Category Archives: Commerce

United Airlines Must Die! (Part 1)

Living as I do, here in ‘Sodom by the Sea’, United Airlines is a necessary evil. Oh, I’ve tried to get away from this evil empire of the air. But the fact that they’ve got a lock on about 50% of SFO’s gates, the fact that for non-stop, coast-to-coast travel from the Bay Area they are just about the only game in town, along with a whole slew of unused frequent flyer miles, has made my departure almost impossible.

And so it was, for a recent trip to Boston, that I found myself pondering once again how an airline offering such abysmal service manages to stay in business. (Perhaps we could liquidate all of United’s assets and give the money to GM? Oh sure…only in the fevered dreams I had on a plane heated to the point where I could have broiled sausages on my filthy tray table.) But I digress…

What is United’s biggest problem? I’d say open contempt for their customers. My connecting flight from Chicago to Boston was not only canceled without an explanation, but the crew, waiting in the boarding area, didn’t even get the word from their employer until after the flight disappeared from the departure boards. Was it weather? Nope…both coasts had great weather that day. Was it mechanical? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. More likely it was the fact that flight was only 50% full, and United could save few petrol dollars by massively inconveniencing 80 passengers.

So…it was off to ‘Customer Service’ we went for the continuation of our miserable journey. Stay tuned tomorrow for lessons in how this arrogant company has managed to completely disconnect from angry customers.

Read Part 2

“Holey Pants Batman!

OK… I get it. Everybody want’s to try and squeeze a little more cash from consumers, especially when we’ve started behaving like Jack Benny in bankruptcy. But is it too much to ask that a pair of jeans last more than a year? If fact, I do remember a time when GAP jeans (the brand I usually buy) didn’t self-destruct roughly 12 months after purchase.

No longer… Not only has almost every pair of GAP jeans that the Frogette and I have bought in the last 2 years developed holes, the holes are showing up in a suspiciously similar, overtly embarrassing, place.

Now I could understand if the jeans from one particular batch—which for GAP means a batch from one particular manufacturer, one particular country—all turned out to be worthless. But different batches? Over two years? All developing holes in the crotch just below the zipper seam?!

5 pairs so far, 3 of mine and two of the Frogette’s. What the f*ck?!

Bad Kitty

There are some mash-ups, some collisions of style and substance, that should just never happen. Now admittedly, I rarely drink Beck’s beer, but given the choice between Beck’s and your typical American swill—you know…”less filling, tastes like dirt”—I would probably be willing to put a bottle of this German libation to my lips.

Well…any bottle but Beck’s Hello Kitty lager!!!

Now… The scuttlebutt is that this is all just photo-shopped fakery, concocted in response to some ad exec’s complaints about marketability. But given the current market situation, can we really expect that alcohol purveyors will be able to resist the most evil feline ever to inhabit the face of the earth?

Destroy a Credit Score, Reap the Profits

The headlines are full of stories about how banks, mortgage lenders, and businesses have tightened their so-called ‘lending standards’.  Did your bank just lower your credit limit without explanation?  Did American Express offer to buy you out if you’d just give up your card?

Though the media will tell you that these tactics serve to isolate financial institutions from risk—banks themselves may have the chutzpah to tell you that they’re really protecting you from overextension—this is all a LOAD OF BULLSHIT!

What happens when Wells Fargo terminates a credit-card that you’ve carried for years or when CitiBank cuts your credit-limit in half despite your spotless payment record? Well…your ‘debt to credit’ ration goes up and with it…YOUR CREDIT SCORE GOES DOWN! And therein is the key: America’s financial institutions are engaging in a concerted effort to lower the overall credit scores for millions of otherwise credit-worthy Americans. And why? To reap more profits in the form of higher interest rates. Consider: If your mortgage lender can just figure out a way to lower your credit score form the low 700’s to the high 600’s you’ll be forced to pay 10’s, maybe 100’s of thousands of extra dollars on a higher interest rate refinance.

In short, credit score destruction is bad for Americans but great for the financial institutions that, with the federal government’s help, have been f*cking us for the last 18 months.

Bush Named Goodwill Ambassador – Ex-prez called “perfect symbol of post-prosperity America”

Former President George W. Bush has completed his transition to private life — by returning to public service as a Goodwill Ambassador, literally. Bush’s office announced today that the 43rd president has agreed to be the new U.S. spokesman for Goodwill Industries.

The well known used-goods retailer, which also provides training, employment and a host of services to the disadvantaged and physically and developmentally challenged, will provide those services to Mr. Bush in exchange for his public relations duties, according to Goodwill spokesman Willy Frandle.

“Goodwill has long been known as a seller of quality used merchandise at hugely discounted prices,” said Frandle.

“Now that America is entering a period of severe economic dislocation, Goodwill wants to market itself to a wider audience. Goodwill needs an ambassador to reach that audience. Who better than George W. Bush to be the symbol of the post-prosperity America he helped create?” he said.

“In exchange, Goodwill help Mr. Bush reenter civilian life, helping to educate him in some basic life skills such as interpersonal communication and how to handle money.”

The former president said he is excited about his new role, and looks forward to the life skills classes. “Imagine what the last eight years might have been like, had I known how to handle money, when it was the wrong time to crack jokes, and not to give the German Chancellor a shoulder massage,” Bush said.

Frandle unveiled two Bush-associated marketing tools, the first a reworking of Goodwill’s logo that incorporates Bush’s likeness.

The second are lifesize cardboard cut-outs of Bush. The cut-outs will be placed in all Goodwill stores nationwide to greet shoppers. A computer chip will play a recording of Bush saying, “Sorry you can’t afford regular-price retail anymore. Sorry you can’t afford regular-price retail anymore…”

Goodwill to Bushwill?
Respected nonprofit updates familiar “Willy” logo

Yelp Decides On Extortion As A Commerce Model

OK, I admit that I like Yelp. Whenever I’m going to try a new restaurant I always check out what the Yelpers have to say. I’ve even found a new physician based on her Yelp profile. (Still trying to get over the fact that she folded up her practice 5 months later, but that’s a story for a different post.)

There is no question though, that where yelp is concerned, you have to take some of the most complimentary, and most heinous, reviews with a grain of salt. Interestingly, it appears as if Yelp wants to help restaurateurs do something about those negative reviews…for a price. Buy a whole bunch-o-advertising, and those negative reviews will magically disappear.

Extortion as a commerce model? Makes one wonder how those negative reviews floated to the top in the first place, or even if they’re legit…at all.

AMEX: All Your Text Will Come From Us

Nowadays, the cost of doing business isn’t merely a total that you subtract from your gross income to get your net income. It’s a burden to be shifted onto the backs of your customers. Take American Express, for example. This miserable excuse for a company has decided that you should have to pay for their telephone marketing and service calls, even if those calls are to your cell phone.

Their new card-member agreement reads, in part:

You authorize us to call or send a text message to you at any number you give us or from which you call us, including mobile phones. You authorize us to make such calls using automatic telephone dialing systems for any lawful purpose, including but not limited to: suspected fraud or identity theft; Account transactions or servicing; offers of American Express products and services; and collecting on your Account. You authorize us to place prerecorded calls in connection with the status of your account, or security and identity theft matters. You agree to pay any fees or charges you incur for incoming calls or text messages from us without reimbursement.

No way of opting out of their ‘you pay for our marketing’ scheme—which happens to be illegal, by the way. And no mention of the fact that, if you explicit tell them not to call your mobile number, federal law prohibits them from doing so. The fine for violating that particular statute? $11,000 per instance.

Maybe if American Express has to pay $11,000 for each and every customer they piss off, they’ll stop this sort of bullsh*t. On second thought…probably not.

To This We Have Been Reduced – Organ Barter

The American medical system is a shambles. This is not news to anyone who deals with a chronic illness or who has experienced a serious medical incident. And no class of people have it more rough than those who, for whatever reason, are waiting for an organ transplant. Chronic shortages of organs, baroque systems for matching donors to recipients, omnipresent (but rarely discussed) favoritism toward the wealthy and the famous, all combine to make the organ location and donation process a nightmare.

So now…desperate patients and their families are turning to the equivalent of ‘organ personals’ for locating available, and altruistic, donors because, in the US at least, federal law makes the sale of one’s organs a crime—a safeguard that is supposed to remove any advantage that the wealthy might enjoy. (Though, the ability to spend money on the search for a compatible donor gives the wealthy an inherent advantage.)

And predictably, mechanisms like Craigslist bring out the wackos who are willing to trade their organs if the price is right, federal law be damned. An artist offers his kidney in exchange for the purchase of $250,000 worth of his paintings. A foreigner offers his kidney in exchange for relocation to the United States, all expenses paid.

In this economy, one has to ask how long it will be before the the necessities of life—food, shelter, heat—become the commodities that one’s organs might purchase. Sounds like some kind of extreme dystopian nightmare, right? Sure it does, but who could have imagined that someone would trade their kidney for an all expense paid trip to a country on the verge of a financial ‘Dark Age’?

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Phelps apologizes for photo – Sorry to be caught with non-sponsoring product

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps apologized today for “bad judgment” and “regrettable” behavior, following a British newspaper’s publication of a photograph in which the swimmer appears to be using a product that is not a sponsor of the US Olympic Committee.

Published Saturday in The Scutter, the picture showed the winner of 14 gold medals smoking a marijuana pipe.

Team USA sponsor Anheuser-Busch and worldwide sponsors Tsing Tao and Yanjing Beer voiced displeasure over the news that Phelps was not getting a buzz with their products.

Anheuser-Busch spokesman Clyde S. Dale did not mince words. “We paid millions to put our name on the Games, is it too much to ask that this freak of nature remember to have a bottle of BL Lime in his hand when there are cameras around?” Dale asked.

The US Olympic Committee quickly responded, issuing a statement on Sunday upbraiding Phelps for failing to “fulfill his responsibilities as a consumer role model.”

Phelps, speaking Sunday to sports journalists over cocktails at the Orioles Grill in the Baltimore Sheraton Hotel, was contrite. “I used bad judgment associating my name with a product that is not part of the Olympics’ system of sponsor endorsements. Instead, I should have kicked back and relaxed with a Budweiser,” said Phelps.

“By making the mistake of smoking pot, I put profits into the hands of only a few growers and distributors, instead of the international multimedia money-generating machine that is amateur athletics,” he added.

“For doing that, I am sorry.”

Gulf of Aden decended upon by treasure hunters

Yes it was reported this weekend that 5 Somali pirates drowned in the Gulf with their share of the $3 million booty paid by the Saudis for their oil tanker the Sirius Star. I’m still having a hard time though imagining how a group of unruly guys in a Zodiac, who CAN’T SWIM, managed to take over a ship the size of several football fields. The captain saw them coming and he and the crew just threw up their hands? I mean for the pirates to even board them would mean climbing the side of a supertanker. Kvatch and I were cracking each other up imagining scenarios for repelling the pirates. Only recently, a cruise ship captain evaded them using nothing but a “sonic weapon”. So you see a bunch of guys hauling ass out to your big old ship in a Zodiac. They look kind of fearsome, you’re thinking pirate attack. Do you (a) turn the ship and run them down?; (b) Run to the opposite side of the deck and basically play “keep away with the crew” until the pirates get tired and give up?; or (c) HIDE. It’s a big ship man, there have got to be some cubbyholes or an engine room you could hide in. Here’s a thought guys, it’s a Zodiac, why not use a harpoon to shoot a hole in it and sink it?