Archive for September, 2007

Midgets 1, Chris 0


I had a call from our property company regarding our kitchen saga (see posts passim). The same midget-designed kitchen has apparently been installed in hundreds of apartments across the development. I asked the nice man who called me to confirm in an email that they were delivering me an unusable design and that that was simply our tough luck. Let’s see if I get a mail or not. He was kind enough to point out that we could make the kitchen usable at our own expense however. How lovely.
People keep using the fact that ‘a consultant signed off the design’ as justification for the weird ‘features’ in our kitchen or for anything else below par that I’ve complained about. Quite why they think customers will shut up because of ‘policies’ or ‘consultants’ is beyond me. I’ve sent a list of question to be forwarded to the ‘consultant’ asking for an explanation of the amazing design he/she/they signed off. Again, let’s see what comes back.
I’m dumbstruck as to why this design was signed off and happly implemented across so many apartments when this company has already built so many other perfectly decent kitchens. The kitchen we have bears little resemblance to the show apartment we saw for our development or others we’ve seen since. How can something so basic go so wrong?
I’m still chasing a reduced price for our second parking space. The customer ‘care’ representative dealing with this seems to have decided not to answer emails or calls any more. Not sure how this counts as customer care, but I will plod on regardless.
In other news, I got a call on Thursday saying that I would not be handed the keys today (Sunday) after all. Apparently some other organisation needs to sign off the development and that won’t happen for two weeks. This is a pain for us as it means we have to renew the lease on our current place or pay for a short-term lease till moving in. Our problems are minimal compared to people who have flown in from abroad to take possession, moved out of their current accomomdation, booked moving service, etc. This problem doesn’t seem to be our property company’s fault – they must be fuming at whoever is responsible for this further delay. I expect we’ll be due some compensation for this particular delay.

Get it yourself!


I presume that the reason Americans tend to say ‘can I get’ when ordering something, instead of ‘may I have’ has something to do with German and other north European speakers’ influence on the way English is spoken in the States. ‘Ich bekomme’ and its variations are perfectly polite in Germany, but ‘can I get’ or ‘I’ll get’ just sounds odd to me.
I can forgive our trans-atlantic cousins’ mangling of English, but lots of Brits seem to use the phrase nowadays – presumably another example of ‘Friends Speak’ permeating our brains. It just sounds rude when used by Britons.
Customer: ‘Can I get a Coke?’
Waiter: ‘You’re welcome to walk into the store room and get one yourself, but why not let me get it for you – you’re the customer, I’m the waiter.’
In Dubai, most of the staff in restaurants and cafes tend to have learnt ‘standard’ British English and tend to look confused when confronted with someone ‘can I getting’ when making their order.
Oh dear – I really do need to start a ‘grumpy old man’ section…

How not to treat your guests


Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to invite Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University and then insult him? What complete idiocy. All it seems to have done is to make ‘the US’ look rude and uncultured and Iran’s President look quite the opposite, particularly in the eyes of his own people.

Traditional Ramadan meals


Seeing US fastfood brands with special offers during Ramadan always amuses me. It shouldn’t – these are global brands and common business sense suggests that KFC or McDonald’s should make the most out of Ramadan as they might out of Christmas, but seeing their various adverts still makes me do a doubletake. I just don’t associate them with Islamic customs.
KFC are advertising a bucket of chicken as the ‘perfect family Iftar’. A pair of female, henna decorated hands, offers up this healthy fast-breaking meal. McDonald’s have a date pie special going on. The image of people in ancient times breaking their fast with some greasy chicken and deep fried refined carbohydrate gloop seems a bit incongruous.
Visitors to the Middle East are often surprised to see those most obvious signs of US imperialist hegemony, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, et al. Seeing their presence ought to prove that most of the Middle East isn’t necessarily the hotbed of anti-Americanism that many US or European potential visitors often assume it to be. Saudi in particular has fast food outlets galore along the main high streets and in the malls.
Every so often there are calls from someone or other to boycott US companies – McDonald’s, Coke and the other usual suspects are cited as examples of the obvious ones to avoid. Ironically people promoting boycotts fail to realise that it’s local people who are the first to suffer, as these companies’ outlets are franchises that are locally owned, run and staffed.
I find it particularly odd when people cite ‘Mecca Cola’ as a good alternative if you want to boycott Coke. Why swap one fake sugary American drink for a cheap clone? Wouldn’t a nice cup of tea be a more meaningful alternative?

Stop spamming me, Dubai!


I’m getting a bit fed up with spam from Dubai organisations.
One of the companies who obtained my details thanks to my buying an apartment has clearly sold them on to real estate companies. I now get a spam SMS and at least 5 spam emails a day offering to buy my property or sell me another one.
For about two months over the summer I was getting up tp 15 text messages a week, at all times of day and night, in Arabic, from something called ‘HHIE’. The Gulf News cleared this one up in this article. Thankfully these have stopped. Whilst I laud the intentions of the HHIE and am sure they’ll do a fantastic job, I do hope they don’t use this kind of advertising again.
I am now getting about 5 texts a day in Arabic from Dubai Cares, a new charitable organisation. I think Dubai Cares is a great project that will doubtless do a lot of good, but sending lots of texts to a non-Arabic speaker seems an unusual promotional tool to employ.
Hopefully there’s some way of opting out of the text message ads, but I’m not too hopeful.

Go everything like after steel wool.


The Register put me on to this page from the Czech Olympic Committee’s web page. Very funny.
Beware translation by robot.

Ramadan Driving Disaster


A few posts back I wrote that driving in Dubai seemed to have improved enormously over the past few months.
Unfortunately everything seems to have reverted back to its 2002 state now that Ramadan is here. The tailgating, headlight flashing, lane weaving nutters are back and exceeding the speed limit by at least 50Kmhs is the norm again – everything’s fallen to pieces.
The bad driving’s happending all day, but I’ve also seen some horrendous accidents that have occurred shortly before sun down, as people race back home to break their fast. Tragic.
I can understand people who are hungry or desperate to smoke driving a little worse than usual, but I’m struggling to find any logical reason for the return to this crazy behaviour.
All’s not lost though – there are some very skilled people out there. Here’s a picture from June of someone who is able to drive a Land Cruiser at 120Kmhs whilst smoking a cigarette in one hand, holding a mobile phone in the other and apparently steering using telekinetic powers.

Fire fighting Corvette


Dubai has a new fire fighting vehicle –

Full article is here.
The same department already has Hummer 3s as well.
I am not an expert in fire fighting vehicles and was a bit surprised to read that this particular car is what’s needed.
I would have thought that something like a Toyota Land Cruiser that has height to see across traffic, plenty of speed, the ability to drive over rough terrain and to hold a fair amount of equipment might have been more practical, but clearly something smaller and very, very fast is a better choice.
These guys are the experts, so I stand fully corrected.

Still battling


Still battling with our property company.
Apparently the price of our parking space (recently upped in price from 95,000 Dhs to 190,000 Dhs – see previous posts) cannot be reduced as doing so is ‘against company policy’ and because ‘pricing can change from time to time’.
I’ve asked customer ‘care’ to explain what policy exactly they are referring to and when exactly the price of the plot more than doubled, as it appeared to happen overnight. I suspect the policy in question is the one that states ‘stuff you, we can do what we want and you can’t do anything about it, nur, nur, nur!’. I suspect too that that price doubled when someone thought they’d give it a try and see if anyone noticed.
In other news, customer ‘care’ are still looking into the case of our kitchen – the one designed by a blind midget with no previous kitchen design experience. If the customer ‘care’ deem it to have been built incorrectly, we may get it fixed. I’m not holding my breath. Quite how a company that has build 1,000s of kitchens over the last few years allowed ‘consultants’ to ‘sign off’ the design, I do not know.
We take possession in a week and a day – I am looking forward to seeing how well the snagging has been done. I suspect that the obvious scratches will have been fixed but that the bodged light switches and other lazily fitted items will still be there.

Expanding the market or increasing market share?


Most passengers on the planes I took to and from New York last week were Indian or of Indian origin – I’d say about 98%. Whether US citizens or not, everyone seemed to be flying via Dubai to get to and from India and the US.
I wonder if those passengers used to use other routes before Emirates opened up its New York flights, or whether the availability of the new route has increased the total numbers of passengers going back and forth?
Considering Air India flies direct to New York from India, the Emirates option must be either a lot cheaper or a lot more comfortable.
What always drives me mad on this route is families not asking to be seated together either when booking their tickets or when checking in. This always leads to about 30 minutes’ of musical chairs as half the plane tries to change seats while boarding and just after take-off. I was asked to move both going there and coming back, sitting in two other places before ending back where I’d started each time.
This always seems to happen on the New York route and when flying back to Dubai from Saudi.