Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to renew your NSW drivers license in 4 short weeks

How to renew your standard NSW drivers lincense in 8 easy steps over the course of only 4 weeks, with only 4 trips to Service NSW:

Before we start, be reminded that in early 2016 (I think), the RMS (formerly RTA) centralized the production photo id cards such as drivers licenses. This is a “more efficient way to do business” and allows us customers to “complete our transaction faster”. So keep in mind that the process outlined below is actually an improvement compared to the olden days when the friendly customer service person would just print your license and hand it to you on the spot.

1)
Fail to renew your license online, because no email address is linked to your account, and adding an email address cannot be done online.

2)
Attend a Service NSW branch of your choice, for instance Parramatta. When asked, no, instructed, by the bossy receptionist to renew your license online, be quick to point out that you've tried and failed, otherwise she will shove you out the door before you get a word in edgewise.

3)
At this point, bossy receptionist transforms into helpful assistant and updates your account. She will not, however, conduct any further checks regarding your eligibility to renew online, instead reverting to bossy receptionist and once again rush you out the door.

4)
Successfully start process to renew license online. Suppress urge to obliterate your computer when told by the web site that you're not eligible, because the system has determined that an eyesight test is necessary.

5)
Print and complete paper form, return to Service NSW branch again, have renewal application processed, including eyesight test and new photo. Pay AUD 178.00 for the privilege, a modest increase of just over 13 % since the last renewal five years ago. Enjoy the 50 % discount for having a good driving record.

6)
Because the RTA, sorry, RMS, sorry, Service NSW centralized the actual printing of licenses etc, receive a temporary license in the form of a convenient paper document (size DIN A5), which you will be required to carry when driving until your “proper” license arrives by mail (in “about 2 weeks’ time”).

7)
After three weeks, return to Service NSW branch for the fourth time because your license hasn’t arrived yet. Complete another form, take another ticket, then by pure chance once again enjoy the friendly service of Diane. Have your photo taken again, receive another temporary license, and learn that Diane is not only blessed with a cheerful personality, but also complete and utter indifference to customer service. Do not expect her to even attempt to find out why your license hasn’t been mailed, or take any steps to ensure this won’t happen again; Diane won’t even try to hide the fact that she doesn’t give a shit.

8)
After another week, receive your license by mail. Do not take this for granted, there is no telling how many times you will hear Diane say “It just didn’t get mailed” before this last step actually happens.

So there you have it; couldn’t be any easier or more convenient, really. My only request to the RMS would be: Don’t make any more “improvements” to your services, please!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Update: Taxis Combined nightmare

Well, while Taxis Combined clearly isn't even trying to provide a decent service, they do at least respond to feedback. This is their reply, sent via a series of Twitter messages:

Thanks, Frank. We will pass this on to our Driver Services Team who will address with the Driver in accordance with our codes of conduct. While we are not permitted to discuss exactly what occurs with the Driver during this process, we can advise that action taken will depend on the Driver's past feedback & driving history. Action can include counselling, additional training & cancellation of the Driver's affiliation w/ Taxis Combined. This incident will also be recorded on their permanent record. Please accept our apologies for your experience. It by no means meets the standards we expect from affiliated Drivers. If you could DM your preferred postal address, we would like to send you a Cabcharge voucher to both apologise & thank you for providing this feedback. - Cass

For the record, they have in the meantime mailed that Cabcharge voucher (AUD 20) referred to in the above response.

The rest of it, namely the part about "possible action" to be taken against the driver does come across as fluffy and meaningless; or to put it more bluntly, outright bullshit. The fact that this driver was on the road at all clearly indicates that Taxis Combined tolerate that kind of performance. I have no doubt there must have been previous complaints about this guy (people very rarely turn from decent human being into nausea-inducing pig overnight), yet Taxis Combined obviously didn't see a problem with keeping him driving for them.

Adding to that the fact that while this was by far the worst experience with this taxi company, every single previous ride with them was, awful (all of their cabs I've been in were filthy, and every single one of their drivers was either rude, lazy (no help with luggage), incompetent with directions, downright dangerous in their driving (n most cases a combination of several of these); I can say with certainty that my resolve to never use Taxis combined again has not changed.

Avoiding them is of course easiest when booking a cab; just call someone else … anyone else.

But also keep in mind that at taxi ranks, you are under no obligation to take the first cab in line; and at places like airports etc, you don't have to take the cab the hi-vis-wearing wrangler directs you to.

For the record; yes I do have a preferred taxi operator in Sydney; and no I won't name them; I don't want this whole episode to be perceived as an endorsement or promo-stunt for any one particular provider. I also am not affiliated in any way with any commercial, private, or public transport providers of any kind.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Taxis Combined – another trip from hell

I'm the first to admit my own mistakes, and just accepting whatever cab the taxi wrangler at Sydney airport directs me to definitely qualifies.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, just before 8pm, the next available cab in the queue at the international terminal of Sydney airport happened to be Taxis Combined taxi # 2203. I had bad trips with these guys in the past, but this one beat them all.

The actual driving brought no surprises; quite a few heart-stopping lane changes, a nearly missed turn; nothing you wouldn't expect from any taxi in Sydney.

The driver, however, was another story. Constantly sneezing and coughing, he soon explained that he had, in his words, "a cold, or maybe the flu". For the entire trip, he continued to rub his nose and wipe his face. And just in case that wasn't gross enough, he not only constantly chewed on his chewing gum in an extremely vomit – inducing manner, but also used those same hands that would later handle my luggage (again) and potentially touch my credit card to extensively play with said chewing gum.

We can only hope guys like this, and indeed companies like Taxis Combined who manage to provide consistently appalling service, will be put out of business by competition like Uber sooner than later.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sydney by night - again

I better post this, so nobody can say I've gone a full year without putting up anything. And to get back into it, I might as well pick up where I left off.

These nighttime shots were taken from Mrs Macquaries Chair (Sydney).


Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge


Sydney Opera House

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sydney by night - part 2

And because it was so much fun, some more nighttime shots, this time of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.


Opera House
The Sydney Opera House at dusk


Opera House by night
The Sydney Opera House by night


Sydney Harbor bridge
Wide angle shot of the Sydney Harbor Bridge


Sydney Harbor bridge
The Sydney Harbor Bridge

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sydney by night - part 1

Some dusk and nighttime shots of Sydney, more specifically the city, taken from across the harbor


Panorama
Sydney harbor just before sunset (panorama image composed of 11 photos; panorama generated by Hugin).


Sydney
The skyline of Sydney at dusk (with some inevitable light streaks from passing ferries)


Sydney
The skyline of Sydney by night


Sydney
Another image of the city and harbor by night, but with much more colorful reflections on the water

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Conquering the hills of Sydney Harbor

Apparently, Sydney Harbor either is riddled with hills hidden under those deceptively flat waters, or I must have slept thru a series of massive, Hollywood – worthy breakers on my recent ferry trip. What's more, even though the harbor runs directly into the ocean, it seems to be between 16 and 47 meters (52 to 154 feet) above sea level. I really must go check out that waterfall between North Head and South Head.

Also, even though this particular trip started upstream, the ferry seems to have traveled uphill, starting at 17 meters (56 feet) above sea level, and finishing at 23 meters (75 feet).

Conclusion: I'm not sure I can really trust the GPS module of my Nexus 5.

Elevation profile
Elevation profile from GPS log of ferry trip, as recorded on my Nexus 5. Recording started and ended on ferry, no on-shore traveling

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sydney Harbor - High above the sea

Sydney Harbor … now 34 meters above sea level.

GPS Screenshot

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parramatta Centenary square

From the Better late than never desk: A couple of photos from Parramatta's Centenary Square (formerly known as Church Street Mall), taken around Christmas.

Town Hall

Town Hall
Another attempt at HDR

Xmas tree
For the artsy fartsy inclined: Colorful Xmas tree in an otherwise b/w Centenary Square

Centenary Square
Panorama image created from 10 individual photos, stitched together with the help of Hugin.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adios Telstra

After recently discussing my first impression of the Optus experience, it's only fair to also share the final moments of my relationship with Telstra.

As mentioned before, the Telstra account becomes inactive the moment you transfer your phone number to another carrier. Once this happens, your online Telstra profile will only say "No active account for this profile", with no option to access pending bills, usage data, or any other details.

Unlike the Optus Life Chat, which is prominently advertised and even (annoyingly) pops up whenever you linger on any given Optus web page for a while, the Telstra chat thingy is well hidden. It takes a fair bit of navigating thru the Support pages before you eventually arrive at a Contact Us page that actually lets you pick the Life Chat feature.

The one positive thing about the Optus chat was that in all instances, I was connected to a consultant almost instantly. Not so here; the Telstra chat window informs me that I'm currently number 24 in the queue. Definitely not a promising start.

It takes approximately 15 minutes to make it to the front of the queue; then, I'm greeted by Joan (and yes, I almost did reply "Watson, is that you?"). Joan quickly sends me a link to their Pay a bill page, where you apparently can make payments even after your Telstra account has been deactivated. After I inquire about access to the actual bill details, Joan offers to send a copy of the bill to my email address.

I submit the payment while I'm still online with Joan (just in case it doesn't work; this is Telstra, after all). But I need not worry, the payment actually goes thru quite smoothly; it seems they at least have the parts needed to take our money running well.

The actual support chat took about 5 minutes; plus the 15 minutes I waited in the queue.

So, this time, the support staff turned out to be the best performing part of the system.

Suggestion to Telstra: When an inactive account still has a balance that's not zero, include a link to that Pay a bill page on the online account landing page.

And now I'm done. Hasta la vista, Telstra.