Archive for January 2012

Watching the Con-Men at work selling fake / counterfeit goods

I got a flyer through the post yesterday (Sat 28th Jan 2012) advertising a cheap electrical goods sale at the Irish Centre in Reading, Berkshire today Sunday the 29th. It was £2 entry, but I thought I’d take a look. It was apparently end of line / sale or return goods from Agros, Woolworths & Freemans.

I’m quite wise to “cons” & “frauds”, habit of a previous career, so from the flyer alone it seemed dodgy, but I thought out of curiosity I’d take a look.

So, now back home from this alleged “Cheap Electronics Sale”, it was crazy, people handing over notes for bits of card which were later exchanged for plastic bags that contained boxes heavily wrapped in black parcel tape.
The guy selling was all talk and sales patter, getting most the room to exchange £10 very early on for boxes of perfume which you needed to wave in the air to buy later items.

They had empty boxed PSP’s, iPads, iPod Shuffles, Nintendo Wii’s & cameras at the start on the display, all these went from view once “sold” and would be handed out later!
He kept engaging the audience of about 50 or so people, would talk about a product or offer, put it on the table, get the cash from those that accepted this ‘discounted price’, the items were then removed from view, to be handed out later (in the unmarked, heavily sealed boxes).
He managed to get a group of Indian lads to each pay £95 for unbranded camcorders. They also had this thing called a WeeGamer which the guy passed off at the new Nintendo Wii device not out til Easter and the new iPhone 5 which was apparently called the MP5 player and was in an Apple iPhone type box with the device pictured on the front.

They almost didn’t let me in because the guy didn’t like the look of me and asked if I was alone, til I told him I was with the mum & son infront of me in the queue. Towards the end when they started handing out stuff from the earlier sales one woman took three boxes off her fella who’d shelled out atleast £50… went to the back of the room and attacked the boxes with her car keys to find a microphone, some cheap looking watches and an unbranded crap electric razor, I looked over and she was sat there, head in her hands.

I managed to get about 5 mins recorded on the phone, but it was difficult with the orange light that comes on when recording with my Nokia and the 5 or 6 guys who were shuffling round the crowd plucking £10’s and £20’s out of peoples hands kept staring at me, they knew I wasn’t there to buy.

The event was brought to a close, the organisers were handing out sealed boxes in blue & green plastic bags and declared the hall was in use directly after the sale by a childrens party and we all had to leave.

I was talking to the Indian lads outside after and told them they’d been conned, one of the organisers saw me and shouted over “talking to ya mates are you”  I spoke back to him and asked him how he felt about being a Con-Man and selling fake / counterfeit / mis-selling goods.  He just said “so what, if they’re greedy enough to want to spend the money, then it’s their own fault…  and yeh I’m not disagreeing with you, they’re fakes, so what!”  At that point 3 or 4 of the large lads who’d been encouraging people to buy and taking money inside came to the door, so I made a sharp exit.

Other than the entry fee, I didn’t pay a penny, I knew the goods were fake and I would warn anyone to stay away from this sort of thing. The age old saying “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!”

I still have the flyer for anyone interested in reporting / investigating this & wants a copy.

Flyer I received advertising the Electrical Sale 29th Jan Reading

Is the film industry self imploding

As with alot of people in the UK, I’m a big fan of both Music & Film.
I don’t have a particular taste or style, I just see or hear something that catches my ear / eye, find out what it is, then if I like it, it gets added to my collection.

My History with Music…
Back in my mid-teens (around the mid 90’s) I started DJ’ing and when I was 16, got a Job out of school, was still living at home, had a fair amount of disposable income and I religiously went to HMV on a Monday after work and brought up all that week’s new release singles. I did this every week for about 4 years until I discovered downloading on the Internet via a peer-2-peer service (early days of Napster I recall) and started getting music illegally, because it made sense to try before I brought music instead of spending £30 to £40 a week buying new CD Singles. So I’d download singles, burn them to CD and bands where I found I liked more than 2 singles I’d go buy the Album… so I was teetering on the grey area of legality, though in my mind at the time I had 6 flight cases of CD singles in my parents loft, worth several hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds, so had paid some dues to the Record Companies.

Then along came Mini-Disc players, which I discovered some time in the late 90’s and this meant I no longer had to burn CD’s but could drop the MP3’s onto the device attached to my home PC, my first Mini-Disc player was a Blue Technics player. It looked nice but skipped if it had any kind of movement, this was followed by Sony’s, which were smaller, ran of AA Batteries and were relatively Shock-Proof.

Then the MP3 player, which I probably first owned around the Mid 2000’s. I pretty much gave up buying CD’s, downloaded alot and over the next few years massed something like 40GB of music.

Then along came Spotify…. I first signed up to Spotify in October 2009 as a Premium Subscriber. The appeal for me, was the choice / selection of music, the ability to stream on both PC & Mobile and that it meant I no longer had to store my music collection. One of the biggest annoyances is downloading an album then finding you only like one or two tracks, but with Spotify I can stream / preview an album then choose which tracks I want to add to my playlists. In total now, I have about 6000 tracks in playlists of various genres and with the latest releases of Spotify and rise of popular SharePlaylist sites you can find new music and easily put together lists for any occasion with ease.
For me, Spotify is the perfect Music on demand service that works on all my devices including Windows Laptop, Android Tablet, Squeezebox Players and mobile devices (though mobile is a sore-point as Spotify are yet to develop for Symbian Anna on my Nokia E6, so I’m thinking of jumping to a Blackberry 9900, but anyway). Some people like having a Physical CD or even MP3 but Spotify gives me Music on-demand anywhere both online & offline and at £9.99 a month it’s a service I recommend.

Now… The Movies.
I am becoming more and more frustrated with the lack of available Movie Services and those that do exist are fairly Poor. As far as I am aware, at the time of writing this blog towards the end of Jan 2012, the only 2 subscription services available in the UK are NetFlix and LOVEFiLM.
The number of browser based illegal movie streaming services is ever growing and all I want is a good, legal, on-demand service which I’ll happily pay up to £20 a month for, that is comparable to DVD Rental Services. There are some other Stream services such as BlinkBox and HMV OnDemand but you rent per movie and I want a single subscription service. So the two options:
NetFlix – the Price Point of £5.99 seems fair, but the selection of new material isn’t great. If you are looking for 90’s and some 00’s British TV Series (and a handful of less popular US series) and will settle from good 90’s and early 00’s with a limited number of films from the last 2 years then your fine. But it seems the UK got the short end of the stick on choice and the US version of Netflix has alot more new material.
LOVEFiLM – the Price Point of £9.99 is Ok, which is their mid-level where you get to use both their DVD / BlueRay rental service and Unlimited Streaming service, though as I discovered it’s not unlimited and some titles are Pay per View! At the time of writing this Blog LOVEFiLM have 6414 films available for Streaming, of which 5361 are inclusive & 1008 are Pay Per View! A alot of this is new content costing between £2.49 and £3.49 per film! Now if I pay for a service I expect to use a Service, I don’t expect to have to shell out more money just because LOVEFiLM deem that it’ll be popular so will try and take whatever they can get!! I would never find that on Spotify where I pay £9.99 a month for unlimited listening and find that a popular artist releases a new album that I then have to pay extra to listen to, and this isn’t even owning the movie it’s Renting it! It’s Pathetic and in my opinion encourages Movie Piracy.

I was watching BBC Click on the weekend from the CES show in Vegas, where they were talking about Movie On-Demand streaming and the feedback from the reporter was the Movie Industry dislikes the streaming subscription model because it doesn’t generate as much revenue as Cinema, Rentals and Purchases. I think it’s narrow-minded, greedy and by preventing the distribution of their product to willing consumers, their industry deep pockets will develop even bigger holes and Piracy will be wider and more accessible. At Cinema costing £9 upwards for a standard seat, the cost of Rentals being high for low quality content and their being no good avenue getting movies into peoples homes on-demand regardless of price, it’s just making the little chinese man in the pubs job easier (not a racist comment, but ever person approaching me in a London pub selling DVDs has been Chinese, or maybe Japanese or Korean!) and the availability of illegal movie streaming or torrent sites more appealing.

So Film Industry, take your greedy thumb out of your Ass, follow the Spotify Model and give the consumer the services we can already get illegally in a legal way, for which people will happily pay for good quality, easily accessible movies & content.

My Review of Dinner at Hestons

I’ve never gone out of my way to eat at Fancy or Expensive restaurants, but I enjoy good food of various cuisines and was given the opportunity to eat at Heston’s newest Restaurant located in Knightsbridge, inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hyde Park.

On entering the Hotel we went up a flight of stairs to the Restaurant entrance and were met at the entrance of the Restaurant called Dinner, by a woman who confirmed our booking, took our coats and directed us to the Bar that’s located just infront of the Restaurant entrance. I was handed a drinks menu at this very minimalistic bar (the area on show was a service area, with the bar area being behind a screen… I ordered a Vodka based Passion Fruit cocktail which was £15 and a 330ml bottle of Budvar that was an eye-watering £6.50, these came with some complementary chinese crackers.

After waiting for a few mins we were taken to our table, which was just outside of the main restaurant area, but seated right next a large glass window looking into the Kitchen, which was a nice insight and looking out onto Hyde-Park, unfortunately it being pitch black outside we couldn’t fully appreciate the view. The overall decor of the restaurant was nice, neutral, very clean looking with some little qwerks like the Jelly Moulds on the wall.

The service was excellent, with a lot of staff in the restaurant each with their own little job. The menu was quite small, had a fair selection of dishes and all the items had origins of very old recipes dated back to as early as the 1200’s. I especially liked the having the lady taking our order talk us through the menu and she encouraged questions about some of the more unusual elements of some of the dishes.

For Starter, we ordered the Meats Fruits and the Crab Loaf:
The Meats Fruits was delivered in the shape of a Mandarin and was a rich, tasty pate, with a hint of Orange, very tasty.
The Crab Loaf was moist, sponge textured, crab loaf with a blended Crab, Celery and Cucumber Salad on top, also very tasty and my favourite dish.

For Main, we ordered the Powered Duck and the Black Footed Pork:
The Powered Duck was very pink, moist, tender but for me lacked duck flavour and meaty gameness. The duck fat was spongy fatty and I would have preferred it to be a bit crispy. It was served with Duck Heart (which was ok) and Fennel, which were also ok but not really my taste (i’m not an aniseed fan)
The Black Footed Pork originates from a breed of Organic pigs found in Spain, the meat was also tender, moist, a little fatty but it was little lost in the Roberts sauce of reduced pork, prosciutto ham and spelt.
The main courses were £30 each, were nice, but I didn’t think they were perfect and I was a little disappointed.

For Dessert, we ordered the ChocBar and a Macchiato coffee.
The ChocBar was the size of a fun-size milkybar, it was a very rich dark chocolate with a ginger caramel running through it. It was served with Ginger IceCream and some biscuit crumbs. It was a nice dessert, very rich and we’re glad we shared it as it would have been a struggle to eat it alone because of the power of the Ginger & Dark Chocolate.
The Macchiato was nice, rich, bold and a good end to the meal.

As a nice suprise at the end of the meal, prior to getting the bill we were given complimentary Earl Gray infused Chocolate Ganache with Caraway seed biscuits, which were nice.

Overall, it was good to experience this restaurant. The kitchen side seat was a good view of a famous kitchen in action, the service was excellent. The food was nice, Starters excellent, Mains “ok” but as commented above not great and dessert was nice. Would I go again? With that price point on the current Menu, No. If the menu changed and someone else caught my eye I may go again.

For the review…

One of the additions and reasons for moving from Blogger to WordPress was to run categories…  so far it’ll be one for the Blog and one for Reviews on stuff…