Back in February, I got a specific credit card with two years of 0% interest on balance transfers.  It’s all been good so far, and I”m down to about a third of the original balance, which is how I wanted things to be.

But today I got an email from them saying “Your promotional rate is expiring at the end of the month“, and talking about the money transfer rate. Which seemed a bit odd – and very early.

So anyway, I called them up to find out what was going on, and it turns out that (unsurprisingly) I’m a bloody idiot.

Turns out that the card also had a zero interest deal for money transfers – which aren’t, as I thought, the same as balance transfers. And that’s the rate that was expiring. I’m sure I should’ve known the difference between money and balance transfers, but in that general “What the fuck?” phase of things, I conflated the two things into one.

So anyway, all’s fine. And my acknowledgement of my own idiocy at least made the call handler laugh, so there’s that.

Subscriptions and Stupidity

Interesting to see that subscription things are now the latest target in the Government’s “How can we protect stupid people from being stupid?” process.

Now OK, some of the tactics used by subscription-model companies can be a pain – particularly the “sign up for a free trial and we’ll charge you after that” thing – but also (as that summary hints) they bloody well tell you what they’re going to do!  I assume that people just get as far as “sign up for a free trial” and then stop reading/comprehending, but it really isn’t rocket science.

If you’re wanting to try it, then sign up for the free trial.  But at the same time put a reminder in your phone for 25-ish days away that says “Cancel [x]”. Then when the phone says “Cancel [x]”, do so.  Voila, no charge.

Yes, the model absolutely relies on people being stupid and not bothering to cancel the subscription. Similarly, most gym memberships expect/hope that the majority of people will sign up for the year and only use the place for two or three months. (although that one is a contract, so they can’t easily get out of it)  But a subscription model paid month-to-month is an easy one to cancel – assuming even a vague level of competence, of course.  The first time the payment comes out, if you don’t want it, it’s easy to go “Oh, fuck it. Forgot that – let’s cancel that now so I don’t have to pay again next month!”  and just log in and get it cancelled.

Now OK, I accept that I’m probably not “normal” on this, but I keep a close eye on my money – I know when payments come out, I know what I’m expecting to pay, and I check my bank account every couple of days, minimum.  I know where I stand on all of it on any given day.  So it absolutely gobsmacks me to see things like this (from the story linked above) :

John, for example, told the BBC he had signed up to Amazon Prime video for a 30-day free period and forgot to cancel it when he had to start paying for it.

“I’m just gutted I spent £6.99 a month for 18 months for no reason”.

Now, I’d like to see Amazon’s side of that story, and see whether “John” actually watched Amazon video in that time, and/or whether he got Amazon deliveries in that time. It’s worth noting that Amazon is actually an oddity in this case, in that you pay for Prime delivery and get the video stuff as well – so if he’s paid for Prime to get things delivered next-day and made use of that then it’s not been a waste of money in the first place!

As for cancelling, John comes up with this gem…

“It was such a stressful ordeal and left me with a lot of anxiety. It ridiculous, these companies only care about the money not the person”.

I mean…. A) Welcome to Capitalism.  And B) it’s a simple process. Yes, they’ll say “Are you sure? Here’s what you’ll lose out on” and so on, because they do want to keep your custom/money. Of course they do.  But it’s not a challenging thing to just say “Yep, cancel it”.  Certainly most (if not all) of the online companies make it easy – a couple of clicks and it’s done.  Even the dating sites don’t make a big thing of the people leaving – they know they’ll have plenty of other people signing up or staying on.

All told, if someone says they’re short of money (“Cost of living crisis” etc. etc.) and yet still ‘not knowing’ that they’re paying out for subscriptions, then they’re not actually that short of money. (Or are congenitally and irredeemably stupid)

On the other hand, I can absolutely see that it would be good/ethical for a subscription service to send a check-up message if the person using it hasn’t accessed that service at all in (for example) six months, and have them opt back in (or at least say “Yes, I want to keep going with this”) at that point. And if they don’t respond, then their account gets deactivated. Among other things, that would be useful in scenarios where the person has died or become incapacitated, and reduces the whole nightmare of trying to unsubscribe someone from something where you don’t even know their username/password.


This morning, I got given a parking ticket – incorrectly, as it happens, and it’s already been challenged.

However, on reading the back of the ticket, I came across this gem

Click to embiggenify

For those who don’t want to enlarge the text, what it says is :

If the penalty charge is not paid [wordy guff] or has been successfully challenged, the Council may serve a Notice To Owner (NTO) on the owner of the vehicle requiring payment of the penalty charge.

Now, I know what they mean, but that’s not what they say.  The implication here (as I read it) is “If you’ve successfully challenged the ticket, we can still come after you for the money“.

So, I’ve raised that as an issue as well, which should be interesting – or at least entertaining!

The Naming Of Things

At the moment I’m decidedly amused by the way the UK government hasn’t even thought about the name of one of its controversial Bills, and how it gets reported and described.

So what we get now is news coverage saying “[politician] has condemned the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill“, which makes it sound like the Bill is illegal.

Comes to something when they can’t even get the name right, doesn’t it?

Romance Fraud

In the new house I’m working from home a lot more, which has also led to me having slightly more TV on during the daytime. (I know, I know)

One of the things I had the misfortune to catch this week was BBC’s “For Love or Money” (that link takes you to the iPlayer page for it) about people falling for “romance fraud” – basically, fraudsters getting contact with lonely people who respond, form online ‘relationships’, and end up sending money to these “partners” for all manner of outlandish reasons.

Actually, it’s not fair to say “misfortune” – I guess that morning daytime TV is a good place for this, as the main demographic for seeing it and going “Oh shit, that’s what I’ve been doing” are likely to have it on. So it’s probably useful and good on that score.

In some ways I have sympathy for the people who fall for this shit – the main group seem to be older people who’ve usually lost a long-term spouse, and suddenly find themselves alone for the first time in decades, are lonely, and will grip onto anything that makes them feel less lonely. I do understand (kinda/sorta) that side at least.

But at the same time, Jesus Fuck, these people are bloody stupid. I don’t understand how they can class the communication as a relationship, or being “in love” with someone they’ve never met. And I really don’t understand the whole thing of giving money to someone they’ve never met. I know it’s a psychological thing, that the scam starts (comparatively) small and then people keep on paying out because they don’t want to be proved to have been scammed/stupid – which boggles my mind in all kinds of different ways – “I don’t want to be seen as stupid for sending them £200, so I’ll send £2,000 to end up proving I was rightWhat?!?

Even more mind-boggling are the ones who get into this trap with one “person” , realise they’ve been scammed, and then get caught again in the same situation. And (in my opinion, blah blah) those particular people are too stupid for words. And then they say *on the programme* “Oh, you must think I’m really stupid” and the presenters say “No, no, you’ve done nothing wrong“.  And I don’t feel that’s right – they didn’t do anything wrong initially, but if they  carry on (and particularly if they fall for the same thing twice) then the presenter should be allowed to say “Yes, you are. What kind of fucking idiot gives money to someone they’ve never even met?!?“.  Shock them into realising how bloody stupid they’ve been, and it just might have a lasting effect.

I don’t know the answer – there’ll always be stupid people in these kind of horrible situations.  But it seems to me like the basic thought process of “I don’t know this person, we’ve talked but I’ve never met them, yet they’re asking me for money – why?” shouldn’t really be that difficult, should it?


Today I had my first ‘crash’ involving another vehicle. (I’d only had one other incident before, but that was an icy road in Norfolk, nearly 13 years ago, and it was only me involved) Before anything else, I’m fine – the car’s got a scraped body panel, but it was all fairly low-speed, no air-bags needed, no injuries, nothing.

As it was, I’m almost certain the responsibility wasn’t mine – although the other driver insists it was my fault, so I’m just letting the insurance companies fight it out.  Basically though, I was in the correct lane, the other car was merging in and for some reason expected me to give way. We’ll see what the insurance people say.

It was at a new-ish junction, and the signage isn’t the easiest to understand, but I’ve driven it enough times that I know how it works. (Although the other driver also does it fairly regularly, so should know better! 🙂 )

Using the photo below, I was turning right out of Mike Griffin Way. You can be in either lane (which is fucked up in the first place). If you’re in the left-hand lane then that becomes the direct route; the right-hand lane has another turn-off (the rough equivalent of a hairpin turn) and then merges into the direct route.  It was, in short, designed by a fucking idiot.

The junction – click to Embiggenify

So I was in the left-hand lane having come out of Mike Griffin Way, with the other car in the right-hand lane. And at the merge (top-right of the image) they decided to pull into the left-hand lane. No indication or anything, just pulling in.

Fortunately, I was aware they were there, and as they pulled across I was already braking hard and sounding the horn to let them know I was there. But still, impact. Rather than blocking the road, we went up to the nearest layby, pulled in, did the whole exchange of details, photos and so on, and then got on with life.  I’m happy with how I did everything – making sure they were OK, but also getting names, details, numbers, registration plates etc., and ensuring that they got mine as well. Basically, I didn’t want there to be any chance of miscommunications, or “he just drove off” accusations.

Because there’s been no injury, no road blockage etc., the police haven’t needed to be informed (another thing I also checked with the insurance company, to make sure they were happy with not having a police incident number or anything) and I’m quite happy to not have to involve them..

I don’t yet know what the outcome will be. My car’s OK, it’s got some nice new scratches and a dent, but it’s perfectly driveable, and I don’t know if I’ll even bother getting the scratches repaired. My insurance shouldn’t be affected (even if they decide it was my fault) as I’ve got a protected 10+ year No Claims Bonus, which means I could even have another accident (not that I’m planning to!)  before even beginning to worry on that score.

We’ll see what happens, but all is good so far as I can tell. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to spend an afternoon – but equally, things could have been *so* much worse in so, so many ways.


Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.