A good week at Westfield

Couldn’t help noticing that it’s been a good week for the Lowys.

First, Frank gets a knighthood from the Queen.  It’s a British award, and I guess it comes if you’ve developed two of the largest shopping complexes in London.

Westfield London (Shepherds Bush)

Then the Lowys recommended that the shareholders in Westfield Corporation accept a $33 billion takeover offer.

Well, actually the Lowy family own only about 9.5% of Westfield Corporation, but they’ll end up with over $3 billion if the deal goes ahead (although some of this will be held in shares in the bidder, Unibail-Rodamco).  They also get to keep an interest in the Westfield retail technology platform (OneMarket).

I’ve never quite worked out how the Lowys and Westfield managed to construct two large shopping centres in inner London, with no-one else being able to build anything like them.  That said, I think Chadstone is “shiner” and more impressive than either Shepherds Bush or Stratford (although whether or not that makes Chadstone “better” I’m not sure).

Of course, a big difference is that the London centres both have good access to the Underground and rail stations, whereas Chadstone has only buses.

 

At left - Westfield Stratford
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Choice at the ATM

The bank has been renovated, and along with the  ramps and “accessibility” features come new ATMs.   One of the machines had a sign on it to the effect that it “offered” a wider choice of denominations.

A nice idea, I thought.  It would save me choosing a withdraw amount that forced the machine to dispense some $20s as well as $50s.    So I selected a withdrawal amount of $210, wondering what I would be offered.   “Offered”?   Nup, no choices provided at all, as there was no option to provide any input at all into what notes might be “offered” (remember, when ATMs first arrived they sometimes allowed for this?)   I had no choice but to accept the 4 $50s and one $10 that emerged.

Perhaps the word “offers” on the sign ought to be changed to “dispenses”?    Or perhaps the screen that enables a choice is still “work in progress”?

Bank Competiton

So, ING have come out with an offer of “free” ATM fees on overseas transactions, and they’ll waive the 2.5% “currency conversion” fee, too.   All this is conditional, you have to deposit $1000 into the account every month and also (from March 2018) make at least five purchases on the card each month.

Given the conditionality of the offer, I don’t think it will revolutionise the scene for off-shore transactions. I doubt that anyone who’s set up with 28 Degrees and/or Citibank would be likely to switch.

But it shows that, finally, there’s a bit of competition emerging in the area of off-shore transactions.   It would be really good if more banks respond to the challenge.

Banks……

Banks aren’t very popular in our community.  They’re fending off calls for a Royal Commission, with the media drawing attention to instances of mis-selling of products and alleged bad conduct with the fixing of interest rates.  And staff lay-offs don’t help, even if the need for them is accepted.

But, for many of us, issues with banks are closer to hand…such as service at local branches.   Sure, maybe this isn’t an issue that any Royal Commission would address except, maybe, in that it might be thought to be related to the  perceived existence of a “cultural problem” at the banks.

Be that as it may, what has inspired this rant is that the local CBA branch has moved across the street, into newly refurbished premises.

 

 

As seems to be usual these days, in the new branch the traditional glass wall in front of the  “tellers” (ooops, sorry,  “customer service officers”) has been replaced with little counters and no visible security barriers.  Is it just a subjective impression, or does it take longer to deal with customers in this environment?  I don’t usually bank at the CBA but I looked in, and the queue seemed longer than usual.    I’m told anecdotally that the new arrangement isn’t popular.  Hardly a positive move in terms of the esteem in which the banks are held around here!

Parcel deliveries

We read and hear a lot about companies that sell on-line, such as Amazon.  Existing retailers with their “bricks and mortar” stores are said to be worried by these developments, as perhaps they might well be.

Just the same, in the final analysis, it’s about getting the stuff to the consumer.   And that means that the delivery has to be  right.   A recent incident made me wonder about the mechanics of this.  Australia Post recently delivered a package to us, because it had our address on it.  However, the person to whom it was addressed lived down the street, and she had obviously provided an incorrect delivery address.

Being neighbourly, I took it down to her place – to be met by a locked gate and an intercom.  Fortunately someone was at home and seemingly a little reluctantly came to the gate and took the package.

 

But what if no-one had been at home?   Would I have thrown the package over the gate?   I guess a delivery guy would have left a note, but that wasn’t really an option for me, and I wonder about the convenience of deliveries from an on-line seller if you have to go to a depot somewhere to pick the item up.   As for me, I don’t know what I would have done as throwing it over the gate could be seen as “unneighbourly” .

I’m not really sure why people really need to live behind a locked gate.   Security around here isn’t a big issue these days, especially with a locked security door at the front of the house.      Yes, we do get the occasional charity collector at the door, but they don’t trouble me.  I guess the issue is one of perception more than reality.

Renovating the bank

The local branch of ANZ bank is going to be renovated.    I received an email about this, presumably because I use the ATM there a lot, although technically the account I have with ANZ is at another branch.    There are alternative branches to this one – but all are some suburbs away.  Yet it’s going to be totally closed for two months!  Even the ATMs won’t be available.  There’s another ANZ ATM in the nearby shopping centre, but it doesn’t accept deposits (and the centre is closed late at night).  So although obtaining cash won’t be a big deal, especially with the abolition of “foreign” ATM fees,   any other dealings with ANZ just won’t be possible.

The people most affected are obviously businesses who rely on the branch to deposit their takings and obtain change.  Perhaps ANZ has made special arrangements for them  such as an ability to use one of the other nearby banks?

Otherwise, it seems an arbitrary decision to close a branch for two months.

Now gutted!

Recall (2)

The appointed day arrived, and I headed off to the dealer for the replacement airbag to be fitted in line with the recall.   I’m not sure how long it would have taken to do the actual work…a few minutes maybe?    And it’s true that I arrived a  little earlier than the appointed time, but the elapsed time before I was told the work had been done was still 90 minutes.

Yes, I was supplied with a cappuccino and a reasonably comfortable place to sit (overlooking the shiny cars in the  showroom….funny that), but it does seem to me that anything to do with the servicing of cars always takes longer than what I would have thought was required.

Hopefully we’ll never have to put the replacement airbag to the test, but at least if worst comes to worst, it ought to operate safely.