Category Archives: Business

Big business rip-offs


Here in Australia we are at the tail end of a Royal Commission into our banking and superannuation sector.

Shock, horror, surprise, they were all ripping us off by charging excessive fees, charging fees for nothing, and cost us all thousands by not investing with our best interests at heart.

The penalties? Fines, with possible repayments to customers.

Here’s the thing. They gained billions of dollars and will have to pay back a couple of billion. Net result, billions in their pockets.

Why isn’t there a very simple law? Rip off your customers and you have to repay them double what you charged, and the onus is on the business to locate every affected customer or they pay back triple the amount.

Easy, simple and a deterrent large enough to make them think twice about expanding their bottom line at the expense of integrity.

It can apply to any business, large or small.

If these penalties are considered ‘excessive’ by anyone, please consider the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who lost their homes because of perverted financial advice born from greed.

Imagine having to pay back double the price of a lost home. How many times would this happen before behaviour changed?

Not many, I believe.

Quite simply, make the punishment fit the intention as well as the outcome of the crime.

Unions – why I’ve changed my mind about them


A long time ago, before the powerful wharfies union was beaten in a protracted and often ugly (children brought to the front line to hide behind) battle against much needed changes, I thought unions were archaic and had lost their relevance.

Now I wish they would return.

Yes we still have unions, but they are mostly powerless and dictated to by employers who know how dire our unemployment (and underemployment) situation is in this country. They know the real numbers, not those controlled by Canberra.

They consider you to be employed if you work just one hour a fortnight. Blatant manipulation of those without a voice, and yet no-one reports on it and we don’t hear it mentioned in the evening news or asked of our leaders during interviews.

Why not??

We also used to believe in a ‘fair go’, but after seeing record business profits go straight to the executives, with often job cuts announced in the same week, our fair go has gone.

Large company tax cuts will NOT result in more employment or higher wages. There are countless incidences of the exact opposite occuring during the past ten years, and yet somehow the rich deserve to become richer.

The current Royal Commission into the banking and finance industry only seals this belief. Banks announce record profits then sack hundreds, sometimes thousands of workers to make sure their profit margin remains high, to maintain their bonuses.

And our unions can do nothing but feebly protest. This is not their fault and I believe they do what they can, but their thuggish behaviour of the past (1970s and 1980s) turned the public tide against them. Now they are reduced to media obscurity.

This is wrong, the pendulum has swung too far and seems stuck, unable to swing back to normality.

And so the rich executives get away with disgusting levels of pay (please, no-one is worth paying millions to each year unless they have completely turned your business around from a basket case to stratospheric profits – none of which the current crop can claim to have done).

We also have business after business not paying superannuation, underpaying and mistreating workers, and unless it makes headlines nothing is done. Even after being in the media headlines the spotlight moves so quickly in our miniscule news cycle (not to mention the fact that the vast majority of our journalists have been sacked) that all businesses have to do is wait a few days until it moves on, leaving them free to act as they please.

I certainly do not want a return to the ‘bad old days’ of unionism, but we definitely need them to be moral in their actions and outrage and powerful enough to scare big business.

Unfortunately their own actions of recent maladministration have made this nigh impossible.

So our senior executives are left to their own devices, or should I say vices, whilst their workers suffer insecurity and are paid wages that have steadily fallen behind inflation.

The gap between the rich and poor is only being enhanced by the absence of good unions and the willingness of our most senior politicians to assist those they were elected to protect.

Instead of giving the wealthy more money via tax breaks (as if they don’t earn enough), why not simply remove the $18,000 tax free threshold for those earning $200,000 or above? Why should the very rich enjoy this tax free threshold that was meant to assist the poor, which now includes our middle class?

And yet it will be the organisations, not the guilty individuals, that pay the multi-million dollar fines sought by our current Royal Commission. Those who assisted terrorists and threw Australians out of their homes and killed the ‘fair go’ continue to make more in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.

It is so absurd I’d burst out laughing, if it were not real.

My great prediction


In a few days time, if it passes into law or not, we will pay GST on any goods we order that come from overseas.

Apparently this will be a big boost to our local retail sector. Unfortunately my prediction is that it will not be anywhere near as big a boost as they are hoping for.

For decades we have all had to pay the Australia Tax. This is the massive differences in price to, say, a notebook for sale in the US and the price the exact same notebook sells for here. You can find even worse examples in everyday painkillers (we pay around $8 for 24 ibuprofen tablets and in the US you pay $10-15 for 500 tablets!

Other examples are DVDs, CDs, books, food…. basically anything.

And when the companies that sell these products at vastly different prices are asked why, the excuse they always offer is the distance to Australia and our smaller market.

So either the suppliers are making a fortune because no-one in Australia has the guts to ask the tough questions or our local retailers are terrible at negotiating.

Maybe a bit of both. Personally I am staggered by the number of people here who will pay nearly double for the latest smartphone or Apple product, as they sell for in the US. Go ahead, check it for yourself.

So, my prediction is that on the 1st of July the people of Australia will have finally had enough of governments introducing new taxes seemingly every week. (A sugar tax? What a laugh. Apparently we can’t be relied on to make our own decision on what we should drink, so of course we need a tax to help us out. To paraphrase The Beatles, they’ll be taxing air next).

We will have had enough, finally, and we will revolt. Personally those items I purchased from overseas – because of this thing that is meant to be free, called the internet – I simply will not buy again.

Why not? Because every time I go to do so online there will be a stark reminder in my shopping cart, GST of 10%. I will get angry and log out.

And I will not buy it locally because unfortunately local retailers, big and small, are lacking when it comes to understanding buying on the internet. Ask them what a Google rating is and they will ask what movie are you referring to. Seriously, key into Mr Google the item you want to buy and stipulate Australia. The first items listed will be Ads for overseas sites, followed by some articles or reviews (from overseas of course) followed by something completely unrelated. Unless you include a store name in your search you will not even get close.

So until the local retailers discover Google search, it will make me so angry trying to find the item I want that I’ll end up not wanting it anymore. Shopping online should be easy and fun, and only a dozen or so Aussie retailers get it.

So, our local retailers will see a much smaller increase in online sales than they hoped for. My prediction is that less than 50% of what was spent overseas up until June 30 this year, will be spent locally in the next financial year.

If I see a news article stating how local retail has boomed I will know it is false, and was probably influenced by government press releases. How do I know this? Because every year, about two weeks before Christmas, every news outlet predicts the biggest spending Christmas ever of $X billion dollars. Then in February or March, on page 27, will be a small article saying the figures are in and it was actually a very disappointing Christmas for retailers. It happens every single year, like clockwork.

I am especially a fan of TV newsreaders proclaiming that in the last weekend before Christmas shoppers went crazy and spent $X billion dollars. Hello? How could you know that? Did you ring every shop in the State and ask them for their sales figures? No? Would the shops even know what their figures were for those two days, and get them to you within just 24 hours so you can run your news item? Somehow I doubt it.

Wet your finger and proudly hold it up high. There, now you have as much chance as getting your prediction right as 80% of our so-called economic ‘experts’.

As Steve Jobs said on many occasions, do not listen to anyone who says they are an ‘expert’ or worse, a ‘guru’, because no-one is, it’s impossible.

So buy big and buy now, the clock is ticking. At least this is one tax you can choose not to pay. And just think of all the money you will save!

Rebel Wilson’s defamation payout from magazine publisher Bauer Media reduced on appeal…???


If our learned judges can disagree so significantly, no wonder our whole world is upside down! Seriously, how can one judge award $4.5m and another, on the same facts, $600,000??

How the hell are we meant to know what is real and what is not when the System itself is full of lies, manipulation, inaccuracy, deceit and completely false reporting which is somehow our fault for shortening the news cycle? I for one certainly do not remember contacting the news media and asking them to broadcast any old crap because I want to read it quickly them get on with my life.

Did I miss a memo??

They also tell us there is no inflation, yet we get far less for the same money than we ever used to. Fewer crisps in packets pumped full of air, packs of four becoming packs of three for the same price, and our taxes such as car registration, ESL, Land Tax, speeding fines (which you cannot convince me is not a tax and a barely legal one at that) all tripling in price, or more.

Our cost of living has risen significantly and yet inflation is somehow measured as being between 1.5 and 2% here in Australia??

But we are wrong, of course, they couldn’t possibly be calculating the inflation rate incorrectly…heaven forbid!

We are being kept in the dark and lied to consistently, and far more often than we were ten years ago. It is all since the GFC and the consequences of which that still affect our economy today.

If we taxed everyone 100% of their salary it would still take many years to pay off our country’s debt. The poor USA has around $2 trillion in debt! I feel a default coming on, and not just in the US of good old A.

All our so-called Leaders and ‘Experts’ can do is disagree violently with each other, making fools of themselves when they don’t think we see right through them. How many of these expert’s predictions have actually come true? So please don’t call them experts in the media before you have asked how accurate they have been!

Any moron can be an Expert, just ask me.

We have been completely rooted by the powers that be, by major banks and other companies who can only see dollar signs and act on greed. And yes we know it is happening, you have not fooled us, as evidenced by the last few elections which have been massive messages of ‘we don’t trust you’ with a very large middle finger extended for emphasis.

And which dickhead made the rule that if you work just one day a fortnight then you are not counted as unemployed?? Give me a break and at least be somewhat realistic and make it 5 or 6 hours a week. One?? Really?? So our unemployment rate, the real rate we feel in real life and not those that live in fantasy land in their lofty offices who make these moronic decisions. Our unemployment is probably 2-3 times higher than reported, and we all know it and yet no one says it because it would be too awful to hear.

Sometimes the truth is the bitterest of all pills to swallow.

Sorry, when I saw this article I just had to vent. It blows me away that a judge can award $4.5 million then another judge hearing the same evidence awards just $600K….???

Unbelievable. That is how I describe our lives today.

No privacy because it’s for our own good, fighting wars because of WMD’s that were never there, the greed and corruption that brought on the GFC and still no one has gone to jail for it.

Dairy farmers going broke but supermarkets saying that it’s not their fault they started a price war of $1 per litre.

Large businesses making record profits and bonuses when our wages have hardly moved in ten years?

Just how stupid do these idiots think we are?

Don’t answer that, please, it will only make me angrier!

Is there too much white collar crime or are we lucky there isn’t more of it?


We live in a society where white collar crime has never been higher, or more well protected.

Just read any book on the GFC or High Frequency Trading. You will quickly learn how so many became so rich at the expense of the hard working lower and middle class. Like you and me.

And no-one has been charged with committing any crime.

In the GFC companies (driven by individuals within them) made junk loans to people they knew were never going to pay them back. They then packaged them up and called them A+ secure, sold them to other investors for huge commissions then bet on those same junk loans defaulting.

And yet we still listen to those corrupt ratings agencies, Standard and Poor and Moodys, and the ratings they put on investments today. Why? Because the corrupr at the top welcomed them back with open arms as being fellow greedy and unlawful money makers, just like them.

They made millions, some billions, and yet no-one was held accountable.

Indeed the senior ezexutives of companies they knew were going to collapse, sold their company for a bargain price but not before they votes themselves huge bonuses. These bonuses were then paid by the US government bailout funds. Tax dollars of individuals put to good use…NOT.

As soon as the GFC was exploding around them the same firms started high frequency trading. I will not attempt to explain it in detail here, because not even some of those who participated do not know how it works. Suffice it to say that the big end of town were making stock trades that made them hundreds of millions while the average investor, often their own clients (people like you and me) lost everything.

Given these are only two situations that we actually know about, there must be many, many more. The current Royal Commission into the finance sector here in Australia has revealed much, but only because the Australian Government was forced kicking and screaming to agree to setup this investigation. They were trying to protect their mates.

Is it a coincidence that our Prime Minister made a fortune as a merchant banker and therefore would have countless contacts, friends, amongst the senior executives now being investigated?

As disgusting as all these examples are, I now believe that the ease that people and businesses can make themselves richer and the poor (us) poorer, we are actually fortunate it doesn’t happen more often.

If you read enough books, and get a pool of money together through friends, family and a few acquaintances you too can rip people off to your benefit.

So as bad as it is, and it is pretty damn bad, I actually believe we are lucky more people do not succumb to this temptation.

Corruption in our society starts at the top with heads of big business and political parties, and as proven many times over the fish rots from the head. So they are setting us all an example that we could easily follow. That example is greed.

Yet approximately only the top 5% do so. It should be more widespread but I do not believe it is. Why? Because the majority of people have ethics and morals that prevent them from acting as decedantly and greedily.

Yes, we live in bad times like never before as the gap between rich and poor grows by the hour.

However I like to believe that it could be a lot, lot worse and will stand with those trying desperately to shine light into dark corners.

Because greed is not hard wired into our system, helping others is.

I just hope there are enough of us to stem the growing tide.

Bonuses – why they should be banned


Awarding bonuses is something I have read much about, taught and experienced firsthand in my career.

They are almost always misused. Instead of encouraging better performance from employees the only thing it encourages it greed, lies and discontent.

Bonuses are usually paid from middle management on up, and therefore breed discontent and envy from everyone below middle management.

Why?

Because the success of a business rests upon every employee performing at their best, not just a select few.

There is now a whole industry that has been built around team building, team bonding and trust, fuelled by bonuses. This is because bonuses are 95% of the time given to individuals, not teams.

This conflict, and disconnect between performance and reward breeds nothing but bitter rivalry.

It also encourages illegal activity, such as we in Australia have seen recently with the Royal Commission into banks. The corruption that bonuses perpetuate has also been evident for a long time and played a significant role in the Global Financial Crisis.

Bonuses are mostly put in place by people who want to motivate their employees, and so they can argue for a bonus system for themselves.

If middle management are given the opportunity to earn a bonus, then surely those above them should be offered one as well! And so it goes, to the very top.

This is where the rot really sets in.

For example; there is a team of five salespeople and it is coming to the end of their reporting year. Three of the salespeople have passed their performance benchmarks but two have not, but they are not far behind.

As the salespeople get a bonus only if their overall targets are met the three salespeople who have already qualified will start to allow the credit for their sales to go to the other two. This way they have a chance of meeting their bonus targets.

It is now just two weeks from the cutoff date to achieve bonuses and one salesperson is still behind. If this remains the case no-one will get a bonus for the past twelve months work.

The senior salesperson has been keeping the Sales Manager aprised of what is going on, because of course the Sales Manager wants his/her bonus as well. They have also been getting more and more phone calls from their Regional Manager who also has a bonus, but theirs relies on the Sales Manager hitting their target.

And so it goes up to the CEO.

So in order to achieve their target, and therefore achieve a bonus for everyone, the leading salesperson goes to the Sales Manager with a proposition. What if they create a fake sale that will meet their target, and everyone elses?

The Sales Manager goes to their Regional Manager and over a coffee proposes the sales person’s idea. Because the bonuses get larger as you go higher up the corporate ladder the Regional Manager will lose far more than the Sales Manager if they just fall short.

So the Regional Manager agrees to let it slip through.

Their Manager might realise it is a fake order when it comes across their deak, but they of course approve it because they want their bonus. After all it is the salesperson and Sales Manager who will take the fall if anything happens.

And so it goes, all the way to the top where the CEO’s bonus could be worth up to a million dollars or more (disgusting but true, just read the financials of the big banks, or any of the top ten companies in Australia).

So everyone gets a bonus that year, everyone is happy…until next year.

This year has been particularly difficult, and it looks like only one salesperson will meet their target. But now they have a ready made solution, and because all levels of management let it go last year, surely they will let it go this year?

So a much larger fraud is committed, but again who is going to complain? If anyone did they would all lose their bonuses.

Although a somewhat simplistic example, this is exactly the way bonuses work. If you set a team bonus the above scenario will occur, and if you set team bonuses (sales team, regional management team, product management team) internal resentment occurs because the top salesperson earns just as much as the salesperson who is lazy and doesn’t care.

You also alienate the people in customer support, who are talking to customers all day, trying to make them happy. Surely the salespeople wouldn’t get their results without the help of customer support? And what about the staff that key in the orders, shouldn’t they receive a bonus for accuracy, because it costs the business a lot of money if they slip up?

Now you have discontent between departments.

Bonuses should be banned altogether. I believe they do nothing but create friction in the workplace and sanction greed.

In my own experience with bonuses I was awarded a trip overseas. I didn’t deserve it on my own because I had a great salesperson and also because one customer placed a huge order that year, the only year they did. What eased my conscience was that my salesperson went as well.

I also was a Regional Manager when our region won a table tennis table. I was told by my immediate boss to take it home and enjoy it. I would have loved to, but I knew it was because of the sales in our Western Australian branch that got us over the line. So I told my boss to send it to the WA office. On my next visit there they were still struck dumb as to why I would do such a thing, and sadly my response of “because it was fair” was considered unsatisfactory.

As I have said, bonuses are like a cancer to a business as they only encourage greed and false reporting. Everyone knows it, which is why my WA team couldn’t believe I had behaved fairly.

If no-one believes bonuses are fair, even if they are rewarded by one, then surely it is game over?

One final thought. If you have to offer someone a bonus to motivate them, are they worth employing?

GST payable on all items purchased overseas – WTF!!


From the 1st of July, courtesy of the Federal Government who has once again bowed to big busines, lobbyists and those who provide large donations (to both political parties) another tax will be forced upon us.

This new tax will apply to all online purchases under $1,000, where the items come from overseas.

This is the result of extensive lobbying from big business (Harvey Norman, Myer, David Jones et al) who claim their declining sales have been caused by these types of purchases.

Basically they are saying it is not fair for an overseas retail business to provide the same goods they sell but at a better price and with better service.

If you believe that, then you are a big business wearing blinkers to stop you from seeing reality. The reality is that in Australia we receive poor customer service and are ripped off by their suppliers pricing models.

Allow me to explain. But first a quote from an Australia Post study published in 2017*;

Online retailers are a blessing for many Australians – especially those living remotely, or in areas with limited access to conventional bricks-and-mortar stores. Increasingly, customers are heading online to find their everyday essentials at better prices, with buyers in remote
regional locations and tourist towns shopping online the most.

So if shopping online to get the best deal is so important to us, why are they going to tax it?

The answer is in the question, as Governments are always looking to increase taxes. Or, in this case, impose a brand new one. It pays for their perks and helps to fill holes in their budget created by overspending on shiny new infrastructure in marginal electorates.

This new tax goes against the findings of the report quoted above and is weak, pathetic and completely unjustified. Do local businesses really believe that an increase of 10-15% on the price we pay for an item overseas is going to somehow force us to buy local instead? Maybe, if they offered free shipping instead of charging $10-25.

I can buy one book a day for a week (or a month!) from the UK and have free shipping on each one. I can also buy almost anything from China with free shipping. And yet Australia Post would charge me around $20 for me to send one book interstate (including packaging).

I would hate to get a quote from Australia Post as to what they would charge me to send just one book back to the UK!

Local businesses need to be better negotiators with Australia Post, or use someone else (Startrack).

And then there is the ‘Australia tax’.

The ‘Australia tax’ is another way of saying suppliers (Apple, Samsung, HP, Sony, LG and many, many more) rip us off because we are “just a small market” so their costs are higher. Since all their products come from the same factory I find this argument hard to swallow. Again, local businesses need to lessons on negotiation.

So overseas companies sell their products to Australian retailers at up to 30% more than their very same goods sell for overseas. Books, DVDs, medicines and computers to name but a few.

On a visit to the US in December of 2015 my family saw bottles of 500 ibuprofen tablets (yes, 500!), possibly the biggest selling painkiller in Australia, on sale for $10 each. Here $10 buys you about 48 tablets, or ten times the price of the same product you can buy in the US! The same whopping price differential can be found on many everyday medications and vitamins.

A pair of Rockport shoes is half the price if ordered from overseas compared to my local shoe store. The exact same product from the same supplier from the same factory.

I think you get the point.

In addition there are some products you cannot buy here at all, so you have to purchase them from overseas. This includes many excellent vitamin supplements and other health care items. Why should we be punished because we have to buy these from overseas?

There are many, many more examples, especially if you do a quick search for technology, clothing and health products. Many of these overseas sites have free shipping (as per the above examples) and arrive within days. This is mainly because they do not use Australian Post, who take longer to deliver everything and charge you three times the amount for the privelidge.

So because Australia Post cannot get its act together (except when paying their CEOs very large bonuses despite losing money, in which case they are extremely efficient) and large businesses cannot negotiate properly they blame overseas purchases for their declining sales.

Actually we buy online simply because we want the best price and the best service, and unfortunately businesses in Australia cannot compete in most cases.

So we will be paying the government a brand new tax of around 15% of the value of the items we now buy online.

Fifteen percent? Yes, because GST will not only apply to the price of the item you purchase online from overseas, but also on any overseas taxes (such as the VAT in the UK, their version of our GST) and shipping. So you will soon be paying up to 15% more for those items you buy online today from Amazon, Book Depository, iHerb, Alibaba and many, many more.

The same Australia Post report quoted above says most of our purchases online are with largely domestic businesses, not overseas ones;

“Despite international access, domestic purchases still make up the majority of online spending in Australia. At the end of 2016, domestic spend represented 79% of the online market, showing a growth rate of 11% compared to 7.3% for international spend.”

So why did businesses here complain so much about it being unfair? Because that is easier than competing or trying to negotiate better pricing from their overseas suppliers.

The report also states that overseas spending accounted for 21% of purchases. The vast majority, 79%, being purchases from Australian online sites, so they can get it right if they want to. The only unknown factor is how many of those overseas online purchases were under $1,000, the target of this new tax. My guess is around 70%, but we will use 50% to be conservative.

Given that Australian households in 2016 spent $21.65 billion (according to Australia Post whom I don not believe as I shall explain shortly) in online purchases, collectively we will be paying an additional $341 million in tax each year.

It gets worse if you believe Roy Morgan Research over Australia Post (I would) as their study states that we spent $37.8 billion online during the 2014-2015 financial year”**. If we use their figures, we will be paying a total of nearly $834 million a year (using the same numbers as above) on this new tax.

No wonder the Government chose to listen to big business over common sense. However doesn’t the Federal Government keep saying they should let market forces decide pricing because competition is a good thing? At least that is what they say about the electricity market.

So not only are we currently paying far more locally for many hundreds, maybe thousands of items because of the Australia tax, we will soon be paying 15% more for those same items.

My suggestion is that local businesses lift their game and then we would gladly buy from them, as many studies show we want to buy Australian. To do this they need to significantly improve their customer service, have far better web pages, make it easier for people to buy online (have you seen the David Jones and Myer websites? Complete rubbish) and improve their Google search score.

Much easier to blame someone else, and it’s free too.

However, within this rant of mine I do concede that some big businesses here are viewed as quite minor in sales by their global suppliers. Therefore they cannot negotiate lower pricing (Samsung, Sony, Apple to name a few). I suggest they make this fact publicly known so we can decide what to buy with all information on the table. A nationwide boycott of certain brands might even get them to lower their prices.

Oh, and also go to war with Australia Post over their rediculous delivery charges.

When an overseas online book retailer in the UK can send me a $12 book with NO delivery fee, and I can buy a product from China that is worth $5 and get it delivered FREE, we are being ripped off by local freight charges.

In summary GET RID OF THIS STUPID TAX! Businesses have to learn to be more competitive, improve their customer service, maximise profits, make sure they can be found by Google and have great websites that look good on a phone. Pull your socks up folks, do some targeted marketing and stop blaming everyone else.

The retail market has always been tough, so learn what works for your business, keep experimenting.

You must keep up with technology and react quickly by constantly making changes to your product or service.

Or we could all just pay hundreds of millions of dollars in a lovely new tax.

* Inside Australian online shopping, Australia Post and Startrack, 2017

** According to Wikipedia there were 9 million households in Australia in 2016

*** The state of Australia’s $37.8b online shopping landscape, Roy Morgan Research, 2nd December 2015