My New Toy: Nokia N79 – or why FETNET sucks?

With Chinese New Year just a few weeks ago, I’ve been pretty tardy in posting on this blog. I’m not sure why. Perhaps my motivation levels aren’t as high as they have been. But to spice things up, I bought myself a new N79 Nokia mobile phone.

My first reaction is that I was surprised how MUCH mobile phones had changed in the last four years. This new N79 can do a whole bunch of things that I only heard about: it’s got an MP3 player with FM broadcast, tethering to your notebook, additional applications can be added (still no Skype), a fairly decent camera, and a huge learning curve for me.

I still get flustered when the thing rings, and I don’t know which button to hit or I hit the wrong one inadvertently. Big surprises have been the quality of the sound, the ease of use, and the simplicity of connecting. Big negatives have been the complexity of the phone, the habits of my previous phone, and the slight instability of the PC software.

Why FETNET (??) really sucks?…

I must admit that I was looking for a new phone for a while, and had intended to approach my existing mobile carrier (FETNET) for a new phone, a broadband wireless device, an ETC (highway toll card) and an additional phone line for my wife. But they were so rude. I carefully picked out a Nokia phone with their help, but they wanted me to pay an additional deposit for a new line AND buy the broadband wireless unit. To which, I guffawed loudly and said no chance. I was a customer for their company for 10 years! And they treated me as if I had just walked in off the street. I thought that was hugely unfair and discriminating. Hugely.

Wow! So I canceled my existing contract with them, went to Taiwan Mobile, and bought a better phone, an additional line for my wife, scrapped the mobile broadband since tethering worked, forwent the ETC card, and signed up for broadband. Given the costs of acquiring customers in Taiwan’s very competitive mobile phone industry (with huge saturation for the market), I was absolutely shocked that they would just let me walk out the door. They really lost out on that! I would have been quite happy to pay for mobile broadband, an additional phone line, and a new phone there and then. Instead, I went to Taiwan mobile. That cost FETNET at least. NT$55,000 over 2 years, plus a huge loss of goodwill, and some bad publicity.

Loss of business:

  • 1. mobile phone: NT$10000
  • 2. 24 months x est. calling NT$600
  • 3. 24 months x catch NT$399
  • 4. international calls on one phone (minimum: NT$3000 pa)
  • 5. 24 months x base phone plan (NT$188)
  • 6. FETNET ADSL access x 24 (est. NT$360) for our business.

But I wonder if they really care that much. They will probably never even read this story. One thing is sure: in business, be careful who you make things difficult for. Those customers might just turn around and open their wallet to your competitor!

So now I’m on Taiwan Mobile: and I can honestly say – they’ve been really helpful with my learning curve. Far more so than FETNET ever were. But the irony is: in the Taiwan Mobile store, I talked to the staff member there helping me with my application (former FETNET customer)… her friend came in (also former FETNET customer)… my best friend in Taiwan (former FETNET customer)… They treat their old customers so poorly… perhaps that’s why churn rate of customers at FarEasTone is so low.

January 09 Credit Card Bills: It’s all on the cards

This is my personal credit card report which highlights my spending for this month. In fact, I have two credit cards: One of which I use primarily for online transactions courtesy of Shanghai Bank, and one for general use courtesy of Taishin Bank.

Be CAREFUL with your Cards

With the second one, we had a bit of a fuss this month. I had just finished upgrading the server at school, when I decided to replace one of the staff computers, too. It was partly to save money on electricity that we switched to low power computers and to save carbon (specifically, the Asus Eee Ebox 202 series, which is a fine complement for teachers in our school).

So I ordered an extra computer from our local supplier. It came, and I took out my credit card to pay the bill. No success. Tried again. Turned out the credit card had been canceled and that it had been fraudulently used abroad somewhere towards the end of 2008. Since I hadn’t noticed any odd transactions, I can only assume that the anti-fraud measures banks use had been successful in preventing the abuse of the card.

I’m still surprised that it happened. The gentleman at Taihsin International Bank was surprisingly polite and efficient. I had my new cards within just a few days, and was able to use them again. But I still have no idea when or how my card details were skimmed. I have checked my PCs for viruses and bugs and other nasties. All of them are totally clean. My only guess is that someone skimmed the details when I was in the UK, perhaps with a small hand scanner, at one of the hotels or restaurants or stores I went to.

This month’s report. Anyway.

Personal Shopping Purchases

  1. For school, we bought several memory cards which were unbelievably cheap (2 cards at about NT$200 each for 2MB), a PC computer extension cord with lots of extra sockets, and a USB socket charger for the wife so she can charge her MP3 player without worrying about access to a PC. That cost NT$2477 in total.
  2. The mobile phone bill was for two months at NT$376. Google AdWords was NT$8. I pretty much stopped my campaigns for the time being as the clickthroughs were really bad for both my personal sites and my business sites. In fact, the visitors clicking through were just bad quality.
  3. We also paid our car insurance again this year for NT$3864: of course on the form that we received we noted that our car had devalued again! It’s quite surprising how F-A-S-T an NT$500K car becomes only NT$200K. And our regular payment of NT$2000 was also made as usual.
  4. The biggest shopping purchase damage in January was our trip to Mitsuokoshi at Taipei 101 right at the end of December. Christine bought ear-rings for herself and her sister at NT$4480, and two pairs of shoes that she really liked which cost NT$6552.

Business Purchases

  1. With the most recent set of fusses at the Server, I started migrating my domain registrations from Dreamhost to NameCheap. It has cost quite a lot of additional money to do this as I had to pay additional registration fees for extending the registration period. Given that I now control over 20 domains, you can imagine. Fortunately, NameCheap has been running special offers for domain transfers (US$7.99 for the first year). I have to say that I have been solidly impressed with the quality of the help and service I have received from NameCheap. It has been absolutely outstanding as they have dealt with three queries of mine: billing, DNS issues and non-transferred domains. On each occasion, the issue was satisfied. Good service. Damage to my wallet: NT$3241. I know there is at least one other bill coming for about NT2500 as well in February.
  2. Dreamhost bills came up twice in December for December and November: total NT$1181 which included one domain renewal. There was another NT$101 for something that I can’t quite remember. I’m still checking what that was for. In fact, that was a payment to Scratchback. I had about US$15.00 in their system that had sat for months. I decided to stop using the widget on my blogs, so to get the money out, I bought a slot myself with one paypal address. And then I was able to withdraw the amount as it met the minimum required. It did cost me a little, but I figured it was better than letting the money sit in Jim Krukal’s Paypal account.
  3. A New Theme: I promised a new theme for InvestorBlogger for 2009. And indeed I purchased the theme for InvestorBlogger (to be revealed) at about the same that this server was attacked and it was useless. I implemented it on EeeBlogger for a while, and discovered that there were some issues with the premium theme I bought. I’m still hoping to use it on InvestorBlogger soon, but implementation is a real pain. NT$2385.
  4. Database and Scanner: Our business (a language school) decided to start categorizing and organizing the books we have for children to read. In other words, we felt we should have some facilities to start a small lending library. So we purchased software and a hand scanner to start cataloguing the books. We’re hoping to find out how many books we have, how much we spent on them, and have facilities to keep tabs on the books, too. Perhaps I’ll review the software one day. NT$2719.

Final Note: I use Paypal a lot for my online purchases, it’s pretty handy. But it’s difficult to keep tabs on what money goes out and how. So I’ve opted to use one account for money received, and one for purchases only. It hasn’t quite worked out like that yet. But it’s getting there.

Oh, and I earned a little cashback on one of the cards: NT$46.00. There were no penalties, no interest charges, or other surprises, and the total amount owed on each card WILL be paid in full. But I stupidly let over 4000 bonus points expire without using them. What a shame. I just noticed that they expired on the last day of January. Oh, well.

The British Pound vs. The Dollar

What is going on now? Last year the pound traded at over NT$66, now it is at NT$47 and likely to go to $45 soon. I was in Taipei 101 for lunch, and went upstairs to see the Taipei Stock Exchange which has recently agreed with London’s Stock Exchange on the sale of ETFs. This should be a good deal for Taiwanese investors making it easier and cheaper to find good quality, diverse ETFs.

It was while I was there that I noticed how much the British Pound had fallen that day against the US Dollar. It’s currently trading at about $1.3833 today and about NT$46.4864. This down by about 1/3rd against the US, and slightly less against the NTD! While my stocks are suffering, too, it gladly boosts my relative purchasing power!

british pound

But the vagaries of recent markets really make the mind boggle! Still when things are like this, there are opportunities for tremendous riches!