Friday, March 2, 2012

Consuming the American dollar: Corporate greed...

For a few dollars more...

Corporate America seems to be successfully pilfering money from the American consumer while the consumer does not have much in the way of recourse against this type of practice.

Let me give you some personal examples of my dealings with utility and internet companies. It's not pretty, please remove all youngsters from the room.

We can start with the richest bastard company which began it's business life by stealing from others: Microsoft. I think it's now urban legend that the ugly stepbrother, Bill Gates, stole the holy grail from Apple founder, Steve Jobs.

Apple and Jobs began a rampage on the industry with the ipod and iphones, but were shortly criticized as they began manufacturing their much sought after products in China.

So, no one in this incredible technological corporate fiasco ever thought about us, the American consumer. Oh, maybe they thought of reducing the price so more children could have phones pressed to their ears and games on the go, and mommy needs a moment to reduce stress with "Angry Birds." But they were not thinking of how this throw away technology was going to effect the consumer or even the sacred "mother earth." 

Microsoft successfully fought off anti-trust lawsuits, have monopolized the software industry, and continue to allow bugs in their programs while they offer new products rather than fix the old ones, such as my nemesis, MSN.

It was a stormy night...

I had finally gotten aboard our local what I call "higher speed than regular mail" internet service when I was suddenly called away. When I returned, I could not get the service, it was full, it was Mediacom. The cable company had sold too many slots and the internet was not running at "advertised speeds" and they therefore had to reduce their customer base, of which I was one.

However, during this time, Mediacom received a grant for 90 million dollars to bring a fiber optic cable linking our insular area to the rest of the world. It was supposed to be complete by 2011, now coming to you from early 2012. The last update I can see shows a vague plan and some promises of hearing back from Cal trans. Ninety million dollars later and I have to wonder.

So, there was little in the way of options out here in Weldon (or as I call it--Well done) California, and I went back to MSN dial up.

It was a dark day when I called to the "unknown source" or otherwise known as Microsoft customer service. I had hit an all time low, calling and asking them to resume my dial up service.

No jobs...

As I spoke to the woman with the thick Indian accent I realized that Microsoft had yanked jobs from this country, the country which allows this monopoly called Microsoft to carry on it's illegal operations, on a daily basis. In return we can expect inferior products, service, and an obvious disregard for our customer base.

Example: I began using MSN dial up in 2002, and was sort of happy with it way back when. If there was a problem, a customer service representative was quick to resolve the problem, and often would opt to give a free month for my trouble.

Compare that to the nightmare which took place in the last two years. First, MSN did not care that I had been a "long term" customer, since 2002.

They have no regard for the old idea of "return customers." While Bill Gates goes around flaunting his wealth and potentially his guilty conscience, with this philanthropic endeavor he and buddy, Bill Clinton are up to, we the consumer of his crappy products must endure long hours speaking to inferior customer service reps.

I wanted to kill them...

The craziness that ensued once I installed MSN onto my new laptop and a desk top was one I will never forget. There had to be a virus, I do believe that. And I do believe the virus was MSN itself. The software was flawed and ruining the reliability of all my computers.

The software crashed my blogs, my videos, and I lost days worth of work at a time.

I kept calling and each time they would try to find something to blame on me, rather than their own product, (yes, the problem was ALL the computers but not their software) so nothing was ever resolved.

And I went nuts. After so many calls I could no longer control myself and likely these foreign customer service reps did not know exactly what "mutherfuckingidiotmachine" really meant. It wasn't personal, at least on my end.

But I do take it personally that Bill Gates, Microsoft Corporation, allowed MSN to charge $13.95 a month and adding that to the psychological help required of someone so distraught, it was a costly ordeal.

The last ditch effort...

Recently, I contacted the corporate office of Microsoft and had the opportunity to chat with...the fucking operator. Great! Real fucking nice for her and me.

She gingerly tried to direct me to customer service and really, had she done this, I would have been on a fucking plane to Seattle. However, she was good at reading psychosis and simply told me I would have to WRITE to Microsoft via email and gave me the address.

Honestly, I have not had time to write to them, but this is what I'm going to ask for: I want my money back. And then I'll add: "You're a rich fucking corporation and not only did you sell me an inferior product, but you sold it for too much, it caused major problems on my computers, I lost time and work product, and I went fucking crazy!"

What do you think they will say?

Okay, I'm going to write and ask for my money back and report back as to what they say. But look at it this way, they took approximately $14 a month for two years, which amounts to $336.

If they manage to aggravate others like me and still get away with charging for it, they could have millions for nothing but shitty fucked up service. And that's the American way.

Microsoft isn't alone...

This big bully of corporate America is not alone in these scams to grab a few pennies more. If you're a company with millions of customers, such as another friend, Verizon (big story here, coming soon), and you charge a little extra without the customer's knowledge, why you have a scam.

Last year I happen to call Verizon to find out if they had a different phone package and what the cost would be. I had been on this particular package for eight years and I figured it was time to upgrade.

The Verizon Rep was friendly and in the middle of giving me all the options, she asks me if I still call Canada. I told her I never did call Canada, and why was she asking.

She quickly pulled up my account and said I would now save $5 a month by taking the Call Canada feature off the package. Of course, I thanked her for the consideration, but then questioned the whole deal.

"For eight years I've paid $5 a month to call Canada, which I don't call, and you are now telling me I'm SAVING money? How about giving me the money back you took for eight years?"

She laughed like I was joking or something. I told her I meant it, I wanted my money back. I'm not here to donate my fucking money to Verizon...are YOU?

Needless to say I never got a dime or a straight answer. But imagine that Verizon is making money for doing nothing but setting up services which are unnecessary and costly. This is no mistake my friends, this is corporate America and you will lose money daily if you don't watch out for these practices.

What can we do?

Aye, there's the rub, what can we do when a federal government, a state government are so impotent and weak they do not protect the consumer. Watchdogs have been euthanized as these corporations are allowed to nickel and dime us to death.

Look what is happening, no one cares if we are "returning customers" or "long time" customers, they take us all for granted.

In the case of Verizon where I have no other choice as to who is my phone carrier, they have an even greater leverage and do not have to do anything, such as provide me with the services I need at a fair rate. Is that not something I should expect?

Scams and more scams...

It's rampant, this lack of business sense, and it's causing businesses to believe they can do anything to the consumer with little recourse.

With the advent of corporations eating up other corporations, leaving consumers with little or no choices, such as with satellite TV. We now are down to two, (at least we have two I guess unlike with Microsoft) Directv and Dish. They cost approximately the same, they have pretty much the same programming, and God help those who try to get reparations or hold them to their side of the contracts they like tying us up in for a couple years.

I had them put my TV service on vacation hold as I was not watching any television and paying $75 a month. My preference is work over the boob tube, so I thought this would save me a few bucks. Six months later I called Directv to begin service again, and apparently they already had. Because I assumed it was off, I never tested it, and suddenly I had a bill for five months of service with the threat they would "cut me off."

They are fucking stupid really as I explained, I don't watch TV, and told them to "go ahead." I plan on never paying those bastards.


My normal attitude is to pay the bills and get it out of the way. In this case, Directv insisted they were right. I even asked for the "recording" of our phone call. I told them every time I call there's a threat that the call will be recorded, so I want to fucking hear it. No.

So, they record our calls for what reason?

As you can see there are problems for consumers and no solutions. Try your state agencies and see what happens.

Construction gone wild? Call the state and find out if the company has a license. If they do, well, there's no guarantee.

Small claims court...

Another place to take consumer complaints is your local small claims court. This is where you get to make your case in front of an objective party, a judge. Not a bad deal as consumers get a  pretty much fair opportunity to explain what happened.

Where things get difficult is in the higher courts when attorneys are present. I'm not just going to rag on attorneys, but on the system that allows class action lawsuits which pretty much feed the lawyer but not the law. That could be reformed and fast in my opinion.

I'm sure if an attorney were so inclined they could trace some of these overcharges such as what Verizon did to me to other consumers and potentially bring about a lawsuit against this megagiant corporation. And this could very well happen some day as more and more complaints filter into the government agencies and small claims courts, that it catches the attention of hungry law firms.

That's no guarantee that we will never see a scam from Verizon, I am sure they will find a way to add a few more pennies to each bill and make some more profit. It's just the way it is, and we should accept it?

Rate payers group...

The state agency which is supposed to reflect the needs of the consumer in a Public Utilities Commission rate hike request, the rate payers group, did something interesting a few years ago when our local water company cried poor and in need of more money.

Cal Water company was able to garner a rate increase in a novel way: the hike was passed along to other consumers. The state rate payers group decided if Cal Water needed more money and the PUC was going to give it, they would somehow get this money, just not at the "expense" of only the local consumers.

The rate payers group allowed Cal Water to add a penny onto the bills of other customers outside the area which would be liable for the whole increase.

By the way, the cause of the increase was a federal law decreasing the amount of "allowable" arsenic in the water. Cal Water put the blame on the government for changing this percentage on them.

I personally told them at the public sham of a meeting about the increase, that they were the ones who decided to go into the water business. I didn't tell them to do it and the government made no promises either. So, why were there stockholders receiving dividends while their hands were out for literally what should be called "a local bail out."

In the end, there are pennies turning into millions, and I'm sure people out there are unaware of the way corporate America with the blessing of the government takes our money with no recourse each and every day.

Welcome to "Scamerica" land of the unholy dollar. Welcome to the United States of Corporate America. Be careful your hard earned dollars can and often do fall into the hands of unscrupulous businesses.

But since I never give up, I'll be hounding these dogs until I get my money back. Update soon....Have a great day and watch your pennies as they turn into corporate dollars. Laura Hart

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