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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blockbuster Rewards

We signed up for this rewards program at Blockbuster. Basically, it costs $20 and you get a free rental each month for a year. This seems like a good deal on paper. Of course, there are several obvious catches to this. For example, most people are not organized enough to remember to rent the free movie each month so they just throw money away.

The biggest outrage with this scam is the coupon. You have to bring in a silly piece of paper to get your free rental. First of all, there is no reason they can not keep track of this on the computer. The only reason for the coupon is (a) if you forget the coupon, you will probably still pay for the video since you went to all the trouble to drive to the store and pick it out (b) there is a good chance you will lose the coupon (c) they can make it very difficult for you to get the coupon in the first place.

Regarding (c), you might think that they give you a stack of 12 coupons when you sign up. No no. You have to go to the store each month to get the coupon for the next month. The worst experience of all was the last time I went to the store. The guy said they don’t have the coupon, I need to go to “the website”. So I go to and nowhere is there any indication as to how I get the coupon. I sent an e-mail to their support, and got a form letter that says I can expect a response in 3-5 business days.

After all that, if they expect me to “be kind and rewind” they have another thing coming.

This whole thing really blocks my buster.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Random Rant

This morning I stopped into the local 7-11 for some coffee on my way into work (~8:30am). There was a woman dressed in a crossing guard uniform buying a six-pack of Natural Light beer. She was paying by check (you can do that in a 7-11?). I am not sure why but...

That really makes me cross.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Car Wash Expiration Dates

Our local Exxon has one of those automatic car washes. There are two things that really tick me off about this car wash.

1. It is very slow, about 8 minutes per car. So if there are 6-7 people in line (not unusual for a nice day), you better have something to read because you will be in that line for the better part of an hour. Note, this does not go over too well with the kids if they happen to be with you. The annoying part is that it is designed in such a way that there is a long pull-through, so by the time you realize what is happening it is already too late. I guess you can try backing all the way out of the impossibly serpentine entry-way (if there's no one behind you). If you prefer a forward egress, good news - they give you a little escape pull-out just before you get to the front of the line. However, this is just to tease you, since you've already waited 45 minutes to get there so there's no way you're pulling out at that point.

2. The bigger problem is that there is about a 7 day expiration date on the receipt. My experience is that the car wash is "out of order" about 20% of the time. (Note, they will still sell you the car wash at the pump even when it is currently out of order). So now you have 7 days to get back to that car wash or you lose your $5-$10. There is no reason for this expiration date, other than to steal your money. If they want to have it expire after 6 months, fine. But 7 days? And usually when it's broken, it takes them a few days to fix it. So you come back 2 or 3 days in a row, then you give up and throw out the receipt - figuring it will expire by the time you come back and it is fixed. Meanwhile, you're driving around with chunks of mud on your windshield; you will not clean them by hand, just on principle. One time I went in and asked for my money back. The guy says "oh don't worry about the expiration date. It should still work". Now I'm really annoyed. First of all, I'm not waiting 45 minutes in line to find out whether or not this guy is clueless. Second, this just proves that the (meaningless) expiration date is a fiendish plot to have you throw out the ticket without getting the wash.

The whole thing really bursts my bubble.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hidden Fees

I recently had a tight cash flow situation, so asked our HR person about taking a loan from my 401(k). She said no problem, there are no fees or anything. I was surprised, and asked again if there are definitely no fees. She said yes.

Then I take out the loan and there is an $85 administrative fee. Not only that, I find out that it's an ANNUAL fee for having a loan. This is an outrage. First of all, none of the papers I filled out said anything at all about an administrative fee. Second, this is a huge fee. That means if someone take a $1000 loan, they are paying 8.5% just for the fee! Tack on the 6% interest, and you are paying 14.5%! You might as well put it on your credit card!

It should be illegal for companies to tack on these hidden fees. But they get away with it because everyone just pays the fee and probably doesn't even notice it. You can only find it (in this case) if you dig deep into the transaction ledger of your account.

So I decided not even to cash the check when I heard about this outrageous fee. Problem is, they decided to deduct the money from my account, even though I didn't cash the check. Three months later, I finally got the money credited back (but not the investment gains I lost) and I'm still down the $85 admin fee for a check I didn't cash. And then I find out it's illegal for my own company to give me back the $85 because that would be discrimination against people who didn't get their fees refunded.

The name of the company is DailyAccess ( Pass along to anyone considering them as a 401(k) provider that they are a disgrace.