Blog : Posts tagged with 'out of business'

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I Was A Farepak Customer

In which the news is relevant


Well, no, that’s not quite true. I was never a Farepak customer. My mother, on the other hand, was at one time, so I’ve been keeping an interested eye on the slow-burning news that has followed Farepak’s collapse.

It’s more than ten years now since my mother stopped buying a hamper from the Farepak catalogue, and she did it at my persuasion. Farepak’s method of business: hard-pushed home-makers send them a small sum every week, through the year. Just before Christmas they receive several boxes of food; what seems like an impressively large amount. Its value, though, was usually rather less than the total you’d contributed through the year. I pointed out that if she opened another savings account, and paid into it a similar amount every week, then by Christmas she’d have rather more money than she’d put in, instead of rather less.* At the expense of going out and buying it herself, she could end up with a rather larger hamper.

That system relies on self-discipline, of course; my mother has rather more of it than I do, and rather more than most people. If you can afford to save at Farepak’s negative interest rate, though, you can afford to save with a bank. Much of the media commentary on Farepak’s bankruptcy seems to suggest that the company should have behaved more charitably to its customers because of their relative poverty; or that its bankers should have been more accommodating as the company was doing Good Deeds. This forgets, though, that the point of a company is usually to make money, and Farepak was no exception to that. It’s possibly unfair to say they were exploiting the poor – after all, a prepayment scheme like Farepak’s is far better for the customers than buying on credit. They were, though, making money out of the poor, by showing them how to afford something rather nicer than they thought. Moreover, they do seem to have been making money – all the news stories suggest that the collapse was due to losses elsewhere in the parent company.

Farepak, and its competitors, gave and give their customers one great benefit: they forced self-discipline onto them. If credit unions offered similar accounts – pay in an agreed amount all year, then get your balance paid out at Christmas – then it would be a great help. Never forget, though, that both Farepak and its bankers were out to make money. That’s how our system works.

* Admittedly only pence more – but this was in the early 90s, the days of chunky interest rates.

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Viruses, and other geekery

In which we still have no satellite internet, and encounter a virus


Quite a few people, recently, have come to this site looking for information on Aramiska, the European satellite ISP which apparently collapsed last week. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any information, anywhere. The company promised to release a statement on January 30th; it never appeared. Their disappearance is still a mystery.

Moving on, this email came in to one of our work addresses yesterday:

I noticed whilst browsing your site that there were problems with some of your links, when I tried again with Internet Explorer the problems were not there so I assume that they were caused by me using the Mozilla browser.

Very nice and helpful, you might think.* However, if you read on, you might get a little more suspicious…

I have enclosed a screen capture of the problem so your team can get it fixed if you deem it an issue.

Hah. If you’re not suspicious yet, you probably shouldn’t be allowed near the internet. If you look a little closer, the attachment is a .scr file – which could, I suppose, look like “screenshot” to the non-technical. If you try to open it,** then: congratulations, you have a virus, one known as W32/Brepibot. Well done.

I thought I’d mention it here, because it’s the most believable virus-spreading email I’ve come across; and I’m someone who is used to all this. To someone who is less cynical than me, it looks entirely believable. So watch out. And, even people like me can be infected by viruses. In fact, like lots of other blogs, this site has been infected by one itself.

Blog.Worm

However, this virus is cute, green, and slightly silly.***

* As our work website was designed by an apparently-clueless PR chap with no previous knowledge of website design at all, it is also entirely believable.

** and you’re using a Windows computer, and don’t have up-to-date virus protection

*** Although it has been pointed out that this virus could potentially be a genuine security risk. Especially if you still use Internet Explorer and your computer isn’t completely up to date. It isn’t actually dangerous, at all as far as I can tell, but you still need to be wary when it comes to things like this.

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Out like a light

In which the internet disappears without warning


At the office, our main internet connection for many years has been a satellite broadband link, from Dutch company Aramiska. When the directors first wanted broadband, it was the cheapest solution. It’s slower than ADSL, and a lot more expensive,* but it’s still more reliable. Well, it was, until this rather surprising email arrived this morning:

We regret to inform you that Aramiska and its services are shutting down and the company will be unable to provide you with internet access after today, 27th of January 2006

Yes, that is the entire email.** It’s repeated on their website as a Customer Care Announcement, but otherwise their website is up as normal. They’re not answering the phone. Noone seems to be able to find out what has happened. Their executives have promised a statement next week, but for now they’re not admitting anything.

Luckily, we have – I mean had – two broadband links at head office now. So, after a bit of reconfiguration,*** I think we’re safe now. I feel sorry for the people in my position who didn’t have a fallback, though.

* Several thousand pounds a year – but it’s still the cheapest option in some rural areas.

** And it turns out that not everyone received the email, even.

*** Geek footnote: our main problem was that all our MX records pointed to Aramiska’s SMTP relay. In fact, they still are, even though we got on to our registrars about it this morning. They’d better sort the bloody thing out.

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