Showing posts with label money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label money. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bonds Suck So Bad

I just can't get over how bad bonds suck right now. Unless interest rates increase by 2 to 3%, bonds are all, every one of them, a bad deal, and high-yield most of all, with its pathetic 5% yield. Look, inflation is on the rise, okay? The Fed's quarter-point touch up doesn't do the trick. Prices are creeping higher, and the usual Christmas bargains just aren't to be found.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fleecing the Sheep

What amused me most on the occasions I tuned in to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck were the commercials. Gold was being pushed big-time, and at a time when gold was already oversold. Those cynical advertisers certainly knew where to find the goldbugs. Obama the Muslim Anti-Christ was going to bring on the Apocalypse, and only gold would retain any value, see. It's common sense, don't ya know.

Well, turns out gold has fallen from 1700/oz to 1200/oz this year. That is a double-digit decline, and the bottom of the market is not even in sight yet. I expect that the market will fall to as low as $800 an ounce. Looks to me like the right-wing sheep have been shorn, and those gold merchants are cackling all the way to the bank. I suppose they knew their audience and capitalized upon them. Ain't that just the beauty of Capitalism?

I may not the greatest forecaster of markets, but I know one thing. Buy cheap, sell dear.

And if an investment is being sold through paid advertisements, then it definitely is not a good investment. I wouldn't be interested in anything sold by commercial on Fox News, because it would be tainted already in my view. Something is wrong with the program, and something is wrong with the products being promoted during breaks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Way to Make Money

Of course, another way to make money is to save money. Maybe it is the computer programmer in me, always seeking greater efficiency, but I have become rather good at saving money over the years, although I made some mistakes along the way. My biggest mistake was buying a 46" Plasma television soon after it become available. I paid a whopping $1500, and the darn thing only has 800x600 resolution, which annoys me every time I watch Windows XP boot up. Today you can buy a 50" plasma with at least 1024x768 resolution for under $500. So clearly, enthusiasm has gotten the best of me where technology is concerned.

I made what I imagine to be wise purchases lately, replacing all of the motherboards and cpu's in my network for reasons that would have seemed strange to me a decade ago. My new motherboards and cpu's are not any faster. In fact, they are slower in most cases. Their chief virtue is low energy consumption. To put it in other words, they cost me less money. I know what I am talking about because I tested each of my computers with Kill-a-Watt, which has a .2w margin of error. Prior to the upgrade, my computers drained between 45 to 65 watts apiece, which may seem already low, but it is not low enough, so says Igor, when you are talking about a computer that stays on for eight, twelve, twenty-four hours a day. That wattage adds up over time and results in real monetary losses and for what? What purpose is being served by consuming excess electricity? Am I able to do more because the computer uses more power? No, not at all. The reality today is that more power does not mean a faster computer, not when one uses only the Internet browser and apps with similar modest requirements.

I have measured each of my computers after their latest upgrade. Their top power draw, including everything in the computer, is now just 24 to 28 watts apiece--much better, cutting electrical consumption by half or more. The next time I upgrade them, it will only be to cut their power consumption yet again. I would just like to add that motherboard and cpu are only part of the equation. The power supply is critical. Anyone using a ps that is not rated 80-plus or better is wasting money. I recommend Seasonic, although it annoys me that their stuff is manufactured in China, but everything is manufactured in China these days. How I would like to see "Made in America" stickers again!

The second benefit of my new computers is aesthetic. I like to exert control over sounds, colors and other sensory input (there is a fan in my room for a reason). My new computer is quieter. Not silent, but close. I think that is a good thing. The only noise producer in each of my computers is the little power supply fan. The cpu does not require a fan at all. A heat sink dissipates what little heat is generated by the cpu, and in combination with the power supply fan and generous case ventilation seems sufficient to maintain stability at around 50C.

I can tell you what I do with my old computer parts. No, I don't throw them in the garbage or donate them to Goodwill. I sell them on E-bay. In this way I recycle with maximum efficiency and offset the cost of my upgrade. My buyers tend to be happy, because most buyers just want the seller to be honest and reliable and are thrilled to find that this is the case. I never, ever lie in an auction, and I always allow returns. It is better to be painfully honest, and I will "tell it like it is" and get less money for something, than to ever, ever deceive. That is what the successful Ebay seller knows. In many cases I have gotten enough money to render my upgrade free or close to free. I don't know why, but the after-market for computer parts on Ebay is to the seller's advantage and has been for at least five years and I don't see this changing anytime soon. Therefore an easy way to make money for anyone that knows something about computer hardware is to upgrade downgrade their computers or at least their computers' electrical requirements. The savings will come every month in the form of a reduced utility bill, and the old parts can be sold on Ebay, because apparently not everyone has gotten the memo yet about energy efficiency.

Now wouldn't it be wonderful if we could sell old body parts on Ebay and replace them with new ones!Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Replace Money with Cards? Yeah, Right.

Those lazy buns that want to replace cash money with credit cards and stop the government from circulating any money are due some rue from the clue canoe. Credit cards store more than financial amounts. They store information, and their information can be stolen and misused, as happened recently. I think it is completely idiotic to propose doing away with money. Money is free to use and carries no information with it. Money is the perfect payment vehicle, and if we had not already invented it, it would be the perfect successor to that primitive, insecure, expensive and dangerous antique known as the credit card. Credit cards will never replace money, and if money is eliminated, then the world will be less free as a result and less secure.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Review of Sellyourgold.Com

 I checked out this site for selling gold, but like all gold-buying sites, it left me cold. For one thing, that web site does not specify how much they pay for gold. They prefer to remain mysterious. I and everyone else in the world want to know the minimum scrap price they are willing to pay for gold. None of these gold-buyers reveal that essential bit of information.

That site quotes prices that they have paid in the past (when gold was how much? $50 a gram? $20 a gram? who knows?) per pennyweight of gold, an archaic measurement. Pennyweight has no relevance in the modern world. We might as well go back to measuring distance in furlongs if we are going to use pennyweights. The metric gram is sufficient for all measurements of weight. There's nothing complicated about milligrams and it is understood universally.

Any fifth-grader worth his salt can calculate the commodity value of any marked piece of solid gold jewelry using nothing more than a metric scale with an accuracy of +/- one milligram and a magnifying glass to read the mark. Read the mark to determine karat weight. Divide karat weight by twenty-four to obtain the percentage of gold. Weigh the jewelery to obtain gram weight. The last variable, the current price per gram of gold, must be obtained online and will vary from day to day, even second by second, although I only care about the daily price and would accept anything within a dollar or two of it. Multiply the percentage of gold by the total gram weight by the current price per gram, and presto, the commodity value is obtained. Easy. Nothing to it. Javascript to help people estimate commodity value could be written in a single afternoon. I do not know why these gold buyers don't offer such a service, when they have clearly spent a small fortune on web design.

I have decided to hang on to my gold jewelery, because I don't trust any of the commercial gold buyers. I have yet to find one that pays a decent amount, in the 85 - 90% range for scrap value at the current commodity price.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cash Money, Now and Forever!

Some in the mainstream media are eager to celebrate the end of cash. They want to eliminate cash from the world and replace it with credit cards.

If cash isn't used, then the government is disenfranchised from the economy, which sounds good to conspiracy theorists, but consider for a moment the alternative methods proposed for paying for transactions. Using a card of any kind, whether it goes through Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, or any bank enriches a private corporation, which then accrues immense wealth and power. Some of these corporations are already wealthier and more powerful than some states in the United States and some countries in the world. These private tyrannies remain unaccountable to voters or to anyone other than a small group of large stockholders or private owners. They can and will do whatever the hell they can get away with.

The choice between cash and cards is an easy one. Cash for me, thank you very much, whenever I can. Most merchants I know are happy to receive cash, and some of them offer a discount to those customers that pay with cash, because otherwise the merchant has to pay the credit card company a transaction fee. I don't know what rock the writers searched under to find these strange business owners that don't like cash.

Calculating how much cash to pay, how much change to make, and storing the little coins and paper are all helpful and restorative exercises for the brain. Using the brain is a good thing. I like to perform simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Sometimes I like to do simple algebra as well. These tasks are fun, not boring or difficult. As for cash itself, it can be beautiful, when designed properly. My favorite coin is the Walking Liberty, and my favorite bill is the 1976 two-dollar bill with the interesting scene on the reverse.

Making everything as easy as splat is a bad idea. A transaction needs to be slow enough to permit people to stop and consider what they are doing when they make a purchase. Cash is a powerful defense against the impulsive purchases that cards encourage. I wish that paying for things took ten times as long as it does now, because few would then buy the useless plastic crap imported from China and sold at Wal-Mart.

If the lazy idiots and conniving capitalists win this war they are waging against cash, then I will mourn the humble little coins and bills that used to circulate, those elegant symbols of our Republic and its long history, so useful for the education of children and reminders of the great minds that shaped our world. The death of money would be a long nail in the coffin of our democracy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Gym and Other Wastes of Time

There is plenty of work to do in the world, and working out at a gym seems to me a silly or at best a selfish act, because no good work is getting accomplished by the shifting of dead weights or the turning of a treadmill. I have always preferred doing something physical that either serves a purpose or else makes money. Working out at a gym, or going for a walk with no other purpose in mind than walking, always struck me as a slightly foolish waste of time and energy. That said, I've spent plenty of time going for pointless walks and runs and lurking in gyms. But no more. I think it is better to find personal projects around the house, yard or community to work on and complete rather than buying a gym membership. In that manner, the imagination and the soul (and possibly the bank account) are exercised and enriched in addition to the body.

Rather than lift weights at a gym, a prospective bodybuilder would be well-advised to sell his services as a mover and be paid to lift, rather than paying for the privilege of lifting. Rather than walk in a park for no other reason than exercise, a man would be better off working a job that requires him to spend some time on his feet, thereby getting paid, in effect, to walk and move around.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ebay's Wonderful Technical Error

Ebay offered me a $10 rebate in exchange for selling $10 worth of goods in the fall of 2011. I did so. Since then, I haven't received the gift card, and I couldn't be happier. That's right, I'm pleased as punch. Why? Well, I called up the Ebay customer service number to complain (I do like complaining), and here's what the CSR told me. "There is a technical issue that is preventing Ebay from crediting your account and the account of other customers that received the $10 credit." When I asked when or if the problem would ever be resolved, he said he didn't know. Then he asked me if I was enjoying my free listings. In exchange for my patience and understanding, Ebay is letting me list up to 50 items for free every month. Now, that is an extremely useful capability to have. It puts power back into the hands of the seller. Instead of being held hostage to an auction, with guaranteed fees should the auction fail, I can list and relist multiple times until I get the price that I want--all at no additional charge. I love it, and I could care less about the lousy $10, because I've saved about $100 in fees. Best of all is the feeling of confidence I have. Ebay receives its usual substantial final value fees in return, so both Ebay and I come out ahead.

One thing is certain, though. Once my free listing days are over, so are my Ebay adventures. It's a buyer's market out there, and many auctions do fail or succumb to bid snipers who bid at the last second of the last minute with the minimum price.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday & Pepper Spray

Pepper spray, that accursed torture device of the modern era, made the news again, this time not in conjunction with police brutality, but with competitive shopping at Wal Mart.

Wal means pig, and Mart means sty. I don't care about Black Friday, and I don't care about their sales. I don't want any of their video games, and I don't want their shiny plastic gadgets. Would you wish to be caught dead in Wal-Mart? At any rate, I'd rather be pepper-sprayed by the police than by a goofball in Wal-Mart. In the former case, I would have an injustice committed against me that would make me stronger, and that is a story I would repeat a hundred, no make that a thousand times before I die. In the case of a Wal-Mart spraying, it is embarrassing in the first place to admit that one was in Wal-Mart with the other pigs trying to feed at the trough.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Only People on Craigslist are Criminals

No point trying to sell anything on Craigslist. The only people on Craigslist are criminals. If you have something legitimate to sell, then if you post it on Craigslist, count on either being ignored or robbed. There is no greater waste of time and no greater population of time-wasters than Craigslist.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seller Beware on Ebay

I used to sell valuable stuff ($2000+) on Ebay, back in the day, but Ebay has made a lot of changes over the years making the environment hostile for sellers. First, sellers can no longer leave negative feedback, but buyers can in every case, even if a seller cancels a transaction and attempts to refund the purchase. So, abusive buyers don't have any trail behind them.

It used to be that safer forms of payment could be used, such as a postal money order, but Ebay makes it difficult to use anything but Paypal. Paypal almost always rules against a seller in the event of any dispute. So, it seems quite a simple matter for a dishonest buyer to steal from a seller, especially a low-volume seller who does not have a legal department on staff. "I never received my item" is one possible lie, but a more cunning one is, "The item I received was not as described in the auction," which is impossible to disprove, and as noted above, Paypal always rules in favor of the buyer. So, as a seller, there is a chance that you will become a victim of theft that involves a significant amount of aggravation and humiliation added for good measure. Ebay suggests that you factor such losses into your business plan. It is like shoplifting, they say. Incidentally, if you are stolen from, you will also be charged Ebay and Paypal fees, increasing the amount of your loss.

I still sell on Ebay, but after a buyer blackmailed me over a $5 transaction, threatening to leave negative feedback unless I sent him free stuff, I opted to remove all auctions that are for items greater in value than $100. Buyers are acting in an unsavory manner, abusing the system to their advantage. Ebay doesn't care, because they still make money, no matter what happens to the seller.

The total amount of fees that Ebay charges is another matter. For me, they have been in the 16% to 18% range. Ebay also undercharges buyers on shipping costs on a pretty regular basis.

Overall, I think the usefulness of Ebay is not what it once was, and I would welcome a strong competitor. As far as I am concerned, Ebay is a good place to sell junk that would otherwise go into the garbage. I don't intend to sell anything valuable on Ebay ever again.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ebay Sucks

Ebay is a buyer's market. The only buyers out there are dealers who expect to buy at wholesale price. Typically, no bidding takes place anymore. Instead, people watch until the auction is just bout to end, then bid the lowest.

What I dislike about Ebay the most is that they rip the seller off on shipping. When I say, charge the buyer for shipping a package, I mean, charge the buyer for shipping a package. The buyer should cover the whole cost--no, not handling, just the postage and delivery confirmation.

I decided to bail out of an auction this morning because Ebay decided to charge the buyer only 60% of the shipping cost, with me making up the difference*. I refunded the buyer's money immediately. But now I am liable to get hit with what's called a "Final Value Fee" from Ebay, that is, Ebay takes its customary 20% cut, whether or not I cancel the transaction. It's all up to the buyer. I don't know, I might even get a "negative feedback" if the buyer is angry, which would immediately terminate my interest in selling on Ebay. I would probably end all my ongoing auctions and just forget about Ebay or start over with a new account later. Negative feedback is bad for business, especially for a really small volume seller like me. A big volume seller could care less.

The odds on Ebay are really stacked against the seller. I've been ending auctions left and right because I notice that I'm not really making that much money after Ebay takes its lion-size cut. I'm doing a lot of work, but getting next to nothing in return. I had my fill of that maintaining a web site for a bunch of cranky seniors. The final prices of most auctions are really good for the buyer, but not that good for me. And auctions that aren't a real bargain tend to fail. That is because Ebay sucks. The only buyers on Ebay today are sharp-nosed dealers that expect you to take a haircut and like it.

* - I had set the auction up to perfection with the exact weight of the item, but Ebay decided to bill the buyer only $11.28 for shipping when it really cost 17.88. I guess Ebay figured the Post Office would give me a break since I write nice things about it in my blog. I don't know why Ebay wants to rip me off on shipping. But I don't play that game. If I don't get my Final Value Credit, then all my auctions are going down. It's ridiculous I should have to go through the whole rigamarole due to an error on Ebay's part.
by igor 04:20 8 replies by igor 09:32 6 comments

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Foreboding about the Economy

As far as technology is concerned, employers seem choosy. They don't seem willing to train or permit the employee to self-train. They are not willing to consider long-distance applicants. They are not willing to accept less than unusual combinations of experience, and in some cases expect instant results beginning on the second day. Are these expectations realistic? They might be, considering how many immigrants have been injected into the job market.

Although many job openings seem to offer high salaries ($70k+), they often require a rare combination of skills that would fit only very few Americans. It makes me think such job openings were written with a specific person from India or China in mind. Applying for such an opening is just a waste of time. There are a great many time-wasting diversions awaiting anyone who looks into the job market.

It seems strange to me that people with advanced degrees, many years of experience and a high degree of skill can remain unemployed or underemployed in menial or otherwise low-level or part-time jobs.

I prefer to be optimistic, like anyone else, and try to look on the bright side of things, but I have a foreboding about the economy. I don't think I'm the only one. I hope that matters improve, but I don't see any reason to think that they will.

One thing I am glad about is that I saved my pennies during the boom years. More than anything else, that's probably the wisest move I made. I did quite well for myself, all things considered, and saved for a rainy day. Those who did equally well during the boom years, but succumbed to the siren song of high living, new cars, expensive houses and credit cards are now suffering the most. They are experiencing a dramatic and therefore painful reversal of fortune.

I have always lived far below my means, resulting in little change, regardless of income. Who needs to spend money, when there are books to be read and things to blog about? I've always been a skeptic about everything from religion to materialism. I'm highly resistant to advertising and marketing. If something is advertised, I become suspicious. Who needs to advertise something worth having? Word of mouth alone is sufficient to market a quality product. That's the way I evaluate things.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Say No to Private Debt

Some grads are saddled with $100K debt just for a lousy four-year degree. It's crazy. I'm glad I never got on the debt treadmill. It never ends, even in death, which is difficult to fathom. Does the loan company harvest organs?

Four year degrees lead to nothing. I wish it weren't so, because I really enjoyed college. Every class I took was a pleasure. Nothing compares to the thrill of learning.

The trouble is, everybody has a degree these days. Instead of resulting in gainful employment, a degree has become just another hurdle the wannabe worker must jump, like graduating high school. From what I read in the history books, it used to be that people began their careers at the age of eighteen. It used to be employers were dazzled by a worker that could read. If that worker could also write, Zappo! Instant promotion to management! Those were the days, alas. Now we have people with Master's degrees managing a McDonald's.

The value of a degree would increase to its vaunted 19th century status if the number of degree holders decreased or if the owners stopped exporting jobs to cheap labor countries, but neither scenario is likely to happen.

I recommend that no student take on private debt for any reason. If your plans require it, then change your plans. Now, government debt is different. Big brother is cool. He won't rape you. He will give you tax breaks and reasonable interest rates and just generally be a nice guy. Private lenders are evil. They will do and say shifty things in order to enhance shareholder value. Your death is of no consequence. They will harvest your organs to pay off your debt. So yeah, I'm a socialist or whatever, but that's my advice to college kids.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gold as a Long-Term Investment

I would be skeptical of placing too much confidence in precious metals as a long-term (say, twenty-year) hedge against inflation or economic or political turmoil, due to the possibility of creating or extracting synthetic precious metals. The old dream of the medieval alchemists has been achieved. At the moment, synthetic gold is not economically viable, but who knows what the future may bring.

Precious stones are already being synthesized in an economic fashion. I purchased a four-carat synthetic blue sapphire for my mother ten years ago.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vast Riches

Ever wondered what Internet advertising pays? Here's an insider's view:

$4.72 is the total payout for hosting ads on this site for over a year. I removed the ads, because it is not worth $5 to annoy myself and my users with advertisements. I did not bother requesting a payout of the paltry sum.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

When money's being made, everyone wants to call, visit and stay, as though some of the money might rub off on them, but making money necessarily takes up the bulk of one's day, which limits the amount of time and energy one can devote to socializing. When money's not being made, there is all the time in the world for callers and visitors, yet the calls and the visitors decline, as though poverty and failure might be contagious.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, March 20, 2009

Investment Advice and a Retrospective

If I had remained entirely true to my principles, I would be a wealthier man today. Instead, I listened to all these financial advisers that told every worker in America to put their 401-K savings in aggressive growth funds full of risky stocks.

To be fair to myself, I held out for years, keeping my money in bonds, until just before the stock market crash. Now my 401-K is worth half what it once was, and I suspect that any recovery will be a long time in the making. I almost added a scary aside, if a recovery ever happens, but thought better of it. It seemed like bad luck to me. The financial news does not look good, though. American manufacturing is in the toilet, and China is coming on full steam, while our political leaders are just waking up to the fact that Iraq is not the 51st state of the Union. The Democrats, at least, understand that it makes more sense to invest money in those states that are part of the United States rather than the Middle East.

In the early aughts, there was an excellent investment overlooked by most during the stock market's heyday, the Inflation-protected Treasury bond, or I-bond. I loaded up on these babies because they give you a little interest over and above the inflation rate. Not a super return, but safer than any other investment, and guaranteed to beat inflation. We can quibble over whether the government's declared rate of inflation is the real rate or not. Personally, I find the declared rate rather conservative, not reflecting adequately the cost of groceries, gas, and other items. Things like the cost of computer hardware is what the government takes into account, and if a processor is twice as fast as last year's model, but costs the same price, the bean-counters reckon the actual price has dropped in half. And they're wrong, and that's complete nonsense.

I-bonds that I purchased in 2002 are earning 6.48% interest today. Compared to the stock market's performance, that does not seem too shabby. I just wish I had thought to place more of my short-term investments into I-bonds.

So, my astute reader asks, are I-bonds a good investment today?

Nope, sorry to say, but to make money investing, you have to be a bit of a contrarian and go against what's popular. When everybody gets into an asset, prices grow dear and the potential return collapses. Some recent I-bond issues have had an interest rate that merely matched, but did not exceed, the rate of inflation. That's not very attractive. I bought mine when the I-bonds were beating inflation by two percent or more.

Today, I would go against common sense and keep my long-term investments in stocks. The reason is that stock prices are beaten down, many scams exposed, and investor vigilance has risen. Also, I believe inflation is likely to present a threat to the value of bonds. I have felt for some time that the U.S. is due for a major surge in inflation. Finally, if you sell now, you are locking in a sizable loss. Unless you can use the tax write-off, why take a loss?

What the fat cats were getting away with under the Bush Administration is not quite as likely to occur under Obama. He's not going to stop every abuse, but he represents the potential for additional government oversight and regulation, which has been needed for ages. I'm willing to bet that Obama is right about the economy and that he will succeed. My intuition tells me that financials and technology might represent attractive investments today. This advice is based upon no research at all and no experience. Just plain horse sense or donkey sense if you prefer, as I am a Democrat. Heyaw!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Warning Signs from Your Service Provider

When your service provider acts in a nervous fashion, sending you dozens of mailings pleading with you to buy more or tell your friends to buy more, then you know something is amiss with their finances. The last refuge of a CEO is to make a ton of mass-mailings, cross his fingers and pray that the suckers bite.

I subscribed at one time to Vonage, an excellent VOIP (Voice Over Internet Provider), through which unlimited long distance calls are made in exchange for a low monthly fee. Back in 2007, they began flooding me with offers through the mail. Ugly shiny decals to put on my car, and ugly cards to hand out to all of my friends. If I recruited a new customer, I would receive something like two months free. Well, I tried, I really did, but most people just don't make that many long distance calls to begin with, and those who do feel like they can just use their cell phone.

Upon receiving my fifth mailing containing marketing spam from Vonage, I became suspicious. It's that horse sense of mine. Something was just not right. I did a search on Google news and there was my answer. Vonage was in big trouble! In fact, many financial analysts predicted that it would fold in the first half of 2008! That did not turn out to be the case, as far as I know. At any rate, I called up Vonage to cancel my service, because it turns out I didn't make many long distance calls myself. The Customer Service Representative was such a nice lady with a pleasant sounding voice that I changed my mind. She had quite a way with words. I remember her saying, "If you keep the service, we will cut your bill in half!" Swayed by her feminine charms, I stayed with Vonage another six months.

The moral of this story is, negotiation sometimes works even with corporations, particularly when they are bleeding customers. They will do anything to stop the bleeding, including chopping your bill with a cleaver. Vonage may still be a good service today. I did not follow what happened to them after I quit subscribing. I think they are still around, because I got an email from them a month ago. Maybe they found a sugar daddy to help them through the difficult times. Most of their troubles stemmed from a lawsuit inflicted upon them by a larger corporation that seemed intent upon destroying them altogether. Vonage was actually a cute and feisty little dog of a company, and I wish them all the best.

Years ago, I used Charter Communications, a cable provider, as my Internet Service Provider. I wasn't terribly happy with them. The #1 problem was reliability. The Internet would go down and stay down for anywhere from ten minutes to TEN DAYS. No explanation would be given, and no refund credited to my account. Is that fair? Of course not. Sometimes, I called their technical department on the phone, but no one knew anything. Other times, I got in my car and drove to the local office for Charter and asked, "Why is my Internet down?" Their local office tells more about Charter than anything else. The employees are all behind bullet-proof windows. They pointed to a red telephone located in the lobby and told me the telephone would answer all of my questions. I picked it up, and a voice on the other end said, "Sorry Sir, we are working on the problem right now." This is about the time I decided to cancel Charter.

Charter then began sending me offers, at the rate of one per week, to come back to their ever-loving arms and embrace mediocrity once again. They were willing, not to reduce my bill, but to increase the services and give me a sweet package deal. They offered internet, VOIP, and basic cable television for $69. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? If I hadn't experienced numerous occasions without any Internet, I would think so, too.

Charter liked to brag about how fast cable was compared to DSL. This misses the point entirely. As with electricity, the main issue with any ISP is reliability. The Internet must be up 99.99% of the time. As for speed, DSL technology has progressed until the speed gap is not what it once was. As for the package deals offered by a cable provider, who cares about television? Passive entertainment is the way of the past. Interactive entertainment--the Internet--is the way of the future. I would rather save $1 than pay anything additional for television. At any rate, the cable provider makes money off the content providers. Why do they need to also hit the customer up for fees? They're lucky anyone subscribes to them anymore. Most of the channels on cable TV are loaded with irritating commercials, and the content itself is abysmal just as it always has been. Cable providers brag about having a hundred channels, but how many of those channels are worth anything?

What ever happened to Charter? Bankruptcy! Am I surprised? Not in the slightest. Their Internet service was lousy, and for me, that is enough reason.

When you start receiving desperate offers in the mail, that's a strong signal that something is amiss. Do a search on Google and find out whether the company is suffering financial difficulties. You should not sign up for services with a company that is about to get flushed down the toilet. It's actually quite irresponsible and selfish for such a company to entice unsuspecting people to sign up with them. They're trying to recruit suckers to take down with the sinking ship.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions