Sucker

So, I’m trying to make sure I don’t have any unnecessary expenses, and I’m looking over my credit card bill, and I decide that I no longer need my monthly Audible subscription. I hardly ever remember to download an audiobook each month, so that’s a waste of money, and even if I did, when would I listen to it? I don’t have an hour commute each way to work any more.

When you cancel your Audible subscription, it asks, “Why are you canceling?” I figure there’s no harm in honesty, so I select “I’m trying to cut down on expenses,” which is true. The site comes back with an offer: would I perhaps like to switch to a slightly cheaper plan that allows me to roll over credits from one month to the next? No thanks, I say, $14/month still seems like an unnecessary expense.

OK, says Audible, how about this really cheap plan, only $10/year which allows you to roll over up to 18 total credits?

Damn. Got me. Well done, Audible sales team!

Sucker

I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

(Welcome, visitors from ifoAppleStore! Glad you could come visit. I encourage you to take a look around, and read the comments before posting one of your own. Thanks!)

I like Apple. I really do. Rachel and I have matching 15″ Powerbook G4s, we each have an iPod, our house has two Airport Expresses, and I badly covet an iPhone. So it pains me to be filled with such boiling rage at a company that I admire.

My laptop died: these things happen. The hard drive croaked about six weeks ago, but I was able to resurrect it with the help of DiskWarrior, which totally rocks, and is much better than the useless crap the Apple guys tried. So I’m back up and running, and feeling pretty good about myself, until last night when I remembered that I’d turned off Spotlight indexing a while back for performance reasons, but then was irritated that I couldn’t search my mail, and so turned it back on. Forty-five minutes later, blam-o. Hard drive dead again. This time, not even DiskWarrior could save it. (Edited to add: although DiskWarrior couldn’t repair the drive this time, it was still able to access the files on the disk, and I was able to retrieve the few things that had changed since my last backup.)

So, I reluctantly schlepped my laptop into the Apple Store to have the hard drive replaced. What I was nervous about is Apple’s repair policy: they take my computer, take out the broken hard drive, put a new one in, and give me back the laptop. It takes about five days, and that’s cool with me, since it’s covered under Apple Care. But! They keep the old drive. I understand why they keep the old drive from an inventory perspective, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea. I’ve got stuff on there! Personal stuff! Six years of email, not to mention 40 GB of photos, and all of my bank account numbers.

I asked the “genius” at the Apple Store what my options were. (And let me just say, if you’re going to refer to your employees as “geniuses,” you should expect some sarcastic quotation marks.) Could he, for instance, format the drive while I was there so I could have at least some confidence that my personal data wasn’t going to be easy for someone else to get? Sorry, no such luck, as the drive wouldn’t mount, and see above re: their crappy software. I was disappointed, but more or less resigned to the situation until I saw the release I had to sign before they’d replace the hard drive:

I acknowledge that service may be subject to a $100 USD diagnostic fee as described in the attached Repair Terms and Conditions, and agree that either I have made a backup copy of my data and removed any confidential, proprietary, or personal information and removable media such as floppy disks, CDs, or PC cards, or I have assumed the risk that such information or media may be lost, corrupted, or compromised during service and repair. I further acknowledge and agree that Apple cannot guarantee the safety, security or integrity of any data that remains on my computer while undergoing service or repair and that Apple shall not be liable for any loss, corruption or breach of such data, including any confidential, proprietary or personal information or removable data.

Emphasis added. Lack of serial commas: sic.

I understand why Apple doesn’t want to guarantee the security of my data, but there’s something really offensive about requiring me to sign a release that pretty much explicitly gives them permission to sell my credit card numbers to Ukranian mobsters.

But, if I didn’t initial the box and sign the form, they wouldn’t fix my computer. I asked how much it would cost for me to buy a replacement hard drive myself, and “genius” Brandon pretty much admitted that Apple jacks up the prices for parts they sell to the general public to encourage us to pay for the labor instead. But besides, I’d paid for Apple Care already. I was entitled to the free parts and labor, and I wanted it. So, being a chump and kinda broke, I signed the damn form.

This policy sucks even if, as Brandon from the Apple Store claims, it’s industry standard. The industry standard is stupid. I don’t expect the Apple Store to be able to do anything about a terrible corporate policy, but I would have liked a little more sympathy. I would have left feeling much better if Brandon had said, “For legal reasons, we can’t make any guarantees, but we’ve never had any complaints about data being misused, and here are the privacy and security policies we have in place to prevent anything like that from happening.” He didn’t say anything like that, and I’d like to know if that’s because he found me irritating, or because Apple has no such policies.

(I’m praying that just because I made a fuss over this policy, Brandon and his buddies don’t “accidentally” step on my poor defenseless laptop, or check the “please ruin this guy’s life” box on the work order. Please don’t ruin my life just because I hate your policy!)

I’ll get my computer back in 5 days with a brand new hard drive, and that’s great, but some of my love for this friendly corporate behemoth has been lost. Apple: try not to suck so hard in the future.

I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Apparently Snakes on a Plane came about at a Hollywood Happy Hour when people were trying to come up with the worst movie pitch ever. It’s clear why this movie won. Bumped from 1 star to 2 stars in admiration of the way the filmmakers unabashedly and repeatedly allowed snakes to kill people by having the snakes clamp down on a human appendage.

(Bonus: This video played during the closing credits and I bet you can’t watching it without wondering if it’s a satire.)

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

How Continental Raised the Price on ALL Their Tickets, (at least to me).

I’m back from JR’s Family’s Lake Erie Reunion. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and indeed, I actually had a little fun. However, the major excitement was Sunday when we arrived at the airport to fly home. Somehow, I made the colossally idiotic mistake of buying my ticket for Monday the 18th instead of Sunday the 17th. I’m not quite sure how it happened because I AM quite certain I never entered the 18th as an option for flying. I do take responsibility for not confirming the information on my ticket was correct before buying it and for not checking it sooner to make a change.
I hoped the flight hadn’t sold out and that I would be able to sweet-talk my onto the plane at minimal extra cost. At worst, I figured, I’d pay the industry-standard $100 change fee. When I went to the Continental counter, the woman told me Continental has a strict policy of not allowing people to fly standby until the day of their original flight. She also informed me it would be $320 on top of what I had already spent in order to change my ticket to fly that day. Flabbergasted, I asked her how much it would cost to skip my original flight and buy a new ticket on the flight I had planned on taking. Incredibly, buying a new ticket and forgoing the next day’s flight would only cost $280. I didn’t understand how buying 2 tickets could be cheaper than changing my old ticket and if I was going to buy a new ticket, I wanted to do some comparison shopping.
First stop was Southwest Airlines where the woman was shocked Continental wouldn’t change my ticket or allow me to fly standby. She seemed genuinely offended as an employee of the airline industry that another airline would have such ridiculous policies. She informed me that the best she could do was a flight from Cleveland to Baltimore to Providence for $185. She even reserved the ticket for me without making me pay so I could check with some of the other airlines. She also suggested I call Continental to try to talk to a supervisor. United was $611 and Independence was $250.
Having collected my facts, I dialed Continental’s 800 number and waited on hold for several minutes before reaching Helen. Helen told me the same thing the woman behind the counter had, that there is a strict policy against allowing people to fly standby unless it’s the day of their original flight, that the cost to change the ticket would be $320, and that a new ticket would be $280. Helen didn’t seem to care when I argued that it didn’t make sense they would charge me so much (or charge me at all) since they obviously had seats available. I mentioned that Southwest was willing to fly me for $185 and told her that they may get the $280 out of me because I was desperate, but I would never fly Continental again. I also mentioned I would spend the next month telling everyone I knew how stupid I had been to buy the wrong ticket, but especially how greedy Continental had been in trying to take advantage of it. Helen told me there was nothing she could do and something to the effect of “You should probably fly on Southwest if you don’t want to pay $280.” She then suggested I try to get someone at the airport to do something about it.
I got back in line steeling myself for what I knew could be an epic battle. The problem as I saw it was my total lack of leverage. Continental didn’t need to do anything for me because I had already paid for a ticket for the next day’s flight. They didn’t need to do anything for me because they had their money and that was final regardless of what I decided to do. I had a minor scuffle with the woman directing people to the counter after she was offended I was talking on my phone while in her line. I don’t remember much about the incident, but I include it as further proof that Continental needs to focus harder on customer service.
I approached the woman at counter 19 tingling with trepidation and excitement. I felt excitement because I envisioned an intense match of verbal sparring where I could pontificate loudly on issues involving efficiency, logic, customer service, money, and right and wrong. I felt trepidation because the last thing I wanted was to spend $280 more than I had already spent.
And then nothing. I explained to the woman behind the counter that I had mistakenly purchased a ticket for Monday’s flight when I really wanted to fly today. She nodded and told me she could change my flight, but she’d have to charge me a $100 change fee. I quickly handed her my credit card before something happened to increase the price of my fare and walked away stunned after telling her she had made my day. I think she really appreciated me saying that. I had never been so happy to spend $100.
I don’t know if Continental thought someone else was going to rush into the airport 25 minutes before boarding willing to pay the premium price they had assigned to the ticket. That can be the only explanation for not allowing me to fly standby on a flight that clearly wasn’t full. And I don’t understand why 2 different employees refused to let me fly standby or pay $100 to change my ticket citing strict company policies before a third employee did so without pause. You’d think Continental and every other company would try to fill up every plane all the time and would willingly sell tickets to people at some small margin above cost 25 minutes before the plane boarded. Much like an ice cream store giving out ice cream in the event of a power outage, giving it out in exchange for good will and nothing more, Continental should have welcomed me aboard in an effort to fill up every sellable bit of space on that plane. (Empty seats are giant tubs of melted ice cream, as it were) In the end, the flight took off an hour late further lowering the value of the service Continental provided me. As far as I’m concerned, every flight I take on Continental leaves at least an hour late as my flight from Boston to Cleveland took off an hour and a half after it was supposed to.
In the interest of full disclosure, what I said to Helen about never flying on Continental again isn’t totally true. At this stage in my professional career, I can’t afford to be so stubbornly principled. The next time I’m looking for flights, I’ll fly on Continental if it’s significantly cheaper than any other option. This means that the Continental flight will have to be direct and cost at least $40 less than the next lowest option. So in reality, what I should have said to Helen was “You may get your $280 out of me, but it’s going to make each of your flights appear $40 more expensive than they are for the next 5-15 years. However, I will certainly stop flying Continental as soon as I make enough money to base economic decisions on terrible prior experiences.”

How Continental Raised the Price on ALL Their Tickets, (at least to me).

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 3

10:15 AM Again, not as late as I’d have liked, but respectable, maybe I’ll take a nap later on. I’m still expressing my displeasure by staying in bed for a couple hours this morning. I’ll read the Globe sports page, slashdot, and anything else that catches my fancy.
12:35 PM I like Mark Cuban’s blog, and I’m not ashamed!
12:43 PM Wow. This French site has pictures of the “transparent” backgrounds people are putting on their Macs. Imagine lifting your computer up and taking a picture of what is behind it. Then put that picture on you Mac desktop so you can “see through” the computer.
1:35 PM Shower. Didn’t really get very dirty since yesterday, but a habit is a habit.
1:50 PM Eating cereal and reading Rolling Stone. I just like the People-esque section that talks about the different gossip. Most of the articles bore me. Though I did read an article about Suge Knight a couple years ago that gave me nightmares.
2:30 PM I tried adding pictures to the blog. I am using Ourmedia.org to do this and so far it’s not working.
2:52 PM Decided to use up all the outstanding gift certificates I have. First up, $10.00 at iTunes. This is hard, I want to get something I’ll like, but I can’t find anything that’s a certain hit. In desperation, I bought The Promise Ring’s “Nothing Feels Good”.
3:10 PM JR just called to let me know she’s about 100 miles away. I better hurry if I want to have a good goal achievement percentage.
3:18 PM Next up, $90.00 at Smalldog.com. Game or External Hard drive?
4:32 PM After much discussion and misgivings I finally chose a hard drive only to find my credit rejected. I’ll have to figure that out tomorrow. I have to go pick up JR in 20 minutes so I don’t know how to prioritize my last few minutes of freedom. The $75 at Amazon will have to wait until later this evening.
5:53 PM I left to pick up JR signifying the end of “Girlfriend Vacation”.

My best guest without reexamining the goals, I’d have to say I was pretty productive this weekend. However since we try to base everything at AABA on science and facts, let’s go through the original list one by one.
Use up gift certificates to Smalldog, Amazon, and Borders. I wasn’t yet able to use the Smalldog or Border’s GCs because of a problem with the websites. I added iTunes to the list, and used up the Amazon GC so I’d have to consider this goal completed.
Purchase iPod case and external harddrive (perhaps with gift certificates). I plum forgot to buy an iPod case, but my big issue was getting over the hurdle and deciding which one to get. I’ve done that and I’ll buy the case tonight. The hard drive was all set to be ordered from Smalldog until my store credit was rejected. Completed.
Shop for groceries. Over-completed.
Watch movies and basketball. 4 movies and a couple close games. Completed.
Laundry. Completed.
Finish a few blogs I’ve been working on (not the GF Vacation Journal). Ideas only, not completed.
Clean around the house. Depends on the definition of clean, but I did tidy up. Completed.
Extra goals will be added as they are realized. I learned about the history of notebook computers, researched discount online brokers, the difference between AAC and MP3, worked for about 7 hours, made some lunches for work, and fleshed out my disapproval of Rick Pitino. Completed.
Sleep a lot. The bane of boyfriends everywhere. When the girlfriend goes away, all semblance of time disappears, (which is why I think it’s so hard to accomplish goals). Going to sleep early becomes impossible and for silly reasons, too. I failed to complete this goal.

That gives me a 90% achievement rate, I’m an indisputable success. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all (ha!) of you. Clearly defining my goals for you gave me a small sense of structure to my time wasting and you deserve some of the credit. Next time we’ll have to set higher aspirations.

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 3

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 2

4:35 AM Got awoken by bad cat who was trying to climb on my bedside table. Normally, only JR is afflicted by them. Kicked both cats out and realized one had knocked my water over onto the carpet.
8:50 AM Cursed my job for conditioning my body to wake up early.
9:15 AM Decided to start my day. But to show my disapproval and reluctance, I’m going to spend the first 2 hours of the day in bed.
11:49 AM After reading a good deal of , Boston.com/globe/sports, and the RSS feed of slashdot.com, I got up to bring Another State of Mind (Netflix) to the mailbox. Instead of leaving it in our mailbox for the mailman to pick, I decided to enjoy the cloudless day and walk it down the street to the box. Hey, that could be all the going outside I do today.
12:05 PM Got back from my walk, so I’m now reading an article about The Birth of the Notebook on MobilePC. Why do I care about the history of mobile computing? One interesting fact is that portable PCs originally referred to the idea of being able to use what we now refer to as desktop computers anywhere.
12:21 PM Finished reading an article on Business 2.0 about how Apple is going to use the iPod and iTunes brand to continue kicking ass in the coming years.
12:42-1:42 PM I spent about an hour looking into discount online brokerage houses. I’m convinced there is an “Online Brokerage Association” that mandates every member must keep their fee schedule murkily confusing and make it difficult for interested investing novices to spend their money. I imagine that through an agreement between Federal Regulators and the OBA, online brokerages stay out of the regulatory spotlight by making a concerted effort to confuse and repel idiotic and impulsive consumers like me. Right now I see myself as a bleeding dolphin in the middle of the ocean. I’m being circled by sharks dressed as discount online brokerage houses. They’re just waiting for me to make a decision so that they can eat me alive with hidden fees and surcharges. Individual sharks keep making a run at me, woosh, there goes an Ameritrade hammerhead, swish, a Scottrade great white. With whom will I invest? I don’t know. But for now I’ve been sufficiently scared off. But I will swim again.
1:46 PM My arcane and indisputably geeky New Year’s resolution was to track every cent I earned and spent this year. In that name I updated my Quicken records.
1:53 PM I need a new password system. I continually forget the passwords on my credit card site.
2:15 PM I Tried to figure out the difference between audio files in MP3 format compared to audio files in AAC format. I think I might have been going about things all wrong for the last year by ripping everything into 128 MP3. I don’t ever really hear a difference, but I guess AAC takes up less space?
3:00 PM Took a shower to prepare for going to the grocery store.
3:34 PM The productivity begins right now. I’m going to throw in a load of laundry, go to the pet store and the grocery store and then clean. Or at least the laundry and stores.
5:22 PM For proof to the old adage don’t go shopping on an empty stomach see AC’s Shopping Trip on the 26th of March, 2005. Talk about bleeding dolphin in the middle of the ocean, I didn’t stand a chance. I bought 3 of everything that I don’t need. I see a sale on things I eat and buy a lot of it. This does keep me from having to go to the grocery store, but did I need 4 pints of Ben and Jerry’s? I still haven’t eaten the Ben and Jerry’s I bought when it was on sale a couple weeks ago.
Let the productivity continue.
6:15 PM Cleaned toilet, bedroom, coffee table. Started working on spreadsheet again. Watched West Virginia totally blow a lead and lose to Louisville and Rick Pitino. I don’t even like the Celtics very much, but I hate Rick Pitino. He wrote a book called “Success is a Choice” and that may be true, but if it is, why the F would you choose anything except success? And if you know it’s a choice why would you make the decision to sign Travis Knight? There’s only one explanation: Rick Pitino chose to fail while coaching the Celtics which makes his tenure here even worse, because he failed on purpose.
8:15 PM Started cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Pasta and chicken in different forms make up the majority of my diet, so I’m making a pound of chicken sausage, a pound of pasta and some sauce. I’ll make several meals out of this that I can bring to work this week. Or else I’ll just leave it on the stove and eat it until JR comes home tomorrow, it’s probably what I should have done yesterday. Up until this point all I’ve eaten today is a banana and some ice cream. I’m pretty hungry.
9:34 PM Finally sated. It didn’t come out as well as I would have hoped, but dinner is finally eaten.
9:38 PM Starting Outfoxed (Netflix).
9:45 PM Decided to work for an hour and paused Outfoxed.
10:45 PM Back on Outfoxed.
12:10 AM Outfoxed is over. It was pretty good. It seemed to me it was the film version of “Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them.”
1:00 AM I’m going to get into bed and watch a little bit of Closer, my second Jude Law movie in two days.
3:15 AM Damn it! I watched the entire thing. What was I thinking? Closer was pretty good, but I happen to hate most movies that were plays first. There is something different about dialogue written for the stage as opposed to the screen. People in plays and movies of plays tend to say stuff you wouldn’t hear in real life and the conversations are almost always between two people only. Also, the timing always seems off, like the characters wait an extra beat before saying anything at all, which is what drives me craziest about this genre of film. Next time you have a conversation, try to get the other person to agree to count to one before responding to anything you say and you’ll know what I mean.

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 2