Monday, September 21, 2015

Le Cygne's pricing strategy for books is horrible

I was chilling in Rose Hill a couple of weeks ago and since I had some time to burn, I decided to go check out some books at Le Cygne. I used to go to Le Cygne a lot several years ago but then completely stopped as they stopped bringing in interesting books and were soon taken over by Bookcourt. They also seem to focus a lot more on school materials these days and since Mauritius is not a country of book readers, it makes sense that they would focus on whatever equates to better profit for them.

However, on this occasion, I actually stumbled upon a book worth buying: The Blair Years. I'm not a big follower of UK politics these days but my thoughts ran like this: Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Gordon Brown (maybe), how could I pass this up? And pass it up I certainly did not!


It took me around 2 minutes to decide to buy the book and that's when I entered The Twilight Zone. The book's price was advertised at Rs 624.99, which initially seemed very strange. But then I concluded that maybe this was a homage to the UK where this pricing structure is the norm and walked over to the till to pay for it, knowing full well I would wait at least one month to actually start reading the book. When I reached the check-out lady and handed the book, she punched in some keys in the register and the price showed Rs 624.99 as written on the book.

And here's where it gets SPOOKY!

I handed her a Rs 1,000 note and was handed back Rs 375 in change. So where did the one cent go? I first thought that they just rounded off the price as giving back 1 cent was as annoying as it sounded. However, the till had shown Rs 624.99 as the exact price. So again, where did the one cent go?

I checked the receipt and this is what was written:
Sub Total: 624.99
VAT: 0.00
Total: 624.99
Received: 1,000.00
Returned: 375.01
The receipt is saying they are actually charging me for Rs 624.99 and returning me Rs 375.01. However, this is not what happened. I was literally robbed of one cent. Sure, it's "only" 1 cent and who the hell cares about 1 cent, right? Think about it this way: let's say they sell 10,000 books a day (highly unlikely in Mauritius) and they do this every single time; calculate how much extra this leads to in one month. It quickly adds up!

The second thing is that this kind of pricing strategy is bound to be frowned on by the Mauritius Revenue Authority. There was no VAT charge on the book but I imagine all the book stores in Mauritius (and Le Cygne is far from a small shop) must submit financial reports every year that includes how much money they made and their profits. Since their receipts are showing one thing and they are doing another thing when it's time to pay, I imagine their reports don't reflect the reality.

Most importantly, what is this madness? Why not just round off the book prices and not open themselves to scrutiny by an obscure blog because of this crap .99 idea? This gets even crazier as when I pointed to the till lady that she did not return my change correctly, she had no idea what I was talking about - which again completely proves that it's a normal thing at Le Cygne to forget about the one-cent. I then proceeded to remind her that the receipt showed she had returned me Rs 375.01 when it was not actually the case, and that's when she bothered to return me the one cent which I of course proceeded to high five in her face because I'm that rad.

Yes, it is only one cent but I am of the belief that customers should never have to pay more than what's on the price tag. I also discovered one more thing: this pricing strategy probably works very well here as most people would not bother asking for their one cent back (I asked around as research for this blog post and only 2 persons said they would have asked for their change back). Again, let's imagine that they are doing this on a large scale as I outlined above and it gets horrible.

Personally, I am never buying from Le Cygne again. This one cent has cost them a customer.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why I blog and why it matters

I was talking to a friend who enjoys reading my reviews (and I'm not even lying!) and he was going on about how I don't run my blog "like everyone else". This surprised me because I was not aware that there was a certain way to run a blog and that everything needs to be done according to a checklist which must have been created

However, after thinking about it for 17 seconds, I realized that it was somewhat true that this blog seemed an on-off effort, which it is definitely not. I personally consider it an "exercise in exercising".

Why does this blog look ordinary?
Because I'm not a graphic design expert and that's not really the purpose of this blog. I've created this for writing practice, to try out some search engine optimization/e-marketing tactics (which is what I do for a living), and for kicks. I have thus not put much time into editing from a graphical point of view, although I did tweak a few things such as:

  • Buying the domain name However, the blog itself is hosted on Blogger, which means my only expense for the blog is the domain name (, another domain I own, also redirects to the homepage). 
  • Removing some default widgets from the layout such as the Browse by Month section which is the dumbest feature in any blog ever. Nobody in his right mind is going to browse a blog's posts by month - that's why categories/labels exist.
  • Opting for a very simple layout as I'm a firm believer in minimalism. I used to rely on third party layouts but now stick to those officially powered by Blogger after the previous one broke and remained broke for ages because I was not updating the blog much.
  • Even for the link to this blog's Facebook page, I very recently removed the custom snippet and decided to use the official Facebook Badge to minimize the potential for errors.
  • Adding an Adsense code - yay, free money!
However, both traffic and monetization are not the core functions of this blog. I do not spend much time marketing it through search engine optimization and other white hat tactics simply because I want to acquire traffic the whitest way ever, ie. let people really search for the blog. My guess is that if they find it and come back later, then that's an acquired reader. As a test, I removed the Facebook page link for several months from the blog (but still update Facebook with new articles) and was still getting new likes. In fact, although there was no cross-linking between the two entities for a very long time, the Facebook page has been steadily increasing. Of course, this is just something I am doing as a hobby - I would not advise anybody running a business to conduct their digital marketing strategy in such a dangerous and limited way.

Why does the blog not focus on Mauritius only?
Although I originally meant to post articles related to Mauritius only, at one point after launching the blog I decided to blog about pretty much anything that inspires me. Not that there's nothing to write about Mauritius, but it's merely a matter of inspiration. Basically, if it does not strike a chord with me, I am not going to bother about it. This also explains why my reviews are either really positive or negative because if a movie ranks in between, there's nothing much to say about it than "Meh". On the other hand, a really bad movie will urge me to rip into it while a really good movie will make me want to share the joy.

When will Liverpool become a big club again?
Okay, this has nothing to do with the blog but hey, it's always fun slamming Liverpool. If you are a Liverpool fan and you watch the Premier League every day to pray that Liverpool regains its past glory, you may be wasting your time. I will write on the topic later - football analysis is another hobby of mine although I do not spend much time watching full matches nowadays simply because the Premier League has become one of the most boring championships ever and Financial Fair Play (FFP) does not actually exist.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Movie review: Ant-Man (2015) - fresh air in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Ant-Man has always been one of the weirdest comic book heroes created by Marvel. Although his super powers are ridiculous in comparison with his peers, which includes hammer-wielding alien gods and superhuman captains, he is still considered a formidable opponent in his own universe. Imagine this: a man can reduce his size to ant-like dimensions while retaining his human strength and even gaining super strength, and he can also communicate with all kinds of insects which serve as his loyal army. In doing so, he can also do various gross things such as riding bugs, straddling red ants and things that would give any kid nightmares, which says a lot about Marvel's marketing strategy.

Dat suit!!

Of course, in today's world, this automatically equates to a big budget - although in this case the budget was a "mere" $130 million compared to its more illustrious comrades such as The Avengers, Iron-Man and Captain America. Funnily enough, this may well turn out to be the best Marvel movie ever released, which goes a long way in proving the fact that it's not how much money you spend to make the film, but how you end up doing it.

Ant-Man's plot is simple or complex depending on who you are and what you expect from the movie.

Here's how it plays: there's a guy who gets to wear a suit that gives him the power to reduce his size in a jiffy and be awesome.

If you are new to the Ant-Man universe, it's a very basic story with no mind-numbing revelations and an easy one to sink into.

If however you are a huge Ant-Man fan (very unlikely in Mauritius), have read all the comics and talk to insects during your free time, you may feel annoyed that the movie actually focuses on the second generation Ant-Man, but even then, the movie does a great job at also including the original Ant-Man (played by Michael Douglas).

The plot may seem weak, but it's actually really solid, faithful to the source material and fun to sink into. In an ever-expanding Marvel colony, it is hard to find a movie that is actually fun to watch and not just about earning as much money as possible while putting cheesy scenes onto another (yes, I'm looking at you Avengers).  There was also much talk about Ant-Man not having a top billing character as the lead as the hero is played by Paul Rudd. Sure, he's a not a world renowned actor but he pulls off a great job. I personally think this actually works out in favour of the movie as more emphasis is thus put onto the action rather than ensuring that the actor comes out shining like bright light in every scene (yes, I'm looking at you Tom Cruise).

However, this is not only the good thing about Ant-Man. The action is great, the editing is perfect - and this is very high praise for a Marvel movie, I kid you not. This is probably Marvel's finest effort in their gigantic cinematic universe, even beyond the first Iron-Man and basically the only movie I enjoyed watching in a cinema in Mauritius this year (my fault: I missed out on the awesome Mad Max). In other words, if you have not watched it, do so as soon as it's out on Bluray, DVD or whatever.

The good: everything!

The bad: it's no longer in theatres. They should just get rid of all the crap that's playing right now, and play Ant-Man again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is out soon

Metal Gear Solid V:The Phantom Pain, one of the most anticipated games of the decade, if not the century, is coming out on September 1. The gaming world is already in a frenzy about the release of the latest instalment of one of the most discussed video games. The fact that Hideo Kojima, the revered creator of the Metal Gear series, has been forced out of Konami and this is their last collaboration is also a factor which has contributed to an even larger buzz around the release of The Phantom Pain.


Reviews of the game have actually already been posted, and all of them have been positive. Of course, this is not very surprising as the Metal Gear franchise is acclaimed for its quality and exceptional plot (albeit with very long cutscenes in the previous title. Many are in fact predicting that the release of the game will cause PlayStation 4 sales to increase as many gamers will want to experience it on the latest console and video game is serious business!

Personally, I'm sticking to the PlayStation 3 version. Call me silly, but I don't see the thrill of buying a console for a single game. But then I've been known to change my mind before, and I'm already giggling like a little girl at the prospect of an open world Metal Gear game.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Movie review: Fantastic Four (2015) - yes folks, it's bad

Comic book adaptations are the rage nowadays. And since they make big money in spite of being fairly crap, studios are releasing numerous movies to create the gigantic Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so that they can make tons of money. They can then use this money to make even worse movies about superheroes being dumb.

Fantastic Four is the latest such movie to be released in theatres in Mauritius. So how does this new Marvel product fare?

Not very Fantastic.

Note: this review contains spoilers.

The good
At around 90 minutes, it's a fairly short movie by today's standards. This is an extremely important positive thing about Fantastic Four as you'll see later on during this review.

The bad
For everybody's convenience and especially mine, I am going to make this into a list. There are so many bad ideas about this new adaptation of Fantastic Four, I'm surprised the studio went ahead with its release.

1. The Fantastic Four team is fairly young - probably to attract young audiences more easily. This may be a great marketing tactic but it changes everything about the story. When the Fantastic Four comic was first released, one of its main strengths was the fact that Reed Richards, the self-proclaimed leader of the team, was a middle-aged man. By turning Reed into a 18-year-old hipster teen, the movie is essentially ignoring the franchise's true fans.

2. The cast is bad. Really, really bad. The same can be said about many Marvel Movies but they at least had great actors who make the experience bearable such as James Spade as Ultron in the last Avengers movie, Robert Downing Jr. in any Avenger movie or Hugh Jackman in anything X-men but Fantastic Four lacks even top billing, which is crazy for a multi-million budget summer flick. Even Ant-man had Paul Rudd who, although not an A-lister, is well-known and has something of a cult following.

3. How hard is it to get Doctor Doom right? I was not a big Fantastic Four comic book reader but even I know that Doctor Doom is widely considered one of the best Marvel villains ever created as he is more of a "good ideas but bad implementation"-type antagonist. He's probably one of the biggest comic book icons ever created. However, the Doctor Doom in this movie does not even have a motive for his actions (ie, the usual destruction of the world) and has no charisma. Also, he's not even called Doctor Doom, but just Doom as he proclaims himself during the movie.

4. The plot of Fantastic Four makes absolutely no sense and has horrifying moments even for a comic book adaptation. Here are some examples:

  • Reed Richards and Ben Grimm (Thing) are hired during a school exposition to build upon their idea of a transporter. I'm sure I would also trail colleges looking for my next employees if I was in charge of critical research costing billions of dollars.
  • Johnny Storm (Human Torch) cannot even build his car to not explode but is forced by his father to join the team because "he can build things".
  • When Reed is reunited with his friends after they get their powers, he never once apologizes to them for the accident and acts as if he's in charge. Even worse, other than Ben, the others do not have anything to say about his arrogance and merely follow his lead.
  • Ben just accepts the changes to his body pretty quickly - there is nothing of the anguish seen in the previous Fantastic Four movie.
  • During the final fight (also known as the only fight), Doom miraculously knows that Sue Storm can turn herself invisible although he's never seen her display these powers.
  • One of the "best" scenes from the trailer, where the Things drop from a plane is not even included in the final cut. Talk about a case of false advertising.
5. There is no character development at all in Fantastic Four. We are supposed to relate to characters we know absolutely nothing about other than the facts that one is a genius (Reed), one gets clobbered by his older brother (Thing), one is adopted and "understands patterns" (Sue), and one can build things (Johnny). At various points throughout the movie, some scenes point to character development at later stages but these never happen (just like the trailer scene mentioned above).

6. The movie tries to adopt a serious tone, probably in response to the criticisms of other Marvel movies but this never truly works. This is due to a number of reasons including the bad pacing, the poor quality of the screenplay, and the lack of character development. In the Marvel universe, the Netflix show Daredevil is the only one that successfully pulled this off and is absolutely incredible. If you hate series and are looking for a more serious comic book movie, look no further that Nolan's critically acclaimed Batman trilogy.

7. The Fantastic Four feels like two movies. The first half is bad but still watchable as long as you don't go in expecting Interstellar-level direction (one of my next reviews - shameless plug). However, once they get their powers, everything feels rushed and the movie degenerates into a mindless cheesy action trailer. It's almost as if another director took over at that point and did not care about the project.

The worse
Apparently, there's going to be a sequel.