Thursday, December 01, 2005

rip(ped) off

one of the stereotypical "how do you know when you're an asian" traits is that of bargain hunting/stinginess, and i think i do display that every now and then... or more :p with that, i present a few things to avoid:
  1. dine at the golden fortune chinese restaurant in surfers paradise.
    went with my family to the gold coast last night to meet some overseas visitors (my very first neighbour ever from my childhood days, and his family). dad asked me to pick a chinese restaurant nearby to their hotel, and i struck out with the entertainment book, so went with the old google fallback. didn't manage to find out much info apart from names, addresses and phone numbers, so i just picked one. spotted it while droving past on the way to the hotel, and soon the whole troupe came back on foot. it looked nice enough, fairly grand/posh looking, and certainly very much in keeping with the "golden" part of the name - all the seats even had covers, which is something i've previously only seen rolled out for weddings and such. really should have looked at the prices before coming in though, cos it was a shocker. i mean, would you pay nearly $170 for this spread? just to clarify, that's 7 dishes in total: 1 vege dish, 1 tofu dish, and 5 reasonably standard meats, of which only one is seafood (prawns). that plus tea and steamed rice, and complimentary fruit and egg tarts at the end... at an average price of over $20 per dish - and that's for "small" servings too - you really don't want to know the price of the set banquets they were pushing (which, although it includes what sounds like an abundance of seafood, is still pricier than some seafood buffets i've had at hotels... and worse of all, the food wasn't even that good. like... quite normal, nothing special whatsoever, nothing at all to suggest/justify the exhorbitant cost. plus i think they actually mucked up one of our dishes. oh well... was too embarassed to walk out after seeing the menu/prices, so felt bad about sticking the parentals (and guests?) in the whole situation of having to order from a grossly overpriced menu. meh.

  2. ok well the restaurant was one i'll have to learn from. here's one i just know to avoid... flybuys has been going the big guns on promoting their new reward - fuel discount vouchers. sure, hop on the bandwagon of savings at the bowser in these times of rising/high petrol prices, but is this really delivery value for money? a quick scan of the other offerings in the rewards catalogue puts the points per dollar's-worth-of-reward rate in the range of about 115-135, with 135 derived from 13500 points needed to get a $100 shopping voucher. using 135 as the conservative rate for calculations, the fuel discount voucher costs 1000 points to redeem, which means it's "worth" about $7.50. but to actually get that much real value out of using the voucher (which entitles you to 10c/litre discount off your fuel purchase), you would need to fill 75 litres. we're talking the entire tank, from empty to full, of something like a commodore or tarago. i'd put the average fuel tank capacity of the cars out on the road to be closer to the 50-60 mark. using 115 as the rate would require you to fill over 85 litres to make it "worthwhile". my advice? skip the hype, get a shopping voucher where you can be sure of getting 100% value. if you were a cynic you might think this is just a strategy for flybuys to get people to spend their points in a way that won't cost flybuys as much as other rewards... (disclaimer: i don't actually know how the all the costs associated with running the flybuys program are borne, i'm just being cynical :p)

  3. i was going to put this one down as a win, but unfortunately that's somewhat inconclusive at the moment. i've been looking for a replacement digicam for some months, and was half set to buy a canon ixus 50 on my last trip overseas. i almost bought too, but for the dodgy salesman who tried to pass a 6 months labour + 6 months parts warranty off as a 12 month warranty. i know that buying locally gives me a standard 12 month warranty, so i didn't want to compromise on this respect just to get cheaper prices overseas and suffer a shorter international warranty. and so i returned home empty handed on that trip. then i found out about the updated ixus 55 model, and have been tracking prices for a few months. found a huge variation in prices, but thanks to staticice managed to find a best price of $479. slight hitch: i could choose between paying for shipping to get it from an interstate store, or pay 3% extra to use my credit card (my card allows me to get up to an additional year's warranty on items purchased with the card, and i want my warranty!) at the local store with the same lowest price, but which has no actual stock anyway. then i was inspired by another guy's success in getting his local store to match competitor's prices, so i gave photo continental a call, and lo and behold they are able to give me a quote for $500! (boo to all the suckers who pay the retail/sticker price of $588, and raspberries to union shopper and apesma electrical who are supposed to help the end consumer get lower prices, but couldn't even come close to the prices i got from my own research). PC also have no surcharge on credit card payments, and they have plenty of stock. schweet... PLUS i found out (not that it's anything new, but i just didn't make the connection before) that i can buy it "duty free" since i'm heading overseas again in a few weeks. thus i popped in there this afternoon and got myself a smaller, lighter, and generally better spec'ed machine than my current ixus 330 (which is still actually going quite well). anyways, happy with my purchase, i start playing with the actual hardware, and give the battery the initial charge. this is when i discover that the battery sit somewhat loose in the charger slot... definitely prone to move about if bumped. and in certain positions (still fully within the slot) it won't charge, or in one instance alternates between charging and not charging, accompanied by a feint ticking sound. some other positions come with a high pitched sound. now i'm very glad i bought it from a physical store nearby, but i still need to find time to get back there during business hours...

  4. oh and speaking of digital cameras and going overseas, i also had to get some passport photos taken so i can apply to renew my nearly expired passport (which, by the way, will be a new variety of epassports). i found out last time that singapore might not let me in with less than 6 months left on my passport, but by then it was too late to do anything about the matter(it was the night before my flight) , and thankfully it didn't turn out to be a problem. this time round i've only got about 2 months left, and don't want to push my luck. so i went to a photo lab place, asked to have passport photos done, and the guy whips out a digicam. shouldn't really have been surprised i guess... though the last time i had to get passport photos they used a specific camera that took 4 shots of your head simultaneously. this time it was with a normal digicam, single shot, touched up and replicated 6 times on a standard 6x4. 10 minutes and $9.50 later, i'm thinking that i could have done it myself and gotten the photo printed for 30-40c at any self-service printing station. another potential rip off job... but then there are quite specific requirements for the photos used for passports, and it might have taken a bit of tweaking to ensure conformity. ah well... the price of "instant"... though it wasn't quite fast enough to prevent me missing my bus.

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