Brewer's Droop #225

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Hewlett Packard (HP) have made a massive mistake. Actually the mistake was made (the way I figure it) just over 10 years ago.

What they did wrong was that they made the Officejet 5510 all-in-one printer, fax scanner and copier. The problem is that, unlike all the other crap we’re so used to buying these days, this printer doesn’t break down five minutes after the guarantee’s expired.

I’ve had mine for more than 10 years and it’s never gone wrong.

Computers have come and gone, other paraphernalia has been bought, then stopped working then put into the recycling bag. But the HP 5510 just keeps churning out the pages, never once complaining – and I’m thrilled with it. No, I’m in love with it.

As one can imagine, this could very well be causing serious panic at the HP head offices and I think I know the solution they’ve come up with….they’ve reduced production of the ink cartridges which fits that model – at least I’m having a great deal of trouble trying to find some.

Which just goes to show that you can’t keep a good capitalist or down. (But maybe I’m doing them a grave injustice – maybe they really did design a printer that will last longer than a turtle and perhaps there is just a temporary shortage of ink cartridges?)


I was on a cruise holiday recently and experienced an important lesson in communication again. That is, you both need to be speaking the same langauage.

One of the ports we stopped at was Catania in Sicily. If you ever get a chance to visit there yourself I would suggest giving it a wide berth. Stay onboard and rip out your toe nails one by one – it’s more exciting.

To be fair it was a Sunday and all the shops were closed. All around the Mediterranean, when the shops close, they don’t simply lock the doors – they roll down the shutters so the whole town looks like it’s been hit by the plague or perhaps it’s a movie scene in a ghetto somewhere. And, being Sicily, you half expect Don Corleone to be charging around the place chopping horses heads off.

Also it was raining. So Catania never got a fair chance with the four of us really. Still, as intrepid travellers, we hired a taxi for €10 and headed to the town centre (or what we thought would be the town centre). This is the conversation with the taxi driver (as in, what I say and what he hears – and vice versa)…..

Me: “You’re taking us to the main square right?

He hears: “you’re charging us 10 euro’s”?

He replies: “Si, ten euros”.

Me: “Si. ten euros – but to the Piazza Centrale”

He Hears: “10 euros is all we’re going to pay

He says: “Si 10 euros.”

My friends (in the back) say “why does he keep saying ‘ten euro’s’?”

He hears “Are we going to pay as much as 10 euros?

He says: (with a slightly raised voice) “Si. It’s ten euros.”

I say: (with a hint of agitation) “Yes, we know it’s 10 euros but is that to the centre?”

He hears: “ten Euros is too much

He says: “eravamo d’accordo che sarebbe stato 10 euro e questo e quello che e 10 euro!” and holds out his hand.

I begin to realise there is a communications problem here (I always was a slow learner) so I pay him the 10 euros and he smiles.

I say: “You’ll still drop us at the centre?”

He smiles and runs over an old lady who had the temerity to put her foot 1 centimetre into the road.

We ride along for a bit longer until we come to the dullest looking square imaginable. And it’s raining.

He says: “Qui ci sono – abbiamo una bella giornate – bye bye” (Here we are – have a nice day – bye bye). He was smiling as we got out into the rain.

We pile out of the cab and are immediately pounced upon by what appear to be inmates from a local hospital for “special” people who all want to sell us umbrellas.

Although the odds were stacked against it, we did give the place lots of chances to redeem itself but it remained a depressed, grey and wet town. However we did get to try the famous local dish of “Arancine” (Saffron rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried with something fairly dodgy in the middle of it). The one redeeming feature of Catania is the ice cream – fabulous.


I don’t normally comment much about creative stuff because, well, unless you really know what the brief was, it’s hard to criticise (or praise) something.

But I have to tell you I’m impressed with the new Virgin Active South Africa’s television commercial. ‘The Surfer’ breaks from the more traditional advertising format of story boarding and scene shots in that it was conceived more as a short film with the lead actors’ spontaneity guiding the story line. The narrative – with a reverse timeline – revolves around a boy from a disadvantaged background who by taking one significant plunge, changes his life. For Thembi Ndlovu (16), the role comes naturally. In real life he is a passionate young surfer from the Muizenberg surfing hood. The older surfer who is seen in the opening scene of the commercial, is Kwezi Qika, 25, South Africa’s first black surfer to win a national longboard title.

Virgin Active’s marketing team briefed M&CSaatchi Abel to explore the health club’s credo of ‘Active Makes You Happy’. The latest commercial would follow on from the well-received cycling themed commercial flighted earlier this year, featuring an elderly man taking up cycling again and how activeness changed his outlook and attitude towards life.

Richard Lamb-Hughes, Brand Director at Virgin Active says, ‘the new commercial emphasises the role that activeness plays in leading a happy life. We want to get South Africans moving and we know that our clubs play a role in unlocking an active lifestyle beyond four walls. This story presents an inspiring journey that brings to life our brand message of ‘live happily ever active’.

‘When we decided on surfing as a concept everything fell into place. We wanted a story not a short anecdote. Award winning director, Kim Geldenhuys, was brought in to direct and young surfers were recruited from Muizenberg beach. Geldenhuys moulded it into a brilliant story. He is a visionary,’ says Lamb-Hughes.

The casting process was also authentic. ‘There was no traditional casting agency,’ he explains. ‘To ensure authenticity we went to surfing coaches and schools in Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Hout Bay harbour to recruit young surfers. Which is how Thembi Ndlovu and Kwezi Qika found themselves starring in an 85 second ‘movie’. Their passion for surfing, life and being active, along with their energy and personalities made them a perfect fit for the brand.‘

The end result shows a spontaneity and free nature which is in keeping with Virgin Active’s quirky, fun, slightly irreverent approach to celebrating life and keeping active.

I’ve offered Virgin Active myself to be their next model in a sky-diving ad. The objective would be that, even at my age, you can jump out of a plane, pour a scotch and soda on the way down and keep active that way.

Cold isn’t it?

It may be a good evening for an early night and open the duty-free I think. (Although the Toblerone might just make a bit of a mess).

Filed as:


  1. Those HP’s are brilliant aren’t they? Have had one for many, many, many years – never stop

  2. for cartridges -great service and prices

    • Thanks!

  3. ..wish HP made their laptops the same way.

  4. my hp 3550 is more than 15 years old and runs like a dream too ! problem is its not compatable to the new software ( of course ) and when it does need a service – the parts are hard to come by. look after your little baby

  5. Hewlett Packard have a strange policy of “end of life” for their equipment. Translated this means that the equipment has lasted too long, we’re not going to fix it – buy a new one because we need the money.
    It’s happened to me a few times and, guess what? Hewlett is the last IT company I would go to to buy anything.

  6. There’s a guy in Lansdowne Road opposite the copshop who fills cartridges.

    • Thanks Bryan, maybe I’ll give him a try. How often are you in the Lansdowne Police Station? (Just asking)

  7. @ Braz – all products have an end-of-life; try buying an indicator stalk for your 1957 Zephyr at your local Ford dealer. Although I am in no way associated with Hewlett-Packard, I am a big fan of their products at the enterprise level (servers etc) – having over 350 of their servers under my control out of around 800 servers. Their service contracts are good value too. It does not blind me to trying other products; I have a wireless Canon all-in-one at home which seems to be pretty good. How long do we keep a cellphone in this age of consumables?

    • I remember being taught about “planned obsolescence” (Vance Packard I believe) being necessary to keep those wheels of industry turning. We all thought it was rubbish of course. Now I replace my toaster, kettle, water purifier any many more items because they’re BROKEN – that doesn’t include other things like cellphones, cars and even clothing because they’re OLD.

  8. Have to agree about the Virgin campaign – brilliant! Would like to see a commercial with you skydiving and trying to pour a drink!

  9. Chris – Refill your old cartridge… we do!

    • Definitely going to do that! Thanks Mel

  10. The brief/creative justification of the VA campaign is an interesting exercise of picking the fly specks (s…) out of the pepper to justify ‘brand’ positioning and creativity. People go surfing and cycling because it is good outdoor, natural, fresh air, invigorating exercise that harnesses natural energy and is definitely no substitute to the humdrum of the repetitive, canned version of indoor bench pushing activity. But consumer naivety and dreams are what works in the marketing world today. Or does it?

    • Ask Richard Branson

  11. It’s a pity about the HP laptops ….

  12. The Virgin Active ad is awesome! I work at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and we produced our very first TV in April. All locally produced and filmed – with the voice over of John Kani. It’s in a similar vein to the Virgin ad. Have a look if you like: (or just search for the NMMU Channel on YouTube).

  13. Even some cars are made to last no longer than five years! I am impressed by your HP story. I had one that messed up my computer. I am still sure it had a very interesting virus. There are two reasons why I did not throw it through the window (1) my employment contract says I am not allowed to break equipment on purpose; and (2) the windows at head office do not open – I am sure it is because we are also not allowed to throw humans through the window.

  14. I think the 901 cartridge might fit your printer. it says on the box it fits the G510. I have the HP 4500. Other solution, take the cartridges to be refilled at that shop near the bottom of conrad drive in Blairgowrie. Good luck.


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