When to take Siri Seriously

I’ll like the idea of Siri. I’m still not convinced, notwithstanding the lack of UK data and the usual UX shyness issues – you know – how stupid you look talking to a phone when everyone knows there’s nobody at the other end of the line. It’s so dictaphone, of which I’m sure there must be some app, skeuomorphic as hell.

I’ll take Siri seriously, really seriously, when it can help me with this kind of request:

“Siri, I want to order the Kubrick Blu-ray box set when it includes Dr. Strangelove and Spartacus at a lower price than the incomplete box set currently available on Amazon”.

Siri should respond with “Would you like me to place a conditional order with Amazon right now?”

And when both Siri and Amazon get me what I want, having warned me of its impending arrival, I’ll be a happy man, and probably an iPhone 5 owner. Until that time, I’m going to remain a curious iPhone 4 owner.



Barclays Bank Investment ISA – Obscene Admin Charges

In May 2010, I opened a Barclays ISA on the recommendation of some newspaper article. I don’t remember which, but it was probably the Guardian, my loathing for which has increased dramatically since. See any number of my previous articles on my complete contempt for the media, which we should remind ourselves, exists not to uphold and purvey the truth, but to distort it sufficiently enough that readers feel compelled to pay for their outlandish, fear-mongering crap, leading to advertising revenue. The media exists to make money. That’s the bottom line. Banks also exist to make money, except that their product is even more fictitious, ruinous, usurious and frankly, evil.

The ISA, for those of you who are aware of my attitude towards interest, is share-based account, so it’s shari`a compliant. I had initially deposited £100 and promptly forgot about it.

I’ve since been charged two lots of £18 admin fee, and I’m now down to £64. We’ve just called them to find out what the hell is going on, because they’re about to take another £18 wedge out. I must have missed that. In a week’s time, my original £100 will become £46.

Apparently, I was supposed to send them a bank statement and so the money has remained uninvested and that’s why these admin fees have become due. The cost of administration of an electronic account is practically nil.As you can imagine, I’m not happy, especially in light of Barclays CEO Bob Diamond’s £6.5M bonus (as of March this year, it might well have increased since then.)

If I don’t send them a cheque in time, I will have to pay a £5 electronic “checking” fee, just to prove my authenticity, even though they’re happy to talk to me on the phone about how they plan to fleece me. (I wanted to use another word beginning with ‘f’, but I’m being good and so you will have to be content with ‘fleece’) – so if I do that before the 24th, I will only be down to £59 and can then invest that money in their managed portfolio, out of which I will have to pay them a fee of 0.5% to 2% on the value of each fund I choose to invest in. Given that interest rates (current bank rate) are running at 0.5%, that doesn’t sound too bad, except that it’s my money actually. We all know of course that interest rates might be low between banks, but to mortals, they’re still being sold as appealing at the usurious level of “19.5%”

So how about I just close the account? Well, prepare to weep, because closing the account would cost me £50 plus VAT. That’s £60. In other words, I’d get £4 back from £100.

It’s no wonder that banks are considered rapacious, and I know now why “rapacious” and “rape” share their first three letters.