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Apple fans have long believed in the perfect superiority of Apple products — and Apple users. Given that superiority, they’ve always chafed at Apple’s niche, one-digit market share status.

In the world of hardcore Apple fanboys, only two things can explain why Apple doesn’t have 100% market share in every market it enters: 1) the technology press is corrupt, and accepts bribes from Microsoft and other companies to lie about products; and 2) the Great Unwashed Masses are ignorant goobers who just don’t get it.

Apple fanboys have long harbored the dream for Apple to clobber everyone — especially Microsoft — and dominate the computer and electronics industries.

That dream — kept alive now by more than two decades of faithful fans — is now becoming a reality.

At some point during 2007 — it’s impossible to say when — Apple crossed some kind of invisible line, moving for the first time in 20 years from “niche” to “mainstream.”

How Did It All Go So Right?

Apple stores were designed as lofty, minimalist expressions of the Apple aesthetic. “Flagship” stores in New York and other major cities still impress. But now there are 204 Apple Stores in five countries (178 of them in the U.S.), with as many as 40 more scheduled to open in 2008.

Most of them are in malls and nowadays jam packed with those same Unwashed Masses Apple fanboys despise. The experience is less like Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel, and more like a New Jersey Best Buy on Black Friday. This “mallification” of the Apple store experience is undeniable. Apple loves it. Wall Street loves it. And the mall rats love it. But the fanboys hate it.

Everyone expects Apple to have an amazing holiday season, and is expected to break the record for total number of Macs sold in a quarter — probably more than 2.5 million computers and more than ten times that many iPods. What will all this success do to Apple?

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More than half of the people who bought Apple computers in Q3 were buying a Mac for the first time — either new buyers or “switchers.” Some Apple fans are already seeing the signs of “Windows-style behaviors” creeping into the Mac OS X.

Both Macs and iPhones are increasingly sold for business use. Will Apple start doing what Microsoft has always done, which is to compromise usability and functionality for consumers in order to make systems better for business?

One unspoken fanboy fear about Apple’s mainstream success and broadening appeal is that the company will start catering to the masses — actually change products and services to appeal to former Windows users.

And, after all, why wouldn’t they? The traditional fanboy base will buy Apple no matter what. But the switchers, corporate users and others still have to be won over and coddled.

Another source of mockery for Apple fanboys used to be the insecurity of Windows. Security specialists have long argued about whether Windows is more likely to get hacked because of Windows’ insecurity or its popularity. While still unresolved, the issue is becoming more interesting because hackers appear to be targeting Apple systems in larger and growing numbers. Security company F-Secure blames Apple products’ popularity for the rise in interest among hackers.

With Apple’s growing success, the company seems to be turning into target No. 1 for patent-infringement lawsuits. The most recent lawsuit involves the iPhone’s “Visual Voicemail” feature.

This feature — and even the branding of it — isn’t particularly unique. Why go after Apple? One possible answer is that the company is successful, so slamming them with a suit will gain the Klausner Technologies’ both publicity and potential revenue.

Lawsuits forced Microsoft to behave less like Microsoft. Will lawsuits — frivolous or otherwise — force Apple to behave less like Apple in how it designs, builds and supports its products?

The Apple fanboy dream of industry dominance is finally coming true. And with that dominance, mainstream users, corporate buyers, hackers and lawyers all now want to take a bite out of Apple. At risk: membership in an elite society, superiority, security, and more. For longtime fanboys, the dream-come-true looks more like a nightmare.

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What’s The True Cost Of A Work

How do you identify a culture that promotes excessive drinking? And how do you establish whether it’s a pervasive drinking culture that excels beyond the occasional Friday afternoon celebrations?

Image source: Getty Images

Is building a work-hard, play-hard culture a good thing? Or can it be detrimental to a thriving workplace? I was at a conference recently where I saw the effects of the work-hard, play-hard culture for myself. As attendees piled into the conference room, so did the smell of alcohol. And the bloodshot eyes and several late arrivals was a dead give-away that the night before had been a big one. As the day continued, I could see the hangovers worsen as several participants from the previous night’s festivities even struggled to keep their eyes open.

As a person who battled alcoholism into my late twenties, I notice these things, and I know what the true cost to business performance, culture, and the individual a work hard, play hard culture can be.

The question is how do you identify a culture that promotes excessive drinking? And how do you establish whether it’s a pervasive drinking culture that excels beyond the occasional Friday afternoon celebrations? Not only that, but if company results are good, how do you approach the conversation with your team? While you might be thinking it’s too impossible to change a culture that is already established, here’s why you should:

Safety

It goes without saying that safety is a huge risk factor. A highly alcohol-centric environment is more likely to result in injury or death, particularly in those occupations involving heavy machinery or driving vehicles.

Workplace Relationships

Workplace relationships is between co-workers as well as clients and customers. In a work-hard, play-hard culture, the environment can negatively impact behaviours between all stakeholders. Not only is there a greater likelihood of unprofessional behaviour, but it can also promote resentment and a lack of trust both internally and externally.

Productivity

Alcohol greatly reduces our ability to focus and to produce quality work. Our decision-making skills are affected leading to operational disruption and absenteeism.

Turnover

And the list can go on and on.

If your intention is to build a healthy environment where individuals can really evolve, then you want to focus on creating a culture of high-performance, not one based on wins and other short-term markers.

We need to remember that as leaders we set the pace. The way we conduct ourselves will determine what is acceptable. Leaders create the standards, and we need to ensure that we become a walking example of the behaviours that we want to promote. Anything to the contrary may be seen as hypocrisy.

So how do you begin to create a high-performing culture?

Moving away from the work-hard, play-hard culture towards a more sustainable and high-performing one isn’t easy, especially if the consensus is that high-performance equals business results. This is where your company values come into play, to lay the ground rules for how you want your business to go about its conduct.

If you’re looking to develop better team habits, you need to educate the benefits and align your people to a more optimised way of living and working.

In my experience, the most effective approach is to shift towards health and wellness. This can be done through the development of a health and wellness program that focuses on every single aspect of your employees’ development, beyond the skills to simply do the job. The elements of a successful health and wellness program may range due to the nature of your firm, but all programs should be geared towards helping employees increase their capacity for resilience. This can be done by focusing on diet, exercise, and other wellness activities such as meditation.

I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of health and wellness initiatives and how they can change lives for the better. By restructuring old habits and shifting towards a healthier and more sustainable way of life, you will lead your people towards their better selves whilst simultaneously enhancing business performance.

When push comes to shove, you can promote your people or pay them more money and you might keep some good employees in the process. But by helping them become better overall in work and at home, by enabling them to transform, you will influence long-lasting success for individuals and for your business.

RJ Singh is a corporate and ultra-endurance athlete and the creator of Ultrahabits. Find out more at Peak Performance with RJ Singh: Ultra Habits for Ultra Performance

Poco F5 Review: Power Comes At A Cost

Pros

Power-efficient and powerful chip

Speedy charging

Reliable battery life

Headphone jack

Cons

So-so camera system

No hardware-level gaming features

Limited software support

Our Verdict

Last year’s model was hard to justify for its non-existent performance uplift. The Poco F5 is back with the power you need, but the price is getting a little hard to swallow. If mobile gaming is your thing, it’s a strong option at the price but for general use, other mid-range phones still have it beat.

Xaoimi is back again this spring with the Poco F5, the natural follow-up to last year’s Poco F4 and F4 GT. Though the spin-off brand’s namesake was originally viewed as a top-tier gaming device for its powerful specs and comparatively low price, you’ll struggle to find that focus in its branding this time around.

Still, the power under the unassuming hood can compete. With dual-SIM support and a killer chip, it’s almost everything you need at a bargain price. Almost.

Design & Build

Plain but durable plastic and metal construction

Glittery blue is easy on the eyes

Little wasted screen space

Right out of the gate, the Poco F5 feels familiar, triggering flashbacks to a Vivo X51 5G I briefly tested a couple of years back. It’s thin and features modestly rounded corners, is light enough to hold throughout the day, and looks acceptable in a professional environment with the simple, uniform, and unassuming reflective paint job on the back with virtually microscopic glitter flair for catching the light.

Where you might say Poco clearly hasn’t forgotten about gamers this year is the somewhat shocking reintroduction of the classic 3.5mm headphone jack

Josh Brown / Foundry

The screen shows a hole punch camera notch at the top with near-invisible bezels, and the three-lens 64Mp camera cluster on the back juts out just enough to have the whole assemble wobble a tiny bit when poked and prodded on a flat surface. Picking it up feels fine because of it, and I’m happy to report that there’s been no issue with scuffing the lenses.

Where you might say Poco clearly hasn’t forgotten about gamers this year is the somewhat shocking reintroduction of the classic 3.5mm headphone jack. You won’t get any generic wired earbuds in the box to take you on a nostalgia trip, but you will get a turbo-charging 67W charger (USB-A to C) and a transparent rubber case. The handy inclusion certainly saved its bacon when it went flying out of my pocket and into the road. 

Opting for the Poco F5 Pro swaps out the 3.5mm headphone jack for 30W wireless charging support. Though, just like the omission of earbuds in the box, there’s no included wireless charger as is typical.

Screen & Speakers

Solid FHD+ 120Hz panel

Plentiful colour gamut tweaks

Middling speakers

The 6.67in FHD+ (2400 x 1080) AMOLED always-on display clocks in at a variable (or fixed) 120Hz refresh rate complete with 240Hz sampling to keep animations smooth and your touches responsive. On the Pro model, that’s upgraded to a WQHD+ panel with a 480Hz sampling rate that, at the very least, should satisfy gamers with a fancy four-finger grip.

Josh Brown / Foundry

Sticking with the screen for a moment, it’s perfectly fine. Nothing spectacular or innovative, but perfectly useable in virtually every likely scenario. AMOLED always helps colours pop, and it can get plenty bright enough to stay useable in brighter conditions.

Reading mode ensures a summer’s day won’t stop you scrolling, and the “always-on” feature turns it into an unimposing bedside clock without really impacting the battery for the day ahead. Four colour presets are available in the settings, and you can even dial in your preferred look beyond the P3 and SRGB colour gamut toggles. 

You’ll find a single bottom-firing speaker on the top and bottom of the device. Sadly, I’d consider them below average, producing tinny and processed sound. They can get loud enough to blast out bursts of music for friends, but outside of YouTube vlogs and more casual gaming, you’ll probably want to stick to an external audio source to save any sensitive ears. Dolby Atmos support can’t save them.

Specs & Performance 

Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chip

12GB RAM + 256GB storage

3.5mm headphone jack

The Poco F5 and Poco F5 Pro appear to be sidelining the gaming markets brands like Asus ROG, Red Magic, and Lenovo now have on lock with hardware buttons and peripherals, instead highlighting its position as a decent all-rounder for the price that just so happens to have a particular penchant for running today’s demanding 3D virtual worlds.

the Poco F5 leaps over its descendants by way of the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chip that cruises through today’s top mobile titles at modest settings

Josh Brown / Foundry

At the core level, the Poco F5 leaps over its descendants by way of the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chip that cruises through today’s top mobile titles at modest settings. Stepping up to the Pro model earns you the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 for some extra oomph but Geekbench scores are very similar.

Despite the claims about the liquid cooling tech inside, you’ll still notice it gets relatively warm under a gaming load. Not enough to affect things in a four-season climate, but it’s something to be aware of in the blistering heat. Either way, the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 performs admirably in every scenario, stomping the competition in 3D titles like Genshin Impact, Honkai Star Rail, and Pokemon Masters EX.

Paired with the 12GB RAM (with a cheaper option for 8GB in some markets), it kept up with my varied workload with no major hiccups. The RAM may have doubled over last year’s model (as has the storage), but the price has increased by almost 20%, too, pushing the Poco branding further afield from its budget powerhouse fame of the early days.

In the real world, I ran the Poco F5 for around two weeks. I was able to use the device in much the same way I have my iPhone for the last couple of years: Podcasts in the bath, YouTube Music on a walk, and plenty of juice to take to the marina to play Pokemon Go for a couple of hours, snapping shots of the canal boats, spring blooms, and wildlife all the while.

Cameras

64Mp main shooter

Ultra-wide, macro, and 16Mp selfie lenses

4K video with OIS & EIS

Where the gaming chops of the Poco F5 start to resurface is when you compare the camera to others sharing the same price range. The large lenses and 64Mp resolution may look and sound impressive on paper, but they’re actually where the compromises become clear. No matter the setting, it’s hard to be truly impressed by anything you snap with the basic point-and-shoot method of taking photos which most people will use.

Josh Brown / Foundry

A lot of smartphone photography is handled by software magic these days, but whether that’s going on here or not, pictures just look oddly processed or noisy in my view. Natural light obviously helps a lot, but you can still pinch into your shots to see textures like animal fur, rough terrain, or leaves on trees look subpar and unrealistic.

The 16Mp snapper is totally fine. A little warm with no alarmingly obvious “beauty” effects going on, which could either be a blessing or a curse, but it’s entirely useable.

With general indoor lightning conditions, shots are either dark or void of colour, with nighttime shots being virtually impossible to get without some sort of backlight. It’s entirely usable, and you’ll find plenty of “pro” and social-focused features built into the MIUI 14 camera app to fiddle around with, but it’s a key example of a bigger number rarely meaning a whole lot on a handheld device. 4K video is present, too, and you’ll really notice the image stabilisation kick in as you zoom.

The price is acceptable, the power is through the roof, but something had to give. If you can, spend more to graduate to the Samsung Galaxy A54 or Google Pixel 7a for a better shooter if you’re looking for a true general-use device.

Battery Life & Charging

5000mAh battery

67W charging

Charger and cable included

On the aforementioned day at the marina, I had more than enough juice to watch some videos in the cafe and even managed to use Google Maps to walk the extra half an hour into town. I could have comfortably fit the 90-minute walk back home into the mix, but a classic Spring rainstorm had me running for the bus instead, getting into a text chat, doomscrolling Twitter, and briefly calling my mother on the walk from the bus stop.

Josh Brown / Foundry

The whole journey was a stacked afternoon in the Spring sun and one of the most varied (and largely accidental) use cases I could have imagined for any phone. It was juiced up to near-max before I left the house at 1pm, and barely dipped into the below 70% by the time I returned home around five hours later.

The Poco F5 comfortably lasted through the rest of the busy Saturday, pushing through a more reserved Sunday of some light Honkai Star Rail play and even more podcasts through paired Bluetooth earbuds while I chipped away at yard work.

In the PCMark for Android battery test, the phone lasted an impressive 14 hours and one minute, largely thanks to the combination of the sizable cell, efficient processor and FHD+ resolution.

Using the included 67W USB-A/C wall charger resuscitated the days-dead Poco F5 to 43% in 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, it was juiced up toan impressive 81%. By comparison, a Samsung Galaxy A54, which doesn’t even come with a charger at all, could only take in enough of that power to reach 16- and 31% in the same timeframe respectively.

Software & Apps

Android 13 with MIUI 14 skin

Google apps

Plenty of pre-installed bloatware

One downside to the Poco F5 is the sheer amount of bloatware installed out of the gate. Likely serving to keep the cost low by subsidising through software partnerships like chúng tôi AliExpress, and whatever WPS Office is, you’ll even find a stack of basic games (and Brawl Stars) clogging up a small percentage of the storage and screen space when you boot it up.

Game Turbo attempts to auto-detect any games you install and lets a pull-out overlay sit unassumingly at the side of the screen as you play.

They’re easy enough to uninstall, but the Mi Remote app using the included IR blaster could be something to keep. In my case, the spotty attempts at controlling my Samsung TV meant it couldn’t replace my constantly-misplaced remote. Most of the key Google apps are present, but I still had to download Google’s podcast app and fitness apps to get it ready for my personal day-to-day activities.

One included app, Game Turbo, highlights the days of the brand’s heavier gaming focus. Like the Armory Crate deal with the Asus ROG handsets, Game Turbo attempts to auto-detect any games you install and lets a pull-out overlay sit unassumingly at the side of the screen as you play.

On the downside, you’ll only get two OS updates and three years of security updates, which is behind rivals such as Google and Samsung.

Price & Availability

The Poco F5 is on sale now and even the early-bird pricing of £379 matches the price of the older Poco F4, but it is equipped with more memory and storage than its predecessor.

Regular pricing is £449 for the 256GB model with 12GB of RAM. This is the only option on the official Mi store where you’re able to snatch it up in its Black, White (with “ice flake” rear patterns), or the blue version reviewed.

Whichever handset you go for, you’ll earn double Mi Points you could put toward next year’s model. For a time, you can put £50 of that price difference back into the Mi store to bag a Poco Watch, too.

You can also find it at AliExpress if you’re happy to import it. The Poco F5 Pro is over £100 extra at £559 if you want things like a higher resolution, wireless charging and more impressive cameras.

A big issue for the Poco F5 is that the inflated price puts it in direct competition with top mid-range phones like the Galaxy A54, Nothing Phone (1) and Pixel 7a which will likely be better buys in the UK.

Josh Brown / Foundry

Verdict

Assuming you’re a Poco die-hard, the F5 is likely what you’ve been waiting for. It’s a big step up from the F3 and F4 in terms of performance, and the headphone jack is back with a vengeance.

However, the price increase makes it hard to recommend over other budget phones with better camera systems or slightly more expensive gaming phones with nifty hardware options. If gaming is all you care about, it stomps similarly priced phones like the Samsung A54 and Pixel 7a, but it lags behind in other areas.

If you’re expecting to stick with it for a number of years, it’s worth your consideration. It really is a powerhouse when it comes to raw gaming performance. Otherwise, you can get away with spending a little less on the OnePlus Nord 2T for varied use or, if your budget is flexible, a used Asus ROG Phone 6 for laser-focused gaming support.

A high refresh rate, fast charging, the Game Turbo mode, and the headphone jack solidify the Poco F5 as a gaming-focused smartphone masquerading as an all-rounder, but it can’t be both at its annually increasing price point.

Specs

Android 13 with MIUI 14

6.67in FHD+ AMOLED display with fingerprint reader

120Hz max refresh rate

Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 octa-core SOC

8/12GB RAM

256GB storage

Cameras:

64Mp main camera with OIS

8Mp ultrawide camera

2Mp macro camera

16Mp front camera

5000mAh battery

USB-C port

67W charging

Dual-SIM (dual standby 5G+5G)

Dual speakers

3.5mm headphone jack

Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, IR blaster

IP53 splash-proof

161mm x 75mm x 8mm

181g

The Airport Of The Future Isn’t An Airport: It’s A City

Customer service complaints, wasted hours, and extremely uncomfortable seats: Frequent and occasional flyers alike have a lot of problems with the status quo of air travel.

One of the worst examples of a frustratingly behind-the-times industry is New York’s La Guardia airport, a fixture of U.S. air travel since its official opening in 1953. La Guardia’s recently announced redesign may make accessibility easier and security faster, but widening existing bottlenecks in an inferior process may not be enough to keep up with the current progress in airport design. So what does the ideal airport of the future look like? It’s more complicated than a rudimentary set of improvements. Airports of the future may see changes not just in security procedures and technology, but in purpose within the communities they serve.

Let’s be clear: the United States has some awful airports, and La Guardia is consistently complained about. Lionel Ohayon, CEO and founder of the design group ICrave says that America has considerably worse airports because we’ve had airports longer than many other counties, and the age is showing in our designs. “We kind of have the worst airports in the world because we went through this 85 years ago when everyone was building airports in America. And now you have places where all this new stuff is happening.”

With that in mind, we asked experts in airport design and infrastructure where the future of air travel lies, and they saw an entirely redesigned user experience, and pointed to several key factors in making airports financially independent, user friendly, and reliably efficient.

“When we look to the passenger airport of the future, you kind of have to look at the passenger and the technology that will be made available,” says TJ Schulz, president of the Airport Consultants Council, a consulting firm for private businesses that have a stake in airport development. “I think what we’re going to see are attempts to really facilitate and automate the passenger processing experience.” He thinks getting through the checkpoint and check-in desks could be a thing of the past as self-serving kiosks can easily take their place.

Ohayon has focused particularly on one frustrating routine: bag checking. The process of carrying, dropping-off, checking, and picking up a bag could at least partially be done by the passengers themselves, which would streamline the experience, he says.

Schulz believes we’re already seeing some automation of bag check procedures around the country, and airlines are going to keep seeking to cut out extra steps, like the agent. ”There will be opportunities for passengers to check their own bags rather than have to go through an agent at a desk,” he says.

None of this is confirmed or denied for La Guardia, however, as all of these efficiency increases are still essentially pipe dreams for American airports. La Guardia, unlike abstract conceptual airports of the future, has to be functional under the rules of current security procedures.

But the ability to be flexible is important. Both Schulz and Ohayon point to a rearrangement of the process, where security happens at the gate, not the entrance to the terminal. Schulz speculates that eventually passengers will even be self boarding, a process that is already in use at more than 30 airports across Europe. For the moment, though, many of them, including Air France and other airlines at Paris Charles de Gaulle, France’s largest international airport, still have attendants that stand by to help passengers through the various menus.

For self-boarding to occur, that requires more identification ahead of time for most passengers. “I think the biggest constraint to the desire for more automation is the security checkpoint,” says Schulz. “I think the TSA has a vision of having a sizable segment of the traveling population already vetted, so that they’re known entities, and offer, for the most part, no threats to the system.”

Already, LaGuardia’s sister airport, JFK, has made some of these improvements. Its new Delta terminal houses several iPad-based restaurant sites that allow you to sit and order food while checking flight times and surfing the web. Many airports around the world now allow you to check in and print boarding passes without meeting an agent face to face, unless you’re checking a bag. European airports are going so far as to add bag tag printers to the self check-in kiosks, which mean by the time you hand your bag off to an agent, all that’s left to do is check the weight and your ID. From a more creative side, Tokyo’s Narita airport’s new terminal is designed like an indoor track and its color coded according to the passengers’ desired direction: blue pathways for departures and red pathways for arrivals.

But beyond the security screening procedures and infrastructure that will create better access to the airport itself, the most important piece of the puzzle is commerce.

Those in the private sector of airport development agree that a better user experience means more comfort, which will include making both shopping and entertainment more available. That means the airport has to be designed less like a cattle processing line, and more like, well, its own city.

“I think city planning is a good place to start,” says Ohayon. “The airport as a city is something you’re going to see more and more thinking around.” He says that if you think about how much time people spend in airports and how much travel has become a part of our modern daily lives, the idea and purpose of what an airport is, “becomes redefined.”

Travelers frequently spend extra hours in airports, sometimes even overnight, when their flights are delayed or cancelled. So the potential for an in-airport hotel at La Guardia is promising, but the commerce and retail spaces that the new La Guardia airport would house have a lot to live up to if they want to be future-proof, and be able to support the airport itself.

“Airports are trying to do more to build a revenue base that’s not reliant on the federal government,” says Schulz, “and also not be so reliant on airlines that can be at your terminal and gone the next.” The way you will see it, he says, is through the whole airport experience. Much of that comes in the form of retail therapy for all flyers.

“Without fail you’re seeing much nicer, well portioned shopping opportunities, [and] much better quality restaurants that really speak to the local flavor of the area,” says Schulz. “They’re looking for opportunities for people waiting at gates to hop on an iPad and be able to order food from a restaurant down the terminal that’s going to be delivered to them.”

Ohayon says we’ve seen inklings of this model in other brick and mortar user experiences already. “If you think of a movie theatre…when I was a kid before you got into the theater there was a ticket ripped at the front door and if you wanted popcorn you had to be actually going to a movie. Now movie theaters are moving the ticket rip all the way back to the door of the theater itself,” he says. This allows them to open up their space to the public, moviegoers and non-moviegoers alike, and capitalize on that real estate. “They’re making a social kind of connection to all that space that they have,” he says. “You’ll be seeing the same things happen at airports.” The airport security will happen at the gate and all of those amenities will exist in a public domain.

“Airports want to become a destination,” says Schulz. “They want to see people travel out to the airports to go shopping, and we’re seeing that internationally. The middle east, Dubai, and others, they just have wonderful shopping.”

It’s a big leap in a city like New York to expect people to commute to the airport for retail, and likely not an honest concern for La Guardia, which is a significant distance from city center. “Many of us just want to get to where we want to go,” says Schulz. However, the efforts by airports to become more self reliant could likely be beneficial. That means that even if you’re not using an airport like a mall, you’ll still see improvements in the coming years to your own flying experience. A more self reliant airport can drop prices for airlines and keep more flights coming in and out.

But the idea that the thousands of arriving and departing passengers that frequent large airports per hour will find the experience a little more comfortable is a positive improvement.

My Nightmare Customer Service Experience, And How You Can Avoid A Similar Fate

In this story, I’m seemingly the criminal. My crime? Choosing to buy an imported phone from an established international online retailer. Let’s take a look at what happened to me, what’s happened to some other people, and what you can do to protect yourself from experiencing this situation in the future.

Requiem for a Nightmare

The Nightmare started off but a Dream (of a swift refund)

I was promptly provided with the company’s DHL account and told I would need to contact the carrier to arrange pick up. There would be no charge to me for this return shipping. Wonderful. Everything seemed smooth and painless, all the more so when DHL came on January 13th and was so kind as to fill out the paperwork themselves. When I checked the package status just a couple of days later, I noticed that it has already been delivered. Fantastic.

I notified Expansys and was told the package was received and that the defect would be checked. I was also asked to provide my bank account information for the pending refund.

The Real Problem Begins

About a week passed with no contact regarding the status of my refund. I finally send an email, but receive no response. A few days and several more emails later, a reply is finally received by the end of January. In the email, they state the inspection process is going to take a while because “we’re very busy”. I had asked repeatedly who would be checking the product: Expansys or Samsung? If the product had to be returned to Samsung, obviously I could understand the longer wait. No answer was given.

About a week passed with no contact regarding the status of my refund. I finally send an email, but receive no response.

Fast forward to February 5th. Expansys replied to an angry message I had sent inquiring as to the status of my refund. At this point, almost a month had past and I was getting more irritated with each passing day. The reply indicated the defect had been confirmed and a refund would be provided. Days pass, and I then send another email asking where my money is. On February 13th, I received a single reply indicating there was some kind of “trouble” with the refund but it was sent finally, on the 13th.

A rare reply from Expansys that contained a bit more than the usual “please wait” type content.

I wait. On February 17th the money had still not appeared in my bank account and so I call my financial institution to investigate. Late in the afternoon, I received a call from my bank with some extremely infuriating news: it had the money, but due to an error, the money could not be deposited to me. Instead of sending the money to my name, Expansys had used my bank branch’s name as the recipient. I was told the money could not be deposited into my account until the sender corrected the mistake.

I contact Expansys informing them of the problem, and in the process, discover the wiring error was my fault. Back when I provided my bank details in January, I had mistakenly specified the wrong name due to misreading the Kanji (Chinese characters). This issue is totally of my own creation, and therefore technically Expansys only took a month to refund the money.

Unfortunately, what should have been a simple fix turned into another month of waiting.

More Waiting

I provided Expansys with my correct bank information. Days pass, finally a reply arrives. I’m told that they have contacted their bank (HSBC) and that I need to pay a fee due to bank charges which amounts to about $30. Of this I had no objections whatsoever, given the fault was entirely mine. I was told that a separate e-mail will be sent to me with an invoice. Apparently the billing comes from the UK office. Days pass, no Paypal invoice. I contact them again and finally an invoice is sent on Friday, February 27th. I pay it immediately and then send another message to Expansys indicating it’s been paid. I am told that they will contact the UK office and notify them.

Days pass again, more e-mails are sent asking what’s going on.

Days pass again, more e-mails are sent asking what’s going on. The last reply I received in regards to this matter was Expansys indicating that it was proceeding via the “guidance of HSBC” and therefore any additional expenses related to the error will be covered by Expansys. Finally, on March 11th, I checked my bank account and the money was there. Expansys did not, and has not, actually sent me any message to confirm the wiring completion thus my discovery of said funds was a totally random surprise.

Analysis

I gave Expansys multiple chances to explain what was going on, but they never bothered to. In the end, I was never worried that Expansys was going to “steal” my money, as I had used them many times in the past and felt assured they were a legitimate organization. I did however, abandon any hope of receiving prompt customer service, explanations of what was going on, or seeing my refund in any semblance of a timely manner.

Not surprisingly, a quick Google search reveals that it’s not just Expansys Japan that has problems, but rather the company on-the-whole. Here are a few customer testimonies from elsewhere in the world. A 2012 complaint from UK-based Overclockers:

What to take away from this story (i.e. 10 DOs and DON’Ts)

2. DO use online payment services like PayPal. They offer significantly higher customer protection in the event of fraud and such. Much like credit cards, they often have a window-period in which you can file claim.

5. DO use tracking when returning the item(s). Depending on the store’s return policy, it may-or-may-not pay for the return shipping. Regardless, make sure to include tracking when sending back your purchase, even if it means paying out of pocket. The charge is usually just a few dollars more, but when it comes to disputes, having the ability to confirm the store received the parcel and having proof to offer a credit card company is essential.

6. DON’T buy from a store just because it’s the cheapest. Often times there are reasons why an item might cost so much less than at competing retailers or vendors, though it might not be obvious at first. Perhaps the store has only two people working for it, and it can afford to sell the products for less money simply because it doesn’t have to pay a full team of staff. Maybe the items are refurbished.

7. DO read the after-service details before placing your order. This is extremely important. Does the store have a return policy? Will it accept items that have been opened? Do you need to send it back within 24-hours of receipt, or is there a 30-day window?

Services like PayPal might actually be better than you think when buying products online, or overseas.

8. DO try to find the item locally if possible. This goes back to the pricing issue: if a local store has a product for $200, and an online store has it for $180, consider if it’s really worth the potential trouble to save $20. If the online store is say, Amazon, and the item is shipping from Amazon (not a third party seller) then it’s a safe bet. On the other hand, if the store is located overseas, you might end up paying $20 or more in import taxes and wind up with a major problem in-hand should the product itself be defective or incorrect. Finding the item locally also allows you to physically inspect it before purchase (when possible) and makes returns or exchanges much easier.

9. DON’T misread the small print. I see endless amounts of posts about “Amazon is now selling product X”, yet when I actually check the link, it’s some Marketplace Seller offering the item which makes the scenario about as legitimate as selecting Buy It Now on eBay. If you are buying from a hypermarket, confirm where it’s shipping from. If the Marketplace Seller’s order will be fulfilled by Amazon, then you’re golden for Amazon’s internal return policy applies.

10. DO consider waiting. I know how many of you want to be the first to have something (heck, I am that way as well). If a new product has gone on sale overseas, and will hit your market in a few weeks, just consider waiting. The more local and contained a situation can be controlled, the lower your own danger and risk will be.

We’re Entering A Sixth Mass Extinction, And It’s Our Fault

These days, sadly, it’s par for the course to hear of new additions to the list of myriad ways that irresponsible human activity is ruining planet Earth. The list is long and cruel, and although many people take these problems facing humanity very seriously, it’s hard for even the most concerned among us not to get a little numb to it all. Which is what makes the shocking nature of the findings in a paper published Friday in Science Advances so disconcerting: we are in the beginning of a sixth mass extinction of animal species on Earth, and humans are the cause.

Ecologists have long warned that we are entering a mass extinction. Science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert just won the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for her book titled “The Sixth Extinction”—yet this particular study, led by Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, is so profound because its findings are based off the most conservative extinction rates available. Many other studies in the past were criticized for overestimating the severity of the crisis. Even when using these conservative estimates, however, Ceballos and his team found that the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is over 100 times greater than the normal rate of extinction, also known as the background rate. According to the paper, “The number of species that have gone extinct in the last 100 years would have taken anywhere from 800 to 10,000 years to disappear otherwise.”

The background rate of extinction that Ceballos’s team used was one that says two vertebrate species will go extinct per 10,000 species, per 100 years. Based upon this estimate, nine vertebrate species should have disappeared since 1900. In reality, 477 known species have gone extinct since then. This is a conservative estimate in and of itself, since to confidently declare a species extinct takes a significant amount of time and effort to be certain the species is actually gone. Ceballos exhorts that the evidence produced by this study is “incontrovertible” and that our global human society is without a doubt the cause. Climate change, overpopulation, income inequality, land degradation, and overexploitation of animal species have all contributed to the accelerating rates of extinction.

Some people may find it distressing, but also wonder exactly how it ultimately affects them. Haven’t there been mass extinctions before? Indeed, there have been five previous mass die-offs in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, the most famous being that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Those mass die-offs were often not selective, however, and if continued at its current rate, this one won’t be either. Though humans are the drivers of this extinction, eventually the consequences will fall on us as well. Experts purport that biodiversity and ecosystem services are worth $145 trillion globally. This includes providing medicines, crop pollination, water purification, oxygenation of the atmosphere, and countless other services we often take for granted. Ceballos notes in his paper that if the current pace of extinction is allowed to continue, humanity will be deprived of many ecological benefits within as little as three human lifetimes. This type of loss would be virtually permanent in the context of a human time scale, considering the globe took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to re-diversify after previous extinctions.

Despite all the doom and gloom, of which there is clearly plenty to go around, it’s important to note that it is possible to avoid a full-blown sixth extinction with concerted efforts to save threatened species and ease pressures on other animal populations, says Ceballos. It’s easy to list the species that have gone or are going extinct, but it’s also important to note all the species that wouldn’t exist without positive human intervention, the American bison and the bald eagle, to name a few close to home. Wolves are in Yellowstone today because of human action; it was human action that saved elephants and rhinos from wholesale slaughter in the 1970s, and 80s, and it will be human action again that will save them from the current poaching crisis. Just last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service sent a stern message to poachers by crushing a ton of confiscated ivory in Times Square. Also last week, Pope Francis released an encyclical in which he laments the loss of biodiversity and calls upon the world to adopt an environmental consciousness. There is hope, but the window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

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