Shaw Academy Robbery

Shaw Academy, with offices in Dublin, Ireland among other places are an online learning company which has grown greatly over the last 10 years or so. They are a fairly well recognised brand and I’ve often thought of signing up for a course with them. At the beginning of December I spotted an Ad on Facebook for a Sound Engineering Course which is right up my street. I’d seen the ad loads of times but finally decided to click on it and sign up. The ad was for a 4 week, no catch free trial. You sign up, add a payment method, PayPal in my case, and get access to your course. Or so I expected.

My thinking was that I had a bit of free time coming up over Xmas and might get through the course in those 4 weeks but as soon as I subscribed I was told the earliest I could start the course was the following Monday, about a week and a half later and a week and a half out of my free trial. Also, I noticed that the course material and certificate also had to be purchased. Not so free after all eh!? Deciding that that was a bit underhanded and didn’t suit me, I decided to cancel the trial before I started. Free trial cancellation links are always hard to find but I found the link. I was pretty surprised to find that I had to call a number and talk to someone to actually fully cancel! Really!? I was soon to find out why.

A South African sounding girl came on the phone and asked me how she could help me. As soon as I asked to cancel my account she started off on her sales rambling and didn’t allow me speak. I thought I was talking to a machine at one point. I was offered all kinds of incentives to stay including free access to course materials, free certificates, free add-on course time, etc.. I calmly and patiently let her finish, angry now that she ignored my simple request to cancel and even more adamant that I wanted away then when she finished I repeated again that I just wanted to cancel. She dejectedly gave in and said my membership had been cancelled and apologised for any inconvenience caused. I hung up satisfied and relieved and noticed a cancellation email come in almost immediately:

Imagine my surprise when the cancellation email was followed swiftly by a PayPal payment notification of a payment of €39.99 to Shaw Academy!? There was no indication on it what the payment was for either as you can see below:

I immediately emailed Shaw Academy and also created a PayPal dispute over the payment. No reply. A week later and PayPal cant find in my favour as I couldn’t provide any documentation re my billing agreement with Shaw. Something they never sent me, On purpose I’m guessing. Shaw finally replied to me and said they couldn’t refund as the payment was taken for a certificate I apparently purchased and once the certificate is created it cant be taken back. A certificate I purchased for a course I never took and never even started!? Ok. Also, I’m still getting a ton of emails telling me I’ve missed course dates for a course that’s supposed to be cancelled. What a flawed system! Shaw sent me a link to their terms where I seen this straight away:

The modern world of marketing is a very competitive place and companies routinely use whatever marketing tricks they can to make money, regardless of the customer experience. Shaw Academy is one of the worst examples I’ve seen in a long time. The desperate measures they go to to take money for services never provided and the lack of caring they have for the customer experience is breath-taking. They might make a short term profit but ultimately they and companies like them will fail as more and more people look for real honesty and value from companies.

For more about honest marketing Seth Godin has an excellent book:

And for a better and more professional online learning experience, try now “Linkedin Learning”:

Trying to order Broadband in Ireland in 2019!

I moved to a new house recently. Broadband always was, and probably always will be one of my most important considerations when moving to a new area. That plus the colour of the water. Don’t ask. So naturally I done some good background checks on internet availability in the new area which included looking at broadband provider coverage and availability maps online, talking to people who lived there already, checking mobile speeds and phone lines etc while house viewing. All of the above suggested that I should have no broadband worries so off I went and agreed to let the property. I actually ordered broadband well before I moved in so that it would be there when I did or very shortly after.

The first thing I did was to use Eir’s very handy (so I thought) “Moving Home Form”. You just put your current and new details in and they handle everything for you. How cool!? I filled it out and awaited confirmation from them that all was proceeding. The suggested wait time was several business days. Fine. I never heard from Eir in relation to this again.

With the failure of the moving home form process and move time fast approaching, I decided to just do a fresh broadband order online with Eir on the 7th January. The process was fairly easy and quick and I got word back fairly quickly that install day would be the 14th January, the day after I planned to move in. I was delighted to get a call to say they could come even sooner than that because the engineer happened to be in the area and had a cancellation of some sort. He came that Thursday and I wasn’t at the address but the install team rang me to say they couldn’t provide the broadband I ordered. They put me on to the engineer to explain more and he told me that I’d ordered “Fibre to the home”, superfast broadband but no actual fibre lines to the house existed. I told him that’s all I was allowed order online and he said I needed to cancel that order and tell them I just wanted normal “Fibre to the cabinet”, phone line broadband instead. That’s when the real fun began..

For most of the next week, I tried to contact Eir and subsequently Vodafone who got similarly confused about the type of broadband available here to explain their error and just order normal broadband. I need to use a bullet list here to explain what happened next there’s so much detail, sorry!

  • Step 1 – I called the Eir customer support number 1901. Except that when you ring on a mobile, like most people probably do these days because they don’t have a landline, it doesn’t work. The robot asks for your account number but as you try to type it in their system presumes you need mobile support and tries to transfer you.
  • Step 2 – I called the sales number mentioned in the order email 1800 303 736. No answer.
  • Step 3 – I messaged the Eir Twitter support account at The Twitter guys answered at least but ultimately they refer you to phone support who never answer.
  • Step 4 – I went to an actual Eir phone shop hoping to get some sense out of a real life human, face to face. I explained the problem to “Paul” who done his best to make me feel like a fool for ordering the only broadband product the Eir website let me order. One which wasn’t available in my area despite the Eir website saying it was. He put my address and Eircode in multiple times and ways and into multiple systems to prove that that’s the only broadband I could get. He didn’t seem interested when I told him the engineer was out to check and said there’s no fibre line. Paul was sympathetic to my problems getting in touch with Eir support however and gave me a handful of numbers to try ring. Each one of them failed to answer. The longest I was on hold was 1 hour and 10 minutes one day. Video proof below! That number was actually a Sales number too!??
  • Step 5 – I decided to take Eir Twitter support’s advice and post (as in a letter…lol) in a cancellation request. I done this for both my account at the old address and the new one I just ordered for the new address but havn’t heard anything back re either yet.
  • Step 6 – I said enough is enough and dispensed with Eir altogether as they obviously don’t want or care about customers and switched my attention to Vodafone on the advice of the previous tenant who used them happily. Considering my failure to get in touch with Eir in any way to cancel, I had no option but to just cancel my direct debit with them. I’m sure I’ll hear more about this but I’m ready for ’em!
  • Step 7 – To my initial delight, Vodafone were a hell of a lot cheaper than Eir for the same thing but to my dismay then, they also sold me fibre to the home, which as I’d already found out was not available here. I’m guessing the address/availability system Vodafone use is Eir’s so it’s wrong for both. Probably other providers too. I ordered the only package I was allowed to on the Vodafone site but got a call the next day to say it wasn’t available. Here we go again..
  • Step 8 – I decided, again, to go talk to someone face to face and went into the local Carphone Warehouse store to try sort the Vodafone install issue and the guy there put a manual order through for me for broadband after I explained the issue again. That order seems to have disappeared into the twilight zone. There was no record of it with Vodafone. Maybe it’s for the best as it was a completely different price and contract length to the online order.
  • Step 9 – I contacted Vodafone by phone and web chat which was a hell of a lot quicker and easier than contacting Eir and because of my experience with Eir, I understood the situation and issue fully and was able to explain it very simply to the several different agents, several different times. Nevertheless, they trust their “system” more than actual humans on the scene so they insisted that all I could order was Gigabit, superfast fibre to the home broadband and that the slower “normal” broadband I wanted was not actually available to me.
  • Step 10 – I put another order through on the Vodafone website while web chatting to a support agent. It only let me order the superfast broadband yet again but on the advice of the support guy/girl (never sure with Indian names) I ordered anyway and we agreed that if I got a call to say it wasn’t available again, I should just insist on a site visit. The same support guy tried to sell me the same package I ordered at a different (yes, dearer of course) price than the website too!?

Eir customer support craziness:

So that’s where we’re at now. Waiting on someone from Vodafone to call/visit to actually check what’s available here and install some kind of broadband. Meanwhile I’m trying to run an IT business off my mobile phone hotspot with the phone placed up against the window in the kitchen at the back of the house which through trial and error I’ve found is where the best 4G signal is. But it comes and goes..

So for once the issue is not the availability of decent broadband in Leitrim, I know I can get broadband, I just can’t seem to order it!? It shouldn’t be this hard to order broadband in Ireland in 2019?

UPDATE 1: *****************************************************************

Nothing further happened with either Eir or Vodafone as of yet (unsurprisingly) and I decided out of interest to go through all the other major Irish broadband providers including:

Digiweb – Can only offer Gigabit broadband which isn’t available!
Pure Telecom – Can only offer Gigabit broadband which isn’t available! They fixed my phone line and even sent a router then admitted it was all pointless so I sent it back and cancelled.
Sky – Can only offer Gigabit broadband which isn’t available!
Virgin – Can’t give me any kind of broadband at all!

So. I looked into Mobile broadband and happily realised that they’d all but done away with their monthly download limits. That was the reason I stopped using mobile years ago. A quick check online for coverage in my area, both with 3 Support and my own research seemed to suggest that the signal would be strong (I appear to be sitting right on top of a mini 3 Cell tower or extender of some sort!) and that their router would be far more reliable than my phone hot spot so I decided to give it a bash. I ordered a monthly package and router at about 14:30 yesterday and the router and SIM were delivered this morning, way less than a day later. All I had to do was set everything up, find the best spot (huge difference between the front and back of the house!?) and plugin and I was online again at the speeds below. Hopefully they will remain as high and that mobile broadband is stable and reliable.

Take note Eir & Vodafone. This is how easy and quick it should be to order and install broadband in 2019..

UPDATE 2: *****************************************************************

Having just setup my 18 month contract with 3 Mobile Broadband (service and speeds have been fairly reliable) and seeing out the 14 days grace period, imagine my surprise when I went out for a walk one day and seen the contractors from the fibre company (Working on behalf of OpenEir) laying the final fibre infrastructure to the house.

Fibre Box

I spoke to a couple of them and they told me as soon as they were finished, fibre would be live and available to order. Unable to resist the temptation of hooking into 1GB fibre running right outside my door I looked at ways to get out of my 3 contract but to no avail. Still, I put yet another order through Vodafone for their fastest package and this time an engineer came and actually installed the connection in my house but then confirmed it wasn’t fully live yet. He couldn’t say when! Vodafone rang me the next day to tell me the “problem” would be fixed around March 25th and I wouldn’t be billed until then. So the story continues..

UPDATE 3: *****************************************************************

My fibre broadband came live yesterday out of the blue! Speeds are all over the place though. I’ve had speed test results everywhere from the full 1Gbps to a third of that bit I FINALLY HAVE FULL FIBRE BROADBAND!!??

Fibre Broadband Leitrim

Template Monster Sucks

I’ve had a nice little setup with Template Monster for a few years now. I sell their WordPress themes from my own site and use them for client projects and get a nice affiliate discount. The themes have always been fine and have been very handy for clients not sure what they need design wise. I just get them to browse the templates, pick one they like and I buy it and customise it for them. I collect my 20% discount when my account reaches $100.

The problems started for me when they decided to require database dumps to get the template looking the same as the one demoed, ie – you need to import a database to a fresh wordpress install via phpMyadmin or something similar. Not for the faint hearted. Otherwise, you face a massive job trying to re-create the functionality that was sold to you via the demo.

Lately, the quality of more than a few templates has been awful – to the point where the whole reason for using templates in the first place, ie efficiency, is compromised as you try to fix layout and css issues that result from even the most minor of hacks/customisations.

The latest issue I’ve had and the one that will probably mean me not using Template Monster again concerns a template that only works with a rather old and insecure WordPress 3.0 and not the latest version 3.2.1. After some testing in Internet Explorer 9.0, my client and I found issues with wordpress that meant we couldn’t use version 3.0 but when we tried 3.2.1, certain, very important parts of the template wouldn’t work.

I was pretty snookered and after weeks of bouncing back and forth in Template Monster’s support system, during which they done nothing but supplied useless information, never read what I’d already said and wouldn’t refund me, I’ve had to abandon the template and them along with it!


Dodgy Client Storys

I’m not going to mention names here but I had to write this post to let people know the kind of things that go on with difficult clients in my business area, web & graphic design, and the kind of people in business out there at the min. If I wasn’t so badly affected, I’d be laughing… 😐

Case 1:

A former regular client with monthly bills who went without paying for about 4 months and left me in debt to the tune of about €700. Not once did I get paid by this guy on time having worked for him for years and he made me hand deliver printed invoices (16 mile round trip for me) then told me to come back some other time to collect a cheque! He told me on numerous occasions that he couldn’t pay because a pile of bills just came out of his account only for me to find out soon after that he was sunning himself abroad just after I talked to him.

Case 2:

One of my best ever clients financially but who would think nothing of ringing me 15/20 times a day or asking me to do his shopping for him on the way over for meetings. He once asked me to drop all my other clients and work exclusively for him! It was a real Boss – Employee situation. It felt like I sold my soul for his work and offloading him was a massive relief.

Case 3:

A local estate agent who gave me a spec and time limit both of which I adhered to exactly. I even got the site approved by people in his office but when I sent the final invoice all went quiet for months. I named and shamed and suddenly my work was under par and I got threatened with litigation. I took down the website but the client gained control of the .ie domain and site because I bought it in his name.

Regular issues:

  • Slow payments,
  • No Payments,
  • ‘Surprise’ at yearly hosting and domain renewal fees,
  • Slipping in extra work after acceptance of quote,
  • Projects with no end point,
  • Clients who can’t use email,
  • Clients going quiet for months mid project.
  • Blah, blah..



How I’d Like to Be Paid Please!

Just a simple public wish and hint about how I and presumably most people would like to be paid by their customers/clients. I will not take the ‘recession’ as an excuse for problems paying. If you don’t have money don’t hire me:

On Time Please

You may not realise that I, the company whose services you hire consists of real people (me) with real bills (many) that need to be paid. If you agree to hire me for the price I quote then I expect to be paid when I do what you asked. I put my valuable time and private/family life aside to work for you so I expect to receive the agreed fee when I ask for it. I will deeply resent being made to chase money owed as it will take up even more of my afore mentioned valuable time.

Pay Digitally

It’s 2011 and the ability to pay someone without having to move has been around for quite a while. Cheques are an antiquated method of payment. Why would you go to the trouble and expense of writing one, putting in an envelope, buying  a stamp and traveling to your nearest post office when you could transfer a payment through online banking or Paypal instantly? You’re also asking me to leave the office and go lodge the cheque when received. For me that’s currently a 10 mile round trip taking at least 30/45 more minutes out of my working day.

Respond to Invoices

I send invoices digitally and very rarely get any response or confirmation of receipt. I consider it good manners to acknowledge an invoice and notify the sender of when they are likely to receive payment. Not acknowledging invoices makes sender nervous.

Alert on Payment

If you do pay by bank transfer, congratulations, I salute you but be aware that most people wont get notified by their bank that a new payment has come in and if I forget to check manually then I’m likely to presume you still havn’t paid. Also, make sure your payment is labelled as coming from you as it’s not always obvious who made the payment. Similarly, if you send a cheque, say you’ve sent it. Things get lost in the post.

Finally,  make sure a cheque wont bounce before you send it and if you are in doubt then make an instant/digital or cash payment to make sure. Bounced cheques cause havoc in people’s accounts and invite large bank fees to process.


Eircom, 3, Broadband and Phone Contracts

A few weeks ago, I had a brainwave. To counter some financial problems I thought I’d have a look at my business and house outgoings and see if I could cut some of them out or reduce them a little. I fully expected to find a pile of bills/services that we might be able to do without…services we might have signed up to without consideration when times were better. I suspect there’s a lot of people in the same boat now! I started off looking at the biggest bills, ie – rent (couldn’t change that), tax (couldn’t change that either..), etc, etc.. Unfortunately, I didn’t find too many bills that could be lowered but the phone bill, always shocking when it comes in and so easy to overspend on, started to stand out for me as a large leak that needed plugging..

It’s a fairly common conception especially among business owners that you need to have a landline to run a business. People will tell you that you wont be trusted if you’ve only got a mobile number on your business card or website and that the only proper broadband is DSL/Phone line. I say, feck that.. In fairness, when I moved to my current address and realised that for the first time since I moved to Leitrim, I would have access to ‘proper’, fast (7MB) broadband, I was happy as Larry. Then, 3 things happened..Money got very tight, Phone bills increased and Three installed a broadband mast locally as part of the National Broadband Scheme.

I decided to grab a Three mobile broadband dongle on a 2 week trial and see if it compared to my Eircom service. It compared very well! While the rated speed of the Three device was actually slower than Eircom, it just felt a lot faster, possibly due to contention ratios. Also, the upload speed, important to a web designer like me, was way faster. It averages out at about 3 or 4Mbps down and 1 or 2Mbps up. I also tested Skype out on it and it was crystal clear and stable. Three’s service worked out at only €15 per month (cheaper if you already have a Three mobile pay monthly plan, which I did).

The next obvious step of course was to ring Eircom and cancel my line completely. I had signed up to a monthly package on Skype, got my Skype landline number replacement and was all set to go without my landline when the guy in Eircom cancellations said I had a ‘contract’ until March next year and if I chose to break it, I’d have to pay the remainder of the recurring fees.

Apparently you sign up to a 6 month contract for the phone and 12 months for broadband. The fact they are kinda co-dependent on each other but have different contract periods is a bit weird? Your contract also seems to get restarted whenever you change your package which is even more annoying.

All of a sudden, my feeling of pride at having identified and executed a saving of about €125 per month went out the window. Now I’m no stranger to phone contracts or even breaking them but for some reason I didn’t expect landlines to be the same as the mobiles ones I’d had in the past. Also, when I moved into this house, I just knew I needed a phone line and broadband and wasn’t aware that I was signing up to an unbreakable contract. I have no recollection of seeing or even signing a contract or having anyone tell me I was entering into one. In fact, I just transferred my account from the old house to the new one and the old account had been running for at least a year or 2.

Basically, if you want to have a phone in this country, whether mobile or land based, you need to enter into an unbreakable and lengthy contract. You have no choice. That’s just the way it is. And sometimes, you’re not even made aware you’re entering into one. Not fair I say?

In the end, it was suggested that I reduce my Eircom bill to the bare minimum €49 per month for the remainder of the contract and have mobile barring activated on the line to try help keep the bill at no more that this monthly amount but it’s still €49 pm more that I want, need or can afford to pay. It also costs €25 to downgrade a package!

* UPDATE After getting on to Eircom support again over my contract issues I was told that moving house or changing package shouldn’t have changed my existing contract and if it did, I should have been told this at the time. I was also offered a contract get out without penalty so it might pay to complain! But contracts still exist.

Working From Home Pros/Cons

I remember the last time I had a proper job working for the man, fixing bus ticketing machines in Dublin, back around the turn of the century. I’d get up at the same time every day, get the same bus, see the same people in the same places at each bus stop and they’d get on and sit in the same seats.. I’d get to work and see the same people and do the same thing all day. All very ‘samey’! You couldn’t tell one day from another after a while and of course, I slowly but surely lost my mind…

But all you slaves to the rat race, working in dead end jobs, stuck in traffic for hours on end every day, doing the same thing over and over, seeing the same people, taking the same crap from your boss and wishing you could work for yourself and/or work from your own home, rolling out of bed into your cosy home office and starting/stopping work whenever you feel like it…you might want to wish again! There’s two sides to every story.

I’m not about to quit my home office any time soon but here’s a few things to think about!

Pro Working from Home:

  • Get up whenever,
  • Finish whenever,
  • Flexible working hours/breaks, etc..,
  • See more of your family,
  • More comfortable environment,
  • Better food!
  • No travelling or traffic jams,
  • No dodgy workmates,
  • No boss looking over your shoulder.

Con Working form Home:

  • Too many distractions,
  • Family think you are ‘available’ all the time,
  • Incoming, non-business Phone calls,
  • Computer Games,
  • Facebook & Twitter!
  • No company/other people = stircrazy!
  • ‘Need to get out of the house’ syndrome,
  • Forget to take breaks,
  • Clients want to call in,
  • Working too late.

My top tip, not that I’ve managed this myself yet so maybe it’s more a goal!, is to treat your home working as if you’ve gone to work, ie – when you step in the home office door, you are ‘gone to work’ and not available to anyone for anything except work. If you have to lock the door, do it. Just don’t stay in there too long!


Northern Ireland Killings

Bad news stories are ten a penny these days but theres something profoundly depressing about the news of the killings in the North this week. I think its the shock factor that’s caught us all off guard. We had become smug and cosy in the perceived knowledge that we had put our violent past to bed and become one of the few waring countries to see sense and stop killing each other.

Its nice to see the parties and people up north, here and in the UK uniting to condenm the killings so lets hope this is only a blip and that we have indeed put violence to rest here and can continue to set an example to the rest of the world but I have my doubts. If there are lunatics out there that are prepared to SO go against the common flow then we should brace ourselves..