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So, when exactly did business go sour?

By Dinner Is Served in Op-Ed
Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 06:25:38 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Proclaimed by me, July 20th of each year will now be "the day when business ethics became an oxymoron."

Example 1: Approximately one year ago, I requested the service of a company (the particular service is of no relevance to this issue). I signed a yearly contract which stated that I would pay 95 US dollars a month for one year ($1140.00). Once the contract was signed, the matter of payment was handed over to a company called "Advance Payment Services (APS)," which is located in Pennsylvania.

About 8 months through the contract, I no longer had the time to employ the service, so I politely asked APS if I could cancel the contract. I was told that I would need explicit permission from the business owner to cancel the contract. It was a long shot, but I was going to try anyway. I spoke to the business owner, and was hastily denied my cancel request. I understood, they probably had the payments factored into future plans or whatever.

The thing that really pissed me off was when I called a few days ago to ensure that my contract would not be renewed.

Me: Hi, I'm calling to make sure that my contract with <bleep> will not be renewed this coming billing period. My account number is <bleep>.

Her: Ok, Mr. <bleep>, I have canceled the renewal status, but you are required to let us know 30 days prior to the last billing period. Your contract was signed on August 15th of last year. You are going to be billed for one extra month after the pre-determined final billing.

Me: You've got to be kidding me. I'm giving you a 27 day notice, and you're telling me that isn't sufficient? I'm not a technical genius, but I know enough about modern computing to confidently tell you that it doesn't require 27 days to remove my name from a database.

I'm not going to bore you with any further details of the phone call, as the current information is sufficient to prove my point. MODERN BUSINESS WEASELS ITS WAY INTO MONEY THAT IT DOESN'T DESERVE. This can be seen in almost any type of binding agreement these days, and it comes in the name of "convenience." Billing periods are extended without notifying you to make sure it's ok, "for your convenience." Additional services are tacked on (most prevalent on the internet), cited for your general interest and "convenience."

The problem is, this "convenience" is nothing more than a weasel tactic to get more money. If you compared the number of people who actually enjoy this type of treatment (are there any?) to the number of people that are bothered by this type of treatment, you would see that this is more of an INconvenience. The number of "one-time deal" customers (which are the majority) are charged more money out of simple absentmindedness. And business people know this. They know Americans have busy lives and tend to forget the next billing date, or the allotted cancel time. Thus lies the crookedness and doublespeak.

Example 2: I have had the same credit card for a few years now. It still has the abysmally low credit limit that was set when I first obtained it. I like the low credit limit. It makes sure I can't spend over $200 a month, which has an added bonus of making large, extravagant purchases less convenient, thus more thought-out.

My period comes every 30 days, on the 20th of every month. If you haven't noticed, the 20th of this month fell on a Sunday. I normally do all my bill paying online, so I was confident that an electronic payment sent out on Friday the 18th would reach their office by the 20th. As stated on my credit card's payment page, if submitted between 9-5 on a business day, the payment will normally show up on the same day. No problem, it was around 7 AM.

Well, I check my account status on Tuesday the 22nd, and I'm surprised to see two bastardly things:

1 - The payment didn't go through until Monday the 21st. There was a substantial late fee tacked on.

2 - The large late fee sent my account balance OVER the credit limit, thus I incurred a "over credit limit" fee!

Of course, I called the credit card company and whined like a little girl. I asked why my payment wasn't considered after the late fee. I got what amounted to simple greed.

Logic doesn't work in these type of situations. "OK, tell me this. A late fee is incurred through my tardy payment. OK, I accept that part of it. But tell me, how does this "over the limit" fee make sense? I did not make any purchases that made my balance over the limit, thus no money was given out by your credit card company. So, I'm basically paying a fee for money that was never sent out in the first place? How the hell can I incur a penalty in which the infraction was caused by your charges?"

Like I said, logic doesn't work in that type of situation. Technicalities, greed, and apathy towards the guy who is calling 10 states away take over. Business relations aren't human anymore. You interface with the machine. Face-to-face conversation no longer takes place. The names of the game used to be greed and the occasional humanistic act, but now it's precision and greed. Our society is caught up in so many technicalities that we tend to forget that humans aren't machines.

Example 3: A few weeks ago, I deposited a personal check in the amount of 350 US dollars into my bank account. I checked my balance a few days after, just to make sure everything went through and that the funds were available. Nothing was there. I called the person who wrote the check and asked if is balance was skimming towards zero. He assured me that he had plenty of money to cover the check.

Wondering what was going on, I head over to the local branch of my bank. I told the teller what day I deposited the check and showed her the receipt. She got the manager. The manager informed me that there were some "accounting errors" and that my money should show up the next day. I asked what kind of accounting errors they were having, but he refused to tell me.

I then asked how much money I was going to be credited over this whole fiasco. He told me the original amount, 350 US Dollars. I asked why I wasn't going to be given any money for the inconvenience that this has caused. The response: "It doesn't work that way." My response: "What the hell do you mean it doesn't work that way? What if, next week, I bounce a check? You'll be more than happy to take a big, fat "returned check fee" out of my account. You're absolutely delighted to take my money when I make a mistake, in fact, the whole banking premise almost relies on people making mistakes. Yet, when you make a mistake, we get the cold shoulder? That's silly. What if I had wrote a check for my rent, but it bounced because you made an "account error?" The only response I got was a repeated apology, and "that's how things are."

"That's how things are." That bank manager didn't know it, but that statement was so incredibly profound to me. The way it is? Modern capitalism is fucking crooked. Business is getting money that it doesn't deserve, and we shell it out because we're scared of the consequences. We're so damn scared of empty legal threats and tarnished credit records, so we shut our mouths and pay the money just to avoid the hassle. That's crooked. That's unimaginable power.

If you read the minds of all people who broke the law somehow, I guarantee you they wouldn't be worried about jail or fines. They'd be more worried about how this will affect their current employment, or possibly their future employment. Money is what keeps people to follow the rules, not the judicial system. Capitalism is more powerful than the law.

Note: "Humor" consisting of "here's a tissue" or "do you want me to call the wahwahwambulance?" has already been predicted. Please refrain. Thank you.


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Display: Sort:
So, when exactly did business go sour? | 140 comments (121 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
my favourite peeve.. (4.20 / 5) (#6)
by the sixth replicant on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 05:25:01 AM EST

...is that nearly every monthly expense has to be paid in advance EXCEPT when your own labour is involved. Then you get payed after the work is done.

I pay my apartment rent in advance, but my company pays me after I've done the job.

Why? Because that's the way it's always been done.


more correctly: (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by ibsulon on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 04:08:23 PM EST

When a tangible good is involved, payment is required first.

When a service is involved, payment is at the end. (Some contracts may allow for some up front money if it is required to get the job rolling.)

Do you pay your hair dresser first?

[ Parent ]

Well, but you DO pay your prostitute first... (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by laotic on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 03:30:30 PM EST

Unless that is considered a tangible good... :)

Sig? Sigh.
[ Parent ]
Mortgages (none / 0) (#46)
by nine4mortal on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 04:35:45 PM EST

Mortgage payments are made in arrears. That is to say, you pay the month's interest at the end of the month. This is opposite of rent, which you pay in advance.

(Caveat: the above is the standard in the US. I am not sure about other countries.)

"Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die..."
[ Parent ]

Mortgage payments can be made at any time. (none / 0) (#113)
by nstenz on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 03:50:52 AM EST

The longer you wait between each payment, the more money you'll end up paying. Since your interest is continually being recalculated after each payment, you can actually end up paying thousands of dollars less interest on a mortgage by making payments a few days earlier each month, or by paying more than the minimum payment.

As you said, however, you're paying for the interest that has accrued during the previous month.

[ Parent ]

Since when (3.00 / 6) (#8)
by SanSeveroPrince on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:19:21 AM EST

was 'business ethics' anything but an oxymoron? Get over that honour and respect stuff. Ultimately, you're in it to make money. THAT is the only ethic... and I am keeping my tissue, thank you very much.


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

Ha! (none / 0) (#139)
by artis on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 12:36:28 AM EST

I bet you would be more than willing to sell your tissue to him.
Can you know that you are omniscient?
[ Parent ]
How about this useful phrase... (4.42 / 7) (#9)
by squigly on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:31:58 AM EST

"I'd like to close my account".

Graanted, you'll end up opening an account with another set of charlatans.  The point is to add your voice to the people who are not interested in this sort of poor service.   If enough people are sufficiently unsatisfied with the service, someone may take notice, and realise there's a market for people who want a little decency.

Banks and bad sevice (4.50 / 6) (#11)
by monkeymind on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:45:18 AM EST

One piece of research I found quite enlightening while contracting to a bank.

No matter what a bank does, raise fees, drop deposit interest rates etc no more then 10% of the current customers will EVER close their account within a given 12 month period.

The banks know this and so do what they like.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Banks exist to make a profit... (4.00 / 4) (#13)
by Dinner Is Served on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:47:49 AM EST

One way or another, you'll end up getting screwed. Contrary to popular belief, banks don't like customers with good track records. You'd be surprised how much money banks make off bounced checks alone. Same goes with credit card companies.
While I appreciate being able to defend against would-be rapists who might suddenly drop in from the sky, I don't appreciate not being able to see the Northern Lights. -- mfk
[ Parent ]
Maybe so... (4.50 / 6) (#16)
by squigly on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:37:58 AM EST

But the bank that you just left will be unable to screw you.  I simply believe in punishing them for their bad behaviour.  There have to be enough banks to change a lot before you have to start from the beginning.

To be honest though, changing bank accounts is a hassle.  Changing credit cards on the other hand is a trivial process, and they still make some money off good customers.

[ Parent ]

Closing Accounts (4.80 / 5) (#25)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:55:19 AM EST

Some banks make it difficult to close an account. The phone drone has a thick book containing a script that they are required to follow.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

The book is useful (4.80 / 5) (#27)
by squigly on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:27:18 AM EST

It requires they ask for a reason.  The reason is a dislike of their one-way policies and lack of accountability to their customers.  They might even be able to offer you a perk to stay.

[ Parent ]
perks for keeping your account (none / 0) (#96)
by wonkie on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:49:46 PM EST

I just cancelled a credit card today that I am no longer using. They really do try hard to convince you to stay:

Me: "I'd like to cancel my account."
Them: "<sales pitch about why I should stay> Okay, so you're going to keep your account. Can I help you with anything else?"

Me: "Well you can close my account."
Them: "We'll lower your interest rate if you stay."

Me: "I don't care about the interest rate, I just want to close my account."
Them: "We'll lower the interest rate, and sign you up for our free bonus miles program!"

Me: "I just want to close my account!"
Them: "We'll lower the interest rate, sign you up for bonus miles, and send you $100 in coupons!"

After about 10 minutes I finally convinced them that I really did want to close my account. What did I learn from this experience? If you ever feel like lowering your interest rate and getting some free stuff (and assuming you have good credit), just call up your credit card company and tell them you want to close your account. I just may try this with my other credit card :)

[ Parent ]

Doesn't work all the time (none / 0) (#133)
by sbalea on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 12:40:40 PM EST

Depends on the company. I had credit cards that were canceled without any fuss, something like:
Me: I would like to close my account.
Rep: OK, your account is closed as of today.
And I don't have a problem with my credit...
So bottom line is don't try to get more perks by threatening to close unless you're ready to actually do it.

[ Parent ]
It's often the other way round for me (none / 0) (#134)
by squigly on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 04:24:20 PM EST

I've decided I'm annoyed with the company, and can't be bothered with them any more.  They try to persuade me to stay, and their offers are good enough that I've stayed.  Which is how it should work.

Of course, not haviong a problem with your credit probably means they aren't too concerend about losing you.  They make most money from people who put everything on their card and are slow at paying it off (but manage eventually).  Those are the ones they offer good incentives to stay.  

[ Parent ]

The bank closes your account (none / 0) (#126)
by applespank on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 02:48:39 AM EST

then charges you an "account closure" fee, which begets a $50 insufficient funds fee because they already took the money out of your account.

[ Parent ]
They can do that!? (none / 0) (#127)
by squigly on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 04:31:32 AM EST

Charging you for terminating a service?  Does the US have any consumer protection laws?  Don't want to dis the US too much, but I'm quite surprised that they can get away with this.

[ Parent ]
They can do (none / 0) (#129)
by applespank on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 04:16:34 PM EST

whatever they can get away with.  Whether they can legally do what I specifically mentioned, I don't know.  I got the example from someone who claimed it happened to them.

One example I know is true is from the cable company.  I had a friend call to cancel her cable and she made the mistake of telling them that she was getting satellite.  They claimed they were going to charge her something like two month's worth of fees to terminate.  She called again a few days later, this time saying she was cancelling because she just didn't watch much TV.  They didn't charge her a dime.

Is it legal?  If you don't know, it doesn't matter.  If it costs $10,000 an hour to fight an illegal $100 cancellation fee, it doesn't matter.

[ Parent ]

Jumping through hoops... (4.28 / 7) (#12)
by sholden on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:46:59 AM EST

I actually read the terms of termination in contracts I enter into and don't do business with places that make life too difficult (requiring a fax or snail mail to exit, but only a credit card number in an online form to enter, for example).

The strangest "make life difficult so we can scam an extra term from some suckers" clause I ever actually accepted was:

Notification of Your intent to terminate must be provided to [company] no earlier than 10 days prior to Your billing date but no later than three days prior to Your billing date.

I used a cronjob to make sure I didn't forget to send notification in the one week window (a cronjob that emailed each day until it got a reply - and in the end actually only sent two emails).

The world's dullest web page

Business, by defination (4.40 / 5) (#14)
by monkeymind on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:50:27 AM EST

Is the minium possible effort/expenditure.

For the maxium possible return.

Or to put it another way. Every shekel the traffic will bear.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.

I didn't read the title to your comment... (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by Verbophobe on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:22:43 AM EST

...and I thought for a second you were reffering to the article itself.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
Dont buy. (4.14 / 7) (#17)
by megid on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:44:52 AM EST

You need a bank, granted. You dont need all the other useless stuff. If you think they are shit, dont buy their stuff. THAT hurts them, and that is the reason that service gets *better* over time, e.g. I dont pay any banking fees anymore and that was a reason to switch. I dont buy at Wal-Marts cause I dont like their attitude towards their employees. And lots of ppl I know do the same as me.

Btw, this has ALWAYS been like that. You just didnt notice because formerly there wasnt anything to buy on a subscription basis.

"think first, write second, speak third."

Join a Credit Union (4.62 / 8) (#18)
by Talez on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:59:02 AM EST

I did and they kick the crap out of banks.

I'd advise you to research their financial stability before you join though as your money won't be insured like it is with a bank.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

Credit Unions (4.80 / 5) (#20)
by Merk00 on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:26:51 AM EST

Credit Unions in the US are insured by the Federal Government in the same way that banks are. That insurance will cover up to $100,000 in deposits per individual.

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Even better (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by Talez on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:33:56 AM EST

Over here in Australia they aren't insured to my knowledge.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]
NCUA (4.66 / 3) (#28)
by Merk00 on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:52:40 AM EST

Over here, credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration which is an agency of the US government. The main problem with credit unions is that they don't have many branches (the one I'm a member of has two branches located less than a mile apart).

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Credit union branches (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by grouse on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:51:04 PM EST

Ask your CU to join the network of Credit Union Service Centers so you can get service all over the U.S.

You sad bastard!

"Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
[ Parent ]

Don't forget Alliance One! (or similar) (none / 0) (#93)
by lowca on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:48:36 AM EST

Get your CU to become an Alliance One member. Alliance One allows a participating CU's members to use ATM's run by other participating CU's, with no surcharges whatsoever. Right now, members of participating CU's can use over 3600 ATM's in the U.S. It's really cheap for a CU to participate, too.


"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

[ Parent ]
Hear hear. (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by Haelo on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 11:00:11 AM EST

I second this. I had nothing but problems with banks, and looking for a way out I decided to try a credit union. They do a fairly loose credit check on you and you're in. Functionally, they are identical to a bank. You can get a debit card, free checking (and it really is free,) automatic billpay, overdraft protection from savings, and no minimums, to mention a few. Their support staff has been nothing but friendly with me. There was an incident where I accidentally made seven small purchases into debt. The computer charges and overdraft fee for each purchase, which racked up a healthy negative in no time at all. So I called them up, explained my situation, and they agreed that the fees were excessive, and dropped all of them but the initial fee.

If you ever need a loan, being as member gets you some really good rates that you would have to search all over for some place else. I personally have never taken a loan, but if their service on that is anything like the regular banking functions, I would definitely go there before any place else, even if I did find a slightly better rate some place else.
[ Parent ]

Karma and the tides of change (4.78 / 14) (#19)
by Fredrick Doulton on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:13:42 AM EST

A buddy of mine up in Soviet Canuckistan told me that years ago when Bell owned every phone line in the country, there was no govt. regulation, and thus no competition. You had to take it up the ass if you wanted a telephone, and there was nothing you could do about it. Hell, if you wanted AT&T long distance, you needed a second physical line. Anyway, my friend got screwed over royally by Bell. After numerous nasty dealings with them and a multitude of phone call complaints, one of their reps finally told him that if he didn't like their service, he could take his business somewhere else. The irony of this being that Bell was the only provider in the country.
Well, fast forward a few years, and the Govt. finally regulates the industry. Bell is forced to open its lines to competitors. And to this day, whenever Bell calls him up asking if he would like to sign up with one of their plans he says, "18 years ago, one of your reps told me that if I didn't like the service, I could go somewhere else. So I did."

The point of this is that that is not "how things are". Times change. And everyone gets their comeuppance, no matter how untouchable they think they may be.

Bush/Cheney 2004! - "Because we've still got more people to kill"

Some things don't change. (5.00 / 3) (#36)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 01:03:54 PM EST

During that time, some Provincial Governments built their own phone companies. AGT - Alberta Government Telephones was one of them. About 10 years ago the Government spun AGT off as a private company Telus - with it's infrastructure paid for with my tax dollars. Some provinces, such as Saskatchewan are still provincially owned.

So 6 months ago I got a land line. For a land line, you still have only 1 choice - Telus. So I paid the $50 connection fee, and specifially told them I didn't want any calls from Telus Marketing or Sales drones, nor did I want Telus to 'share' (sell) my number with it's 'business partners' (telemarketers). I've had a cell through Telus for many years, and the only telemarketing calls I got on it were from my bank selling my number.

In the last two weeks, the only calls I have got on my land line were from telemarketers. Way to go Telus!!

So I called them to disconnect. The conversation went something like:
(operator):Why are you disconnecting?
(me): My phone isn't working properly. [calling from land line]
(operator):Why don't you call repairs?
(me): Can repairs stop telemarketers?
(operator): Have you tried call display with products that discourage telemarketers, such as number blocking? [trying for the upsell]
(me): No, I specifically told Telus not to sell my number to telemarketers. I gave this number only to friends and family, and within 1 month, I had telemarketers calling. I'm not paying $9.95 per month to Telus to fix a problem they caused. I'm also not paying $9.95 a month for someone to click a mouse button once. The cost is too high as is, this landline is about $150 per month and I use it perhaps 1 call per week. My cell is free in the evenings and weekends, plus it has per second billing, and I've never paid more than $70 in a month.
(operator): Ok, it will be disconnected in the morning.

Good that your bud got his due. Anyone that thinks that any company operates out of purely 'ethical and moral' grounds is mistaken. It is out to make a profit above all else. It's ethics and morals are for sale.

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Oh Boy (4.66 / 6) (#37)
by Politburo on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 01:20:11 PM EST

You mean I only have to wait 20 years to semi-vindicate being screwed daily? Whew!

[ Parent ]
why don't people see? (4.55 / 9) (#23)
by speek on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:45:17 AM EST

This is what happens when you enter into agreements with someone so disproportionately more powerful than you. In any such "partnership", they will have all the say. They will be able to change the agreement at any time, and you won't. Yet, people continue to feel more comfortable doing business with "established" businesses. Even though they'll generally get better service and better prices from the newcomers and the down-and-outs.

If you contract a small-time company, you'll find they're easy to push around. I used to use Discover card, and anytime I sent in my money late, and they charged their late-fee, all I had to do was call them up and ask them to remove it. They did. I don't think they do that anymore. Gotten too big, I guess.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Barclaycard do this (5.00 / 5) (#26)
by starsky on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:08:19 AM EST

and they're the biggest card people in England, and porbably one of the biggest in the world.

The thing to remember is that, firstly, you've been charged by some computer, not maliciously, and secondly, the person you talk to is just a normal person like you, and treating them like shit is not going to achieve anything.

[ Parent ]

So you have to cancel one month (3.33 / 6) (#24)
by iasius on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:48:59 AM EST

in advance, big deal. Lots of companies do business that way. If I wanted to cancel my DSL line I have to cancel 3 months in advance. Same with my mobile phone company.
Guess you have to remember what you signed on for and cancel on time.
Maybe that is not what happened in your case, but otherwise it's quite normal from my experience.

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
That doesn't make it right. (4.88 / 9) (#30)
by kitten on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:33:25 AM EST

Just because it's "quite normal" for businesses to screw customers doesn't mean it's right. This is the information age, isn't it? There's no reason it should take thirty fucking days to cancel an account. It shouldn't even take thirty minutes. You should be able to call up, say, "I want to cancel," and a few mouseclicks later, it's done.

Clearly, it isn't a technical issue. The reason for these ridiculous types of contracts are so businesses can fuck you in the ass with a cattle prod and there's nothing you can do about it.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Reminds of a friend I just ran into... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Dinner Is Served on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 02:48:52 PM EST

We hung out a few years ago, but don't really keep in touch now. He was a pretty bright guy, but not too computer savvy. He'd always come to me with questions when stuff went wrong, and I'd be glad to help. I had introduced him to Napster before the onslaught of media attention. He was hooked.

I started to lose touch with him a few months after that, but we still remained friends. I saw him a week ago at another friend's party. We did the normal, how-ya-doin chit-chat bullshit. Somehow I mentioned that I just downloaded some Chemical Brothers CD. He look surprised. "What? Are you serious, man? You still do that stuff? I've been hearing that they started to crack down on that, and a bunch of people were busted." My reaction was somewhat similar to the reaction of this post: How can you swallow that tripe?

While it has become normal business practice, that doesn't make it right (thank you, kitten). The very fact that people are tolerating this type of stuff is beyond me.

As I see it, there are four reasons why notifications are implemented.

1 - The company may actually do a high amount of business, which means that a request of any kind may not be resolved immediately. Though, that still doesn't justify an enormous notification period. If the company can't handle the number of requests in a timely manner, they need to hire more employees or update their technology. The money saved by keeping wages down is brought upon at your expense (figuratively and/or literally).

2 - For financial planning, the company would like to get a heads up on who's going and who's staying. Though, the only way for this to be practical is to impose a rather large notification period, such as one month. I really can't see a company implementing a 5-day notification period for financial planning, as that's a rather insignificant time period. It's probably useful for companies to be able to know an estimated revenue coming in for the next couple of months, but as before, this is done at your expense.

3 - To be crooked bastards. They know many, many people forget notification deadlines, so this is a perfect way to scam another billing period.

Either way, you're certainly not benefiting, and it's certainly not for your convenience. The very fact that you consider it "normal" pisses me off, because in a way, they've won.
While I appreciate being able to defend against would-be rapists who might suddenly drop in from the sky, I don't appreciate not being able to see the Northern Lights. -- mfk
[ Parent ]
You know (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by iasius on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 04:21:20 PM EST

I had several advantages already because of this. The companies have to give me an advance notice of 3 (or 1 or whatever) months, too. Which can come in handy if they have a cheap monthly rate for something and then they find out this doesn't make money and cut the product.
Only they have to continue it for 3 months because that's how long I have a right to it because of the treaty I signed.
I don't see

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
[ Parent ]
"normal" (none / 0) (#99)
by micromoog on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:02:47 PM EST

otherwise it's quite normal from my experience.

The complaint is that it's not OK that this is normal.

[ Parent ]

Interesting differences (5.00 / 7) (#29)
by Pac on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:22:02 AM EST

In Brazil, problems number two and three wouldn't happen.

Brazilian finnancial sector, credicard companies included, are managed by the Central Bank (roughly equivalent to the American Fed). And there is another very important, cultural, difference: Brazilians tend to use personal checks for almost everything and to pay their bills almost solely in banks.

For problem number two, there is long standing federal rule (I don't really know if it an actual law, but it is enforced as such): a payment due to a non-banking day (weekends, holidays) may be paid in the next banking day without penalty for the costumer. The sole exception are (surprise!) federal, state and city taxes, which must be antecipated if their payment falls on such days. Also there is the bank usage pattern: credicard bills are usually paid through your bank account and the bank deals with the money transfer. My bank, for instance, states that I may make any payment due for today until 8 p.m. through the Internet (the bank agencies are open only from 10 to 4) and the payment will be considered done. I also get a valid receipt, eletronic or otherwise, that the company receiving my payment must acknowledge as proof that I paid the bill before it was due (that is, the exact moment when they actually receive the money is not my problem once I paid the bill in the bank).

Brazillian different banking culture also solves the third problem. There is a national clearing system in place, managed by the Central Bank and hosted by the largest Brazilian bank, the government owned Banco do Brasil. This system garantees the clearing of a check larger than a certain ammount (US$ 350 certainly qualifies) in less than 24 hours. Smaller checks and checks originated in smaller towns usually clear in up to 3 days. It hardly fails.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

US personal check times (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by Lin Dze on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:12:45 AM EST

The big portion of the time that it takes a personal check to clear in the US is the bank collecting the 'float'. Their entire goal is to have your money in 'limbo' as long as possible. But its not in the ether, its in their accounts, making them more intrest/capital.

This situation finally led to the US Govt passing laws to limit the amount of time that the banks could hold your checks before clearing them. Its something around 2 weeks IIRC. But this is insane seeing as every modern banking funcion is done electroniclly and should clear the network in a matter of minutes. Oh well, guess who has more special intrest lackeys, banking industry or consumers.

-Lin Dze
"Facts don't cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley
[ Parent ]

We know (5.00 / 6) (#31)
by feline on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:37:40 AM EST

the particular service is of no relevance to this issue

Additional services are tacked on (most prevalent on the internet)

We all know that we hate that those services automatically sign you up for 40 bucks a month when we just want the 3 day preview...

apartment rental agreements (5.00 / 3) (#34)
by asad on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 11:37:28 AM EST

most of them require 30 days notice but at least they charge you a pro-rated amount for every day that you are late. As for the bank fee they should have given you some sort of credit, maybe free checks or something or another. If you want more personalized service try a credit union they are much more friendly but they suck for ATM locations. Lastly as far as the credit card company goes I've had very good luck with American Express, the visa people just suck but the AMEX people actually try to help you even if you have a fee free card like Blue. One month while paying my bill online I clicked on the minimum payment button instead of the full button, when I saw the charge and the fee the next month I simply called up and explained what happend, they removed the fee. Not every buisness out there tries to rob you, you just have to shop around a bit.

Learning Experience... (3.25 / 4) (#41)
by catseye on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 02:52:24 PM EST

Example 1: If the contract said 30 days notice, then it's 30 days notice. If you didn't read it or lost track of days, it's not the company's fault, it's yours.

Example 2: Paying your bills online the day before they're due is just plain foolish. What if your ISP was down? What if their web site was down? You should pay your bills online on the same day as if you were mailing them to allow for circumstances beyond your control.

Example 3: Big deal. The fact is, you did not bounce a check. If you did bounce a check due to a bank error, most banks will take the necessary steps to correct that, including paying any fees and sending letters stating it was a bank error.

Yeah, it all sucks, but it just means you have to be more responsible. Read your contracts and allow for unforseen circumstances when paying bills. As others said, if you want better treatment from a bank, try to get with a credit union.

How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?

Banks suck. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 03:48:12 PM EST

Example 1: If the contract said 30 days notice, then it's 30 days notice.

I agree. A contract is a contract.

Example 2: Paying your bills online the day before they're due is just plain foolish.

No, because my bank states that transactions made before a certain time will count as being processed that business day. If my ISP is down, I can go to an ATM and do the processing there. If it is before 20:00 local time, I can also walk into a branch. I check out my banks in detail, and look for internet friendly, Mozilla friendly and customer friendly hours.

Example 3: ...If you did bounce a check due to a bank error, most banks will take the necessary steps to correct that, ...

I've never seen a bank upon auditing my account say "Oh No! We charged too much in service charges! And it was our fault! Ohhhh Noooooo! The horror! We must credit this account and write apologetic letters to all their creditors immediately begging forgivness on their behalf for our mistake...".

In fact, my SO recently had that happen to her. She had an automated insurance payment to be taken from her account. She deposited a cheque a few days before to cover it. They took the payment out after midnight, withdrew a service charge for NSF, took it out again, more NSF, which put her into overdraft, added overdraft fees + interest, put in the cheque about 2 hours later (about 2:30 am), and tried the insurance withdrawl again + more overdraft charges. The NSF and other charges were more than half the insurance payment would have been. They tried to pass it off with the story that they recently put 5 day holds on personal cheques over a certain amount, but she could sign a form to have this hold waived, for a $2.95 per month service charge.

The Canadian banking system is corrupt.

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Apathy and consensual rape -- A love story. (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Dinner Is Served on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 04:09:36 PM EST

Example 1: We're not in the discussion of who's at fault. I'm questioning the purpose of notices.

Example 2: The late fee wasn't my major gripe. Though, I goofed because I originally thought that the 20th fell on a Monday. My mistake, but since it says any transactions between 9-5 will be handled that day, I assumed all would be well. The thing I was so angry about was the over-the-limit fee that was incurred because of the late fee.

Example 3: Big deal!? You wouldn't get annoyed if some company hounded you on every mistake you made, yet when they make a mistake they simply say, "let bygones be bygones?"
While I appreciate being able to defend against would-be rapists who might suddenly drop in from the sky, I don't appreciate not being able to see the Northern Lights. -- mfk
[ Parent ]
MBA words (5.00 / 11) (#47)
by Blarney on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:04:18 PM EST

Have you ever talked to an MBA? They've got all sorts of words to describe this sort of thing and make it seem like productive business activity, rather than petty theft. The prototypical "PHB" is an extreme example of this sort of person - a magical thinker who believes that giving something a pretty name makes it automatically morally good and financially prudent. So here, have some words:

Value pricing: charging different customers different amounts for the same good or service, ideally gathering in the maximum amount that each customer is willing to pay. Reduces the phenomenon known as "consumer surplus" where some customers are able to purchase something for less than the absolute maximum amount they'd be willing to pay for it. If implemented ubiquitously, value pricing promises to make every market work as smoothly and efficiently as the United States health care system. Known to economists as "price discrimination" - but MBA's don't use ugly words like "discrimination".

Customer differentiation: the idea that, even when a business sets a price for goods or services which would normally allow them to make a profit on every transaction, certain customers are still undesirable. Perhaps they consume too much of your valuable resources handling exceptional situations such as checks that don't clear, refunds, asking questions of your customer service reps and taking up their valuable time - the basic idea is that 20% of customers generate 80% of profit and the rest really aren't worth anything but the most minimal efforts. The opportunity cost of allowing one of the 80% to talk to an employee of yours - when your employee could be upselling one of the 20% instead - is considered to outweigh the profit made. Therefore 80% of customers must be treated rudely and callously, extorted for ill-defined fees and unwanted services and never given an explanation or an apology, in order to make it worth dealing with them at all. If they leave, that's just good business. A ratio far higher than 80:20 is common in banking in these low-interest times, where even a customer with a five- or low six-figure savings account is considered small fry. Known colloquially as "the brush-off".

There are other words and concepts which cover these behaviors - but these are the basic ideas. The philosophy is that it just doesn't pay, these days, to offer a good or service at a price which covers the cost of production and allows for a profit, limited only by market competition. The modern way is to sneak as many extra fees in as possible, to finagle up to the point where the customer could profitably undertake legal action rather than pay, limit particular offers to particular groups of customers, never waste time on most customers because time is money, take what you can while you can, and let them leave because there's another one born every minute. Who cares about corporate reputations in a world where Wall Street can make or break you in 90 days?

Would you mind (none / 0) (#89)
by CaptainZapp on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 09:27:20 AM EST

To turn this into an story? Sort of The MBA droid encyclopedia of how to fuck society over or with another catchy title?

I thank you in advance.

[ Parent ]

Ambrose Bierce's Famous Work (none / 0) (#106)
by J'raxis on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 01:50:25 AM EST

The Devil's Business Dictionary.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Expand, Please! (none / 0) (#105)
by OneEyedApe on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:19:45 PM EST

I must second the idea put forward by the other respondant. This would make an excellent basis for an article. I would most certainly look forward to that, if you were willing to write it.

[ Parent ]
Vote no. 3 (none / 0) (#120)
by mdm42 on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 03:37:33 AM EST

Please turn this into an article.  Something I think you missed, though, is the corollary to this:  How to use it to your own advantage.

If you've been screwed by such a company, the way to get things sorted out is to -- politely, but adamantly -- make it absolutely clear to each person you deal with that:

  1.  You want the thing sorted out.
  2.  You don't care how long it takes, or who has to be inconvenienced, but
  3.  You're just going to consume their time and money being a pain-in-the-ass until you get unscrewed by them.

In other words, since there's a cost to them having to deal with you, which is why they tried so hard to brush you off in the first place, make it celar that not dealing with your legitimate gripe is going to cost them even more.

[ Parent ]

Voting with your feet (4.00 / 8) (#49)
by BushidoCoder on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:05:12 PM EST

I'm not sympathetic to your first two stories; In both cases, it was you who screwed up.

In the third case; Find a different bank. The bank I use credits me when they make a mistake, and half the time, I find out about the mistake they made when they call and tell me. And this isn't a small time bank, this is one of those very large ones.

On the other hand, back when my SO had a Fleet account, I saw them effectively rape her repeatedly. After this happened enough times, I convinced her that the convenience of having a bank on every corner wasn't worth what she was going through, so she switched. She's happier now with a different bank, and Fleet lost a customer.

Capitalism only works when you exercise your right to use a competitor.


One of the big video chains... (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by Entendre Entendre on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:33:51 PM EST

...makes more money on late fees than they make on rentals. That's a case where I don't fault the company (you borrow for a specified period, you pay fees if you're late, that's pretty straightforward), but still, it's an interesting bit of perspective.

There was a lawsuit about it, but I wasn't paying attention when the outcome was announced.

Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.

All video stores make tons on late fees. (none / 0) (#85)
by Lin Dze on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:18:25 AM EST

As an industry whole i think late fees avvount for something like 30% of all revenue.

-Lin Dze
"Facts don't cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley
[ Parent ]
A couple examples from my own life ... (5.00 / 4) (#51)
by omegadan on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:25:12 PM EST

Discover Card - Ok, we all know credit card companies are evil right? Well, they signed me up for some credit card insurance which doubles or triples my interest rate (which I did NOT ask to be signed up for). After a year and a half of using the card, I noticed it, and I called to have the insurance removed, and they said they would, but low and behold, they *didn't remove it!* Also, every few months they call and they want to send me some fabulous "gift". You have to very carefully tell them no, otherwise the "gift" will be charged to your credit card.

Network Solutions - We all know they are evil as well right? I had 3 domains (back when domains were expensive and they were the only registrar) for a client who *refused* to pay his bill. I faxed the appropriate forms to NetSol *3* months before the domains expired to cancel them. Netsol sends me a letter about 10 days before the expiration date which says, the domains require payment and thus cannot be canceled. What the FUCK? I have to pay another years subscription to cancel them? What fucking sense does that make ? This one had an easy solution -- don't pay them again and the expire on their own.

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley

Another example... (none / 0) (#138)
by tuffy on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 02:12:56 PM EST

Oddly, it was Discover Card that came to my aid when Yahoo decided to screw me over. I needed a reliable web-based email system free from ads and junk. Yahoo's premium email looked professional and I thought it would have good support. And, for a month, it worked great. But, on the 1st of the next month, my nice new premium email stopped working, though that didn't stop Yahoo from charging me anyway.

So, I jumped through the proper hoops and submitted a message to Yahoo's help system telling them to cancel my account, just like their site said I should. A help desk moron sent me a canned response that was entirely unhelpful (and directly contradicted by the info I'd already sent) and then had the audacity to send me a helpfulness survey.

The moron received poor marks, to be sure. And Yahoo continued to charge me without providing any service whatsoever.

In the end, I had Discover Card reverse the charges. They did, but even that didn't stop Yahoo from trying to charge me again one month later. But after about five months of continual charge reversal, Discover finally assigned me a whole new card number and my ordeal ended.

But not before Yahoo sent me a message threatening to cancel my account if I didn't provide them with a card number.

[ Parent ]

KILL WHITEY !!!! [nt] (1.33 / 6) (#52)
by rmg on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:35:13 PM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

Look at this on a macrocosmic level (4.33 / 3) (#54)
by Psycho Dave on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:19:08 PM EST

Capitalism, so far, has been an efficient and for the most part, fair way of distributing wealth through a society. The problem with capitalism is that it must always be expanding. Look at our current problem in the US economy. The recession was done over a year ago. Our economy has been expanding that whole time. The problem is, it hasn't been expanding fast enough to sustain our way of life.

In this expansion, it has become necessary for business to look for any sliver of profit margin. Of course, this makes sure that a company is efficient to survive, but we passed that years ago. Now, it's customer/worker/investor be damned time. Go to the movies: "Would you like our special 78 ounce size for a quarter more?" Go to Burger King: "Wanna super-size that?" Go to Best Buy to get a new stereo: "Would you like an extended warranty with that?" or get a book a Barnes and Noble, or a CD at Media Play and be hit up to get their special club credit card every time you go to the register, et al, ad nauseum.

The quality of service becomes secondary to how much money you can squeeze out of your customers. Advertising is worse. A spam-mail campaign is considered successful if .05% of people even view the mail (probably the ones fooled by the "Hi, hhow ar3 you?" subject line). Of that .05%, how many people decided to buy the generic viagra/farm porn/fake diploma? Probably .05% of that .05% that opened it. Still, it's profitable.

Does this affect our quality of life? Not too badly now. Just wait, it will eventually get worse. The system is set up so it has to.

It seems (none / 0) (#63)
by reklaw on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 10:16:41 AM EST

that this is a huge problem with the free market type of capitalism -- businesses are seen as having failed unless their profits increase each year. Eventually, where is the increase going to come from.

As it's been pretty well proven that socialism, nice idea as it is, doesn't work, what I'd really like to see is a move to a strictly non-profit type of capitalism. Staff are paid, but there are no shareholders, stock market, etc. and no pressure to grow. I see no reason why that wouldn't be possible, except for the resistance from people who currently make their money from doing nothing of any value.
[ Parent ]

Who says socialism doesn't work? (5.00 / 3) (#64)
by ghjm on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:18:16 PM EST

Certainly bureacratic communism doesn't work, but there are many examples of highly successful socialist-democratic societies. Pretty much every successful small to medium sized nation, in fact. Probably the best example is Scandanavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark).

For an example of how this plays out in the real world, consider Linus Torvalds and Andrew Tanenbaum in 1990/91. Both had a working Unix-ish kernel and were interested in building an alternative to Unix with community values and lower barriers to entry. Of the two, only Linus was willing to give away his work for the betterment of society - arguably because of his upbringing within a socialist-democratic value system. Tanenbaum could not bridge this gap - he insisted on making money in the form of book sales. Which one was more successful?

From an American perspective, socialism looks a bit weird and doesn't quite mesh ideologically. Because of this, any American who wants to adopt a socialist-democratic value system has to do so through vocal rejection of existing ideals. Example: Richard Stallman. Why is it that Linus and RMS have very similar views on software freedom, yet Linus is quite natural and laid-back about it but RMS has to be shrill and in-your-face? Answer: Because RMS is rejecting the value system of his native culture; Linus is simply observing it.

Socialist-democratic values work well in the real world. They just aren't prevalent in America.


[ Parent ]

Well, (none / 0) (#66)
by reklaw on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:59:37 PM EST

limited socialisation of some things is good, like the NHS here in Britain for example. I do wish people would stop mistaking me for an American -- I wasn't trying to say "communism is dead, we got those darned rooskies good!", just making a comparison. I'm a bit of a dirty lefty socialist at heart, actually.

I won't bother to say that Linux sucks, as for what it is (an operating system for the server room) it's certainly a success -- more of a success than the other guy you talked about, anyway.

"Pure" socialism, applied to everything, doesn't work, though -- it certainly isn't going to overthrow capitalism in the way many seriously once thought it would. That was my main point when I put up "non-profit capitalism" as an alternative to it, and I think a non-profit capitalist system would be quite workable.
[ Parent ]

Socialism is just insurance for the rich (none / 0) (#70)
by Psycho Dave on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 06:25:26 PM EST

Really rich people will always be really rich, whether they get taxed at 40% or 10%. Poor people will always be sucking up the majority of those taxes earmarked for social uses (ie. stuff not being used to bomb brown people). Where does that leave the middle class? While they may pay less taxes than the upper-classes, their social mobility is hampered by the huge barrier to entry into th next level of wealth: the higher tax bracket. Meanwhile, it's easy to slip into poverty and stay in an endless and inefficient welfare cycle that is there only to make sure you don't revolt against the rich in their country clubs, revolt being the only way you can acquire material goods in such a situation.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not Mr. Everything Free Market. I do think that the US healthcare system is screwed up beyond belief, but I don't see the Canadian system as being a huge improvement either (no offense to my Canadian brothers, their hearts are in the right place). Absolute socialism screws the little guy in the end as much unbridled capitalism.

[ Parent ]

Hmm (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by ghjm on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 06:58:07 PM EST

Good thing I was talking about social democracy, then. If I had been talking about the American welfare system, your criticisms surely would have been relevant.


[ Parent ]

But (none / 0) (#75)
by skim123 on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 09:35:16 PM EST

Pretty much every successful small to medium sized nation, in fact. Probably the best example is Scandanavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark).

Of course who knows how these countries will play out in the coming century, with the declining young population. In the next 10-40 years the number of retired folks on benefits there will outpace the number of young, working folks. This means the young will have to work twice as hard in the future to support the elderly. This may be something the young decide to not do. Socialism can only work when those taking money out of the pot do not outnumber those putting money into the pot, naturally.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
So what's capitalism's answer to this? (none / 0) (#104)
by irrevenant on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 09:29:18 PM EST

As I see it, Capitalism's normal answer to this is "The old timer should've saved enough (with the help of superannuation, maybe) to support himself in old age, otherwise he's screwed".

Under a socialist system, the old timer having 'saved enough' translates to having made a big enough contribution to society to support his own retirement.

Whether or not the elderly should be callously ignored if they weren't organised or lucky enough to organise their own retirement is a moral decision, not an economic one.

[ Parent ]

This is where we disagree (none / 0) (#111)
by skim123 on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 11:48:25 PM EST

Whether or not the elderly should be callously ignored if they weren't organised or lucky enough to organise their own retirement is a moral decision, not an economic one.

Yes, this sounds all fine and good when you think of it from the person who failed to save, but what about this scenario which, I predict, will play out in Europe over the next 40 years: the retired person who, had his taxes not been so high, would have been able to save for himself, but, due to mismanagement of funds and lack of incoming state revenue, this person now must live a desolite retired life. How is that fair for him?

This is why I prefer capitalism over socialism. Capitalism makes precisely one person responsible for my future and current well-being: me. And that's the way I like it.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#97)
by Danse on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:29:22 PM EST

what I'd really like to see is a move to a strictly non-profit type of capitalism. Staff are paid, but there are no shareholders, stock market, etc. and no pressure to grow.

This has been around for a long time. They're called privately held companies. They are not publicly traded, and they don't have to answer to a bunch of stockholders expecting them to post record profits every quarter. They produce a product or offer a service and they get paid for it. They pay their employees, and the owners get to do what they like with the profits, often reinvesting them in the company. It might be nice if more companies worked this way, but too many people make too much money from publicly traded companies for them to go away anytime soon.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
privately held companies (none / 0) (#98)
by reklaw on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:45:03 PM EST

... are close to what I'm getting at -- in fact, if they'd stay as they were, they're almost entirely what I'm getting at. The problem is that privately held companies almost always eventually go public. What I'd like to see is compulsory reinvestment, the forced demise of public trading -- pure, non-profit capitalism.

As you say, however

too many people make too much money from publicly traded companies for them to go away anytime soon.

and that's the whole problem -- how can these people who do just about nothing of value be stopped from forcing unnecessary growth and living like leeches on the work of others?
[ Parent ]

don't sign contracts :) (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by dimaq on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 03:35:52 AM EST

buy what you need in a single "cash only" payment.

or move to a place where you actually have rights as a consumer :)

not for long (none / 0) (#103)
by eudas on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:56:53 PM EST

international business is rapidly moving to ensure that there is no such place.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Idiots and credit limits (1.00 / 1) (#62)
by duffbeer703 on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:38:59 AM EST

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but anyone who doesn't have the self-control to maintain a credit card with a reasonable limit should never have a credit card at all.

A line of credit is designed to give you flexibility, so you don't end up paying $30 fees for payments that are a day late.

Stop whining and get some self-control.

You're pretty uncreative. (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by awgsilyari on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:17:04 PM EST

There are many advantages to have a CC even if it's got an insanely low limit.
  1. Depending on the card you can get 1% of your spending back at the end of the year, either in cash or the form of airline miles, purchasing points, or whatever. If you put everything on your card, it's like saving 1% on each purchase. These days you can pay pretty much everything through your CC, and the points rack up fast. The only thing I can't pay on my card is the rent for my apartment, and even then I think some landlords accept it.
  2. You can easily look over your purchasing history by going to the credit card web site. You don't have to keep your receipts or try to organize seven billion different spending accounts, if its all in one place.
  3. You build up credit history by making payments on time each month. A healthy rate of spending will make it more likely that the CC company will extend your line of credit.
Case in point: I'm 23, yet my credit is so good that I was issued a 0% APR card with a $12500 limit (to add to my other cards, $2000, $7500, $8000 respectively). I'm not trying to brag -- I don't make nearly enough money to maintain all those cards at full balance. Before you tell me that's a temptation to be stupid, think about this: I could put a fucking CAR on that card. Not only would I not pay any interest on that car for a YEAR (at which point I would just transfer the balance to another 0% APR card), I'd also get $125 in benefits back.

Now, maybe it's true that a higher limit would be a temptation to spend over budget. Ok, so figure out your budget and adjust your limit DOWNWARD to that level. The CC company will think you're crazy, but they aren't going to deny that request. Then put EVERYTHING on the card.

If you think a CC is just to give you some leeway when you go over budget momentarily, then you aren't being creative enough. It sounds crazy, but a credit card should ALWAYS be totally maxed out, with a second card in reserve in case you really need it.

Oh, and in six years of using credit cards, I have NEVER paid a single cent of interest. Ever.

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

I assumed (none / 0) (#76)
by duffbeer703 on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 10:00:09 PM EST

That someone who cannot handle a credit limit > $200 would not qualify for a reward card.

You and I are one class of credit user -- we are responsible and have a sense of self-control. I know people with $20,000 Abercrombie & Fitch Card balances (that they've carried for 6-7 years) and programmers making $50,000 driving $50,000 BMW's.

I (ab)used the Hilton Hhonors and American Airlines cards for all they are worth. Between groceries, rent and business expenses, I've earned enough points and bonuses to take free vacations for the last 4 years.

[ Parent ]

Sucks huh... (2.25 / 4) (#65)
by Idioteque on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:34:03 PM EST

1. A contract is a contract, sucks huh?
2. You were over the limit (doesn't matter who put you over), sucks huh?
3. Bank teller is talking out of ass, personal checks from another bank can take up to 5 business days to clear, sucks huh?

I have seen too much; I haven't seen enough - Radiohead
Hmm, (none / 0) (#124)
by Sanction on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 04:05:12 PM EST

You live in a country with the weakest consumer protections in the first world, populated by jingoistic losers like the above?  Does suck.

I can either stay in and be annoying or go out and be stupid. The choice is yours.
[ Parent ]
Jingoistic? (none / 0) (#128)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 03:43:44 PM EST

Dictionary.com says jingoism is "Extreme nationalism characterized especially by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism.". I'm having trouble seeing the jingoism in the parent to your post. Would you care to elaborate?

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Ahh, the dictionary. (none / 0) (#135)
by Sanction on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 05:47:33 PM EST

And one day, the dictionary will catch up to common (at least in my region) usage of words.  It is commonly used to refer to anyone spouting off cheesy little phrases linked to an extreme set of beliefs.  As I have heard it used around here, for example, "no war for oil" and "support our troops" would fall under it.

I can either stay in and be annoying or go out and be stupid. The choice is yours.
[ Parent ]
Dictionaries are usually accurate (none / 0) (#136)
by NoBeardPete on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 06:07:56 PM EST

I'm curious, where are you from, and who have you heard use "jingoistic" in that fasion? I can't think of anyone who I've heard use it in the fasion you indicate. I grew up in Philadelphia, went to school in Boston, and have lived around Baltimore and Northern California. I'm pretty sure your usage would be considered incorrect in all of those places. You may want to keep this in mind when you leave your neck of the woods.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

That is a real possibility. (none / 0) (#137)
by Sanction on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:00:07 PM EST

I have observed it mostly in Idaho and Montana, not exactly havens of high culture :)  Here it seems to be for anyone who pops off with cute little bumper sticker political lines.  I was not even aware that it had such a restricted formal meaning.

I can either stay in and be annoying or go out and be stupid. The choice is yours.
[ Parent ]
The wonders of the state AG and BBB (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by karb on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 02:21:29 PM EST

First, never underestimate what polite whining can get you. Don't irritate anybody, but if you're nice and point out that you are a loyal customer, and usually pay your bills on time, it actually posted a day ahead of time (etc.), eventually you can get most late fees removed without going upstairs. You did say you talked to them, but I thought I'd mention it, in case you forgot to be civil. ;)

If being nice doesn't work, some people I know would take about any issue like this to the state attorney general's office or the better business bureau (whichever is more relevant in your particular area).

You don't necessarily have to be 100% right ... they will let you know whether your complaints are valid or not, however. And if your complaints are valid, the business involved usually bends over backwards to make sure you are happy.
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?

Never, never, the BBB. (none / 0) (#78)
by seebs on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 11:37:22 PM EST

The only circumstance under which the BBB is more relevant than, say, the AG's office is the circumstance where you want to be repeatedly brutalized by people whose sole function and purpose is to defend businesses from consumers.

Who funds the BBB?  The businesses.
Does a business that loses its BBB membership keep funding the BBB?  No.

There is no circumstance under which the BBB will do you any good at all.  Their sole function is to fraudulently claim to help you, and trick you into accepting their arbitration, which is entirely devoted to protecting the company from you and giving the company more legal defenses against any claims you might actually have.

[ Parent ]

Disagree (none / 0) (#90)
by radghast on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 09:55:08 AM EST

If you're not going to sue, use the BBB.  Recently we had a fence installed by a local contractor.  That contractor had issued a 10% off coupon in his yellow pages ad.  When the work was complete and we went to pay him, we gave him the coupon and asked him to remove 10% of the bill.  He would not honor it, gave a multitude of excuses, threatened to rip out the fence, and lied, all in 5 minutes.  We threatened to call the BBB.  He said, "Go ahead -- they won't care about a coupon."

A complaint letter and a response letter later, we've got our 10%.  Sure, no pain/suffering/inconvenience, but we wouldn't have sued over that much anyway.  It was good enough for the issue at hand.

"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
[ Parent ]

Am I missing something here? (none / 0) (#110)
by squigly on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 01:38:15 PM EST

I'm not quite sure I see why you went about it this way.  Surely all you had to do was pay the amount requested minus 10%.  If he wanted the extra, then he would have had to sue you, and presumably lose since he offered the discount in his advertisement.

If he refuses to accept it, and carries of his threat to rip the fence down, you have the inconvenience of finding another contractor, and he has the greater inconvenience of losing 90% of his asking price.  

[ Parent ]

Exception doesn't prove the rule. (none / 0) (#116)
by seebs on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 04:09:17 PM EST

The guy was all bluster.  If you'd just refused to pay, he would have taken it and shut up.  If he'd pushed it, the BBB would have done what they always do - "investigate", find that the guy paying their salary is in the right, and let you know that he was right after all.

[ Parent ]
Consultants... (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by The Devil on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 03:53:37 PM EST

I'm a consultant for my own company. Yes, and that's why I'm The Devil.

Recently, a customer ordered a new website from me. I built it and they didn't like it. They sent it back. When I built it again, they didn't like it.

Finally I got smart about it. I wrote a proposal and had them okay it. They did. I even added a special waiver of a $1000 backend fee, if they accepted the proposal and site when it was completed.

They accepted graciously.

When I built the site, they claimed it was not what they wanted and that they wanted to cancel, outright. I convinced them to let me redesign it again. I showed them a test pic, and they loved it, and ordered me to "do that design instead".

After hours/days/weeks/years of being really annoyed by this customer's incessant whining about the site, I finally had them.

I canceled the waiver, based on our previous agreement, and issued them a 48 deadline for payment, oh about a few hours ago.

Why, do you ask, did I do this?

Because I'm honest and I don't like how many of the little guys get pushed around by big companies. They can make you wait in some office for a whole day just to speak with someone. They can slowly decide to take their sweet time about doing business. They keep you interested, but only by tossing you small potatoes. And when you get paid on a project basis, like I do, the customer's favorite thing to say is "I don't like it, do it again." or "There are too many blue squiglies there: it's unprofessional!" or "That's not what I ordered!"

So I'm getting my ducks in a row and swinging for the fence. No longer is my goal to please my customer. Now my goal is to make money.

That is why there no ethics in business, because everyone would rather get a deal than pay what they owe. That's why anyone who enters business, becomes slowly twisted into a ruthless manager.

FYI: most of my customers are cool, and they all get special fee waivers all the time. But the ones who don't pay their bills get set right.

The solution: (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by bjlhct on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 07:02:01 PM EST

Don't deal with companies that require you to sign a contract that basically gives them all your rights. Unfortunately, since nobody seems to care, there are hardly any such companies.

[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
so... (none / 0) (#77)
by Josh A on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 10:35:10 PM EST

Don't deal with hardly any companies at all, and forgo dealing with companies in industries in which such contracts are standard and nearly ubiquitous.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
OT (none / 0) (#79)
by Suppafly on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 12:20:44 AM EST

--- ATM for OS X - Visit the site - Sign the petition - Spread the word! Do people still actually use adobe atm? I haven't seen it installed on a windows box since the win3.11 days.
Playstation Sucks.
[ Parent ]
Oh, thanks (none / 0) (#82)
by Josh A on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 01:13:17 AM EST

I have to change that. I've grown blind to my own sig!

Since Apple is releasing FontBook, we're going to wrap up the site.

I hate the Windows version of ATM. But the OS 9 version was the most usable, straightforward, & reliable font manager I've ever used. A lot of other people seem to agree ;-)

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Adobe Type Manager for OS 9 (none / 0) (#109)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 01:09:21 PM EST

Probably the workings of the product were OK, but somehow this program mucked up a bit of RIP software my company makes. Once ATM was turned off it started working without any problems.

ATM or the RIP? The jury is still out on this one.

Yours humbly,
Ta bù shì dà yú

AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
[ Parent ]

reading the contract (none / 0) (#102)
by eudas on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:53:10 PM EST

nobody pays a damned bit of attention to the conditions of things they sign anyway.. they see all the boilerplate contract legalese and their mind numbs over, and they go 'duh' and put pen to paper rather than read it. then they think they have the right to complain later.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

If you don't like the contract (4.00 / 1) (#122)
by pyro9 on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 09:34:05 AM EST

First the standard disclaimer, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. This is not legal advice, it's just what I would do. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and please ignore the man behind the curtain.

If you don't like something in the contract, strike it out, if there's something missing, write it in. (make sure both parties have a copy) and initial it. They may then either accept it as modified or refuse it. Be sure to point out that the original terms were unacceptable and that you have made modifications. If at all possible, have a representative of the company sign or initial your changes. Be reasonable and fair, stupid crap will be tossed out by any competant judge. Don't try to 'sneak something past them', in addition to being unethical, it will probably be thrown out if it ever goes to court and will make the judge and jury WANT to find against you.

If they provide the product or service and you pay for it as required, the contract as modified has been accepted. If they then try to hold you to terms that were struck out, remind them that the contract was modified. If they still try to hold you to a contract that you explicitly didn't agree to, sue in small claims court if at all possible.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
The other way around. (none / 0) (#123)
by Sanction on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 04:01:20 PM EST

There are hardly any such companies since they know that by banding together and making those types of contract "standard", there are no options for the consumer.  In many markets, with the market clout and legal departments many companies weild, not even getting into the incredible barriers to entry, the whole quaint idea of "voting with your dollars" has been rendered absoultely pointless.

I can either stay in and be annoying or go out and be stupid. The choice is yours.
[ Parent ]
Agree & Disagree (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by Mojo JoJo on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:25:48 PM EST

I work at a small community bank and have encountered situations like this a few times. Both from your end and from the company side.

Example 1

I tend to agree with you on this one. It's a stupid way of doing business. However, this policy was probably in the fine print when you started the service. If at no time were you informed of these terms then I'd say you have a good case. If you weren't properly informed of the terms of service (or if they changed without informing you) I don't believe you are required to follow them.

Depending on the company involved (will it really affect your credit rating? in most cases no) I would just tell them you will no longer be paying your bill and they can cancel the service. They'll threaten you with a collection agency and probably send scary looking letters from a lawyers office but with the exception of banks, credit cards companies, etc I've never actually seen any of this contract stuff EVER show up on a credit report.<disclaimer>IANAL, YMMV, etc.</disclaimer>

Example 2

This same thing happened to me when I first started using internet bill payment. I agree with you completely on this one. I probably got even more pissed off than you because working at the bank I knew EXACTLY when that money was transferred from my account.

I can't speak for all internet bill pay services but I know with mine the credit card company has the money on the very same day you specify the bill to be paid. If you don't have the money in your account the electronic transfer doesn't happen. Basically the reason they don't record that transaction for a few days is so they can collect interest on your money.

Unless someone can find a cc company that does not do this we're pretty much screwed on this one. I now make sure I pay that bill at least two days in advance now. And if it happens again call them and bitch until they remove the charges.

Example 3

My advice on this one, close your account and take your money elsewhere.

While I disagree with your idea that you should be reimbursed for the hassle (you didn't actually get any overdrafts because of it) any decent bank manager would apologize for the inconvenience and offer to refund any overdrafts caused by their "accounting errors". Even if he wouldn't or couldn't explain the nature of the error it is completely unacceptable for him to not take responsibility for it.

Make sure when you close your account to carefully explain why you are closing it. If enough people did this the bank would eventually realize that they have a problem. Either that or they will go out of business. Either way, problem solved.


SkyNet told me to tell you that Google is watching you. - CheeseburgerBrown

USA - Expedited Funds Availability Act (4.75 / 4) (#80)
by rigorist on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 12:38:58 AM EST

12 USC sec. 4001, et seq.

"not more than 1 business day shall intervene between the business day on which funds are deposited in an account at a depository institution by a check drawn on a local originating depository institution and the business day on which the funds involved are available for withdrawal."

12 USC sec. 4002(b)(1).

Your bank LIED to you.  The funds were available.

My experience (and I have a lot) is that bank employees LIE most of the time.

The bank owes you between $100 and $1000 for violating the EFAA, 12 USC sec. 4010(a)(1), plus attorneys fees and costs in bringing the action. 12 USC sec. 4010(a)(3)  Send a demand letter to the bank, demanding $1000.00.  If they don't pay, sue their sorry asses.  The EFAA has a general jurisdiction grant, so you can bring the suit in small claims.  12 USC sec. 4010(d).

Since they are made of law and money instead of flesh and blood, the only thing they will understand is paying money.  Make them pay.

ING (none / 0) (#108)
by crayz on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 04:20:46 AM EST

Not sure if you are familiar with ING Direct, but they do ACH(I think is the term) transfers from banks and it can take anywhere between 5-14 days from when the money actually goes into the account, and when it is available for withdrawl. I don't even believe it earns interest during this period.

Does this fall under the act?

[ Parent ]

Nope (none / 0) (#112)
by Xoder on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 01:10:04 AM EST

Its not local, and it's not a check.

Hey everyone, don't we love legal loopholes?

Lately I've been hearing that god's on our side But rumor has it, there's one on their side too So what I'd like to know is, when it comes down to it, can my god kick their god's ass or what?
[ Parent ]

retail jobs (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by moonpolysoft on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 12:57:29 AM EST

As someone who works in a retail job (installer at a car audio shop) I can assure you that some of these tactics are pretty much necessary. Some of my customers are cool, and the ones that are cool get special treatment. But the cool ones are far outnumbered by jackasses that demand special attention, deep discounts, and incessantly bother me about warranty work.

For instance, today I had a man come in who had a cd changer removed by the dealership. They cut all the cables and left the hidden units in the vehicle. I explained he'd have to call the parts line for the company and I didn't have the phone number. He blew up at me and claimed that the dealer's mistake was our fault. This sort of thing is a daily occurence.

The point is that sometimes people that deal with customers can get burnt out and very machine-like, but it's a protection mechanism from people like that. Otherwise the crazy ones will drive you to distraction.

Greed, of course, is unexcusable. I know first hand because said shop has been sold recently and I was sold with it like a fixture in the damn store.

The equalizer. (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by gnovos on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 01:52:47 AM EST

There is a saying I have heard from somewhere which goes something like, "Never cost a man more money, time or dignity than he's willing to invest in having you killed."

I think if the spirit of that rule were applied more liberally, you'd find that these kinds of things would be less common.  

Right now they know full well that they can bend you over and stick you like a pig, but there is absolutly nothing you can do about it, especially when the teensy tiny fine print says that such a thing is guaranteed to happen once you sign up.

Forget your contract and cause a little mayhem.  You'll martyr yourself, absolutly, but the next bank president who thinks it's a super idea to screw thier own customers will think twice about it.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

whats the problem (3.00 / 1) (#86)
by turmeric on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:22:54 AM EST

the computer industry is one big scam. why point fingers?

insurance (none / 0) (#101)
by eudas on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:52:12 PM EST

insurance perfected the art of the legal scam first.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Customer service = complaints firewall (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by edo on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:52:22 AM EST

One thing you haven't mentioned explicitly in your article is the fact that whenever you have any kind of problem with a big company (think telco or CC), the only person you will ever get to talk to is some student or single mother working at the 'customer service' (haha!) department for 7.50 per hour.

I have been screwed over bij KPN (the Dutch phone company) on more than one occasion, and every time I phoned to complain I ended up talking to a frightened 17-year-old who was working from a script and utterly powerless to relay any of my complaints on to a higher-up, let alone resolve any of my issues himself.

'Customer service' is basically MBA-speak (loved that posting!) for 'complaints firewall.' The idea is to screw you out of amounts of money just small enough for you not to want to go through the enormous hassle of getting anything refunded.

You will never get to speak to anyone in power, as none of the grunts have the boss's number and he's out playing a game of golf anyway, and any letters you send will more than likely just receive a stock response.

I try to stick to small companies myself, but where are you going to find a small telco or mortgage bank? A consumer backlash seems unlikely, as they are just so good at simply wearing you out...

Let's face it: the world is looking more and more like Brazil. Central Services, anyone? "We do the work, you do the pleasure..."

Sentimentality is merely the Bank Holiday of cynicism.
 - Oscar Wilde

So don't talk to the 17-year-old (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by mdm42 on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 03:16:26 AM EST

Don't even begin to explain things to them, just insist on speaking to their supervisor.  When you get the supervisor, ask to speak to their supervisor.  Don't take no for an answer; don't lose-it.  Just be polite and immovable.  Get to someone who is empowered to make a decision.

[ Parent ]
Not a new occurance (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by DodgyGeezer on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 08:34:33 AM EST

Not all of this is new.  Go and read some books from the 18th century.  You will learn that businesses have been screwing people for hundreds of years.

As for your automatic contract renewal issue - isn't that illegal in some places?  It certainly should be if it isn't.  That's basic consumer protection.

automatic renewals (none / 0) (#100)
by eudas on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:50:57 PM EST

where i work they do automatic account renewals; lots of people complain (usually people who can't remember they even HAVE accounts, much less when they renew), but the way it works is that the automatic renewal policy is put into the legalese/terms of use/whatever when you sign up, so it's something you agreed to. pretty hard to complain about something when you initially agreed to it.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Just a few months ago... (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:07:06 AM EST

I bought a new car.  I did my research.  I did lots of test driving.  I looked at Consumer Reports and edmunds.com.  I called around to different dealers and got them to compete.  I got a rock bottom price.  But then when I was sitting there signing the loan application, the loan officer started pushing about a dozen different services on me.  One of these was some kind of glass etching thing (I can't remember the formal name).  Basically there's a number etched in the windshield right above the VIN, although it's not the VIN.  You pay I think it was $200 for this.  If your car ever gets stolen, and they can't recover it, you get like $2000 or something.  More bullshit than an extended warranty, I know.  But this loan officer insisted that this service would pay for itself due to lower insurance bills.  Being that it was like 8:00 at night, I had no way to corroborate this.  So I just sat there wondering why would this be a lie.  It seems like that would be a pretty serious issue, so he's probably not lying.  GAH!  Why can't I just trust my gut on things like that?  Of course the bastard was lying.  Not a single insurance company was willing to give me a lower premium for getting that number etched on my windshield.  Goddamnit.

Call an attorney (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:24:27 AM EST

First check out this comment.

I never even knew about the Expedited Funds Availability Act.

Then report them to the Federal Reserve, the Better Business Bureau, and whoever else you can think of.

More links at the Federal Reserve including the above listed consumer complaint form.

The problem is more systemic than that... (none / 0) (#95)
by Golden Hawk on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:39:12 PM EST


The law is used like a weapon.  Worse, it is often in the hands of those who would attack with it for less than noble purposes.

This is the entire problem.  True, there's an area of being totally right in which a lawyer cannot touch you.. but some stand with their lawyers on the edge of that line and wait silently for you to slip a big toe across it.

That's the problem.  Calling your lawyer and the better business bureau may get your indivisual problem solved, but the point of the law is to /protect/ us from injustice, not to inflict it upon us! and force us to defend ourselves against it.
-- Daniel Benoy
[ Parent ]

Your Problem (5.00 / 9) (#94)
by mrondello on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:19:26 PM EST

I think you might have a problem communicating effectively to these businesses you are complaining about. This is causing them to forgo helping you in any way. The reason I say this is because I too have this problem and am always getting *screwed* by businesses. I basically get pissed off and call up / storm in ready to friggin kick asses and take names. Unfortunately, every customer service rep can smell this type of attitude from miles away, even if you haven't uttered a word. Once the switch is flipped they will NEVER go out of their way to help you at all.

Then I realized my attitude, tone, and inflections were instantly turning off the switch to being given any extra effort in those situations. I discovered that if I placed myself into a pleasant mood and explained all the details in a pleasant manner, most, if not all, the people I discussed my problems with were willing to go out of their way to help me.

For instance, once I put a stop on a series of checks that I thought were stolen. It turns out that I was one off with the beginning check number and the bank stopped payment on my rent check. This caused the apartment management to assess a rather large late fee and require the payment to be made by cashiers check. The bank also charged me a stop check fee. To rectify the situation, I went into my local bank's branch office politely explained the situation, and asked them for their help in cleaning up a mess that I unknowingly created. They responded graciously, dropped the stop check fee, drafted a signed letter to my landlord, and then actually called the rental management office for me and explained the situation. I was not charged the late fee, and they accepted another personal check.

Now the moral of the story is this: Had I acted in my usual pissed off manner ( no matter whose fault ) the bank would NEVER have been so helpful to me. The reason I know this is because I have had heated debates like the ones you allude to with the same bank employees. When I was pissed they said sorry, when I was nice they helped me.

The same goes for my many encounters with the cable company, the electric company, and credit lenders. I have consistently noticed that when I sweet talk them and act genuinely nice, I have absolutely no problems getting issues resolved or even expunged totally. This includes late fees, contract extensions ( for me it was giving 60 days notice to end a lease from being extended ) and general account mishaps.

my comments (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by lukme on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 02:58:05 AM EST

Example 1:

I worked for one company that made probably 50% of its money this way. At one point, when I was working for them, they were recieving payments for about 50 obsolete systems that were in the field. Turns out that most were sent back, and they were still paying as per the terms of their contracts. All of the customers that I contacted were moving to a competitor's system, or had upgraded to one of our more modern systems.

Example 2:

Some companies have a policy to forgive the fines/late fees if you request it. I have worked for one of these companies. Note, you must request it, and they are not permitted to tell you about that policy.

Example 3:

If you are unhappy with the service of that bank, go somewhere else. Just be sure to tell the bank manager why you are going somewhere else.

It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
Your third point (none / 0) (#114)
by codemonkey_uk on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 12:42:01 PM EST

Your third point is the most important one. Or at least it should be. But in practice it doesn't matter one jot because you are a drop in the ocean, and all the banks work that way, so even if you feel pissed off with that particular bank and that particular moment, you are in fact pissed of wit the banking industry in general.

But what are you going to do?

Keep bundles of fifties under your mattress?
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

In actual practice... (none / 0) (#131)
by lukme on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 01:48:06 AM EST

1) It depends on the amount that you will take out of that bank. The amount they care is directly proportional to the amount you are removing from the bank.

When my grandfather had over $1,000,000 invested in the stock market, he recieved personal visits from his stock broker every 6 months to a year. This stopped happening as the value of his investment went to 0 (he spent it).

This never happened to me with my $22,000 stock account.

2) Furthermore, if you happen to tell your experiences with that bank to your friends, when they experience similar problems, they'll be more likely to follow your example.

This is why I perfer not to do business with Citibank.

It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
In a similar vein... (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by scruffyMark on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 01:51:53 PM EST

... to the "they must request it, and you must not tell them they can" business:
  • I worked in customer support for a big and very weasely US corporation. When you brought up a customer's account, there was a link you could click that would show you the 'zero profit point' for that customer - credit them beyond that amount of money, and the company makes a loss. So, the rule was, if they bitch and whine and threaten to change companies (show "retention risk" signs), you can credit them up to that much and no more. It doesn't matter if their claim is justified or they're just whining because they've figured out they can get away with it. That's just the most you can give them, right or wrong.
  • There is a law in the British court system (and legal systems in the British tradition, such as the US and Canada), that a jury can turn in a not guilty verdict if they believe that the defendant did break the law, but that the law itself is unjust. But, it is also apparently against the law for anyone in court to tell them this - they have to ask. And even then, they might be told a lie. Here is an example of this...

[ Parent ]
Guitly and get out of gaol free card (none / 0) (#125)
by Mitheral on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 04:15:45 PM EST

It's called jurry nullification. That high profile case where a guy was growing pot for California and was busted by the Feds would have went differently if the jurors knew about it. The judge wouldn't allow the defense to tell them it was a choice.

[ Parent ]
I love Credit Cards (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by Bryan Larsen on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 07:39:40 PM EST

My experiences like #2 have always been very pleasant.  I've paid my credit card bills a day late several times.  Sometimes I was never charged late fees, but once I did have to phone them to get it reversed.  Another time, my ~$600 payment was a whole dollar short.  Of course, this cost me $4 dollars in interest because of the way credit cards work.  They reversed those charges without any hassle.  And there's been situations where both myself and the company have screwed up, and they've always made things right.

And the other great thing about credit card companies is reversing charges.  They'll reverse charges on your statement quite readily.  All they lose is a little bit of commission: it's really the merchant that loses out.  I once had a credit card stolen and $5000 in charges were racked up.  It didn't cost me a penny, but I felt sorry for the merchants who delivered services to a thief and never got paid.

And merchants can't say "no" to Mastercard.  It's like I've got this great big huge unstoppable behomoth on my side.  I like that.

My cell phone company sucks, though.  But I can't switch: everybody has my number.  It's so easy to switch credit cards: I get a new application form in the mail about once a week.  Threaten to cut your card up, and action will happen.  If I do the same to the cell phone company and they know I'm bluffing.  I can't wait for number portability.


The merchant gets screwed (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by rusty on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 08:50:47 PM EST

The merchant gets screwed coimng and going when your stolen card gets used fraudulently. First, they get no money for their goods, and then second, they get slapped with chargebacks, which can mean that the CC companies won't do business with them anymore, or (more likely) will gladly take a bigger cut of any sales.

My other pet peeve is Discover. You know the "Cash Back" they're always crowing about? That comes right out of the merchant's pocket. Pretty nifty trick for Discover to pull off there. "Use our card! We'll give you this other guy's money at the end of the year!" You may notice K5 does not welcome the Discover card. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

getting screwed (none / 0) (#140)
by Bryan Larsen on Sun Aug 17, 2003 at 01:00:54 AM EST

The merchant gets screwed coimng and going

Quite literally in this case. Approximately half of the "merchandise" in the example I cited went towards purchasing the services of an escort.... :)

[ Parent ]

deserved (3.50 / 2) (#121)
by jjayson on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 05:41:42 AM EST

Businesses went sour when people stopped voting with their feet and wallets. You can always find another bank or a credit union. People used to threaten to move their accounts and actually do it. My grandmother still does this when she feels she isn't happy about a company. As people became complacent about service or quality it fell.

For the most part, society gets exactly what it deserves.
"Fuck off, preferably with a bullet, if you can find one that's willing to defile itself by being in your head for a split second." -

Similar problems... (none / 0) (#130)
by Gooba42 on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 01:00:50 AM EST

About 3 years ago I signed up for a service costing me $10 a month billed automatically. I forgot I even had it and realized on this past month. I contacted the company to cancel and my mail was routed to their current billing agent who told me I had no account with them whatsoever. So no apparently for the past X number of months, I've been paying someone who isn't even the billing agent for the service in question. I forgot, that part is my problem but this is outright fraud to bill me for a service they don't offer anymore.

Likewise, my bank has screwed me. A way back when...2 years ago? I tried to sign up for online banking and it told me I couldn't sign up, that service was unavailable. I blew it off and figured I'd go to the ATM, no biggie. Then they start billing me for online banking, which I can't get into. They continue to bill me for about 2 years or so...8 months beyond when they stopped billing for online banking. So for 2 years I paid for a service which I was denied and for 8 months of those 2 years I was paying for a service which was free. I worked it out with them to be refunded the fees, but the whole ordeal was far more than it should have been.

It has always been this way (none / 0) (#132)
by Orion Blastar on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 01:49:51 AM EST

Businesses exist to make money, so they make the rules in their favor, not yours. That is why they delay checks being cashed, and delay payments you make to an account and create a lot of "Monkey Business" charges to charge you for. They want your payment to be late, so they can charge you more. If you get a late payment, they can cancel that low interest rate and hit you with a 20% or higher rate. One credit card company delayed my statement so that I only got a week to send a payment in. instead of a month, bt I paid it as soon as I got it and the payment got there before the due date. They try and trick you like that. Besides, didn't you know that the government is for big businesses and not the people? Who do you think contributes campaign money to the politicians and lobbies for laws in their favor? The big businesses. They rent our politicians to pass laws in their favor. It don't matter who we elect, they all take money from big businesses.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
So, when exactly did business go sour? | 140 comments (121 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
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