Tag Archives: rants

Annoying get-rich-quick schemes

[Begin rant]

I got an email yesterday, the content of which goes as follows:

In 2011,  July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. This apparently happens  once every 823 years!  This is called ‘money bags’.  So send this on to 5 and money will arrive in 5 days. Based on Chinese Feng Shui, the one who does not pass this on will have money troubles for the rest of the year. Had to pass it on, just in case!

I’ve probably written about email like this before, but seeing another of these in my inbox annoyed me enough to rant about it once again. Let me enumerate all of the ridiculous things that bug me about messages like this, starting with the simple things.

  1. Any 31-day month that begins on a Friday will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. July isn’t unique. March 2013 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays, for instance. So will August 2014, May 2015, and January 2016.
  2. People believe what they want to believe without question. “This apparently happens once every 823 years.” Seems like an odd number, so I checked. A quick search of WolframAlpha told me that July 2016 begins on a Friday, which means it has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. That’s only 5 years from now, not 823 years. Also July 2o22.
  3. The message implies that if you follow the instruction, money will arrive in five days. Of course it will. For one thing, “arrive” is vague. It could mean a windfall. But if you send the message off on Sunday, five days later is Friday for many people, Friday is payday. The message doesn’t indicate how much money will arrive. It leaves that up to the recipient to image the mounds of cash that will rain down upon them.
  4. The message also implies something that really grates at me: to get money, you don’t have to work for it. Working for money is for suckers. Why work for it when you can annoy your friends by sending them chain emails?
  5. Worst of all, perhaps, is the vindictive nature of these messages. For those people who recognize the messages for the frauds and farces they are, for those of us who don’t pass along the message because we don’t want to bother our friends with nonsense, we will have money trouble for the rest of the year. It’s not enough that those who follow the instructions will get money in five days, but those that don’t will have trouble.

Well guess what. I am tempting fate. I am not forwarding the message to five people. (And what if I sent it to 25 people? Would I have money trouble then, too? The message doesn’t say “at least five people.”) Of course, I don’t get coffee beans in my Sambuca; if I break a mirror, I don’t think twice about it; if I spill salt, I clean it up. If I should have money trouble for the rest of the year, it won’t be because I didn’t forward this message.

Look, folks, I’m not looking to get rich quick. I don’t see any satisfaction in unearned windfalls. I want to get rich slowly, with the satisfaction of knowing that I worked hard to earn the money and provided some useful service in return. So if you are thinking of forwarding one of these messages to me in the future, do me a favor and send it to someone else–or better yet, think twice before sending the message at all. It saves us all a little bit of time, and time is the one thing that we have that can’t be replaced.

[End rant]

Yet another customer service rant

We got a notice from Avalon Communities (which owns/manages our townhouse) that they are improving their website to provide additional value to customers.  The downside is that for the time being, all automatic rent payments have been canceled and we have to send our checks to the central rental office somewhere in Florida I think.  The notice said that we’d be notified as soon as the new system was available.  Among the benefits of the new system are:

  • The ability to set up automatic, recurring rental payments
  • A more user-friendly environment for setting up such payments
  • People who set up such payments won’t have the money taken from their accounts until later in the month, giving them more time to pay.

I was thoroughly annoyed by this, and was tempted to write their customer service people to explain why.  I decided that wouldn’t do much good, and instead, I would vent my frustration here.  Here is what annoys me:

  1. I had set up a recurring automatic payment before I ever moved into the townhouse.  It was fairly straight-forward.
  2. I have never had a problem making rent payments on time and in full.
  3. Now, I have to take the time to manually mail off a check for December rent and
  4. Once the new site is up, I have to go through the process of setting up automatic payments a second time

I can’t see how any of this is of benefit to me.  In fact, from my perspective, it is pure inconvenience.

Just writing this up raises my hackles, and makes me think that I should write their customer service about it.  I may come across as a jerk in doing so, but how else does customer service know when they are doing something foolish?  I realize that this is probably a minor thing to most people.  It should probably be a minor thing to me as well, but it has been gnawing at me for days
Thanks for listening.

American Express annoyances

Yesterday, I got a call on the new home phone line from American Express, offering me, an excellent customer and small business owner, a pre-approved Small Business Owners American Express Card.

First, I have no idea how they got the phone number.  I added it to the Do Not Call registry less than five minutes after I was given the number.  Our parents don’t even have the number yet.  But somehow, American Express has it.

The fellow on the phone rambled on for several minutes about all of the benefits the card would accrue to me.  ("With all of your business expenses, you will certainly require a solid line of credit to pay for them," etc.)  Finally, he said, "So if I can verify your information, we can have your card out to you in seven-to-ten days."

I said, "Well, I can correct at least one piece of information.  I am not a small-business owner."

This seemed to stun him.  He fumbled for a minute and then asked, "Have you ever been a small business owner?"

"No."

"Do you own rental property that you make money from?"

"No."

"Do you have hobbies that you make money from?"

"No."  Okay, this was a little white lie, but I had my reasons.

Finally, in desperation:  "Do you plan on opening a small business in the future?"

To this I laughed.  "Not with a full-time job, and various household responsibilities to uphold, like, say, raising a family."

That more or less ended the call.

So why did I let it linger so long in the first place?  I have found that these hard-sell sales people don’t take no for an answer and I get worked up when I say no and someone keeps pushing.  Instead, I have found that a reductio ad absurdum approach works best; that is, find a flaw in the logic of their presentation, and exploit it.  In this case, the fact that I am not a small business owner.

I wondered why I might have been considered a SBO in the first place.  I think it’s my writing.  I’ve earned money as a professional science fiction writer and that must count.  Clearly, the criteria for being an SBO are tenuous at best.  Thus the "little white lie" I referred to above.  Still, I don’t consider myself a SBO, and even if I did, I don’t need an American Express card.  The problem is if you tell the sales guys that, they just don’t listen.  Only when all of their avenues of possibilities have been eliminated will they finally leave you alone.

If there are any American Express Small Business Marketing people who have come upon this blog entry in vanity Google searches, please take this as a lesson.  Don’t push!  The quickest way to lose me as a customer (and this includes my regular American Express card) is to continue to push me after I’ve already said no.

Don’t skimp on the important stuff!

Thinking about the toilet paper in the restrooms at the office, I am reminded that there are some things that we shouldn’t be cheap about. Toilet paper is one of them.

You shouldn’t read this

I’m a pretty mellow, easy-going guy. It takes a lot to get me really agitated and even more to get me down right pissed off. One thing that almost always does the trick are stories of censorship.

Apparently, a school board in West Virginia is trying to ban Pat Conroy’s books so that high school students can’t read them. (For those of you who don’t know, Pat Conroy wrote Prince of Tides, among other books.)

Fair warning: the rest of this entry is pure anger talking.

At first, I was mildly surprised by the article. I hadn’t been aware that West Virginians over the age of 18 could read. I don’t mean to single out West Virginians here; if this vile act had taken place in, say, California or New York, I would have been equally surprised at West Virginians’ literacy. Yes, I am denigrating the intelligence of those who would ban books. But only because banning books is one of the most stupid, backward, and ignorant things a person can do. I’m just reading the landscape people.

Pat Conroy called people who would ban his books “idiots”, which is succinct, but greatly understated. There are few words that come to mind right now to describe these morons, but then again, I only have the English language at my disposal. When the school board backed down from outright banning the book, they suggested labeling the book with a warning. I do have a word that describes that brave move: meretricious.

What’s the big deal? I suppose the argument can be made that a school is requiring students to read a book. The students have no choice if they want to get a passing grade. Parents who object to the subject matter (and it is always the people who would never read the book in the first place that seem to object to it) then argue that they can’t teach their own values if they can’t keep their children away from such filth.

Bullshit!

It seems to me that one of the best way to highlight one’s values is by comparing them to what else is out there. Parents who teach high moral standards to their children need only reinforce those standards by letting the children read about people who don’t meet such high standards. If you ask me, some of the characters in Pat Conroy’s books go through quite a bit of hell. It’s enough to turn rotten kid sweet. And they can gain this knowledge without actually having to stoop to the low moral level these books seems to parade.

But that’s just reason talking.

Banning a book (or a TV show or a song) is about the worst thing a parent, school board or government can do. First of all, it reinforces ignorance. Second, it teaches cowardice. Third, it instantly makes the banned object desirable. Students will begin to lust for it, wondering what could possibly be so bad that their school won’t allow them to read it. (It doesn’t hurt book sales either, I suppose.)

People speak in great tones about our freedoms and how we must defend them at all costs. Our freedom to read, to learn, to grow, is among the most precious of all and we must defend that freedom at all costs. Banning books is a cowardly, shameful act. In case that wasn’t clear to the members of the Kanawha County Board of Education: Yes, I’m calling you a bunch of cowards. And you should be ashamed of yourselves. You are cowards because you took what you felt was the easy and “expedient” way out, rather than defend the most precious of freedoms that we can pass down to our children, that of free-thought. What level of Hell is reserved for cowards? I can’t remember. I suspect that in cases where banning a book is successful, the cowardice and ignorance is ultimately passed down to the students. They learn that such behavior is acceptable. Perhaps without intending it, these school boards and parents hurt their children far more than the banned books ever would have hurt them.

If I were a senior at George Washington High School where some of this book banning is taking place, I’d remember this day. And from now into the future, when asked about what I learned in school, I’d say as loudly and widely as I could that my precious high school taught me that it was okay to be a coward, that it was acceptable to hide behind a veil of ignorance, and that it was never worth it to fight the good fight.

And I’d throw it in their faces as often as I could manage.

Workout #64 (Cardio)

Up at 4:30 AM and into the gym by 5:50 AM. When I got to the gym, I noticed they had installed 9 new treadmills where the elliptical machines used to be and pushed the ellipticals back a row. The ellipticals used to be right by the windows and had a great view. This was annoying on several accounts and screwed up my cardio workout this morning. Those of you who workout regularly understand how important habit is. I can vary my strength training to my heart’s content, but I like to be on the same elliptical machine each morning, in the same place and because things were moved this morning, I was off and did only half my usual cardio.

Today’s workout

Pull over

About a month ago, I complained about all of the people running stop signs in my neighborhood. This morning, I was sitting in the front yard, reading, and I noticed that two local police cars were pulled into some trees at the end of my street, by the park. I was curious and so I watched. In the space of one hour, those cops pulled over 3 cars for running the stops signs at the end of my street. One of the cars didn’t have plates and the driver apparently didn’t have a license–and the car was towed.

It’s a small thing, I know, but it was satisfying for me to see the police enforcing the rules at this particular intersection.