So you want to be in the mail order business. Whether traditional “brick and mortar” or hanging out your shingle online, you have decided to ask the same question: How easy is it to rip me off?
Mail order is a retail system where fulfillment takes place at a remote location outside of your field of view and control. Think of it as the fog of war. By definition you are operating with less than full information. By design. Remember, this was your choice.
You might as well go in a dark alley and roll some dice. You might get better odds.
Here’s a typical scenario:
- Customer/criminal visits your website and loads up on plastic crap made in China. (Let’s be honest, that’s all you sell.)
- Payment is made with a credit card.
- You rub your hands together in glee, shout “Squee!” and box and ship the crap.
- Customer/criminal fiend receives the crap.
- Customer/criminal fiend then claims crap was never received and “disputes” the charges with the credit card company.
- The credit card company (aka The Vig) is, in this situation, the sole arbiter of truth, justice and the American way. You agreed to this policy.
- You submit all of your detailed records regarding the transaction including: customer order, shipping receipt, emails, phone records, retina scans, DNA samples and a electronic facsimile of thumbprint.
- The credit card company says, “Well, there just ain’t no way to know!” and decides in the
customer’scriminal’s favor. There’s a giant sucking sound as the money is extracted from your account.
Let’s review. What just happened? The customer isn’t out one single penny and the customer has your stuff. Bazinga! And there’s no magical fairy in the universe that’ll ever do one thing about it. Welcome to your new reality.
Those of you who watch Orange Is The New Black may recognize this tactic as employed by the criminal mastermind Lorna Morello during her pre-prison flashbacks. People really get caught for this? No. Remember, OITNB is fiction.
The bottom line is that shipping product mail order to a customer is a supreme act of faith. You’re basically hoping it’ll all work out. And when it doesn’t, there’s isn’t too much you can do about it.
The point is that when this happens the boss is furious and that, of course, is hilarious.
Are you enjoying national tax day? Are your taxes done? Or have you committed a boo boo?
The local news has been reporting the scam for months. Clever identity thieves somehow are able to take a minimal piece of information, like a social security number, and use it to abramoff with someone else’s tax refund.
The most unbelievable part is that they are somehow able to get around the world famous tight security at the IRS.
There’s one for you, nineteen for me.
–The Beatles, Taxman
Ah. A story problem. Math will elucidate the tax bracket faced by the The Beatles. 1 + 19 = 20. So the tax rate (the 19 for the taxman) is 19/20. My calculator tells me that equals .95 aka 95 percent. Yes, The Beatles were in the 95 percent tax bracket. Says Wikipedia, “As their earnings placed them in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, the Beatles were liable to a 95% supertax introduced by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.”
Hearing about this scam over and over again, and how it apparently worked, I began to formulate my plan. I was going to
steal the Declaration of Independence file for Mitt Romney’s tax refund. With that I’d finally have enough money to retire, move to a beach on Zihuatanejo and hang out with Andy Dufresne and Ellis “Red” Redding.
All I had to do was get my hands on Mitt Romney’s W-2 forms. Dammit, foiled again!
Like I tried to teach my son when he was younger, there is no $20 dollar bill fairy. If you lose your money, there is no force in the universe that will say, “Tell me all about it. Here, allow me to give you some more.” It just don’t work that way. What’s gone is always gone and it always stays that way. So don’t lose that $20 dollar bill.
Meanwhile, though, apparently the IRS is in the habit of giving refunds to the wrong people. The bad people. And that got me to wondering. Is there a tax fairy?
Think of it this way: Let’s say I owe you $20. Then, for whatever reason, I give your money to Bob. Does this mean I no longer owe you a debt? I doubt you’d agree. You likely say, “I don’t care who you did what to for how many cookies. I want my $20. Guido here is about to offer some encouragement to your kneecaps.”
The simple point I’m trying to make is that the IRS being fooled by criminals should not alleviate their responsibility to give people their own money back. So you gave the money to Bob? Boo freakin’ hoo.
If not, then I suggest a new tax form. Let’s call it the 7734-PROX-EZ.
- Line 1: Amount of tax you owe.
- Line 2: Amount of money you gave Bob. (Enter amount of line 1.)
- Line 3: Amount you own the IRS: (Subtract Line 1 from Line 2.)
- Line 4: Sign full name to indicate your tax burden this year is a mulligan.
If the IRS isn’t being a tax fairy for the victims of crime then I’m sure they’ll understand.
Last, but not least, one other simple concept:
- The guy who threw a rock and smashed your window to bits? He owns the glass store.
- The guy who slashed the whitewalls on your car? He owns the tire store.
- The people who make computer viruses? The makers of your favorite anti-virus software.
- The company that makes tax filing software? They vigorously oppose efforts to make filing taxes simpler.
This is all, of course, predicted by GUNT, my Grand Unification Negativity Theory for everything.
In case that last bullet point is somehow unclear, let me say this:
It looks like there is a tax fairy after all. He just works a bit differently (more sinister and evil) than even I expected. And his name is TurboTax. I try to be negative but sometimes even I can be schooled.
Well played, TurboTax.
I feel offended.
That’s not much of a question but I’ll take what I can get. -Ed.
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Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here in the sludge mines. I’m calling it “Dear Guru.” This is where you get to ask me, the self-proclaimed Guru of Negativity, advice questions and I respond by insulting you and/or your intelligence. Why would anyone sign up for this kind of treatment? Perhaps that should be your first question. The questions are flooding in so get on yours quickly if you want some attention. I imagine this column will repeat about every five years or so depending on how many questions are received. Now on to our first victims. -Ed.
Hey, hey, guru. I want to marry you.
Fool! That wasn’t phrased in the form of a question!
I have a dilemma I hope you can help me with. I have a best friend of 40+ years. This friend gives me gifts for birthdays and holidays. I know for a fact that this friend has shoplifted these gifts as this friend confessed to me several years ago. I do not feel right accepting these gifts. Even with her shortcomings she is very dear to me and I don’t want to hurt her. What should I do?
Fanny from Fort Fear
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It all started when I loaned a friend a hammer. A hammer is a tool typically used for driving metal objects known as nails into various materials like wood. Or so I’ve heard.
For the purpose of this story let’s assume I actually owned a hammer.
If we wanted to (and were sufficiently sick in the head) we could think of this loan as a transaction. The hammer represents the principle, my friend is the debtor and I must be, of course, the bank.
It isn’t too hard to assume my friend is a
debtbeat deadbeat and never returned the bloody thing. Amazingly, even though I dunned him many, many times, and threatened to assess late fees of 1.5 percent on a monthly basis.
Finally that worthless so-and-so left me no recourse. After consulting my voluminous and most accurate
scribbles documentation, I looked up his address and drove across town. I was literally seeing red. My goal? To retrieve the hammer and write the dude off as my friend.
I kicked in his door, tore the place apart, and, having found my precious hammer, I got the hell out of dodge.
The only problem? I made the totally understandable mistake of going to the wrong house. The hammer I repossessed wasn’t even mine. In my defense, it was of similar design. Oops. My bad.
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Simple in concept but, like most things, the devil is in the details. How will we as an evolving society continue to embrace this simple concept? Under this basic principle, being arrested is decidedly not the same as being guilty.
Once upon a time I, yours truly, was arrested by the police. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you that story. It’s a harrowing tale of poop, felis catus, neighborly love, and C.S.I. And just like most episodes of C.S.I. the identities of the guilty will be revealed in time for the credits.
I imagine the whole thing looked a lot like George Clooney being handcuffed and taken into custody. Yeah, exactly the same.
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