August, 2009

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T-Mobile puts the greed in green

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Starting in September, T-Mobile will add a $1.50 per month charge to get paper bills, and be able to mail in payments. Of course this is all being played as “green” when we we all know it is simple greed.  Sure, it costs to print and mail invoices and to process payments that are mailed in.  That is called “cost of doing business.” Since phone companies are already well known for passing along any and every charge and fee imaginable as well as some that are hard to imagine, I guess this should not really come as a surprise. What goes along with this paperless billing is also the requirement to either pay online via credit/debit card or via electronic funds transfer from a bank or credit union account. If you insist on paying with cash, check or money order, you will have to take it to a T-Mobile store as they will not accept payments mailed in.

The galling part of this is that the only way I found out about it was by routinely checking my minutes of usage on their web site. Wonder how long I would have gone otherwise? I already know that I have to carefully dissect every piece of paper included with credit card bills to make sure one of them is not a carefully veiled notice that my interest rate is doubling next month and that I agree to accept it if I use my card even one more time. Can’t wait to see the next T-Mobile bill and see how this new green fee is communicated, if at all.

The terms that you must agree to are fun too (see below and link).  So it is now my responsibility to set a date on my calendar to check for billing, since they can’t be bothered with sending a no-charge SMS to make sure I got it. #12 is a hoot too. Sure good to know that T-Mobile’s system is right on the bleeding edge of Internet browsers. I guess I should not plan to use it with Safari or Chrome or Firefox or  even a very old version of IE6. Wonder why the iPhone went to AT&T? Guess accessing your account and paying from any mobile browser would be completely out of the question.

(Terms) By agreeing to receive my Bill electronically I agree to the following:

Paperless Billing. I may view my paperless T-Mobile Bill for wireless services (Bill) online by accessing my account at www.t-mobile.com/mytmobile. I may also determine how much I owe by dialing #BAL# on my T-Mobile phone or by calling Customer Care.
1. Payment. I will pay my Bill (including any late fees) timely, whether or not I receive a Bill notice or am able to access my paperless Bill.
2. Not receiving a Bill notice. T-Mobile will attempt to send me a Bill notice to my current e-mail address in T-Mobile’s records. It is my sole responsibility to contact T-Mobile directly if I do not receive my Bill notice. I agree to hold T-Mobile harmless for any delay or failure to deliver notice.

—snip—

12. System compatibility and blocking. The ability to receive Bill notices is system and Internet Service Provider dependent. To accurately view your paperless Bill, your system must be running either Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, Netscape Navigator 6.1 or higher, or AOL 5.0 or higher. Some ISPs may block e-mail from senders who are not on a “contacts” list, so I may not receive my notification unless I specifically add T-Mobile to my contacts or “people I know.”  — (bold emphasis added by aRdent)

T_MobilePaperFee

Even with this, T-Mobile is still cheaper for the voice service that we use, so switching to AT&T is not an option. I would not even consider changing to one of the CDMA carriers (Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular), regardless of rate difference. The CDMA system and their devices are just too limited and delicate. There are many good reasons why the rest of the world uses GSM for cellular.

We can’t debate healthcare reform until we know exactly what we are debating

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

The pundits and progressives are all aflutter about some recent townhall meetings with Congress members that have gotten loud and rowdy.  This should not be a real surprise as healthcare is a very personal issue—especially so if you have a chronic condition or are retired on a fixed income. Sure, some of the participants may have been seeded by those with a particular position, but many are just angry at what certainly looks like a huge change with no public debate.

First, it would help a lot if all of us could actually see and read what we are debating. I’d be very surprised if all the members of Congress have even read it all, much less understand it.  With all the communications outlets currently available to the Congress and the Administration, there is no reason why the people should not be completely informed on the proposed package so we are not running scared with rumors of death boards. Yes, I know we can read the whole thing online, but can most of us make any sense of it?

This is a very serious subject which directly affects people’s lives. Broad outlines from the Administration and a few members of Congress from each side of the aisle does not constitute a debate.  Likewise, one speaker making statements and answering questions in a room full of constituents is not a debate either.

In the absence of clear, concise information about exactly what is changing and what is will cost us all, it is not surprising that many will react with fear. Add to this the number of people, both broadcasters and politicos that know that nothing motivates people to action better than fear and you have a formula for emotional reactions and outrage. The liberals are outraged that the masses would dare question the wisdom or motives of the progressive elite who always know what’s best for us and the conservatives are outraged that there is not a lot they can do to stop this train regardless of where it is currently headed.

Many of us have personal experience with finding out after the fact that a nameless, faceless entity has determined that something  is “not a covered expense” or  “not medically necessary, ” but we have to pay for it anyway. Therefore it is not surprising that people are reluctant to trust what sounds like another group of insurance salesmen telling us not to worry.

It’s real simple. If you don’t want us screaming about the latest rumor we’ve heard, replace those rumors with detailed, accurate information, not broad gentle reassurances. Tell us what exactly this bill is trying to accomplish and how a given section or subtitle accomplishes that.

Congress and the Administration need to spend the next month or two putting out detailed accurate information and give people a chance to digest it. Then, go back and make the changes that this discussion has shown are needed and put it to a vote of both houses. Let’s get this decided on its merits, not on who is best at stampeding their followers.

Goodbye Tulsa World

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

We finally decided that the time has come to stop paying $17 a month to have the dead-tree version of the local rag deposited on the driveway. The World has long ago ceased being a newspaper.  I will not miss the front page evergreen stories, the full-page snake oil ads, the bizarre editorial positions or the constant drum-beating to spend any amount of tax money to construct some sort of downtown that only exists in the editorial board and publisher’s  fantasies.

What really pushed us over the edge was noticing how many times they kept jumping stories to the website.  There is plenty of room in the paper for a page dedicated to a brand of Bourbon from years past,  and clearly no shortage of space to plug the current touring musicals, but they cannot seem to make space for actual news any more. Today’s top local story is that people apparently get hot and drink lots of water when it is 100 degrees outside. Wow, shouldn’t that be tagged “Breaking News?”

One would hope that the local paper would be the place to find out about local events. Apparently only those events sponsored by the World or favored by Wayne Greene  merit a mention. Don’t even get me started on Mike Jones’ constant stream of liberal hate-speech for any knuckle-dragger that does not share his clearly superior positions. The World’s editorials frequently remind me that no group has a monopoly on intolerance and that nothing is apparently as vitally important as puppies.

Newspapers across the country are fighting a losing battle to stay relevant and stay in business. The problem is that for too many of them the business plan seems to be to do less and charge more, then wail about the Internet while giving away the precious little original content they still generate on the Internet. Thankfully there are still a few newspapers that understand that their strength lies in digging out and presenting stories, both news and investigative, not just adding their “coverage” to a story we have already heard.

I never really liked the Tulsa World, but as a former print photojournalist I still wanted my daily “fix.”  The Tribune always had much better layout, better use of visuals and frankly better writers and editors, but afternoon papers were the first to go in this Darwinian process. I can read many of the best papers online; some for free and some for a very reasonable access fee.

I’m more than willing to pay for quality content. I do not give my work away for free and do not expect anyone else to.  However, I ‘m no longer going to pay $17 a month for shipping and handling of a daily shopper.  The paper kept telling us to go to their website—so we will.