a Telco store in Australia, they are EXPECTING to rip you off. YOU need to do something about that!

And here’s what you do. This will stop you getting ripped off when you shop in Australia. Sometimes stores seem like they’re TRYING to rip you off, some just don’t know the law. So here’s some reading for you:

Australian Consumer Law – explains your right when shopping in Australia

Implied Warranty – Wiki entry that explains how it all works

In addition to that, there’s an amazing organisation in Australian called the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). These guys deal solely with issues relating to Telcos, ISPs and the like. And let me tell you something Telco’s are PETRIFIED of the TIO. I have seen arguments start in-store after I mentioned the TIO.

Here’s how it works. Remember how I said you don’t have to understand the law to run a business? The TIO are the law gods who keep Telcos on the straight and narrow. Let’s say you’re having a problem with your Telco. You call them and nothing works. You visit them in the store and nothing works. All you do is politely say “Thanks for your time. I’ll just call the TIO and see what they have to say”. If you’re problem isn’t solved immediately (with a bow wrapped around it!), you go home and call the TIO (google their number, it’s a free call).

The TIO will listen to your story and decide whether you have a legitimate argument or case. If you do, they will log it, give you a case number, and then give you a DIFFERENT number to call your Telco on. You call that number, say “Hi, my name is Grumpy. I’ve just spoken with the TIO and have a case number”. They’ll ask you for that case number and then they’ll proceed to adjust the rotation of the Earth to get you what you want. Simple.

I’m sure this all seems fanciful, but I can assure you it works. I spent two months arguing with “3” about my handset before I rang the TIO. I got my case number, rang the special number and in about 5 minutes the nice lady said I could choose a new handset either from my current plan or the plan above mine and they would ship me one for free. 5 MINUTES! After TWO MONTHS of arguing with the store! Seriously, I wish someone had told ME about the TIO back then.

So here’s my tips for buying a new handset in Australia:

TIP #1. Describe to the salesperson what you want the handset to do. NEVER say “I want an iPhone 5”. If you DESCRIBE what you want the handset to do, and it doesn’t do that (and the salesperson doesn’t warn you), then it’s THEIR problem and they have to fix it under ACL rules. If you tell them the exact phone you want, and it doesn’t do what you want it to, that’s YOUR problem. They sold you the handset that you told them you wanted.

So, for example, you say this: “Hi, I’m looking for a phone where I can use iTunes, e-mail and access an app-store. I’d prefer it was a touch screen, and it needs a camera. I use Facebook a lot, so I need a phone that can access Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and blah, blah, blah”

If you’re clever, you make your explanation so specific that the ONLY phone that does all that IS an iPhone 5. But let’s say Facebook doesn’t work. Maybe Apple forgot to include that for some reason. You can take your handset back and you are ENTITLED to a refund or replacement. Why? Because under ACL, the salesperson MUST sell you something that is “fit for the purpose described”. Obviously, if at the time of sale, he says “We’ve got THIS phone, but it doesn’t do Facebook”, he’s covered, since he’s informed you of that issue. But if you said “I want an iPhone 5” and then took it back because it doesn’t do Facebook – not his problem.

TIP #2. Pay attention to what the salesperson says during your entire conversation. If he tells you something about the handset (or contract) that is not obvious, or part of the manufacturers promises, the store is responsible to uphold what he says. It’s called an “Express Warranty”. So let’s say you’ve described the handset you want, and the salesperson says “This phone is awesome. It actually works underwater and you can drop it from a two storey balcony and it will still work”. He has just committed the store to including those two points in your warranty. The problem is proving that salesperson would be dumb enough to say that, lol. If you can, get him to write those down – even on a post-it note. Then ask for his card and staple it to the note.

TIP #3. Watch your bills. Don’t think the Telcos won’t try to slip something in there that you shouldn’t be paying. Check your bill EVERY MONTH. And if something isn’t right – or seems a bit dodgy – call them!

Anything else I can help you with? Drop me a line

Aluma Wallet Scam

This post should be part of my “Australia Sucks” series of posts. It still blows me away that our Government either CAN’T or CHOOSES NOT TO stop this kind of crap in order to protect Australian consumers. No wonder we all shop online and/or overseas these days.

I’m sure you’ve seen this wallet on TV. It’s a little, hard plastic wallet with what looks like a thousand plastic pockets inside to hold your credit cards, drivers license, cash, etc. I saw these when I was in the USA recently, and figured I’d give one a go. Here’s the link in case you want to confirm it’s the same wallet that you’ve seen.

IN MY OPINION, they’re a piece of crap. The plastic pockets started coming out after about 2 days; if I put more than about 4 notes inside it, it couldn’t cope – and you can FORGET about putting coins in it – and the body started to die after about a week. I threw it in the bin, my $8 wasted. Yes, you read that right: $8.

So PLEASE, someone explain to me how the f@#k Global Shop Direct are allowed to sell this piece of crap for $49.99 plus $9.99 postage? $60 for an $8 wallet that’s worth around $2?

Listen up Australia – if you buy one of these shitty little wallets, you deserve to be ripped off. Maybe it will make you realise that the shit sold by Global Shop Direct is crap and a deliberate rip-off.

Why aren’t Consumer Protection and the ACCC banging on these guys’ door and trawling through their books. Maybe I should start a business, importing $2 items from China and then selling them for $40. I could make a fortune and it seems that the Australian Government is powerless to stop me.

QUICK UPDATE: I was at my local post office a few days back (mid January 2013) and they were selling the Aluma Wallet for $14. So, like me, if you’re prepared to “give it a go”, buy from your post office – not the TV scammers.

We’re a funny breed, us soldiers, so I thought I’d put together a little list of some Army words that will become part of your daily routine if you join up – and a helpful reference if someone you know or love has joined. Some of these words or phrases might only be used at work, but many of them will slip out of your soldier’s mouth without warning.

For a much bigger list, check out THIS wiki page.

A lot of this stuff IS funny, and can take some getting used to, but this really is language that us soldiers use on a daily basis. And it’s funny how we don’t understand why civvy’s (see below) don’t know what a brew,a gumpy or a goffa is.

Ack – short for “Acknowledged”. One term my wife and I use these days. Brilliant for when someone says something that doesn’t really require a response, but it would be nice to let them know you heard. i.e. “When we go to the shops, we should get more toilet paper”. Ack would be a PERFECT response.

A.J. – “Ay-Jay”. Short for Army Jerk, referring to anyone in the Army. In a similar vein to the word “NIgga”, it’s ok to call someone an A.J. if YOU are one. If not, it’ll probably start a fight.

Arc Up – Usually means to open fire, but also relates to either starting something or yelling at someone. ie: You can “arc up” and Xbox (meaning to turn it on) and if you’ve been bad, the Sergeant might “arc up” at you (meaning to yell).

BHQ/RHQ – Battalion Head Quarters / Regimental Head Quarters. Where the Commander and other Officers work within a unit.

Boozer – the “bar” run by the unit. Also can refer to any pub or bar.

Brew – Cuppa. A brew is either a coffee or a tea. Can also mean a beer.

Bug Out – Leave wherever you are. Usually in a hurry.

Champ – A (usually derogatory) term for someone you don’t know. “What’s YOUR problem, champ?”

Civvy – “Siv-ee”. A civilian. A group of people that soldiers hate – yet yearn to be.

Choco – (Short for “Chocolate Soldier”). An Army Reservist. Another group that soldiers hate but want to be, since they get to choose what military activities they are “available” to attend.

Cluster – Short for Clusterfuck. A complete and utter balls-up.

Dirk/ed – To be assigned a (usually unwanted) task by a superior.

Eating Irons – Knife, fork and spoon (often abbreviated to K.F.S.).

E.K.O. – Early Knock Off. Expected EVERY Friday.

EX – Short for Exercise – a training activity conducted by soldiers.

Farter – Somewhere to sleep. Usually a sleeping bag.

Gat – A weapon.

Goffa – A soft drink.

Grunt – A term for an Infantryman (usually considered derogatory unless you are one: as per AJ or Nigga)

Gumpy/Gumpy Bar – A chocolate bar.

Heartlidge – Another derogatory term, this time for someone with no heart or “guts”. People like this are said to have “pulled a heartlidge”.

Jack/Go Jack – to do something for yourself with utter disregard for anyone else. Like making yourself a brew and not asking anyone else if they want one.

Jube – A new or inexperienced person. When you get to Kapooka, you WILL be considered a Jube.

Jubie/Jubie Juice – Cordial. Since it’s the most exciting thing recruits are allowed to drink at Kapooka for the first month or so.

NATO – Not what you’d think. It means “Milk with two sugars”. Nobody knows why.

Numpty – A hopeless or unco-ordinated person.

Old Mate/Ol’ Mate – Someone you’re talking about whose name you don’t know. i.e. “Check out Old Mate. He’s forgotten his shoes!”

Oxygen Thief – Someone so utterly useless that their mere existence deprives the rest of humanity of valuable oxygen.

Paper/Scissors/Rank – A great game, along the lines of paper/scissors/rock, where “Rank” trumps everything.

Pineapple – Similar to being Dirked or Stabbed. Being made to do something you hate. “The Sarge just gave me a pineapple. I’m washing vehicles all day”.

Quey – “Kyoo-ee”. The term for someone who works in the Q-store (where all the stores and equipment are held).

Regi – “Red-jee”. A term for someone who is very “down the line” and sticks to the rules no matter what.

Rock Show – An utter balls-up, usually relating to an organised activity. i.e. “This Ex is a Rock Show”.

Seen/Not seen – used to indicate whether you have (or haven’t) seen what someone is talking about. Used in the Army for things like a reference point, but great for when your wife is navigating as you drive. ie “Turn left at the Caltex”. If you see the servo, you would say “Seen”

Stabbed – (see dirk/ed). To be assigned a (usually unwanted) task by a superior.

Wait – used to indicate you need to wait for a very short period, usually only a few seconds. Again, great in everyday life when you’re listening to a news story and someone starts talking. A simple “wait” lets them know you’re busy. My wife used to think I was rude until I explained this one to her, now she – and my kids – use it on a daily basis.

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