I lifted my arm to about shoulder height, slightly bent at the elbow, fingers spread outwardly and made a sweeping rotating gesture with my hand. With a deep suggestive voice I quietly said, “You don’t want me to go to the store. You want to drop me off at the house first.”
They say the Force can have a powerful effect on the weak-minded. That doesn’t include wives. The car pulled into the grocery store lot and we parked.
For some time I’ve been meaning to do a post about the Wall Street Journal app on my iPod. I think it was back in July 2011 when I took the screenshot shown above (on the right).
Notice what is peculiar about it? Here’s a little hint:
Without further ado, here are some excerpts from my official review of the WSJ app for iOS devices.
It’s the best goddamn app for showing locked content (keys) that I’ve ever seen in my whole fucking life.
–Tom B. Taker
Seriously. If you love little key icons you’re going to love this app.
–Tom B. Taker
This app will make you lose your shit. If you can unlock anything in it, that is.
–Tom B. Taker
Finally! The Wall Street Journal has taken the time-honored model of frustrating customers and achieved sublime perfection.
–Tom B. Taker
So many keys – you’ll think you’re on a vacation in Florida! And that’s an economical vacation!
–Tom B. Taker
I’d post the review in full, but unfortunately that is restricted content. Lucky for you it’s only $9.99. Send me your credit card information and I’ll pass it along.
Now obviously I could pay money and remove those little locked icons. How much would you pay? Well, for that priviledge the WSJ wants $1.99 a week. (That’s about $103/year.) Or you could get the actual print version delivered to your door six days a week for $2.29 a week. (About $119/year.)
Yep. That’s right. Go online and save the trees, gas, and cost of paying a human being to schlep a physical object to you and you’ll save a whopping 13 percent. Erm, 13 percent? Say what?
Yes, here we have the WSJ model that web content should be almost the same price as traditional distribution.
Now how much would you pay?
Wait! Before you answer, check this out. What if you could only pay one penny? Then would you be interested?
In a story this morning The Guardian reports on a WSJ scam that cost an executive his job. (Is The Guardian one of the hundreds of media owned by Rupert Murdoch? I’m not sure. There are so many it’s hard to keep them straight. Luckily there’s an app for that! Good news – they’re not!)
In wake of the scandal, the European Publishing Chief for the WSJ resigned. The Guardian reports that under the scheme WSJ newspapers were sold for one cent each in a bid to increase circulation numbers.
By the way, in case anyone forgets, the WSJ is owned by News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch. (Why do I feel like I should be referring to him as He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named?) Shudder!
Anywho, under the scheme, companies who sponsored the WSJ paid a reduced “knock-down” rate of 5 cents or less per newspaper. In the case of a Dutch company known as Executive Learning Partnership (ELP), the rate was 1 cent per newspaper for 12,000 sponsored purchases per day.
The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) eventually determined that the scheme was responsible for 41% of the daily circulation the WSJ claimed in Europe, about 31,000 copies out of a total of 75,000.
Things fell apart when ELP complained they were not getting enough return on their investment. Gee, ya think? Perhaps it isn’t wise to invest in a newspaper that artificially inflates its circulation numbers, eh? To placate ELP, the WSJ executive created an addendum to their contract, and it is that addendum that The Guardian reports led to his resignation.
The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation.
The bizarre scheme included a formal, written contract in which the Journal persuaded one company to co-operate by agreeing to publish articles that promoted its activities, a move which led some staff to accuse the paper’s management of violating journalistic ethics and jeopardising its treasured reputation for editorial quality.
Source: The Guardian
Ethics? Reputation? Editorial quality? Those are not words one normally associates with something owned by the likes of Rupert Murdoch.
The highly controversial activities were organised in London and focused on the Journal’s European edition, which circulates in the EU, Russia, and Africa. Senior executives in New York, including Murdoch’s right-hand man, Les Hinton, were alerted to the problems last year by an internal whistleblower and apparently chose to take no action. The whistleblower was then made redundant.
Don’t you hate it when you get made “redundant?” I know I do! (Or did I already say that?)
If Rupert Murdock is involved, why do I feel that even a mere penny is too much to pay?
True. The tweet above had absolutely nothing to do with this post. It was actually about me going insane. (A very worthy topic.) But not, alas, the topic for today.
Instead, the word “stream” caught my fancy. Yes, I’ll admit. At first it was in a “don’t stand under this” sort of way. But then my thoughts turned to things like revenue streams and product streams. While in that place, I wrote the following little ditty (sung to the tune of The Streets of Laredo):
As I walked out with my Wall Street Journal
As I walked out with my Journal one day
I spied a rich douchebag with a bad hairpiece
A hairpiece as fake as the the caring I feigned.
I see by your outfit that you are a douchebag
I see by your hairpiece that you’re a douchebag, too
I think we should do business we’d both make a killing
There are lots of dumb marks that we can both screw.
We both love money so much that we eat it
We both use work to avoid our home lives
A partnership formed in our quest for more profits
To chase that worthy dream we’re both willing to lie.
Oh cheat and lie and gray the lies lowly
We’ll giggle and laugh as we roll along
Take it the bank and pull the wool o’er
If wealth is right we don’t ever wanna be wrong.
I’ve got greed in my chest and so I must lie.
This sad story is one about the “free market.” Yeah, that free market. You know the one, right? The one that people on the right love to ejaculate about so much? Yeah, that one. This story will provide a glimpse of insight into how that sucker really works.
It started with a phone call…
“Hello, this is Blowhard.” (That’s my boss! And no, that’s not his real name.)
“Hi, this is Madame X with Acme-Fun-Time Distribution.”
Madame X (not her real name) is a representative with a product distribution company. Blowhard has been courting a business relationship with her for some time. It’s very important to him and he worked very hard to build it up. He milks her for information that she probably shouldn’t share. When they met at the convention in Vegas, she took him out to dinner on the company credit card. When he recently toured their plant, she arranged to have his room paid for and got him the all-you-can eat buffet for free. He was as happy as a pig in shit. His two greatest loves are free and food, and she went and gave him both.
You’d think he’d be nice to her after that, right?
“Hey, Blowhard. I need to ask you a question. Have you ever heard of a company called Decepto International?”
My boss didn’t miss a beat. When lying becomes a way of life, you get real good at it. “Nope. I’ve never heard of them.”
I love it when chickens come home to roost.
“Oh,” she said. “That’s a bit odd. You see, they have the exact same address as you.”
Uh oh!! The jig is up! One of our dummy companies just got busted. It turns out that the boss greedily used the dummy company to sell products on Amazon.com but forgot to use a different address. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Mom was right. When you tell lies, it gets increasingly difficult to keep things straight. Obviously, since my boss was hatched, he never had the opportunity to learn this lesson.
How do you show someone that you respect them and care about them in the world of business? Yup. You lie unabashedly right to their face. Classic.
You see, Blowhard had set up a dummy company to purchase products from Acme-Fun-Time Distribution. He did this after his main company had been blacklisted by certain product manufacturers. He was blacklisted for selling products at prices lower than manufacturers wished. Yes, this cousin of “price fixing” is alive and well here in the United States. For more about this, see my earlier post entitled “Term Stomping” and Wikipedia’s page on “resale price maintenance.”
I guess most people would feel somewhat shamed after getting caught red-handed in a lie like that. Not my boss. Not when money is involved.
I could only chuckle at how he had just taken a major shit on the relationship he had worked so hard to build. Oh, they’ll still do business with us. After all, that puts coin in their pockets. And that’s the way the game is played. You deceive me, I’ll deceive the manufacturer, and we’ll all make money.
And this “free market?” It is one where product manufacturers exert a lot of pressure to maintain prices artificially high. It’s a murky world of blacklisting, contracts, gray markets, and companies ratting each other out. And, I’m willing to bet, most of the players are just like my boss.
I started by searching Google for the phrase “mac mini.” The Mac Mini is a super-cool fully functional computer made by Apple that is about the size of an external hard drive and sits right on your desk. I already know that I can buy a new one direct from Apple for $699 with free shipping but I was checking to see what other deals might be out there.
On the Google results page, in the left column, I clicked the link for “Shopping” which takes you to results in “Google Product Search.”
There, in third position on the list of results, was a Mac Mini with slightly different specs than offered by the Apple Store, and priced at $599. It had the same amount of memory and operating system (Snow Leopard) but a slightly slower processor (2.26 GHz vs. 2.4) and half the hard disk space (160GB vs. 320). But the listed price was $100 less.
Unlike the listing below in fourth position, the product was not described as used. (Click here for screen shot.)
I went to take a look.
The Google Products page showed a picture of the Mac Mini and featured Amazon.com’s $599 as the “lowest price.” I clicked the Amazon.com link to drill down further.
This took me to the actual Amazon.com website where … what the fuck? There was nothing listed for sale at the promised price of $599. And I thought Google was supposed to like so-called “relevant” results?
As far as I could tell, nothing in new condition was offered for sale on this page. However, the site enticed me further with the promise of “3 used from $525.00.” Like a wiggly fish on a hook I clicked the link.
This showed me a page that stated there were zero available in new condition. But there were three units, with differing specs, priced at $525.00, $629.99, and $995.00, all offered with $7.99 shipping. All were offered from different sellers, none of whom were Amazon.com.
What I want to know is, quite simply, how is this not bait and switch? The whole system seems rigged to entice me in with the promise of my desired product at a lower than normal price, which doesn’t even exist, then to try to get me to go for a used product from a third-party seller where, coincidentally enough, I believe Amazon.com collects 15 percent of the purchase price as a fee.
Why do they have to be this way?
The chef’s music selection for this post: Love for Sale
Ancestry.com has an advertising campaign in full swing right now. I’ve seen them on TV and I’ve seen their ads plastered on websites.
I’m as curious about my roots as the next guy. I decided to take a look.
First I created my “family tree.” They allowed me to enter my name and “start my tree.” What a green friendly website. Lots of trees and leafs and such.
I then tried to add my spouse. Bingo! The first hurdle. They want me to fill out some form before continuing. Let’s see. It’s a “save tree” function and it only really wants my email address. I think I can live with that. Let’s continue.
I then went to add my father. That seemed to work as well. Here they had some “good news” for me. They had found an “ancestry hint” on my dad. I opened it to take a look.
Yep, that’s my dad alright. They had his birth date and place of birth correct. They also had the correct day he died, although the location was wrong. He didn’t die in the United States. He was in Mexico at the time trying some weirdo funky treatments for cancer at a rip-off medical resort. Ancestry.com said the information about my dad came from “2 public member trees.” Apparently some other Ancestry.com members were the source of their information about my dad.
I tried adding several more members of my tree. I never received another “ancestry hint.”
I then clicked the “review hint” button back on my dad’s record. BINGO! That took me to the Trial Membership page. Of course, I knew all along that this was my eventual destination where they were guiding me. I kept my mind open and went to look by clicking the “continue” button.
That’s when I landed on this little nugget*:
World Deluxe Membership 14-Day Free Trial
You won’t be billed if you cancel online or call before your free trial ends. Your price after the 14–day free trial is $299.40 for your annual subscription (plus any applicable tax).
To get my “free” trial I have to sign up for a $299.40 payment? And, here’s the kicker, you actually think your website is worth $24.95 a month??? I’ve spent some time on this planet and never in my entire life have a seen a website ask for that kind of money.
It’s my humble opinion that a free trial shouldn’t require a credit card. Of course, they want that payment to trigger automatically unless you do something to stop it. That’s how they get you.
Sorry, I can’t really afford $24.95 a month and for inaccurate information to boot. If I can find your online axe tool I’ll be chopping down my family tree. Of course, there is probably a charge for that, too. If George Washington was one of my ancestors maybe I can borrow his hatchet? That would make it a family heirloom.
Goodbye expensive tree website. Eat my ass.
* This was apparently their default offer that I reached by clicking the “continue” button. I logged in later and noticed you can also pay by the month. It’s $29.95 a month for the “World Deluxe Membership” and $19.95 a month for “US Deluxe Membership.” The difference is access to their world database.