Monday, February 14, 2011

Douse the Lights!

My Dad still says ‘Douse the lights’. I don't know why as I’m fairly certain electric light bulbs were invented when he was a child. Maybe they had lots of power cuts, calling for the frequent use of candles, maybe his parents said it and it stuck. I suppose, if an American heard my Dad say this they could be forgiven for thinking that Great Britain – the birthplace of the industrial revolution- was not very technologically advanced. They certainly seem to have some notion of primitive life ‘over the pond’.
When I recently went to a ‘clothes swap night’ the hostess wanted some ‘clothes pins’. I worked out that she meant pegs and popped home to get some. The ladies gathered around the big bag of lime green and purple pegs I delivered. I thought they were admiring my very trendy and cosmopolitan pegs until I heard one of them whisper to another ‘Well she’s got so many because they don’t have tumble dryers in Britain’. They don't hang washing out here. It seems that in some states it breaks state law to hang your clothes out on a line to dry. People… Yes…clothes… No!
My hubby was actually asked if we have dishwashers in the UK. ‘Yes’ He replied ‘but not many people can afford to pay their wages in the economic downturn’. It goes without saying they believed him!
On the on hand I guess we have to hand it to the Americans – Their incredible commitment to technological advancement is amazing and they lead the way in certain fields (mostly anything connected to pharmaceuticals which is mega money or warfare)  but even that sparks ridicule as I saw on a face book status the other day:
When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300°C.
The Russians used a pencil.

On the other hand I have been struck – no, more like dumbstruck – by the American lack of sophistication. The biggest example of this is the ‘Chip and Pin’ Credit cards. They don't do chip and pin! I love the idea that Americans arrive in London and are refused credit with their Amex cards because they are unsecured by ‘chip and pin’. I love even more the idea of the sorts of responses they might come out with when asked about the absence of a chip and pin:
‘Gee – I haven’t seen Chip in years and I don’t know Pin but I’m sure he’s a great Guy!’

‘We don’t endorse homosexuality in the Land of the Free – if you Brits want to bring Chip and Pin together, may Sodom and Gomorrah escort you to an eternal life of damnation in hell’ (I actually heard that sentiment on a religious channel whilst channel hopping)

‘Hey yeah – Sure I have Chips. Aint got no Pin. Is that a sort of buffalo cheese dip?’

‘Are you hanging chips out with pins? Don’t you Brits have tumble dryers?’

Credit cards here just have the old magnetic data strip. In most stores you just swipe it. They rarely ask to see it. Sometimes you have to put in your postcode (Zip) but given the whole county has the same Zip code it wouldn’t be hard for a thief to guess it. Sometimes you have to sign but never, in all my purchases (and there have been a few) has the cashier checked the signature against my debit card. My Amex doesn't even have a signature strip on it! I have NO idea what secures that! When ‘chip and pin’ was introduced into the UK it saved billions. Fraud dropped from £218.8 million in 2004 to £98.5 million in 2008.
So why wouldn’t the US adopt it? One reason sited is the cost of implementing it but the reduction in criminal activity would pay for the costs. I read a few American websites and the bias was incredible. Wikipedia showed a picture of a micro chip next to a metal pin - I think to show the size of the chip but it seemed a bit literal to me! A website suggested that in Britain ‘the banks get to effectively make up their own rules, and the rule they've chosen is that if your PIN is used, then you must have been negligent about protecting your PIN, therefore you're liable for the fraud’. I may be wrong but the level of protection that seems to be offered if your card gets fraudulently used is very good in the UK. I was amazed at the sophisticated level of protection from my UK bank. My on-line bank account was suspended when I tried to transfer some money. They spotted the log on was in the US and were concerned that it was fraudulent! They obviously ignored my farewell letter and forwarding address!
So why wouldn’t US adopt chip and pin? There are three overwhelming reasons: No.1 – Banks do not offer protection for your cards here – and with chip and pin it would be the opposite of the scare mongering – banks would have to ensure more security because the card should be better protected. They are not prepared to pay for the fraudulant use of cards or for the new systems they would need; No 2 – there is no way Americans will remember a 4 digit number!; No. 3 - No need for pins – They have new fangled machines called tumble dryers here!

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  1. Clothes swap!!!!!?????, I take it that it's not the one's you are wearing at the time?

  2. Gok Won does a clothes swap in his programe. Did he pinch from the idea from America ? They use lots of clothes pegs as well, Here's another old saying... pull the chain when flushing the toilet.

  3. I've done a whole blog on the clothes swap and on toliets! Weird, wonderful and very strange!
    Now a clothes swap for the ones your wearing - Much more interesting! I'm sure they have those sort of parties but not in this neighbourhood - haven't seen any hot tubs...

  4. I asume your not looking in or outside your neighbourhood, re (the clothes I'm wearing) swap shops! :-)

  5. Not my thang! I'll stick to (or in)the clothes I'm wearing!