Oct 162012

The printer consumed supplies voraciously, jammed frequently, and printed poorly. Considering that the main job of a printer is to print, I felt that it didn’t do a very good job.

Finally, I gave up on it, turned it off, bought a much less expensive HP printer, and went back to work.

Several years later, I gave the printer away.

Xerox started calling me about a month ago. I told each caller that I wasn’t interested and that I would appreciate it if they would take me off their list. I explained that I owned no Xerox products and had no interest in owning any.

The calls continued.

Then I visited the Xerox website and located a contact form. I wrote there that I wanted the calls to stop and assumed that this would be the end of it.

Not so.

A week later, a Xerox sales representative called me because I had filled out the form on the website “requesting a contact.” Moments after the phone call (which I had allowed to go to voice mail), I received an e-mail from the sales rep and he addressed me as “Mr. Blinn William”.

An offer from Xerox

I responded to the e-mail message, reversing the sales rep’s name as he had reversed mine and explained that the number he had called was on the federal do not call list, that I have had no business relationship with Xerox for a decade, and that I have no desire to have any relationship with Xerox in the future.

The rep apologized (good start) and offered “the website that you can go and have your name and number taken off our sales and marketing list. The website is xxxxxx.yyyyy@xerox.com.” I have modified the “website address” but included the general format here to illustrate that the “website” is really an e-mail address. One would think that someone who works for Xerox would know the difference.

Xerox continues to illustrate why I have no desire to own anything that the company manufactures.

Mar 132012

Maybe you can’t call it an outright fraud but if you search Google for the terms “fraud” and “policeauctions.com”, you’ll find that a lot of people do. (See below.)

The “offer” uses a picture of the late Steve Jobs, which implies some relationship with Apple

The domain name “policeauctions.com” suggests that this company is working with one or more police departments.

They offer “iPad’s” (possessive) instead of “iPads” (plural) for “up to” 90% off. The term “up to” is one of the best known weasel terms in advertising. If something sells for $1000, I can offer you a discount of “up to 90%” but when it comes time to check out, I could give you a discount of $1. “Up to” means “less than” so all discounts will be less than 90%.

Some sites such as this require up-front payments to bid on items. Somebody “wins” and everybody else loses but the company keeps the money

Can any consumer be dumb enough to believe that Ipads are in a “overstock” condition? Or that you’ll really get a 90% discount?

Apparently so.

You might be wondering what Facebook does to prevent these kinds of ads and the answer appears to be “very little”. Ads clearly are not checked before they are posted but Facebook’s Brandon McCormick tells me “These kinds of ads are against our policies. When we find or are made aware of them we remove them. This ad has been removed from the system.”

I understand that the economics of Facebook make it impossible to check the validity of every ad before it’s placed so nothing happens until someone complains and thd ad is taken down. That’s good, but what about the people who clicked the ad while it was live? And what happens to the person who or company that violated Facebook’s terms of service?

Is the domain banned? (The fraudster could just sign up for another domain.) Does Facebook ever take legal action against fraudulent advertisers or pursue remedies that might be mentioned in the terms of service? In other words, you might wonder (as I did) what, if anything, is done to create a certain amount of pain for those who break the rules,

Brandon McCormick: “We have a combination of automated and manual review for ads but as you point out given the volume, we occasionally miss one. Follow-up action depends, but if a business is fraudulent or continues to try to run ads that violate our policies we will remove the company from the system entirely.”

Note that dates on the following posts clearly indicate that policeauctions.com has been in business since at least 2007:

  • DC1 on Scam.com: I bought a 14K white gold ring with 16 diamonds that was supposedly worth an estimated $2000. I won the bid for it at $400. I later went to sell it after a few months, and the most that I could get for it was $25. [Posted in 2007]
  • NESTA2814 on Scam.com: Police auctions.com is a complete joke. Check out my blog. I am on a quest to make sure as many people as possible find out about this unscrupulous “company.” They need to be shut down. [Posted in 2009]
  • No Moron Here on Scam.com: “PoliceAuctions.com is not affiliated with Local, State or Federal Government.” [Posted in 2009]
  • Brinkley511 on ComplaintsBoard.com: “I have placed at least 20 or more bids on items that were supposedly seized from police/government raids and siezures. On every item, I was not the high bidder, but was sent an email with a second chance offer to buy this item at a higher price. Every email says that another one of the itmes had been located and was for sale to me at this higher price. Since when do police/government seizures include multiple jewelry items exactly alike? This is a scam website that peddles items in an auction setting when really they are expecting a certain price for an item, when they don’t get it, they offer you a “second chance” buy. SCAM!” [Posted in 2009]
  • Tami W. on Sitejabber.com: “I bid and won 2 rings from them. One an amethyst, received it with one stone missing. I wore for 3 days to show people and 2 more stones fell out. They said value was over $700, I don’t believe it. I also ordered a Tanzanite ring valued over $800, I wore for a week and lost a stone. Can’t get ahold of them!!! Very dissappointed with this site. My other question is how does this “police” auction site get so many new items to sell????” [Posted in 2011]

Other comments worth reading:


“Basically this is a membership site and you get information for your membership fee each month. The site states that membership is free but once you start peeling back the layers of information you do come to the information that states the free membership is restricted and only offered so that you can get an idea of what is going on at policeauctions.com.”

Mar 012012

I don’t know how Viacom obtained an address that I use only for friends but for the past several months the company has been sending spam to the address. The messages all offer an opt-out link (see the “Unsubscribe” link below) and I have used this link several times because I thought that Viacom might actually play by the rules. The spams continue to arrive.

Despite offering an opt-out link, you will never be removed.

At the bottom of each spam, Viacom lies by saying “You are receiving this message because you agreed to receive marketing offers about and from Viacom International Inc and its corporate affiliates including those from and about Paramount.” I did no such thing and the address Viacom is using is not one that I would ever use to subscribe to anything.

So OK, Viacom. It’s time for the big guns. I’m tired of playing whack-a-mole with you. As of this morning, my server will deliver all mail from any address that contains “viacom” to /dev/null. In Linux speak, sending a file to the null device means that it will be deleted.

Good-bye, Viacom. Forever.

This episode raises the following question: Do marketers really think they have anything to gain by thoroughly annoying the people they’re trying to reach?

Feb 212012

Some people love Amazon.com. Some hate it. I’m not so much at either extreme but I appreciate the company for what it can do (deliver physical books quickly and electronic books immediately) even though it has been responsible, at least in part, for the deaths of many local book stores.

This week, another advantage became apparent. I was looking for a book on a technical subject and ordered a Kindle copy of the one that seemed most appropriate based on reading a sample chapter and examining the table of contents. The book arrived immediately and I started reading it. Within minutes I found that what I meant by “How to Create a Frammis Zumwalt” wasn’t what the author meant by “How to Create a Frammis Zumwalt.” I had bought the wrong book.

So I returned to Amazon.com, selected the electronic book, and indicated that I wanted to “return” it for a refund.

Less than a minute later, my refund had been approved and the book disappeared from the Kindle.

That’s the way customer service is supposed to work.

Then I found another book that seemed to be a reasonable choice and ordered it. This is the book that explains exactly how to create a frammis zumwalt and I’m excited about reading it and working through the exercises.

But the book, by Apress, contains a lot of computer code in a fixed-width typeface. The code is fully justified, which means that there are huge rivers of whitespace running through the text. I’ll accept this because this book contains information I need, I can figure out what the authors intended, and I can download the sample code from the publisher’s website. But I wondered if anyone at the publishing house knew about the problem so I wrote to the authors and to the marketing director at Apress.

Less than half a day later, one of the authors wrote to say that he agreed that the formatting was a significant problem and the marketing manager wrote to say that he had asked the QA (quality assurance) team to determine what happened and to see what could be done to update the electronic versions of the book.

That’s the way customer support is supposed to work.

Today I received 4 spams from a company within 2 minutes. The spams wanted me to like them on Facebook. I expressed my displeasure about the spam in messages to Facebook and to the company that spammed me.

Minutes later, I received a call from the company. The caller said that he didn’t know the definition of spam (I explained to him that any unwanted commercial e-mail is spam) and that he had received 3 copies of the same message on his cell phone. He seemed to think that was OK. “Social media” is the future,” he said and I pointed out that it’s the future only if you don’t annoy the people you’re trying to reach. That didn’t seem to register. He also said that he has “no control” over what Facebook sends out even though he has given Facebook permission to send these messages.

“I’m really disappointed by your attitude,” he said “and I’ll have to take this up with the people at [the parent company of the organization I work for].”

That is NOT the way customer support is supposed to work.

Oh … and a message to marketers: If you screw up, just admit it.

Feb 012012

So far I’ve clicked the “unsubscribe” link from every message Comcast has sent to an address that I never give anyone and I’ve blacklisted every address they’ve spammed me from. Comcast keeps spamming from new domains.

Messages from *@*.cmt.com, *@*.comcast.com (sorry if you have a comcast address!), *@*.mtv.com, and *@*.viacommedianetworks.com will all be blocked. Others are added regularly.

I suspect that someone gave Viacom my address but that doesn’t take Viacom off the hook. Any organization that spams me without even bothering to confirm that I’ve signed up for their junk, continues to spam me after I’ve complied with their opt-out procedure, and then spams me from multiple new domains isn’t an organization that I consider to be ethical.

So keep it up, Viacom. I can block domains as fast as you can set them up.

And I hope you rot in hell.

Jan 132012

For the past several years I’ve used Norton Internet Security because Symantec’s software engineers finally figured out how to write a protective suite that doesn’t cause the computer to grind to a halt. The license expires in mid January.

Because I know that buying a new license is always a better deal than allowing Symantec to renew the existing license, I purchased Norton Internet Security 2012 (3-computer license) from NewEgg.

Two days after the software arrived, I received an e-mail notice from Symantec that said my Norton Internet Security 2011 license had been renewed and that my American Express card had been charged $60 and change. A small oversight, I assumed and went to the Symantec website where I found a form to fill out.

A week later, I had heard nothing, so I filled out the form again.

Several days later, when I had still heard nothing, I contacted American Express and disputed the charge. American Express is really good when it comes to problems such as this so I’m sure that it will be sorted out within a few weeks but it’s still more than slightly annoying that Symantec won’t even bother to reply to my request for a refund.

Here’s my recommendation: If you buy Norton Internet Security, and it is probably the best consumer-grade protective suite available, make sure that you buy it in a way that doesn’t allow Symantec to obtain your credit card number because if they have it they will just assume you want the upgrade.

This makes me wonder how many people have 2 or 3 (or more) Symantec licenses for a single computer. Is Symantec crooked or just unorganized?

Dec 162011

Viacom is one of the companies that would like the Congress to approve legislation that would have severely detrimental effects on the Internet.

But Viacom seems to think that it’s reasonable for them to send spam to addresses that I would never share with them to promote their products and services.

I have permanently blocked several Viacom-related addresses but just about every day I receive a message from a new Viacom address.

Here’s a message to Viacom: If you expect me to have any respect for your organization, you will stop sending your spam to me when I ask you to. So far I have followed the opt-out links 3 times and I’m still receiving spam from the company. Each time I identify a new address used for spamming I set my anti-spam filters to reject all messages from the domain.

Look, Viacom, if you want to be thought of as a reasonable, honest company, you would stop spamming people who have told you that they don’t want your shit. Sorry if that offends you, but “shit” is what Viacom is sending and they’re sending it to an address that they could have obtained only by using unethical methods.

Viacom, please drop dead.

Nov 132011

I have nothing against the grunge look, the use of typefaces that are stretched, warped, textured, or otherwise damaged but today I found a website that is suffering from a missing or incorrectly written style sheet or a serious over-application of grunge.

The green text at the right appears to be an attempt to show the relative popularity of search terms (more popular terms are larger) but the lack of variable linespacing means that words are piled up on top of each other. Still, they’re more or less readable. (Mostly “less”.)

Now take a look at the description of the clip-art package in black on the left. Can you read it? (Click the image if you’d like to try it full size.)

I thought that the problem was with my browser or that I had disabled something the site needed but the result was the same when I tested the site in Firefox 9, Chrome, and Internet Explorer 9. So now I hope that the website designer did something that effectively destroyed the cascading style sheet and that when I check back in a few days I’ll find a site with readable text.

Sep 192011

Raise prices 30% or more for most of your customers and then apologize for failing to communicate that you’re bifurcating the company. Huh?

By way of apology, the Netflix CEO says that the greatest fear at Netflix has been that the company wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. “Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores–do not become great at new things people want,” Hastings wrote. “So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.”

He might have chosen better examples. Many people consider that AOL was never good at anything except making money for a while and that as soon as people figured out that they could obtain better service from a standard Internet service provider, they left AOL en masse. And then there’s Borders, the book store chain that’s in the process of going out of business.

As for the outrageous price hikes … they stay.