Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sketch Muscat - Charity fundraiser for Syrian kids

Sue Pownall is having her 4th annual charity event this weekend, and this time it is to help raise funds for the children in Syria Unicef appeal which is currently going on.

Basically turn up with your own paper and pencil, or crayons or whatever you like to draw with, and then draw a sketch of something you like anytime between 10am and 5pm this coming Saturday at the MuscArt studio which is on the 3rd floor of the Ghubra Plaza on 18th November St in Ghubra, close to the Porche dearlership.

If all of that sounds a bit daunting for you, but you like the idea of donating towards Unicef's children of Syria appeal, Sue's setup a donation portal that you can donate through, its here:

Theres a facebook event page here with more information too.

Have a good weekend.

le fin.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A tale of woe about Al Ahlia Insurance

This is a tale of woe about Al Ahlia Insurance Company SAOC

I have been a customer of theirs (I'm assuming they were RSA before) since 2009 for until quite recently 2 vehicles, but still 1 vehicle. In all of this time, I've never been at fault in an accident - but have had to fill out paperwork 2 times (people like to drive into my back bumper it seems).

I feel that after being a customer for so long, I'd like to share some observations about their business and perhaps offer a few suggestions to them to make their customers feel a little less like annoying little ants, which is what I perceive their opinion of me, a paying customer, is.

My dissatisfaction stems from a few different areas, it's kind of hard to put my finger on the single issue that really irritates me.

Is it the "lets charge this guy RO 600 to insure his car, but only RO 380 after a friend calls his brother/cousin/pal from the village" price differences? Setting market rates for insurance and offering discounts is all well and good, but from where I'm sitting, if I didn't happen to mention to a colleague (lets call him) Abdullah that I was going to do my car insurance one morning, I'd have been stung the rate I was quoted at, RO 220 more than what the very same person who quoted me the day before finally accepted for exactly the same coverage.

Anyway, I felt like I got a good deal after that "negotiation". Whether that kind of price differential is ethical, I've no idea, I just think it isn't... but perhaps good for them for preying on suckers capitalizing on their market share.

Then, of course, the real test of an insurance company, because until you have an accident, it's just a price you have to pay so you can drive legally here. Back in 2012, whilst driving along wizarat road to Ghubra, some grade A idiot decided to do an illegal U turn right in front of me - too lazy to go up to a safe turning lane. Seeing as I drive this road at least once a day, and quite often many more times than that, I was kind of expecting this idiot to do previously described turn and so had already taken my foot from the accelerator and placed on the brake. You kind of develop a sixth sense about such idiots. They're usually driving Lexus' or BMW's. It like speedbumps, drivers of brand new Toyota Landcruisers will slow down to 1 KM/h, even though they are in a RO 30,000 + vehicle designed for much more challenging terrain. I digress. But really, the bloody speedbump-scared SUV drivers, ugh!

Idiot driver does his turn, I brake, and the driver behind me drives into the back of me. Stopping distances are something people who drive in this country really need to observe. Anyway, it turns out the driver who drove into the back of me was a really nice man and was very apologetic - he accepted full responsibility and it turned out he was also a sucker customer of Al Ahlia.

Now, it's great that they have an Al Khuwair office. Except, that it's merely a office for extracting cash from suckers customers - should you actually need to utilize your insurance, guess what?! You gotta go to Hell Ruwi. Where there is nowhere to park (assuming you have a car that works - seeing as you have to go to make a claim). This is where I'd like to make my first recommendation - why not retask their suckers' cash extraction sites sales centres and also allow them to also process claims? Everyone would be happier. Alternatively, offer a premium service (say, an extra RO 25 a year) to have someone come to ME and deal with my claim. Oh, and it'd be GREAT if they accepted credit cards (cash only as of the last time I went to renew). Didn't they hear? It's 2014, not 1978. People use credit cards for large expenditures these days.

So, after visiting the Ruwi claim office and being told that I needed to print out pictures of the damage caused to my vehicle in order to process my claim, and doing so, and once again braving the 7th circle of Hell to file this paperwork, I'm issued with a gate pass to take my car to a repair centre. When I asked where it was, I was told it was in Ghala. Great. Have you been to Ghala? It's a bit like me saying - rightyho - you need to go to the mosque in al Khuwair (of which I'm fairly sure there are about a million). After some googling and a few phone calls, I found said repair centre and made an appointment to visit them to get my car fixed.

From dropping the car off, to collecting it back again, that took 3 weeks. For 3 weeks I did not have my car, even though I'd paid my car insurance premium and I was not at fault in the accident. Which was a simple botty-slap bumper repair job. I'm sure it took them no less than a day to actually fix it. I should point out that at the time of this debacle, my daughter was born too, and not having my car, was a real pain in the ass. Why is it not law that insurance companies have to provide rental vehicles whilst customers vehicles are being repaired? It'd put the emphasis on the insurance companies to make sure the repair shops work efficiently. The current system is ridiculous and takes advantage of suckers customers - they got our money, they should earn it.

This is an example of a botty slap

Right, now lets flash forward to February 2014. This time I was stopped at a red light, in traffic, in a left turning lane. The through-flow light goes green but the left turn stays red, like it always does at that particular junction. Bang. This time it was an HSE manager for a well known construction company who had mistaken the through-flow green as also a green for the left turn. Another botty slap. Oh joy, more tedious trips to Ruwi. As it turns out, the HSE Manager was very nice (well as nice as you can be after having rear-ended someone), and had their company PRO do all the running around for us, and a few days later I get another gate pass with another mystery repair shop in Ghala on it.

Again I had to google as there was not a map nor a phone number and the name was scrawled so badly I couldn't clearly make it out. It was Al Haditha repair shop in Ghala. I went to see them in the last week of February with my gate pass and my vehicle, after calling them and them advising me to come right away so they can inspect the damage. The people took a photo of the damage and then told me that they'll call me "within 3 days".

I called them every week, and finally on April 9th I got the nod to drop the car off, and yesterday, April 13th, I got the car back. That, to me, is simply unacceptable (having the car for the weekend to do the work, I can live with, waiting a month and a half to get the car fixed - I am not happy about).

Should I use a different insurance company from now on? Are they all as bad as each other? What is the reason for using such slow repair shops? Have you ever had an unfortunate experience of having to deal with an insurance company here in Oman?

Well, rant over.

le fin.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winners of Aly & Fila, and also winners of the Grand Hyatt compeition

Hi everyone, hope you all had a nice weekend. It's a double prize day today as both the Aly & Fila competition announced a few weeks ago has the winner announced and the recent Grand Hyatt social media competition that many local bloggers were a part of is announced too.

First - Trance music DJ's Aly & Fila (you may have heard their Future Sounds trance show on Hi FM in years past on the weekend) are playing a gig here next month on Thursday 24th April at the InterCon gardens. Amusingly the event is being advertised by Merge on the radio today ;)

The party starts at 7pm and there is a facebook event page with more information if you're keen. Tickets come in 2 flavours, regular at RO 15 and VIP at RO 25 - and they are available for purchase from Tuesday 25th March (next week) at Dunkin Donuts - MQ, MGM, QCC, MCC, Shatti Cinema or the hosts, Roar Entertainment Office - 2nd Floor, Suite 214, Hatat House 'A' Wing.

However - Congratulations to "Rocky" - you won the tickets - check your email for information on how to claim them.

Next up, the Grand Hyatt Muscat's Truly Thai social media competition. This was certainly a new twist on social media engagement for me as the nice people at the Hyatt offered 3 overnight stays with breakfast to 3 separate winners who correctly answered a question on one of the partner blogs (FatSu, Oman Collective Intelligence, Aish Elaqtta, Andy in Oman and The Duncan Adventures)

The winners, as tweeted earlier by @GrandHyattMct are:

Congratulations to you if you won, commiserations if you didn't - there's always next time!

le fin.