The Ikea catalogue

I suppose nearly everyone in Melbourne has recently received an Ikea catalogue in their letterbox.  Actually, we got two copies in the course of a few days so it seems the distribution system isn’t perfect.

But why blog abut what really is just another item of junk mail?   Only because I actually flicked through this once-a-year catalogue, which is more than I can say for most of the junk mail we receive.    In fact, I suspect that Ikea run a very standardised operation world-wide (except, of course, for the prices), so perhaps the catalogue is fairly standard world-wide?

I’m not sure if I ought to own up to looking at this sort of thing, especially because I’m not actively interested in anything likely to be in Ikeas’s range, although it’s interesting to see what’s around.  But Ikea seem to have the knack of making their junk mail actually readable!  It’s got lots of catchy headings pushing Ikea’s concept of fitting everything in and also includes a number of “feature stories”  (promoting Ikea’s products and activities, of course), especially stressing how “noble” they are (such as the articles on reclaimed fabrics and their certified coffee, to mention just a couple).

CBA – and the Dividend Reinvestment Plan

CBA have announced a strong result, including an increase in the dividend  – but have, of course, been caught up in claims that they’ve failed to comply with the “money-laundering”  laws.     Lots has been written about this, and I don’t propose to add to this.

However, CBA are also trying to induce shareholders into reinvesting the dividend, with the new shares to be issued at a 1.5% discount to the average price from 21 August to 1 September.   For me, DRPs are troublesome because of the future capital gains tax complexities that they create, but CBA’s offer raises other issues as well.

Would I really want to invest more money in an corporation that appears to have reputational issues?    And will the Austrac claims have an impact on the value of the shares that won’t be taken into account during the price-setting period of the DRP shares?   Although these issues don’t motivate me to sell the shares I currently hold, I might “pass” on the offer of additional shares!

Tiger Airlines

At the risk of being boring, I thought I might set out a few observations about Tiger.

Our trip with them to and from Cairns was the first time we’d flown with them.   I know that Tiger had reputational issues in the past, and this had affected my decisions in days gone by, but it does seem to me that the worst is behind them.

At the outset, they’re a “low cost carrier”, and frankly I couldn’t discern any real difference between Tiger and Jetstar.   No doubt both have good days and not-so-good days, so it’s a little harsh on an airline to judge it on the basis of a single bad experience (not that we’ve had any really bad experiences), when the statistics suggest that there isn’t a lot of difference between Jetstar and Tiger.  I base this on the fact that in June, Tiger’s punctuality was not as good as Jetstar’s (73.2% arrivals on time for Tiger vs 87.1% for Jetstar), but Jetstar had significantly more cancellations (122 for Jetstar, 49 for Tiger).   I suppose it depends on what you value more, but given that I’d prefer to arrive late rather than not at all, at least one way of looking at these figures is to call it a “line ball”.

I do wonder why LCCs aim for 45 minute turn-arounds.   Are the benefits of a little extra utilisation of an aircraft on good days really so significant as to off-set the issues that come about when the inevitable delays occur?

Check in for us in Melbourne was a breeze, as it was all self-service with no queues.  However, as I’ve mentioned, because we weren’t able to pre-print our boarding passes, check-in at Cairns was a bit of a pain.

I had also been a bit annoyed, when there was an itinerary change, to lose our pre-allocated seats (for which we’d paid) without notification.  I’m not sure if this is an issue limited to Tiger, however.

Food isn’t a big deal for us on domestic flights, and my perception is that there isn’t much of a difference between Tiger and Jetstar in this regard (although of course, Qantas and Virgin don’t charge, but that’s not to say that you get very much).

I did notice that in both Melbourne and Cairns, Tiger were weighing most cabin baggage.  Given this, how it is that the passenger sitting in front of us on one sector was able to bring an enormous carry-on bag on to the plane isn’t clear to me.   On a related note,  in the check-in queue at Cairns, a passenger ahead of us was handing over a number of $50 notes, presumably as a consequence of not being aware of the consequences of not pre-purchasing the right to check-in baggage (no sympathy, surely everyone knows that’s how low-cost carriers work?).

One Melbourne-specific issue is that at Terminal 4, the Jetstar gates really are a great distance away from the check-in area, and there are no moving walkways.

Who will we fly with next time?    The short answer is, I have no loyalty, I’ll fly with whoever offers the best combination of price, convenient timings and service (yes, that’s a reference to Qantas and Virgin as well as Jetstar’s location in Terminal 4).  I usually use Webjet to compare).  And if the outcome is that Qantas or Virgin are competitive – as they sometimes are – then naturally I’ll fly with them.

Daintree Village

Our morning’s peace was disturbed by a helicopter picking up goods on its sling from just in front of our accommodation and transferring them a short distance off-shore.   I didn’t check where the loads were going, but it must have been a vessel of some sort not far away (or perhaps to a building site up the hill, as suggested by a staff member at the resort?), because the turn around time was annoyingly short!

So we headed off to Daintree Village.  This is about 45 minutes drive north of Port Douglas, past Mossman and past the turn-off to the ferry that you take to get to the road to Cape Tribulation.     It was originally a timber town, and later there was some dairy  (now superseded by tropical cattle, but today it’s predominantly tourism that keeps the place going, plus a little agriculture (on pasture where the forest used to be).       There’s a pub plus a couple of other cafe-style eating places and various galleries, one featuring timber products.

We saw signs pointing the direction to various B&Bs;    yes, I can see that this would be a place to come to to get away from it all.   And there was evidence of a number of “grey nomads” in the camping area.

We walked down to the river, where crocodile-spotting “cruises” operate.   At this point, the banks of the river are mostly pasture (not a lot of forest to be seen!), so we adjourned to one of the cafes and had a “country-style” lunch.

Daintree River at Daintree Village
Establishment in main street
Grey nomads?
Street scene

Eating in Port Douglas

One of the joys of Port Douglas is the range of places to eat.  True, there aren’t quite as many this year as there were last year, as at least two restaurants that seemed to be quite busy when we were here last year have gone to be replaced by vacant spaces and “For Lease” signs.  And there are some other vacancies, too.  Not a good look in the main street;   what does that say about the rentals being asked?

Just the same, that still leaves a multitude of eating choices.    There’s Sassi (where we had great barramundi) and Salsa, just to name two at the top end:  both stylish and reliable.   We had a great Sunday lunch on the deck at the marina, at the Hemingway (micro) Brewery:   innovative, great flavours and a really good outlook.   I liked their pilsner, too.    We had Thai at Siam by the Sea, which we enjoyed.   Just off Four Mile Beach is the surf club, but when we went past thinking about a coffee, it was closed for Mossmn Show Day.

Surf Club – closed on Show Day!

Overlooking the inlet is the Tin Shed (aka Combined Services Club), which has a great deck if you arrive early enough.   Not far from the marina is On the Inlet, where we had a great meal last year.  And there are two pubs, although we prefer the slightly less down-market Court House.  And that’s before mentioning all the other places up and down Macrossan Street (including Bel Cibo, where we had excellent pasta), far too many to mention, let alone to eat at.

We haven’t been to all these places this year, but isn’t it great to be so spoiled for choice?

Card fraud

It must have been a slow news day, because the page 1 headline in the Herald Sun made the point that there was some card fraud about.  Yes, there is some fraud – almost all of us have suffered it at some point, or at least know someone who has.   Do the banks respond well?   For the most part, it seems they do.  But are the amounts excessive?  I guess that’s a matter of judgement, but according to the Reserve Bank (click through from here) the total value of credit and credit charge transactions in May 2017 was about $29 billion (as I read it, that’s just one month, although seemingly for that month it was a bit higher than normal).  Hence, in the scheme of things, the banks and other card issuing institutions give the impression of being prepared to pay out when fraud occurs, in that, while the reported $450 million per annum sounds a lot, it’s only a fraction of the amount transacted in this way.   The Herald Sun states that fraud is often not reported to the police, and there’s never any feedback to cardholders about things such as “hot spots” for skimming having been detected.

But even so, how does fraud occur?   Sure, stolen cards used for “tap-&-go” transactions is one avenue.  But cards stolen in the mail?  Don’t they have to be activated?   And a family member told me that her card had been “skimmed” in a retail store – even though she had retained the card in her sight at all times.  So perhaps this still occurs (but surely with some data matching, it would be relatively easy for the institutions to detect where this had occurred).   And we still hear occasional reports of ATM machines being set up to “skim” cards, with hidden cameras observing the PIN number.

Then there are people who aren’t quite as careful as might be desired.   We had dinner with a former colleague who was quite content to allow the waiter to take his card away from the table in order to process the transaction.  So 20th century – but his attitude was, “if there’s a problem, it’s the bank’s worry”.

I accept that the institutions don’t want to compromise their security processes, but for at least some of us, it would be re-assuring to hear what follow up occurs when our card has been compromised.