Good bye Grange Hill

When I think back to my childhood in England there are a small number of television programmes that I particularly remember.

One of these is “Grange Hill”, which I was surprised to learn today is still going after 30 years – well, just about as it has now been cancelled.

I belong to the generation that maybe just missed the first couple of seasons, but were otherwise with it from the end of the 1970s whilst still at primary school ourselves, progressing through the 1980s and finally leaving school at the beginning of the 1990s.

I can remember certain characters and issues, maybe not always the ones quoted in the media today, and I definitely remember the theme tune and the original opening titles (sausage included).

So whilst I may not have given it any further thought in the past years, I reminisced today by watching clips on-line, including said titles, and reading some interviews with the actors of bygone years.

Yes, that programme was a part of my tea-time viewing, and it’s a nice thought that generations after me enjoyed it as well.

That being the case, it’s a shame that it has to end.

Filling up with petrol – a robot's job

I’m sure that many readers will remember the days when petrol stations had attendants that put the petrol into the tank for you – before the days when “self service” became the modern way of filling up.
Well, perhaps we are going to return to that kind of service. I’ve been fascinated today by a video of a petrol station in the Netherlands, that uses a robot arm to fill up the cars.
The robot knows from the type of car how to open the petrol cap, and presumably whether or not to put diesel in. I wonder how it copes with bio-ethanol?
It looked rather slow at the moment, so I guess the queues at the petrol station near here would just get longer. I also didn’t see anywhere to pay for the petrol – does the robot arm swipe your credit card as well?
As fascinating as it is, I’m still not too sure what to make of it all. It may be nice not to have to get out of your car, but it doesn’t help the unemployment figures!

Why I don’t sell on eBay anymore

I first started using eBay five years ago, and I started selling about a year later, privately at least.

Then, in 2005 I started selling used books, LPs and other items on a professional basis, even qualifying as a Verkaufsagent (seller’s agent).

Slowly, however, I came to the decision that I was spending too much time on this part of my business and was not making enough profit to sustain it. The risks associated with selling on-line did not really help much, either.

The first step was at the end of 2006, when I noticed a drop in the prices that people were bidding for my items. Furniture, that had cost thousands of Euros should have been going for several hundred in my opinion – but getting into three figures became increasingly difficult.

Then different courts in Germany came to different decisions about the duties of the seller on what information you have to provide in the article description and how. The risk was not getting it wrong, the risk was that someone else might claim you were doing it wrong and take you to court over it. Depending on which area you live in and how much the judge understands the principle of eBay and selling on-line appeared to mean that the case could go for or against you.

This combined with the ever smaller profit margin, compared to the problem of finding enough storage space for all the items I was selling, compelled me to the decision to stop selling on eBay at the end of 2007.

The latest news this week only made me glad that I had – as eBay wants to stop sellers giving negative comments to buyers. [English|German]

This appears to me to be unfair on the sellers, after all, just as their may be bogus sellers out there, there are bogus buyers as well.

I personally gave almost no negative comment in all the time I was selling on eBay, and I never received one either. I was once disappointed to receive a neutral comment from someone who claimed that I hadn’t packaged something properly. The truth was that I had, in my opinion. And anyway, I had insured the parcel so if they had contacted me after it arrived then I would have gladly refunded them and claimed on the insurance at the post office. But instead they just left the neutral comment and never contacted me again.

I did give a negative comment once. A buyer bought an item in an auction and then didn’t pay for it. They didn’t respond to my e-mails either, so after sending them a final notice I did give them a negative comment. After all, I still had to pay eBay for the auction, even if they did refund me the commission. Within the next few weeks the buyer received two more negative comments and their account was locked by eBay.

This is a really silly situation, since if they seriously bought the item and then didn’t want it, the consumer protection laws in Germany would have allowed them to return it within the set period.  Indeed, I had buyers exercise this option before I had even sent the goods, which was no problem because we both saved on postage costs and eBay refunded the commission.

But buyers that bid for fun, or bid on several items and them only pay for one without having the courtesy to tell the other sellers that they don’t want the item after all deserve the negative comment in my opinion.  That way, sellers can use filters to stop them bidding if they want to.  At least, they know what to expect.

Under the new system that eBay want to introduce, they won’t be able to do this and only eBay will know how often a buyer has not paid up – other sellers will be left in the dark.

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