Author Archives: Jeremy

Recover Stolen Purchases

If just-bought items are stolen out of your car in the parking lot, don't give up hope. The couple in this story went back to the store the items were bought from and warned them that someone would probably try to return them for cash later. That "someone" did and that "someone" was caught and arrested. The couple got their items back too 🙂

How to Deal With Customer Retention Employees

Ever tried to cancel a service only to be drawn and quartered by the employees who's job it is to prevent you from canceling? It doesn't seem fair really, all you want to do is cancel a service, but if you do so successfully, some shmuck on the other end gets a negative mark on his/her record. Well, that's not really your problem so use the advice in the Consumerists "9 Confessions of a Retentions Representative" to make your way through the process with minimal effort (inlcuding advice about getting out of an early termination fee).

Credit Card Companies Swing Low to Stop Testimony

Four people who had flown to DC to share their stories of credit woe with the congress members who are involved in the credit card bill of rights were deflected by a mandate by the committee that they must release their full financial history to the public (not just to the people involved in the committee, but the PUBLIC) before they could testify.

I'm not sure how members of congress could agree to such a move ("here congressman, here's a bag of money")… oh wait, now I think I know.

Audit Shows Even More FBI Abuses

The agencies that are supposed to protect us turned against us. It's depressing that more hasn't been done about this and sooner.

Of course, you know why Bush isn't defending them the same way as some other agencies? Because he didn't authorize it and therefore doesn't need to shield them to cover his own butt. That's my guess anyway.

GoDaddy Hosting Drops “RateMyCop.com” Due to Controversy

GoDaddy, an Internet hosting provider that's no stranger to controversy of its own, has pulled hosting of RateMyCop.

RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he'd been shut down for "suspicious activity."

When Sesto got a supervisor on the phone, the company changed its story and claimed the site had surpassed its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit, a claim that Sesto says is nonsense. "How can it be overloaded when it only had 80,00 page views today, and 400,000 yesterday?"

I wouldn't touch GoDaddy hosting with a ten foot pole. If you're hosted with them, find someone else. Now.

A More Clever Way to Get Customer Satisfaction

Here's a new book on my list: "Unscrewed. The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For".

The Consumerist has a great interview with the author that describes some of the techniques in the book. Check this one out:

BURLEY: As you know, none of the techniques require anyone to scream or yell or spit at great distances. As a matter of fact, those are disqualifiers. There's an old-school belief, yes, walking into the middle of a showroom and screaming at the top of your voice, "They cheated me!" These days that will get you escorted out by the security guard. A lot of the techniques in the book put a twist on the old techniques of being a squeaky wheel. Such as writing a letter. Writing a letter to the president of the company these days is not going to get you anything. They've got legions of people and the president of the company is never going to see that letter. But I have a letter-writing technique that's called "Spokesperson For The Competition." You don't write a letter to the company that's causing you a problem, you write a letter to the president of the company that is their number one competitor, telling your true story and offering to become their number one spokesperson, and giving them permission to give a copy of your letter to every one of their sales people. Now before you send that letter to the competitor, you send a copy of that letter to the president of the corporation that's causing you a problem. And now they do the math. They say, ok, instead of losing just that one customer, our competitor is going to have evidence of just how poorly we treat our customers. And since we're in a highly competitive business, and we're trying to get those business accounts and fleet accounts or whatever, if every one of their sales people have evidence of how badly we treat our customers, how much business will we lose? You see what's happened there, it's the same technique, you're writing one letter, but you have somehow multiplied the effect, because you're not now one individual against the company that is causing you a problem. Using this technique of writing a letter to the competition, and offering to become a spokesperson for the competition, you've now multiplied your impact, your effect, a thousand fold? Ten-thousand fold? And suddenly, once again, it becomes more cost-effective for the company to take care of you than to ignore you.

That's quite brilliant actually. I should definitely get a copy and see what it's like.

Online Password Checker

My first thought is to be very cautious about using an online password checker to test the strength of your passwords because you might inadvertantly give away your password to a rogue site. However, this Microsoft sponsored password checker requires no logins or personal information and being that it's a fairly well-known company, chances are smaller that they would abuse the info if they even store it (which I can't imagine it being cost-effective to do so).

(H/T to Lifehacker.com for the link)

Fight Unauthorized Charges

It's worth repeating that if you get charged for something you didn't ask for, you should challenge it. One point this article makes that I want to stress, sometimes you get signed up for something because you didn't notice and uncheck a box during a transaction with some other company or you had a free trial and it charged you after it was over.

These are dishonest and while they might technically be legal (though they shouldn't be), it's worth challenging them all the same.

Wide-spread Drinking Water Contamination

Just another example for why we need federal monitoring and regulation of certain industries and services. Stuff like this would go on all the time if there wasn't oversight and corresponding accountability. Just look at the presidential adminsitration for an example.

Now to see if anything comes of this.

(Circulating everywhere online, but I got it at The Consumerist)

Bittorrent For Legitimate Purposes

Lest one think of torrents and illegal downloads at the same time, it's worth reminding the public that torrents are just a file distribution system and one that has many legitimate uses. For example, one IT department used torrent technology to distribute a set of system patches and upgrades in just four hours. The same patch would have previously taken over 4 days!

Comcast Must Die

Comcastmustdie.com is a blog where people are invited to post their customer numbers so Comcast can get in touch with them to resolve issues. Given that people sometimes have vast difficulties that never seem to get resolved over the phone, this is a pretty good idea.

And according to the blog's comments, people have been getting results. It's worth checking out.

Science vs Scientology Timeline

A timeline comparing the beliefs of Scientology verus actual science. And also this:

Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard's most notorious space opera is the religion of Scientology, which is packed with aliens and space battles and waves of invaders to our solar system.

Pretty accurate.

Bush Says America Should Thank Telecoms

If you're not aware of this already, Bush authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant (which is illegal, duh). He's managed to keep Congress from impeaching him somehow and, emboldened by his victory, he's even pushing to protect giant telecommunications companies like AT&T from the lawsuits that have sprung up against them for participating in the spying.

[Bush] Now the question is, should these lawsuits be allowed to proceed, or should any company that may have helped save American lives be thanked for performing a patriotic service; should those who stepped forward to say we’re going to help defend America have to go to the courthouse to defend themselves, or should the Congress and the President say thank you for doing your patriotic duty? I believe we ought to say thank you.

Well… I guess he has a point. Let me try:

"Thank you Telcos for helping Bush to violate our rights violently and repeatedly for years".

Wait, I don't think I did that right. Let me try again:

"Thank you Telcos for scrambling to cover your butts as much as possible and helping to shield our corrupt leadership from direct responsibility".

Dang. Maybe this time:

"Thank you for treating our privacy and personal rights as so much cow dung to be buried and stepped upon as you see fit".

You know, I don't think I can get the hang of this.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference of 2008

The CFP2008 conference is coming up in late May. They're not taking registrations yet, but their information page is up at least. I wasn't able to attend last year, but the 2006 session was very cool.

The conference is the perfect place for paranoid anti-government/business privacy invasion types to congregate and complain as a group. Besides that, there are useful technical sessions about privacy technologies and such. I particularly liked the session hosted by public-citizen where they described the ways they protect people against companies trying to stifle their free speech online. In cases where a blogger was issued take-down notices by big companies that didn't like what the blogger was saying, Public Citizen took their case for free and defended them. Very cool.

Also of note was the session about RFID where an industry crony "debated" the author of the book spychips (though to call it a debate is laughable). When the crony was challenged about his company's use of privacy protections and he didn't have any good answers for the crowd, he bacame flustered and accused us of being "technophobes" (HA!). What an idiot. But it was very entertaining 🙂

Anyway, if you'd like to meet some of the people in all the various consumer groups who are protecting your rights every day, this is an awesome way to do it.