Wednesday 4 November 2009

Myth Musings: Mobiles and Mistresses

Wonderful superficial reporting as usual from the SCMP (subscription required) as it claims that it is only a myth that HK cabbies with multiple mobile phones have mistresses.

Is this believable? Or credible?
Are readers to take at face value what the reporters write? Are reporters to take at face value what sources tell them? The reporters quote one taxi driver called “Ricky” who alleges that he does not have a mistress. The driver says all his mobile phones are to help him increase “illegal” business opportunities. And “Ricky the driver” represents all HK cabbies, right?

Wrong. Some cabbies do this kind of fare-discounting business; some don’t. Some cabbies smoke; some won’t. Some cabbies are faithful; some aren’t. A single taxi driver does not tell us anything useful.

Also, is there a point to the news story?

Old mobiles find higher calling in cabs
Kobi Chan and Ng Kang-chung
Nov 01, 2009

People in Hong Kong may exchange their mobile phones as quickly as the seasons change.

But but while more than 50 per cent of people in a survey said they got a new phone every year, taxi drivers tend to follow the more traditional "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage.

"Ricky" has six phones across his dashboard.

And contrary to popular myth, the phones are not for communicating with his mistress across the border, but for business.

Ricky said the multiple phones acted like a customer hotline, meaning he did not miss any business, and ensuring communication with other drivers.

Each phone number helps connect him to a network of about 80 cab drivers, who offer substantial discounts and undercut the competition - not necessarily legal, but certainly lucrative.

The driver, who carries about 20 passengers a day, said he could transfer calls to other drivers to pick up a passenger if he was busy.

"Mobile phones are vital to me. They can help me to get more passengers and also earn much money," he said.

"Because I only use mobile phones for practical purposes, I seldom change them. An old-fashioned model is perfectly acceptable, so long as I can make and receive calls, I'm happy."

Other consumers, however, are keener to cast off last year's model. Jack Cheung, who sells second-hand mobiles in Causeway Bay, said he had received six new phones that hit the market only six months ago.

"Some mobile phones are given up because the owners don't like how they function. Customers have different demands. Some want a basic one that just dials in and out. Some demand a radio, songs and a camera."

Michelle Au Wing-tsz, Friends of the Earth senior environment officer, says one reason there is such a high turnover is that manufacturers make repairs so expensive that people will buy a new one rather than get a phone fixed.

A man recently complained to the green group that a company had asked for HK$2,100 to repair his phone. Yet when the group took it to a small phone repair shop in Mong Kok, it cost just HK$250.

The group surveyed 1,000 people and 65 per cent said they got rid of their phones less than a year after buying them, mainly because they were damaged, albeit slightly.

"Companies also market phones as fashion accessories so you have to swap them often to keep up with the latest trend," Au said.

Friends of the Earth says the short lifespan of phones is an environmental problem, creating a growing waste crisis. But the Environmental Protection Department disagrees, saying there is no danger of mobiles becoming a major source of electronics waste. A spokesman said the phones were valuable in the second-hand market and were not filling the city's landfills.

A spokeswoman for LG Hong Kong said it did not recommend users take their phones to unauthorised dealers for repair. "The parts we use are all up to standard and are properly manufactured with good quality control." She denied the company's strategy was to encourage consumers to buy new phones by imposing a high repair fee.

Nokia Hong Kong would not comment on the issue.

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