A blog is like a shark. It must keep moving, or die…
Austria is not a country known for business creativity. Two shopping seasons a year with moderate discounts. Limited choice on almost any consumer products, and very limited supply of size S, if there is any in a real sense. Predictable sales in supermarkets. Sky-high price for electronic products. However, low house price. I am happily living here with all the inconveniences because I believe this is socialism. In reality, having observed these stubborn facts, my expectations had become reasonably low till two recent cases lit me up again.
I am looking for a new mobile phone subscription because my current one is about to expire. Bullshit! I just want an iPhone 4! I am now with Orange. It offers reasonable iPhone deals, among which the most attractive is iPhone 4 16G for €1 if you pay €39 monthly in the next two years. Under this contract you get free call minutes and SMS which nobody cares but enough for ten years or more, and most important to iPhone, 6 GB data per month. But this is ONLY for new customers. By definition, a new customer is a guy who signs a new contract and binds it to a phone number which isn’t bound to Orange currently. Sounds reasonable. But I am an old customer, so I checked the deals for old customers first. Then I realized how terrible I am to Orange as a customer. The only way I can get an iPhone and bind it to my current contract is to buy it from Orange Bonus Club. Big bonus, €549 just for the phone. On top of this, I have to pay €15 per month for a 3GB data package if I would like to use iPhone in the way suggested by Mr. Jobs as all other normal iPhone users do, plus €16 monthly fee of my current contract. You do the calculation. I have a very high brand loyalty. If I follow a brand, I hardly change, so I asked Orange how I can renew myself. The answer is simple–die, then I can be reborn. I have to end my contract, sign a new one and change to a new number. Well, I am more loyal to my number than to Orange. Under EU regulation, customers can switch between operators without changing number, so why on earth bother with Orange? Other operators also have good deals to new subscribers, although I heard they are equally unwilling to keep their old subscribers. Anyway, I reserved one from Drei (3). Don’t know if I will get it this year since its offers are the cheapest on the market. To summarize the Austrian operators’ approach to customers: you can switch from one operator to another easily and economically without changing phone number, but you cannot get the same benefits by switching from one contract to another within one operator. In other words, operators in Austria do their best to attract more users as all the reasonable operators in the world do. At the same time they also forcefully kick out old customers when their contracts end. €549 for an locked iPhone with useless contract is not a bonus, but a fine. This is against common sense of marketing. But on second thought, it is perfectly in line with socialism–operators share customers politely.
When I moved into this apartment, I found one switch didn’t work well. I fixed it but broke the frame of the switch plate.
My quest for a frame begins. I went to one local construction supermarket, and immediately noticed that the frames were all of one size, although there were several brands and models. The major differences are the color and the number of switches framed. To be clear, by different colors I mean something from white to off-wite, and light-grey to grey, certainly not orange, green, blue, pink, red, golden, or violet. For one moment there I was picturing in my mind that all the wall switches in Austria are of the same size, look almost the same, and presumably do the same thing. With a little reasoning you can further get a somewhat stunning conclusion that all the Austrian homes look similar because there are not many alternatives on anything needed for decoration. Surely for the locals home is not a place to be creative. I bought one without even taking out the broken frame in my pocket because I supposed if there was only one size, it must fit. Unfortunately, this would only happen in a perfect world, not a socialist one. I returned it, checked another market, found the very same and only size. In fact, I found the same brands and models in another market at the same price. Thank goodness this market uses another font to print price! I reported the situation to my landlord. She checked a couple of markets as well. No luck. But she shared with me the message from the markets about why no frame matches mine. The size of switches changes every some years, maybe ten, for pushing people to buy more switches. Thus only one size is kept available at one time. Very logical marketing. If one of my switches breaks, I am going to change it and all other 10+ switches in my flat because I can’t find the size anymore. If I refurbish my flat, I am not going to throw out all my old switches because they still fit. Sorry, my landlord and I share the same illogical view to this world. We decided just to glue the bloody frame.