Friday, April 30, 2010

I’m All About Arguing

2 comments:
argument

Much to the chagrin of many around me, I love a good debate. So much so, that my good friends would call ‘debate’ a misnomer for what actually transpires. If someone says anything that I really disagree with, you’d better believe they are going to know it. It seems that this behavior is part of my nature. I believe I do have some tact, however, and I do not share my opinion openly with every random person I happen to overhear. My argumentative dialog is usually kept to those closest to me. Moreover, a full-on, heated rant-fest will usually only occur with the small number of those willing to give their own retorts. Most people who know me well enough just accept that that’s how I am.

But let me get to my point about this post: I want to argue with someone. Maybe that’s the reason I even started this blog. I’m looking for people who will openly disagree with me about something. There have been a few comments on my main (non-‘syndication’) blog which have agreed with what I’ve blogged about; there have been slightly more that have disagreed. Let me just say, I love it. Please, to anyone out there, whether you follow me generally, or if you come to watch the Verizon Saga play itself out, or you just randomly found yourself here, please comment on something and tell me I’m wrong. Back it up with statistics and references even. I want to ‘get into it’ with someone. I don’t mind if you stay anonymous, or even what your opinion is – meaning, you actually agree with me, but want to play the devil’s advocate role. Just play nice and keep it kid-friendly, please.

Or, if there’s something you have an opinion about that you think I’ll disagree with that I haven’t posted something about already, bring that up here. Bring up anything you want - I may even expand the discussion into it’s own thread if I have a strong enough opinion.

I look forward to taking a jaunt with you!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Temperature Control

2 comments:

This one goes out to all those who think it’s too cold with the air conditioning set to a certain temperature, especially those who turn up the thermostat in response. In the world there are two kinds of people – well, it’s more of a spectrum with varying degrees (no pun intended) of preference, but I’ll simplify – those that prefer warmer air temperatures, and those who prefer colder. And for the sake of this argument, some people prefer one direction or the other to conserve energy in order to save money or to protect the environment. Put those reasons aside; I’m talking about pure temperature preference.

two-thermometers

I personally am one of the colder types and am completely comfortable inside at 60°F, 30s or so outdoors. I feel like I may be in a minority as part of this group, which may come up as an argument for the case I am about to present, but you’ll see that it doesn’t matter. Us ‘cold’ types are more likely to turn down the thermostat when we’re uncomfortable, which frequently upsets the ‘warm’ types. Of course the same is true for the ‘warm’ types, but being in the perceived minority, I feel the ‘colds’ upset the ‘warms’ more. So the two groups in my experience typically go back and forth, turning the air up and down and up and down, or else getting in senseless arguments over the difference of 2°.

Instead of this fighting and bickering, however, I propose another idea. You ‘warms’ just deal with it! And I don’t mean suck it up and deal with the cold that you dislike so much. Instead, how about adding a layer or two to your wardrobe if it’s that bad? Does that really seem too difficult? If you get too cold with the temperature setting low, then throw on a scarf or jacket, and the problem is solved.

Now look at the other end of the preference spectrum: the ‘colds’. If we are too hot, using that same logic, we can just remove layers. Tada! Problem solved again, right? Wrong. It may be acceptable in your own home to walk around in the nude (and then again, maybe it’s not) but when in a more public place, say the office or school, a little more discretion is required. If I go somewhere with a light t-shirt, shorts and nothing else – preparing myself as much as possible for the inevitable ‘warm’ adjustment – I have no such option to remove a layer. Not only is it illegal in most places to strip down beyond that, but I’m sure most people don’t want to see a bunch of ‘colds’ walking around in the buff or in their skivvies.

For ‘warms’ it’s easy to deal with the cold. It’s not so simple for ‘colds’. Please be considerate, ‘warms’, and leave the temperature at a lower level. We ‘colds’ will appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Verizon Part X: A New Hope

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I picked up my (like) new LG enV Touch yesterday, unpacked it, set it all up, and am now using it. So far, so good – No data plan added to the contract, contract still up in May (after which I plan to go month-to-month to continue to avoid the fee). It’s not even been 24 hours yet, but all in all, I’m satisfied with this particular experience with Verizon. I’m still unhappy about the company overall, however, which leads me to my next point.

I’ve still got my case open with the FCC, but the process for them is MUCH slower than the BBB. As that process continues, I’ll keep updating here. Hopefully, we’ll get somewhere and other customers (those still willing to stick with a company that would do this in the first place) will be able to avoid this ridiculous mandatory data charge, or else maybe VZW will put out a series of phones that are still good, but don’t require the data plan. All we have for now is hope that they will come to their senses – which still doesn’t really seem likely.

 

P.S. Hope nobody minds another Star Wars reference in the Verizon series titles… ;-)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boycott Arizona!

1 comment:

Yeah! Let’s all jump on a bandwagon!

Ok, seriously. This country is hurting for cash right now - more specifically, individual communities, states, counties, cities, and the like are affected. Arizona happens to be one of those states struggling to stay afloat, fretting over budget woes. A supremely controversial state bill (pdf) has just been passed, requiring local law-enforcement agents to request proof of citizenship/legal presence if it is suspected that an individual is not a citizen when stopped by police.

Now, how exactly can you tell if someone is not a citizen (using a simple traffic stop situation – there are many other occasions where this new rule could apply)? Maybe they have a Mexican (common around these parts – any foreign country will do) license plate on their vehicle. But there are flaws in that: what if they stole the car on this side of the border; what if the vehicle is owned by a visiting Mexican relative, but is being driven by the citizen counterpart? If the license plate is from AZ or another U.S. state, then maybe they have darker skin? I don’t even need to discuss the problems with that one… The safe bet would be to ask everyone to provide proof of citizenship at any time; it worked great for the Nazis!

The bill has been called an answer to the U.S. government’s inaction regarding the violence at the U.S./Mexico border, but I fail to see how requiring proof of citizenship is really going to address that, especially given that many of the provisions are already federal law. It’s already illegal to knowingly hire an ‘unauthorized alien’ to work for you. It’s already illegal to traffic ‘unauthorized aliens’ across the border. The law simply restates many of these already existing federal laws, so the only new thing to add is this ability for any and all officers to request proof that an individual is here legally.

For those ‘illegals’ at the border causing this problem, there should be no change in current practice: Avoid being pulled over by not breaking traffic laws, and avoid other police contact by generally behaving according to our rules. If they’re going to kill someone, chances are it’s not going to happen in a crowded clear area with police present. Instead, what will happen is the non-violent immigrants will be subject to this new enforcement of immigration law. That part at least seems reasonable to me for this reason: if you’re going to have a law in place, then enforce it, otherwise, get rid of it. However much that logic holds, it still does nothing to fix the violence. I want to also clarify that statement by adding that if a good law is in place, enforce it, but if a crappy law in effect, then get rid of it.

Unfortunately for me and many others in this state, I’m now labeled a racist by association. People all over the country are now talking about ‘backwoods’ Arizona and its crazy, redneck, gun-wielding, racist citizens. The passing of the bill even got an SNL mention in a very short time span. Great for us. One of the people talking about the situation also happens to be an Arizonan. Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva’s (unofficial transcription for pronunciation ‘ra-OOL gree-HAHL-vah’) got a great idea: Boycott Arizona! Because nothing says we disagree with the decision of a state’s government more than cutting of revenue for the state that would potentially go to helping those racist citizens like me.

From the official government website:

Raul_Grijalva_109th_pictorial“Grijalva called on national organizations of all kinds to reject Arizona as a convention destination unless the bill is vetoed. A Super Bowl ban by the National Football League Players Association after the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. day was effective in changing the policy in 1993.”

While this may actually be effective in undoing what has happened, if it’s not immediate, this could be a huge blow to us the citizens. This is like a sucker-punch to the state, considering the man proposing this action is supposed to be representing the needs of those same citizens. We’re already strapped for cash when it comes to paying our police/fire/education workers. We’re even considering raising sales tax rates to help the situation, so why would anyone from this area consider encouraging anything that would further reduce the amount of money available for these critical services?

Agree with the new state law or not, Mr. Grijalva’s plan is egregious, and shouldn’t earn him any votes come election time. Unfortunately, I suspect many people will see this as a single issue, rendering irrelevant any corresponding effects his proposal may have, and as such will see him as a hero. There’s nothing like a controversy to help people forget about other issues that (used to) plague them. Thanks, Representative Grijalva for showing us you really care about the people you work for.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Verizon Part IX: Let’s Make a Deal

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In part because of ‘the network’ and my reluctance to actually change providers, I have decided to accept Verizon’s offer and take the enV Touch. Bottom line is this: I need a new phone, and the current plan I’m on is actually cheaper than anything else out there from competitors (until such time that Verizon decides to really force feed me data). This doesn’t really solve the overall issue, and everyone else is still affected; this is for my own personal benefit only.

LGEnVTouchWith that out of the way, after talking with VZW yesterday, I’m still a little anxious about this deal. I called and spoke to the executive relations representative again, and informed him that I’d like to accept his consolation. We arranged for the billing (reduced fee for the phone) and shipping, and that was that. After everything was settled, we got off the phone and I went about my business. About 30-45 minutes later, I got a call back (supposedly about 15 minutes after he was to leave for the day), to explain that they did not have any batteries available for the enV Touch, and that I would either have to wait for them to get in stock, or accept a Samsung Rogue instead. After my horrible experience with the Samsung Glyde, I’ve decided to stay way from Samsung phones for a while, plus the enV is LG, and I’ve always liked LG phones.

At this point, I was a little hesitant to just accept option A or option B, and the gentleman on the other end of the line quickly picked up on this. Suddenly, there was a third option of having the phone sent to me without a battery. If this happened, I would then be able to go to a VZW store and pick one up, the cost of which would be deducted from the bill. That remains to be seen, unfortunately. Given the new option C, and the fact that he really did sound like he was trying to be helpful (he may just be a very good salesman I may just be a sucker), I went ahead and opted for that.

So now I wait until about Mon/Tue when the phone is expected to arrive, then I’ll go to a VZW store and pick up a battery, then call the guy to confirm everything, and we should be good to go. We’ll see.
With all the phone specifics taken care of, I decided to also ask the representative about the ‘tying’ anti-trust law infringement on Verizon’s part. He qualified his response with the fact that he does not make the decisions and that he’s not part of the legal department, which I can understand. What I can’t understand is how ‘people can interpret the however they like’ is an acceptable response. Is this the same as saying, if I steal something from a store, I can avoid prosecution by exclaiming that I didn’t interpret the law to mean that I can’t steal? If that’s the case, then why even have laws?

I will give the guy a break, because he’s not part of the legal department, and he probably wasn’t expecting that question, but I’m thinking a better answer to this question (given the lack of knowledge) would have been to just not say anything?

In the next few days, I’ll be speaking with him again, and hopefully it will be on a new, fully functioning phone without a data plan or renewed contract. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Thoughts on School Funding

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Here in Arizona, voters will soon be deciding on whether or not we should pay an additional (temporary) 1% sales tax, two-thirds of which is designated for primary and secondary education, while one-third of the revenue is designated for both health and human services and public safety. This vote is in response to the current economic environment, which threatens to force public officials to cut or reduce funding for the above-mentioned services.
My take on the matter is that we should not drop school funding, nor should we drop public safety funding, unless that change is to ‘cut the fat’. (Staying on track with the title of this post, from here on out, I’ll remove non-education items from the discussion.) Losing teachers, especially well qualified ones, is a very bad thing for our children, and subsequently our future. I don’t think I’ve ever come across the opinion that if that happens (aside from saving the budget), that this is ever a good idea. If the tax will help prevent such failures from occurring, then I do not mind paying the extra penny for my McDonald’s dollar menu item.
However, reading the information distributed to the public regarding the ballot, I did come upon an interesting thought – an idea I don’t believe I’ve ever considered or had previously been shared with me. The plan, instead of raising the taxes, as this was an opposing argument, is to decrease the total number of school districts across the state, thereby decreasing overhead administration costs, while reducing the need to cut (as many) teachers.
According to the AZ Dept. of Ed., there are a total of 155 districts in the state (as identified by district websites), whereas the opposing viewpoint cited 250+, which was almost verified (229) by a third party. (Maybe part of the budget problem is that nobody seems to know just how many districts there are?) If organized by city, only those districts in Tucson/Phoenix would really make a difference if conglomerated, reducing the total in these locales from around 45 to about 15 (based on VERY loose estimates, assuming a 3-to-1 conversion).  If combining based instead on county (instead of municipality), and using a 2-to-1 ratio instead for consideration of the distance of some districts, the total of 229 could be reduced to about 125.
In the last year or so, three new superintendents were hired in the Phoenix area, each making in the range of $150-200k per year, according to AZCentral. With a larger district (as is the trend nationwide), larger salaries go to the person in charge, so this individual cost would possibly be a bit higher, but much less than the three combined. That number would also just cover the superintendent. Remember: there are a number of other administrators involved as well. Even though the individual/per employee costs may go up, there would also be a significant drop in the total money spent on administration overall.
While I said before that I would not oppose paying an increased tax to fix the problem, I think there are better ways to solve them. Add to that, I actually think the ‘temporary’ tax may cause more harm than good. Once that funding goes away, what position will the state be in? How do we know until we get there that the tax money will actually fix the problem, instead of just bandaging it. (this comic says it all...) Increasing funding permanently would address that, but it would also lead to more spending later on down the road. Reducing overall spending instead would also be a fix and not a bandage, so there are a few options. I think this is just one of the better solutions to the issue at hand.
**There is much more to the logistics than what I’ve presented here, but I am simply trying to make a generalization for the sake of understanding. Why pay three people to do a job, if one can do it? If someone would like to compile all the data and come back with some figures, differing examples/solutions/possibilities to either support or disqualify the theory, then by all means, do so – I would love to see it! I have neither the time, nor I think the access/resources.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Verizon Part VIII: Verizon Strikes Back

3 comments:
So, Verizon’s letter, forwarded by the BBB, just got to me (see bottom of post). It’s some very interesting stuff, being that they have offered me a deal to get me a 3G phone without requiring a data plan. Though it’s not the best deal in the world - the ‘new’ 3G phone would actually be ‘like-new’ and would not be covered by any warranty - it is rather enticing. It would be a refurb LG enV Touch, and would cost me $50 to switch to it. The phone is being offered to replace my current POS (Samsung Glyde) more than to settle this $10/mo data charge, so that to me doesn’t really resolve the issue. On one hand, my personal grievances would more or less be appeased, but what about every other customer who’s getting the same raw deal?
I called the number listed in the letter and spoke with the representative who’s been handling my case. I asked a number of questions to verify that certain things would not happen if I accepted this offer, and to clarify some of the terms of the deal, which were not originally specified in the letter. He said that my contract would not be renewed, so if I decided to ultimately leave Verizon in two month’s time after accepting the offer, I would still be free to do so. He indicated that I could try this new phone out for a week and if I was not pleased, I could return it for a refund of my $50 and continue on as though nothing had changed. I asked if this would result in some kind of restocking/cancellation fee, and he said that it would not. I don’t quite remember all the questions that were asked, but he did satisfactorily answer all that I had asked. That being said, I am tempted to take advantage.
For the other part of my dilemma, what to do about the horrible policy? If/when this new phone breaks, will I still be required to pay for that data when I replace it? For now, yes, but I asked the gentleman on the phone some additional questions not directly related to the offer on the table. I pointed out that this deal, however tantalizing it may be, really seems to be a distraction from the real issue of the mandatory data fee. He said that although he personally had no authority to allow any *NEW* individual plan to remove the data plan (see, my particular offer is without updating any contract), the VZW executives were “seriously reconsidering” the policy. He said that he talks to 4-5 people per week who are upset by the forced data and also pointed out that he is one of many employees fielding these customer concerns.
It seems as though the voices are being heard, though I am just a little skeptical of the whole thing; I won’t be completely satisfied until the policy is changed. You want me to believe you are considering anything? Then put your money where your mouth is and stop forcing customers into something they don’t want. It’s as simple as that.
Personally, I haven’t quite decided if I will take him up on this offer, but I am seriously considering it. At this point, the final outcome is still up in the air. However, to those out there who are still dealing with this fiasco, my suggestion is to do exactly what I did, and make sure Verizon knows about your dissatisfaction. At the very least, this all shows that it is possible to relieve yourself of the issue, and at best, with enough compromises being made, they may end up doing away with the whole thing. Despite whatever decision I make (actually more so if I stay with Verizon under any terms) I will keep pushing for VZW to revert to the policies in place before January of this year. Good luck everyone, and keep an eye out for more from me regarding this issue.
Letter From Verizon Wireless








Please click the letter for full view.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Problem with the Health Reform Lawsuit

1 comment:

This is just my opinion, but I feel as though people were looking forward to this lawsuit all along. If those representing their states (the attorney generals and governors and everyone else involved in the decision to hop aboard the lawsuit bandwagon) had gotten more involved in the lawmaking process a bit sooner (like, before the bill was signed into law), we wouldn’t have to be spending so many tax dollars to fight it today.

In my state (AZ, which is part of the suit now), I heard little from our local politicians (outside of our congress/senate seat holders) about the bill and their support or opposition to it, but now people are up in arms about it and going full speed ahead with the lawsuit. Where were these people before it was ‘too late’? Why is it only after the fact that the decision makers have decided to join the fight against the reform?

Speaking of after the fact, why are there now TV commercials thanking Gabrielle Giffords (my representative) for voting yea on the health bill passing? (I didn’t find a video of this online after a very brief search. If I can do so later, I’ll link to it here.) If it was really such a good idea, then why do we have to advertise to promote the decision after it has already been made? We’re stuck with it for the time being, maybe indefinitely, so why spend the money to tell people how good an idea it was to vote in favor of the reform? Why not spend that money on getting the process implemented, or better yet, on educating the public on how the bill’s passing may directly affect them and what they may need to do in the next few years to avoid any hiccups during whatever transition may apply to them?

This all goes to show (me, anyway) that the passing of the bill really was just a way to try and gain votes, and this applies to both sides of the argument. Those in favor are now praising themselves (i.e. asking for votes next election) for the decision, while those against are now promoting themselves (i.e. asking for votes next election) for being a champion against the evil socialist reform. I’m not saying the grass is necessarily greener on the other side, but its unfortunate that politics is really all about serving one’s self interests and not the greater good. </cliché>

Monday, April 12, 2010

Verizon Part VII: A Sick Twist of Fate!

1 comment:

So, I now have a bone to pick with BBB, which is the worst, given that they are supposed to be a consumer advocacy group. When I checked the status of my Verizon complaint this morning, I was presented with the update I gave in Part VI. After checking again during at lunch, lo and behold, the whole process seems to have been upended! From the complaint page at the BBB site:

Date – Activity

04/12/2010 - Case closed - ASSUMED RESOLVED

04/12/2010 - No Consumer Response- Assumed Resolved w/o Letter

04/12/2010 - Manually Forward Final Response to Consumer

04/12/2010 - Received Business' Rebuttal Response

04/12/2010 - No Response from Business re: Consumer Rebuttal

That’s right. After the business failed to respond (mind you this BBB update was already 2 days past the deadline for VZW), suddenly the BBB finds that a response has materialized and accepts it as a legitimate response past the due date. What’s more, not only did that letter magically appear and get accepted too late, but in a few hours time, I apparently failed to respond, so now the case is closed in Verizon’s favor! For reference, the above listing is in reverse chronological order, so the stuff at the top is most recent.

It gets worse! I called up the BBB and was quickly connected to the woman handling my case. When I asked about this, she sort of explained why this happened, but was more than rude about it. According to her, she came in to work in the morning, saw there had been no response, so she recorded that. Then, a short time later, the letter was delivered to her, and she forwarded to me (snail mail). So far, so good, right? But that was it, so I asked why then the case was marked as resolved in favor of the business. She said that ‘that’s for us to worry about. You only have to worry about responding if you don’t agree’ because then at that point, they will reopen the case. I pushed further and asked why that’s the default statement, and she responded that that’s just their practice and that when a letter is sent by the business, they automatically close the case. I again pressed and asked why then, after their first response the case had not been closed, to which she started giving me information about a reminder letter that had to be sent to Verizon in order to get them to respond.

I started to push again, but decided it best to cut it off there. She was not being very helpful, and I was getting too heated to be of any rational use to my cause. At this point, Verizon has ‘won’ the case with the BBB, but you bet that when I receive this letter in the mail that I will be re-opening the case immediately. If I have further issues, I wonder what the process is to follow up against the BBB, since they are supposedly the source to help resolve these kinds of issues.

Verizon Part VI: Finalizing with the BBB

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Verizon had until the April 10th to respond to my rebuttal through the BBB, and they failed to do that. The BBB records now show (on 4/12) that the business failed to respond, but they have not yet closed the case. At any rate, I would have liked to have been able to show a longer dialog between myself and VZW, but it appears there won’t one to show. Since this chapter seems to be over, I’ll post a modified version of my rebuttal for all to see. It’s ‘modified’, since I used the whole process as my basis for filing a complaint with the FCC. I made a few edits, helped by the original Verizon response, which gave me a few additional talking points. Really, it’s a blend of my original BBB complaint mixed with my rebuttal. Enjoy.

When I renew my contract with Verizon, I need to purchase a new phone, since mine is not functioning properly. My phone (Samsung Glyde) is a horrible phone, an argument to which Verizon conceded when they pulled it from their device offering after only a few months on the market. The vast majority of user reviews for the phone list it as one of the worst. My own experience is no exception, but in order to avoid extra fees for replacing it with a better quality phone, I have held onto it until such time that Verizon's policy allows me to acquire a new phone at a discounted rate. Now (as of mid-January, 2010), Verizon is forcing the purchase of a data plan for all but the worst quality phones. Some of these same exact phones were available the day before the change without a required data plan activation.

At this point, my phone is at time unusable. It has a touch screen that does not always accurately read my inputs and the phones internal system does not allow for bypassing of the touch screen for certain activities, such as placing a phone call. I have a real need to replace the phone, but I opted to wait until it was most fiscally feasible for me to do so. I want a phone with a QWERTY keyboard because I text frequently. However, (at the time of the original complaint) VZW only offers one phone with a keyboard without a mandatory data plan charge of $10 per month. I never use data, and I don't want to use data. I would rather just have the data access disabled than be forced to pay for it, since I will not use it. I know that I have the choice to move to another provider or buy a simpler phone, but as I consumer, I should also have a choice to not pay for something I don't want. I should have the right to refuse to purchase a good or service if I don't want it, but Verizon seems to think otherwise. I choose to stay with Verizon because they do offer high quality service, and up until now have not done anything so grievous as so make me terminate my contract with them.

Since I have done that, now in order to replace my phone with one that has comparable features, I must also now pay a $10 per month fee. This additional fee also applies to phones with less-than-comparable features, so even if I downgrade to something that will be less enjoyable to use (based on features, not quality - most anything will be better than my current phone in terms of quality), I will still be required to pay an additional fee.

Not all the phones with the new mandatory fee are touch screen or have QWERTY keyboards, but all touch screen phones and the vast majority of QWERTY phones have this fee. If I decide to get a touch screen phone or a phone with a keyboard, and I choose NOT to use the data plan that will be forced upon me for my selection, I will essentially be paying a monthly touch screen/keyboard fee. This is an example of how Verizon's policy is infringing on 'Tying' anti-trust laws, which state that a business cannot force the purchase of one product based on the purchase of another if that additional product is not required for the chosen product to operate/function. If I buy a smart phone, that data is mandatory because the data is in most cases actually required, or else the phone will not function. This is not the case here; as previously stated, the same phones were previously available without a data plan.

Verizon's answer to this has been:

"The new data plan requirement was made available to consumers as a method of permitting 3G Multimedia devices to function in their largest capacity, all the while eliminating the occurrence of individual $1.99 megabyte charges. Currently, activations of 3G Multimedia devices will require a data plan of $9.99 or higher; however, Mr. <NAME>'s feedback is certainly appreciated and valued, and can rest assured that it will be forwarded to the appropriate department."

This is an example of Verizon lying and misleading of customers about the situation. "The new data plan requirement was made available to consumers" Nothing has been made 'available'. Since when is a compulsory charge something that is 'available'. If Verizon REALLY had their customers' best interests in mind when they developed this plan, they would have allowed a data block. With a block in place, there can be no additional phantom charges, against which the mandatory data was supposed to protect. I realize that Verizon has been successfully sued for their practices of charging this 'phantom' fee for some individuals, but I am not one of them. As such I would much prefer a data block option as opposed to the policy Verizon decided to follow through on.

The problem is that Verizon is misleading and deceiving in saying they are doing the right thing for their customers, because they are really only doing it to make more money. To quote a quote from/about Lowell McAdam...

"Lowell McAdam, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, ... stressed that Verizon's efforts with pricing were to get more people to use data. Such data use won't harm the company's network, he said. It will also bring in more revenue and keep the average revenue per user at the carrier on the rise."

(source: http://gigaom.com/2010/01/15/verizon-talk-is-cheap-data-is-mandatory-for-most/)

If Verizon's customer service reps keep saying that this change was to protect us from paying more money, then how is it that the CEO himself clearly states that this plan was put into place because he wants us to pay more money? I understand businesses are in business to make money, but then why not just increase all phone plans across the board? Why set up a scheme to force people into additional services then lie about the basis for that action?

In addition to this - again if they truly had the best intentions - they would also listen to other customers, whom I've heard complain about this piece specifically. Some customers are parents of children who do not want to allow unrestricted access to the internet on their child(ren)'s phones. I am not in this position, but it is still a point to be made. I've heard anecdotes that describe Verizon employees agreeing to allow the data block on these phones, but will still charge for the mandatory data. How is this even ethical? I know it's legal because this is what it says in the contract and if that's signed, then that's the way it goes, but that doesn't mean it's ok to do.

If the phone does not require a service in order to operate, it is not proper to require a charge for that service. I'm going to use an analogy, many of which have already been used over and over again on blogs, social networking sites and online bulletin boards about this situation:

This is nearly equivalent to an consumer electronics outlet charging customers for cable service when they buy a TV from them, even if the customer will not use cable service, either because they don't want it, or they already have an alternative service they wish to use instead (such as satellite service). If this electronics store did this, there would be an uproar!

In the case of Verizon, I choose to use the internet at home, and I don't have a need or want to have it on my phone. I don't care if it's more mobile/convenient; I don't want it. I suspect that the reason this issue has not become significantly large yet for Verizon is that customers don't know about it. Most seem to only be finding out AFTER they go in to change their phone or upgrade/renew their contract. This means that many consumers have up to about 1.5 years before they will even realize that this change has taken place.

Hopefully, the BBB will be officially closed soon with a negative mark for the company. Remarkably, at the time I originally filed my complaint, there had only been one negative/unresolved dispute for the company (with result “Company failed to resolve the complaint issues through BBB voluntary and self-regulatory process”). It appears they know how to work the BBB system, so if/when this new point is added, it will essentially be doubling their negative score.

From http://www.bbb.org/new-jersey/business-reviews/cellular-telephone-service-and-supplies/verizon-wireless-in-bedminster-nj-1001468:

These complaints were closed as:

14858 Resolved

1912 Administratively Closed

1 Unresolved

1 Unpursuable

Here’s hoping the FCC route turns out better!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Healthcare Reform and the Impending Lawsuit

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If you’ve been following my blogs on the whole healthcare reform process, you’ve probably noticed that I am in favor of change. You may (or may not) have noticed that I am not really in favor of some of the changes made by the bill law that was enacted last month. However, there’s now something new to add to the story, which I’m still not really a fan of: The lawsuit being brought against the federal government on the behalf of (now) nearly 20 states.

While I don’t like the bill as a whole, it does do some good here and there. I think it has it’s shortcomings, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and I know not everyone thinks like me, so it is what it is. Unfortunately, this lawsuit (no links to this, there are so many articles out there – plus many frequent updates – that I’ll just let you Google the stuff yourself) is based on the fact that the passed legislation is unconstitutional, as it violates the states’ rights to their own sovereignty. Some of the suit’s proponents are also trying to make the point that the government is trying to change what it means to be a U.S. citizen by requiring the purchase of something as a condition of being a citizen, which they say is without precedent.

At no other time in our history has Congress passed legislation that required us to purchase a product or face punishment for not doing so.” –Peter D. Kinder, Lieutenant Governor, Missouri (Rep)

This bill is an unprecedented overreach by Congress and the President, forcing Americans for the first time ever to buy something as the price of citizenship…” –Mike Cox, Attorney General, Michigan (Rep)

Has nobody ever heard of paying taxes??? Since when has an everyday citizen (aside from some special circumstances), not had to pay some basic form of taxes, in the form of income, sales, or some other kind of tax? If you pay taxes as a citizen, you are paying for something, be it schools, public safety, or any number of other things. And guess what, Mr. Kinder? If you don’t pay taxes (i.e. if you don’t buy some things as part of being a citizen), you face punishment. This is not a new concept, nor is it unconstitutional, lest the taxes we pay also be deemed as much.

Sure I don’t agree with the bill, but this claim of unconstitutionalism is completely misguided. For example, how do you think the court battles are to be paid for? There are some private funds going to support this action (see the link for Lt. Gov. Kinder above), but much will come from taxes. Do these guys really think taxes come from some magical wonderland? More to the point, their very paychecks are funded from the coffers of the public.

I don’t know what the root cause for this sensationalism is - perhaps, the fame/spotlight that comes with heading the charge, perhaps overzealous opposition to the president/the democratic party/reform of any kind – but it’s time to come back down to Earth now. There are more logical and more feasible methods to have the law overturned, and there are better things to do with taxpayer money, especially given the financial hurt many states are already in.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jeopardy ‘Geniuses’

2 comments:

Ah, Jeopardy! The classic game show hosted by Alex Trebek. It’s a trivia showdown between some pretty bright minds with wit and intelligence built into many of the questions asked. Some topics include the most obscure historic literary snippet you’ve ever heard to the name of a character on the Suite Life of Zach and Cody. Despite some of the more pop-culture knowledge displayed, to be a contestant, you have to know your stuff. Just to get on the show you have to pass a series of trials, and to win the game, you have to be smart and you have to be fast.

With that said, it boggles me that when a player does so well during the course of the game that they have a guaranteed win, they still manage to blow it. We’re talking simple math and a ‘sure thing’ bet gone horribly wrong. I’ll break it down into simple, fairly realistic numbers. Say player A – in first place - has won $15,000 up through the end of round 2, and player B – in second place – has won $5,000. This is a can’t lose situation for player A going into the Final Jeopardy question. The most player B can bet on the final question is the sum of their current winnings, or $5,000, which means the most they can end up with assuming a correct answer is $10,000, which is still 5K below player A.

Here’s the twist, if player A bets $4,999 or less, regardless of their confidence about the topic at hand, they CAN NOT LOSE. Yet somehow, of all the times I’ve seen this scenario unfold, a large portion of contestants who fit into the player A category bet more than that maximum. Of those, a large portion gets the answer wrong and ends up losing. If you’re that smart to kick so much ass the whole game, then how do you get to be so stupid as to blow a sure thing? UGH.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drug companies the enemy?!? (Do Over)

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The first time through this was a bit rushed as I was strapped for time, and looking back, I can see that I did not really elaborate much. Really, it was just a few links and some nonsense response to them. Next time, I’ll take better care to not push something like this out. With that said, here’s a better version for you:

While the federal government (U.S.) pushed for the advancement (and ultimate passing) of the healthcare bill, they identified some key components to the ‘failure’ of the healthcare system in America. One of these components they claimed, is the health insurance companies. With very little searching online, you can quickly find negative remarks about the industry quoted from many parties (individuals, not necessarily political groups). Representative John Shadegg (R – AZ) at one time had this to say about insurance companies:

"I don't think that they [Health Insurers] are our friends, and that we ought to be protecting them."(source)

The president himself, the lead proponent of the passed healthcare reform was credited with this little nugget:

“They’re [Health Insurers] telling their investors this – ‘We are in the money.  We are going to keep on making big profits even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship.’” (source)

Unfortunately, this is not the only truth. Yes, insurance companies are in business to make profit. Yes, there may even be some actions on their behalf that put some people into financial hardship. But really, isn’t that was capitalism and corporate America is all about? Isn’t the point of running your own company to make lots of money? That’s the American dream! So the fact that those in the insurance industry fit this model is not a surprise.

What is surprising is that the federal leadership as failed to note the same behavior in other healthcare related industries – and worse, they have failed to take real action against it. Take pharmaceuticals, for example. Over the course of the last few years, Pfizer has gone and done what’s best for itself (and its shareholders) and not the public at large by promoting the use of a potentially harmful drug. Heck, they are even accused of lying about the FDA’s recommendations for use of the drug.

That drug is Bextra. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until I came across this CNN news story. Google it and you’ll find lots of info pertaining to what I’m about to tell you. Almost a decade ago, Pfizer wanted to release a new Cox-2 inhibitor (painkiller), but they were blocked by the FDA when it identified an increased risk of heart attack and stroke related to Bextra.

Despite this hold up, Pfizer eventually got around to getting the drug out, approved for lesser pain such as menstrual cramps, and began raking in the profits. However, the company still promoted the product for more sever pain in an illegal practice called ‘off-label’ marketing. They actually instructed their sales people to push the benefits for which the medicine was not approved. A law firm whose target cases are those of government fraud even says this practice is actually smiled upon within the company.

Back to the healthcare debate, what was it that Obama said about the insurance industry and why we should focus the reform on that aspect of the system as a whole? “We are going to keep on making big profits even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship.” Now, isn’t that what Pfizer seems to have done? Only, the difference I see is that Pfizer’s actions have directly risked the lives of their customers, whereas the insurance industry has simply made it harder to get by.

Despite the ‘hardships’ insurance companies impose, think about the vast benefit they provide. Just for having insurance coverage, a single visit to the hospital is much less likely to bankrupt you (though it’s still a possibility). If you have group coverage through an employer, odds are that your bill is actually less than if you are self-insured. I’m not talking about premiums (which ARE lower in these cases), but the actual cost of care. Insurance companies negotiate contracts with healthcare providers that help increase total revenue for the doctors (by directing the insured to use them), who in turn are able to accept less in payment for the same services. While premiums may be high (and there are variances and not all companies are alike), insurance is a gamble, and should you need really need it, it will almost certainly pay for itself.

Both the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries can be very profitable, but when it comes to the big hitters, the pharma companies bring home a much larger piece of the health care pie profit. Should we really be gimping the insurance industry over them? Why not both? You may say that the health bill addresses this by increasing taxes on drug companies (which it does), but who do you think is REALLY going to pay for that? I’m putting my money on the consumer.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Drug companies the enemy?!?

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You read right. While the federal government (U.S.) still claims that the insurance companies are to blame for the failures of the healthcare industry in America (here are just a FEW examples)…

Also, Rep. John Shadegg, a conservative Republican from Arizona, has proposed a bill to allow interstate purchase of health insurance.

"I don't think that they are our friends, and that we ought to be protecting them."(source)

“(Health Insurers) will keep on doing this for as long as they can get away with it. This is no secret,” the president said. “They're telling their investors this – ‘We are in the money.  We are going to keep on making big profits even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship,’” the President told supporters at a stop in Pennsylvania today. (source)

they are letting certain drug companies - who obviously are the absolute right in the debate - get away with knowingly putting consumers at serious risk, just to make a buck, according to CNN. A law firm whose target cases are those of government fraud even says this practice is actually smiled upon within the company.

 

Both the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries can be very profitable, but when it comes to the big hitters, the pharma companies bring home a much larger piece of the health care pie profit. Should we really be gimping the insurance industry over them?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Space: Give the People What They Want

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CNET has published a set of images that have been taken by NASA’s HiRise camera, a device created to capture high quality pictures of the Martian surface. These images are not the most awe-inspiring NASA has produced, such as the Hubble images the likes of which we have become accustomed to. However, these images are still something special: the targets were chosen by the general public!

The suggestions were made through a program called HiWish, which was specifically created to take input from non-experts about where the HiRise camera should be pointed. The CNET story states that as a result of this project, the camera has even been nicknamed ‘the people’s camera.’ Hopefully, with the release of these images, people will get at least a bit more excited about space exploration, even if it is just our next-door neighbor.

However, it’s not all smiles and happiness at this point from this author’s perspective. According to the CNET article, there have been about 1,000 suggestions made. That’s all since late January of this year when HiWish was initially launched. Of those, most came early on in the project, and now there are only a few suggestions per day, and the majority of those come from a small number of people.

While the project is open to the public, it seems not much of the public is aware of its existence. Worse yet, they just may not interested. A little publicity will hopefully go a long way to improve this case and encourage and excite people to join in. Many scientific discoveries have been made by non-experts, so it can’t hurt to have a few extra people looking into this, regardless of their individual technical knowledge.