Review: StudentVIP

For those unfamiliar with the brand, StudentVIP is a university student platform that users can use to review subjects, hire tutors, and buy and sell textbooks and notes. StudentVIP is also affiliated with Lost On Campus, a campus mapping app.

So, is the platform any good? Well, the review feature is pretty useful for comparing subjects – but the small number of reviewers means that the ratings might not represent the average opinion. Nevertheless, it’s better than nothing.

The buy and sell feature is also great – it allows you to search textbooks based on title, author, and even ISBN (to make sure you get the right edition!). The prices are determined by the sellers, but they are generally at least 15 per cent below the RRP.

However, this convenience comes at a cost: privacy breach. In 2015, Honi Soit reported that the company shared the personal data of over 530,000 students to a private education provider, which used the info to make unsolicited phone calls and sell diplomas. The personal information included phone numbers, email addresses, and degree details.

Since I joined the platform, I indeed have received some calls from unknown numbers trying to offer me study programs. Even worse, from time to time StudentVIP would send me emails on behalf of a third party to advertise products which may or may not be related to uni student life, such as magazine subscription. While the company promised that they wouldn’t spam (“We promise no more than one per week, and usually not that often. All should be relevant to students studying in Australia”), it is annoying enough to make me cancel my membership.

Bottom line? While StudentVIP offers many useful features for uni students, their services are not unique. Your university should have a secondhand bookshop, or you can try finding your faculty group on Facebook and go from there. Privacy might or might not be your priority, but there are better options out there.

+:

  • Practical
  • Opportunity to reach a large number of peers (especially if you are selling)

-:

  • Intrusive advertisements
  • Potential privacy breach

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Review: CouriersPlease

I have to admit, I’ve never used CouriersPlease to send parcels myself – only when buying things from some online stores. However, this limited experience is enough to make me swear off the brand.

The delivery process is never smooth – the couriers would usually leave a card without attempting to knock the door or ring the intercom. The card would either contain information on how recipients can request redelivery online, or that your parcel has been delivered to your nearest newsagent.

One time last year, I received a card confirming the latter – but there was no information about which newsagent my parcel was delivered to. The tracking website yielded no result either(!). I had to call every newsagent in my suburb to confirm if my parcel is indeed in their store, and as a result I had to walk 20 minutes away from home to pick up said package.

A few months ago, I had to deal with CouriersPlease again when they left a card for redelivery. Somehow the website didn’t work, so I had to call the customer service to book the redelivery – another hassle. This time, the courier indeed redelivered my parcel – but again, he/she failed to ring the intercom, and left the parcel in an uncovered, unsafe spot in my apartment lobby. Furthermore, the package looked dirty and crumpled, as though it had been cramped carelessly in a narrow space.

I’m not alone either – almost 700 Google users gave CouriersPlease an abysmal average of 1.4 out of 5 stars.

What’s confusing is that CouriersPlease is not even the cheapest shipping service out there (at least for individuals). So what gives? Dear retailers, there are other, better courier options out there that won’t leave your customers frustrated. Please don’t settle with this one.

+:

  • Redelivery option

-:

  • Poor service
  • Unreliable website
  • Impractical for recipients

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Review: Menulog

When you’re too busy to cook, food delivery is a great option. The emergence of online food ordering services like Menulog is indeed a godsend, helping you avoid picking up your phone and actually talking to someone. But does Menulog tick all the boxes when it comes to getting your food?

Firstly, let’s talk about restaurant/food choices. Menulog definitely covers a lot of restaurants from your neighbourhood, but they are usually from the lower end of prices and styles – this means that your favourite burger shop or high-end salad joint might not deliver through Menulog. This might not be an issue anyway, though, if you are just looking for cheap eats and quick, filling bites. The restaurants would mostly be available throughout the day, too (not just evenings), so you can order your lunch easily here.

What about the ordering process itself? It’s pretty easy and user-friendly, with options to pay with credit/debit card, Paypal or cash. If you don’t meet the minimum order (usually $20-30), Menulog also offers the choice to order more or just pay the rest of the amount. After ordering, Menulog also gives you the option to re-order the same thing from the same restaurant. Some incentives, such as loyalty discount and price cuts for first orders are also provided.

Finally, the delivery fee and speed vary depending on the restaurant – some offer free delivery, while others require you to pay $3-5 per order. This might be a more affordable pick than other ordering services that apply $5 flat fee for delivery. The food couriers come from the restaurants, and some can get the food to your door in less than an hour while others might take 90 minutes or more during rush hours (e.g. dinner time).

All in all, Menulog is great for busy lunches, group meals, and those just looking to get local, affordable fix.

 

+:

  • Usually features cheap local favourites
  • Little to no delivery fee, depending on the restaurants
  • Available for lunch and dinner
  • Discounts available
  • Diverse payment options

 

-:

  • High amount of minimum order, requiring one to order a lot
  • Lower-end choices

 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Cotton On

As one of the most popular fast fashion brands in Australia, Cotton On has a lot going for itself – numerous physical stores across the country, well-established online shop, and various promos and discounts. But will the shopping experience make you want to come back for more?

The prices are pretty affordable, with tops and bottoms starting from $14.95 (full price). Sometimes discounted items will go for $4.95, which is a real steal. Also, whether you shop in store or online, the return policy is simple – just bring back the items to the store (or ship them back, if you wish) and you’ll get sorted in no time. I also love their extensive range of casual apparel, from the basic t-shirts and tops to the jeans and dresses. In Cotton On, you will definitely find something that you can wear on a daily basis.

Are there any cons, though? Well, Cotton On suffers the same issue as other fast fashion brands – sometimes the fabric is low-quality, too thin and/or wrinkles easily. This issue makes the clothes less long-lasting.

If you need casual clothes that you will wear (as opposed to leave in the wardrobe for months), Cotton On might be the right choice for you – but if you’re looking for a more sturdy, long-lasting option, maintain your expectations.

+:

  • Affordable
  • Great collection of casual everyday clothes
  • Practical return policy
  • Stores located all across Australia

-:

  • Sometimes low-quality

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Mortein Kill & Protect Cockroach Baits

When you live in townhouses, the presence of cockroaches and silverfish is inevitable. Multiple ways have been invented to keep them away – from professional pest control to ready-to-buy insecticide. Today, I’m going to talk about the latter.

When I first had this issue, I considered my options: spray can only target visible pests, while control bombs and incense coils will ring the fire alarm right away. Finally, my pick lied on cockroach baits.

Mortein Kill & Protect Cockroach Baits promise to “[kill] cockroaches in the nest and the eggs they carry”. It works by putting the edible bait in strategic places to lure cockroaches out of their hiding places. Cockroaches will then eat the bait and get contaminated, and when they return to the nest, others (and their eggs) will also become contaminated and die. With $11-12 RRP, it sounded too good to be true.

Except it wasn’t. The bait really worked. Previously, I would see two to four German cockroaches in my living area, and some silverfish in the bathroom. Since I put the baits around, I haven’t seen any living roaches yet.

The package says the bait has a lasting power of three months, but it’s been over five months since I placed the baits and it still worked. I might need to replace them soon, but overall I’ve been really happy with the experience. The Mortein baits do the job at an affordable price.

+:

  • Works well in keeping roaches away
  • Reasonable price

-:

  • So far, none!

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review: Netflix

It is hard to deny that Netflix’s entrance has made video streaming much more accessible for Australians. Before its official launch in the country in 2015, it was estimated that around 200,000 Australians visited the site through US VPN.

With plans starting at $8.99 per month and one-month free trial for new users, Netflix is accessible in laptops, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Payment options include debit/credit card, Paypal, or gift cards (sold at retail shops).

Along with streaming popular TV shows from all over the world, Netflix also produces its own TV shows such as House of Cards, Narcos, Stranger Things, and more, as well as reboots/remakes of old series such as Gilmore Girls (A Year in the Life), Arrested Development, and Full House (Fuller House).

What’s the verdict? Well, firstly, the plans are designed a bit sneakily. While the $8.99/month plan is the one being advertised, it only offers Standard Definition quality – you will need to upgrade to the $11.99 plan to get HD quality in two devices, which makes it a bit more expensive than Stan ($10/month) and a number of Foxtel Play packages ($10/month).

Other than that, Netflix is quite reliable – with an extensive range of TV shows and films in various genres, the streaming service will satisfy you just fine. Indeed, you won’t be able to watch Game of Thrones (whose rights are owned by Foxtel) and Sherlock (whose rights are owned by Stan). However, with the stable website, the no-fuss billing and subscription system, and the wonderful, Netflix-exclusive shows that your friends are also watching, there’s no reason not to give Netflix a try.

+:

  • Extensive range of shows
  • Stable streaming service
  • Subscription and billing system that is easy to navigate

 

-:

  • Need to upgrade to a more expensive plan for HD quality and more screens

 

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Review: ASOS

As an online shopping behemoth, ASOS guarantees a pleasant experience… or does it?

ASOS indeed offers a lot of perks for Australian shoppers – free shipping and returns, student discounts, access to over 850 brands for men and women, and many more. One could not help checking the shop out.

The website is very user-friendly, with easy-to-navigate menu – if you are keen, you can also download their app, which is available on the App Store and Google Play. All the information you need, including estimated arrival date and returns policy, is available to read by just a simple click or search.

Once you’re done with shopping, the order will be delivered from the UK within 7 working days (an express delivery option is available at $10, which will ensure your order is delivered in 3-4 working days). The order comes in a plastic black-and-white packaging, complete with the receipt.

What about the goods? The ASOS-brand clothes are generally true-to-size. Furthermore, the prices are truly affordable compared with other sites. However, the material tends to be hit-and-miss. For example, the T-shirts, priced at $24 for 2, are a bit too thin and sheer (even in black). The Skater Dress with Slash Neck and Short Sleeve also looks ‘cheap’ compared to the picture, as it does not have the same flow and sheer.

Overall, while the shopping experience and customer service are great, the goods themselves sometimes fail to meet expectation.

+:

  • Easy-to-use website and app
  • Affordable price
  • Great variety of products

 

-:

  • Low quality material

 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Review: Burt’s Bees Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil

Winter is coming – and it’s not just a saying from a popular TV show. With the declining temperature and humidity, our lips are the first to suffer from dryness and dehydration. That’s why it’s time to review the best options of lip balm.

The first lip product to review comes from Burt’s Bees: Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil. Other than moisturising, the lip balm also gives a subtle pink/fuchsia colour tint to your lips. The price ranges from $5-7 – a little bit more expensive than its competitors, but not by much.

Does the product work well? Yes, it does – it keeps your lips hydrated with no slimy or greasy feeling. Furthermore, there is no need for frequent application as the lip balm stays quite long – you could probably do with just one or two re-applications per day.

However, there’s a catch – the aroma/flavour could come off a bit chemical and overpowering. While it’s not too strong, it certainly reminds you that you are using a product on your lips right now. It’s a little unpleasant, but if you see it from another way, it does serve as a warning not to lick your lips and get the lip balm off.

 

+:

  • Hydrating
  • Long-lasting
  • No sticky feeling on the lips

 

-:

  • Chemical flavour/smell

 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: OAK Classic Chocolate Flavored Milk

Delicious, decadent beverage that’s still nutritious? That’s chocolate milk for you.

Whether you’re looking for post-exercise feed or just up for an indulgent cocoa fix, choccy milk can do wonders for you. This time, I am reviewing one of the most popular chocolate-flavoured milk brand out there – Oak. Originated in Newcastle, the brand’s recent Slurpee-style frozen drinks venture has caused frenzy all over the country. But does Oak chocolate milk really deserve all the love?

Short answer: yes. The chocolate milk, which is sold at $5.50-6 per 2L bottle, is rich, creamy and sweet. There is no watered-down taste that is often apparent in some other brands. With the full chocolate flavour, one glass is enough to keep you satiated for a while.

Some people may find Oak a little too thick and fatty, but for me, that’s what chocolate milk is all about. Enjoy your chocolate milk in moderation!

 

+:

  • Full flavours (creamy and chocolatey)
  • Fulfilling quality

 

-:

  • A little more expensive compared to competitors
  • Some might dislike the richness

 

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Review: Fresca Natural Deodorant

The interest in natural beauty product has grown exponentially in Australia, and Fresca Natural has benefited from this. The brand’s deodorant, in particular, has received rave reviews on the Internet.

Granted, Fresca Natural’s deodorant is not the same as the ones you find on supermarket shelves. Fresca Natural’s contains no aluminium or other antiperspirant ingredients – which means that it doesn’t block sweat. “Fresca Natural deodorants will allow your body to cool itself the way nature intended and does not block your pores or sweat glands,” the website says.

What this deo does is prevent body odours, using a combination of essential oils and aerated salt. But does it do this job properly?

It is debatable. While the smell of the deodorant itself is nice, it does not seem to work well with my body. The Citrus variant left my body with a weird whiff, which I think is a mixture of the essential oils and my sweat. Moreover, the smell is quite strong and long-lasting throughout the day, which made me feel self-conscious. Finally, the deodorant fragrance sticks to the clothes and stays even after washing.

With retail price starting at $15 a bottle, I had high expectations for this deo – unfortunately, those expectations were largely left unmet.

+:

  • Smells great on its own
  • Palm oil and aluminium free

 

-:

  • Does not help with sweat
  • Leaves a weird whiff
  • Fragrance sticks to clothes

 

Rating: 2/5 Stars