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Archive for the ‘Idiosyncrasy’ Category

Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

I was just listening to the radio. A news presenter had just had a point about economics explained (rather well) by the in-house correspondent. Yet he replied, with an almost audible shrug of his shoulders and a laughing lilt in his voice, by saying: "I don’t understand a thing about finance." 

Now, apologies for deliberately mistitling this blog. But had I headlined it with "finance" instead of "politics", would it still have piqued your interest? That’s the problem! No presenter would ever say that about a politics or crime story, so why is it acceptable even for the supposed bastions of incisive journalism to joke about their own financial illiteracy?

This has happened to me a good number of times in my career. I’ve had interviewers look down the camera, in a way seemingly complicit with the viewer, and say: "I hope you understood that, as I never really got ISAs." Now apart from the professional discourtesy of this – saying that in effect my explanation didn’t make sense – it plays into the hands of the idea that the world of money is some type of ghetto that "normal people" don’t get. What rubbish.

If you don’t get ISAs, then learn! As a news presenter it’s your job to at least understand the basics of consumer finance, business and economics. If you’re not capable of it, perhaps look for a different profession.

In fact, invariably the reason the presenter doesn’t understand is because they haven’t listened – they’ve zoned out, or someone has spoken to them in their ear piece and they cover it with a gag about their lack of money interest. Yet again I ask – would they make the same gag about politics?

It’s time this changed. Perhaps the last great taboo in the UK is to talk about money – let alone show any interest in it. Those of us who do are mocked as "knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing" as if being educated and interested in money matters means you can’t have an emotional IQ as well.

Pah!

PS: I’ve changed a few of the words and facts here to keep it anonymised as my aim in writing this blog isn’t to shame an individual, but rather to expose a common attitude.

An open letter to the energy select committee about comparison sites

An open letter to the energy select committee about comparison sites

This week the energy select committee took evidence from five comparison sites about energy switching, and in plain parlance, they gave them a kicking.

While it made interesting watching on the BBC Parliament channel, I’m slightly concerned that it may unwittingly end up doing more harm than good – as you’ll see explained in my letter below.

Go to an energy provider, and if you’re lucky and you ask about the price, it may switch you to its best tariff. Go to a comparison site and it should tell you about the whole of the market tariffs – yet even those who gemmy at the edges are still better than energy providers. And the best ones are actually a very strong service. I know how many of you have saved via our Cheap Energy Club.

So here’s the letter I’m sending to the chair of the committee.

Tim Yeo MP
Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee
House of Commons
14 Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NB

6 February 2015

Dear Mr Yeo,

After watching the evidence session on energy price comparison websites earlier this week, I am writing to express my concern. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the UK’s biggest consumer help site, MoneySavingExpert.com, which has 14 million users a month and 1.4 million members of its Cheap Energy Club, which incorporates a price comparison service.

I fully support the work of the committee to look at the role of energy price comparison websites and how they operate. The points made by the committee about practices which are against consumers’ interests are valid and valuable. Yet many of the statements by members made blanket remarks about ‘comparison services’ – it is crucial to remember the comparison sites interviewed were specifically selected because they were those whose default setting is not to show all tariffs.

To tar all with the same brush is unfair and risks creating a misleading impression. Our service is transparent…

  • We have always defaulted to a whole of market comparison.
  • We openly and prominently explain when we are paid and when not.
  • We give users links to providers who don’t pay us.
  • We explain the amount we are paid and give £30 of it (dual fuel) to consumers as cashback, meaning they get a better deal than going direct to the energy firms.

The understandably robust adversarial nature of the questioning meant many key points about the sector were missed and I am concerned members may infer the wrong conclusions about what changes are needed, and the potential value of these services as a result.

We would ask that evidence is taken on the positive aspects of comparison services in order to encourage switching – which is much needed – and that it be given equal prominence to the session earlier this week via an oral evidence session. My concern is that by not doing so, we risk disincentivising people from switching and playing into the energy firms’ hands.

Yours sincerely

Martin Lewis
Founder and editor, MoneySavingExpert.com

Just got a box of 48 free Kit Kats

Rather surprisingly a courier just delivered an unsolicited box of 48 four-fingered Kit Kats to the office. It was sent by Frank PR, who does its public relations – it seems my KitKat Crunching Crime blog must’ve come up in their search.

The chocolate has been distributed around the team – though I will be sending three bars to my friend Richard, the Kit Kat criminal.

I must admit normally we’re careful about accepting freebies, but chocolate is well… .er… chocolate. Though I’m now tempted to think about a blog involving a Maserati.

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Fri PM… Update to this Blog:

It’s with regret I have to inform you of a nasty incident:

MSE Guy has been gorging on the Kit Kats sent and has had five in the last two days. Worst still I’ve had reports that on one occassion he actually bit across the four-finger Kit Kat in one go – the thing that caused this whole sorry mess in the first place.

Cleopatra – comin’ atcha

I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend. When a member of the editorial team sends me something to review or tweak, I often say to them “I’ve Cleopatra’d it” – referring to the song by the girl band, ie “it’s coming atcha”

This has been almost semi-conscious and even though I’ve now realised quite how naff it is, it doesn’t seem to bother me and I still keep doing it. I often get looks from the team – somewhere between rolled eyes and sympathy – and it’s made me question whether indeed I am becoming my father.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my dad dearly, but this is the same kind of joke he would make with my 14 year old little sister, who’d roll her eyes just as much.

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Scrabble – an easy way to win.

During one of our regular scrabble games (see past ‘I scored 596 at Scrabble: why does it depress me?’ and ‘Rude words in my new Scrabble dictionary’ scrabble blogs) I used the term “DELINKED” as an eight letter word scoring me around 90 points. The MSF challenged this saying she’d never heard of it.

I explained it was the term for a request after divorce that your finances are no longer linked on your credit file (see Check your Credit File guide) and thus was fine. We didn’t have our big scrabble dictionary with us (we were playing on the mini-scrabble set) to check so the MSF had no choice but to accept it.

Now actually it’s an Americanism, and tends not to be used as a specific term in the UK, though that should still allow it to be acceptable for Scrabble. Either way, to ensure its veracity, and because it’s nicely descriptive, I’ve just written it in my News of The World column on credit scoring, for a week Sunday. After all, if it appears in a National Newspaper it can’t be disputed can it…

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