Groupon Is Basically A Scam Now, and I’m The Last To Know (Also Men Wear Rompers Now, So Basically Screw It All, I Give Up)

So I bought a Groupon last week for a local photographer.

Let me start by saying that finding a photographer worth the money around here is tough. The good ones are all working in Los Angeles, taking headshots of Justin Bieber. Out here in the ‘burbs, we have a conglomerate of people either licensed and way overpriced, licensed and trying to break into the Justin Bieber headshot business, or not licensed but owning a nice camera and doing this for fun but making themselves look like a legitimate photography business.

Nevertheless, I bought the Groupon. The reviews of the guy were great – five stars, in fact. I needed someone to take photos of the kids before they get any bigger. A deal seemed the right way to go.

So I bought the Groupon, opened the voucher, and contacted the guy by email, which was the only way the voucher offered.

The email kicked back as not being a valid email address.

I tried again.

Kicked back.

I emailed Groupon and asked what they’d recommend I do, stating clearly that getting ahold of the guy or getting a refund to my account would both be acceptable. I just wanted to get my photos taken I’d paid for.

They asked me to give them a day to investigate…

…let me pause here and say that several years ago we had a problem with a Groupon, and immediately they issued me a refund in funds to my account that would be good for a year. So them saying they wanted to investigate gave me pause.

Still, I responded: sure, keep me posted.

They then responded and offered me Groupon Trade In Bucks. The bucks would be applied to my account, and after I receive the email that the money was applied I would have 24 hours to use it.

This was – in a word – bullshit. I paid good, hard earned money for something they could not guarantee or deliver. Why, then, am I being forced to buy something else I may not be interested in within 24 hours to get my money back?! I had no problem with store credit with Groupon…but 24 hours to use it?!

Sounds like a scam.

It seems as though businesses are more and more getting away with this kind of crap – putting their hands in your pocket and showing no remorse when they screw you over. You go to the nail salon, they act like they are doing you a favor to give you ingrown toenails. You buy fruit at a farm stand, they hide moldy fruit under the good fruit in hopes you won’t check. This newest event with Groupon is no surprise, but being unsurprised does not make it right. In fact it’s as if people are so numbed by this kind of crap happening – money being thrown at services that are never properly rendered – that we’ve been numbed into complacency.

We just expect to be screwed over.

Several months ago, my husband and I ordered a baby changing table online at Babies R Us. It came broken, so we returned it to the local store as the instructions said to do. They ordered us a new one, and low and behold: that one came broken as well. This time when we followed the instructions, though, I said – enough! We’d been waiting for over a month for the table, and we just wanted our money back.

They refused to give us our money back, instead issuing store credit for the clearance price the table was currently marked at. When I questioned that, because I clearly had the receipt, they said it was their discretion. That was it! No more explanation, just their discretion.

I took the store credit and called their 1-800 number, and they gave me the same line but said they’d refund me to my card the difference and the cost of shipping we had wasted.

We never received anything.

Back to Groupon. Still, seeing no other options, I replied and said that I would take the Trade In Bucks. I know you will all be unsurprised to hear: I never got the Trade In Bucks.

Not only that, I emailed them today and they did not respond.

I went to live chat with their customer support, as the site said that was the recommended mode of contact…when I put in the description of what was going on and clicked to chat I got the response: “Sorry none of our agents are available to chat at this time.”

I clicked to receive a phone call, my phone rang once and they hung up (I only knew it was Groupon because I Googled the number).

They then emailed me this:

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Calling me and hanging up after the first ring, then emailing me to let me know you called IS NOT A RESOLUTION TO THE ISSUE.

I emailed again. No response.

So I finally took to Google and found tons of people with the same experience. Groupon is now nothing more than a money grabbing scam site. Millions of people in the last few months, alone, have reported them to the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.

Then again, I feel like I have only myself to blame – I should have just clicked on the photographer’s website and seen how much this one wreaked of illegitimacy.

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Lesson learned.

This seems to be a greater issue, though. Not only that people just basically expect to be screwed over for things they pay for now, and companies (*cough cough* airlines *cough cough*) thinking they have a right to deny you the things you pay for, while still keeping your money…but there is another question about the legitimacy and transparency when it comes to online funding and selling sites, like Groupon.

Or GoFundMe, which is meant for charities or crowdfunding of a local cause or people in need; and yet people constantly head to it for things like vacations they can’t afford.

Or what about Kickstarter? A site that is marketed as being for innovative companies, and yet is often used for the antitheses of innovation – which people buy into, like the kid that launched a Kickstarter for potato salad. The kid did it as a joke and something like quadrupled his fundraising goal.

There. Is. Nothing. Innovative. About. Potato Salad.

Or the newest Kickstarter-abomination: RompHims. Rompers. For. Men. RompHims not only met, but largely surpassed their fundraising goal, and – like many Kickstarters – wasn’t to start a business, but to simply sell their product.

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Like the people that go on Shark Tank just to get on TV.

I don’t know what’s worse: the absurdity of what legitimately good ideas like crowdfunding and charity sites have fallen to, the scam that deal sites like Groupon have turned into, or the people that handily give over their money to all of it, no questions asked.

Probably the people, but I don’t know. I just want my Groupon refunded. And my family photos done.

3rkbux

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Swimming In Debt Is Cool If You Just Pretend Everything Is Fine

 

I have known so many people with that philosophy. They don’t have very good lives in the end – they foreclose on their homes, lose their cars, die of heart attacks at 40… but in the moment that they live it, where they swim in debt while pretending everything is fine, they really are happy.

And how couldn’t you be? Exotic vacations you can’t afford. Boats. RVs. Long weekends. Hair and nail appointments every week. All the while completely oblivious to the fact that sometime, at some point, you will actually – yes, this is real – have to pay all that shit off.

I, personally, can’t live like that. I am excessively frugal, to a point of absurdity. I think I learned it from my grandmother, who was most known for going to buy Diet Coke when it was on sale in her red pick up truck. She would pull up in her driveway, and open the back of the truck for us to see an entire truck bed lined with 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke that she had bought on sale. We’d all have to help her load it into the garage, and she would be set until the next time it went on sale.

So now, taking after my grandmother, when our groceries are delivered, and we get 75 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, or 200 cups of applesauce, my husband always thinks I’m insane.

I also find myself envious of local family and friends, who get Botox while my crow’s feet under my eyes grow deeper and deeper. Or who get their eyelashes and nails done every two weeks, while my toe nails typically look something along the lines of what you would find on an elderly gargoyle. I wear make up maybe once a week, because there’s no need to waste the money on it if I’m not going anywhere; and my hair…well…let’s not go there.

Typically, we don’t take exotic vacations either. We don’t do trips to Cozumel or Europe; and sure, we have our family weekend trips out of the area, or occasional vacations to places like the Grand Canyon or to use our Disneyland passes. But it’s always carried with a sense of frugality, including always finding places we can stay where I can cook our meals to save money on eating out.

My kids and husband get haircuts by yours truly, and absolutely every single one of my purses was purchased at Target.

I think you all are getting the point: we live on a tight budget, and we don’t go for all the extra unnecessary things. This is all done so that I can stay home with the kids, and so that my husband can work in his industry of choice (film, a volatile and sometimes poorly paid industry to work).

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You can imagine, then, my frustration when we start getting socked with bills, and they just keep coming and coming and coming, and in spite of all the cuts and the tightening of the belts they just get worse. It seems wholly unfair. As if I have not sacrificed enough, suddenly our insurance doesn’t cover something they always used to cover and we have a $410 bill with a due date 10 days from now (and a hospital absolutely refusing to negotiate). I get a bladder infection, and the urgent care – who is legally required to notify us if they are sending out the “sample” does not – and they send it to a lab out of our network, and we get socked with another medical bill that is beyond reasonable, with everyone saying “tough shit, that’s life.”

Then our water softener alarm starts going off, and we find out the filters need to be changed even though we literally had no idea there were filters in the thing. Then one of our kids gets sick and – big surprise – the medicine she needs isn’t covered, and beyond that I have to spend a whole tank of gas driving all over the place looking for a pharmacy that has it. Then a short in our garage refrigerator triggers a chain reaction of all the things in the garage going out of power, which we don’t catch for over 48 hours and literally thousands of dollars of food being stored out there (between the fridge and the deep freezer – see previous notes about buying things on bulk when they are cheap) ARE RUINED.

It just never stops. You think everything is fine, you are in a good place and everything is working out and then a domino effect begins of one costly thing happening after another, until you finally get to a point where you just want to do what everyone else does and pretend like everything is fine.

Sure, we just lost thousands of dollars in food and I have no idea what we are going to do to replace it…but I’m going to go get my nails and hair did anyway.

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I mean yeah, tons of medical bills are piling up and we have probably $1500 in unpaid bills that suddenly found their way to our doorstep this week, alone…but I need a vacation, so let’s go on a little weekend getaway.

My current purse just ripped a huge hole in it, one that could arguably allow money to fall out…so rather than worry about the food and the medical bills and the electricity issue in the garage…I think I’mma just go get me a Coach purse because – honestly – every time I see someone carry one, I tuck my Target variety bag under my arm in shame.

Because this is California and your handbag is about as important as your position in life will ever get [sarcastic eye roll].

No matter how much I joke, though, the reasonable me just can’t do it. Instead, I sit here hours on end worrying about where the fuck all this money is going to come from, as my husband gets sent home from work earlier and earlier every night because it’s the slow season for movie trailers (and he is hourly, so an early night means…you got it, less pay). I contemplate going back to work every three or four days, but then spend an entire day working out the expenses that would be involved in doing that (daycare for the kids, extra commuting cost for me, and so on), and THAT doesn’t make any sense, so then I go back to worrying and trying to find any fucking sale price ground beef and ham steaks I can buy in bulk and freeze just to make myself feel like our finances are getting back on track, once and for all.

This is where I’m at right now. Swimming in debt is NOT cool, but I wish it were.

 

 

Well, we can file this under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers’

My favorite time of the year has officially begun: basketball season.

Having grown up with my father – a sports writer – I generally dislike most sports. It isn’t that I have a misunderstanding of sports, or that I prefer girly things to the sweaty, meaty masculinity of it all. It’s that I feel like I have been overexposed. My father has written numerous books, countless academic journals and encyclopedia entries, and has published more newspaper articles than even he can count. And the sports he has covered (and thus overexposed me to) have not been discriminating – growing up, I was forced to attend and be an active part of almost every sport you can imagine (with the exception of ping pong). I will never forget the Chicago winters when Friday after Friday I was bundled up to sit for hours in the locker room with my eyes covered; as well as the countless sunburns I got sitting in the aluminum bleachers. So to say that I have been “overexposed” is probably an understatement. Much to my own chagrin, I know more about the ins-and-outs of most sporting events played in the United States than I want to, which is why I generally dislike the majority of them.

Except – of course – basketball. Something about basketball stuck with me through the years. Possibly it is my love of the Chicago Bulls. Very likely it is all the things other than the ball that the game represents. Whatever it is, I love it and now that the lockout is over, the season is upon us.

If it sounds like I’m bragging or rambling – I’m not. Possibly I’m rambling, but really I feel the need to qualify. In my experience, sports have and always will be male-dominated; that includes in the commentary. (And for those of you planning on commenting off on a rail about some random female sports reporter showcased on ESPN: spare me. A few women – bombshells, I might add, for the mainstream male audience to salivate over – does not change the unambiguous fact that sports in America are relatively male dominated.) Even at home I feel like every man in the room pompously believes I don’t understand or know anything about what’s on the television – even when they know my experiences with my dad as a sports writer. Nothing makes me laugh more hysterically (inside, of course) when someone tries to explain to me something about sports as quite a few have referred to “in layman’s terms.” I don’t mean to be as pompous as them and act like I know everything; I mean it is hilarious that I get stereotyped as someone who would know nothing and need to be talked down to.

So we’ve established: I’m at least marginally qualified to talk about this. On to the Los Angeles Lakers, in layman’s terms.

One of the reasons why I love basketball so much is because of the potential it has to help guys get off the streets and out of gangs. You can always tell when a guy has gone from “rags to riches” in the NBA – not only because of the PR campaign telling you about it, but because of the amount he gives back. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing these big, lovable guys giving back to the communities from whence they came. Unlike a lot of other sports, basketball combines more qualities than are even imaginable. Where other sports require skill and passion, basketball is a combination of skill, finesse, agility, talent, personality, respect, philanthropy, and passion. And while the players make an obscene amount of money, and the franchises do need funds to run the teams – the almighty dollar really has little to do with the sport, itself.

So when I see teams like the Los Angeles Lakers – a franchise that is way too big and far too wealthy for its own good – I thoroughly expect to see a good deal of generosity, philanthropy, and (at the very least) fairness in their activities on as well as off court. And while many of them as individuals (e.g. Gasol, Fisher) are among the better people playing in the NBA right now, it is undeniable that the team and the franchise is not any of those things. When I moved to California, rather than seeing an awesome powerhouse of a team that combined skill with general goodness, I saw a bunch of numbskulls cheating on their wives, shouting homophobic slurs during the game, doing very little for the community, and all-around acting like big, overpaid babies.

So what’s new that we can we file under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers,’ you ask? Simple: the CP3 scandal.

If you were awake at all yesterday, you know that there was a bit of a scandal over the Lakers franchise deciding to trade Odom and Gasol to acquire Chris Paul (otherwise known as CP3). Of course this was discussed for a while and – while Paul has questionable knee problems – this still seems relatively good for the Lakers, primarily because it would put them in the position of potentially acquiring Dwight Howard as well. The question that was on the tip of my tongue, though, when I learned of this trade was simply: why would the Lakers trade two guys formerly considered ‘franchise superstars’ for one guy that is only so-so?

I’ll tell you why: money and unfairness.

A part of the post-lockout deal was that money paid in luxury taxes for player contracts would be diverted to smaller NBA teams to help even the playing field a little. It is no surprise that there are big teams and small teams and – much in the way our economy becomes more and more divided and seemingly unfair – money continues to create a larger gap between teams that may otherwise be excellent contenders against one another. So while I don’t doubt that the Phil-Kobe franchise wanted to cut costs a little to make some wiggle room for the likes of Dwight Howard to come in, it cannot be denied that an added benefit to the Lakers was to weasel their way out of that $21 million luxury tax that was being paid out on Odom and Gasol’s contracts. As it stands, Dwight was not a given, and even more compelling is that the tax on his and CP3’s contracts would still have amounted to far less than Gasol and Odom’s. Trade two superstars for a guy people call “questionable” to save some money and keep the place on the throne of the NBA? Sounds like a good deal to me! (For the Lakers, that is.)

Of course this is all very conspiracy theory, or at the very least a little overanalytical of the situation. Such ideas wouldn’t come into play, though, if it weren’t for all of the other colossal reasons the Lakers are what is wrong with professional sports to begin with. If they didn’t have a laundry list of negatives (from Kobe’s blatant homophobia, to dirty playing, to acting like poor sports when they encounter a team unequivocally better than them, to Kobe referring to Michael Jordan’s record as “that aint shit,” to the fans that riot for no reason…the list goes on), then people wouldn’t jump to assume just more of the same from the team that has over 11 million Facebook fans, and yet not one unscarred thing about them.

The best part in all of this is that the Laker fans only know how to defend the Lakers and this bogus blunder of an attempted-trade on one of three levels.

First, they try and defend the capitalist aspect (“…well, if the owner wants to cut costs, he should be able to!”), which brings to mind a simple reminder that while basketball is business-like, basketball is and never has been a business (which means it doesn’t get to play by business standards).

When that fails, they move on to innocuous and illogical attacks on anyone speaking against the team – like “Laker hater in the house” or “you so stupid!!” Sure guys…

And then, as a last resort, Laker fans respond when someone says something that is in opposition to and/or is very likely the truth about their team by saying absolutely nothing. I have never heard more silence from Laker fans than when I’ve said something that is without a doubt a pejorative truth about the downsides of the Los Angeles franchise. Keep quiet, ignore the truth; and we never have to admit flaws in our beloved purple and gold.

As a result, I fully expect this blog to go uncommented. But what do I know? I am just a layman, and a woman to boot. I don’t have any experience with basketball, or sports in general at all . . .

Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.

My Trip to the Recycling Center

For some ungodly reason, I decided to head to the recycling center today.  Okay, in all seriousness, I do save aluminum cans, as well as plastic and glass bottles, on the basic principle that paying a recycling fee at the grocery store and then paying for trash service does not really make me feel like handing that extra money over to the trash guys (who I have seen picking through people’s recycling bins for things they can take themselves to make some extra cash).  In the three years I have been doing this, today was my third trip; so you see I pile bags of recyclable goods for long periods of time just to prove my point.  Today, my experience was no different than the rest.

Every time I go there, I expect to walk into an image of pristine and efficient trash handling.  Recycling and “going green” is supposed to be this crystal clear process of making the world a more beautiful place.  I imagine white buildings with conveyer belts; and employees in clean, white uniforms with smiles from ear to ear.  “Thank you for doing right by your planet,” they would say as I hand over my recyclables, all-the-while basking in the glow of the sun with the beautiful green trees and fields surrounding the plant.  No matter how many times I go and see the exact opposite of this, I always have this naive glimmer of hope that this is what awaits me as I pull into the lot and smell the stench of a garbage dump.

In reality, though, a recycling plant is nothing more than just that.  It is a dirty, disgusting, filthy, and disorganized garbage dump.  It smells like trash for at least a square mile around it; in fact, today it was so overpowering that I started to gag.  And no matter how much I search for one in the middle of rolling meadows, they are always centered in the middle of the most dangerous industrial sections of the city.  Today, I saw someone peddling drugs down the street.

Invariably, there is trash strewn about everywhere.  The first time I went to the recycling center, I had a hard time finding a section on the ground that was not covered in broken glass.  You have to wonder how they can offer money for trash items that are then going to sit outside on the ground for who knows how long, but they do.

The employees are all rude, impatient, and wearing pants with holes in the back that show through to their tight-y white-ys.  Today, the employee helping me had the holes in his pants, but wore nothing else underneath.  Horrified, disgusted, I moved through the line and vowed to never return.

It isn’t only the conditions of the trash dump pegged as good for the environment, though, that make my trip quite the experience it always is.  Really, what makes it such an escapade are the people that are there to get some money for their wares.  It goes without saying that the majority of the people are there to cash in on a little bit of extra money.  In certain areas of the industrial district, you can drive around and see the vast number of recycling centers that claim they pay the highest rate.  But beyond those that are simply there to cash in on some extra bucks, there are also the typical cast of characters standing in line.

There’s always that one guy who stands in line giving out advise to the other trash-bringers.  Last time I was told by that guy to leave the caps on my bottles.  Today, it was a different that guy, but his advise was similar:  don’t dump out the last drops of soda or water because that adds weight.  I imagine these are the trash collectors that I see digging in people’s recycling bins, or the random guys you see digging in the public garbage receptacles for an occasional can.  Why else would they know so much if they didn’t spend a good deal of their time around waste?

And then there are those people that are recycling things other than cans and bottles.  Today’s trip to the recycling center was a doozy.  There was a woman turning in a refrigerator, which was leaking freon everywhere.  There was a kid that looked to be about fifteen years old with a large bag full of nails.  At one point while standing in line, someone even hit me with their aluminum beach chairs.  None of this topped off the pick-up truck full of guys that pulled up as I was leaving, though; the back of their truck loaded with at least thirty shiny, new (quite obviously stolen) rims.

Unless you are hard up for money, a lot of the time it really does not seem to be worth it to take a trip to the recycling center.  Of course, in trying economic times, most would argue that it is.  You have to stop and ask, though, how good such a place really can be for the environment and the community at large.  It emits natural and chemical pollution.  It has poor organization policies that end up causing a significant degree of waste.  And it encourages various forms of crime by paying for any and all bits of metal, plastic, or glass that make their way in the door.  No questions asked, give us your wares.  Of course, I say this now and will commit to just throwing away my recycling the way a lot of other upstanding citizens do; but then I’ll see the trash men outside picking through the garbage, or the CRV tax will go up again.  I’ll get mad and then nine months from now, I am sure I will be getting another bit of advise from that guy in line who seems to be there all the time.

Netflix = Capitalism, and other related topics

Photo credit Filmjunk.com

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now:  Netflix has restructured their rates, and a lot of people are up in arms on the way these changes will be affecting them.  Reportedly, over 10,000 posts (most negative) were made to Netflix’s Facebook page this Tuesday after the announcement of the restructuring of the plans, many of which carried some version of the message “I’m canceling.”

And why shouldn’t people be upset?  With unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs (one at a time) only costing $9.99, a 60% rate hike for the same thing seems almost absurd.

Or does it?

People that have responded to the Netflix rate restructuring seem to fall under a few different camps, all of whom ignore some of the basic, logical facts.

First off, there are those that act like $15.99 is a lot of money.  Sure, a 60% “hike” in monthly charges is pretty drastic.  In light of the fact that $15.99 is less than the average American spends on coffee per week, though, it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  If an extra $6 is really going to break the bank, try a Diet Coke instead of that Starbucks Espresso just one day out of the month and the problem is solved.

Secondly, there are those that act like canceling their Netflix will save them money.  Will it?  Will it really?  I think we all know it won’t, unless those cancelers cease watching movies altogether.  A movie ticket at the theater runs about $11.50 (sometimes more, sometimes less).  A DVD or Blu-Ray Rental at Blockbuster runs around $5.99 or more.  A Video On Demand through Time Warner, Comcast, and other similar cable companies runs around $5.99, unless you chose a second rate/nobody wants to watch this movie from the $2.99 or less bin.  About the only way you can watch the same number of movies per month and save money would be to watch 15 or fewer $1 rentals from the Blockbuster Express or Redbox kiosks, but then you can watch no more than 15 movies (if you want to save money), can only keep the movies for one night, and are very likely to get one that is scratched and unplayable.

There’s also the simple fact that changing times mean inflated costs of doing business.  When a small business owner has to adapt to a changing economy, he raises his prices.  When there is a milk shortage, the cost of milk, yogurt, and cheese goes up.  When there is a natural disaster, gas prices sky-rocket.  The inability of Netflix’s millions of users to understand that business costs go up occasionally is astonishing.  Speculators have even suggested that this is the reason for Netflix’s hike in prices:  as the cost of securing online streaming contracts goes up, Netflix has to raise its rates.  Netflix has not officially commented on the reasons for restructuring, but it just makes sense.

Lastly, there is the entitlement camp.  These are the people that are irking me the most in this Netflix uproar:  the people that act as if they are entitled to unlimited movies, in the formats they want, with no change in prices at all, ever.  I have seen so many comments on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, and in the news over the last two days from people complaining that Netflix had better make all movies available for instant streaming, or else.  Quite obviously these are the people for whom $6 extra per month would break the bank, so they expect the $7.99 instant streaming to include everything.  If this entitlement camp wants to act so entitled, rather than vent their expectations on Netflix, they should perhaps turn to the studio executives that are making things difficult for everyone in the first place.  LA Times reported Tuesday that studio executives are glad that Netflix is changing their rate structure, claiming that this means through user cancelations their own means of profit through Video On Demand and Blu-Ray Discs will again soar.  The Times further stated that “… four studios prevent the company from offering some newly released DVDs until 28 days after they go on sale in stores. Three others keep their films off the Netflix Instant streaming service until they finish airing on HBO — about seven years after their home video release…”

The moral of the story?  Hollywood is a greedy, disgusting industry.  The further moral of the story?  By taking advantage of capitalism, Netflix destroyed the video rental store industry – or, to put it nicer, it “restructured it,” but we only have ourselves to blame for feeding in to it, and thus creating higher costs for all our other options.  The end-all-be-all moral of the story?  If you don’t like what Netflix has done with their restructure, you certainly can cancel your subscription, but before you do so consider what it’s going to cost you.  And I’m not just talking about the money.  Canceling Netflix on principle, only to play into the hands of more expensive movie viewing options, will just mean less money in your wallet and a cadre of studio executives laughing all the way to the bank.

A Case For Never Returning to Las Vegas

Oh yes, I know you are all so offended by this; that I, your fearless blogger, would make a case against Vegas.  But given that the Sin City is home to the absolute worst humanity has to offer, are you really surprised?

Today I received in the mail a correspondence from the Flamingo Sports Book/Keno lounge stating that the ground rules had been changed for the bet I had placed on the Chicago Bulls making Best Record for regular season in the N.B.A.  They stated that “best now means the championship,” to which they attached my ticket (that stated “Best Regular Season Record”).  Seems unfair (dare I suggest, illegal?), but since I don’t know if that $20 is worth waging a war with a multimillion dollar casino over, I feel contented in just saying:  “I’m never going to Vegas again.”

And why would I?  With a crime rate of approximately 70,000 annual overall crimes (over 9,000 of which are violent), and a safety index of 0 (with 100 being the safest), Vegas seems to be the place to avoid.

The one friend I have that lives in Las Vegas spends a considerable amount of his time outside of Vegas, and has even gone as far as to complain about the people that live there.  As well he should.  From my summation of those  I have seen the few times I have been there, the majority seem to be:

Drunks

Gamble-aholics

and Prostitutes

And while I’m sure that not all of the people which live within the walls of the most scandal-ridden city in America fit into those three categories (I know my friend and his friends don’t), suffice it to say it’s around just about every corner.  And if none of those can be seen in the flesh, there are always fifty of these guys snapping their slut cards at you:

But moreover, it seems as if the obsession we all have with weekends in Vegas come from a deep desire to be one of those people.  We want to be so drunk we can’t remember a thing.  We feel exhilarated by the thrill of gambling (and often losing) money.  And what is the old adage?  “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

The truth, though, is that what happens in Vegas does not really stay in Vegas.  With such a high crime rate, incidences of sexually transmitted disease, the loss of money and property, and the very real problem of alcoholism in our nation, Vegas reaches well beyond its borders.  A friend of mine recently stated on his Facebook that he should design a t-shirt with a baby on it and the caption “Everything doesn’t stay in Vegas.”  Truer words were never spoken, my friends.

Now, I’m all for a good time, and letting loose just once in a great while.  For gambling urges, there’s always the lotto, the Indian casinos, or a local game of senior BINGO.  There are local watering holes in just about every town in the country as well.  But to contribute to such a degraded, degenerate, defiled city by letting them siphon off every dollar and ounce of dignity that comes within 100 miles of its borders needs to stop.  No more Vegas for me, baby.