Category Archives: Scribblings

Escape of water part 1 – Burst pipe, house trashed!

This is the first in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect.

Well my New Year celebrations were brought to an unexpected end last week when I took a phone call from a neighbour who advised me that there was water pouring out of the edge of the roof of my house. 

Like many people, I had taken a break over the New Year and had been away for a few days. Knowing that cold weather was forecast, I had taken the precaution of leaving the heating on low. The pipes in the loft were all lagged and, as I have done for over twenty years, I happily trotted off on holiday without even considering turning the water off at the mains, I mean, who does that? Unfortunately, my precautions were not sufficient and during one particularly cold night (when the temperature dropped to -5) a pipe (which it turned out, had no lagging on it)  in the loft froze and then burst. 

My neighbour was able to turn the water supply off at the stop-cock in the road and I promptly booked a flight home the next day so that I could inspect the damage. I was expecting a complete mess and a huge repair bill. Annoyingly I had painted the entire property just before Christmas. Flying home, my main worry was what would happen if the insurance company failed to pay out. I have zero experience of claiming on a household insurance policy, despite having held such a policy for over 23 years. I have avoided making claims for minor incidents such as spilling wine on the carpet and have always taken the view that I would only use my insurance for something serious. Hopefully this would go in my favour but we all know what insurance companies are like don’t we? After all, we’ve all read the horror stories in the papers about them trying to wriggle out of each and every claim and haggling over every penny.

I was right to expect a mess and on entering the house it was immediately clear that 75% of the property was completely trashed. It is going to be a big job to put everything back together and it will take several months. Of course, it wasn’t just the property itself which was damaged but all of my furniture and possessions too – pretty much everything was ready for the skip. I made a call to my insurance company and they were extremely helpful and put my mind at ease to an extent. They agreed to pay for me to go to a hotel for the weekend and arranged for a loss adjuster to visit in a couple of days time. I was told to leave the house exactly as it was – don’t clear up, don’t throw anything away, don’t touch a thing. This was a little frustrating to me as I figured that the quicker I got the wet stuff out, the faster the property would dry but the loss adjuster wants to see everything ‘in situ’ to make sure there is no funny business going on, which is fair enough.

After speaking to the insurance company, I carried out a few Google searches to try and find out what I could expect from the loss adjuster and how things would progress going forward. The information I found was not exactly comprehensive and much of it was written by people who hadn’t actually gone through the claim process, rather they were just giving an opinion on what should happen. Therefore, I decided to document the process myself in the hope that anyone who is unfortunate enough to suffer a similar incident might find the information of use. I’ll number each of these updates so that if you have found this page via a search engine, you can easily work out where to start if you want to read from the beginning (actually that doesn’t really make sense because this article is actually the beginning but you know what I mean). I’ve included the keywords ‘escape of water’ in the headings as this is what insurance companies refer to this type of claim as.

Next update once the loss adjuster has visited…

Fifteen minutes of fame and why you shouldn’t trust the media

I had my fifteen minutes of fame this week as promised by Andy Warhol (actually it was closer to ten minutes so I am still owed five!).  Yup, I reached the dizzy heights of participating in a live radio interview for the BBC on the subject of selling on eBay.

To be honest, if it hadn’t of been the BBC, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to partake in the interview since the travel to the studio/preparation etc took up half a day and as I say, I was only on air for ten minutes.  However, the fact was that it was the BBC and the producer agreed that I could get a mention in for one of my websites and of course, this would have meant some superb exposure at no cost.

Unfortunately, the whole experience turned out to be a lesson in dealing with the media as although I kept my half of the deal, the BBC didn’t and they made no mention of my website and prevented me from doing so also.

But am I bitter?  Nah, course not, as I mentioned above, I am still owed another five minutes of fame and I won’t make the same mistake again.

The PC versus the Apple Mac

I moved a step closer to purchasing a Mac computer this week.  Why?  Because my PC fell over in a rather dramatic manner YET AGAIN!  I am told by my Mac-owning colleagues that they don’t have this problem.  Apparently, Macintosh computers don’t crash – they are reliable and they work – wow, what a novelty!  Macs are also unaffected by the vast majority of virus threats that PC users defend themselves from on a daily basis.

So why the heck are we all using PCs and Windows (which seem to crash far more regularly than is healthy for any business)?  I can only put it down to superb marketing by Microsoft – I mean, how many other products are there that can achieve almost global domination when they only work properly 80% of the time?!  Please note, I have no figures to back up this statistic and it is based purely on my own experience.

Anyway, I went to look at some Macs and I have to say, regardless of how reliable they are, they do look cool and the operating system just ‘feels’ smoother.  The reviews that my colleagues had given me made me feel confident that the Mac wouldn’t let me down and I could rely on it to start up every morning and work effortlessly throughout the day…

But here I am, still writing this newsletter on a PC.  Why?  Because the vast majority of my software will only work on a PC and if I make the move to a Mac, it will cost me several hundred (if not thousand) dollars to buy the Mac versions of the software (and that assumes it is even available – many software programs do not have Mac versions).  I know that it is possible to run Windows-based software on a Mac using a program such as Virtual PC (which makes the Mac work like a PC) but I am informed that this makes the Mac unreliable and prone to crashing (which of course, does not surprise me one little bit!)

For the time being then, it would seem that if you are running an Internet business, there is no getting away from the fact that you must use a PC and Windows.  However, I have a feeling that over the next few years this may well change.  More and more people will get fed up with the unreliability of Windows and will look for an alternative.  At the moment, the most likely alternative is the Mac.

I can only think that if more people start heading down the Mac route, then there will be a number of potential business opportunities for anyone that knows anything about Macs and how they work.  This in itself may be reason enough to invest in a Mac, even if it is an older, used model.  As the old saying goes, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King…

I for one am strongly considering buying a Mac, if only because it would be nice to go to bed at night with the confidence that my computer will still be working when I turn it back on in the morning.

How safe is your computer?

For the first part of this week’s newsletter, I am going to ‘steal’ a topic from my online colleague, Jim Edwards.  Jim wrote about this topic last week in his newsletter and I am sure he won’t mind me copying him just this once.

You may well have heard of spyware.  This is software that installs itself on your computer and can automatically send information about your online activities to the originator of the software.  Some of the information can be fairly harmless such as what type of websites you like to visit but some can be far more intrusive, for example, keystroke loggers.  Keystroke loggers are basically able to send a list of every single key you have pressed since turning your computer on and that could include passwords, credit card details and other personal information that you would not want getting into the wrong hands.

It is actually very easy to end up with spyware on your computer and often it is installed as part of another program that you have downloaded – for example a piece of shareware.  This means that even if you have a firewall installed, you may have inadvertently authorised the spyware to operate in the background when you installed the original software.

Fortunately there are a number of programs that you can use to check your computer for spyware and one of them has a free trial so you can check your computer out at no cost.  This software is called SpySweeper and you can download it from:  http://www.webroot.com

You will also find more information about spyware, how you can end up with it on your computer and what sort of things it can do at the above link.

Email etiquette

When dealing with people/businesses on the Internet, it will benefit you to remember the following tips.  They are all based on my own experiences but I am sure they apply to every online business:

***  When replying to emails, include a copy of any previous emails, don’t just send a new one.  I can receive 50 emails a day that need a reply and simply cannot remember every single ‘conversation’ with every single person.

***  If you have a problem/complaint, then of course, email for assistance.  But be polite – don’t start off with an abusive email (you can send that later on if you don’t get the help you require!).

***  Simple words like ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ take a second to type and mean so much.  If you want someone to give you fre^e advice, then use these words – you are more likely to get what you want.

***  If someone takes the time to give you fre^e advice, then take the time to thank them.  I get emails everyday asking for assistance on all manner of topics – selling on eBay, buying from wholesalers, setting up a website etc.  I don’t get paid for giving my advice and it is amazing how many people can’t even be bothered to say ‘thank-you’ after I have helped them.

***  Allow 24 hours for a response to your email before sending a second one chasing a reply.  Not every business has 24 hour email support.  For example, I reply to most emails within 2 hours but I do have to sleep and sometimes I even turn my PC off for a few hours!

***  Remember that the email system is not 100% reliable – sometimes emails just don’t make it to the recipient.  If someone says ‘I didn’t receive your email’, they may well be telling the truth, so give them a second chance before losing your cool.

***   And finally, if your enquiry relates to a particular product always include details of which product you are referring to.  For example, I sell over 20 different digital products from 7 websites but regularly get emails that simply state ‘I have paid for my eBook but didn’t get it’.  Which eBook?  How did you pay?  What is your name?  When did you buy it?  What email address did you use when you made the purchase?  C’mon, gimme a clue!

If you run a web business, I am sure the above points will hit home.  If you don’t run a web business, please bear them in mind for when you are dealing with someone that does.