Shopping Time Again

I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, millions of people head to the mall. That’s right, the mall. Why in the world is this our tradition? As if the mall weren’t bad enough, you’ve got millions of other people there for the exact same reason – to shop at the after-Thanksgiving sales.

This year, a lady in Florida was trampled in a Wal-Mart. Luckily, the chain has offered to hold her DVD player for her. Nice of them. Of course, they scored $1.5 billion this year in a single day, so holding a $30 DVD player isn’t going to hurt much – even if they pay for it (and there’s no sign that they will). So what is so special about that one particular day that people are driven into a frenzy?

Maybe at one point the Christmas decorations came out on the day after Thanksgiving (they do at our house). But these days, you can find Christmas supplies around Valentine’s day the year before the Christmas actually arrives. Habit is one thing, but come on people – $30 DVD players are nice and all, but are they really worth trampling someone?

Can SprintPCS Read?

I went over to the SprintPCS website the other day, to find that there are a number of rebates that they offer. In the text of at least one of those rebates, you’ll find this wording:

“Customers purchasing a phone without a PCS Free & Clear Plan with Vision will receive a mail-in rebate. See details below.”

From this information, it suggests to me that I can A: Purchase a phone without a service plan and expect to get a rebate and B: Find out more information about that rebate below. It may be true that neither is possible.

Working backwards, we find the information on the mail-in rebate:

Mail-in Rebate: Customers qualify for rebate if account is kept active for 30 consecutive days. In certain markets, PCS Clear PaySM customers qualify for a mail-in rebate if the account is kept active for 60 days after the first invoice date and does not have any unpaid past-due amounts at the end of this period.

That doesn’t help. I want to buy a phone without a service plan, and as informed earlier, I should receive a mail-in rebate. The details of this mail-in rebate specify activation, which means that I am looking in the wrong place. So I write SprintPCS Customer Care, which is always an adventure to itself. Their (repeated) response? That the rebates on the phone are only for new lines of service. I’ve yet to get a response (after four tries) from soneone who will tackle the issue presented in the quote above. So here it is again:

If I can purchase a phone without a plan, why is it that I cannot find out how much of a rebate that I’m able to receive on this phone? It’s in black-and-white on your own web site that I should receive a mail-in rebate if I purchase a phone without a plan. How much is the rebate, how do I go about collecting the rebate, and why is it that none of your support staff have any idea that this wording is even contained within the rebate information?

Why do I want to purchase a phone without a plan? That’s really none of their business, but I want to do it because I already have a plan. The “purchase with a plan” option is only valid on a new line of service, and I just don’t want to do that. I want to purchase without, and when I get the phone, I’ll transfer it to my current plan myself. Why is this such a difficult process?

Caveat Emptor?

In this latest example of waste, we see the government spending $7-9 million to replace sand on a beach. Why? Among other reasons, so people like B.J. Fersner can continue to own their beachfront property.

Where is the logic in that? Listen, I don’t fault people like Ms. Fersner for choosing to live where they do. Whatever floats your boat. But why is it that the government ought to step in to the tune of millions of dollars just so your precious property won’t be washed away?

So that you don’t think I’m completely without feeling – I don’t want the lady’s house to float away. I really hope that it doesn’t. I just have a big problem with the government making sure of that. You want to live on the beach, you need to shoulder the burden. Buy insurance, pay the millions yourself, I don’t care. Just don’t expect it to be taken care of for you.

How Is Your Driving?

Last night on my way home I found myself behind a truck that had one of those stickers on it. You know the kind – it asks you how they are driving, has a serial number of some sort and gives you a phone number to call and report them. Typically I would hardly notice.

This truck was different. I only say that because I saw him three or four times in the space of about a minute. You wouldn’t necessarily think this is odd, but it was unusual, if only because he was doing circles around me. Don’t get me wrong – we were traveling in the same direction. He’d pass on the left, get in front of me, move to the right, fall behind, cross back to the left, pass again, move back to the right, etc.

So after about the third time he changed into my lane, I noticed that this was the same guy. He was on the phone while driving, which I can’t really fault because I had to be on the phone to call in his number. But the frequency with which this guy changed lanes was amazing. He couldn’t sit still. I don’t know if he actually cut anyone off, but it sure looked like it from where I sat. So I called.

After answering a bunch of general questions on the location, conditions, traffic and the like, we got to the meat of the story. The operator asked which lane I was in. I told her I had been driving in the middle lane (of three). She asked which the truck was in. I paused for a moment, then told her: All three.

I did take care to explain that he wasn’t weaving as if he were drunk, he was just changing lanes rapidly and repeatedly. She asked for my name, and I hesitated, as I am generally leery of leaving personal details with people I don’t know. She accepted my report, but I can’t help but feel it will be relegated to the back of the file since a real person wasn’t attached.

Maybe I should have given it to her.

Over and Over and Over

Seems like there are times when I get on these projects that never end. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were at least some progress now and again. Luckily I have Dilbert to comfort me: My project has no progress and no hope for progress.

Appeared in a Dilbert strip published 2004.11.17.

Will We Ever Learn?

For more than two years, I’ve felt that any small coalition of people, be it two or twenty, can wreak havoc if they are willing to die for their cause. It used to be that hijacking meant robbery. The culprits wanted something in return for setting the plane down safely again. That’s not the case now. When someone is willing to die for their cause, there isn’t a lot that you can do to stop them.

The ones who would give up their boxcutters in line are generally the ones who wouldn’t bring them anyway. If they did, it was an oversight and they’d likely never use them. As long as someone is willing to die for their beliefs, then any weapon at all – keys, pens, even a plastic fork – can be used to threaten someone. Taking away corkscrews or nail files isn’t going to help that.

True safety comes from the realization that you aren’t going to let that happen. Take a look at flight 93. Apparently the people aboard weren’t going to let their craft be used as a weapon, and they did something about it – even though the TSA didn’t take away the boxcutters of the hijackers. These passengers died in the process, but the hijackers didn’t win.

An example like this illustrates that there will be instances where people are going to die in the pursuit of liberty. The answer is not to take away more liberties, but to revel in the idea that liberty is a pursuit for which we should be willing to die. Nothing is more sacred, yet we are content to hide that liberty under a bushel instead of wearing it proudly. And all the while, people still die in its name. Where is the sense in that?

I Hate Rebates

I refuse to shop at at least one popular computer retailer who would not honor their rebate. Even worse, they didn’t mention this until about the fifth time I visited the store to attempt to get my promised rebate. This was even with proof of purchase and proof of rebate (the filled out forms as well as the original advertisement) in hand.

I’m sure that the rules for redeeming rebates make sense, in a Dilbert sort of way. After all, if they don’t give out the rebate, they make more money on the product. So why not make it as difficult as possible?

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Quills

Last night, we visited the Off Tryon Theatre Company for their production of Quills. I actually enjoyed this stage production much better than the 2000 movie of the same name.

Unlike the innerVoices production of Rocky Horror that we attended a couple of weeks ago, this production was quite refined. Instead of a nearly empty set with minimal furnishings, the designers of the Quills set did a fine job, splitting the stage area into three sections, two of which are used regularly as the office of Charenton Asylum and the cell of the Marquis. The third section of the stage is used sparsely but effectively throughout.

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The Art of War

The Way means inducing the people to have the same aim as leadership, so that they will share death and share life, without fear of danger.

Last night on NPR, I heard an editorial piece about the use of designer steroids. Specifically, how the Olympics have spent $25 million on testing for steroids this year, and how that amount is only likely to rise in the years to come. For years, America has been fighting a war on drugs in general.

The problem with these “wars”? They aren’t particularly successful. The reason? Because for the most part, the people don’t agree with the leadership. Just as the public is allowed to poison their body with cigarettes or alcohol, surely they should be allowed to do the same with their drug of choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everything should be legalized and kindergarten students should have easier access to heroin. But if you are of consenting age (whatever age that is determined to be) and choose to pursue this pastime without causing harm to anyone else, why should it be a crime?

There really is little downside. Increased addiction? Sure, it’s possible. But in a world where you are responsible for your own choices, why should it be up to the government to protect you from the results of those choices?

Oh, the quote? That’s from Master Sun in The Art of War.