To lie or keep in hiding, as for some evil reason.  To move or go in a mean, stealthy manner.

Wednesday December 29, 1999

WebSkulker Newsletter
No more will I skulk all around the world,
for I am fond of skulking you

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WebSkulker gets ripped off in Hong Kong

As you jr. skulkers should know if you have been paying attention, WebSkulker was away for two weeks on a trip to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.  He will be throwing in tidbits about the trip in the following few issues, concentrating of course on phone topics.  If you follow along and pay strict attention to the details, one thing you will learn is how to have cellular phone service wherever you go in the world for a pretty low price, but to get this to work you must read carefully and do exactly what we say.  WebSkulker learned this technique from a friend who has been using it for years.

Step one is to purchase a GSM cellular phone (often called a "hand phone") that is tuned to the international standard frequency band, 900 MHz.  These are not available in the U.S. because the GSM networks in this country are at 1.9 GHz, so you need to buy one from a cellular dealer in another country.  Hong Kong has hundreds of electronics stores selling them, and for some reason WebSkulker was expecting them to cost around $200-300 U.S. dollars.  He went into a store and was amazed that they offered him a Motorola for around $100 U.S., but then started a bait-and-switch by telling him that this one was missing a lot of features and a different model for $150 would be a much better deal.  WebSkulker gave over his credit card and bought that better Motorola model.

After the paperwork was signed, the salesman said that this phone, while full-featured, had a very weak receiver and would not work well indoors, so WebSkulker might want to look at more expensive models.  This seemed weird because all cell phones are supposed to be built to international standards and should all have about the same quality of the radio transmitter and receiver.  The salesman said that some phones have a 2 watt receiver and some have a 6 watt receiver, and you need the more powerful wattage in the receiver to handle indoors calls.  This made no sense because it is transmitters, not receivers, that are measured in watts, and all handheld cell phones are the same power and are all well under one watt.  The salesman insisted that international phones have different qualities that are measured in watts.  To prove his point, he had WebSkulker make several calls from outside the store and look at the signal strength meter, then keep talking and looking at the meter while walking into the store.  Sure enough, the calls would drop when the phone was a few feet inside.  The signal strength dropped suddenly at a particular point in the store.

Then the salesman had WebSkulker try the same experiment with a Philips brand phone, and that one worked perfectly all the way to the back of the store.  He said that the Philips phone was also a dual-band phone that would work on the 1.8 GHz band that is used in some countries instead of the 900 Mhz.  (Note that this is not the U.S. frequency; to get a phone that will work in the U.S. as well as overseas requires a three-band phone, which are available at a higher price.)  He talked WebSkulker into paying about $70 U.S. more for the Philips phone, which didn't seem like too bad a deal since it clearly worked better and was supposed to have the second band.  The instruction manual was in Spanish which was strange, but the salesman explained that they get good deals on phones by getting them from other countries.

When WebSkulker left the store, he noticed that there was nothing on the phone or the box that said "dual band", yet looking in the windows of other stores the phones would usually say "dual band" or other labeling to indicate this.  He walked into other stores and asked whether this was a dual-band phone and was told no, it was single band.  He then went back to the original salesman who said that the other dealers were wrong, this was a dual-band phone, and it didn't say so because dual-band phones were quite standard nowadays, so standard that there was no reason to say it.  WebSkulker was traveling with a friend and while one salesman was talking to WebSkulker about this, another salesman tried to sell his friend a phone.

WebSkulker pointed out how silly it was to try to sell his friend a phone when they had just lied to him about the phone he bought.  The salesman proved he wasn't a liar by pulling out an ad in Chinese with a picture of a man with a long nose like Pinocchio.  If he was lying, the salesman said, his nose would be long like that.  Since it was normal size, he must be telling the truth and the phone was dual-band.  WebSkulker and his friend left in frustration.

This was all in the evening.  The next morning, they went back to the store on a different shift with different employees.  He showed a salesman the phone and asked if it was single or dual band.  The salesman said single.  WebSkulker asked how much he would charge for that same phone and the salesman said about $100 U.S.  WebSkulker then pulled out the receipt and pointed out that the night shift in the same store said it was dual band and charged over twice as much.  The salesman asked if the phone came with a battery and charger, which of course it had.  The salesman then said that the price was reasonable because the $100 he quoted was for the phone alone and the battery and charger would have been extra.  This was nonsense because even in Hong Kong, the battery and charger are always included.  WebSkulker and his friend again left in frustration.

He and his friend then found a store that specialized in Philips products.  It had a real dual-band phone with a model name that matched exactly the model on the receipt for WebSkulker's phone.  This phone looked a fair amount different and clearly said "dual band" on it.  WebSkulker used his camcorder to take a picture of this phone which could be played back on the camcorder's screen.  He and his friend then found a policeman and asked for help with a store that had ripped him off.  The policeman asked for details, didn't really understand because he didn't speak English very well, radioed something in Chinese on his walkie talkie, then accompanied them to the store.  Shortly four more policemen walked in and positioned themselves around the store.

One who spoke English pretty well asked what the problem was.  WebSkulker explained and showed him his phone and the picture of the dual-band phone which was clearly different.  The policeman asked someone who seemed to be the store manager his side of the story.  He readily admitted that WebSkulker was given the wrong phone, but claimed that Philips phones aren't that common so the night shift salesman must have made an honest mistake in the model.  He agreed to exchange it for a Philips that looked exactly like the picture, but it would take a few minutes to get one from another store.  WebSkulker was satisfied by this and the policemen left.  While WebSkulker waited for the phone to arrive, a salesman tried to talk him into buying a Siemens model for even more money!  No thank you.  The Philips finally arrived and worked fine.  It even had a manual in English!

Skulking the GSM network

GSM phones are the standard in most countries of the world, but aren't that common in the U.S.  They are the ones that are advertised as using a "smart card", properly called a SIM card, that plugs into the phone.  Learn all about the GSM standard and worldwide networks from this site.

Skulking from on high

Since we are on a world-wide theme, take a look at this site run by Microsoft.  It contains a searchable database of satellite images of much of the U.S. and some locations in other countries.

Be careful skulking vending machines

This was submitted by Jr. Skulker Sidney Bernay.  "BitMagic is a new and playful form of entertainment that pokes fun at net culture, current events, and life in general. A specially designed, easy-to-use player enables you to experience animated cartoons, reviews, weekly games, competitions, an optional screensaver, and tons of other entertaining stuff. BitMagic arrives on your desktop automatically when you go online."

Check out these three previews:

What happens if you cheat a vending machine by attaching a string to your coin:

A clown's look at clichés:

How Michael Jackson became white, why he wears one glove, and how he invented the moonwalk:

This made WebSkulker laugh

Submitted by Jr. Skulker Georgie Peorgie

The Politically-Correct Holiday Greeting

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

And a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2000, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures, and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee. 

(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:  this greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)


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