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Bubble tea plastic waste from bad to worse!

Bubble tea is making a come back. So many bubble tea shops popping up even in a sleeping town like Ipoh. I suppose the nation do like milk tea, whether it is the traditional teh tarik or the trendy milk tea with various new ingredients added to it.

But one thing I notice that is getting from bad to worse is the plastic used for bubble tea. I have enquired with a bubble milk tea supplier before about serving the drink in our shop. I wasn’t already very impressed with the use plastic cups, and the sealed plastic lid, for the drink at the time. That was a couple of years ago. The supplier told us that it is actually very energy efficient using this type of plastic cups, which is made of Polypropylene (PP), also known as PP cups. It does not take much oil or hydrocarbon to make one as it is targeted for single use anyway, not for recycling. Energy efficient in the sense that you don’t need to wash, since it is single use, unlike mugs or cups which requires energy from labour workers to wash them after use. These are the cups still being used by bubble tea chains like Chatime and Tealive. The cups are a bit soft or flimsy to hold on to, especially when the cup is full, but not a problem, people have been drinking from this kind of cups with no issue.

PP plastic cup
PP plastic cup with plastic lid and straw.

Here comes the latest trend, bubble tea is becoming more upmarket. So not only that new ingredients are introduced to the drink itself, with thick brown sugar, cheese, and what not. The drink needs to look the part too! People like to take photos of bubble tea they drink and post them on social media! So the drinks are now placed in a firmer, sturdier type of plastic, called PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic, because people like to seen holding a more elegant cup of drink.

PET plastic cup
PET plastic cup.

People can recycle this kind of plastic cups. But let’s be honest, that’s not what these customers of bubble tea do. They will just chuck the cups away as soon as they finish the drinks. So we have this drive by franchises like McDonald’s and Starbucks, and government initiatives, to discourage and/or to ban use of straws. Then we have this bunch of opportunists driving the latest craze with yet more plastic waste. I am aware that not all such trendy bubble milk tea chain or shops use PET plastic cups. But consumers need to be more aware of this plastic issues. I would suggest them to bring their own cup! For example Starbucks give discount to customers who bring their own mugs. Don’t see why these bubble tea shops can’t offer an equivalent initiative!

http://www.starbucks.com.my/responsibility/environment/recycling

Park@Perak how-to

Park@Perak is a e-parking coupon app developed to make it easier for Perakians to pay for their parking fare when they park their vehicles in designated space for parking. Before this, we need to buy books of parking coupons and keep them in the car so that we can use the coupon when we need it.

Okay, how is the Park@Perak app any good for us?

1. We don’t need to look for a shop that sells parking coupons when we run out of parking coupons.

2. The app will notify us 5 minutes (sometimes 15 minutes?) before the time is up for the e-parking coupon. Then we can purchase more e-parking coupon to top up our parking time without having to rush to our car to scratch more parking coupon(s).

3. No need to use any more paper parking coupons. Hence more environmentally friendly. And no need to throw used parking coupons away which can accumulate in our cars

4. In the event that a traffic warden mistakenly gave us a parking ticket, we have records of our parking coupons in our app to challenge the decision.

All good. The only downside as far as I can see is I seem to be paying more than I normally would when using the app. You see, sometimes I leave used parking coupons on the dashboard to try to get away from using any parking coupons, especially when I ran out of parking coupons, or when I just needed to make a short trip to the shops from my car. I guess I can still try my luck sometimes, but so far I very religiously use my parking credit after I’ve parked my car. Perhaps it’s fun to use the app, for now lol

The following is a simple how-to for the app. There is a manual in Bahasa Malaysia from the official app website. But I’ll briefly run it through here in English anyway:

  1. Registering when you use the app for the first time.

You’ll need to fill in personal details like name, IC number, telephone number, email address and password.

  • 2. Login to the app using the IC number and password that you have just provided in the previous step.
  • 3. Load credit to the app before you can pay for the e-parking coupon. You will need to have an online bank account, which you have access to, and put in at least RM10. The way to access your bank account is via FPX.
  • Do follow all the on-screen steps, and don’t abruptly exit any of the step to avoid money being taken away from your account but is not loaded to the app yet. This happened to me once when I clicked on “Done” at the bottom of my screen.
  • I was brought straight back to the app and the app didn’t like it as it interrupted the flow of the process. So money was taken from my account but it did not appear in my app. I had to complain using “Bantuan” available in the app.
  • 4. Add your car number plate for the first time.

  • The car number plate will be saved in the app so you just need to choose which car you want to purchase e-parking coupon for (you can have multiple car number plates saved in your app).
  • 5. Using the credit for parking.
  • You will need to choose the municipal you are in (the rate is unified across all municipals in Perak to be RM.30 for half an hour parking), the car and duration you want to pay for. Note that for half hour parking you need to choose 0 hour first because by default the app shows one hour duration to pay for. If your time is about to run out, don’t separately pay for another parking coupon using the steps above. Click on “Tambah masa” (see picture on the right above) instead. If not there will be overlap in time between your previous parking coupon and the one you just paid, thus losing out some parking time lol
  • Okay I think that’s about it about the app for now. Do chip in if you have any other useful advice.
  • Raising money for medical operation

    This is an interesting topic. At least I find it worth discussing. Friend’s daughter need money for an operation overseas. A sizeable amount of money is needed, as it is an organ transplant operation, which the government hospital in Malaysia hasn’t got a lot of experience doing, hence the overseas option instead. And the operation is slightly more difficult than the a more routine operation involving organ donor’s from the exact same blood group.

    Anyway the point is although the money required is quite significant, it is however in my view not beyond the reach of the family, or at least if their extended families are included. Instead they have approached a charity organisation and plea for donations to fund the operation. I guess the operation itself is a lot of money. On top of that the family needs to support themselves on other expenses going overseas, together, for the operation. The lost income from the parents together with day to day expenses whilst overseas is a double whammy and can easily cripple the finance of even a middle class family.

    It’s a tough call, still. I probably would have tried to raise the money myself, by borrowing money from families and friends first, then maybe even from banks, before moving on to ask for donations. You see, asking for donations, on one hand can potentially help raise the target amount quite quickly. But on the other, it seems like an easy way out. I mean if generosity of people is so easy to come by, then there will be no business case for a medical insurance company. Every time when one needs money for medical purpose, people then respond positively to a donation drive. It is an ideal solution. But somehow I don’t feel comfortable about taking money from others if I feel that I have not exhausted my options. I don’t suppose I want to see my friend be burdened by a back breaking kind of debt, and be unduly stressed financially, on top of the worries that come with his daughter’s operation. But I guess I am one of those who are not very good at receiving (well not that I am very good at giving either). Hmm…

    Rubbish Maybank cash depositing machines

    Frustration! I have been checking my Maybank account for the past few days, because I have had a cheque deposited to my bank account, and I need the money. Banked in on Thursday, before 4pm. Everywhere on Maybank website it states the cheque will be cleared by the next business day if the cheque is deposited before 4pm. I was expecting money to appear on Friday, night. But nope. Perhaps my was deposited too close to 4pm. And their clock was rubbish. Gave them benefit of a doubt. But Thaipusam on Monday. So latest by Tuesday, surely. Nope, perhaps it really does bloody take 3 working days!

    Okay it is Wednesday today. Called them up. So there was no cheque floating in my account, at all. BTW this does not appear on their Maybank mobile app. Only desktop’s version of Maybank2u will it show. The customer service rep told me to call the local branch instead. Telling me that most likely the cheque was rejected. Okay called up my local branch. They didn’t know why too, and the cheque was physically not at the branch, because all cheques deposited into an ATM are sent to KL for processing. When a cheque is rejected, it will get sent back to the branch. So my cheque was caught out between KL and Ipoh and excitingly nobody knows why! I called up the main customer helpline, again, to ask for a number where I could find out the status of my cheque, in this case the KL cheque processing department. Called the number (03-20747956) nobody answered. Called the main helpline again, and was given three more numbers – 03-20748042, 03-20747338 and 03-20747068. Bloody hell, all four numbers, including the one was given earlier, no answer whatsoever. Maybank seriously screwed up here, even their people don’t know their numbers don’t work anyway.

    Okay the branch called back, I was told the cheque was back at the branch. The reason the cheque was rejected because my account number was not written on the back of the cheque. So they did not know which account to bank the cheque into. Alright, before you shoot me for silly mistake like this, I have never written any bank account number on cheques when I deposit cheque at Public Bank ATMs. I thought the reason we are required to key in a bank account number at the ATM machine is so the ATM will make a note of which account to bank the cheque in to. This is what the Public Bank ATM does. But not Maybank’s. In fact keying in a bank account number when you deposit a cheque at Maybank ATMs is just to syiok sendiri. It is just for your own record. Maybank don’t care if you key in a wrong account number. Because they don’t use information that you key in anyway. They might as well let customers drop their cheques into a box like ATM machines, like RHB bank, that do not require customers to do this redundant step of keying in an account number. I am shocked, seriously, at how poorly designed Maybank’s cheque depositing machines are. And criminally the poor design misled customers like me into thinking that cheques can be deposited the same way as depositing cheques at Public Bank’s ATMs. Do you think Maybank know how poor their cheques processing service is when compared to other banks (Public Bank and RHB Bank are already mentioned above)?

    Another rubbish year

    This year is going to be a lousy year yet again. The only consolation I found today is, based on the business to date this year, it is no worse than last year’s! I find this really incredible, because I thought I have not seen a worse January. Guess my memory is certainly not getting any better. Nobody I talked to seem to be particularly upbeat about the prospect of this year. Those who get to keep their job should be grateful. Those in business, it is going to be a tough year ahead. Will either have to tough it out, outmuscle competitors, or pack up the business. The upcoming Chinese New Year might be a gloomy one this year..

    Rubbish Public Bank Telephone Helpline

    Public Bank, though very good with their customer service and support at their branches, is absolutely rubbish at telephone helpline. Googled a free phone number for their customer service 1800 22 5555, but no one answers the phone. Phoned another number, a national number, 03-21795000, it is just an automated answering machine that you can only check for bank account information. Tried another number, 03-21799999, a PBe customer support helpline, just to try my luck on my query about QR code for business. Nope the lad thought I should phone up the “customer service”, 03-21766000. Alright, fair enough. But no one bloody answers the phone again. What’s wrong with Public Bank??!

    Le Petite Mary Patisserie

    Petit Mary Patisserie is a rather well known cafe in Ipoh Garden that serves freshly made bread and pastries, together with other western food which I don’t believe have much to shout about. This Le Petite Mary Patisserie (photo above) is a bakery, belonging to the same owner, that only sells the same stuff, but no sit in area. The shop is located in Gunung Rapat.

    And apparently they are planning to have another one opened in Menglembu next month.

    Like I have always done, I like to analyse small businesses. It is interesting to see that them venturing into the bakery only business. Previously they have opened another cafe in the form of Purple Moon in Canning Garden. Perhaps they see that Harold’s Bread, which sells slightly higher end bread and buns than the usual Family Confectionery etc, are doing rather well that they decide to have a go in the high end market. As I understand, Harold’s Bread is expanding quickly. They already have shops in Tesco Ipoh Garden, Jelapang and they are expanding to Tesco Station 18 too. (Actually they have shops all over Malaysia now!)

    The difference between Harold’s Bread and Le Petite Mary Patisserie seems to be that the former opens in places with high footfalls like supermarket whereas the latter likes to open in places they own in residential areas (actually I am not sure if they own the shop in Gunung Rapat, my opinion was based on their previous cafe venture). To me these businesses need to move tonnes of perishable produce everyday. Harold’s Bread’s business model would be a more obvious choice for me. To me I feel that Ipoh folks are very price sensitive. I am a big eater so I don’t pay lots of money for buns that don’t fill my tummy. These buns are expensive enough for me already. Is there really such a big market for these high end buns, in Ipoh?

    Twenty4, South-East Asia’s first smart convenience store

    Just read a news report that there is this smart convenience store, called Twenty4, opened in Ipoh yesterday. It is apparently the first of its kind in South East Asia.

    From what I understand, it is smart in the sense that no one needs to man the convenience store. It is not quite as smart as the Amazon Go supermarket in Seattle where customers can walk in the shop and grab things out from the shelf without having to so much as going to a cashier or a self checkout till.

    Amazon Go, introducing you to the world’s most advanced shopping technology

     

    Basically Twenty4 is a shop filled with vending machines, so to speak. Instead of accepting cash, or coins, like the traditional vending machines we Malaysians are used to, these vending machines accept credit cards! LOL You can use PayWave to pay for items you want to buy, or maybe using your e-wallet too if you have one by scanning the QR code on the vending machine’s checkout display.

    It may sound like it is quite exciting, but actually to think about it, it is just a marketing gimmick. From one of the video I watched, it is not quicker to buy from one of these vending machines than say from a manned cashier in a typical convenience store. Perhaps the difference is there are multiple vending machines rather than just one cashier serving you, so queue forming is not as likely.

    Besides, their claims that they get advertising revenue, from displaying advertisements in their shop or vending machines, I believe, are just trying to give you the impression that the items you buy from their vending machines can potentially be subsidised and thus are cheaper than buying elsewhere. But I very much doubt it. Items sold in convenience stores are typically low value items and it is difficult to negotiate a good price if you are not moving products in volume. (These vending machines can’t store many items, to be honest.) And they don’t sell as many varieties as in a typical convenience store. Moreover, this Twenty4 even occupies a prime space, albeit quite a lousy one, in Ipoh Parade! (I said lousy because it is not connected to the inside of Ipoh Parade. People shopping in Ipoh Parade need to exit the nearest main entrance to get to the store. Not ideal at all.) Perhaps it is a concept store so they can afford to do that, initially. In the long run I believe it will be loss making. The area around there has not a dense enough population (in fact nowhere in Ipoh is dense enough LOL.) There are schools, a shopping mall, and a hotel next to it. But no high rise residential.

    For some reasons Ipoh, full of old folks, likes to get into “smart” technologies, with robot waitresses dishing out food in Nam Heong SOHO, and now smart convenience store with vending machines. Is Ipoh really a good place for testing out new technologies for businesses? Perhaps Ipoh just has more adventurous and loaded entrepreneurs than others.

    Mixed rice 雜飯

    Food is indeed so much more conveniently available in Malaysian than in the U.K. One of the best places for me to get my lunch is to going to a mixed rice stall 雜飯檔. You get a wide selection of dishes you can choose from to put on your plate of rice. Most often I’ll go for one that serves mostly Chinese dishes. Sometimes I’ll go to a mamak stall to eat nasi kandar, which is pretty much the same, but with more curry selections, and it is halal. Anyway it’s very satisfying. I don’t need to cook, it is cheap, and I’m happy, most of the time, with the food I get to eat. Today I found this shop close to where I live that serves a lot of Teochew food. I’m a Teochew, so ya it’s nice, to have another shop to choose from for lunch from now on. You see I don’t like spending a lot of time on food. One of the sources of frustration when I was in the U.K. was it’s a headache to fill up my tummy. My work place had a canteen so I’d normally just eat lunch there. I’m not such a fussy person so it was good. But when it came to Saturday and Sunday, at home, I’d have to cook, otherwise we would just be eating sandwiches. On this I’m glad I’m back in Malaysia.

    A disastrous August

    This is the worst year for our business so far. Over the years the second half of the year was the half that would pull our numbers out from the red. But this year it is so weak that it looks increasingly likely that it would not be enough barred a miracle. This bloody yoyo between GST and SST version 2 didn’t help. In fact I have feeling that our business would be slightly better off if GST remained in place. That Minister of Finance aka Lim Guan Eng is doing nothing of the sort that will boost the consumer confidence. He is just very good in blowing out bad news after bad news in the name of making the previous government, or in particular Najib, looks bad. He’s certainly not the brightest bulb in the ruling coalition, but hey he somehow manages to climb up the ranks, probably with no little help from his father Lim Kit Siang.

    Anyway, it’s the 1st of September, the day when SST version 2 commences. Our business won’t have to charge a 6% service tax, because LGE made a U-turn after much complaints from F&B businesses. The threshold was set to be RM500k revenue a year before a business needs to charge the 6% service tax. Then it was revived to RM1 million. And yesterday, or just a few days ago, the threshold was further revised to RM1.5 million. Big deal. The threshold for the previous SST, before GST was implemented, was bloody RM3 million! There will be another round of price increase you better believe it.