Monday, October 08, 2007

I Didn't Hear it on the Grapevine

This morning I couldn't access the internet at all. After playing with all kinds of hardware and software settings for maybe an hour I phoned our ISP's technical support line. Our ISP is called "Grapevine". Eventually I get through to a technical support person who quickly comes up with the problem - our account was suspended because they didn't have a direct debit order with a signature lodged. This was somewhat unsurprising in retrospect. We first signed up for ISP service at their "storefront" on 21 September. When we moved into our apartment on 28 September they had no record of this transaction at all. So I signed up over the phone all over again. I provided my bank account details but wasn't told I needed a signature. So I went into the storefront again this morning. Oops, I didn't have my bank account number with me - I assumed they had it and all they needed was a signature. So I had to go home again.... and come back again. I also paid this month's payment in the store and was told that the service would be turned on again right away. When I was finally back home again, I tried it after about 3 hours. Nothing. Another phonecall, this time to billing. Another long wait on the line being bombarded with messages about water conservation (Grapevine is owned by ACTEW/AGL/TRANSACT which stands for ACT-Electric-Water-Australian Gaslight.... covers all utilities). No record of me having paid this morning. Anyway, she agreed to unsuspend our account till 26th October. I'm now going to pay our rent online before anything else goes wrong!

After being here a few weeks and seeing the country again in a fresh light, Australia seems somewhere between the United States and somewhere like Sweden. Superficially it looks a lot like America but with sharper average design standards. But then there is a feeling of a bit more scarcity than one is used to in superabundant North America. Many reasonable prices, but many outrageous ones. Recent noted high prices - a busride costs $A3 - it was $US1 in my former city. Postage to the US - $A1.95 vs. $US0.80. Rather restrictive shopping hours for most stores. The typical size of a coffee. Of course, ACT planning is reminiscent of Sweden. The US is often criticized as the country of unhealthy eating. But here, organic food is decidedly unmainstream - very expensive and only sold in very small specialist outlets. Fast food restaurants do not offer diet drinks. In fact I haven't seen a diet drink. I guess they must exist here.

On the investing front, I see that Symbion and Healthscope are both halted, so they must be about to announce a new transaction to supercede the previous one. Word is that this will involve selling Symbion assets for Healthscope shares which will then be distributed to Symbion's shareholders after which Symbion would presumably be wound up. Such a transaction would not require the approval of a 75% super-majority of shareholders. I'm thinking of reducing my position in Allco Equity Partners. Following the approval of the IBA-iSOFT merger which AEP will fund the company will have little cash remaining. Therefore, it is no longer the simple "Graham style" play of buying shares for less than the net cash per share, which was my original reason for buying in.

4 comments: said...

I don't know which fast food outlets you're visiting - last time I visited Canberra KFC was selling diet pepsi, as was Pizza Hut, and McDonalds sells diet coke.

Next you'll be telling our US readers that they're kangaroos hopping down the street (actually, in some parts of Canberra I think there are).

Ah yes - Canberra. A nice town, pity it's so far from the City ;)

mOOm said...

On the plus side the drinks are smaller in the fast food places than they are in the US. Will have to pay more attention to this important issue :)

Anonymous said...

For organic food try the farmers market on a Saturday morning at EPIC on the federal highway. Not a bad cycle length from where you are living, or catch one of hte busses srtaight down northborne.

mOOm said...

Thanks for the tip! On Sunday we went to the Old Bus Depot market. We've also been to the Fyshwick Fresh Markets where there was an organic store but very expensive. ANU Co-op is very close to us too.

I did a quick check and both McDonalds and Hungry Jacks (Burger King) have Diet Coke on their drink fountains. But Kingsleys and the KFC in Civic didn't seem to. Other outlets that don't have soda fountains do have the diet drinks in bottles.