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“No soup for you, EU” the new Business Model?

The recent deadline for serious worldwide enforcement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation prompted hectic activities with many international companies to cook up new (hopefully compliant) privacy policies. Discussion of the subject matter is full of misconceptions, uncertainties, questions, worries, fear of legal consequences, and outrage on both sides of the fence.

What people don’t seem to realize is that GDPR isn’t really all that new, and it is also not the only regulation designed to protect consumers (the little guys) in the European Union from unethical corporations (the big guys) worldwide. Protection of personal data has been the law in various shapes within the EU since 1995. The EU distance selling directive was implemented in 1997. The main goal of both these regulations is to balance the powers – protecting the “weak” from the “powerful”.

But what about international C2C trade? I live in the USA. If I want to sell my handmade products to people who live in the EU, I have to comply with all those EU regulations, on top of any laws in my own country. I have to not only have a GDPR compliant privacy policy, I also have to disclose my full home address and phone number to EU residents, even before they buy anything from me. I have to make sure their purchase arrives within 30 days, I have to allow 14 days for cancellation of the contract, I may have to pay for the return shipping, I have to give two full years of warranty.

Have you ever filled out a customs form? Do you know exactly how much VAT and customs cost would be for the specific country where your customer lives, so you can tell them exactly what their payment will be? Do you know how many copies of the invoice to attach to your package? Are you sure your invoice is formatted correctly? Did you include a return form in the package? Did you inform the consumer of all their rights? Is your product restricted from import into a specific EU country? Is your material (or ingredients) compliant with relevant EU laws?

For my little “self-funding” hobby, the ExxoPok, the problem is of a theoretical nature. So far only three of my buyers where from the EU, and there were no problems. Some of my fellow micro-business owners, however, are “blessed” with more than just a few isolated European transactions – and those people have already stopped doing business with EU residents, or are now seriously considering it.

15:14 Posted in Opinions | Permalink | Comments (0)


Can't even trust "Made in Germany"?

Some companies don’t seem to hesitate when it comes down to maximizing profits. Consumers’ health doesn’t matter. You have to be vigilant, continuously expect to be taken advantage of, even with – or especially with – something as innocent looking as gummy bears.

Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of Haribo gummy bears. While I still lived in Munich, I used to go through a pound of those per week. Then we moved to Fort Wayne, and my initial joy about finding “Haribo Gold Bears” in local grocery stores was immediately stifled when I realized they tasted very different. Reading the ingredients list on the package, I noticed that these Haribo gummys sold in the USA contain artificial colors you shouldn’t eat. Things like yellow #5, red #40, or blue #1, are nothing I would want to consume daily.

DtHaribo-vorne.jpgSo I started to search for sources online. When I learned that Haribo produces gummy bears for the US market in Turkey, where regulations aren’t as strict, and consumers aren’t as “picky”. I thought that simply checking for “made in Germany” would be the safe way to go, if I wanted to keep eating Haribo’s gummy bears. I started ordering my beloved “Goldbären” on eBay and Amazon, paying about $15 for a pound of gummy bears, directly imported from Germany – no artificial colors involved.

USHaribo-vorne.jpgToday, however, I found out that simply looking for “made in Germany” is not sufficient anymore! A colleague brought a bag of Haribo gummy bears into the office to share, claiming that they were the “real thing”, made in Germany. The label did really say “made in Germany” for Haribo USA. But the ingredients where the same as that stuff they make in Turkey. Apparently, if you produce candy for the USA, you can now get away with using harmful chemicals, even if production happens in Germany.

From now on I’ll be extra careful when buying Haribo. Not just “made in Germany”, it has to be imported from Germany, sold in Germany, and without artificial ingredients.

06:53 Posted in Opinions | Permalink | Comments (0)


Hey, Microsoft, stop pestering me, please!

I've been using Microsoft's operating system(s) on various computers since version 3.11 of Windows. Each new version brought some improvements, some new features, some limitations, and some new bugs. I learned to live with all things Windows - after all, this is just an operating system.

I fully understand that Microsoft's developers are really proud of their work, and that they truly believe that Windows (in any version) is the world's best operating system, and that everybody should love it. What I don't understand, though, is why they keep pushing their latest flavor of Windows - number 10 - so aggressively. Or, maybe, I probably do understand - it must be to Microsoft's benefit somehow, or else they wouldn't do it.

I personally own an antique PC tower still fully functional with Windows 98, a laptop running Windows XP, a netbook on Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, a desktop PC operated by Windows 7 Home 64-bit, and a Surface Pro with Windows 8.1 on it. All these machines are mine. I bought them. I run licensed copies of Windows on them. I keep all these machines updated, well maintained, running smoothly, free of malware.

So, please, Microsoft, get off of me! I really don't want to install Windows 10 on any of my devices. If I wanted Windows 10 on anything, I would know where to go and get it. I wouldn't even mind paying for it. You can really stop bugging me now, because it gets old after a while. You might have realized by now, that I found out what to watch for and how to make sure your nagware doesn't accidentally make it onto my hard-drives, hiding behind a long list of "important" updates with inconspicuous KB........-numbers.

By the way, I may eventually buy another PC, laptop, or tablet - and if it came with Windows 10 installed, I wouldn't mind. That would be when I want it, though, not when you want it.Windows-10.jpg

16:47 Posted in Opinions | Permalink | Comments (0)


Make or Buy?

As a software developer I've had to make that decision many times - is it better to simply make what you need, or should you look to buy existing solutions? I personally like the feeling of power that I get from being self-sufficient, so I tend to lean towards "make your own". From the business perspective, though, I agree that re-inventing the wheel is a waste of resources.

If you decide that buying is in your best financial interest, your search for solutions may not render the desired results - which is when you should be prepared to make what solves your problem, and take pride in your own creativity.

That's why I invented the
                                       ExxoPok cell phone holster with belt clip, made in USA

I tried to find a pouch for my new "big" smart-phone that would meet all my requirements:

  • is made out of genuine leather
  • has a belt-clip
  • doesn't come off when I bend over
  • doesn't bruise my thigh when I sit down
  • won't make me look fat
  • fits my Nexus 5X with a shock-proof case on it
  • comes in whatever colour I want
  • isn't made in China

After hours of futile search in stores and online I had to resort to my own inventive talent. A local leather craft store came in handy with materials, tools, and great advice. IMG_20151102_113714.jpg

It took some prototyping, improving my design pattern and manufacturing technique, trying different variations, until the final product was ready to go public. I've made five of those by now, two for myself and three for family.

You can order yours here:
Get Your ExxoPok

07:40 Posted in Opinions | Permalink | Comments (0)



IMG_20151031_182747.jpgBetween 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Halloween lots of people in costumes, mostly younger children with their parents, tour our neighborhood to ask for candy.

They speak the magic formula "trick or treat", and I offer the bowl with candy saying "take one, whatever you like". Their answer is supposed to be "thank you", then we wish each other "Happy Halloween"; after that they walk to the next house. Business as usual.

This time, however, one approximately seven-year-old girl, dressed up as a purple princess, came with a group of kids and replied to my "take one, whatever you like" with a frown and a "what, only one??". I was slightly amused, so I said "well, then what is the trick you are now going to play on me?"

The look of utter confusion on that little face was priceless!


19:37 Posted in Opinions | Permalink | Comments (0)

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