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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Too Good To Be True

credit card

I know it sounds bad but I’ve always avoided the areas which are filled with credit card salespeople in the shopping malls. The irony is that I’ve got myself 5 credit cards from 4 different banks, ALL from the salespeople stationed in shopping malls. These were not super hot sales girls in mini skirts by the way. Adding to the sorrow, they were all males.

One after the other, I’ve got myself disappointed after trying to redeem the benefits promised by these banks. The thing is, when I see something better offered by a different bank, I forgot about the previous disappointment. Enough is enough and now I’ve lost faith in all this credit card bullshit. It’s quite interesting when I look back and reflect on such experience. Come to think about it, I’m actually quite dumb.

STANDARD CHARTERED

25,000 AirAsia Big Points is yours when you sign up !!!!

How can I resist so much Big Point for free? To be frank, I didn’t even know the value of 25,000 Big Points when I signed up. It sounded like damn a lot of points even though 25,000 could be the value you need in order to redeem one cup noodle on an AirAsia flight. I was probably imagining RM25,000 cash credited to my bank account after I sign up.

A week later, I was given a unique AirAsia Big Shot ID which I needed to register on AirAsia website in order to get the Big Points. Here is the catch, my registration failed because my email was already in use (I already have a Big Shot ID). When I tried using another e-mail, it failed again because this e-mail did not match the one registered with Standard Chartered. I also realised that if you want to contact AirAsia, it’s a real pain in the ass because you can only do that in an online chat room after a long queue. It seems like both AirAsia and Standard Chartered have been working really hard to prevent me from getting the points.

Later on, I realised that certain spendings such as insurance payments and petrol expenses. I can’t help thinking that these exclusions are specially designed for me. Being a part-time insurance agent who drives a lot, they constitute a large part of my credit card payments.

HSBC

Sign up now and get a Huawei Mediapad 7 for FREE!!! 8x rewards points. 

I’m damn sure the salesperson told me this promotion just came out and I’m definitely getting the Mediapad if I spend RM1,500 within the next 30 days. Best of all, there is no excluded spendings. I never trust salespeople but I did that time and signed up. That was just a few weeks ago.

This is what the customer service said to me over the phone later on, “Thank you for calling Mr. Chew. We are only giving out 200 Mediapads on a first-come-first-served basis. This promotion has started since April 2014 and will be ending this month. By the way, certain spendings are excluded such as internet transactions, auto-billings …..”

Okay, I know. I got cheated again and it sucks. What can I do.

By the way, I have spoken to HSBC customer service for at least 5 times and they were really helpful. Not to mention the sexy voice.

***

Well, I shall just blame myself for being like a housewife attracted to promotions. I knew there were terms and conditions out there but never bothered to check. But then again, who the hell would do that in the middle of their shopping trip. Furthermore those T&Cs are designed to strained your eyes.

Maybe I should have asked more questions before signing up? Well, I just think it’s so stressful to second-guess the salesperson and keep thinking of potential surprises in the T&Cs. Shopping mall should be a place for me to relax and enjoy the time with my girlfriend without all this bullshit. When something looks too good to be true, it’s probably not true. From now on, I vow not to sign up anymore of this thing.

 

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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Stopping Klang Valley Uber-isation?

Uber

 

When I first read that Uber was landing in Malaysia some time ago, I knew this is not a child’s play. It’s going to be a massive revolution and as usual, you will see blood shed when the fight is against the giant old institution. This is not just a Malaysian thing because you can see cabbies in London, Madrid, Paris and Berlin staging protests against Uber. They will tell you lots of reason to suggest a ban on Uber but ultimately it boils down to the loss of income for most conventional taxi drivers. I heard that a taxi license is not easy to come by because it costs a bomb to obtain and in some cities, you need to bid for it in auctions because the number is limited. In our country, according to some sources, the taxi permits are granted to well connected cronies who then sublet to thousands of drivers. We are pretty clear what the old establishment is — old, fat rent-seekers and their army of ordinary folks working their asses off to make a living. Now, put this picture in your mind.

Slave

On the other hand, Uber represents the latest innovation that most people love. It’s convenient and easy to use and users can now arrive at their destination in style. Like it or not, it’s spreading like wild fire especially with the launch of UberX, the cheaper version which potentially put the last nail in the coffin of the taxi industry. Some people think we are going to watch the battle involving David vs Goliath, but I think we are seeing a foreign Goliath vs local Goliath. Uber is not really a small fry as it’s backed by famous investors like Goldman Sachs, Google Ventures, Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com founder), just to name a few. It recently raised $1.2 billion, giving it a value of $17,000,000,000. That’s freaking lots of zeros and to put it in another perspective, this 4-year-old company is worth about the same as our CIMB Group with 90 years of history!

To me, the existence of Uber is mainly on willing-buyers-willing-sellers basis. What’s wrong with that? As you can tell, I’m more on the pro-capitalism side and I prefer to let the market become the judge. Now taxi companies, behaving almost like the MAS union, have asked the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to ban Uber. On what grounds?

1. Uber does not have a taxi permit issued by SPAD and it is also believed that its drivers do not have the public service vehicle (PSV) licence – this will cause many problems to the passengers in the event of any untoward incidents, crime cases or road accidents.

That’s quite a lot of bullshit crammed into one sentence. First of all, Uber was launched in November 2013 and why only complain now? The reason is pretty obvious. Uber first launched UberBLACK with a high price tag for every ride because they use cars like Toyota Camry, Nissan Teana and BMW 7-Series. So the taxi companies thought, “Chiu! KL people so cheapskate sure won’t use Uber lahh, give it 3 months it will close shop for sure”. What happened next was public knowledge. Uber not only survived but has been growing fast, so fast that now it has launched UberX which promises 15% cheaper fare compared to normal taxi. This is when the cabbies start talking about crime and accidents in such a noble manner.

I believe Uber would have applied for the relevant permits if the permits are open for application without having to deal with all the under table gestures and cumbersome red tape. If not mistaken, Uber is partnering with the local limousine companies and I would imagine they have the required license to take passengers.

Well, does the licensing really protect the passengers? Take a survey and you generally find that people feel safer being in an Uber vehicle because of the driver’s background check and user review system. I’m not saying it’s 100% fool proof but it’s still better than the ambiguous taxi licensing procedures undertaken by the authority. There are tonnes of horrible experience with taxi drivers despite having proper license. The most outrageous story I heard from a friend is that the taxi driver masturbated himself while driving her home at night.

To be fair, I have come across an equal share of really good taxi drivers and the unscrupulous ones. There are lots of very nice taxi drivers out there who deserve my respect. At the same time, these drivers are bothered by the high cost of maintaining their permits, which often force them to work over time or speed through traffic to increase their turnover. I’ll talk more on the taxi license cost later and you will understand me.

2. Uber’s services have affected the income of taxi drivers in the Klang Valley as the company fixes its fares based on its estimation on the distance and time of service.

Now we are heading straight to the main issue. If they think by fixing fares based on distance estimation and time of service will provide an advantage, then just do the same for taxi lahhh. By the way, there are so many taxi drivers doing that anyway because they refuse to use the meter and they usually accept your ride only if the traffic and time of service is good enough for them. In the meantime, Uber drivers are required to take you to anyway you wish. So far I have not heard about driver rejecting a ride.

How you do well in the taxi industry is not just about having the right fare but providing excellent customer service. Most of the time when I hopped on to a normal taxi, the driver’s sour face made me feel like I owe him something. At the same time I had to worry about getting ripped off. On the other hand, Uber drivers greeted me with a smile and even asked if the air-conditioning temperature was fine. Suddenly I could see rainbow in the sky. Ok that’s exaggeration.

Uber should be there as a wake-up call to the taxi drivers. I care less about how they fix the taxi fare because I can refuse a ride if meter is not used. What I want is a decent experience of being treated with respect in a safe environment.

3. Uber service providers do not have to bear the various operational costs that normal taxi drivers do, like having to undergo periodical Puspakom inspections.

Every taxi must go for Puspakom inspection every 6 month which costs RM55, and that’s RM0.30 of extra cost per day compared to an Uber car. However, most taxi run on natural gas which is way cheaper than petrol cars used by Uber.. Based on data in Oct 2013 (I assume no significant changes since then), a petrol car costs 23 cent/km to operate whereas a Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) costs 11 cent/km, a huge 12 cent/km difference. In order to cover the Puspakom cost of 30 cents per day, a taxi driver needs to drive at least 2.5km every day. Any mileage above that a taxi driver is actually at an advantage. Think about it, as a taxi driver if you drive less than 2.5km per day, maybe you should consider other job.

Meanwhile, Uber service providers still have to bear significant overheads because they need to employ drivers and service their cars regularly even if their drivers are sleeping during the day. Now the key issue is cost and we should make both parties compete on the same level playing field, fair and square!

Most people talk about vehicle inspection for Uber and I’m sure it’s happy to do it for public safety. Come on, what difference is 30 cents per day going to make? The main focus is not to make Uber more costly but to lower down the cost of operating a taxi.

Correct me if I’m wrong but here is what I know. Taxi permits are mostly granted to cronies who then rented to drivers for at least RM20 per day. If the driver is granted the permit directly by the authority, it only costs them RM0.70 per day to maintain the license and permit. Assuming RM0.30 of administrative cost, the fucking cronies get RM19 for doing nothing. For those drivers who can’t afford to buy car, they are forced to buy lousy Proton car from the cronies bundled with the taxi license. That will cost them RM50-60 per day and even higher if you want to pick up passengers from popular places like airports. This is what we call daylight robbery which is perfectly legal.

Suffice to say that the most logical solution is the dismantling of such rent seeking cronyism or at least get the cronies to lower down their taxi permit rental. The mandatory licensing of Uber car will most likely enrich another group of cronies who monopolise the new permits. Then the vicious cycle continues with the drivers and public at the losing end.

4. Koperasi Pengangkutan Putrajaya dan Cyberjaya honorary-secretary Mohd Salleh Mat Zin said, “Licensed taxi operators have to pay insurance premiums that are four times higher than those for private vehicles, which are aimed at ensuring the safety of passengers and other road users in the event of accidents. 

Another cost issue. Hmm…I just quickly checked that insurance for a taxi (say RM50k) below 1,400 cc is RM2,400 more expensive than the equivalent private car, which is 2.6x more expensive. Can I suggest taxi permit rental to reduce by RM6.50 per day and daalaaaa….taxi driver is back to the level playing field! By the way, since Uber providers are limousine companies, I’m not sure what class of insurance they use. If they are using “Hire Car – Chauffeur Driven” class of insurance, that’s in fact RM1,800 mofe expensive than a taxi insurance! Hmm…I need an insurance expert to verify this.

Commercial vehicle insurance is generally more expensive because the vehicles spend more time on the road and has higher chance of getting into accidents. Some may extend the liability to cover the passenger but how does this ensure the safety of passengers/public in the event of accident? The only impact to me as a passenger is whether I get compensated if some bastards hit me. Honestly speaking, who gives a fuck? Taxi and Uber cars are used to commute within the city with such a low risk of life-threatening accidents as opposed to long distance travel. In fact, I might feel safer in an Uber car because the driver will be more careful with his driving. That’s because he knows that his private car insurance may be void in the event of accident when ferrying passengers on commercial basis.

“The Uber service, however, does not give any indication whether its vehicles are covered by insurance,” added Mohd Salleh.

This is what I call a punch in the air. If Uber vehicles are not covered by insurance, how can it renew its road tax? Or is he suggesting that they operate without road tax? What’s next? Stolen vehicles?

TechAttack.my interviewed Uber regional GM Michael Brown at the launch of UberX a few weeks ago. Brown says that its highest priority remains to be rider safety and satisfaction, hence each driver undergoes Uber’s screening process during hiring, which includes a criminal background check, driving history check, as well as an ongoing quality assurance via rating system (rated by passengers). Brown says if a certain driver’s ratings aren’t up to par, Uber can end the relationships with them. He also says Uber cars are covered by insurance for both the driver and passengers.

***

 

Taxi drivers are bunch of hard working ordinary folks. I personally don’t want to see them losing their job and the industry should not be shaken just for the sake of change. At the same I love innovation and fair competition. Banning Uber is just protecting the rich cronies at the expense of the public and the taxi drivers have no chance to improve their lives too. If I’m a taxi driver, I want to learn how to sign up to Uber and ride on the wave. Knowing that most of them are not technology savvy, they should all at least unite and push for lower taxi permit rental or even force the government to fuck the cronies. Such an idealistic opinion..haha!  Well, I know I know, it’s all about politics and there is no straight answers.

Constantly evolving, now UberPool offers fare split to cut your cost even further. This exciting because it’s really crazy, competition can be really ruthless.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The MaGIC Touch

Through Facebook, I got to know that Cheryl Yeoh, the CEO of MaGIC, was going to give a talk in Mindvalley. From that sentence alone, you probably ask what is MaGIC and Mindvalley? Honestly, I didn’t really know much about MaGIC but I remembered President Obama launched it a while ago when he paid a visit to this country. As for Mindvalley, I was completely clueless but its name suggested something to do with tech startup. In fact, I initially misread it as Mid Valley and thought of doing some shopping before that.

As usual I did a little digging online just to have some ideas about MaGIC and its CEO but the best way to know more is of course by going to the talk. There were others supporting reasons too, like:

i. It’s free! Nothing to lose – best pitch to a cheapskate like me.

ii. There are freebies.

iii. I need a decent talk to “compensate” for the pain I got from Jordan Belfort a few days ago.

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This was the scene of the talk and the whole place was packed with way more people than what you can see (I didn’t have a wide-angle lens). Yes, it’s right in front of an office kitchen. Though unusual, I find it warm, nice and less pretentious. That’s something I always appreciate, the spontaneity you often see from entrepreneurs.

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This is Cheryl Yeoh and she was busy explaining what MaGIC is and how we can benefit from it. It’s actually interesting to find out more about it and I’m glad that our government is taking a positive step in promoting startup. MaGIC is essentially a government funded organisation with a mandate to build a sustainable ecosystem for startup to flourish. To make it simpler, if you have a business idea which is scalable, talk to MaGIC and it can introduce the relevant government grants, hook you up with mentors or potential angel investors. It also organises workshops for entrepreneurs and even brings selected business founders to network with some big guys in the Silicon Valley. Well, I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of these initiatives since I haven’t experienced it, but at least I know a simple talk like this is a great eye opener. Now I know where to go if I ever want to launch a startup.

One thing highlighted was that MaGIC will try to source “smart” funding for entrepreneurs, referring to investors who can offer both capital and valuable mentorship. That’s of course the best-case scenarios but it doesn’t happen all the time. I think I’m more simple-minded when it comes to funding because all sorts of capital are sexy and I don’t discriminate.

The only question I asked Cheryl was whether MaGIC gives out grant and what’s the limit. The answer is no because it is there mainly to collaborate with many agencies out there giving grants. Whether or not these grants are given on a level playing field is another questions which I don’t think she wanted to answer. When it came to asking questions, one thing I didn’t like was the lengthy questions bombarded by some participants. They tend to elaborate a lot on what they are doing (cheap publicity?) and by the time they throw the question, I had already been stretched beyond my attention span. Then I would show a face like this..huhhh?? …confused

It’s a bit of a shame that Cheryl didn’t want to talk about her own achievement as she mainly wanted to focus on educating us about MaGIC. The good news is, she will be talking about her startup experience in the Silicon Valley during her next talk organised by Startup Grind. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I am going for it. It’s cheap anyway but price is not my concern this time because I’m pretty sure it’s not a motivational talk by some con artist. I am looking forward to that!

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Oh I almost forgot to mention the free gift! Maverick is the organiser of the talk and he gave out free books to us — a book by W Mitchell, “It’s not what happens to you, It’s what you do about it”. The title does sound a bit like a cliche but after listening to a short introduction of the writer, I felt nothing but respect and awe. Try googling W Mitchell and you will understand why.

 

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That’s Mav and I thought he’s quite witty and funny. By the way, he managed to convince W Mitchell to give him the right to publish his book mentioned above in Asia. The only catch is he has to type out the whole book word by word because W Mitchell didn’t have an electronic copy.

Though I said it’s not a motivational talk, Mav actually ditched out a motivational quote after talking about his #alsicebucketchallenge because there were people who disapprove that stunt. His quote was called The Mother-in-law Syndrome — “If you are rich, your mom-in-law will think you must be a crook; if you are poor, she will think you are a bum. So why bother?”. Personally speaking, I love this quote for some reasons and I totally agree. We must find our true passion, live our own life and screw those pessimistic losers! Oh shit, that Jordan Belfort is haunting me again…

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Wolf Is In Town

A few days ago, I heard Jordan Belfort was in Kuala Lumpur and he was going to give a talk about his secret of success. I started recalling what I saw in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” (“WWS”) and I reckoned Mr. Belfort would elaborate more on the shenanigans that got him in jail, or possibly even share his orgy experience if all that’s true. The ticket costed me RM118 but it’s not even worth the paper it’s printed on.

 

20140818_185617I simply went in with a totally different expectation and I tell you why I think I got suckered. First of all, it started with the emcee giving a WWF (wrestling) style introduction of Jordan Belfort in horribly broken English.

1. IT TURNED OUT TO BE A MOTIVATIONAL TALK

It’s not just a motivational talk, but a very generic one, and I certainly didn’t pay to listen to this. Jordan spent the first 30 minutes telling us that in order to be rich, you need to work very hard and follow a system he has developed. He went on to repeat the same thing for freaking half an hour without explaining what the hell was his so-called system.

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I began to doze off when I realise that it was all bullshit but I still stick to my seat because I paid for it, such a “kiasu” mentality I have. Then I started taking pictures of those slides and the people around me. Please bear with my lousy Samsung camera and you can still see what made me dose off.

20140818_213932I looked over my shoulder and saw the guy next to me busy copying the slides onto his notepad. I almost pulled my hair out when I saw he scribbled “I am the master of my own destiny”. As much as I doubted the value of that phrase itself, I didn’t see any good it does by writing that down. Anyway, I have to accept that some people have their own way of motivating themselves. I shall not be an asshole to judge.

2. OVERZEALOUS PREP TALK

Just before I fell into deep sleep, Jordan asked the audience to stand up and perform a little stunt to boost our confidence. We were told to shout “YES!” at the top of our lungs. Not only that, but we need to smack one of our palms onto the back of the other as hard as we could. I gave an immediate classic expression…

WTF

Suddenly I felt like I was in one of those MLM congregation where everybody cheers religiously over the pictures of Ferrari or Lamboghini shown on the large projector screen.

3. LACK OF REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

I really don’t mind a motivational talk as long as it’s backed by some solid examples. In this case, Jordan has plenty of them. He used to gain millions of dollars, lose it all, end up in jail and now rising up again. If he doesn’t want to implicate himself further with the old stories, there are surely other more subtle ones to entertain us.

However, very little of his own experience was shared. Most of the stuff he said can be summed up as below:

i. Being rich doesn’t guarantee happiness, but being poor is the passport to misery.

ii. To be rich, you need to work really hard and follow his system.

iii. To succeed in entrepreneurship, you need to focus on closing the deal, marketing your product, raising finance, bla bla bla.

iv. Bla, bla, bla

Well, I agree with all the stuff he said and they are absolutely true. At the same time, I think anybody can go up to the stage and say the same thing. I guess my Apple Ipad Siri can tell me the same thing if I ask her “How to become rich?”. Imagine you enter a 3-hour cooking class to be told that in order to become a Master Chef, you need to love your food, source good quality ingredient, have a nice kitchen and most important of all, say “yes!” three times before you start cooking. What you have in mind is probably “Where the fuck is my recipe?”.

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Was it really that bad?

To cut him some slack, there were certain moments he caught my attention. As I wasn’t paying much attention, I could only remember a few little anecdotes which I think were less boring. First was the fact that he did not do the stupid chest beating exercise with his boss in the middle of a fancy New York restaurant. Neither did he hum the chest-beating rhythm. I was kinda disappointed because I thought the whole chest beating stunt was quite cool…haha! Second was his subtle hint that the WWS film was financed by somebody related to our Boleh-land government. Then I started imagining money transferring through different swiss bank accounts…

The crowd burst into laughter the moment he delivered his first display of profanity — “Fuck” was the magic word. I have to admit that it was probably the best ice breaking gesture I can think of. That’s a very personal opinion because I generally feel more at ease with someone if we both can talk in the same manner by adding a few “fuck”/ “fucking” (or any of its variations in any languages I understand) in our conversation.

Well, I think his overall talk may be great for some people being at the crossroad in their lives, or those who are lack of confidence. It’s particularly good for teenagers who need guidance to venture into the unfamiliar path. The most useful thing I learned from him was that it doesn’t really matter what you sell, what matters most is how you sell it. In this case, he managed to sell me his tickets via an impressive marketing campaign.

Two hours into the talk, Jordan asked us to stand. Sensing another mind-numbing prep talk, I knew it’s time to leave. There were more than a thousand people in the room and I couldn’t imagine hundreds of cars leaving the hotel parking at the same time. After all, I figured if the first two hours were so dull, the last hour wouldn’t change my overall perception no matter how interesting it’s going to be. I hoped I didn’t miss out anything great but I couldn’t care less.

On the way back, I was thinking about those who spend RM1,997 on a Platinum Ticket. They were going to have a hard time sleeping that night.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Foreword

This blog is going to be my little biography. As usual for any similar book, the first few pages go on to explain how (or why) it came about and then present a credit list. I definitely don’t have a credit list because such a simple blog will mostly come from my own effort.

I have two very simple reasons for this blog. First, I have quite a lot of random thoughts which might or might not be useful everyday. I think it’s better to record them down somewhere rather than letting them slip through my mind and disappear. Who knows I’ll come back to them later.

Second, whether I like it or not, we are all in the digital age. You either embrace it or sit back and watch others prosper by riding the wave of internet economy. I choose to embrace it even though I haven’t really figured out how to make full use of it. I suppose by having a blog is the first step because it is a fantastic portal to share ideas, market certain products/services and establish influence. Now, everyone can be a publisher and become a media baron. The key is super high readership and that is the most difficult to achieve. Some very famous bloggers have successfully monetised their blog and I can see the trend coming.

Well, readership doesn’t really matter to me actually because this blog is mainly for my own fun. I believe that when you do something for fun, the satisfaction is always beyond words.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Uncategorized