Category Archives: Business

Where There Is a Will . . .

Last week Comcast/Xfinity raised my rates. I was not happy. I attempted to negotiate. Nothing doing. I canceled service. I figured I would tether off of my cell service.

While that worked, it did not work well.

A few days ago I attempted to sign up again with Comcast. I think their software couldn’t handle me trying to sign up for new service with an old account. It kept crapping out.

This morning I gave it another shot. I just had Xfinity create a new account for me. Booyah! I have what they did not give me originally: two years at their introductory rate. Yup, I am paying $39.99 per month once again. Thankfully.

I will say we have come a long way in signing up for service. I needed to register my modem on the network. In previous lifetimes, that could be hours long processes with phone calls and waiting. Yeah, no. Immediate. Nice.

Mike Lindell

I have taken an interest, of sorts, with My Pillow.  Since I first took note of it many years ago, I thought it was a farce.  My MIL purchased one of these pillows that somehow ended up at the house.  It matches what I had heard: stuffed with cubes of foam.  I liken it to charcoal: made from whatever one can get his hands on.

Since then My Pillow has branched out.  I laughed aloud at My Slippers.  There was just so much wrong with them.  These days they are on clearance (at still a high price) with extremely low quantities it is said.

Just now, I saw the latest offering from Lindell: My Coffee.  Oh, my goodness!

I get it: companies have to change to remain afloat.  I’ll give him credit for trying.  He and the Balance of Nature folks seem to have business models that seem to be saturate the market in promotion and hope for the best regardless of the product.

Internet Connectivity

Back at the house, long ago, I thought phone service cost too much. We went through a phase where we purchased minutes for something like a penny a minute and got rid of long distance. Yes, folks, things were different. When cellphones began to be a reality for regular folks, all of a sudden wired telephone service was dirt cheap. I eventually got roped into getting a cellphone. I complained that we were now paying two phone bills. We then got caught up in the insidious bundling that Comcast had for some time where we still had a landline, but supposedly it was a toss-in for cable service. Try to extricate oneself from that deal and the prices were sky high.

Even the bundle had creep. We eventually topped out at $225 per month. Wtf? For entertainment. Sure, everyone blamed me, but that is ridiculous. I actually canceled our service. Comcast got right back in touch with me and negotiated a far more reasonable rate.

Technology has changed. The divorce was fabulous for me in this regard. I canceled cable minutes after I was told we were divorcing. The cellphone plan was immediately after that. When I moved into the apartment, I had a cellphone plan and an Internet connectivity plan. Both have changed since then.

I originally was with T-Mobile for my cellphone. While it was fine (and inexpensive at $50 per month), when I traveled, it was useless. I could never connect anywhere we went geocaching. I was constantly tethering off of someone’s iPhone. I justified sticking with them for I received MLB.tv for free. And frankly, in my area, T-Mobile was fine.

Advance forward to earlier this year, the cellphone I was using, now more than five years old was not keeping up in some regards. I decided to take a flyer and change to an iPhone. I also changed carriers. AT&T was what others used as they traveled and seldom had issues. I was able to get an all-inclusive plan with a break for being a teacher. It is $62 per month. I lose MLB.tv but gain HBO Max. That fits in with my interest in DC Comics, so I thought it was okay.

The phone is fine; the ecosystem is different and not one I particularly care for. As the year has progressed, I began thinking of ways to break free of the phone by the end of the year. My thinking was I could give it to one of my children and just do all e-mail and texting from home. To that end, I removed those apps from the phone to begin training for that. Easy peasy. My expectation has been that once school resumes in September, I’ll travel to and from work without the cellphone. I loathe being tracked. It seemed like a reasonable plan, but I knew there would be bumps along the road.

That bump happened.

Yesterday, I picked up my mail. Only one thing in the box: my Comcast bill. I have auto-pay, but with the change in debit card last month, it would not have surprised me if there had been a glitch and the bill not paid. When I opened the envelope there was a bill. And then news that my service now costs more.

When I signed up for Xfinity (Comcast, the evil company) two years ago, I paid $39.99 per month if I agreed to auto-pay. I don’t like auto-pay, particularly for Comcast and Verizon. But it saved me $10 per month. I agreed. Last July Comcast raised the price to $60 per month. Now it was going to $90. Wtf?

Just so we’re clear, this is merely for Internet service. There is no television with this. There are no streaming services. This is so my laptop can connect to the Internet. In addition, I watch You Tube videos. Lots of ads with that. $90!

I tried calling Xfinity. No phone number to be found. No online chat assistant. Only some things to click on, none that addressed my issue. I drove to the Comcast office. I waited. I explained my situation. Well, you have equipment rentals, streaming, etc. No, I do not. Oh, was the response.

I explained that I thought $90 for the pipe to the Internet was too much. The guy then said, “Comcast raises the price every year.” Okay, but that doesn’t solve that I am not paying this.

He looked into things. He offered $80. I refused. He kept asking if I had any government assistance. Perplexed, I said I didn’t. I explained that I work for a living, but I refuse to spend $90 for this service. He kept coming back to government assistance.

I had worked my game plan before I entered. I told myself no to lose my cool. Ultimately, I can walk away from this service. And I did.

I have no home Internet at this point. From my initial set up here, I don’t expect I will. I will be able to offload a few items I hadn’t expected, like the modem.

I am tethering my service from my cellphone. Looks like I won’t be getting rid of it after all. In fact, I loaded a couple apps onto it to facilitate my technology. I gather I will be playing around with things for a while as I adjust.

There are a few considerations. I have unlimited data with my plan, but I know it can be throttled at certain thresholds. I don’t think I have ever been near those thresholds. We shall see if that happens now.

And there are two other areas that will be affected: my file server and my sous vide.

The sous vide connected to the wifi that I could then control with an app. I controlled everything via the app. I can connect the sous vide to the phone for similar service, but it will be unable to be controlled remotely (away from the apartment). Just last evening I shut down a cook when my plans changed and I went out to dinner with Beetle. I will not be able to do that or start cooks from work, etc. now. This isn’t life shattering, but it will change things.

The bigger inconvenience is the file server. The new cellphone necessitated changes and I have just begun getting comfortable with those. Now I have a quandary. I had decided not to set up the file server for wifi access for security issues. It was wired in and I had to tunnel in to get access. Now, I can’t do that. I could open this thing up, but there will be security issues with that. I don’t think I really want to tether it to a cellphone. That means I will have to manually tether my laptop to the file server to transfer files. It also means that my ultimate goal of redundancy to a second file server at a different location isn’t going to happen with this set-up. I am not concerned now with that as I wasn’t at that point in the process, but it will need to be considered.

Anyhow, I am down $60 per month in spending. I will be able to get rid of a few more things. I am mildly inconvenienced, but I will probably be able to work things out. As long as my unlimited plan is as unlimited as I need it to be, I should be fine. We shall see . . .

Hey, it looks like I had already considered this option a few months ago.

Dot . . . Dot . . . Dot . . .

Working on one of my goals: have not logged into Google News in about a week . . . Love it when I find the perfect gift for someone! Have a gift on order for Mom for Christmas . . . Spent the last couple of days watching my son play a video game on the Xbox. Looked like my kind of game. Priced out my own system. Had plans. Then thought, let me play the game on his system a little. Reminded myself: I am no gamer. Plans scrapped . . . Tackling the My Things project. Going through and culling the fine stuff. Had hopes of getting below 400 items, but do not think that will happen. I have pared down as far as I am comfortable going. Right now I need to find 40+ items to drop below 400. I don’t think there are 40+ items I can find with what is left to go through. Frankly, will probably add a few items that aren’t on the list yet . . . Looked at the CIA for an associate’s culinary arts degree. $80,000 when I am 60 and two years of my life. I don’t see that happening . . . Long time complainer of concert ticket prices. Realized I could see Phish on Wednesday. $230+, I think not. I would go to AC again on the beach for $85, but I’ll be out of town this year . . . Everyone has his angle. My apartment complex has luscious green grass. At the beginning. Once you pas the office, it is all brown, crabby, and dead . . . Want to impress me? Don’t send me an e-mail telling me to honor my appointment when I didn’t make an appointment. I just unsubscribed from the Red Cross. Poor customer service through and through . . . The butcher I have used for 14 years totally did not treat me well the other day. Left disappointed. Will be using the other butcher for a while . . . It’s interesting to see the tabs left open from the evening before seeing what rabbit holes I was burrowing down trying to find ways to spend money . . .

Manipulation

Back when I was in the throes of Toastmasters, I observed a lot of what Darren LaCroix and other champion speakers wrote, said, and otherwise communicated online. What I noticed was a marketing approach used. He would tell the potential customer all the great things one would receive. He would ascribe a dollar value to those items. He would then provide a new price, much lower than that arbitrary value. and present this as a deal of a century. The price would be $197. He moved away from the $199 number businesses would have used to communicate just how great of a value it was. I noted others did the same. And then I saw the same tactic used for other services that had nothing to do with public speaking. I filed this away as something noted that was just a sales spiel.

Recently, I have begun watching Pro Home Cooks again. He has changed yet again. Far are we from Brooklyn rooftops cutting with our dirty hands and making it work. I had accepted the change to the studio he built and was ready to immerse myself into that again when I realized that is now gone and he will be cooking from his new Long Island home kitchen. And he now has online cooking classes. Amazingly, they are $197 after incredible discounts. It puts a black mark on the channel for me. It’s just about the money. It reinforces a thought I have had about celebrity chefs (although he is not one): how do you crank out a new cookbook every year? It’s all marketing. Those recipes are not family recipes the chef uses. Rather, it is a way to brand the chef. Stop him/her on the street and ask him to discuss that unusual preparation from three cookbooks ago and I bet the chef won’t even know the recipe.

Everything is about making a buck.

That brings us to The Minimalists. I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with these guys. They are salesmen. They came from corporate cellphone world. They sell things. What I thought at first was just complementary to selling books, the podcast has obviously become their cash cow. It has funded multiple studios, custom art, salaries for a growing staff, and now a house.

This week they dropped that the podcast is changing. Because the freeloaders people have spoken, the free podcast will be shortened to 20 minutes weekly. They did this way back when. But they like to talk and it grew and grew lengthier again. But the maximal (for pay) podcast will now be two hours. And instead of two podcasts weekly, it will be one for which the 20-minute segment will be cut out and given away to us who don’t support them.

All that aside, the big thing is that they have archived their podcasts behind a pay wall. Yup, 300 podcasts that were once free, one needs to pay for to here now.

Why? Well, they told the reason: people go and listen to those old podcasts. After about #30, nothing new came to be. So, freeloaders get the spiel for free without engaging or paying. No longer. The salesmen have figured it out.

Think about it: two guys who promote minimalism have 350 podcasts. There is not that amount of information to discuss about the topic. By hiding all the previous content, they can now regurgitate it to an audience that will consists of people who have not heard the same tired stories over and over. And they will pitch this wealth of added content to those who pay. It is all rather anti-minimalistic.

At this point, they aren’t promoting minimalism. They are paying mortgages, salaries, and buying stuff (the studio).

Even though I have left a few times before, I am deboarding (or as they would like to say, graduating) from this ecosystem.

The format is changing as they bring on “My brother,” T.K. Coleman. Talk about changing one’s voice for the audience! I actually like T.K. The problem, however, for me is that T.K. has never offered insight to minimalism when he is on. He has some interesting things to share, but those are on other topics.

And that’s what The Minimalists are about these days: broadening the topic. Even they know there’s only so much that can be discussed regarding minimalism. They wrote a book about relationships. They are now part of the Dave Ramsey crew. They have to expand because there is a payroll and a mortgage to meet.

None of this makes them bad. What it makes them, however, to me is not useful. I stuck with the podcast through a lot of this because every now and then the topic reinforced what I needed to hear. But that is too infrequently and going forward unlikely to improve.

Since I took them on, I have found other avenues to reinforce the message I like hear regularly. I can get what I need without going that route (Just unsubscribed from both YouTube channels).

Dot . . . Dot . . . Dot . . .

Watching some lady on YouTube. Her virtue signaling is omnipresent. Even that wedding ring signals, doesn’t it? . . . July 2022 (the current month) is a no-buy month for me. I will only permit myself to purchase consumables for myself. There may be some physical things purchased as gifts for my children (my daughter is preparing for college) . . . I am not a good enough writer to complete the wedding card I purchased for my ex-wife. Nothing I have tried comes off as totally joyous for her without it being read into on some level. I will take the advice others have provided and not send a card. I e-mailed her a congratulations when she first wrote me about it. That will have to suffice . . . Social media is insidious! I follow a guy on YouTube. Nice guy. No issues. But even he has a video called 5 Ryes You Have to Have. No, I do not need five ryes. I like rye, but I don’t need five bottles of it at once . . . Haven’t been a fan of Dad’s Hat Rye as a sipper. Decided to try it in a Manhattan. Much, much better! . . . Completing the The Unforgettables challenge is not healthy; it encourages me to drink. That isn’t a good thing . . . My inner voice is too negative. I need to either train it to be positive or turn the voice off altogether . . . Sent my ex-wife AND her fiancé a wedding card today. I believe they are being married Friday, Believe because I wasn’t invited. 🙂 It was most freeing . . . I noted recently that Dead & Company were not selling out the stadia they play in this summer. I saw this again the other night in Foxborough. Just saw a quick clip of Poison at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Looked like the upper deck for that show was sold out. Just saying . . . Canceled my credit card today. I used it twice. I don’t see a need going further . . .

My Slippers Commercial

Some thoughts . . .

Slippers are not outdoor footwear. Having a plastic/rubber sole is not a selling point with me.

The regular price is $139? Who has ever paid that amount of money for these? Name one.

Taking $90 off and selling these at $50 is not a selling point. That is still too much for these.

Did you take note at all the trigger points? A folded flag. An eagle. A cross. Jesus. Note who they are trying to sell these to.

If there are “extremely low quantities” why the discount? It would seem that if you have a popular product that sells for $139 and there are only a few left, there would be no need to discount the product. Supply and demand would lead one to think the price would remain high.

Too many things for me to think about to consider this purchase. No, I don’t use slippers anyhow, but this campaign just seems artifical.

Caveat Emptor

It’s my own fault. Stupid, me.

Began watching a whiskey YouTube channel. Like the guy and began binging his videos. He had a livestream where he reviewed several bottles of Blanton’s.

Blanton’s.

This bottle is much sought after, but hard to find. No, it’s not a Pappy Van Winkle. Just allocated and difficult to locate in so many locations. Chicago and my area among them.

Recently, my sister mentioned that her husband had been seeking Blanton’s. And with that thought, I sought a bottle online. I found one. Sure, the price was better than other sites, but it matched some prices some folks had reported a few months ago.

I then ordered the bottle only to have my card rejected. Huh?

Called the bank. It was processed outside the U.S. is why it was rejected. Great Britain? No problem. While on the phone with my mother, I clicked purchase.

As time went on, I began becoming suspicious. I had actually checked for reviews beforehand. I didn’t find any problems. But then I did a WHOIS on the domain. That began to give me pause. The e-mail response I got from the order gave me further pause. When I went back to the site, I saw something else that didn’t jive.

At that point, I called the bank. They weren’t quite certain how to proceed. I asked if the transaction could be blocked. Not out-and-out, but it was suggested shutting down the card immediately. That’s not a guarantee, but it should work.

We shut it down. This will affect many things, but it is okay. I can’t activate the card until tomorrow. Not certain why since I have it in hand today.

All this hassle just because I wanted to send my BIL a bottle of whiskey.

So, I’ve been questioning myself: how did this happen?

The further down the rabbit hole I go, the more I recognize what the issue is: online shopping. It’s what I do. I watch YouTube. I read Reddit. I become excited for something and then search Google for it in order to purchase it. That scenario is taking up too much of my life.

New card means Amazon doesn’t have my business unless I provide it the number. Amazon Prime is out the window at the end of the year. Perhaps six months early will be good for me.

I need to get out of this mode of living and instead just live. As simple as my life is, it still has room for improvement.

Supplies Diminished

No Four-Cheese Pizzas

One of the hallmarks of the United States is anything can be had. That, generally, is a good thing!

Since COVID hit, however, supplies have diminished. Diet Coke in one-litre bottles is difficult to find these days. Sure, two-litre bottles and 20-ounce bottles are on the shelves, but the size I like is often not available.

Today, after work, I grocery shopped for the children. Of late, I have ensured that there is plenty of food at home as dining out has become ridiculous with prices. To that end, Fritz enjoys frozen pizzas, specifically, he likes Red Baron Four-Cheese pizzas. Hey, one of these is $5.19 (less if I go to Walmart) compared to $15 and a drive to Hammonton for Bruni’s.

But there were no Four-Cheese pizzas today. WTF?

I have no explanation for the lack of the specific item he wants. They had Three-Cheese pizzas. I took the above photograph because The Boy would not have believed me. This is America—why is there no Four-Cheese pizza?

Say what you like, life today is not as good as it has been in the past in this regard.

Plastic Bags

New Jersey instituted its single use plastic bag ban on 4 May. While the state government passed the law restricting my consumer options (and for that deserves criticisim), the plea to do so came not from environmental groups but rather from retailers. Grocery stores can save lots of money if they do not “give away” bags to customers. Retailers lobbied the state government for this ban.

As one who cherishes freedom, I am not in favor of this legislation.

On a practical note, the ban doesn’t serve its purpose from government’s point of view. It argues the environmental impact of single use bags. We have all seen, I suspect, a bag here or there blowing in the wind. Obviously, I do not condone that.

I along with everyone else I know, however, do not use these bags singularly. Teachers brings their lunches to school in these bags. Filing cabinets are stuffed with them for crafts, etc.

Look in one’s closets and you’ll see “single use” bags being used for all sorts of things.

I have received packages that have used plastic bags as the insulation.

For me, I made living decisions based on “single use” plastic bags. All m trashcans are bathroom size. I use these bags as the liner for the trashcans. This is primarily the one in the kitchen as the bathroom trashcan rarely has trash (save when Beetle visits).

Now with my supply of bags curtailed, I am on limited time before I have to purchase plastic bags for my trashcans in order to dispose of garbage. That seems nonsensical. It also seems counter to the purpose of this law. But I don’t have a problem with purchasing that which I use, so I will.

It’s not a winning argument, I understand. Me, just a consumer and taxpayer, has no power in this decision. I just am the one who has to live with the decision.

It already has had positive consequences for me. When I learned this ban also includes convenience stores, well, I guess that will keep me from visiting there. I am not going to bring in cloth bag to buy a hoagie and a soda. Same thing at the local deli. It’s all good as I should not frequent those places to begin with. The lack of a bag is enough of an inconvenience to help me remember I won’t shop in those places. Add to that Target and Walmart, and all of a sudden, not only will the bags be reduced, so will my consumption.