Some real posters seen in Hong Kong:

Hot Promotions

Ready to school?  No, no, no.

In the same vein, we have this:


This is one of a series.  The first is “Sense of Chic”, but someone got over-confident after that and decided that prepositions are fully interchangeable, so we have the meaningless “Savor of Joy” and absurdity that is “Smart of Kids”.

This next one is from the same company (SHKP), and verges on the surreal:

“Aspire to inspire the new one”.  It’s just a jumble of words, but it would be greatly improved by removing the “one” at the end.  Meaningless, but not quite so offensive to pedants.

All three are from large companies, who must surely have access to native speakers, but maybe part of the problem is that Microsoft Word finds nothing wrong with any of these phrases:


Really, Microsoft - what are you checking?

MTR Fail - obscured by signs

fo tanFirst they put up a new display screen with the times of the next few trains and other useful information (to replace the old smaller displays).

Then they installed a large metal sign that largely blocks views of the screen (from one direction).  

This new sign marks what will be the front of the 9-car trains that are being introduced over the next 18 months to replace all the existing 12-car trains (and the frequency will be increased at some point so the total capacity shouldn’t be affected). 

Yes, this is the much-delayed and misleadingly named “Sha Tin to Central Link” project.  Hilariously, the project website still has a map that implies that trains will run from Tai Wai through East Kowloon to Admiralty.  That was the original idea before the KCR and MTR merged, but it was changed a very long time ago, which is why they need to introduce shorter trains on the East Rail line for when they run through to Exhibition Centre and Admiralty stations (which will have shorter platforms).    

11 years ago we were told that it would open in “2015 or 2016” (MTR Corp submits new rail plan and vows to minimise disruption).  Those dates have subsequently been revised several times, and the latest plan seems to be to hope that it will open in around two years time (so no rush to introduce the shorter trains):

“the targeted completion date in the first quarter of 2022 faces a number of challenges, but the project team continues to work hard to achieve this programme” 

Things have not gone very well.  The MTR claim that the overall project is now 93% complete, but the only section that is open is from Tai Wai to Kai Tak, extending what was the Ma On Shan line, and now renamed to be the Tuen Ma line phase 1.  Next year this should connect through to West Rail (Tuen Mun to Ma On Shan, hence the name that probably no-one will confuse with the Tsuen Wan line).

Yes, right, this was supposed to be about the sign.  Would it really have been so difficult to have a narrower sign to mark the end of the 9-car trains and then moved the display screen to be alongside it?  So, you know, passengers could see the time of the next train.

This is a general problem on the MTR, both on platforms and in station concourses, with a jumble of random signs that seem to have been designed and installed without any co-ordination (Sign A tells you this and needs to go here, and Sign B has a different purpose and needs to go there).  Indeed, further up the same platform there’s an “Exit” sign partially obscuring another display screen.

Just a travel agent

Relatives booked flights to Hong Kong on a Very Famous Hong Kong Airline (VFHKA). 

Next we booked a package (flights and hotels), also with VFHKA - so that we could all go together to another city in Asia. 

Then last week VFHKA cancelled relative’s flights to Hong Kong, so we have to cancel the package.  I called VFHKA and provided them with all the details and told them we need to cancel.

When I finally got through, the conversation went something like this:

VFHKA: Yes, that’s OK, but there’s a 50% cancellation fee.
Me: But your airline cancelled the flights to Hong Kong.
VFHKA: We are just a travel agent.
Me: But…..it’s the same company!
VFHKA: No, we are a separate company within VFHKA group.
Me: (laughs)   (gets a bit shouty)  (calms down)
VFHKA Sorry, this is company policy.  There’s a 50% cancellation fee.
Me: Can I speak to your supervisor?
VFHKA OK (long wait).
VFHKA We’ll call you back later.

So the next day we had another call.  Some “highlights’:

VFHKA: We didn’t cancel the flight to (Asian City).
Me: Correct, but this is a family holiday.  If they can’t get to Hong Kong we can’t all go to (Asian City).
VFHKA: Can you give me the flight details?
Me: I did give you all this information yesterday, but, sure, I can read out this random collection of letters and numbers one more time.  Hang on, is that a ‘B’ or a ‘5’ in the Booking Reference? 
VFHKA: Yes, that’s the same people.  We need to check with the airline and the hotel.  We’ll call you back.

They did call me back, but still only partial success.

VFHKA: We can give you a full refund for the hotel but there will be a cancellation fee for the flights.
Me: But your airline cancelled the flights to Hong Kong.  We only need to cancel this package because of that!
VFHKA: I need to check with my supervisor.  We’ll call you back.

Of course after all this nonsense they did call me back and offer a full refund (though it will take 4-6 weeks).  

imageI suppose it’s not really any worse than most so-called “customer service” in Hong Kong.  If you are persistent you can probably get what you want, but you need to wait for your call to be answered (and listen to the repeated announcements that most things can be done on the website).

Having said, it’s a special kind of audacious for them to claim that they are “just a travel agent” when (amongst other major clues) bookings are made through exactly the same website as the airline.  That’s a very high standard of disingenuous nonsense.     

We are just a travel agent.  No you’re not.

Farewell to Honest Bee

Honest Bee, sorry that you are closing down.
I placed several orders with you
But items were always missing
Or the wrong item was delivered
So, honestly, I'm not surprised

My last order was for five products. They only delivered one of them. One!

Then there was the time when I happened to go to the supermarket a few days after another order had been delivered (with several products missing), and miraculously I was able to find most of those items on the shelves.  

To be fair, I only used Honest Bee to order Tesco products (from uSelect).  And they only ever had a partial selection of Tesco products available.  

But why didn't they have the full range of products? Why didn't they know what was actually available?  Why were some products frequently shown as available when there was no stock?  But, hey, sometimes I took advantage of this by ordering these products to reach the minimum order value.

Another obvious flaw with their system was that if (for example) I placed an order on Wednesday for delivery on Saturday, I couldn't order anything that was out of stock on Wednesday, and they couldn't deliver anything that was out of stock on Saturday.  And there was no way for me to request a product that was out of stock on Wednesday but actually available on Saturday.


SF Express - EF Lockers

imageThe instructions are in English.

But the touchscreen isn’t.

So, that icon on the ‘pick up procedure’ with an arrow pointing up…

This one:


Don’t see anything like on the touchscreen.

imageGotta be the green one with an arrow pointing up?


It’s the orange one with an arrow pointing down.

Now, yes, since you mention it, the Chinese characters 取件 do appear in the instructions and on that orange button.  So if you can recognize Chinese you can get this far.

There are, of course, more screens to navigate - all of them in Chinese.  Trial and error seems to work.  Eventually.

HKTVMall - customer service

A small follow up to my post on HKTVMall. 

Just to say that their customer service really isn’t great.

I ordered something that was supposed to be available within 4-7 working days.  Then just two days later I noticed that they had updated the order with a delivery date - the following day, at a time when no-one would be home.  So I contacted their customer service.

I opened the chat window and entered my question.  And waited.  And waited.  It took about 25 minutes for someone to respond.

Me: I notice you are planning to deliver this item tomorrow.
HKTVMall: The item will be delivered within 4-7 working days
HKTVMall: Monday to Friday
Me: That’s fine, but your website shows that it will be delivered tomorrow and no-one will be home
HKTVMall: Please wait, I'm checking the item.
HKTVMall: The item hasn’t arrived in our warehouse.
Me: So the information on your website is meaningless?
HKTVMall: The item hasn’t arrived in our warehouse.

That might look like a brief conversation, but it actually took 20 minutes (after the 25 minute wait for someone to appear).  To achieve precisely nothing.

Someone must have decided that they were planning to deliver it the next day, but apparently this information isn’t shared with their Customer Services team.

Needless to say, they did try to make the delivery the following day, and no-one was home.

I’ve had other deliveries that have been later than the (4 hour) timeslot, and others that have been several hours early.  And the previous time I tried to contact their Customer Services it took one hour for them to respond, by which time I had given up (but I hadn't closed the chat window, so I know how long it took). 

Quite a lot of work to be done on customer service, then.    

MTR rules, rules, rules

Last time I was in London, I didn’t swipe my card correctly and so I got charged for several “incomplete journeys”.  I filled in an online form explaining what had happened, and received a refund a day or two later.  Great service.

Then, back in Hong Kong I went to meet my wife on an MTR platform, but she wasn’t feeling well so we exited the station.  I was charged HK$9.8 - it turned out I had been in the station for 22 minutes, and if you enter and leave at the same station more than 20 minutes later they charge you HK$10.

I fully understand why they have this charge, but it is slightly ridiculous because if you want to circumvent it you simply travel (let’s say) from Wan Chai to Tsuen Wan and straight back to Admiralty and you will only pay HK$4.5.

Anyway, I tried to explain the circumstances to the station staff, but of course (this being Hong Kong) they have to fill in a form.  A few days later I get a letter explaining the relevant MTR byelaws and hoping that this clarifies the situation.

Only in Chinese

I received an email from Spotify (entirely in Chinese).  Ignored it.

Turns out that it was telling me that I have to change my password.

But no English translation!!

This is what it says (courtesy of Google translate):

Please update your Spotify account password

Hello Spotify the User:

To protect your Spotify account, we have reset your password. This is because you use the same password for other services data leakage accident occurred, so we think your Spotify have hacked possible.
do not worry! It is only a preventive measure Yet no one else entered your Spotify account, your data is still safe.

To create a new password to be able to continue to sign in the future Spotify, please just press the green button on the big side.

Not a big risk

This is ridiculous (from The Guardian):

Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes – WHO

UN health body says bacon, sausages and ham among most carcinogenic substances along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic

Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

The report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.

It places red meat in group 2A, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.

The IARC’s experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Really - they found “a causal link with bowel cancer”?  I don’t think so.  What they found was that people who eat more processed meat have a higher incidence of cancer.  It’s easy to play around with the data and identify some correlation between two items, but if you want to go on to establish a causal link you need to do a much better study that eliminates most of the other variables. 

And “Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer”.  Well, not really.  The Q&A (issued with the press release) says that:

this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous.  The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.

I think it’s that weasel word “alongside” (used by The Guardian in their headline as well as the body of the article), with its implication that they are somehow equivalent.  Which they aren’t

We know beyond all reasonable doubt that smoking causes cancer, we certainly don’t know that about sausages, ham and bacon.  Plus, all they are saying is that your risk of these cancers might go up from 5% to 6%.

Other journalists have added their own speculation.  There was a cover story in Time magazine that included the suggestion that it could be the nitrates / nitrites (probably not, as the body produces nitrites) or the process of cooking (grilling, frying, BBQ) - but I’m sure that theory was debunked.   

I can think of two simple explanations.  People who eat a lot of sausages and bacon might have a generally unhealthy lifestyle and could well be overweight, or could it just be the quality of the meat that is used in cheap sausages and ham?  But neither of those would really be news. 

You want English? Learn Chinese!

If you live in Greater China you will know that stuff (phones, tablets, etc.) often comes with Chinese as the default setting.  And the (pitifully) few Chinese characters I might recognize are nowhere near enough to navigate through the menus to find the option to change to English.  

Yes it’s my own fault for buying a tablet with Chinese Windows.  I was in a hurry and I assumed that it would be easy to switch to English.  Indeed (with some help), I changed the primary language to English. 

Then I downloaded Evernote Touch, and it’s all in Chinese.  What?  I couldn’t find the menu in the application, and it turns out you have to do something in Windows and then all is (reasonably) well.  Anyway, waste of time because it’s rubbish.  Back to the normal (desktop version) of the program, which is fine except that there’s no way to do a right-click.  

This is strange because in Google Chrome you can do a right-click (hold your finger and up pops a menu). 

But back to the point - is it too much to ask that there should always be a button or high-level menu in English, Spanish, or French that takes you to language selection?