Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Convenience of facts and fees

I recently had an interesting conversation about the merits of convenience fees for extended services with banks and other organizations. It started because someone needed a cashier's check and complained about the $10 fee associated. Why is this necessary when I can write a check? Ok, fair question. A check takes 3 days to clear. A cashier's check is available now. The other benefit of a cashier's check is that it is guaranteed. I can write you a personal check for 100 million, billion, gazillion dollars tomorrow, but guess what? It won't do you a whole lot of good. You know why? I don't have that kind of money. A personal check is backed only by the mouth of the person writing it. It's why many people don't like to accept them. People made full time jobs out of floating checks. A cashier's check is guaranteed. The immediate response was that we can take cash out. Sure you can. Let's say you have the cash in the bank to buy a car. Are you going to pull out $20,000 in bills? I'd do it in pennies, but that's just because it would be funny. What car dealer will accept a personal check for that amount of money? So you get a cashier's check. Apparently the FREE personal check doesn't suit your needs. The FREE removal and use of cash doesn't fit your needs. You need an extended service. So that comes with a fee.

Has anyone ever gone to a concert? Did you get your tickets from the box office or did you use Ticketmaster? I ask because they are always cheaper at the box office. You know why? There is a convenience fee from ordering online or via the phone when you use Ticketmaster. How dare they make money? After all, they are only a for profit business. And as I've said before - the business of business is business. We are here to make money. Plain and simple.

Don't like it? Pull your cash out and put it under your mattress. God forbid you have a house fire. Money is gone. God forbid you get robbed. Money is gone. Now... should a bank go out of business guess what happens. The Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will refund you up to $100,000, which anyone I know that's reading this fits within. Have a credit union and not a bank? Ok, then the NCUA has got your back there. Your money is safe, despite what you may think you know. Banks fail all the time, as of late, but people are safe. It's the multi-millionaires, the ones who CAN write a check for 100 million, billion, gazillion dollars that lose their asses because they not only put their money in the bank but they invested in the bank and the companies that the bank invested in. There is risk there. YOU have none when you put your money in the bank. Understand the difference.

So your money is under your mattress because you feel it's safer there. By the way, let me have your address and we'll see how safe it is. Anyway, let's talk about interest for a moment. The interest rate sucks, right? Right. I agree. Damn banks and their interest rates. Wait a minute... hang on a second... the interest rates aren't set by the banks? What's that you say? Placing blame on people who have NOTHING to do with that number. Well that just sounds silly to me. Let's look at the government and the people who actually set that. Remember Alan Greenspan? Know the name Ben Bernanke? They set those rates. The bank bases their rates on what is set by the fed. Apparently while you were busy deciding what to do about the cashier's check fee you missed the news that Bernanke addressed the American public saying that he is less worried than he has been because banks are stronger. I (and you) may not agree with all of his decisions, but I'm pretty sure he's a better economist than we are.

But Americans will be Americans and want to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. "I don't want banks to fail, but I don't want to pay them fees so they can make money and... NOT fail. I don't trust them but I won't ensure their success so I can trust them." That makes no sense. The analogy for ALL Americans at this point is the person you see with a super size Big Mac meal and a diet coke wondering why the diet in the coke isn't helping them lose weight.

Commit to one side or the other. Adopt a policy. Truthfully, I couldn't give less of a shit which way you fall, as long as you do it from an informed place. Spouting opposing truths at the same time is ignorant, but it's what we do. I'm not going to stop educating the masses about the way things ACTUALLY work and making it easier for people. Of course, this needs to be read for it to have an impact. And I'd bet those same dollars that are tucked safely away in my bank account that the people that need this the most aren't reading it. They're busy complaining and getting nowhere instead of getting learned and better.

I'd talk more, but I've got a bunch of cash that I'm afraid will get stolen and I have to put it in the bank to keep it safe.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Protect yourself

I'd like to go on record and say that regardless of height, stature, skin color, or anything else... if I was walking down a dark street with a dark hoodie on my head and it wasn't cold or raining out, i'd look like i was up to something. So would anyone else. Wearing a hoodie at night like that casts a shadow and hides your features. You may be the most innocent person in the world, but perception is reality. So... it's not about race, it's about the image your project.

You can stand up for your individuality, but you must remember that not everyone shares the same ideals or thought patterns as you. Should they judge you for how you dress? No. Should they judge you for the color of your skin? No. WILL people, at times, judge you for all that and more? Absolutely. People are people. The magic of free will as a God given right and free speech as a Constitutionally protected right is that people will disagree with how you do things at times.

So you can stand on principle and wear whatever you want, wherever you want, and look however you want. Or you can give in a little bit (even if you shouldn't have to) to protect yourself and your life. Life is about freedom (in the United States), but it is also about compromise.

So choose, here and now - which is more important to you?
Standing up for your right to wear what you want
Protecting your life

It's a shame that you have to make that choice, but since we can't force everything to think the way we want and level the playing feeling in an Orwellian fashion or "A Brave New World" kind of way, we have but one choice to make that is not really a choice at all. We must compromise along the way. You've worked on days you wished you were off. You've taken class you wanted to avoid. You've mowed the lawn or taken out the trash against your preference because mom or dad told you do. We do things we don't like as part of fitting into the bigger picture.

I don't call it catering to racism or placating the assholes. I call it self-preservation. I say it is doing what's best for me. I say it is taking a small loss for a bigger gain. It's simply compromise.

Now... standing on principle in a situation that an unreasonable person may take unreasonable and get you killed is worth it to you, then do that. Just remember, you can't reason with unreasonable people so... sometimes, against what is truly right, we do what's right in the situation.

Prioritize.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dogs or a house?

Some couple moved to some town in Wisconsin with their 4 dogs. The city ordinance says they can only have 2. Now they are fighting the city. Instead of being asked to remove 2 dogs, the city should throw them the hell out. That's just my personal opinion. I sympathize with the emotions the couple is going through. I love my cats like my children. I get it. That's no excuse for their behavior.

First of all, the ordinance predates your time in this town. You don't get to come in and change things that don't suit you. Maybe I'll move there and fight the change a law or a rule so I can take a shit on your front lawn. I mean, the legal system, at any level, is not built around everyone's individual convenience. Secondly, buyer beware. Do your homework. I'm not suggesting they read every statute, because I know I sure as hell wouldn't, but at the same time, there was a rule that they didn't know about. They COULD have, but they didn't. Where was the realtor in all of this? This is not something that's been sitting on the books since 1863 like South Carolina's ordinance that says you can beat your wife on Sunday as long as it's done on the courthouse steps. This was put into place in 1989. It's relatively new. It's also bizarre. I feel like a rule like that in a small town in Wisconsin would be known about. It stands out in a crown of ordinances. Someone knew about.

So the town told them to choose. They were told that prosecuting people isn't the intent. It's a small town that's using this rule (amongst others, I assume), to keep order in the town. They aren't in any trouble. They just have to choose - house or dogs. So what did they do? They chose both. They said they chose their dogs, but they're still in the house and fighting the system. Bullshit. Then you didn't choose. The only thing you chose was to fight. Sit down, shut up, and alter yourself to meet pre-established rules. The next time I get a job and I'm told my work hours are 9-5, I'll say, "I prefer 11-7. So I choose the take the job and I'll fight to change the way it works around here." How quickly do you think the offer would be retracted?

More spoiled brat Americans that want what they want no matter what. Will the 2 dogs make a huge difference? Probably not. Is that the point? Not even a little bit. People should just abide by things. And if you change one rule for one person, what is to stop everyone from wanting to change everything? Fucking anarchy. I'm exaggerating.

Anyway, know what you're getting into and pay attention. Have some personal accountability and follow the damn rules. McDonald's will make you fat even if it's oatmeal. Cigarettes will kill you and not turn you into a badass cowboy/rancher. Coffee is supposed to be hot and it will burn you if you drink it in the car. Laws are in place that will seem inconvenient to you at times. They are there for some reason and you should follow them. OR run for political office and affect change.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

I SUPPORT THE LORAX

You may have heard by now that people are calling for the world to boycott the Lorax because of the marketing tie-ins. I not only will not boycott the Lorax, but I want to proclaim that I support the Lorax. I also support the companies that are using it in their marketing campaigns (granted I don't need an HP or a Mazda, but if I was in the market for either one I'd buy just BECAUSE of this).

The first thing was the Lorax in a treadmill, running to power an illuminated HP logo. This bothers people because it's not subtle. Who cares? For years we have seen common icons promoting a brand. Cross promotion is important because it it creates brand recognition and campaign recognition immediately. Do you think 6 year old are going to want an HP computer because of the Lorax? No, moron. They scream "Mommy! Daddy! The Lorax is on TV" at which point mommy and daddy look and get to hear about the new HP whatever that the commercial is selling. Who loses here? Honestly. Anyone?

The bigger issue is the Mazda reading event. Here's how that plays out:
- Big fluffy Lorax show up at a school (human in a Lorax costume)
- Mazda covered in movie related items is parked outside
- Mazda gives $1,000 to the school library
- Kids are told they can raise up to $1 million dollars and win a trip for 4 to Universal Studios if they get their parents to test drive it
- Mazda donates $25 for every parent that brings some school certificate to the test drive.

So... when you boil it all down we end up with the school receiving money, which is good. Kids pay attention to reading hour because their cartoon icon du jour is reading it, which is good. Mazda plays to the kids emotion to sell cars, which may be shady but they're the one donating the money so it's worth it. Mazda sells cars to parents, which is good for Mazda.

If the Mazda was a piece of shit then it wouldn't matter how much the kids bitch. The quality of the car stands on its own. Besides, no adult with half a brain will buy a car just because the kid saw a Truffula tree on the side of one - once. So who gets hurt here? Are we exploiting kids? I don't think so. How are the kids being used in an unfair way?

There's one last piece to this. The Mazda has gotten the Truffula tree seal of approval. The message here is that it's eco-friendly. However, people are up in arms about the false advertising. Really, knotheads? It's a fictional tree from a fictional story about a fictional tree. The Truffula tree doesn't fucking exist. So what are your panties in a twist about? Do you know the story of the Lorax. It's a metaphor in the first place that teaches a lesson about the environment and ecology. If you want to take a story with a moral and pair with a product that shares the same morals, what the hell is wrong with that? The Hummingfish support the Mazda. Well the Hummingfish, if you recall, moved away because of pollution but they support the Mazda. That means it's cleaner.

We all know cars are not clean. But let's face facts, this isn't Europe. The country isn't set up for mass transportation. If you feel that strongly about it, walk your fat ass to work. Cars are here to stay, hippies, no matter what you think. So if one company is concerned about the environment to the point that they are willing to stake their reputation on it against a popular movie making millions to teach a lesson about protecting the environment, then more power to them.

Bottom line, there has got to be better ways to spend your energy. And boycotting the Lorax? What does that do? Leverages the plight of the poor children in a way that prevents them from seeing a movie they have been waiting for. Takes the lesson of being eco-friendly out of their lives. So Mazda and the Lorax paired up to put a positive message out (and sell some products) and you call it exploitation of the children. Yet boycotting the movie at the expense of the children's wants to see it (the same children who have no clue about this marketing stuff anyway) is not exploitation? Which one really affects them in the end?

If you boycott this movie over this, let me know so I can boycott you because you are an idiot.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

More uninformed panic

You may have seen the image below proliferating throughout the social networking community. You may or may not have paid much attention to it. I'll pause briefly for you to take a look.

You may be thinking the exact same thing I was thinking and I don't blame you if you are. My thoughts were "Who the hell is Monsanto?" and "Since when did all these behemoth companies fall under one parent company?" Finally, you may be thinking, "Why do I give a shit about any of this anyway?"

Here are the answers in brief:
1 - Biochem firm that does lots of good things in shady ways and is generally hated.
2 - The graphic is a phony, rhetoric heavy piece of propaganda that isn't true
3 - Because you overreact and are willing to be a nameless and faceless warrior for the greater good at the cost of your own enjoyment and habits.

What does all that mean and where is it coming from? Monsanto has recently come under fire for their use of GMO, which is Genetically Modified Organisms. Basically, they use rDNA to mix up the genes of things that normally don't go together. Then they are transferred into something else to give it unique and novel characteristics (Anyone seen GloFish?). 

The list of companies appearing above are not owned by Monsanto. The graphic is patently untrue. It is inflammatory and being used to incite anger. There is a relationship between these companies and Monsanto, however. All of the companies on the list use Monsanto in one way or another. So... you're eating GMO. You have been for a long, long time. You may have noticed that Healthy Choice is on that list. While they are processed, packaged food they are healthier than others.

So how bad is GMO for you anyway? Nobody really knows. That's kind of the point. People don't want to eat it because they think it's horrible and unregulated and shady. But in reality, didn't the FDA require every food manufacturer to put health statistics on packaging? YES! So regardless of the contents, you know how many calories, cholesterol, protein, carbs, sugar, etc. are in a product. Who really cares about the rest?

I know what you're thinking. What about the long term effects of using recombinant DNA? I can ask you... what about the long term effects of not using it? Maybe it's healthy. What about the long term effects of bring near cell phones, using computers, and embracing anything new out there? Nobody has a crystal ball. There's no way to know. You can go back to the days before cars and technology and power and indoor plumbing and live a natural life, but that doesn't make sense. It's evolution. The long term effects of living on the planet Earth are death - for everyone. Enjoy it while you're here and don't worry about every chemical or method used to made food by people who are smarter than you and are paid to make these choice. Just keep slinging it through the drive-through window like your used to.

Let's take one more minute to talk about the economic impact. You can eat healthy and organic and stay away from all the processed shit if you want. You will pay for it. Bottom line. Don't expect to get everything for the same price. It's supply and demand. Don't get mad at companies for charging more. They are here to make a profit. If it costs THEM more, it'll cost YOU more. Plain and simple.

Personally, I like pretty much everything on that list and will continue to eat it. I suggest you do the same because if you give into the manufactured terror by the extremist nut balls, you'll spend more time altering your diet than anything else. Every week, something else is going to kill you. Not eating at all will kill you quicker than anything else. 

Just enjoy your life.