Saturday, July 31, 2010

Whisper: just pay separate processing and shipping

*Every time I see a documentary about a sunken ship and its investigation, the sea seems filled with snowflakes. I'm not a marine biologist. Does anyone know what those things are? They seem to be floating with the current and make the sunken ships seem like Christmas decorations. Are they plankton? Krill? I can see that they're not air bubbles. They vary in size and seem solid, if flaky. Do the fish have 'snow' shovels?

*My ears and eyes continue to be assailed by those TV commercials from a collectors' mint about gold coin proofs of all sizes. The beginning of each commercial describes in detail the make-up and history of a gold coin with inflated value numbers, making it sound as if you're going to be able to buy one. Then they pop in with their actual product: a 'proof.' Now according to the dictionary, in numismatics a proof is "one of a limited number of coins of a new issue struck from polished dies on a blank having a polished or matte surface." The Government Mint sells proof sets all the time. But, the TV dealers just create a new definition of the term for their own benefits. And they don't explain the differences. They call their product [a non usable coin, by the way; and generally having no secondary market] a gold proof, but they also sneak in the modifying word "clad." And of course, the ubiquitous 'certificate of authenticity.' What's that? Does the certificate state that the company is shamming the buyer? Does it explain there's no re-seller market? Then, in small print you find that gold clad means the use of 10mg or 15mg or 55mg---though you'll rarely hear about any 'clad' that heavy---pure gold. At the conversion rate, each quoted mg equals .000032 ounce of gold. What? All those zeros after the decimal and before an actual crooked number? Of course. .000032 troy ounce of gold at $1,200 per troy ounce equals 38 cents, 57 cents, and $1.90! respectively.

And if gold skyrockets to $1,500 per troy ounce? Well, the calculation leads to 48 cents, 72 cents, and $2.40! The ads claim they can't guarantee the prices for very long. Hah!! Have I got a bridge to sell you! Besides, the same commercial keeps running and running and the price never changes. It doesn't have to. There's so much profit built into the price already---and most other TV ads spout the same $19.95 [a number rarely exceeded in any TV ad.] Foggeddaboutit! These are not investment articles. If you need gold, buy gold directly from a reputable dealer. Their gold pieces are actually gold and not some unknown center clad with a few cents of gold leaf.

By the way, National Collector's mint is selling a 'clad proof' of the 1933 Double Eagle for $19.95 [31.1mg in the clad.] That gold content is worth $1.19. Is this object worth $19.95 and no resale market? You decide.

*I'm impressed with the simplicity of the credits for the movie 'All That Money Can Buy' 1941, better known as 'The Devil and Daniel Webster.' After the title, we see a list of 'Before the Camera' personnel, and then a list for 'Behind the Camera' personnel. No fighting for predominance of larger letters and the luster now shown by calling pictures by their directors' names, or including the names of actors before the title. Egos are always out-sized in Hollywood, usually from the feelings of [mostly false] self-importance and wealth. We need to return to simplicity. Doesn't Hollywood realize that super egotism is leading the film industry to near irrelevance?

*I've often wondered at the stupidity of movie and television criminals. When they outnumber the good guy [Walker, Texas Ranger as an example], why do they stand back and only attack him one by one---or by two in a carefully choreographed stupidity. If they grouped and attacked all at once, they'd have subdued him. But I guess that wouldn't make good results for a movie or TV show, would it? In most cases, a real attack by three people would probably corral any hero.

*One way of reducing cell phone and texting time when you're doing the calling is to allow your call to ring more than three times. It's hardly enough time for the other party to get from one room to another to answer you. Impatient America, what's your hurry?---yes, it happens to me.

*I wish State Farm, GEICO, 21st Century, and the rest of the companies showing television ads today would define their terms: such as coverage, time span, deductible, etc. And that means telling what the base is for giving discounts. 40% off what? 15% off what? If one has a lower basic rate, then having a smaller percentage off might actually be a bigger savings in dollars in many cases? And the savings on switching from other companies claiming great discounts doesn't make sense. So, this is a situation where the insurance companies all fighting amongst themselves with apples and oranges and pears. 'My 40% savings is bigger than your 40% savings!' By the way, NONE of these insurance companies is planning on losing money selling insurance this way. And some of the commercials are getting very arrogant with their condescending attitudes---like those with the smarmy young gun spouting off about State Farm.

*The kiss of death: 'just pay separate shipping and handling [processing.]' Interested in 'Mighty Fix-It?' 'Get three rolls for $10---but wait! We'll add another three rolls simply for processing and shipping.' Now just how expensive can it be to send six rolls of this stuff through the mail? $2? $3? Since processing and shipping is $5.95, you're actually paying $21.90 for those six rolls? A bargain? I don't rightly know. All I know is that all these TV ads doubling your offer for a separate processing and shipping charge---practically noted in a whisper so you can miss it---are all expensive choices. You don't actually think these people are in business for their health? Of course not. Most of the processing and shipping charges along with the basic product minus a probable cheap production cost give them a tidy profit. Otherwise, they wouldn't be buying TV air time. [By the way: each roll of 'Mighty Fix-It' is ten feet long, and you could use it up with just one or two of the applications shown on TV---especially if you're prone to overkill.

*Another spurious value currently being touted on TV is the 'Optic 1050' binocular offer. Just $19.98 for this great binocular---but wait again, we'll include a pencil type spy-scope [I've had one of those. They're virtually worthless.] But wait again and again! We'll include a smaller, travel binocular as well. All this for the basic price and the various duplicated shipping and handling costs. A $200 value! Where??? Duh??? These spyglasses are certainly not worth $200. For a $200 expenditure, you'll be able to buy a reputable binocular with average quality. Better binoculars cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000.

*I have nothing against companies advertising their useful and fairly priced goods. I just don't like the mis-information and outright lying in some TV ads. If Congress really wants to do something useful, stop taxing small business to death and go after the TV liars.

* I was once a big fan of archaeology, especially of Ancient Egypt. But in these modern days, I find it more and more to be a type of modern grave robbing. The archaeologists are very concerned with dead bodies. They find them, unbury them, date them, and put them on display for all to see---thus proving that no matter how wealthy you are, you're still completely helpless in death. The wealthy have big tombs and monuments, so a couple of thousand years from now---assuming human beings are still alive and kicking---they'll be the ones dug up and studied. [I hope the archaeologists are too.] So much for the sanctity of the human body. Actually, you can fool them all and be cremated!

*There's much consternation about the falling attendance at NASCAR events. I know the bad economy and the oppressive tax burdens have combined to reduce the gate, but I also think NASCAR is chopping down its own tree. So, I suggest some changes. Firstly, award five points for the pole position as well as allowing the driver to pick first for pit lane box. Secondly, since NASCAR wants a play-off, it should do it right. The twelve chase drivers should line up in the first twelve positions for every race in the chase, according to qualifying speeds. The rest of the drivers can line up behind them based on qualifying speed. Thus two drivers will get the pole points, but the twelve chase drivers should have first picks on the pit lane boxes. The race would be more of a 'chase race' then, and the top twelve cars---who raced 2/3rds of a season to get where they finished---should be predominate in each of the races. Of course, that doesn't prevent a non-chase driver from winning or placing in the top few spots. It just the top twelve who should be spotlighted by NASCAR.

*If, like the TV commercial says to the general public, it's 'your Pizza Hut,' does that mean I'll be going getting profit-sharing checks? How much is my share and when do I get it? I'd be okay taking it all in free pizza.

*'Get your thicker, higher gloss hair from our product.' Then these models swirl their hair all around to give you an idea of what to expect. Now, be honest. How often do you see a women with hair like that in real life? I thought so. I never see them either. You'd think they could come up with a better type of commercial for all these hair products.

*There are a lot of movies out there where the star's singing voice is dubbed. My sense is if the star can't sing, that star shouldn't be in a movie that calls for it. What's next? Dubbing lines? Using the stand in for most of the movie? The whole Hollywood experience needs a complete overhaul. Never mind the financial firms. Pass a bill about Hollywood and its extremists.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Hot off the Presses fromYour Friendly, Retired CPA

*Looking for cheap phone service? A system called OOMA professes to give you free home phone service. BUT! Firstly, you have to have a working land-line, meaning your phone company still provides service for what? $20 a month? Then you have to buy the OOMA equipment in various configurations for $249.95; pay $40 to transfer your existing phone number; $12 to change your number or the name on the account. Your monthly charges for your free phone service include: $5 for enhanced voice-mail; $3.47 [in New Haven CT] for taxes and fees---regulatory compliance; 911 service fee; federal universal service charge. Further costs include: $.99 per directory assistance call; $40 per year for support; $50 per year extended warranty. And so my friends, the OOMA free home phone service is anything but free.

The ads also spout that international calls begin at 1.4 cents per minute. That amount is for Canada; all other countries are higher. The ad goes on to claim that such international phone charges are "next to nothing". It all depends on your definition of 'next' and 'nothing.' Home big is it? I compared some of the minute charges with those from Magic Jack---second figure in [xx] for each Country: Canada 1.4 [0]; China 2.5 [2.0]; Mexico 7.0 [9.0]; Afghanistan [call Osama?] 49.0 [32.0]; Antarctica $1.87 [$1.21]; Egypt 22.2 [17.0]; and Ireland 2.3 [2.0]. You'll see that some Countries are actually cheaper with OOMA, but you have to fork over a bundle just to get to the dial.

*Are your arms flabby? Well, you need a 'Shake Weight!' Spend $19.95 to purchase this arm-shaking system to tone up your arms. It's new! It's neato! But wait! Can't you get the same exercise by using a cocktail shaker? And men? Well, you have to pony up $29.95 for the thing which will help you become muscle bound in no time. If this exercise is so great, why don't all bartenders have strong, toned upper arms? Personally I'd like my vodka martini [shaken not stirred] to help tone up my arms while it destroys my liver.

*Here it is. The new and revolutionary Mighty Corsage! Grow it on your arm or lapel as you need it. It stays dormant sealed in it's packet. Take it out, place it in it's holder [lapel, breast, or arm] with a touch of water, and it will grow to maturity in two or three hours [you must provide your own bee.] A gorgeous bunch of flowers to enhance your image. Only $19.95 plus shipping and handling [$19.95]. But wait! Call today [but we can only accept 2,000,000 orders each day] and we'll include a brand new used Yugo car! Just pay a separate shipping charge [$3,500.] But wait again! We'll include a special DVD with The Best of Vince---you know we can't do it all day---for your viewing and listening pleasure. Just pay the separate shipping and handling cost [$29.95.] So CALL NOW and get that thing I said for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, the Yugo---just pay a separate shipping and handling cost, and the DVD---just pay the separate shipping and handling cost.

Remember folks, all those ads on TV for items costing $10 or $19.95 are going to cost you a lot more. The shipping and handling fees are high, and that's how they make a profit. When they double something, they add more shipping and handling. When they add more items to the offer, they add more shipping and handling. Also remember, that these companies aren't giving anything away. They're in the business to make money, and that's what they're going to do: right from your wallet or purse.

*Scientists today, as shown on the Science Channel all the time, are trying their best to explain life, the Big Bang and other astronomical and biological miracles in terms of chance encounters, physical interactions, and time. They notably leave out God in all their discussions. I believe that the entire span of life of the Universe was decided in a second or less by God before He created the Big Bang. Everything that happened after that was guided by God's hand in the physical interactions from His creation of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, etc. Creating and giving mankind the freedom of will and action, however, was a deviation from the plan. He wanted us to be free to do what we wanted and develop the faith to believe in Him and His works. I've been reading books and articles on astronomy, physics, chemistry, sociology, biology,religion and numerous other areas for fifty years. And my faith is still strong. Mankind has deviated from what could have been for happiness and security for all, and he has divided his thoughts and actions between good and evil. We still suffer from the evil part. When the scientists finally admit that God was the prime mover in creation, they'll probably work on trying to discover who or what created God.

*"...If you or a loved one suffered serious side effects or died from using Avandia, call this office and speak to a qualified attorney to discuss monetary damages you could receive." This ad is directed to YOU! Now, how the devil can YOU call an attorney if you're dead??

*"I just wanted to look around." I like, but not the newer commercials. They claim someone can go online and quick as a flash, information on the persons parentage will appear like magic from other members Family Trees. Well, that sounds good, but I've found enough errors in a lot of family trees to make me question almost all the information provided. If you're doing research, you have to remember to take third-party information with a grain of salt.