Saturday, 26 September 2009

Dell in Bratislava's Largest Illegal Building (Legalised Ex-Post)

Aupark Tower and NovĂ˝ most, BratislavaImage via Wikipedia
I thinks these stories need to be told. We went through a period of massive illegal construction here in Bratislava. Toothless construction authorities had no way of making builders remove illegal buildings, if they were able to prove they were not against the public interest. At most, they were able to fine the builder a few million crowns, which in the context of a construction budget is a small price to pay not to have to wait to get all the required permits.

So around the city aggressive developers erected buildings without permits and without regard to their effects on the area. Local residents occasionally protested but generally there was no recourse.

The buildings would get legalised and then occupied, often by big name tenants. At one point I realised that this may be a way of putting pressure on the developers - if tenants will be reluctant to occupy these questionable buildings, developers will care a little more about building things by the letter.

The Bratislava seat of Dell is a great example. Dell, a publicly traded US-based company, which undoubtedly has a CSR department, moved into a building constructed without a valid permit. This building, an unseemly modern edifice in Fazulova street, a fairly central address, started out as the largest illegal construction site in Bratislava (this article by the highly respected Slovak economic weekly Trend confirms both that the building was illegal and that it was long before legalisation known to be the future seat of Dell). The investor of the building actually paid the highest ever fine for illegal construction in Slovak history.

Later on the company had a permit for a three-story building, meanwhile building the 12-story Dell Bratislava seat.

There is little doubt Dell knew about all this. Of course it has no direct legal responsibility but it should have never moved into a building like this, if it really means the whole CSR spiel seriously. Implicitly supporting illegal actions goes against several of Dell's Seven Key Tenets:
"Integrity: We do the right thing without compromise. We avoid even the appearance of impropriety." - looks improper to me to have someone build a building for me violating laws even if it gets legalised later
"Honesty: What we say is true and forthcoming, not just technically correct. We are open and transparent in our communications with each other and about business performance." - this implies Dell should admit they knew what was going on was illegal.
"Courage: We speak up for what is right. We report wrongdoing when we see it." - in this case, Dell supported wrongdoing by buying into the Fazulova building.

"Responsibility: We accept the consequences of our actions. We admit our mistakes and quickly correct them. We do not retaliate against those who report violations of law or policy."

Based on this Dell should apologise to the people of Bratislava and consider donating money to make Bratislava a nicer place, don't you think?

(To be fair Dell is not the only company who supported illegally constructed properties by renting in them. HB Reavis built the Aupark Tower (in the photo above, since I could not locate a decent photo of the Dell building on Fazulova), which ruins views of the Old Town and dominates views of the architecturally valuable New Bridge. The Chief Architect of the City of Bratislava Stefan Slachta called the 22-floor Aupark Tower "an exclamation mark of arrogance". The city part of Petrzalka then led by a Mr. Bajan, permitted this tower despite disagreement of the City of Bratislava and in violation of existing regulations. Which respectable tenants reside in the controversial building (and undoubtedly agreed to rent way before the building was legalised): Telefonica O2, Eset, GTS Nextra and IBM, to name but a few. Great corporate citizenship, guys.)

Friday, 25 September 2009

How many Twitter followers do you need to qualify?

Anti-tank cubesImage via Wikipedia
250+ to become the Senior Manager of Emerging Media Marketing (via Conversation Starter). BTW, Brett Tilford proposed the number of Twitter followers as a hiring signal in a comment on Dan Schawbel's blog.
Oh yeah, this is old news. I missed it.

Oh, and I would not qualify.
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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Warning: may not deliver what they promise

UPDATE September 1, 2010 - just a heads up to potential victims - I am investigating what I suspect is another alias for Izumi von Hardenberg. Similar apartments with similar descriptions (seven) are now being offered on a site called NYC No Fee Apartments Rentals ( and via Tripadvisor (and the related FlipKey service but also, in keeping with Izumi's old MO, on Craigslist) with the owner name given as "Mariko Okada", contact phone 1-347-856-8817 and creative email addresses such as "", "" Those familiar with the Japanese film industry (or Google users) will know that Mariko Okada is a well known Japanese actress. On request, Mariko will share a list of bogus-sounding references from people (see it reproduced on Positively Michael forum and if you need further proof, Google the phone number listed as a reference). If you've had positive or negative experience dealing with the Mariko Okada or, do share in the comments!

Screenshot of taken on September 15, 2009 showing as part of page title
In October 2008 Izumi von Hardenberg nearly ruined our New York vacation. Since then, literally hundreds of people have found my blog post on the experience. I have no doubt this has hurt Izumi's business that has reportedly caused trouble for many unsuspecting New York visitors.

I was therefore amused but not too surprised to find out Izumi and her pals have abandoned the ApartmentsNYCity domain name, one of the websites they used to operate from (the site was not working as of today and the domain registration has lapsed in July 2009). Instead they are now trying to attract customers on a new site

How do I know it is the same people? Well, for the start they have simply taken the template from and forgot to change the page title (see screenshot). In addition, the email adresses are the same ( and the voice on the voicemail of the contact number listed at apartments nyc 911 website is the same as the Izumi I communicated with last year.

This post, dated to literally a few days before my 2008 trip, actually describes the modus operandi I had experienced:
She baits you by telling you the apartment is available then switches the apartment and wants more money and wants to put you in a different location.
The author also says she's already changed company names three times. I wouldn't be a least bit surprised if she even stopped using her personal name in business correspondence since anyone who Google's her comes across many negative reviews and warnings. The possible reincarnations include (with the new contact number (917) 575-0623),, TheCheapApartmentsNYC and the seemingly legit HHRDEVELOPMENT Corporation (on

View of Woolworth Building and surrounding bui...
Here is my advice: DO NOT USE APARTMENTSNYC911.COM unless you are aware of the risks. Based on my experience a service associated with Izumi von Hardenberg could be very unreliable.

(I have updated this article to be more neutral in tone and present a more balanced view).

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The shortest, 3-letter URL shorteners - The Definitive List

Welcome, a new 3-letter shortener "powered by" and the 8th addition to this list, as well as (promising near real-time tracking of comments in social sites regarding the shortened URL) and now also the russian


See my earlier post on URL shorteners for criteria on choosing the one to use.