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August 2019

Unexpected item in the bagging area

When I opened my wallet I realized that my credit card was missing. 

After a few moments of panic, I remembered that I must have left it inside a self-service till.  Indeed I had - unfortunately it was 50 miles away in a different city (at a branch of the UK’s worst high street retailer). 

When I returned to the store, the manager asked me to choose from a selection of cards that had been left in the machine, which made me feel a little bit less foolish (though not much).  This was a few years ago, and contactless cards (and Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) now make things easier.  But there was still that annoying message, which can be roughly translated as "Hey, someone is trying to steal something." 

Apparently Tesco have changed it to something less aggressive, but I still don't like machines talking to me, thanks all the same. 

It's taken a while, but now they are appearing all over Hong Kong, and in a surprising development the self-service tills recently installed in most ParknShop stores in Hong Kong keep quiet about what they think I might be stealing.  

It's not all good news.  ParknShop apparently think it would be amusing to make the customer identify any loose fruit and vegetables by searching through a series of flashcards that are placed next to the till.  Small children are, needless to say, attracted to them much as moths are to a bright light, with equally untidy results.  Wouldn't it be easier to just have images on the screen like everyone else?

So it's safe to say that self-service tills are here to stay.

Spare a thought, though, for Howard Schneider, who developed some of the earliest self-service tills, but who sold his company for a fraction of what it is worth today.  If you want to know more, this podcast from Planet Money is worth a listen.

And today's Cantonese is the name of that ubiquitous supermarket chain: 百佳 baak3 gaai1 (which can be translated as "100s of good things").  No parking, no shopping.


The French Hospital

Spike is back in Hong Kong, having been forced to retire from his job in the Philippines because of the local laws.  Which was quite a surprise to him (and to most people, I guess)

He had to go to the hospital: One of the Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Done

I was surprised that a visit to the emergency ward now costs HK$180 (roughly US$23.50). Of course that’s just a fraction of what it probably costs in the U.S. but even so, five years ago I’m sure it was just HK$100. That’s a big jump in 5 years. Have people stopped betting on the horses? Are HK hospitals charging retaliatory tariffs to U.S. patients?

Obviously the last part isn't true.  That's the rate for holders of a Hong Kong ID card (others have to pay HK$1,230).  But he's right that it was increased from HK$100 about two years ago.

I confess to not fully understanding the charges for healthcare in Hong Kong.  Visiting a GP seems quite expensive, especially considering the "three-minute-visit/five-bags-of-pills policy".   But last time I visited a specialist (in a private hospital) it cost less than Spike paid for his visit to an emergency room.  I suppose that a visit to the hospital pharmacy would increase the total cost, but I was paying for this myself, and I know a better solution for that.

And I can add to my list of places in Hong Kong where the commonly used Cantonese name is totally different from the English name - St Teresa's Hospital (聖德肋撒醫院) is known as "faat gwok yi yun" (法國醫院).  Look it up.