Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Rant: You Can't Fight City Hall, Inc.

Kicking it old school!
(I was planning to review Iron Man 3 in this slot...then I was lazy last weekend and didn't go watch it.  So now you get to read another epic Grumpy Bulldog rant.  I think that's a fair trade-off.)

Sunday I was lamenting how someone (or someones I suppose) bought and refunded my entire Chances Are series in sequence over a few days.  Against my better judgment I decided to email Amazon about the problem.  Because a snowball's chance in Hell is still a chance, right?  Or just sometimes it helps to reaffirm my cynicism.

As expected they just sent back a generic email about their refund policy.  When I pressed the issue, they pretty much just said "Meh."  Rest assured they have monitoring in place...but it's so Top Secret they can't tell you what it is.  Gee, I feel sooooo much better now!  I've been screwed out of book sales but you're monitoring the situation.  Whew, I can rest easy tonight.

This issue reminded me of last year when a set of GI JOE DVDs I'd ordered got sent to the wrong address.  The seller claimed the post office had spontaneously forwarded my mail to a previous address, despite that I'd had no problem with mail delivery in 2 years.  Who did EBay side with?  The seller, of course.

The really irksome part in both cases is these companies expect me to accept an explanation that is completely illogical.  The post office just up and decided to send my mail to a previous address.  It's just coincidence that someone bought and refunded three books IN SEQUENCE over the span of about a week.

More maddening than that is their attitude is so cavalier about it.  They brush you off, essentially saying, "What are you gonna do about it?  We have billions of dollars and hundreds of lawyers, so what can you do to us?"  And the answer is...probably not much.  Maybe if I were hot like Erin Brockavich I could organize a class-action lawsuit against Amazon or EBay.  Since I'm not, that's not likely to happen.  I could just stop doing business with Amazon and EBay.  I could go buy a Nook and start reading books on that.  That reminds me of a scene from the Simpsons where Moe rips off a drink Homer created--"the Flaming Homer"--and in a fit of rage Homer shouts, "You've just lost a customer!"  Except Moe can't hear him because he's surrounded by too many customers.  The gist being that losing one customer doesn't matter because there are plenty to fill the void.  And that's how Amazon and EBay are; even the thousands of dollars I spend on Amazon a year are a drop in the bucket for them.

This happens on smaller scales too.  Like when I tried to complain about a noisy neighbor.  What did the apartment complex do?  Nothing much.  Maybe sent a letter.  Then sent me a letter basically saying I should call the cops.  So basically they just went "Meh."  Because I already signed the lease, so they didn't really give a shit.  Plus it's not like they were going to evict the other assholes so long as they paid their rent; why lose a paying customer?

Another annoying way we get screwed over by companies:  software "upgrades."  Argh!  I could probably count on one hand the number of software upgrades I've actually liked.  As an example, last year our company switched from Office 2003 to Office 2007.  I HATE Office 2007.  They took all the buttons and options I'd known where to find since the mid-90s and scattered them to the eight winds.  So for weeks I had no idea where to find anything.  Eventually I found most stuff, but still I don't consider it an improvement.  Office 2013 isn't much better, though at least using Office 2007 prepared me for that.  I complained last Saturday about how the new PowerPoint won't import images from my backup hard drive without making them microscopic so to get around it I had to load all the stuff from that drive (what was on my old computer, including the graphics used on this blog) and load it to Facebook so I could get them to import.

And while we're talking about Facebook....I HATE Facebook when it comes to "upgrades."  Most of the time they aren't much of an improvement and the cavalier fashion they introduce them is so annoying.  If I didn't find out ahead of time from Mashable or other users, most of these "upgrades" would take me by surprise because they don't tell you when they're doing them.  One day you'll log in and your timeline or news feed or privacy settings will just be radically different.  All because some 26-year-old kid in a hoodie thought it'd be neat to do this or that.  Well I'm a 35-year-old guy in a shirt-and-tie and I don't want you fucking around with things without telling me.

Though I think the problem there is I want to think of my Facebook as MY Facebook.  Whereas Zuckerberg and company would say it's really THEIR Facebook and I'm just borrowing the space.  Thus they can do whatever the fuck they want to it whenever the fuck they want to and what are you gonna do, go use Google Plus?  Your friends and family ain't on Google Plus, sucka, so we own your ass!   (Actually one fun upgrade to introduce would be to make your Facebook talk like a pimp; you can already make it talk like a pirate.  Arrrr matey!)

Let's not even get started on the big banks and oil companies.  The end result is that I feel completely impotent.  It's not even like David v. Goliath; it's more like my year-old niece against Godzilla.  There's nothing I can do except maybe go live like a hermit in the woods and forage for all my food...except big companies or the employees of big companies own all the woods that the government doesn't own--and they own the government too!  The only time they can be stopped is if millions of people get together, like when millions of Netflix users bitched about that stupid "Qwikster" thing they put an end to that in a hurry.  But unless you can rally hundreds of thousands or millions of people to your cause, you're screwed because they don't care about you or your complaints; not so long as they're rolling in dough.

Maybe things were better in the old days when you could actually know the guy who owned the grocery store, the hardware store, etc.  They were probably more willing to work with you back then because they didn't have billions of dollars and they probably knew who you were; you weren't just an email address to some dude named Ganesh in New Delhi.  So if you got into an argument about something you could keep hounding the dude about it for months or years afterwards.  Maybe the Chubby Chatterbox can confirm the accuracy of this.

To take this to a darker place, this I think is part of the reason for so many violent rampages.  People feel too impotent and dehumanized by the world around them.  So to try to take the power back they get a gun and go shoot a bunch of people.  Which is definitely not the way to handle it.  I suppose all we can do is like that old saying goes, "accentuate the positive" and just look for silver linings wherever we can find them.  So maybe I got screwed out of 3 books, but I have sold a few others.  And I did eventually get my GI JOE DVDs (from Amazon...irony!).  And most software "upgrades" we can grudgingly come to accept.  So that's something, right?

Speaking of big corporations ripping people off, tomorrow's another Box Office Blitz!  Which mindless entertainment will we spend money on to distract ourselves from the dehumanizing reality of the world?


  1. And another thing!

    That is strange, the deal with the refunded books. I've had a book refunded before, but it was A BOOK. Why on earth would they buy all of the books and then refund them all? Sounds like somebody is scamming to get free books. If the genuinely thought the books were crap, a normal person would have stopped after the first one. It doesn't sound very legit. I'm not surprised that Amazon was less than helpful. They've got bigger fish to fry, I suppose. I totally get what you're saying about big business and whatnot. That's why I am so thankful to live on the outskirts of a small town. When I get sick of the crap, the people at the library and the grocery store know me by name. They also know my mom and my grandma. There are some nice little houses for sale here in town. :)

  2. I thought you were going to mention the time when Homer had to do something to his house... Foundation repair maybe, and for so upset at the cost he kicked the guy out of his house and shouted "you aren't the only foundation repair guy in town!"

    Then he marched over to his phone book and looked up foundation repair in the yellow pages and there was a big ad for the guy he'd just kicked out. The ad said, " the only foundation repair guy in town."

    And that's typically how I think of large corporations. When I got so pissed at AT&T that I finally switched to Verizon I quickly realized they are equally as evil. They aren't competitors - they're partners.

  3. I'm sorry you got robbed. There are a lot of thieves in this world and buying a book to read it and then return it when it's done for a full refund is just thievery.

    I've recently been screwed over too. But not in the book business. In the home buying business. Here's my story: You probably know from conversations with me or things I've mentioned that I was interested in a foreclosure. Well it did pop up on the market but here's what happened.

    The law office that was working for Freddie Mac did an assessment that I found that got filed with the County ten days before it popped. It came in at $215K which is decently priced and something I could afford. Because it was a foreclosure, Freddie Mac would have to match this price by law.

    They priced it at $254K so that people like me who put in a bid of $240 would come under what they call "Market Price" and look bad. They also had a person (probably sister or cousin or brother) who wanted the house. Behind closed doors, they told that person to bid $280K. They updated the listing saying that there had multiple offers and it's a "bidding frenzy" because the housing market has recovered! So even if I put in a reasonable amount like actually $255 (which is 1K over) I'm still outbid because their "boy" on the inside put in a gross amount to outbid everyone.

    Okay so the one offer wins at $280K. Naturally, you'd think that person would be way nervous saying "I can't afford that."

    Well behind closed doors the lawyer says, "Don't worry. I got the assessment right here for $215 dated 10 days ago. That's all you have to pay. Freddie Mac has got to match."

    So I get screwed out of a house and said person on the inside walks away with it for $215 when I would have paid up to $240.

    It left a bitter taste in my mouth. There are thieves and liars all over the place in the real estate bizz, and I can't afford to compete with them. So I'm just renting for another year and investing my down payment in a mutual fund that makes decent returns and has a good five year review.

    1. That sucks, but at least that's 10s of thousands of dollars. What kind of asshole needs to steal $10 from a struggling author? It's like robbing the poor box of a church or stealing out of a beggar's cup or taking all the pennies from the take a penny tray.

    2. I agree. It's terrible. But here's another story for you. I went and installed a door opener for a man that has cerebral palsy. He also needed an electronic dead bolt.

      The man told me while I was there that the other day, a man followed his wheelchair into his home, forced his way in, and held a knife to his throat while his buddy robbed the place.

      What kind of man does that to anyone, much less a person in a wheelchair? There's scum out there my friend. The world is an ugly place.

  4. I'm sorry that these issues have taken a toll on you but I must say I love your Grumpy Bulldog rants. You're such a good writer and you articulate things so well. Please continue to rant! You do so for many of us.

  5. @Michael: Just wait till you have someone under bid you but offer cash and miss out that way. That happened to us twice when we were looking for a house and both time it was flippers that under bid us. Of course, there was some satisfaction in that the market was still dropping at the time and the flipper ended up being forced to sell the house at less than they paid for it after spending $30k on repairs.

  6. Preach on Pat! Keep on speaking up for the little guy!

  7. I never thought of returning books to Amazon, even when I didn't like the novel. I've never returned books to a B&N store either.

    Upgrades frustrate me too. Everytime I get used to something, they change it around just to jack up the prices and say its improved. Its how big business keeps us a throw-away society. What's the point of repairing something that is outdated.


  8. I have one writing friend who has sold thousands on Amazon and she has had hundreds of returns. It seems the more you sell on Amazon..the more returns you get. They're stubborn about their return policy. From what I remember, you can return a book up to about 5 to 7 days. I mean..who couldn't read it in that time?

    1. The thing is you don't even need to read it in 5-7 days. You can just download it off the Kindle to your hard drive, refund it, and then put it back on the Kindle whenever you want.



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