Friday, 2 October 2020

New MJT website

After many years looking sorry for itself, MaJaTo/ has finally been updated, and now I have been able to link to all my projects in one place.

Here's a sneaky peek for you. Click on the image to take a more in-depth look. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Quidco Is A No Go

I've always been a bit dubious of the cashback model.

The model works okay with credit cards. Afterall, the reward is being paid by the credit card company who pay based on your spend. Pretty straight-forward. And you could see what is in it for them. They charge companies to use their services and of course they can charge interest to card holders too if they don't pay the full amount off monthly.

But the likes of Quidco, Top Cash Back, etc, well, they just come across as a bit shifty. I can't really see how they make their money, but obviously they do. So, they have a vested interest in roping people in to using their service. The more you use them the more they make. And, one suspects, even if your cashback claim is apparently unsuccessful, they still get paid.

I signed up for Quidco a few years ago. To be honest, I haven't used it much over the years, but have had a couple of not bad cashbacks here and there. However, customer service is pretty poor. Now, I don't know what it's like if you pay for Premium, but I don't think you should have to pay to get better service; They are already making money out of you using their website, so paying for them to any good at their job is a con. 

Having tried to use the customer service at Quidco a few times I gave up trying. The responses were so vague and generic and it seems they don't really care about the customer. I bet they don't even attempt to contact the company that was supposed to pay cashback. 

One of the biggest gripes I've have with Quidco is the inability to be able to rate the companies on their cashback fulfilment (or lack of) or to feedback directly to the company. Some are slow at paying, and some don't pay. And the declining email is so poorly worded it makes it out like it is all your fault. 

I'm a pretty honest user of these services and quite a meticulous person too. So, whenever I remembered to use Quidco (and there have been many an occasion when I forget they exist) I use it in the belief that I should be paid cashback for my purchase. 

For the first few years it had been okay, with only two companies (Dominoes Pizza and Interflora) refusing to pay the few pence cashback I was entitled to. Now, I know companies make mistakes and for a few pennies I'm not going to quibble. But over the past 12-18 months, the number of cashback declined has increased. And it seems to be the same companies over and over. 

Argos, Travelodge, Pizza Hut (and Dominoes) are all repeat offenders. And the worst? Halfords. Halfords have a 100% rate of declining cashback for me (several purchases via Quidco, and I've bought at least 10 bikes in the past decade from them - not any more.) Every time I have met the conditions. Seems iffy to me and I don't know whether it's Halfords (substitute Argos and any of the other rogue companies here) or whether its Quidco, though I suspect its both. It would certainly be good to have the opportunity to feedback to the companies and to rate them so other users can be warned. 

And the length of time for estimated payment has increased from a couple of months in most instances to nearly a year now for many companies. One could be suspicious and suggest Quidco are hoping that if they tell you it is declined after so long you won't have kept the receipts (and even then, on my experience, they've never overturned a claim anyway!)

Just Eat is a good example. At the start of the year they would pay in a week. Now it is over 6 months. That's poor. On the plus side, so far Just Eat has always paid. 

But going forward Quidco is a no-go for me. I'm not sure I want to even bother with any of the other cashback companies as I suspect they'll be just as bad. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Holiday Money - A Cautionary Tale

Always shop around - That's great advice for pretty much everything you buy.

Here's another one for you - Check the small print too.

Oh and timing is everything.

Okay, that's all the motto's out of the way. Let's begin.

My family recently enjoyed a few days at Dinseyland Paris. It was bitterly cold, a bit snowy, and Eurostar did their best to scupper our vacation before it even started (more on that in another post sometime), but the long and short of it was we had a nice time.

Now, I've always been a believer in having a bit of local currency in cash form. It's good for the small purchases like drinks, and potentially for tipping too. It's always difficult to judge what you need so I get a rough daily figure in my head, times it by the number of vacation days then add another days worth on top. After all, I don't have to spend it all and I can exchange it back to good old pound sterling afterwards.

Now, as I said before, timing is everything. Thanks to half the population of the UK we're heading for economic oblivion (aka Brexit). Whether it's because they believed some sneaky politicians with extreme agendas (both nationalist and socialist), or "the good old days" viewed through glaucomic eyes clouded their viewpoint, or they had a misplaced/prejudiced fear of "foreigners", or (like all political graduates*) they failed to grasp very basic economics, or they hate kids, or..... well, whatever the reason, we're royally screwed. But we'll have blue passports again. Woo.

So, a few weeks before travelling I monitored the exchange rate.  It had of course declined over the last couple of years, and, whilst still generally on the downhill, it was steady-ish. So, with about 3 weeks to go I decided to buy.

Lesson 1 - Trust is Important
After a bit of shopping around, it seemed the best rates were online but either encountered delivery fees or/and meant buying in advance from brands I hadn't heard of and had no way of trusting.

I had bought dollars once at a great advance rate from a company who I hadn't heard of but they looked trustworthy, then I instantly regretted it. A quick post-purchase Google suggested the reviews were mixed and that the company may not be on a sound basis. I emailed straight away asking to cancel the purchase and to my amazement they refunded entirely. Surprising as a month later they went out of business. Phew!

Lesson 2 - Bargaining with my Loyalty
I like a bargain. I'll happily spend hours looking around for the option; Looking at coupon sites, and cashback sites (I use Quidco and have got a few hundred quid back over the years), comparison sites... You name it, I'll check it.

On this occasion there was little to differentiate the deals I was looking at. As well as rate, convenience was a factor, so being able to park at a supermarket collect my cash and go was a big factor.

Banks are notoriously stingy. Less so nowdays, but still there's always that likelyhood of hidden fees. So, if the rates look good I prefer supermarkets. The rates between Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's were similar, though Sainsbury's was the only one to offer loyalty points. They offered a special rate for Nectar card holders, which made the rate ever so slightly better (without it, their rate was not as good.) Plus a few Nectar points would be earned for the transaction too (only about 5 points per £100, and as each point has a value of £0.005 it's not really worth it, though to be honest, Nectar is not worth it at all nowadays.)

As yet the Nectar points haven't appeared on my account, though it does say that it could take 60 days to appear.

See - I told you it was cold!

Lesson 3  - The Law of Sod
Having purchased Euros the exchange rate decided to climb over the next few weeks, ending up about €0.05 higher before we left. So, for every £100 we would've got an extra €5. That's more than an extra bouteille of pop in EuroDisney!

Lesson 4  - Read the Small Print
So, here's the crux of it. Whilst looking for rates of exchanging Euros back to GBP I noticed a few places offered to buy-back based on the purchase rate if you bought from them.

Be careful here, because this might require paying a guarantee fee which could end up being more than the potential benefit a rate-match would bring.

Hmm, I thought. I recall Sainsbury's mentioning buy-back when I bought my currency. So, I checked the website and indeed they did "buy back". Merrily I made my way to the nearest Sainsbury's and asked the exchange cashier what the buy-back rate was for Euros that I had purchased from them. Gleefully she pointed to the rate board and told me it was the same rate as everyone else, €1.2875. No special buy-back rate then. Grrr! It was worse than any rate I'd seen anywhere else.

Lesson 5 - Be Persistent
I could've settled for the poor rate Sainsbury's offered me. However, I felt I could do better. Afterall, I had already seen that Tescos and Asda already had better buy back rates (around €1.27), and I could always chance it with the online boys.

I was in the city already and heading towards the bank. As I walked past M&S shop window I spotted their rates - no harm in looking. €1.2571. Yippee - the best yest. Okay, I'm going to Barclays anyway. No harm checking. €1.24050 - Get proverbially in!

Yeah, I could've swanned around and checked a few more banks, after all, Barclays ain't the most generous, but I was pleased to find something considerably better than Sainsbury's. Kerchinng! It went straight in to my account too.

However, I do regret not looking in to the buy-back situation a bit more and considering buying from somewhere with a buy-back offer based on purchase rate. Another lesson to learn for next time!

*Seriously, the worst people to be engaged in politics in any way are students/graduates of politics. Ideologies don't work in the real world. Politicians need a grounding in economics, business, civil services and any other aspect of life that government touches. A staunch admiration for the model of communism within an isolated system or the ability to memorise the works of Karl Marx (as fascinating as they may well be) have as much practical use as a university degree in watching Coronation Street.
Some kind of personality test wouldn't go amiss either to ensure we stop the Trump's, Farage's and Corbyn's of the world before they even get started.  Find out what your MP studied, investigate how politically active they were as a student, what have they done before entering politics, and assess really what they stand for and how realistic this is before giving them your vote.


Looking for more stuff to read? Why not check out this article on buying Fortnite presents pop over to one of my other blogs, Majato Scribes (stories, poems etc),  Original StarWars, Random Stuff from My Life in the 70s,80s and 90s or the utter weirdness of Pocket Picture Taker.

Friday, 11 January 2019

If you read me

I've taken to writing very very very short fiction lately. Mainly 50 and 100 word fiction.  Not as quick to write as you would think as keeping it to the word limit is  challenge and of course it has to relay a story in that short space.

Anyway,  and a few have been published on other websites and I've added links to these on MaJaTo Scribes, as well as adding a few more to that blog too.

Here's a recently publsihed 50word story called Suburbia.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Fortnite's Alright? Certainly is for Christmas Presents!

Gah! Like all parents around the globe I'm sick to my back teeth hearing about blooming Fortnite!

"I was sat there waiting with my pump (pump action shot-gun) waiting to blow
em to smithereens....."
"Yeah, I was scoping the hills, sniping them as they came down."
"Whoah. The cube has moved. Dad! The cube moved and then it cracked and then (blah blah my brains outta here).... it was awesome!"
"I'm on level 99."
"Hah! You're a NEWB!*"
"Hah! NEWB skin! Gonna snipe them if I can be arsed!"
"Oooh, a Scar (a type of rifle, apparently). Scars are Cooool"
"Oi! That's my treasure! Mate, that's my treasure. Nah, you're alright mate. I've just been killed anyway...."
"Just one more game, Dad. It'll only take a few minuuuttesss....."
Etc etc etc.

Newb= Newbie = New to the game or considered such given the fact they haven't forked out a ton of money for a some virtual fancy-dress.

And so it goes on. After about 8 months it doesn't seem to be the fad I was hoping it is. So, with Christmas rocking around the corner I guess there is one positive we can take from all this. At least it gives us something to buy for the kids for Christmas!

When it comes to my two they've got all the equipment they need for football, a stock pile of books to read, they have pretty much lost interest in Lego and there's little point buying any other X-Box games until they stop playing Fortnite. 😄

So, if like me you find yourself facing the dilemna of what to buy your Fortnite-mad kids for Christmas I've compiled a few suggestions that might help.

I cannot "Floss". I've tried. Once. Maybe your little one can Floss like a Boss

Don't look like a complete Newb at school with this Fortnite back-pack, gym bag, lunch box and pencil case

Genuinely this is actually quite a good idea - Draw Fortnite like a boss!

Fortnite toys, games and stocking fillers. I have to say, though, a Fortnite Monopoly game? Wow! Just wow!

Get even better at playing the game. No more Newb status for you, sunshine! Anything that gets the kids reading is a good idea.

Oh, hello. It's actually coming out in disc format too! Perhaps for us oldies who don't get the online way of playing!

And, well, here's the best of the rest a.k.a miscellaneous.

 So, there you have it. That's just scraping the surface of the Fortnite related stuff out there. Hopefully this will help you find something for your Fortnite made kids (or adults!). This search has certainly helped me pick out a few items for upcoming birthdays and for Chrimbo. I'm pretty sure they'll still be in to this game in a few months time.

 Of course, if you're buying from Amazon then having Amazon Prime might help too.

Friday, 14 September 2018


Like an Icelandic thunderclap, the sound of activity on my blogs in deafening. Ok, over-dramatic prose but still.... I have been very busy.

On MaJaTo Scribes I've taken to just coming up with stuff off the top of my head and typing it without any plan. Just to get the creative writing juices flowing.

 At the moment new posts are appearing every few days on Pocket Picture Taker and Random 70s/80s/90s blog too. Original StarWars has had a couple of recent posts too. I'll try to keep up the pace, people.

On NorfolkPlaces everything is pretty active too. It's the website's 7th birthday this month and it continues to grow, establishing itself as Norfolk's favourite and best independent tourism, leisure and lifestyle website.

 To celebrate this hive of activity, here's a fantastic song from A House, an Irish indie/alternative band from the 1990's. Tune.

Monday, 27 August 2018

From nowhere

After years on sporadic activity, today I've added two new blogs to the family.

Introducing Pocket Picture Taker - My phone takes pictures in my pocket. Without me doing anything. It's that simple. Rather than just delete them I decided I should create somewhere to post them.

Next up is Random Stuff From My Life in 1970s, 80s and 90s - Basically I'm having a bit fo a clear out and I keep finding lots of oddities from my youth. Some sentimental, some valuable (perhaps), some tat destined for the bin. I figured I would share this "stuff".

There have also been new posts on other blogs Original Star Wars and MaJaTo Scribes.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The King of Procrastination

The exertions of an early start, fleeting thoughts echo around my hollow head. The news. The emails. The social media. All checked. And checked again. For I am the king of procrastination and I wear my crown wearily. My domains are my domain. It's a kingdom of isolation. Indeed, the outside the world is frozen as I type. Hence the plagiarised line. :o)

So what brings me to blog on this here wintry day? Well, to avoid work of course. House work, health work (gym), my work (my domains), real work. No other reason, because the only other reason is vanity. And I don't do vain. At least, I don't think I do, but what do I know? Precisely.

Whilst I'm here I may as well poison your minds. Afterall, isn't that what kings and leaders have done for millennia? Not that I lead. But I don't follow either.

So, that poison. It's a poison of the soul, and poison can be good for what ails you. For you dear reader are quite probably sick. We all are. It's part of the human condition. We seek things that will make us feel better; Quick fixes that fade and leave a scar like butterfly stitching. We're here so fleetingly that we must grab stuff that makes us feel really better about ourselves for just that bit longer. Music is one of the few poisons that work for real.

So, the dispensary offers you a healthy dose of tunerificary (yep, I made that word up. It's not latin for terrific tune, but that's what it means. Or not. Call the police).

I force this perspective upon you. Maybe it fuses to your guts' inner lining. Imagine the rain, an inner city slum of desperation, hate, love, fear, hopeful hopelessness. An undercurrent eddies beneath the  skin. Oppression, suppression, class, race, religion. Friction, fact.  Forget all that, and close your eyes. Taste this. Feet it. Underappreciated, not forgotten. And still here.

"Up the Empire/Balls to the Bulldog Breed" - by King of the Slums, from the album "Dandelions".

The King of Procrastination retires to his jail of thoughts once more.

Friday, 13 October 2017

See, I told you.

Crazy! It's not even 10am in good ole Blighty and I'm doing the 2nd post of the day, as promised.

Just wanted to put a link up on here to the latest article on the fabulous NorfolkPlaces website.

A couple of days ago recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro, gave a talk at the UEA. NorfolkPlaces were there at this sold out event and so figured the big literature fans amongst you might be interested to see what Ishiguro had to say.

Click here to read the review of Kazuo Ishiguro's talk

There you go. That's probably it for the year now!

Back once again

Back once again for the renegade master D4 damager, power to the people Back once again for the renegade master D4 damager, with the ill behaviour....etc

Yep, these Wildchild/Fatboy Slim lyrics sprung to mind the instant I typed the post title "Back once again". That's more apt as a title than Take That's "Back for good" but "Back on the chaingang" (The Pretenders) is in the running too.

 Rather than post what I was going to post I think I'll just include some musical links instead (just in time for Christmas!). That way I get to do posts in one day, doubling last years' feeble effort!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Posting for the sake of it

Yep. I got the sudden urge to, y'know post. But, and here's the pickle; I don't really have anything to post about at the moment.

It's kind of like an itch you need to scratch but you know scratching it won't do anything for you but you're gonna do it anyway. It's of no benefit whatsoever ever. Except perhaps my innate desire to procrastinate and stop myself from working. Yeah. That. It'll be that.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

My bad

My bad; It's been over a year since my last post and to be honest I don't have much of an excuse. I don't work "for the man" any more so as a self-employed dude who sits at a computer for 10+ hours a day I should have time to blog.

But I don't. I don't. I don't because, well for several reasons. Firstly I forgot (I know, my bad) and secondly working for yourself is a lot harder than I thought it would be, meaning pretty much every minute on the  computer is devoted to my business, NorfolkPlaces.

So, anyways.......... time is short and I should really be working right now but I thought I'd stop by for a quick update on life in general.

As you can see from above, I work for myself now and NorfolkPlaces is doing ok. Swing by sometime and check out the site for info on where to visit/stay in Norfolk :-)

The boys are doing well and growing up fast. Big one is at High school and little one is in Junior school and both are super-wicked-awesome at football. In addition to playing for the village team they're both in development squads for professional football teams. So, between the pair of them there's football going on every single day of the week!

Anecdotes? No, sorry. No silly anecdotes that I can recall recently. Tbh, life is a big blur it's going so fast. Really could do with a holiday, but being self-employed doesn't exactly cover the cost of that at the moment (or much else!).

So, Christmas is almost upon us........again! I had hoped to spend some time writing this year but that hasn't happened. Still, The Christmas Starfish is still available form Amazon - see previous post below.

In case I don't post again this year (highly likely) then Happy Chrimbo, Happy New Year and every other seasons' greating for the next few months!

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Christmas Starfish

Out now, in time for Christmas!!!! :o)

EDIT: It was available briefly on Amazon, however, I took it off the market as I know this little sotry is worthy of a wider audience. So, at the moment I am in the process of finding a suitable publisher for this book (and more!).

Monday, 8 July 2013

some updates

I've posted a few new things over on MaJaTo Scribes - first updates for over 2 years! Yep, that's even less frequent than this blog! :o)