Archive for July 31st, 2008

GP Waiting Times

Good evening Stuart,

I listened with interest to the caller you had on just after the 10pm news (I think his name was Tom) who said that he usually has to wait one to two weeks just to see a GP here in metropolitan Canberra.

I live in Canberra and I have a doctor who bulk bills at one of the ACT government health centres and I almost never have a problem getting in on the same day. They have a rule that you must ring to make an appointment to see the doctor and I think this helps with the congestion problem, and admittedly the spots do fill up quickly…it's basically a "call by 9am or you'll have to wait until tomorrow" situation, but I find it extraordinary that there are clinics which have accepted that many patients that they can't see anyone for at least a week. I've had three different GPs in the last twenty years and I have never had a problem with being able to make an appointment to see a doctor on that day.

I know that it's a difficult decision to move doctor because your GP gets to know you and your medical history quite well, but I really think that in Tom's case, he should "shop around"…there are a number of doctors in Canberra who are for more expedient than his doctor.

I hope you're well…you're certainly sounding quite sprightly!

Samuel Gordon-Stewart

July 31st, 2008 at 11:00pm

Editorial Echoes: 31 July 2008: Will Starbucks Ever Learn?

I apologise for the delay in getting this online, it was recorded just before midday, but people with too much to do and a body clock which is stuck in a timezone eight hours ahead of the local timezone tend to need to sleep at odd hours.

Starbucks are closing nearly three quarters of their Australian operation, and yet Starbucks management don’t seem to have noticed an underlying problem as Samuel explains.

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You are more than welcome to respond to anything you hear on the show by sending an email to Emails may be read and responded to on a future episode.

The episode can be played in the MP3 player above or by downloading the MP3 file. You can also subscribe to Editorial Echoes. The RSS Feed can be found at and you can subscribe through iTunes by clicking on a link which should be sitting here, but isn’t because Editorial Echoes currently seems to be missing from the iTunes Store and doesn’t want to add itself back in…”I’m working on it” he said as he mumbled incoherently at the iTunes Store.

The script follows.


Welcome to Editorial Echoes for Thursday the 31st of July 2008, I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart.

A couple days ago, Starbucks Coffee decided to close almost three quarters of their stores in Australia. 61 of their 84 stores. Now, it’s no secret that the Starbucks company is in trouble, it’s not all that long ago that they decided to close a whopping 600 stores across the United States, and now another thousand non-store jobs in the US are going as well.

The standard line about the stores which are closing, both in the US and here, is that they are underperforming…got that, underperforming. But how can they be underperforming when the stores to be closed in Australia include Martin Place in Sydney, Queen Street and Collins Street in Melbourne as well as Melbourne Airport? These are places with an extraordinary amount of foot traffic…if a business which sells something popular (in this case a popular beverage) to anybody who walks in and plonks a few dollars on the counter can’t survive in places like the ones I mentioned, then surely it says something about the business itself.

Perhaps Red Symons summed it up in a broadcast on his 774 ABC Melbourne breakfast show when, in an effort to comply with ABC Editorial Policy by not mentioning the Starbucks name, he referred to them as:
[insert: Red Symons: “the coffee that none of us buy cause we’re all appalled by the fact that they have all these ridiculous flavours”]

OK, well there might be more to it than that, but it’s a start. Personally, I’m happy to be rid of Starbucks in Canberra. Their four stores, or “locations” as they would prefer to have us call them, Gungahlin, Brand Depot, Canberra Centre and City Walk, are all going, and not a moment too soon in my view.

The last time I entered a Starbucks was in April 2005 when a person I was meeting insisted on meeting there. The person was late, so I ordered a coffee and a slice of something, either a cake or an apple slice. I have personally made coffee with a teabag in it which tasted better than the coffee I endured there, and the food, well for something which was supposed to be sweet…let’s just say that the people who cook food for them either don’t eat their own cooking, or don’t have tastebuds.

In some places, I could probably have just written it off as a bad experience and let it be, but the prices in this place were extraordinary…you could be forgiven for thinking that a bank were running the place. It’s clear that the prices were a premium rate, but it obviously wasn’t due to the quality of their product, rather it was due to their brand name. It almost defies logic that anybody would repeatedly pay high prices for a product like that, but they did, but obviously in ever-dwindling numbers.

It reminds me slightly of the Yes Prime Minister episode where Sir Humphrey says that nobody in the general public knows how the missile defence system named “Trident” works, all that they know is that it costs fifteen billion pounds and therefore it must be wonderful. Perhaps Starbucks were running on the same premise…our coffee costs an exorbidant amount, therefore it must be wonderful…and perhaps regular customers deluded themselves into thinking that by being a regular customer, people would think of them (the customer that is) as wonderful too.

Clearly, as evidenced by the mass exodus of Starbucks stores, it’s a business model which just doesn’t work. It did for a while, but people aren’t stupid, and you can’t pull the wool over their eyes forever. Perhaps Starbucks have learnt their lesson and will reinvent themselves with a better product at a more reasonable price, or perhaps they still believe that they have a workable business model…unfortunately their website makes me believe that the latter is the case, as their plan to, quote “restructure [their] business in Australia through a geographical refocus on three core cities and surrounding areas” doesn’t sound like a business which has learnt anything to me.

The one thing which I find myself hoping comes out of this is a bunch of good staff finding employment elsewhere. At the very least Starbucks have vowed to pay out the full entitlements of their staff, and I have to say that the staff were the only good thing about my visit to Starbucks. The hospitality industry is always looking for more staff, and it looks like a whole heap of good, friendly, enthusiastic staff have hit the job market.

To them, I wish the best of luck. To the people running the Starbucks company, I do hope that you learn to adapt quickly, because your new direction is just a small version of your old direction, and as they say, only a fool does the same thing twice and expects a different outcome.

I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart and this has been Editorial Echoes. If you would like to respond, please send me an email, Until next time, tada.

4 comments July 31st, 2008 at 07:58pm

The Annual “Human Bites Dog” Story

For some reason there seems to be at least one internationally noticed news story each year about a human biting a dog. Last year it involved a 65 year old man named Pappan in the Quilon district of India (who wants to pronounce the name of the state capital “Thiruvananthapuram”?) who bit a dog after it attacked his duck…this year the story is less bizarre:

An 11-year-old boy is enjoying a flash of fame in Brazil after biting a pitbull that attacked him as he played in his uncle’s back yard, local media reported on Thursday.

Gabriel Almeida, who lives on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais, broke a canine tooth when he bit into the dog’s neck to fend off an attack. Since then, he has been pampered in the studios of several TV stations, where he has been recounting his ordeal.

However unlike last year where the villagers only took over after both the man and dog were exhausted, the boy at the centre of this year’s story was rescued by bystanders. Unfortunately Reuters make it sound like the bystanders rescued him because he reached a four stitches threshold:

He was freed when bystanders pulled the dog off him and needed four stitches in his arm.

I have a rather amusing recording of Clive Robertson talking about last year’s story and another story about a dog eating all of the pies in a pie-eating contest after a “Mr. Williams” left the pies unattended for ten minutes. I had to listen to it again after reading this year’s story.


July 31st, 2008 at 09:24am

When your walls haven’t been soundproofed

And you’re trying to record your first episode of Editorial Echoes for quite some time, you can be guaranteed that all of the neighbourhood animals will start making a racket.

Unfortunately I now have to attend to other matters…hopefully the animals will have settled down in a couple hours.


July 31st, 2008 at 07:15am

Well, that’s a definite “no”

What sort of job do you think they might be advertising:

To be successful for this role, you will possess a likeable, unbiased nature with a “can do” approach to your work and a sincerity and warmth in dealing with and assisting people from all backgrounds and walks of life. You will be adept at minimising controversy and seek harmonious relationships [..]

It almost sounds like a diplomatic posting…but no, it’s an advertisement for an airport parking attendant. If only people working in airport carparks knew that they could be our next ambassador to Nigeria…I’m sure that the Nigerian scammers would be astounded to see all of the friendly replies to their peculiar emails.

That’s not the reason I copied that slab of text though, it was my amusement at the thought of me being “adept at minimising controversy” and having an “unbiased nature”. My referees would probably refuse to be my referees if they were asked for examples of times when I used my controversy minimising skills. Either that, or the potential employer would skip to the next applicant upon hearing the response “He has those? Can’t say that I’d noticed.”


July 31st, 2008 at 04:38am


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