Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shopping Online and Consumer Complaints

Jack Dikian
January 2011

Leading up to Christmas 2010 much of the news concerning online shopping was associated with whether the Federal Government should place a good and services tax (GST) on products bought from overseas online retailers. And some local retailers claimed that they are at an "unfair disadvantage" when competing against goods bought from overseas.

Another aspect associated with our increasing tendency to shop online is the increasing rate of shopping complaints about online purchases. In fact, we (Australians) made the second-highest number of complaints about online purchases only after the US.

The most common problem reported was a failure to receive a purchased product, followed by misrepresentation of products. According to Michael Callaghan, a lecturer in consumer behaviour at Deakin University, Australians expected web retailers to be more reliable than early embracers of online shopping. "The tolerance of consumers now to accept problems is a lot less than a few years ago. The perceived risk [of online shopping] has gone down … and the less risk you perceive the more likely you'll seek redress if problems occur.''

Only a few years ago, NSW Fair Trading Minister, Linda Burney, urged consumers to proceed with caution when shopping online. The warning came after figures from the Office of Fair Trading revealed a 22% increase in complaints about online trading in the past year (2006) to almost 1,500.

Almost half of the complaints received related to the non or partial delivery of the goods, faults or damage, or the product not matching the description, and one in five complaints related directly to refunds, overcharging and other money related issues.

A number of agencies have recently launched programmes, including online sites to help deliver better consumer protection world-wide, providing shoppers with essential information to avoid scams, shop safely online, and how to lodge a complaint for cross-border disputes.

These agencies are sharing information, cooperating on initiatives and amalgamating information to combat cross border scams, and other equally less satisfying practices.

Some examples include:

International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN), provides consumers with essential information including how to avoid scams and shop safely online., is an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network to monitor fraud in cross-border online purchases. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission promotes competition and fair trade in the market place to benefit consumers, businesses and the community, international consumer issues.

We are walking faster than 10 years ago

Jack Dikian
January 2011

We often describe our lifestyles as rushed and all agree that we are living in an increasingly fast world. Our reliance on technology such as the Internet and mobile phones has probably contributed to us becoming less patient, and cramming more and more into a day. We know this instinctively – It seems however that the pace of life really is speeding up.

Pedestrians all over the world are walking faster than a decade ago. An experiment conducted in 32 cities has revealed that average walking speeds have increased by about 10% since 1994.

The steepest acceleration was found in Asian “tiger” countries such as China and Singapore, which have experienced particularly marked social and economic change. Pedestrians in these nations walk between 20% and 30% faster than they did in the early 1990s.

Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who led the study, said that the results were significant because walking speed was a good indicator of the pace of people’s lives.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To Have A Voice

Jack Dikian
January 2011

Listening to a song while driving with a friend – she casually commented on the quality of the artist’s voice and how it might be to have a voice like that, if it’s possible to alter or improve our own voice. To develop a voice somewhat similar to the way an athlete condition their body and strength. I think my retort was that you probably need to be born with a gifted voice…or something such like – but got me thinking nevertheless.

Today I heard about a women who has spoken for the first time in more than ten years after surgeons at the University of California Davis Medical Centre replaced her larynx – only the second in its kind in the world.

Doctors performed the operation, only the second of its kind in the world, after assembling an international team of experts. The transplant took two years to plan.

According to Guardian News & Media and the SMH story, when the woman spoke for the first time, she said 'Hello' and then paused and it dawned on her she had spoken for the first time in years.

Martin Birchall, a professor of laryngology at University College London, was brought in to advise on the operation. Professor Birchall said, ''she will have the same accent, same intonation and pattern of speech that she had before,'' - although the patient is speaking with a transplanted larynx, her voice will not resemble the donor's. Speech is due to breathing patterns and the way we move our lips, palate and tongue.

So it seems, there much more to voice than the vocal chords within the laynax.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lazarus Rising - Book Review

Jack Dikian

Jan 2011

This book spans John Howard’s life from his childhood in Sydney through to his government’s defeat – It is a fascinating story of achievement by the second longest serving prime minister. He describes the early influences on his life and how his political ambitions grew on graduation from The University of Sydney. Howard reveals much about himself, tracing his personal and political journey, from childhood in the post-World War II era through to the present day, painting a fascinating picture of a changing Australia.

I read this book over the 2010-2011 Christmas holidays, and, at around the time when it was difficult not to read Wikileaks’ account of events, said roles, and agreements, etc. So in the light of that, I caught myself wondering if the accounts of certain issues where in step.

Lazarus Rising is history seen through the eyes of an insider; and such carries some inherent bias that the reader will become conscious of. For example, Howard describes the media as “well balanced“ when it supported his or the Liberal view, whereas it was biased when it was supportive of the ALP.

And whilst he helped reshape Australia and its place in the world as a part of his reform agenda, including the privatization of Telstra, dismantled excessive union power and compulsory trade union membership, etc,. the book skims over many contentious issues surrounding major political events.

This book gives a detailed account of political and social events that may possibly be fading in our memory - the Pauline Hanson and One Nation phenomenon, the introduction of the GST, the confrontation with the Waterside Workers Federation, leadership muddle involving Peter Costello, and the list goes on…

There are the insights into political leadership and character, the stuff that drives history. A notable example was the bid for the prime ministership by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, which completely undermined any chance of Howard’s success in the 1987 Federal election. The book deals with Howard’s resilience and capacity to swallow his pride and control his anger and frustrations drawing strength and support of a strong wife and loving family.

He tells us how he responded on issues vital to Australia, such as gun control, the aftermath of September 11th, Iraq and the rising tide of asylum-seekers. For me, one of the most telling and fascinating aspects of this book is Howard’s account of how people’s roles and personalities interact and sometimes clash and how this impacts on the formulation of government policy.

John Howard Biography

ISBN: 9780732289959; ISBN10: 0732289955; Imprint: Harper

On Sale: 1/11/2010;

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No midlife crisis for Ken who turns 50 this year

Jack Dikian
Janurary 2011

No midlife crisis for Ken who turns 50 this year

Following his famous ex-girlfriend, Barbie, who turned fifty in 2009, Ken is finally celebrating the big 50 himself. With a new movie (Toy Story), a twitter page, and facebook the world’s most famous boy toy shows no signs of slowing down.

Like many 50 year-old-males, Ken has had his share of memorable styles and roles. He was a Rapping Rocking Ken, Cutie Ken and in 2006 famous stylist Phillip Bloch gave him a Hollywood makeover. Ken has taken on so many roles throughout his years including businessman, Olympian, pilot and movie star playing himself in Toy Story 3, always in an ideal outfit.

The Wisconsin native donning plastic hair and a red bathing suit back in March 1961 was Barbie doll’s boyfriend. The couple first met in 1961 on a commercial set had a love affair that lasted more than four decades.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Date and Romantic Songs

Jack Dikian
January 2011

Women are twice as likely to accept a date from a stranger if they just heard a romantic song.

French researchers, Nicolas Guéguen and Céline Jacob from the Université de Bretagne-Sud and Lubomir Lamy from Université de Paris-Sud, studied the effects of romantic music on getting average-looking men a date.

An average looking male was chosen for the experiment and two songs 'Je l'aime à mourir', a well-known love song by French songwriter Francis Cabrel, and a neutral song 'L'heure du thé' by Vincent Delerm.

The experiment proceeded with 87 single females. Before entering a room to meet the average looking male and discuss 'the difference between two food groups" the females sat in an ante-room waiting for a few minutes. In the background, either the romantic song or the neutral song was playing.

Then the young women were escorted to the experimental room to discuss the two food groups. Afterward, the male was given a chance to ask the women if they would give him their number, so that he would call them up for a drink…

The women who heard the love song prior to the interview responded positively almost twice as much as those who heard the neutral song - 52 to 28 percent.

Several studies have already pointed to violent media bringing out aggressiveness and similar behaviors in its audience. These results support the idea that exposure to media content is not limited to violence and could have the potential to influence a high spectrum of behavior.