Tag Archives: pricing

Not A Safe Way

bored-man

Source: Miserable Men on Instagram.

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.

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Everything with John

everything-saleI used to have a really good friend named John. (And yes, this one time, I’m using a real name.) I often wonder what happened to John. Please do not recommend that I use the internet to find him. Do you understand the futility of googling someone named John? Maybe I should hire Dawg the Bounty Hunter. Just don’t rough him up, okay? I want our reunion to be joyous.

Something happened yesterday that make me think of him. Then I felt sad that he still isn’t in my life. Big time. Cry.

The memory trigger was a tweet by one of the supremely important people I follow. (They are all important. Why else would I be following them?) It was a bit of humor about the classic “everything” sale where some items are excluded. See? That’s not “everything.” It’s just the kind of thing that would set John off.

The “everything” sale has feasted my soul for years. It must have been decades ago when I first became aware of this phenomenon. A department store (that used to exist at the time) had an “everything” sale. The fine print, of course, excluded things like: linens, housewares, electronics, automotive and jewelry.

I remember thinking: What the hell else is even left in that store? Certainly nothing I ever wanted.

My mind grappled with the illogic of it all. How, in the greatest country the world has ever known, can an advertiser come out and issue baldfaced lies in the name of profit? I assumed some government agency would swoop in like Inigo Montoya and say, “You keep using that word. I dunna think it means what you think it means. Prepare to die!”

But that never happened. A little naive innocence in your guru died that day. There is no truth fairy.

In that vein, I now present three short stories involving my friend John. Enjoy.
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I’d buy that for a penny! #WSJ

How WSJ advertises their iPhone app

How it actually appears (unpaid version) on my iPod

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?

Don’t cross business streams

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…

Ring. Ring.

“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.”

Liar's Paradise

Suitable shopping for bosses everywhere!

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.

Liars.

Term stomping

Blacklist Royals 6.20.10 - 25

This guy is stomping all over the term: blacklist. Credit: Nicole Kibert.

Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Lately I’ve been having a problem when searching Flickr for images to accompany my blog posts. What happens when the thing you are searching for has been co-opted by something completely different?

I’m calling that phenomenon term stomping.

It used to be so easy. You’d enter your innocent little phrase, like “snot bubbles” and get lots of images of exactly what you were looking for. But guess what happens now? There’s an indie punk rock band out there somewhere performing under the name of Snot Bubbles. Instead of the veritable plethora of visual delights that you were expecting you get thousands of images of crazy-looking folks on stage making love to guitars.

Argh!

Pictured on the left you see an image result from a search for the word “blacklist.” The guitarist pictured is a member of a musical ensemble named Blacklist Royals. I have nothing against Blacklist Royals. I’m sure they are wonderful human beings. They just happen to be the example that triggered the intro to this particular post.

Term stomping happens with a dizzying array of other searches. Terms like these are suddenly useless to me: fuckers, criminals, livid, puss and more. If you like to search, I’m sure this must have happened to you, too.

Some words are simply destined to have their meanings clobbered in the search engines. If this happens to you, it’s best to just give up and move on. Perhaps try a synonym. Instead of “snot bubbles” maybe “mucus spheres” will work, although there will probably be much less results to choose from.

Note to Google: “Mucus spheres.” Please take note of that term. I want to be #1 for it by the end of the week!

But I digress. The real point of today’s post is blacklisting. Yes, as is often my wont, I have buried the lead. Why deviate from that tactic when it works so well?

Specifically I wish to talk about the term blacklisting as it pertains to the wonderful wide world of retail.

Have you ever worked for a blacklisted company? It works a little something like this.

You’re a small biz owner and you wants to make your scrilla. You decide you’ll get there by selling things. But you don’t want to have to actually make things. This restricts your options a bit. Basically it means you have to get things made by someone else. Like manufacturers. That can be a good place to get things. So you buy these things, sell them for more than you paid, and keep the difference as your profits.

Easy as pie, right?

Perhaps not. For one thing, manufacturers can be exceedingly pushy. You’d think they’d be happy to have as many merchants as possible pimping out their shit on the open market. You’d be wrong.

We all know “price fixing” is illegal in the United States. It goes against the grain of our opinion of right and wrong. And we feel it stifles competition and has various other negative effects on the marketplace.

But manufacturers want undue control and influence over their product streams and supply chains. One thing they really want is to control the price of their products. But if price fixing is illegal, how can they do this?

It’s called MAP or Minimum Advertised Price. Under this scheme, the manufacturer sets MAP on their products. What happens to merchants who advertise a lower price, like in an attempt to be competitive in the free market? Easy. Their throats are cut and they are allowed to bleed out like a stuck pig. In other words, manufacturers cut them out. They do this through blacklisting.

The company I work at has been blacklisted. Yet we still sell the shit. Mwuhahaha! How does this little wrinkle of goodness work?

Basically it involves a complicated shell game of dummy company names, made up identities, and shipping drops sprinkled all across our fruited plains. This is truly the way the best economy (at least until 2020) on this planet was intended to function!

For us employees this can get a bit complicated. If we use the wrong company name at the wrong time when dealing with a suppliers who knows us under a different name, we’d expose the lie and then, of course, the jig would be up!

You might wonder how the manufacturers would know what we’re doing. Easy. Ever see those warranty registration cards in the products you buy? They ask, including lots of other things, for the name of the store and the price you paid. Depending on the type of product these cards may also contain serial numbers. These numbers allow manufacturers to track shipments through supply chains to suppliers and eventually the retail merchant.

Manufacturers ship product directly to distributors who then ship them to merchants. And trust me on this. Suppliers could give a rat’s ass about things like blacklists and MAP pricing. As long as goods are flowing through their greedy little fingers, they’re happy. All they need is a bit of plausible deniability to show manufacturers so they don’t get blacklisted themselves. They know exactly what’s going on. Nod, nod. Wink, wink.

Personally I think the whole fucking system must be backed by the Russian Mafia or the Trilateral Commission.

Our operation has product funneled from many dummy companies. We pay extra shipping charges for this. When we receive these shipments we open the products and rip out the registration cards so they can’t be sent in by consumers to expose us to manufacturers. That’s just another bit of ethical goodness for the blacklisted.

Next time you want to share a beer and enjoy fairy tales like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the so-called free market, ethics in business, and the idea that price fixing is illegal be sure to give me a ring. I really love a good belly laugh at the expense of the overly-naive!!!

A recent TED talk I posted made the point that two things that matter most to “happiness” are “love” and “work.” And when he talked about “work” he said, “Engaging in activities that are meaningful and satisfying … and fulfilling.” Selling shit to idiots isn’t meaningful work. And compromising your morals and ethics in exchange for a living isn’t satisfying.

I guess I just haven’t figured out how to get to so-called “happiness” when my “work” consists of punching a clock and selling my soul to the devil every time I show up for a shift.

Amazon and Google product pricing shenanigans

Online FraudHere we go, boys and girls. Another fun-filled excursion into the bowels of the internet’s world of ecommerce.

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 can eat my ass #sucks

Ancestry.com Sucks

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).

Mothafucka!

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.