Archive for December 2009

The Phone Company Began as a Fraud

18 December 2009

I am adding a new tag “Verizon Fraud” to label upcoming stories about Verizon and their various collection of frauds they perpetrate on unsuspecting consumers.

The Original Bell Telephone Company started off as a fraud. The various possibilities are detailed in the Wikipedia article Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy, where we read that patent examiner Zenas Wilber admitted in a sworn affidavit that he had taken a $100 bribe from Bell to falsely state that Bell’s patent application had arrived first. In addition, Wilber had shown details of Gray’s patent to Bell.

And so the Bell Company continued their fraudulently activities even being broken up in the various Baby Bells. Presently, Verizon perpetuates the fine tradition of screwing their customers.

This will the first in quite an extensive series of scams, frauds, cons, and grifts perpetrated by Verizon.

Some of us are familiar with the practice of slamming; according to Verizon’s own definition:

Slamming is an industry term for an unauthorized change in your choice of long distance company. Often this is accomplished when someone tries to sell you long distance service or you sign a piece of paper for a contest or other marketing promotion, without checking the fine print. Often your endorsement on a small prize check serves as the authorizing signature. The long distance company then tells your local phone provider they have formal authorization to switch you from your current long distance company.

Interestingly, Verizon does this to themselves. That’s right, they’ll slam you from their company to another company they own. Let me explain.

Years ago, a client of mine signed a contract with Verizon for 8 BRI lines to transmit digital video signals between a Newark court house and a New Jersey State prison so that inmates would not have to be transported from their cells to the court for hearings, re-sentencings and so on.

A few months ago, his bill ballooned from an average of $300.00 per month to more than ten times as much. What he discovered was that he was slammed. Verizon, without notifying him, decided it wanted to exit this line of business and transferred his account to MCI, another Verizon company. Unfortunately for him, he does not have a contract for data services with MCI, so they charged him at the highest non-contract rate for bytes transmitted.

In addition, the configuration of his lines have changed so the quality of service is so horrible he is unable to properly utilize the lines. This is what happens when you deal with a company that has nothing but contempt for its customers.

He has now been fighting for three months to get his bill readjusted and to get his service level back to where it was before the switch.

Unfortunately, the prison is afraid to switch from using ISDN lines to VPN over the Internet. They would save thousands of dollars a year, but sadly this is what happens when you have the government running what should be a business.

Further reading:

The Telephone Patent Conspiracy of 1876: The Elisha Gray-Alexander Bell Controversy and Its Many Players

The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret

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What Happened to Technorati?

9 December 2009

New Technorati

If you’ve been writing a blog for the past few years you probably used Technorati, either to try to gain some traffic for yourself or to find interesting articles written by other bloggers. Sadly, on 14 Oct 2009 Technorati fiddled with how its site operates and launched its new site while screwing with tens of thousands of smaller blogs by disabling widgets, its API, and RSS feeds.

In this new re-launch, Technorati will be concentrating more on the top 100 blogs. I don’t need Technorati to deliver me articles from the top 100 websites, I already subscribe to the feeds of the top websites, what I want to read are unknown, smaller bloggers from other countries with opinions different than the same-old same-old that Technorati will be delivering. I now use Global Voices to fill this particular gap left by Technorati.

In the past, Technorati’s search delivered the most recent results as opposed to what it now considers the best results. What this means for thousands and thousands of small bloggers is that it’s highly unlikely anyone will come across their articles. Bloggers joined Technorati because it was useful to them. But who needs Technorati now?

How to Kill your Brand – the LG Upgrade Fiasco

8 December 2009

What me worryThe original meaning of the word “brand” meant to burn (from the Old Norse brandr), referring to the practice of burning a mark (or brand) onto a product or animal.

Although a brand originally denoted ownership it now denotes a promise. When I buy a bottle of Coca Cola instead of Crapa Cola, it is because Coke made a promise to me that the flavor and quality would be exactly the same as I have come to expect from them.

If you bought an LG BD300 with HD Netflix support last Christmas, you probably received a notice a few months later that a new firmware update was available that would let you play YouTube videos on your TV [Engadget].

A few weeks later, an avalanche of users reported that their BD-300s were no longer able to play regular DVDs, only Blu-ray. Seems the upgrade physically destroyed the ability of the drive to play regular DVDs and downloading the old firmware didn’t solve the problem for those who tried to play a DVD after the upgrade. Those fortunate enough not to try to play a DVD after the youtube upgrade were in fact able to go back to the old firmware and return to DVD playing functionality.

You can view many of the complaints at this forum and at Amazon. A petition asking LG to fix the problem for free can be found here.

At first LG support offered to fix the problem for $69.00. Then as the problem escalated, they announced they would fix it for free but only if you could produce a receipt that you purchased the player from an authorized dealer.

Note to LG: This is not how you handle a problem that you caused. Accidents happen, you did not intend for the upgrade to harm your products. However, how you treat your customers is not an accident. If you read the complaints you will notice that many of your customers are swearing not to buy any of your products again. The first thing you should have done after you charged $69 to fix a problem you caused should have been to publicly announce that you were returning the money – your customers should not have to pay for your ineptitude, nor should it go so far that they have to sign a petition asking you to make good. Next, you should have made a public apology vowing to fix the drives for free – no questions asked and no proof needed that the player had to have been purchased only at an authorized dealer.

You could have turned this fiasco into an opportunity to show everyone that your company is a world class manufacturer that stands fully behind its products.

You should be fixing the drives even if the players were stolen. Otherwise, the request for proof of purchase only looks like a ploy to limit the number of drives you have to replace. I estimate that only a few thousand customers downloaded the fatal software before the warning flag went up. I also estimate that, including shipping, it costs you at most $30.00 per unit to fix the problem. So what were you trying to save by asking for proof of purchase? Less than thirty thousand dollars?

Is that what your brand is worth? The LG brand stood for quality and service – something that takes years to burn into consumers’ minds, you’re willing to snuff out in an instant to save a few thousand dollars?

Stupid, stupid marketing and shame on you.

Making Money From Lazy MTA Riders

3 December 2009

The Daily News reported last week that many riders don’t know what to do – or can’t be bothered – with small-change balances left on their MetroCards.

I know what you’re thinking: “So what?” Well, it seems that straphangers will leave more than $53 million on expired MetroCards this year. Most riders said they simply throw away cards with balances of five, 10 or 20 cents.

I don’t get it. If you use the subways and buses often then you have to buy another card. Why not simply hand in your old card and ask to add the balance? Personally, I use the automatic dispensers. It asks if I want a new card or add money to an existing card. Nothing could be simpler.

But fortunes are made off the stupidity or laziness of others.

Here’s a suggestion to panhandlers: instead of asking for donations on the subways, ask for old MetroCards. I am sure you are more likely to get a few cards with balances on them than trying to get cash. In addition, since you’re hanging around on subways a lot, pick up discarded cards lying about. Bring them to the MTA kiosks and have all the balances put on one card. Contact me when you have a bunch of cards with decent balances of $10 or more. I will buy them from you 60 cents on the dollar – cash. I won’t lie – I have someone who will buy them from me for 80 cents on the dollar. Hey, I gotta make something too.