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Thursday, November 17, 2011


I saw a car at a stoplight today. It was one of those cars with a website painted on the side. Presumably the guy driving the car runs the site. Anyhow, the site was

I like free books as much as the next guy, so when I got home I went right to the website for some free books. Here are the options I was offered:

So it is basically the same as Netflix, but for books instead of movies. What the hell? The cheapest option I could find anywhere on the site is $15 per month. Then it ranges all the way up to $71 per month for 6 audiobooks at a time. (Who listens to 6 audiobooks at a time? Are they really expecting that I'll find 5 friends to go in on this proposition with me?)

Bottom line -- If you're the one guy who still thinks that mailing books and CDs around is a good business model, knock yourself out. But please show us both a little respect and don't call it "BooksFree".

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

5-Minute Survey

These companies are always looking for a new angle to guilt me into taking their surveys. Here is a new one I received today from HP:

To summarize, if I don't take the survey, I am taking $5 away from the International Red Cross.

This reminds me of the ones at the grocery store cash register, where the guy asks me right before I pay if I want to donate $1 to benefit research on child birth defects. He waits there until I say "No", in front of all of my disappointed friends and neighbors behind me in line. I haven't done it yet, but I am always tempted to go ahead and say out loud what is obviously already implied: "I have absolutely no compassion for kids with birth defects".

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Freedom to Be Swindled

I was fed up with my Citibank card for forcing me to change my credit card number after one of their security breaches. So I looked around for the best offer on switching to a different card.

I signed up for the Chase Freedom credit card. It offered 1% cash back on all purchases, plus 5% cash back on gas, travel, and a few other categories. I had a 2,000+ mile driving trip coming up, so with the high cost of gas the 5% back really sounded like a great offer.

About 2 months after using the new card for all of my purchases, I get the following e-mail from them:

So you have to "activate" the 5% cash back option. What the hell? Why would they not just automatically activate everyone? This is just a scam to take back the 5% bonus from anyone who doesn't figure out that you need to click to activate. I'm glad I somehow didn't delete this spam-looking message, or who knows how long it would have taken me to figure out I was being swindled.

When I went to fill out the form to "activate" my 5% cash back, I clicked on the "why is this necessary" link next to the Email address box:

It says "We need to know who you are in order to make sure you receive your bonus". What a loap of crap.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Evil Marketing Trick #348: Bundling

One of the biggest difficulties for evil marketing is how to sell more product when the market is saturated.  If people are buying all of a product they need, how do you convince them to buy more?  Bundling is a well known strategy to push more product than people need.  I recently saw a bundle of watch batteries, a 2 pack for $6, which was a good deal over 1 for $4.  The problem is, I only have one watch that needed a battery.   Yes, some people will benefit from a 2 pack, so maybe the extra consumption isn't double, but even if 20% of the additional batteries are ones that would never have been purchased, that is still a 20% increase in sales for the vendor.

When you can combine bundling with fear-mongering, you  get something like this:

Monday, August 08, 2011

You've Got Lycos?

When you sign up for a "free" web account, do you have an exit strategy?

While searching through old internet account notes, I noticed that I once had a Lycos email account.  I was curious, so I went to the Lycos website and managed to login to my old account, which I had assumed was long gone.  After searching everywhere for a "close account" option, I found that they do not have one.  Folks, you should be very concerned about any web service that doesn't allow you to terminate your account.  They had no further information on their website, so I had to search the web to find out how to delete my account.  The best I could find was some statement that said accounts would auto-delete after 30 or perhaps 90 days of inactivity.  Since I am sure I haven't logged in for years, I am pretty sure that this is a bold faced lie.

Lycos is also tied to Gamesville, which has a cancellation policy... by FAX!  Seriously?

Please submit a request to close your Gamesville / Lycos Network account to Gamesville Customer Service, by sending a fax to 781-370-2990.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Windows Bifurcation?

There is no possible way that you will get this window to close without restarting Internet Explorer. Don't even think about just trying to cancel the restart.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No Returns

It always seems that whenever I have a simple unopened-box-with-receipt store return I get stuck behind somebody who has a return more complicated than the federal tax law. Recently at Target I got stuck behind a woman returning 20 jars of baby food. I overheard her explain that she no longer had the credit card she purchased the items with (WTF?), complicating the transaction. The clerk had to scan each and every jar, and I swear he did it at least three times. Of course there was a long wait for the manager to come over as well.

That really makes my lunch want to return from my gut.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Vonage Marketing Bullshit

Below is the email I got from Vonage notifying me of a rate increase. You can't immediately see the rate increase because it is hidden by only posting the new rate of $19.99/mo. It was previously $17.99/mo. I had to look that up because I had no idea what my original rate was. The reason I didn't know was because I was more familiar with $26, which is the actual amount I pay after all the surcharges.

Hey Vonage, it's OK to sugar coat price hikes by announcing new features (additional minutes and message transcriptions), but just be upfront about the costs. Treat your customers with more respect.

Still, this is slightly better than what they did the last time they hiked rates.

Dear Customer, Modifications to your Vonage calling plan will appear on the first billing statement posted to your account on or after July 5, 2011.

Your plan will continue to provide a great value for home phone service, including an increase in outbound minutes to 750 from 500. Your account will reflect this change at $19.99/mo plus taxes and fees.

In addition to 50% more minutes for calls in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, your plan still provides the benefits you've come to expect: Unlimited incoming phone calls AND Vonage-to-Vonage calls. The same great low international rates on calls around the world. Messages transcribed into convenient texts and emails delivered by Vonage Visual Voicemail®. Unlimited 411, plus all of the other included features you've come to enjoy. Thank you for being a valued Vonage customer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Microsoft Office "Save As" Annoyance

Dear Microsoft,

OK, we already complained about your save-as feature once, but your newer feature is even more annyoing. When a user wants to save an Office document that is marked read-only, you came up with the moronic idea of appending "Copy of" to the front of the file name in the save-as dialog box. Why on Earth would you do that? Don't you realize that this totally screws up the file location as displayed in the directory, which is usually sorted by filename? Don't you realize that the user will append the filename as necessary and gets REALLY annoyed when they forget to delete the "Copy of" append. Please, PLEASE, tell us that there is an option to turn this off! We'd even settle for a registry hack.

You got it right in Windows, where duplicates have a number appended to the end of the file name. Please move some of your Windows developers over to the Office department.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

So Hard To Say Goodbye

Everyone knows that companies hate to see you go. There is a special place in hell for the series of operators I had to fight through when I cancelled my AOL subscription back in 1997. So I am not surprised when I try to cancel something, and I am confronted with hurdles.

I recently encountered two interesting approaches on this theme with a program called Xobni. Xobni (inbox spelled backwards, by the way) is a tool I never even asked for, and was installed automatically when I installed another program called Digsby. Last week I got tired of Xobni running in the background and decided to remove it, like I should have done a long time ago.

Of course, there was no uninstaller in the Start menu, so I had to go to Add/Remove programs. Rather than just removing the program, I was first forced to reckon with this series of alternatives:

Arrrrrgh! Fancy choices! Buttons! Precious seconds of thinking! Maybe I should just wait until some other time. No, I made it this far, I must press on. Click "Uninstall Xobni".

Then they hit me with a new low - launching the sad dog web page:

I don't know what happened to that dog, but I'm pretty sure it was because I just uninstalled that program.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Stop the Registry Madness

Dear Microsoft,

Why is it that any time I want to change one of Windows annoyances, I find the only option is to edit the registry? Did it ever occur to you that some people can identify a shortcut by the little arrow in the icon, and they don't need the word "shortcut" appended to the icon name?

You know those commercials you keep running, "Windows 7 was MY idea..."? Did you actually consult any real users or perform any focus group research? I'd like to see you find one person that says they enjoy editing the registry to get Windows to behave the way they want.

a slightly more dissapointed user

Monday, January 31, 2011

"No Drip" Cap

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Off Target: Evil Marketing Trick #582

I was curious how much I would actually be saving when I saw this sale price:

When I lifted up the tag to see what was beneath it, would you believe that the answer was nothing?:

Uncool, Target.