Posted tagged ‘Stupid Business’

Pay for the Weather Scam

20 July 2010

As long as you can stick your head out of the window and look at the sky, you do not need to pay for a weather report. And even if you want the weather in an area far away from your location, the National Weather Service will give it to you for free for any city in the US. For example, right now (5:46 PM EST) the temperature in Phoenix, Az is 108 °F, the Dew Point is 57 °F, the wind is WSW at 13 MPH and it’s partly cloudy. All that without costing a penny.

Need the weather in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Try Oceanweather Inc which will give you the temperature, the wave height, and wave direction for any part of the globe. Again, at no cost to you. I have no doubt that there are free forums you can join to get the number of seagulls per square mile in a given area of the world.

So I have to wonder why anyone would pay $24.99 a year to the Weather Channel for a GOLD membership to get the same weather information they can get for free, even from the Weather Channel itself.

All you get for the money is an interactive screen that helps you track 11 cities you specify. Big friggin deal.

the weather channel

This reminds me of companies who send out direct mail selling people social security information for $9.99 – the same information anyone can get for free from the Social Security Administration.

I suppose the Weather Channel figured they could target these same morons to pay for stuff they can get for free anywhere on the Internet. What a scam.

Apple Has only Contempt for Its Customers

2 July 2010

I have written often that Apple treats its customers like crap, but the apple-sheep keep coming back for more.

Whenever there is a problem, Apple makes sure to charge their customers.

Here’s how Tech Tring describes the latest problem with the iPhone 4:

The problem which was identified in the iPhone 4 was the dropping of signal strength to very low on touching the left rim of the iPhone 4, and could result in disconnecting of calls or the loss of connectivity. The rims use the new concept of the antenna technology, according to Steve Jobs.

Jobs simply responded – “Just avoid holding it in that way”, reported CNET. This iPhone 4 grip shown by Steve Jobs has been called the “Death Grip” and this grip reduces the contact of the hand of the user with that of the steel band encircling the iPhone 4 edge which contains the antenna. Thus the problem can be solved in this way.

Aside from holding it like a Vulcan from StarTrek, the other solution is to lay out the sum of $29.00 for a Bumper made out of rubber or plastic which may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly touching the affected areas.

A decent company would have given vouchers for those Bumbers for free so that iPhone 4 users could use the phone without using the “Death Grip” and without shelling out money for a problem caused by Apple.

But Apple people are sheep and gratefully bend over to take the abuse.

See the video:

The Overdraft Scam

29 June 2010

I’m sure almost all of you have had this experience: you have, let’s say, $500.00 in your bank account. Then you mis-scheduled your payments where the following three checks come in: $470.00, $40.00, and $22.00.

This is what always happened: the bank would pay the largest check first leaving you with only a $30.00 balance thereby forcing the next two checks to bounce. But you may object. Why can’t the bank pay $470 and then process the check for $22.00? Certainly there’s enough money for that. Well, according to the bank rule of paying the largest balance first, they always assure themselves of the maximum overdraft fees. Here’s how it works:

They pay $470 leaving thirty bucks. Then they attempt to pay the $40 check and since there aren’t enough funds they bounce that check and whack you with $30.00 in overdraft fees.

Now you have no money in the account and so they bounce the $22.00 check as well generating another $30 in fees. This leaves you with two bounced checks instead of one.

If banks weren’t such predators and paid the lowest amount in checks first, then consumers would not have spent $17.5 billion last year in overdraft fees.

Because of such scams newly enacted legislation prevents banks from automatically charging you a $35 overdraft fee if you happen to try to buy a 50 cent candy bar without enough cash in your account. The new rules say that the banks have to get you to opt-in to such overdraft programs.

In the past few months I received a number of calls from my credit card providers offering me the fantastic chance of opting in to allow them to extend me credit beyond my available balance.

When I logged into my Chase online account I saw this great opportunity to let them charge me $35 for an over-drafted can of soda.

Wow! Who would want to lose this important feature? Hurry now!

debit card overdraft opt-in

As that great economist and US Vice-President, Dan Quayle, once said: “Bank failures are caused by depositors who don’t deposit enough money to cover losses due to mismanagement.”

Although I generally favor little government intervention in business, there is no moral justification for the way that banks reorder transactions to generate cascading overdraft fees.

iPad Uses Slave Labor

14 June 2010

Foxconn is the trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., a Taiwan firm with operations in China that is arguably the largest manufacturer of electronics and computer components in the world. Almost every major company in America contracts with them: Apple, Microsoft, Motorola, Amazon, Cisco, Intel, Dell, HP, etc. and Foreign companies as well: Sony, Nintendo, Nokia, and many others.

How does Foxxconn snag so many manufacturing contracts?

Actually, the answer is quite simple: slavery.

They can produce Mac minis, iPods, iPads, iPhones, motherboards, PlayStations, Wiis, Xboxes, cell phones, kindles, and routers cheaper than anyone else. To do that they require their workers to put in 11- to 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week amid fumes and dust and constant harassment. No one can talk while working and you better have strong kidneys because restroom breaks are severely limited.

The working conditions are so difficult that there has been a spate of worker suicides at the plant (Between Jan 2010 to May 2010, twelve Foxconn employees attempted suicide, ten succeeded), according to Bloomberg News.

Now one would think that a big company like Foxconn would take measures to prevent such things from happening again. Perhaps better working conditions, fewer hours, better pay? They did better than that: they installed nets near worker dormitories to catch them should they jump. Now that is smart business. Spend a few hundred on nets and keep the price of manufacturing steady and cheap.

Apple did investigate but found most of the charges baseless. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said a number of times that Foxconn “is not a sweatshop.” Could that be because T.C. Gou, the brother of Foxconn founder Terry Gou, plans on opening 100 stores to sell Mac computers and iPod music players in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, by the end of next year?

I am not a person opposed to outsourcing; however when the outsourced workers are actually company slaves, I believe it is time for American companies to switch to other sources and vet those sources better.

It is time American consumers demanded that the products they buy be slave-free.

When Bureaucrats Ruin Businesses

6 April 2010

In the US prior to 1889, before there were cellphones, before there were payphones, if you needed to call someone or some business you went to call centers, or pay stations, manned by attendants who would collect money from you for placing a call. The first public coin telephone was shortly thereafter installed at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut.

Uganda pay phoneInterestingly, manned pay stations are still the norm in many parts of the world.

Everything was fine for American operators of payphones for more than a century until prepaid calling cards arrived in the U.S. two decades ago. Unfortunately for payphone owners most users of prepaid cards (mostly immigrants) utilizing their equipment were not putting any quarters in, instead they were accessing the servers of Calling Card Providers by dialing a toll free access number for which the payphone owners received no compensation.

Citing poverty, they asked the FCC in October of 1997 to allow a surcharge to be imposed for anyone accessing an 800 number to offset the loss of revenue. Sadly, the morons at the FCC mandated that the owner of the 800 number pay the surcharge instead of the person dialing (about 25 cents).

The immediate effect was the quick demise of the 800 pager business in this country because business owners were unable to recoup the cost of anyone calling them.

As for pre-paid card sellers, technically they were liable for the 25 cent surcharge. But since they often sold these cards at a steep discount, they would have to charge their customers 35 cents or more per call in order to get back 25 cents.

Of course, many operators did not pay, or they denied that the calls went through. The end result was that the pay phone owners went back to the FCC and asked for even more of a surcharge to cover the shortfall. If you have had occasion to use a calling card from a payphone you probably know that you are now being charged from 89 cents to a dollar or more to cover that surcharge.

Well, here I have to blame both the payphone operators and the FCC. Had the owners asked for 10 cents for any 800 call, they would have ended up with more money than asking for 50 cents from calling card operators many of whom barely pay 20% of what is truly due the payphone owners and send the money in many months after the initial call and after the payphone operators pay a third-party to collect the money for them.

Now with increased use of cellphones, payphone usage has declined drastically. The majority of people who could be using payphones are immigrants because cellphone calls are too expensive for international calling. However, the payphone surcharges of 89 cents or more has caused many of these callers to wait until they get home to their land-lines from which 800 numbers are not surcharged or to wait for night rates on their cellphones to kick-in to use their calling cards.

The FCC which should have been smart enough to protect payphone owners instead insured their eventual demise. Really stupid business decision.

Apple Is Not So Smart

5 April 2010

apple is stupidWhy in the world would a company release reviews of its product on April Fool’s Day?

There are only a few things that can happen on April Fool’s:

  • Good Reviews are not taken seriously.
  • Reviewers have to make disclaimers that they are not joking: see for example CNET TV’s article “We have an iPad and that’s no April Fool’s video,” or Synthtopia’s article “Korg iElectribe For The iPad No April Fool’s Joke.”

    How can a company that seems so smart sometimes be so stupid when it comes to thinking about its customers? Normally one only sees this much disregard and contempt for customers among telecom giants such as Verizon and AT&T; although I should exempt a few companies, especially ones I consult for that supply SIP Termination and Wholesale VOIP, from my condemnation.

    The only time Steve Jobs stands up for consumers is when it impacts Apple’s bottom line, read for example:

    Planck’s Constant Blog, iTunes and the greedy music industry

    Steve Jobs, has accused major labels of being greedy, and indicated that they have attempted to force an increase in the price of some downloads.

    “Music companies make more money when they sell a song on iTunes than when they sell a CD,” Mr Jobs said last year. “If they want to raise prices, it’s because they’re greedy. If the price goes up, people turn back to piracy – and everybody loses.”

    Jobs should know greedy: when I purchased my first iPod I needed to pay extra for the adapter to charge it up. Not nice.

Google Buzz Missteps

12 February 2010

Google Buzz LogoIt sounds like a great idea, take a very popular product, like Gmail, and attach an interface to it that allows users to link their Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, and Google Reader accounts so they can see information posted by friends (or others they most frequently Gmail to) on those networks. Gmail users can even post their thoughts directly on that interface.

Called Google Buzz, this attempt to get into social networking and compete (or maybe even replace) social media like Facebook and Twitter didn’t start off well. Molly Wood, a consumer electronics blogger at Cnet News, complained of privacy concerns right from the beginning:

Molly’s Rants,
Google Buzz: Privacy nightmare

See, I love the idea of neat new tech innovations that lead to streamlined communication, real-time updating, in-line video and photo posting, and supersimple friend and contact integration. I do not, however, like a product that bursts through my door like a tornado and opts me in to wanton in-box clutter and spam (or, more precisely, bacn) publicly reveals my personal contact list without asking me, threatens to broadcast my e-mail address anytime someone wants to @ me in a Buzz, and even appears to grab photos off my Android phone that I’ve never uploaded.

Seriously, Google. Would it have killed you to add a “configure” step to this process?

When you visit Google Buzz, you’re invited to “Try Buzz in Gmail,” with “no setup needed.” But the no-setup thing isn’t the bonus you might be led to believe.

First, you automatically follow everyone in your Gmail contact list, and that information is publicly available in your profile, by default, to everyone who visits your profile. It’s available with helpful “follow” links too–wow, you can expand your Buzz network so fast by harvesting the personal contact lists of other people!

Blog posts rapidly stepped in with advice on how to shut the damn thing off:

Cnet Webware,
Buzz off: Disabling Google Buzz

Google’s new social-networking tool Buzz is at its root an unwanted, unasked for pest. The way some of us see it, we didn’t opt in to some newfangled Twitter system and we don’t particularly want to see updates from contacts we never asked to follow creep up in our Buzz in-box. Call us what you will, but for curmudgeonly types like us, Buzz isn’t so much social networking as it is socially awkward networking. We tried it, we didn’t like it, and now it has to go.

Step 0: Don’t disable Buzz–yet

The automatic reaction is to scroll to the very bottom of Gmail and click the words “turn off buzz.” But all this does is remove active links, leaving your profile still publicly available, along with any public buzzes you might have made while trying Buzz out. In fact, you’re still technically following people, and they’re following you. Not OK.

[get the rest of the instructions at the link]

Google responded with a few quick fixes:

Relevant Results,
Google tweaks Buzz privacy settings

Google announced some changes to Google Buzz late Thursday that show it has belatedly recognized the backlash over privacy concerns with the new service.

Early users of Google Buzz have found the settings very complicated, especially the ones that pertain to privacy. In a blog post Thursday, Google said it built privacy controls into Google Buzz from Day 1 but acknowledged the most strident criticism–that Google made if difficult to make one’s list of followers private–in tweaking the set-up process for the new social-networking service.

I’m surprised that Google didn’t do better pre-rollout testing on this product asking bloggers to comment and check it out. They’re not supposed to make stupid business mistakes.

Me? I like the idea but I’m going to wait this out and consider it later when Google has had time to iron out all the wrinkles.