Posted in Travel

How To Avoid Getting Offloaded By Immigration

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In all those times I had traveled out of the Philippines via NAIA, I know immigration interview questions can be tedious and long-winding. It would be easy for one to think that the immigration officers are just being thorough, but when you’re anxious you won’t make it to the boarding gate on time, you can’t help but think the odds are against you. I had never experienced getting offloaded by immigration. Almost, yes. In this regard, I would like to share my experience in handling immigration interview questions in NAIA.

Deferred I first got out of the country when I worked for a company in Malaysia in December 2007. I had all the relevant documents for my employment there so it wasn’t as challenging as the immigration interview I faced when I was at NAIA I bound for Darwin, Australia.

February 2012. My return trip is It was a long queue yet the immigration officer took her time with me. She asked me, “What is your purpose for this Australian trip?”, “Do you have a boyfriend there?”, “Do you have a sponsor?”, “How long are you staying there?”

I was there for more than 5 minutes. I answered all her questions truthfully yet she rose from her seat for a split second to consult with her supervisor perhaps but she quickly decided against it and told me, “Alam mo naman siguro anong gagawin mo ‘dun. Bahala ka na sa buhay mo, malaki ka na.” (I trust you know what you’re doing as an adult.) And with that biting humour, she stamped my passport and let me through.

Why did she not decide on getting me offloaded? Although she didn’t address it directly, I knew she had her doubts because of the original travel plan indicated when I applied for my Australian tourist visa back in October 2011. I got myself a booking certificate (not a confirmed ticket) from a travel agency for a tentative travel date, November 11-15, 2011. My final itinerary was February 2012 to March 2012. TIP: Be consistent with the supposed itinerary indicated in your tourist visa application. 

August 2008. It was an annual company trip to Taipei, Taiwan and I was still working for a company in Malaysia then. My palate didn’t really favour the Malaysian cuisine that much and I was emaciated. I also endured bad acne which contradicted the cleaner passport version of my face. It was so embarrassing being held up by Taiwanese immigration solely because I did not look anywhere near the person on my passport. I felt like I stole someone else’s identity even though I had an approved visa to show them. I think the only people in the world who ever knew about this experience were my co-workers as I did not feel comfortable talking about it even in jest to my friends. There recently has been news about a Filipina getting offloaded for the mere change in hair colour. I do not know if this news bit is related. TIP: It’s obvious. Don’t change your appearance too much if you can help it. 

May 2016. I was in NAIA 3 and Hong Kong bound for a short birthday trip. The immigration officer asked me, “What do you do for a living?” “Have you ever traveled outside the Philippines before this?” “Where would you be staying in Hong Kong?” “What was your job then in Malaysia?” “You traveled to Australia before. What did you do there?” “Did you have a sponsor for that Australian trip?” “Did you travel by yourself?” “Did you have a boyfriend there?” “Do you have a credit card?” “Can you show me your birth certificate?” It was longer than the immigration interview in February 2012 and he mostly addressed the Australian trip 4 years ago. TIP: It was at this point that I realised I had to have a clear folder with all my documents in it so all the immigration officer would do is browse through them and ask less questions. My clear folder contains the Booking.com accommodation, my return ticket, my Upwork’s certificate of earnings, a photocopy of my USD savings account’s passbook, and my birth certificate.

October 2017. Mactan International Airport in Cebu. This time I was Kuala Lumpur-bound but my return ticket (a faux one) was departing from Bangkok and arriving in Manila 2 weeks from date of departure in Cebu. I did have a clear folder with me with all my papers in it but the immigration officer wouldn’t have it. He took out a form and told me an immigration officer would interview me after I fill out the form. It was a form for a potential deferred departure and it was to be assessed by an immigration officer. I honestly was more worried about being late for boarding (even though I was an hour early) than for the prospect of being offloaded, which I cared little about because my gut told me not to worry.

The form was so-so. I remember writing down my permanent address in Cagayan de Oro, my purpose for traveling overseas for two weeks, my contact number, my email address, my employer’s address, etc. I sat down with an immigration officer and she asked me, “What are you going to do in Malaysia?” “What are you going to do in Bangkok?” “What is your job?” “You’re staying overseas for a total of 2 weeks. What are you going to do there?” “Why did you not book a return ticket for Cagayan de Oro?” It obviously wasn’t enough for her that I had a return ticket that states I would be landing in Manila. Manila is still Philippines, Ma’am. She then wrote some comments on the last page of the form. She cleared me for travel because what was in my clear book was proof enough that I could take care of myself financially overseas. TIP: Be consistent with your return ticket – if you go to Malaysia, your return ticket should show you would be departing from Malaysia before coming back to your home country.

This was a serious blunder I overlooked as I had always shown my consistent return ticket before. Even if you have financial documents to support your two-country destinations, the immigration officers will flag you for it even before they see your income on paper. In my previous travels, I would book a separate return ticket slated for 2 weeks from Philippine departure date. I would not use this return ticket that is why I call it a faux return ticket because I use up the destination country’s allowable period for a Philippine passport holder. What happens to the faux ticket? I file a reimbursement for the airport tax with the airline. At least with AirAsia this is possible, provided the faux ticket is for an international travel and not a domestic one. I’ve done it a few times and got refunded. My travels last year and the present year has been primarily in Indochina and AirAsia always has promo seats. For the purpose of sticking to the topic of how to avoid getting offloaded by immigration, this is the short of it as the long one is for another article.

April 2018. I departed Hanoi and arrived in Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. I pushed my trolley past through the NOTHING TO DECLARE gate and unloaded my luggage from the trolley for machine inspection. The Thai customs officer signaled me to halt and called his supervisor. The supervisor who knew English requested to open my luggage for inspection. The problem was that I wrapped my travel organizers with a plastic food wrap – yes, the kind that you use for food storage. Prior to traveling, I had washed my luggage inside and out and I wasn’t confident it was perfectly dry for my clothes to put in. In an obsessive-compulsive move I wrapped my travel organizers with a plastic food wrap that it was hard for the machine to see through the clothes that were actually in them. Of course, I realised too late that to the customs officers thick plastic food wrap smells like drug paraphernalia. This was a huge mistake. The germophobic part of me cringed at having to open my suitcase and finding out my use of plastic food wrap was justified because the bottom part of the suitcase was a little wet. Sigh. Yes, I was worried about the cleanliness part more than the fact that they could have wrongly detained me. TIP: Do not use plastic food wrap for maximizing the space in your suitcase. I found an alternative: wrap the travel organizer with another travel organizer. (Yes, I have OCD.)

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Games, Mobile App, Tutorials

Cooking Dash Hack

There are a number of sites I found online which promise unlimited gold in Cooking Dash but will only lead to more spam mail. The Cooking Dash hacks these sites promote are designed to look legit but fail to deliver on their promise of giving you unlimited gold in your Cooking Dash account. The steps usually involve surveys and offers and other times they require you to download specific mobile apps. It would probably work if you’re using Cooking Dash on Android but the comments on the online sites offering unlimited gold in Cooking Dash have all the characteristics of spam.

I’ve never spent my gold bars for preparing Auto Chef recipes and I do not have the patience to wait for 2 days to complete a recipe. I only spend them on a season’s ingredients and cooking wares. There are a few ways that I can still hold on to my Cooking Dash gold bars for later.

MOVING DATE AND TIME FORWARD. This is an old familiar trick which a lot of Candy Crush players have used to extend their lives without having to wait for one’s Candy Crush lives to reset every 15-20 minutes. Its use in Cooking Dash is mainly on cooking VIP recipes. Doing it in Cooking Dash is not a quick process as it is in Candy Crush because of the various recipes and one might encounter a little hiccup especially when one thinks the recipes are already cooked only to find out that the recipes have not been completed once you switch back your phone’s date and time to the present.

Let’s start with Auto Chef which takes 1 day and 9 hours to prepare:

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Close the Cooking Dash mobile app. Go to Settings, make sure to turn off WiFi first before you enable Airplane Mode. Tap on General > Date & Time > Disable Set Automatically. Round off 1 day and 9 hours to 2 days, in this example, I moved June 14 to June 16.

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Open the Cooking Dash app again and claim the completed recipes:

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Once the slots are empty again, do not go back to Settings yet to reset the date & time to normal. Instead, prepare more VIP recipes.

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Close the Cooking Dash app again and go back to Settings > General > Date & Time to move date & time forward to 3 days. Open the Cooking Dash app, collect the prepared recipes and close the Cooking Dash app.

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Once you’re in Settings > Date & Time, enable Set Automatically first before disabling Airplane Mode. In my case I usually keep the WiFi off before I go back to Cooking Dash to play because the WiFi where I stay in can be sometimes unstable and it renders the completed recipes useless.
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PURCHASE A SECOND RECIPE SLOT FOR ADDITIONAL ACTIVE BOOST. This is a good alternative for when I don’t have enough gold to purchase the default Auto Chef for a particular season. A second slot usually costs 40 gold bars and 75 gold bars in some seasons. I find the additional active boost is really useful for getting 5 stars every episode. I noticed that even if I only completed 58% of the Shop’s purchase, I still was able to get 5 stars even up to Season 4 when the required goal points are higher.
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As for Auto Chef, there is usually the Deal Wheel or Premium Wheel. The more milestones I reach in Trial of Style, the more chances I get of spinning the Premium Wheel for accumulating Auto Chef tokens and other stuff.

PLAY SERIES FINALE SMARTLY. If you’ve played enough Series Finale in Cooking Dash, you will learn that the coins required go higher for succeeding levels. Some series require 3000 coins upward once you reach level 5, the last level. To play it smart, always aim for the lowest required number of coins on the first level.

As you can see in the video below the goal varies when you tap close and then tap next.

 

 

You can alternate between tapping close and next within the Series Finale window or tapping close on the entire series window and going back to the Series Finale window until you see the coin requirement you are comfortable working with.

 

 

SERVE VIPs DURING SUPER FLO ACTIVATIONS. KB commented on this post that waiting to serve VIPs for a brief period when Super Flo is activated in Trial of Style doubles your coins from 200. Case in point as shown in the following videos. In the first video, I missed the 400-point reward by a few seconds because I served a VIP right before the Super Flo activation.

 

The second video is when I got the Super Flo activation timing right.

Posted in Internet, Technology, Tutorials

How I Fixed My Laptop’s Static Screen and Flickering Lines Problem

You’re working on a document or streaming a video on your laptop when flickering lines suddenly appear on the side of the screen until it rapidly takes up the whole space. The screen finally goes static and when you turn it off and turn it back on it exhibits the same problem. It’s a pain in the ass and it’s worse if you didn’t plan for any contingency, i.e., a spare laptop you can continue your work with.

I still keep my ASUS tablet PC with me in rare times like one of those I described. My Windows 8.1 tablet PC did not ever have that kind of problem but my Lenovo Ideapad 100S on Windows 10 did. When the flickering lines appeared and the entire screen immediately went static, I panicked because it was too soon to replace my 6-month-old Lenovo Ideapad.  I searched for troubleshooting solutions in Google and pored over few articles in the top results. Of course, it involved tinkering with my laptop in ways that only an expert technician can be trusted with. I had to find another way and before I could even waste my money and the technician’s time. Although the troubleshooting solutions I found online were sound ones, I also realised that my laptop’s flickering lines and static screen were clearly LCD-related –  the technician could have probably advised me to have the LCD screen replaced with a newer one or he could either render my Lenovo Ideapad 100S totally unusable from then on.

By some stroke of luck (which I do not really believe in), I was able to accidentally find a solution that removed the flickering lines and static screen problem of my laptop. I have to admit I did not know what I was thinking as I had not obviously followed the troubleshooting tips I found online. I just followed my gut and hoped that maybe it would work. I took out my HDMI cable and connected my laptop with it to an HDTV screen. It did not seem to appear as a solution at first because I still could not use my laptop. Upon turning it on I would still see the login screen was spotless, but only for a minute because the flickering lines would again materialise on the screen and take over like a virus. I did not disconnect the HDMI cable for hours unless it was to charge the laptop.

I tried connecting my Lenovo Ideapad 100S again to the HDTV screen using the HDMI cable the next day and the day after that. I think it took two or three days of connecting the laptop to the HDTV via the HDMI cable continuously when I finally saw that the flickering lines and static screen problem did not occur anymore. I believe I had to continuously do it for a week before I could use my laptop again without needing an HDMI cable. This solution confirms my hunch that the problem was screen-related and not some other bigger issue.

This is probably trivial but I bought my Lenovo Ideapad 100S online from Lazada. My cousin told me of a similar instance regarding his brother’s laptop which he also bought from an online store. He conjectured some laptops bought online may experience flickering lines and static screen at some point because of shipping circumstances. A part of me would concur as I had been traveling constantly (probably every two to three weeks) right before my laptop experienced that issue.

If you bought your laptop from an online store and it’s exhibiting the problems I described above, you can maybe try the simple solution I did first before taking it to the technician.

Posted in Business, Lifestyle, Tutorials

What You Need To Know Before Purchasing Supplements on iHerb | A Review

Prior to hearing about iHerb, I only ever searched for Burdock Root capsules on Amazon. Back in the Philippines, I had purchased from Amazon before using My Shopping Box as a forwarding service. Since I am in Vietnam as of the moment, I thought I could also shop on Amazon using a forwarding service that would ship to Vietnam. It was easy searching for forwarding services that supports Amazon and that ships from the USA to Vietnam but I found myself signing up from one forwarding service to another until another became 3 or 4 futile signups. Why? Because the forwarding services charge membership fees unlike My Shopping Box. I finally found the solution by simply entering “Burdock root capsules” on Google search. An ad for Burdock root capsules on iHerb is at the top of the results which I clicked right through.

It was a breeze signing up and I even had a $0.70 discount. I placed an order for 2 bottles of Burdock Root capsules on the day I signed up, June 7th, and I got the notification that my order would arrive in my Hanoi address via DHL on June 10th.

On June 10th, I was contacted by DHL via email that my shipment has arrived but that they would need more information regarding the contents.

1 – Here is the information you would need to supply DHL for customs clearance:

•       Description of goods (clear and specific: model, brand name, part number)
•       Origin of goods: Erlanger, USA
•       Material (Made Of): Vegetarian capsules
•       Equipment/Machine part (if applicable):
•       Use (applicable for equipment, chemicals): Supplements
•       Harmonized System (HS) code: 121190
•       100% New or Secondhand: 100% new
•       Company name, full address and registered VAT number for receipts printing: (not applicable for me)
Whatever product you order on iHerb, you may look for the harmonized system here.
2 – After determining that the Burdock root capsules I ordered was categorised under Health and Beauty supplements, I was informed about this:

According to Decree No.15/ND-CP, your shipment need provide import license from Ministry of Health:

  • The following import cases shall be exempted from state inspection on food safety;
  • Foods in certain quantity passed through immigration for personal consumption within the limit of duty free paid;
  • Foods in diplomatic bags, consular bags;
  • Transited food and re-exported foods;
  • Foods kept in bonded warehouses;
  • Foods served as samples or for testing or research purposes;
  • Foods served as samples for displaying at fairs and exhibitions.

However, with small quantity, please send me the photo of your passport and brand name of each item, and do the letter as attached, so that we can help you to submit to customs and wait for their approval.

In case customs officers still ask to provide import license, we will keep you updated.

3 – This is the template of the letter required:

To whom it may concern:

I am (Name).

Passport Number: xxxxxxx

Address: xxxxxxxx

I have a shipment sent by DHL Express AWB xxxxxxxxxx  from iHerb US which contains:

  1. Nature’s Way Burdock Root Vegetarian Capsules (supplement) ; Nature’s Way, Burdock Root capsules, 2 plastic bottles, $13.38

They are totally for my personal use, not for sale.

I confirm that all above information is truly right and I commit to pay all taxes arising from this shipment.

I look forward to receiving your help to release my shipment soon.

Thanks.

(Name)

4 – I replied with a passport of my photo and that template letter and the next day, June 12th, my Burdock Root capsules were delivered without any additional charges.

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Posted in Finance

Recommended ATM Machines in Vietnam for Higher Withdrawal Limits

Having traveled to a few countries in Asia for the past year, I feel this information is share-worthy for potential tourists coming in to Vietnam. I have a GCash MasterCard from the Philippines and it is the principal card I use for ATM withdrawals and grocery purchases. However, I would run into a problem sometimes because not all ATMs accept my card even though the ATM machine clearly has MasterCard sticker on it. I’ve compiled this short information as a result of my own trial-and-error experience with most ATM machines.

Just like Indonesia, Vietnam’s currency employs many zeros and mindfulness is a useful asset when handling money here in Vietnam. In Thailand, I do not usually pay attention to the withdrawal limits in banks as I do not reach more than 7,000 Baht transaction/week.

Once you arrive at any airport in Vietnam, I recommend you look first for the SeA Bank ATM because it has the highest withdrawal limit of 5,000,000 Vietnamese dong per transaction.

Should you encounter a problem with the card not being accepted by SeA Bank, you can move on to either Sacom Bank, Vietcom Bank and Maritime Bank as these three’s withdrawal limit is 3,000,000 Vietnamese dong per transaction.

If you see a Techcom Bank ATM, just know that you can only withdraw 2,000,000 Vietnamese dong per transaction. Each transaction will incur a fee of 66,000 Vietnamese dong.

Sometimes you might get unlucky with other ATM machines. In my case, PVCom Bank, OCB Bank and Exim Bank, unfortunately, would not accept my GCash MasterCard.

Posted in Finance, Mobile App

GCash Non-Dispense Dispute

As you all know I have been writing about the technical issues I have had with GCash and all of them have been resolved. In this article I am going to write about the GCash non-dispense issue I had with an ATM machine outside the Philippines.

As I have written in a previous article, withdrawing cash in ATM machines overseas can be tricky as some cards may not be accepted in all banks and you run the risk of trial and error as to which bank’s ATM machine would accept your card. Even if the ATM machine lists all the logo, it’s not an assurance that it would work. I have a GCash MasterCard and even though the bank in Hanoi I tried transacting with listed MasterCard on the ATM machine, I still encountered an error and the card ejected my card along with the transaction slip bearing the words “Issuer or Switch Inoperative”.

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No cash came out, of course, so imagine my confusion when I tried withdrawing funds in another bank’s ATM machine and saw the error message on the screen that my funds were insufficient for the transaction. I did not bring my Android phone at the time which has my Globe sim inserted in it so I did not see the text message from GCash that the non-dispense transaction at Shinhan ATM machine got my GCash balance deducted.

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I sent an e-mail to GCash about it and the customer service rep replied that it would take 7-14 business days for my funds to be reverted. My mistake was WAITING and doing nothing for the 7-14 days period. When I tried to follow up with them beyond the 14 business days period, I was told by the agent that she forgot to attach the Dispute Form for me to fill up. The reversal dragged on longer than expected because even when the second 14 business days period right after I submitted the Dispute Form, it took something like a week or so for me to see the funds back in my account and not without badgering GCash on Messenger, Twitter and via e-mail. Not to mention all my follow-up attempts were futile because their reps would not respond to me on time. Two weeks after I got my funds back was the only time when the replies from their customer service agents came in.

I know I have stressed this before in other GCash articles, but I am going to emphasize this issue one more time – please have a Dispute Form downloaded on your laptop or desktop computer to fill up easily in case you encounter any technical issues with GCash services, especially those that involve money reversal. You can download the Dispute Form here.

Posted in Android, Mobile App

My Experience With PawnHero Philippines

At a time when I was strapped for a bit cash but don’t really need the full amount usually guaranteed by pawnshops which accept most iPhone versions and was too lazy to go around scouting for pawnshops, I was glad PawnHero Philippines was already there.

It was sometime in June 2017 when I tried PawnHero, an online pawnshop of some sort. At the time, I previously had my iPhone 6 Plus pawned to a local pawnshop which offered me a great deal but I was too burdened by the interest. I had to use my Android phone extensively while my iPhone 6 Plus was on a sabbatical and that was how I discovered the PawnHero mobile app in Google Play Store.

The PawnHero mobile app has a simple interface from registration of members to pawning your electronic gadget. There is a guideline, of course, as to which electronic gadgets are accepted. I sent photos of my iPhone 6 Plus and the accessories I still have for it and within 24 hours, I received a confirmation that my item was accepted. I also was able to pick the loan terms from 3 or 4 options – I picked the PhP6,543 loan for a 1-month period. I chose the details for the pick-up of the item and their delivery guy made sure I had the photocopy of a valid identification card and that my signature was also on the copy of the PawnHero form for when I complete the loan period.

The PhP6,543 loaned to me was even easier to claim because I chose to be paid via Coins.ph and the transfer was instant. (If you don’t have a Coins.ph account yet, just click on link to register.) I remembered paying PhP6,959 when I finally made the claim in August. I paid the loaned amount plus the interest using my Coins.ph account, too. It did not even take a few days after payment for my iPhone 6 Plus to be returned to the address I chose in the same condition as I had pawned it a month ago. The PawnHero delivery guy made sure I opened the package and checked my items thoroughly before he left.

PawnHero’s customer service is prompt and I definitely recommend you try pawning your electronic gadgets when you need a bit of cash for a while. I was invited by PawnHero to one of their seminars in Makati back in September-October 2017 but I declined as I was in another location at the time. This article is my way of telling them I did appreciate their services while encouraging others to try Pawn Hero, too.

 

Posted in Finance, Mobile App, Travel

Withdrawing Funds Using RCBC MyWallet Overseas

When traveling overseas we may overlook the fact that not all debit cards can be used in a lot of ATM machines. I would always recommend to bring two or more debit cards. I currently have the GCash MasterCard and RCBC MyWallet for the meantime.

I also have my PayMaya physical card which is already linked to my verified PayMaya virtual card account but I am excluding it for now because of the Ph500 roaming fee my Smart postpaid account would automatically charge me once I insert my SIM to a working phone here while being overseas. As PayMaya now requires a text verification upon logging in to the PayMaya mobile app, I don’t think it’s worth it using my Smart postpaid SIM when I have two other debit card alternatives.

In Thailand, I could withdraw funds from my GCash MasterCard in most ATM machines. Most 7-Eleven stores in Thailand have ATM machines outside the premises but you have to also make sure the ATM machine is not that of a local bank. As for the RCBC MyWallet, I have tried withdrawing cash from it in both Siam Commercial Bank and Krungsri ATM machines and have been able to transact successfully.

I should also like to mention that solely depending on GCash MasterCard is not a good option because of the monthly withdrawal limit. There were times when I’ve reached my limit in GCash on the last day of the month and I had to wait for the next day, the first day of the next month, to do a withdrawal. In case waiting might pose a hassle for you, it’s good to have other options too.

It gets tricky here in Vietnam for the RCBC MyWallet. Techcom Bank, BIDV Bank, Lienviet Post Bank, Vietcom Bank and Maritime Bank are the most common ATM machines I could run into and GCash would be accepted in all of these. The only ATM where I found I could use my RCBC MyWallet is that of VP Bank. Unlike Vietcom and Techcombank, you won’t come across VP Bank ATM machines in most big malls. I had to research VP Bank ATM locations online.

I do find my travelling situation to be unique but I hope this has helped anyone who has trouble finding a bank in Vietnam they can withdraw their funds with using RCBC MyWallet.

Posted in Mobile App, Social Media, Technology

Changes To The YouTube Partner Program

Yesterday I have been obsessed with de-cluttering my email accounts and my main GMail account was a tricky one to clean up because it’s the oldest email account I have. The Google Drive bit was easier and the GMail account import was also a breeze in just a few clicks of a mouse but I was in a bit of a quandary with the YouTube account where I still have some videos which still show up under search engine results. It has been a slow crawl, though, as is expected of an account that you simply want to experiment with. But, getting that email from YouTube today about the Changes To The YouTube Partner Program was somehow uplifting for me. Couldn’t help but think the Universe is conspiring with my de-clutter goals.

The email regarding the changes to the YouTube Partner program basically says my YouTube channel did not meet the new threshold of 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. A huge part of me was relieved because I could delete my channel there anytime. I was, of course, a bit disappointed at my channel’s stats but it wasn’t like I was doing YouTube videos full-time. On the part of the advertisers, I do understand they want the most out of their revenue and I would be supportive of this new change regarding the threshold if I were in an advertiser’s shoes.

I would still download the videos before deleting my YouTube channel for good as I have linked some of those videos on some helpful articles here.

Some may not be welcoming of these new YouTube Partner Program threshold but some may just be relieved. I’d like to think sometime soon a similar YouTube platform would appear as it has always been with technology developments.