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Yeah, but sure...

"Maintenance fee" at Irish banks

Imitation goods and services in Ireland

2009 - 2011, Republic of Ireland —

Beaumark e-Top BM468

Many goods and services on the Irish market are a mere facsimile, minimally applicable to the intended purpose if at all.

• I bought a case of "Challenge" brand drill-bits from Argos, and on first inspection it was clear that the mortar bits were not made of hard steel, and that they didn't even have a sharp edge. But I needed to put a few holes into a concrete wall, so I decided to try. The bit that I selected could hardly make a dent, and certainly could not drill. Insistent, I set up a chair in order to stand in the best position for applying heavy pressure. The drill-bit fell apart, splitting into a double helix.

• A landlord in Cork city replaced a small old poorly-functioning oven/stovetop unit with a new one that wasn't even designed for workability. The "Beaumark e-Top BM468" had one control-knob for its two stove-top surfaces. This one switch would allow the user to operate either the large, the small, or both hobs — on or off. I tried to use it. It wouldn't cook a decent meal. I wondered how long it would take to boil a pot of water on the largest hob (supposedly 1000 watts.) After one hour, I stopped the experiment. The landlord quickly replaced the unit, I should say, in fairness to him.

• Irish talk-radio is often excellent. Irish music radio, however, is exceptionally bad. All mainstream Irish radio stations play almost only the same tiny list of songs over, and over, and over again. They also play a lot of cheap re-makes of songs that were popular in other English-speaking countries two or three decades ago. Manufactured bands, too, are big. A lot of what Irish radio stations play is not real music — it's just a facsimile that fits the superficial purpose that music serves, for people who don't really listen to it.

• In May of 2010 I was trying to find an internet service-provider and I signed up for a trial-period with "3," a division of the multinational Hutchison-Whampoa. The saleslady in the shop was fair to me, and made sure that I knew that the data allocation was going to decrease at the end of the month, from 15 GB to 10. It would cost me nothing to find out what this allocation would be like in real use, and so I didn't hesitate. Fifteen gigabytes is meagre. The charge for exceeding the allocation was 5 euro-cents per megabyte. That's deeply expensive, in a way that many customers might not recognize. Then I decided to find out if it was likely that an average "punter" would even know that their data allocation was going to decrease at the end of May 2010. The answer I found was basic: No.

"It's on our website," said one customer-service telephone-answering employee.

The information was not on the website — neither on the home page nor on the broadband-services sales-page. So even assuming that a customer would have any reason to visit his or her ISP's website, where "the information is available," the information was not available. When I asked if the company would be able to change the terms of the contract in this way at any time, an employee told me that yes — but that I'd "be notified." There's to-do lately that the speeds of data transfer are increasing in a way that should make us all happy. (Ireland is a bit of a test-case country for mobile broadband, being as an island relatively isolated from radio-frequency clutter.) But speed of data transfer is only going to increase the danger that customers are going to incur charges "out of bundle." These charges, unforeseen by customers when signing the contracts, are clearly an important part of the business model of the ISP's.


The fact that some of the goods and services here are even legally on the market is astounding.

The Irish people are not normally willing to complain. While well-able to "moan" — to commiserate — the Irish will generally be unlikely to raise any kind of a formal grievance if they can avoid it.

It's factored into the business culture....