Are there are too many pharmacies in Ireland?

5 May 2015
By Ambrand
ambrand@ambrand.com

Do you remember ‘the year 2000’? In Ireland there were countless mobile phoneshops, they were the craze of the era.

I once bought an Eircell Readytogo SIM card on Patrick Street in Cork, and across the road I could see two other stores!

The sheer number of shops really became a problem for taxi drivers. Customers would ask for a taxi near “the mobile phone shop on Example street” only to find there were three shops.

Well, I contend that the Pharmacy sector is now in the same boat. The Irish Pharmacy Union have issued a statement this week saying “The pharmacy sector is under pressure from falling sales, reduced footfall and increasing business costs, the latest business trends survey published today by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) shows. Over half of pharmacies (54%) report a reduction in sales, with dispensary sales particularly badly hit due to what pharmacists say is the impact of reference pricing and cuts under FEMPI.”

Is the problem over supply? Maybe not as “over a third (39%) of respondents report an increase in business costs, with energy costs, waste charges, rents and wages the areas most impacted.”

Commenting on the findings, IPU Vice-President Daragh Connolly said, “The results from the survey are worrying but not surprising. The pharmacy sector has not benefitted from the increase in economic activity seen in other sectors. It is quite obvious that the impact of reference pricing, in particular, is having a detrimental effect on pharmacies, with many just about ‘holding on’. In common with all small businesses, the cost environment for pharmacies remains a concern. Unless remedial action is taken to address these and other immediate concerns, pharmacies will continue to struggle and jobs will be lost”.

Flying Ryanair? bring you bike

28 April 2015 By Ambrand ambrand@ambrand.com Ryanair has enhanced its sport equipment carriage service and reduced its fees from a €50 flat rate into 5 different categories; bike, large sport, skis, golf bag and small sport, making it even easier for customers to travel with their sporting equipment on Europe’s lowest fares. Ryanair customers can now book the following options: · Bike – €60 each way · Large sport (including but not limited to surfboard, canoe, kayak etc.) – €60 each way · Skis – €40 each way (reduced from €50) · Golf bag – €30 each way (reduced from €50) · Small sport (fishing rod, bowling ball, racquet, hockey stick etc.) – €30 each way (reduced from €50) This is the latest in an on-going series of Ryanair customer experience improvements under the “Always Getting Better” programme, including the launch of the new Ryanair website, a new app with mobile boarding passes, allocated seating, a second carry-on bag allowance and a dedicated family service, Family Extra, as Ryanair continues to offer so much more than just the lowest fares, with further improvements to come in 2015. Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said: “Ryanair is pleased to announce that we have cut our sports equipment check in fees from a €50 flat rate into 5 different categories including bike (€60), large sport (€60), skis (€40), golf bag (€30) and small sport (€30), making it even easier for customers to travel with their sporting equipment on Europe’s lowest fares. This is the latest in an on-going series of Ryanair customer experience improvements under the “Always Getting Better” programme, including the launch of the new Ryanair website, a new app with mobile boarding passes, allocated seating, a second carry-on bag allowance and a dedicated family service, Family Extra, as Ryanair continues to offer so much more than just the lowest fares, with further improvements to come in 2015, including a new website and app, new cabin interiors, new crew uniforms and inflight menus, reduced airport fees, and great new digital features such as ‘hold the fare’, destination content and fare comparison services.”

Get Ready To Usher In Spring With The Grand National

10th March 2014
By Ambrand.com
ambrand@ambrand.com

While the weather remains at least moderately cold throughout most of Ireland and the UK, it’s that time of year when people begin to look forward to the spring and summer seasons. And for those looking for specific events to usher in the warm weather, Liverpool’s famed Grand National horse racing competition is a great one to mark down on the calendar.

Held annually in early April, the Grand National is scheduled for April 5 this year, and will take place, as always, at the Aintree Race Course. Taking place over a distance exceeding four miles and consisting of 30 fences, the Grand National is considered by many to be the most challenging jump race in all of Europe. The fences are larger, the field of competitors is deeper (generally 40 horses run the Grand National), and the distance of the course provides a strenuous test. For all of these reasons, this annual spring race has become one of the most popular in Europe.

Aside from the race itself, however, the Grand National event is wonderful to experience as a sort of signature festival to kick off the spring. The action really kicks off for many spectators on the Friday just before the race, which is traditionally known as Ladies Day. This is when the big hats, bright bows, and generally gaudy fashion commonly associated with horse racing can be seen in all of its stunning variety, and the day typically winds up being a cross between a fashion exposition and a celebratory outdoor festival. With the combination of Ladies Day, race day, and the high-class food and drink venues surrounding Aintree, the whole weekend makes for a wonderful experience.

Naturally, however, not everyone can make it to Aintree every year. But that doesn’t mean the event can’t be enjoyed remotely! Because the race has such widespread popularity, many choose to keep tabs on the horses and the race itself from a distance. At the online sport reference and betting site Betfair, updates on the latest competitor news can keep you in the loop. This includes betting odds and scenarios are available for those who wish to take part. It’s certainly not for everybody, but it’s one way to enjoy the thrill of the Grand National—and the excitement of the pre-race speculation and debate—even if you can’t make it to Aintree.

Then of course when race day actually arrives, you can access the action on the radio or television. According to the Aintree website, BBC Radio 5 will broadcast the Grand National, which will also be available through various Internet and television sources for live viewing. If you can’t make it down to Liverpool, you can still use the Grand National as an excuse to usher in the spring. You could just hold your own race day party and follow all the action from home.

Here’s to hoping the 2014 race is as thrilling as ever!

HorseRace_3

Will the Texaco Art Competition survive?

22nd January 2014
By Ambrand.com
ambrand@ambrand.com

I used always buy petrol in a local Texaco garage, then it closed, and since the other Texaco forecourts in Cork have closed (e.g. Douglas Road, South Douglas Road). Some permanently while others have rebranded (e.g. Bandon, Skehard Road). What is happening to the Brand in the Republic of Ireland? The Texaco website says there are now 15 forecourts in Cork City and County Cork, while Maxol has 20, and the trend is for Maxol to increase.
Well, one thing is sure, in fairness toe Texaco they have sponsored Texaco Children’s Art Competition since 1955! This year it celebrates its 60th anniversary, so it is the the longest running sponsorship in the history of arts sponsoring in Ireland.

The Competition is an established part of the annual educational landscape in which some 30,000 students compete for the top prizes in seven age categories, including one exclusively devoted to special needs students.

The world into which the competition was born was distinctly different from the one in which children live today.

Past winners include: Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, artists Dorothy Cross, and Robert Ballagh, fashion designer Paul Costello, broadcasters Thelma Mansfield (Live at 3) and Terry Prone (PR expert), ICTU General Secretary David Begg…

So whatever the future holds for the Texaco brand in the Republic of Ireland we must acknowledge their kind sponsorship of the Texaco Children’s Art Competition, but how long will it last?

In 2012, the decision was taken to cease sponsorship of the separate Texaco Sportstars Awards. Teaxo said “This decision was not easily taken, particularly when consideration was given to its long 54 years history and its status as Ireland’s longest running commercial sponsorship in Irish sports history.

Across the 54 years since they were first presented in 1958, the Texaco Sportstars Awards stood as a celebration of Irish sporting achievement and a testament to the sense of pride and pleasure which our sporting ambassadors had brought to Ireland through their success in national and international competitions.”

In its 54 year history, the Texaco Sportstars Awards became a ‘who’s who’ of Irish sporting success. Giants of Irish sport who received awards during that period included Ronnie Delaney and Sonia O’Sullivan (Athletics), Johnny Cadwell and Michael Carruth (Boxing), Vincent O’Brien and Aidan O’Brien (Horse Racing), Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke (Golf), D.J. Carey (Hurling), Roy Keane (Soccer), Ken Doherty (Snooker) and many more.

But we should not focus on the possible cancellation of anything in life, we should celebrate how good something was while it existed.

Are Travel agents obsolete

Travel agents are middle men, and just like insurance brokers the advent of the internet meant that customers could communicate directly with airlines (or insurers) directly… why go through a middle man who takes a cut?

But the death of the travel agent industry hasn’t been complete. Yes even your grandparents are now going to RyanAir.com to book their flights to Spain, but when it comes to a complicated trip to South America, or a honeymoon spanning 3 countries the Travel Agent still has something to bring to the table.

For those who lament the loss of the travel agent, we say this: Time keeps moving on.

In the era of horse drawn transport everyone who was involved – “coach builders” – lost their jobs when the motorcar became popular.

In the era of the telegram everyone who was involved lost their jobs to the telephone operator when speech came along.

Simplifications yes, but Time keeps moving on.

and now Journalists – who write for Newspapers – are worried.

Who needs to pay people to write when others are doing so for free?

Well no, this time the change will be bad.

Citizen Journalists – such as us – will write about what we happen to see on the way to work, or out shopping, but will we attend routine Council Meetings? no Will we develop contacts with Politicians? no, but even if we did and we wrote a huge whistleblowing story would anyone care? no…

For the sake of democracy professional Journalism must live on.

What about insurance companies dealing direct with customers?
We wanted to write on that, but insurance is zzz boring!

Buying a new jacket: Berghaus vs North Face

So the time has come to replace your old jacket because it is worn out/too small/unstylish

You head to a hill walking shop/sports shop in [yourtown]…

There are racks and racks of jackets…

You ascertain that one half of the shop is the mens section (usually upstairs, because men are less frequent shoppers)

But there are so many brands and styles where do you begin?

Brands

Friends, our research suggests the following:

  • Regatta is the cheap brand
  • Colombia is above regatta but not many shops stock it.
  • Berghaus is better / Musto seems to be on a par but is only in sailing shops
  • The North Face is Best

Lenght

Now onto style… The shorter a jacket is the more youthful is appears. So a bomber jacket is good, and a knee lenght coat is very “old man”, but you’re buying this for rain coverage right? so find a halfway house. Jackets can be found in many shops but to get lenght you’ll need to go a shop that specialises in hillwalking (i.e. not sailing).

Price

Anything from EUR 65 to EUR 300

[Audio] When things go wrong on live radio in Ireland

8th November 2013
By Ambrand.com
ambrand@ambrand.com

We have some experience in Radio, and we don’t like the way things are going.

Studios are being moved further apart (meaning you can’t see people in other studios),
and paper is being dumped in favour of reading from screens
(which can go very wrong in a powercut when it might emerge the screen/computer isin’t on the UPS, while the desk is)

Something happened on TodayFM, Ireland’s only National Commercial Radio Station, this week when the Newsreaders screen didn’t give them their script, to make matters worse because the Newsreader was in a remote studio of their own the Presenter didn’t know in advance that he was handing over to someone who had no content… It was handled in a smooth manner because the programme in question was a lighthearted morning show with Ian Dempsey, but it could have been much worse

lessons:

1. Keep studios next to each other, with glass, and working talkback
2. Read from paper, not a screen

Listen to this recording from TodayFM 5th November 2013, 7.30am

 

Digiweb Ireland has *hosting* problems, but it’s *telephone arm* is PR savvy

21st October 2013, Monday
By Ambrand.com
ambrand@ambrand.com

Digiweb Ireland have suffered a bit of negative publicity in the past few months because of downtime on their shared hosting platform.

Below is an extract from their service status page

 

Service Status

 

Service Status

Update: 16:20 17/09/2013
Please be advised there was a network connectivity issue between 14.50 and 15.45 this afternoon. Websites and emails would have been intermittently available during this time. We will provide an update on the cause as and when it become available.

Update: 11:00 11/09/2013
We are currently experiencing an issues receiving emails to hosting@digiweb.ie. Please use the email address support@register.ie to submit any queries to us. We are working to resolve this issue and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 09:30 06/09/2013
We are currently experiencing an issues with the web server uweb5.host.ie. This is resulting is websites being unavailable. Our engineers are working to restore this service and will have this resolved shortly.

Update: 10:20 04/09/2013
Joomla sites with subpage URLs similar to http://domain.tld/index.php/subpage/ failing to render correctly post migration on the webserver web7.hosting.digiweb.ie.

Fix
Edit configuration.php file, updating the line

var $live_site = ”;

to

var $live_site = ‘http://domain.tld/’;

e.g. var $live_site = ‘http://www.digiweb.ie/’;

Update: 09:10 26/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue with the web server web2.hosting.digiweb.ie. This is resulting in some sites displaying a default landing page. Our engineers are aware of this and expect to have it resolved shortly.

Update: 12:00 15/08/2013
We are currently experiencing a delay in sending mails. This is being caused a large mail queue. Our engineers are working to resolve this and expect this to be resolved within the next half hour.

Update: 13:50 08/08/2013
Our phone system has been fully restored. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:00 08/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue with our phone system. Our engineers are working to resolve this. You can email support issues to hosting@digiweb.ie and we will respond to requests as quickly as possible.

Update: 10:00 08/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Websites are now loading and functioning correctly.

Update: 10:10 07/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Websites are currently loading in read only mode. The web server will need to be restarted at regular intervals to maintain site availability.
We are currently working on rebuilding the server from a backup on a virtualised platform. This will take approximately 24 hours to complete. Once this is done, full service will be restored.

Update: 09:15 07/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
The server uweb5.host.ie is currently unavailable. Our engineers are performing essential maintenance on this server to restore access as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 18:00 06/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
All sites on the affected web server are currently loading in read only mode. This means no new changes can be made to websites but they will display for clients/customers until the system can be restored to the optimal performance.

Update: 15:45 06/08/2013
The web server uweb5.host.ie is currently undergoing essential maintenance. This process is taking longer than expected to complete and full service should be restored by close of business today.

The delivery time for messages on one of our mail servers has been increased due to a large number of compromised accounts sending spam. This issue has been resolved and our engineers are in the process of deleting these spam messages from our mail scanning system. This has generated a large queue of emails that need to be processed through and as this queue is cleared the time between the sending and delivery times on messages will be returned to a normal service.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:15 06/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
Our engineers are have made some changes to the server to improve performance. To finalise this, the server will need to perform several checks before it can be fully restarted. This process will take approximately 1 hour to complete. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 14:45 02/08/2013
Uweb5 Server Update –
In order to restore performance we have built a new server and are currently restoring all data from backup. The restore process will take approximately 60 hours. We will then sync any new data onto this machine and set it live with the same IP. i.e. no anticipated website or code changes will be required. The degradation in performance was a mix of a persistence brute force attack on wordpress sites coupled with a degradation of disk performance. Our engineers will continue to monitor the situation over the weekend.

Update: 09:45 02/08/2013
We are currently experiencing an ongoing issue on uweb5.host.ie.
Our engineers have isolated the issue and are actively working to mitigate and resolve this issue. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Update: 12:35 31/07/2013
We are currently experiencing an issue on uweb5.host.ie.
This is causing intermittent website loading issues and FTP connection issues. Our engineers are working to resolve this issues and expect to have it resolved shortly.

Update: 17:25 04/07/2013
Our web and mail servers are now responding correctly. However due to the previous issues, there are a large number of requests that need to be processed. This will be cleared shortly and mail and website response times will return to normal.

 

Well, that page doesn’t mention the other downtime the company has had since 17/09/13. It is now 21/10/13 and in the past 30 days there has been more downtime, and sites have been slow to load.

Twitter confirms this:

October 2013

 

Looking at what the status pages deosn acknowledge Digiweb customers were unhappy

September 2013

August 2013


June 2013

The Bishop of Cork tweeted about his digiweb hosting problems!

So today (21/10/13) we are surprised seeing Digiweb trying to get some positive publicity. It’s telephone arm is offering discounts to Old Age Pensioners in Ireland on the back of the loss of a free telephone service for OAPs. The change was introduced in the Irish Government Budget on last tuesday.

Here is Digiweb’s press release from today (21/10/13)

Digiweb, Ireland’s largest independent telecommunications company, is to step in and offer those affected in Cork by the Budget 2014 scrapping of the telephone allowance the €114 per year back in monthly credits.

The measure, which the Government claim will save an estimated €44 million per year, impacts up to 300,000 people nationwide, including pensioners, carers and disabled people.

Digiweb, which operates its own telephone service in areas throughout Cork, has made the decision to offer a monthly credit of €9.50 to people who reside in these areas and who have been affected by the telephone allowance cut.

Declan Campbell, Digiweb MD of Consumer Operations & Services “having listened to the people affected by the Budget, Digiweb have made a decision to immediately offer affected people the €114 that the Budget has taken from them.”

Digiweb’s network covers approximately half a million telephone lines in the country so many people affected will quality for the Digiweb Telephone Allowance Scheme. In this case if people’s lines are covered by the Digiweb network and they transfer their telephone line to the company, Digiweb will provide a monthly discount of €9.50 (inc vat), which adds up to €114 per annum. A quick call to 1800 28 58 28 will allow Digiweb to check if people can avail of the Digiweb Telephone Allowance Scheme.

Declan Campbell from Digiweb, expressed his sympathies with all those who have been affected, “as a telecommunications company we absolutely understand the importance of being able to keep in touch. After last Tuesday’s budget, this is going to be very difficult for many people to do. So we felt this was the right thing to do.”

Digiweb, is a full-service national communications services provider. It provides nationwide broadband and telephony access as well as web hosting services to residential, small business and public sector customers.

AIB scam letter?

I just received a letter purporting to be from my Bank – AIB.

I say “purporting” because it rings a number of alarm bells.

It asks me to post a copy of my Passport/Driver’s licence (sic) to a PO Box address in Co Clare.

In these days of Identity theft this letter has many hallmarks of a scam.

  • Incorrect terminology: Why do they call it “Driver’s Licence” – the correct term in Ireland is “Driving Licence”
  • Dodgy address: Why is the return envelope addressed to a “PO Box”, and not some building that I can confirm belongs to AIB
  • Unusual location: Why is the PO Box in Co Clare, and not Dublin as you would expect?
  • Poor English: I called the number displayed on the letter 1890 40 80 90 and the phone was answered by a person with a foreign accent who did not have good English. They did not say “AIB” when they answered.

aib scam

Ultimately this doesn’t appear to be a scam because the main website of the Bank at www.aib.ie/cja refers to the letter, so unless there were great hackers who combined a paper letter posting exercise with a hacking exercise! this must be legit.

But AIB, please, next time can you use an AIB postal address. I know it’s cheaper to outsource but it rings alarm bells.

 

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