Google Clueless Again

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Fake Warning:  The following contains content not suitable for most people.  It contains content that would make “50 Shades of Grey” look like a Mother Goose fairy tale.


I will discuss the above fake warning shortly, but first.


A couple of days ago, I received the following email from Google.  Here it is in its entirety:


Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this
policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified
as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted,
but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the
blog will be able to see the content we’ve made private.

Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy
change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this
policy. Also, we ask that you make any necessary changes to your existing
blog to comply as soon as possible, so that you won’t experience any
interruptions in service. You may also choose to create an archive of your
content via Google Takeout.


Let me say that I have a couple of problems with the above message.  First and foremost is that I have not used Blogger in nearly 6 months for any of my blogs and 2 of the blogs have not been used for over 4 years.


Secondly, and most important is that I have NEVER EVER had any explicit images on ANY of my Blogger pages.  Nor would I ever have any either.


So why the notice was sent is a mystery?

I have 2 theories for this.


The first is that this was a mass warning to all Blogger authors so that they know what their new policy will be.  However, given that they flagged my account makes me think that this is not true.


My second thought is that Google used some sort of reader to check their accounts for possible content that may be deemed as offensive.  However, since a reader can’t “read” pictures, it can only read words and thinks that some pictures might be included with what is written.


I will admit that my “Staples” blog has contained references to adult content, but contained no images.  So apparently, the reader that Google uses can only anticipate what might be there in the blog, not what really is contained within it.


In other words, Google is parsing the blogs incorrectly.


Yes, I said PARSING.


In computer lingo, this means evaluating words while trying to interpret their intended meaning.  Word processors do this all the time as you type trying to anticipate what you mean and try to make sense of what could be improper grammar.


This is all well and good if it works the way it should.  However, there are times when parsing doesn’t work quite as planned.  A good example is of course the notice that I received.


But there is another which I have been battling for the last six years.


It is what I call the job application.


Back in the old days, if you wanted to apply for a job, you went to the location of the business and pick up an application.  You would then drop off the application and somebody would actually read it.  If they liked what they read, you would be called for an interview.


This is not the case today, however.


Today, a job application is filled out online usually at some corporate website.  From there, you enter all your personal information and in some cases, you take some sort of personality test or other type of test.


After you finish the application, the applicant is usually given an email response from the company they applied to, sometimes almost immediately.  The result is usually that you don’t meet their qualifications or some other lame excuse.  I really wonder how a computer can make a decision that really should be made by a human.


Welcome to another case of how a parser can create unnecessary havoc in a person’s life.  I always believe that a potential employer never gets to know a candidate unless they get a physical interview with them.


Over the past six years of applying for a job, I have been turned down every time and have never been selected for an interview despite having over 25 years of job experience.  Ironically, the only company that I heard from for a potential interview is the soon-to-be-late RadioShack.


Apparently, they must have parsed my application again and changed their mind.  Maybe that was the only time I felt lucky that I didn’t get a job due  to some non-human reading my job application.


Maybe parsing isn’t so bad after all…if only Google would know better.


But then again, if they did I would not have anything to write about.


Before I close this post, let me explain that fake warning at the beginning of this blog.  This is really a test to see if WordPress decides to implement a similar policy regarding adult content even though no pictures exist.  If I get any notice from them, then I will know that WordPress has a bad parser as well that doesn’t know words from pictures and doesn’t know the way things are put in context and can easily be taken the wrong way if not read by a human.


Here to hoping that WordPress can interpret their blogs properly and not the way that Google does with its Blogger service.  I am so glad I no longer use that service and if any of you readers out there still do, I recommend switching to something else.









Odds and Ends

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This week’s post will be fairly short but I want to talk about a few different topics this time around.


First up, fake news makers have been making real news in the last 24 hours.


Brian Williams of NBC News has received a 6 month suspension without pay for embellishing stories of events that he was involved in.  Certainly he was catering to the late night entertainment audience by his fluffing up his stories.  Anybody who has ever watched any of those late night shows knows that everybody does this.  Of course, a person like David Letterman is a sucker for this sort of banter.


I don’t believe that Mr. Williams should have been suspended.  The reason is that over time we all forget details of what happens in our lives.  So it is only logical that he made up parts to make his story sound better than it really is.  Those who believe that Mr. Williams integrity has been ruined by this is delusional.


For those of you too young to remember, David Letterman used to have a morning talk show and one part of the show was NBC newsman Edwin Newman.  Since this show was done in front of a live audience, Mr. Newman would regularly laugh it up with Dave.  Certainly his professionalism was never called into question, but then again I bet it has something to do with the new management at NBC’s Comcast head, who probably just was not a fan of Mr. Williams to begin with.


The other startling fake news person is the announcement of Jon Stewart leaving his late night show on Comedy Central.  While I have never watched his show any more than I watched Brian Williams on his nightly news show,  it seems like an odd coincidence that these two events would happen on the same day.


Rumors have been quickly spreading that Stewart is in talks to become the new host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”.


Does anybody else see the irony here?  We have a fake newsperson wanting to take over a real news program and a real newscaster thrown off a real news show for having fake stories.  Honestly, I think there is something very wrong at NBC, which probably explains why I don’t watch any shows on that network anymore.  It seems that they are just a lost cause.


Secondly, those of you who are regular readers of this blog knows that last year I wrote about somebody or some bodies was using my Gmail account and setting up things like twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and some dating websites.


Now it has gotten much worse.  One self-storage company in California claims that my email address is valid with them despite that I live in Maine and have never done business with them.  This has gone one for over a year now and I now am considering reporting them to the Better Business Bureau for fraudulent activity against me.


In the past week, I have also received bills emailed to me of past due statements from a U-Haul rental in Arkansas and a student loan bill in excess of $20,000, which is not mine either.  The latter has been resolved but I am still waiting on the U-Haul bill that isn’t mine to be resolved.


Overall, Google offers no help to prevent this type of fraudulent activity and it is up to each individual company to do the right thing by eliminating my email address from these activities.  However, some companies just seem to refuse to do so.  I consider this a continued warning to those who have a Gmail account that there is very little protection when compared to other email services.


Finally, I want to talk snow.  Here in Maine, we have way too much.  This more than I can ever remember.  However, back when I was little, I remember these type of severe snowstorms that had huge amounts of snow, but for many years, the snow has been nothing anywhere near what this year has been.  Anybody who thinks global warning exists, I invite them to come to New England and take some snow home with them.  We certainly won’t miss it.


So that is it for this week’s post as I and everyone else awaits the next snowstorm.











Predictions of 2014 and 2015

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Well, it is that time of year again where I dig out my crystal ball and look back at the 2014 predictions and make new ones for 2015.  I reported that at least 3 would come true – let’s see how close I came.


Here are the predictions and the results in parenthesis:


  • Justin Bieber will go to jail.  (It happened at least once maybe more.)
  • Kim Kardashian will admit that “Baby North” really never existed and that her pregnancy was fake.  (No, it did not happen.)
  • Kim Kardashian will marry and divorce Kanye West all within the year.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • RadioShack will be out of business.  (No, it hasn’t happened yet.)
  • JCPenney will be out of business.  (No, it hasn’t happened yet.)
  • Kmart will be out of business.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • Amanda Bynes returns to TV in a new comedy show, but will also do an interview with Oprah describing the last few years.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • Time Warner Cable will be sold and broken up into pieces leaving smaller markets such as where I live without any providers at all.  This means that many small independent cable operators will start up after many years.  (No, in fact a possible merger with Comcast might happen instead.)
  • Lady Gaga will do a Playboy layout proving that he/she is dual gendered leaving many fans disgusted. (Thankfully, this didn’t happen.)
  • Nickelodeon will scrap “Sam & Cat” and Dan Schneider will leave the network and produce shows for rival Disney.  (The first half is true, the second is not.)
  • Hilary Duff will divorce and sister Haylie will marry.  (Not quite on both.)
  • ABCFamily cancels that horrible “The Vineyard” and “Twisted”.  (Fortunately, yes to both.)
  • Fox News fires Karl Rove after making offensive statements that the network hates.  (No, it didn’t happen.)


So last year I once again scored 2 ½ right out of a possible 13.  I barely missed my goal of 3 correct, but I was close.  Now let’s gaze into the crystal ball for 2015 predictions:

  • The merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast will be placed on hold as both companies would have to discharge some of their market holdings.
  • The possibility of a Staples/Office Max (Depot) merger is canned as neither side can agree on any merger details.
  • Given no merger, Office Max (Depot) shuts down at least half of their remaining locations.
  • As well, Staples shuts down an additional 300 stores as the hack attack of 2014 grows larger.
  • On the brink of bankruptcy, RadioShack is saved by a last minute investor who wants to merge it with another big box retailer.
  • Walmart suffers a major hack attack, which causes millions of credit and debit cards to be compromised.
  • The E! Network finally cancels everything Kardashian as the network struggles to survive.
  • Adam West, TV’s 1960’s Batman, will be the voice of an aged Bruce Wayne on an episode of the Fox series “Gotham”.
  • California will suffer a substantial earthquake in the area north of Los Angeles.
  • Keystone pipeline will be defeated in Congress.
  • MTV will cancel “Eye Candy”.
  • My ex Tanya will get a divorce and return back to Maine wanting to search me out and try and patch things up. Of course, I accept (what choice do I have?).
  • I will either get a new job or a new girlfriend in 2015, but not both.

Out of my 13 predictions for this year, I predict only 2 of them will actually happen.  Maybe it is time for a new crystal ball.

Next time, I expect that my 2 blogs will each have their own unique content again.  At least that is my plan for now, but I can’t make any promises because I can’t predict what happens in the world especially given my seemingly defective crystal ball.

New Year, Old Problems?

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Well, here we are at 2015.


Did you notice any REAL differences from the year that past?


If you answered no, then you came to the right place.


If you answered yes, then you really came to the right place.


First off, let me say that this post is being placed into both of my blogs as I am only writing one year-end summary this year instead of two.


For those of you who read the annual report that I posted last week while I was off, let me say that I am more than disappointed by the results.


On the “Staples” and “Rants” blog, it seemed that more people were interested in my relationship with Tanya going south rather than most everything else.  It was sad that she decided to block me from all social media after her marriage.  Apparently, she never really cared about me whatsoever.  I am not the least bit surprised by that at all.


Both blogs also saw a lackluster number of comments to each.  Even though I limited the period for comments to 30 days after a post has been made, it still seems that I should have received more comments than I did.  Maybe it was because some people decided not to post rude comments as they knew they would be deleted anyway.


For all the bad things that my report stated, I am proud that the blogs continue to gain followers.  Granted the numbers are not huge yet, but I really would like to see the number close to 100 followers by this time next year.


Now onto the breakdown of each blog:


First we have the “Staples” blog.


The biggest topic of the year without a doubt was hacking.  I predicted the Staples hack about a year ago and by year’s end, Staples finally admitted that it was indeed hacked into.  However, their claim is that only about 115 stores were affected and a little over a million customers were affected.  I believe that Staples will eventually come clean with the real numbers as I believe that this was indeed a full company wide hack job.


I expect that hacking will continue to be a major topic in 2015 as companies will continue to do stupid things that will allow hackers to do their dirty duty.  With hacks such as the celebrity hacks and the Sony hack is only the beginning of something much bigger that will happen.  I really hate the idea of having to report this stuff as it just gets to be monotonous and just gets to be downright boring.


Besides the ongoing hacking scandals, I plan on discussing other topics as well.  My upcoming calendar includes (subject to change):

  • The continued decline of RadioShack.
  • The Night That Changed Everything.
  • org – Good Idea or Agenda driven.
  • Charity begins at home.


Along with these topics, I plan to continue my own story of my decline with the Staples Company.  After all, that was what this blog was originally set up as.  I don’t think I have actually strayed from my original goal, I just have taken many detours along the way and made several stops through this journey.  I am a long way from the end as if to say that there will actually be an end.


Now onto the “Rants” blog:


The major part of the blog this last year was dedicated to the continued decline of the Time Warner Cable service and how their so-called upgrades have caused more harm than good.


Certainly the political scene is scarred nationally and here in Maine by the onslaught of the republicans winning both the governorship again and taking control of the US Senate and the US House.


Probably the most popular topic of the year was my discussion of why I didn’t attend my high school reunion.  My belief is that some people can relate to what I am talking about and therefore I am continuing my story with a few more parts this year.


Television also was a topic of interest as well.  Some shows were complete failures while others have shined brightly.  Amongst my favorites are “Gotham”, the pre-Batman series and as I have mentioned before my absolute favorite show “Girl Meets World”.  This show blew me away with the Christmas episode reunion.  This is the way to do a reunion show and if you liked the older “Boy Meets World” series, the Christmas episode is a definite must-see.


I am less excited for the series “The Flash” as this show seems like it hasn’t completely broken away from the shadow of its birthmother of “Arrow”.  The crossover episodes were fun but the Flash may become a flash in the pan if the show doesn’t get more interesting.  They certainly have the villains from the comic books, but this show reminds me of the campy 1960’s Batman series.


Speaking of that series, it finally got its video release in 2014 in somewhat of grand style.  While this nearly $200 Blu-ray box set contains all 120 episodes and other special treats, it still is missing some episode content.  I still recommend this limited edition set despite its flaws.  A cheaper DVD box set also exists without all the extra products, but I still would ante for the better set while it is available.


So what is in store for 2015?  Here is a brief rundown of my possible topics:


  • The continuing story of why I didn’t attend my high school reunion.
  • TV Hits and Misses of the Season.
  • The biggest obituary of 2014 that was not reported.
  • Tag, Like, Share: A Dumb User’s Guide to Facebook failures.


Overall, 2014 saw its share of hatred against me.  From one person who wrote that I was a bad person and then stupidly liking that statement to the people who decided to unfriend me on Facebook and then not even having a logical reason why, this last year was a year of idiots showing their true colors.


I expect a better reception this year as things should get clearer in some aspects of my continuing drama and the drama of the rest of the world.


Speaking of getting clearer, next post will have my annual predictions as I once again bring out the crystal ball and look back on how I did last year and make new predictions for the year.  After that, the two blogs will hopefully separate into their own stories for most of the year.  I continue to plan on writing each blog on alternating weeks with the next post to be next week to both blogs.


Until next time, enjoy 2015.





2014 in review (The State of the Blog)

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The WORST Customer Service Experience EVER!

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Editor’s Note:  This post is being presented to both of my blogs as I feel that the topic is relevant to all readers.  The following is a true story that happened a few weeks ago, around the week of Halloween.  However, the story seems much less of a treat than a very bad trick.  Sit back and enjoy the longest and the final posting of this year.


When I was younger, many years ago, if you wanted to make a phone call in a public place, you would use a phone booth for that important call.    Over time, these phone booths were replaced stands with phones on them.  Gone were the days of trying to fit into that tight fitting location and then closing the door just to make that short (or long call).  I think part of the reason the phone booth disappeared was that the general public were getting larger and not in a good way.


Unlike the phone booth, these phone stands popped up everywhere.  They were at malls, gas stations, grocery stores, and on basically every corner.  Even on many highways emergency phone call boxes were set up for the people’s use.  In fact, I carried a small bag of change with me in case I needed to make that emergency call.


Of course, this was all well and fine for a long time.  That was up until the last year or so.  In that time, the phones have disappeared from those malls, gas stations, grocery stores, and the local corner.  Of course, the empty stands remained but the phone was gone taken out like some bad dream.


Naturally I never thought about the need for the use of a phone since I never had any reason to call anyone.  I never owned a cellphone because I never had the need for one at all ever.


That was until that faithful day happens when that emergency happens and there are no phones around and I don’t own a cellphone.  Of course, a little panic set in, but I went into the nearby store where I was and asked if I could borrow their phone.  Naturally, I was nervous and felt a little stupid that I had to ask to borrow a phone.  After all, I was probably one of a very small group of people who don’t own a cellphone.


I ended up playing phone tag trying to reach the person I was trying to call with absolutely no success.  Thankfully, everything wound up pretty much ok at least for that day.


At this point, it was determined that the family needs to get a cellphone.  No longer was it a matter of just some passing interest, but something needed for security purposes.


So I spent a couple of days doing some research.  With my aging eyes, I needed something big enough to see, but not something huge that would be unbearable to carry.  I came down to a couple of choices of what was on sale at the various local stores.


Most importantly to our family was something without a contract.  Those who remember way back when cellphones came out, it was required to sign a contract and be committed for years at a time.  To make matters worse was that you also had to have good or great credit to get approved.


Then over time, Tracfone was introduced.  They were the no-contract, no worry company for cellphone service that everyone who had bad credit would buy.  Most importantly, the phones were cheap and the refill cards to add minutes were relatively inexpensive as well.


Over time, all the major carriers started having similar no contract phones with cards as well.  The only problem was of course, who’s phone and who’s service.


After talking with a salesperson in one store and spending nearly an hour doing so, I finally decided upon the phone that I liked.  The salesperson also told me that I could switch the carrier on the phone to Walmart’s Straight Talk service without any problem at all.


I had read some pretty good reviews of this service from Consumer Reports magazine and thought that this service of “bringing my own phone” to their program would be wonderful.  After all, Straight Talk is owned by Tracfone so I thought the service would be pretty good given that it got high ratings from Consumer Reports.  I checked the website of Straight Talk and found out that given my zip code and special phone id code that I could use their service.


When I opened the box to the phone and turned it on, I received 2 error messages that the phone could not load the software.  This right away seemed like a bad omen to me as if anyone can find a bad item in a store, I certainly would.


So the next day, I exchanged that nonfunctioning phone for another one.  When I got home, I immediately turned it on to see if it would start up and happily it did.  I got the phone set up with the default carrier, tested it, and downloaded a few apps for it   I also registered the phone with the initial carrier’s website.  I did not test the phone part because I didn’t buy a phone card.  My intention was to use the Walmart plan instead.


Over the next couple of days, I went to the local Walmart trying to purchase the “Bring Your Own Phone Kit” for the Straight Talk service.  After spending 2 days waiting about 20 minutes each, I decided to give up on trying getting the required kit.  On the 3rd day, I decided to be determined to get the kit no matter what.  As the associates of the electronics department was scattered around the area ignoring me, I decided to put my hand on the register counter and after waiting about another 15 minutes.  After about nearly a half-hour, an associate finally decided to wander over to me and asked if I needed help.




The associate then scrambled to find a key to unlock the item from the shelf, but was told after nearly running around for another 5 minutes that a key wasn’t needed to get the item off the rack it was on.  All the associate did was push and twist the lock to remove it and get the product off the shelf.  Had I known how easy that was, I would have done that myself days ago.


Overall, I spent about $70 for the kit, including tax and the 911 service tax.  This kit also includes a $45 unlimited talk, text, and web refill card.  The biggest part of this package is presumably the multiple SIM cards in the package, which I didn’t need because the card in mine is non-removable.


The next day, I decided to set up the phone with the new carrier.  However, for some reason, when I started to set up the phone by inputting my required zip code and information from the phone itself, the website said that my phone was not compatible with my zip code.




The reason I bought the kit in the first place was that the website said that the phone WAS compatible now it saying that it isn’t.  Something didn’t seem right somewhere.

Since I hadn’t opened the kit yet, I decided to call Straight Talk’s customer service to see what was up with the problem.


After being on the phone for nearly an hour and half, the customer service rep got all my information from the phone, my personal info, and all other relevant data needed for the transfer of service to them.  The person told me it could take 2 or 3 days for the whole transfer to take place.  During this call, I also was required to open the kit’s package to get the special codes needed to complete the transaction.


So I was excited to get a phone call (on my house phone), that the service was successfully transferred and that all I had to do would be to enter a special code on the cellphone to activate the service with them.  Most of this phone call was muffled and hard to understand but I did get the gist of it.


First thing I did was to check my old provider and also checked my new provider.  It appeared that my account was successfully transferred.  So now was the time to activate the phone.


When I typed in the special code needed to activate the phone, I got the message that the phone could not be activated at this time.  So over the course of an hour, I kept trying every few minutes to activate the phone with no success.


Something seemed to be very wrong so once again I ended up calling Straight Talk’s customer service.  After about working with the first person for about 15 minutes trying to fix the problem, I was hung up on.


At this point, let me say that anyone working customer service and hangs up on a person purposely should be fired and should not even be working at such a job in the first place.  So I called back a second time.


After providing information to my problem a second time, the first person transferred me to a second person after about 15 minutes unable to solve my problem.  After another 15 minutes, I was transferred to yet a third person to try and solve my problem.


Of course, at this point, I was starting to get frustrated.  However, this third person found out that somehow the information from the phone was entered into their system incorrectly even though the person read back to me the code correctly the day before.  How this mistake happened is beyond me.


After making the necessary corrections, the third person spent another few minutes to get the phone working.  Calling the special code results were always the same:  could not activate the phone with their service.


So this third person transferred me to a fourth person to try and solve my issue.  Again after 15 minutes, this person gave up as well.  It seems that the reason why all of these people gave up after 15 minutes, as one person told me, was that if the call lasts for more than 15 minutes then a supervisor would be required to intervene in the phone call.  However, at no point during my entire call was a supervisor ever put on the phone line because I was told that they were either unavailable or busy with someone else.


After the fourth person, I was told the one thing that any reasonable caller should never hear:  I would be transferred to someone in India to assist me.


Now let me say that this is the worst thing that anybody in customer service should NEVER admit to doing.  Nobody should ever feel the need to be transferred to someone outside their home country.


So here I was on person # 5 (the sixth if you count the one that hung up on me) and once again they could not solve the problem.  So once again I was transferred to a sixth person for another 15 minutes work session, which again had the same result.


I was then transferred to a seventh person who finally was able to cut to the chase.  This person told me what I had found out the day before that my phone and my zip code were not compatible with their service.


Obviously, I was furious that it took 7 people (8 actually) to get to this conclusion.  At this point, I asked what my options were given that I had already opened the kit.  I was told that I could not return the kit back to Walmart because it had been opened and that I would have to return the kit back to Straight Talk to get my money back.


This idea gets worse as they told me that I would have to ship the kit back at MY expense and that I would have to wait 30 business days to receive a refund.  This time period figures to be roughly 45 real days, much longer than I believe the law allows.  Why should I have to pay to send back something that their own website said would work and then wait a longer than an undesirable length of time to get my credit back.


At this point, I was extremely furious being that I had spoken to a total of 8 people over the course of 3 ½ hours with no results.  I asked why they were selling a product that doesn’t work in this area.  Of course, they could not answer that question and were very frustrating to deal with at this point.  I told them that I was going to try to return the product back to the local Walmart and see if I could get my credit back from them.  They wished me the best of luck snarkly and hung up on me.


The next day was Halloween and was the day that I decided to make my return to the local Walmart of my open phone kit.  The line for returns seemed longer than normal as it took about 20 minutes to get waited on.


Let me say on a side note that this was Halloween and I know that many companies including Walmart allow their employees to dress for the holiday.  However, I believe that anything that an employee wears on the holiday should be discreet and not be revealing of private areas.  Unfortunately, for the young girl who waited on me, she was wearing a very low cut top with enough of her small cleavage showing that if she bent over the wrong way or turned the wrong way she would be giving everybody a show.  Honestly, I am surprised that the management didn’t send her home to change into something a little more business appropriate.  But then again we are talking about ignorant Walmart.


When I got to the counter and explained my problem with the kit, the inappropriate dressed associate and another older employee who was regularly dressed discussed between them that it was ok for me to return the item because someone else had returned the same item earlier in the week for the same reason I did:  not compatible with the phone and zip code.


So happily I got my credit back and within a couple of days it was back on the credit card, not the 45 days that would have happened if I had mailed it back at my expense.


In the end, I had to reset my phone to set up a new number as the old one was still attached to the nonfunctioning Straight Talk account.  The good news is that the new phone number is very easy to remember.  The bad news is that I spent an afternoon reinstalling all the apps that I had previously installed, a small price to pay to finally get a working phone.  I am now happy and have no intention to ever switch service.  I did tell the salesperson who originally sold me the phone of all my problems and honestly he was surprised by all my problems.  But then again, I had problems from day 1 with the first defective phone.


Now let me summarize this entire process:

  • The initial purchase of the phone kit took several days to get an employee to get me the product. Bad service at the store level at start.
  • Incorrect information that 4 people overlooked before it was corrected.
  • Transferring the phone call to India to try to diagnose the problem not a great idea.
  • Having a total of 8 people over a period of over 3 and half hours and none of them able to solve the problem. Is this a case of ignorance or stupidity?  I will leave that up to the reader of this blog for that.
  • Being told that I would have to send the product back to the company and wait 45 days before getting a refund is not acceptable under any circumstances. How stupid do they think their customers are?  But then again we are talking Walmart here!
  • Even though it was Halloween, customer service in Walmart at time of return had inappropriately dressed employee. Certainly I got the desired result so there was at least some good closure in the whole thing.


With all the advertising lately for the Straight Talk program, I feel that people would get the same result that I did and therefore should avoid this program at all cost.  I also cannot recommend the similar programs offered by Net10, Simple Mobile, and Tracfone itself as these are all portals to the same company.  I also don’t recommend buying the more expensive phones that companies like Straight Talk offered as many of them are underperformers and should be avoided.


Finally, my score is 0!  Certainly the worst customer service experience ever.


Note:  This is my final post for 2014.  I will return in early 2015 with a look back at this year and a look ahead at the New Year.  So enjoy the holidays and stay away from those Straight Talk people, unless you want to make a lot of new people here and abroad.


Why Go Blue? (Or is it Blu?)

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The other day I was in the video section of one local store and I overheard one lady tell someone else she was with that she had a particular movie on VHS.  She said this so loudly that I thought she was actually proud of the fact that she still owned a VHS player and plays movies on it.


When I heard this, I almost hit the floor.  I thought was this lady serious?  If so, then stores like Blockbuster would still be in business today along with hundreds of mom and pop video stores in this country.  Maybe she hadn’t caught on to something called DVD yet or maybe it was just sarcasm at its worse.


Either way, the industry has moved ahead with a little new format called Blu-ray.  Blu-ray is not new as it has been around for several years now but is only just starting to come down significantly in price during this holiday season.


First off let me say that the players themselves have been available for under $50 this holiday season for a basic Blu-ray player, although a more sophisticated one can be had for well under $100.  These machines not only play the Blu-ray discs but also standard DVDs as well, which makes DVDs seem almost non-obsolete.  Many of the machines also can double as sort of “smart TV” as many have special apps that can play games, surf the internet, or connect to your favorite social media site.   Certainly these machines are very unlike the DVD players of years’ past.


The discs themselves have seen a remarkable drop in price especially during Black Friday a couple of weeks ago as some retailers were selling Blu-ray discs for as cheap as under $2.  Now while there are some lousy discs out there, gems could be found on the cheap as well.  Many of these releases were from this year but some were older than that.


As far as the packaging is concerned, this is where some find confusion.  So here is how I figure it with the various packages.  Let’s go through them individually:


  • Blu-ray disc only:  the package contains only a Blu-ray disc possibly with additional features.
  • Blu-ray disc and Digital HD: same as above with a special code or disc that allows for playing on a computer, phone, tablet or other device.  Note that these expire usually within 2 years and something I have never used or tried because of their short lives.
  • Blu-ray disc and DVD and Digital HD (aka combo pack): same as above but with the addition of a DVD copy of the movie.  However, it should be noted that the DVD could be just a movie only version and may or may not contain the same extras that the standalone DVDs would have.  Usually some of these discs contain the digital copy rather than the extras that would be on these discs.  Certainly this is the preferred purchase as you get both types of disc, but buyer-beware on what the DVD actually has.
  • 3D Blu-ray: sometimes sold most times in combination with any of the above these discs only work on 3D TVs.  While I don’t have a 3D TV, I can’t say how well these discs perform.  However, most 3D discs have no extras which make them a trade-off with the standard Blu-ray discs.
  • 4K Blu-ray discs: these are not available yet, but expected to appear on the shelves in 2015.  No details on if these discs will have any space for extras on them yet.  These discs are meant for the ultra-high resolution TVs making their way into the marketplace in the past few months.  Whether these discs will be packaged with other formats is the biggest question mark of all.


The best resource that I recommend is going to the website  Here detailed descriptions of discs can be found along with movie ratings and prices.  The downside to the price part is that the majority of the prices mentioned is from Amazon along with links to purchase discs from them.  However, given that many stores will now match Amazon this is more of a feature than an inconvenience.


Finally, the quality picture and sound is superior to DVDs, but they do vary from title to title.  Again, the above mentioned resource is your best bet to get the real lowdown on new and old titles alike.


Overall, if you have a capable HD TV and wish to upgrade to Blu-ray, then I would highly recommend that this is the season and year to do just that.  So hop into those bargain bins and join the blue (or Blu) revolution, time is wasting!


Next week, in my last post of the year, I will be discussing quite possibly the worst customer service experience ever.  If you thought you heard me talk about bad before, get ready for the lowest point in customer service as so many things went wrong that you really will wonder if it is all real, but trust me it will be.  Get ready for possibly the longest and most enjoyable post of the year.







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