Archive for April, 2008

New look BBC site

20/04/2008

I’m quite keen on the new look BBC news site. The rationale behind the new design is explained here – they seem to have met their goals well.
I would prefer the pages to be a little more compact – the old site packed a lot in without the need for scrolling but kept things legible.
Having video media nicely embedded into the page and using Flash to display it is an excellent addition. Launching a separate pop up that required Windows Media Player or RealPlayer was always a pain.
Too many ads in my opinion. I block them all using Adblock anyway, but the pages still have empty sections where the ads would usually be. Quite frankly, I’d pay money to access an ad free version and to get access to BBC TV online. Once you leave the UK you start to realise what good value the licence fee actually was…
The BBC’s sites have always shown the way in terms of usability and judicious use of Flash, animation, video and so on. I’m glad to see they’re not losing their way!

New look BBC site

20/04/2008

I’m quite keen on the new look BBC news site. The rationale behind the new design is explained here – they seem to have met their goals well.
I would prefer the pages to be a little more compact – the old site packed a lot in without the need for scrolling but kept things legible.
Having video media nicely embedded into the page and using Flash to display it is an excellent addition. Launching a separate pop up that required Windows Media Player or RealPlayer was always a pain.
Too many ads in my opinion. I block them all using Adblock anyway, but the pages still have empty sections where the ads would usually be. Quite frankly, I’d pay money to access an ad free version and to get access to BBC TV online. Once you leave the UK you start to realise what good value the licence fee actually was…
The BBC’s sites have always shown the way in terms of usability and judicious use of Flash, animation, video and so on. I’m glad to see they’re not losing their way!

One lady owner/goodbye Vitara

10/04/2008

We bade farewell to Mrs Saul’s Vitara today.
Bought four years ago for ten thousand dirhams (2,721USD) we sold it today for ten thousand dirhams.

Japanese reliability, regular servicing and inflation make for a pretty good return on investment for us and a good price for the buyer, in my opinion.
I advertised it (for free) in the Gulf News and got over forty calls over the two days it was in the paper. Over the last two days, during which there was no advert in the paper, I have had twenty plus calls. According to our security guard, lots of people came to see it – we weren’t in town early this week, but I gave callers the car’s location by text message.
As per my last post, it seems to be a sellers’ market here and we’ve benefited from that.
It was sold to a local gentleman who will use it for weekend desert driving after he converts it to an automatic. Based on what we see when we go offroad, this means two local chaps driving along at insane angles, engine screaming, whilst Westerners stare in amazement as the laws of physics are defied and I am made to feel that I could actually push the Wrangler much harder than I think I can.
Although Mrs Saul only drove it offroad once, it’s more than capable of spending its weekends in the dunes – unlike the current Vitara and its colleagues, it’s an offroad capapble vehicle that can actually go offroad. Today’s Land Cruisers, Pathfinders and Vitaras aren’t vehicles you can take offroad without removing copious amounts of plastic first, but who cares – the people that buy them never use them for that. Mrs Saul’s model has a better approach and departure angle than my Wrangler, is lighter and doubtless more reliable too, as well as looking pretty good.
Transferring ownership was very smooth, thanks to the RTA’s efficient processes.
More details of the selling experience and Mrs Saul’s new car in a future post!

In the wrong job

10/04/2008

We have bought Mrs Saul a new car, more on which later.
Things don’t seem to have changed much since I was last buying a car almost exactly five years ago – noone really seems to want to make an effort to sell you one.
In March 2003 I remember standing in the showroom of yet another large dealer here and shouting ‘does anyone want to sell me a car?’. My patience had finally ran out after several hours of being studiously ignored wherever I went. I didn’t get much of a response. Five years on the situation seems pretty much the same.
In the UK, any customer appearing on the forecourt will quickly be approached by a nice bloke in a suit from Next and sporting an an oversized tie knot. He will do everything he can to sell you something. He’ll know about the car you’re interested in, offer you finance, help you get a test drive, make you a cup of tea and generally do his best to close a deal.
Here, the average salesmanship seems to amount to not much more than the following –
Me: Can you tell me the difference between these three models?
Car ‘Sales’man: This one hundred ten thousand, this one hundred thousand this one ninety thousand.
Me: And what’s the difference between these three models?
Car ‘Sales’man: This one hundred ten thousand, this one hundred thousand this one ninety thousand.
Me: Thanks, I’ve got that part. What’s the difference between these three models?
CS: If you want, pay deposit and we deliver in three months.
The same goes for the secondhand places I visited (with 4×4 Motors being the helpful exception to the rule, at least when I was there in the past – we didn’t visit this time around). In general the guys on the forecourt dusting down the cars know the price and mileage and that’s it. The owner/manager just sits inside smoking, challenging you to separate him from his phone and attempt to find out more.
Some of the secondhand places we visited had brand new models on the forecourt. Why buy from them? Because they had models in stock they had pre-ordered from the dealer, which the dealer can’t get you for three months. So, if you want a fairly standard new car, these guys have it, now.
I took a lovely 4×4 for a test drive from the main dealer. Afterwards, the salesman asked me if I’d enjoyed the drive. I replied that I had, that this was my first ever chance to buy a new car and was interested in rechecking the prices of what was on offer to see what was right for me. He shrugged, told me he’d already told me the prices and said I should call him if I wanted to buy. No effort to sell at all, work out what was right for me, surprisingly.
All of this suggests it’s very much a sellers’ market. Dubai is clearly growing, people need cars and can afford them and those selling them don’t need to bust a gut to shift their stock.
There’s huge choice here, a huge potential market and prices are better than what you’ll get in Europe – I am clearly working in the wrong industry.

World Cup

01/04/2008

Didn’t really enjoy the Dubai World Cup last week.
Traffic was awful, with people pushing in dangerously along the route to the venue – including, bizarrely, a VIP carrying Range Rover, emblazoned with Land Rover and World Cup branding. Great way to create brand awareness. The cherry on the top of the driving cake was the taxi chasing the ambulance down the middle of the two lane access road, driving about two feet behind it at 50 Kmph.
We had to park miles away and get a bus to the entrance. The bus seemed to be filled with the kind of English people English people leave England and come to Dubai to get away from. Cries of ‘Ahm gonna p*** mahself m*********** if you dahnt stop da bus nah’ and ‘I’ve got a bomb!’ livened up our trip.
We waited for about 45 minutes in the huge queue, watching people push in all around us. I think we actually pushed in ourselves, which made me feel awful, but by the time I realised what was going on there was no way I was walking to the back of the queue, so I suppose I made us as guilty as the rest.
Once in, I went off to get some drinks from the bar, where a drunk Russian guy tried to start a fight with me for allegedly ‘pushing his woman’. His woman had actually bumped into me whilst shoving her way into the bar queue, but never mind.
We left well before the crush, taking a bus that was supposed to take us back to where we were picked up – which then dropped us nowhere near where we were picked up. Fortunately the random location was actually near to our car, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.
Hopefully next year they will have ironed out some of the logistical problems.

Not that Scandinavian country

01/04/2008

Whenever something’s run out in Dubai, you tend to get told that the item in question is ‘finish’.
As in –
‘Do you have any soda water left?’
‘No sir, it’s finish.’
Or –
‘Can we have the mutton seekh kebabs please?’
‘No sir, it’s finish.’
I’m currently having to fight with myself not to say –
‘I thought it was Swedish?’
…every time I hear this.
An appalling, condescending joke, but one that I feel obliged to say every time.