TT-650 -- Venting About AT&T in Japan, ebiz news in Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *

A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, February 19, 2012, Issue No. 650


- What's New -- Venting About AT&T in Japan
- News -- Wendy's Foie Gras sandwiches
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Long-term radiation concerns
- News Credits

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How many of us have email accounts that we've held for
years? We received our GOL (Global Online) account back in
the early 1990's, shortly after Roger Boisvert
commercialized the Internet in Japan in competition to IIJ.
We only just closed the account down a few weeks ago due to
lack of usage. We worried initially about long-lost friends
not being able to find us if the account stopped working,
but then realized that 800MM people use FaceBook, and if
they can't find us there, there's always Google.

We've also had an AT&T Global account since the network was
owned and run by IBM, also in the 1990's. We got that
particular service in order to get access to stable
Internet connections in China, India, and Sri Lanka during
business trips to those countries. These days all three
destinations have much better connections and we forget the
last time we had to access a local POP with ATT's dialer...
Probably more than 5 years ago.

So really we've been hanging on to the ATT account all this
time because we used it to register with countless online
services and as contact information for paid downloads over
the years. Yes, we could simply change the registered email
address for these services -- if only we could remember
what they all are. For that reason alone, we have been
faithfully paying ATT Global JPY2,500/month, year after
year. While not cheap, the extra cost was worth the
convenience -- that is, until recently when we discovered
that ATT's Global Networks Division practices dinosaur
economics -- squeezing the customer and giving nothing back
until they (the customer) dies off. We're not sure what
kind of business model this is, but once the customers are
gone, this ATT division will be sure to follow.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

The saying "you don't know what you've got until it's
gone," was never truer than with an email account. In our
case, our ATT account, which we use like a mobile
repository after mail is first forwarded through several
other accounts, several weeks ago suddenly started
rejecting email and sending disconcerting messages to
senders about being unreachable. Considering we get about
200 emails a day, a few hours like this is enough to affect
several dozen business relationships, so we quickly got on
to the ATT web site to see where to get help.

The first thing we found out is that if your email account
gets disabled by ATT, you can't get help online because you
need to log-in. "How stupid is that?" was our reaction --
especially given that locking you out of your account
appears to be ATT's answer to technical problems. Searching
through ATT's non-intuitive website, we finally found a
support phone number for Japan. We called it around 22:00,
only to be told by a recorded message that the Help Desk
hours are 09:00 through 17:00. What?! A Help Desk that
isn't available for the hours that most people do mobile
email isn't a Help Desk. Further, considering Gmail is free
and has had perhaps just 3 outages in the last 6 years that
we can remember, we couldn't help thinking "What have we
been paying ATT for all this time?"

We then tried the US number and were told, "You're a
Japanese customer, you have to use the Japanese Help Desk."

"What do you care where we are?" We asked. "We're speaking
to you in fluent English and it's fine if you reset the
account from New York, or Los Angeles, or Calcutta, or
wherever it is that you are located."

"Sorry sir, we can't do that," was the answer. ATT calls it
the Japan Premium Dial Plan, we can easily say there is
nothing Premium about it.

Fast-forward to the following morning. We made 3 attempts to
get through to the local support number, one of which
involved us holding for 25 minutes listening to the message
"All operators are busy" at one minute intervals, and we
started thinking that perhaps ATT didn't want us as a
customer anymore. Having meetings that afternoon, we had to
wait until the following day to finally get a human being.
After venting to the customer support person, we were told
that the account was re-enabled and sure enough it started
working again.

Then, barely a week later, the same thing happened again!
Locked out, middle of the night, again nothing could be
done until the following day. This time the response on the
Help Desk line was quicker, and after some probing the
support person admitted that they were having similar
problems with other accounts. It seems that ATT's clunker
system from the 1990's is still being used, and they never
considered the idea that a customer might want to use two
devices to access it at the same time. As a result, when we
got an iPhone recently and tried to access the ATT account
with it, while leaving the original PC session open, the
ATT system decided something bad was going on and shut the
account down completely, until a password reset was done.

Now, iPhone access to one's email is not a new phenomenon,
and having two devices open at the same time is certainly
not an unimaginable event. So one has to ask why if ATT has
had 2+ years to fix the problem, it hasn't done so yet?
Then there is the Help Desk with banking hours and a worse
response time than a neighborhood beauty parlor. What's up
with that? ATT seriously needs to ask itself if it really
wants to be in the customer service business at all. We
just had one of the worst experiences we have had for years
and this is one loyal and profitable customer that they're
losing for good.

ATT spent US$5bn in 1998 to buy the network off IBM.
Perhaps they should sell it off again to someone who really
values its customers. Oh, and while they're at it, they
might want to get the
website fixed*. It's been down for a few hours now. The
message, "We're improving our site to make it better for
you. Please try again later. Thank you for your patience."
is just infuriating to a customer that has had the same
level of nothing service over the phone...

* Note: The website just mentioned was fixed this morning.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Energy consumption down in January
- Wendy's Foie Gras sandwiches
- 7 people arrested over Olympus so far
- Haier creates Asian HQ in Japan
- More foreign firms flee Japan

-> Energy consumption down in January

Ask the Japanese public to do something for the good of the
country and they will rise to the occasion, as is being
seen with the nation's electricity consumption. It's still
darned cold out there, perhaps the coldest winter for
several years, and yet electricity demand at the nation's
ten power suppliers fell by 3.7% to 80.77Twh last month.
The power demand drops were most noticeable in the Kansai,
which recorded a 6.2% reduction in January. (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 18, 2012)

-> Wendy's Foie Gras sandwiches

You've got to hand it to Ernest Higa, the new majority
owner of Wendy's in Japan -- he really knows how to create
marketing buzz. Thus, his new hamburger chain's
announcement of Foie Gras pate and truffles sandwiches
has been picked up by media all over the world. The tasty
new sandwich costs JPY1,280 and is available from Wendy's
in Omotesando. The company plans to develop more than 100
stores over the next five years. (Source: TT commentary
from, Feb 18, 2012)

-> 7 people arrested over Olympus so far

Michael Woodford must feel somewhat vindicated by the fact
that the former Chairman of Olympus Corp., Tsuyoshi
Kikukawa, and several of his colleagues, have been arrested
along with securities company bankers, by the police. No
word yet on the Florida-based Japanese ex-Nomura banker
Hajime "Jimmy" Sagawa who ran the Cayman Is. company that
received a huge pay-off from Olympus, although apparently
US authorities are investigating. ***Ed: Unfortunately,
while the main perpetrators have been taken into custody,
it looks like the authorities may have decided to bury the
alleged Yakuza connections within Olympus. Too difficult
and perhaps some political connections that shouldn't see
the light of day?** (Source: TT commentary, Feb 16, 2012)

-> Haier creates Asian HQ in Japan

Going against the trend of foreign firms leaving Japan's
shores, leading Chinese whitegoods company Haier has made
the bold move of setting up its Asian Headquarters in
Osaka. The company says that it wants to be tempered by the
demanding Japanese market, in order to raise its
competitiveness overall. The company last year bought out
Sanyo's washing machine and refrigerator business and is
branding it as Aqua. As a result of the Sanyo purchase,
Haier reckons its sales in Japan will hit JPY50bn in 2012.
(Source: TT commentary from Haier press announcement, Feb
15, 2012)

-> More foreign firms flee Japan

Data from the Ministry of Finance shows that a near-record
number of foreign firms left Japan, versus those setting up
here. In fact excluding the year that Vodafone left Japan,
in 2006, 2011 was the worst year for foreign investment
into Japan since 1985. The Ministry says that outflows of
foreign direct investment soared from JPY109.9bn in 2010 to
JPY183.2bn last year. They also say that the trend is
likely to continue this year as well, mainly due to the
high yen. (Source: TT commentary from, Feb 18,

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

*** In TT649 we discussed the changes that would be wrought
on Japanese tourism by the arrival of foreign Low-cost
Carriers who can fly domestic legs. One reader feels that
there is more to the situation than just cheap flights.

=> Reader comment:
Pertaining specifically to the passage below, the prospect
of savvy, internationalized foreigners seeking Japan as a
place of residence sounds somewhat optimistic, unless you
are counting on them to not give much credence to the
points I make below. I say this because there remains now
-- not to mention far into the future -- an as-yet
uncertain duration and intensity of environmental and
health risks due to the ongoing radionuclide emissions from
the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Every day, we see more tidbits in the news on this subject,
among the latest being the discovery that noodles served in
Okinawa Pref. were found loaded with high concentrations of
cesium, due to the use of wood-fired ash (sourced from
Fukushima Pref. and surrounding environs), commonly used in
the food service industry to remove bitter taste from
vegetables and other food products.

That's just one of many instances since 3/11 of food chain
contamination (let me also draw attention to the widely
disseminated stories of beef and milk contamination) -- and
I'm just speaking of those that HAVE been publicly
acknowledged; as a Japan resident you have to wonder,
though, what HASN'T been revealed...and *that* prospect is
infinitely more worrisome. There's also the problem of how
and where to dispose of the vast stores of contaminated
soil and waste debris from the affected areas, and that
also runs untold risks, especially if plans to ship them to
other areas of the country come to fruition.

This all isn't doomsday talk: Governments and their
nuclear power industry partners worldwide bank on a
complacent public, and until Fukushima, they'd done a good
job over time of neutralizing spurts of opposition and
people's consciousness about the issue in general. In our
direct experience in Japan over the past year, however,
when they say there's no problem is *exactly* when you have
to worry.

Live by nuclear power, die by it; Germany's the only
country with the commonsense and courage to recognize this
and modify their nuclear policy in reaction to the
post-Fukushima *realities* (Germany *will* phase out ALL
its nuclear plants; this, from one of the world's most
technologically advanced nations).

In any case, believe me when I say that hopefully this
particular situation in Japan is nothing to worry about,
and it certainly seems safe enough for short-term inbound
tourism, but I remain skeptical of the medium- and
long-term safety of Japan's food supply and environment --
for children especially, but also everyone who has made it
their life choice to be resident in the country on a
long-term basis.


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