Business Articles

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Socks?

There’s a certain brand of wool socks that I like. Okay, I really, really like them. I’m wearing a pair right now. I wanted to try a different style, but the local outlets didn’t carry it.

Though I prefer to buy online and bypass the “experience” of going to a store, sometimes I want to check the product in person before making a commitment. You can’t do that in cyberspace.

So I ordered one pair for my tactile evaluation. For some reason I expected free shipping. This was not to be. To unite me and my $13 socks there was a $7 shipping charge. There were no other options.

I placed my order on Friday. Saturday my socks arrived courtesy of FedEx Saturday delivery. Really? It wasn’t like this was a sock emergency. Three-day ground would have been fine, even parcel post would have been acceptable.

I took time to communicate my frustration with the manufacturer, because, well, I’m a bit passionate about their socks and when you care about something, you take time to share concerns. The rep understood my complaint and agreed, saying other customers told her the same thing. She planned to bring this up at their management meeting later that week.

Two months later I placed an order for more socks. There’s still only one shipping option and it’s still $7. Really?

Business Articles

Beware the Ever-Changing Fine Print

Yesterday I received a 17-page booklet from my credit card provider covering their revised “customer agreement.”  They mailed it under the guise of good customer service, but I’m sure that buried somewhere inside is a policy change that will effect me.  However, I don’t have the time or interest to read all 17 pages to figure out what it is.  Even if they highlighted the section, there is often so much double talk, qualifying statements, and caveats, that I would likely not fully grasp what they are changing.  I just hope that the change is not too onerous or detrimental to me.  One thing I can be quite sure of is that with the current credit situation, depressed economy, and increased oversight, that the changes will not be in my favor.

A few months ago, my local credit union sent me a notice of new fees.  This seemingly happens every few months, so I gave it little thought, especially since I do not incur fees on my account — well I didn’t use to incur fees.  They changed one number; however, that was the “gotcha.”  They doubled the minimum balance required to have free checking.  Although I have many times that amount in CDs, they dinged me for a monthly service fee anyway.  To make matters worse they managed to bill it twice on the same statement, one for the current month and one for the prior month.

They did eventually refund the charges “this one time.”  I don’t plan on there being a second time.  When my CD comes due this fall, I’ll close my account, moving it to my other credit union that doesn’t play those types of games.

I hoped I won’t be forced into doing the same thing with my credit card.


Microsoft Earnings Fall

Microsoft announced the financial results for the quarter that ended December 31.  They reported that their operating income declined 8%, net income fell 11%, and diluted earnings per share dropped 6%.  These declines were reportedly higher then Microsoft’s own estimates.

Sluggish PC sales where blamed for the poorer than expected showing.

At first glance, lower PC sales makes Microsoft seem like another victim of the bad economy.  However, remember that Microsoft Vista is the operating system powering the vast majority of new PC systems.

Had there not been public and technical concerns over Vista’s viability, there certainly would have been more PC sales, hence more operating system sold, ergo more revenue for Microsoft.  This casts a new light on the connection between PC sales and Microsoft’s fiscal vitality.

I delayed upgrading my PC over concerns about Vista, and I understand others — who buy considerably more PCs — did so as well.

Microsoft’s poor showing is not so much a result of a lacking economy, but of an under-performing operating system.


Credit Card Injustice

My company accepts credit cards as a means of payment for ads. This week I received a letter from one of the four major credit card companies. They were notifying me that the rate they will charge me will be increasing — and they’re already the highest.

(Merchants that accept credit cards are charged monthly fees, a fee for each transaction, and a percentage of the charge. For example, on a $100 charge, the credit card company might keep $3 and pay the merchant $97.)

I accepted the news with resigned acceptance. However, what was next communicated irked me.

They said I could lower the percentage of what they keep if I would agree to let them hold my money for 15 days. Here’s how it would work.  Assume that I ran through a $100 charge on the first of the month. They charge the cardholder on the first, then they keep the money for two weeks, and finally give me my $97 on the fifteenth.  In exchange for an even lower fee, they would hold my money for 30 days!

In this day of electronically moving money around the world in an instant, there is no reason for them to keep my money for 15 or 30 days — other than greed. (And look at the mess that greed has gotten our global economy into.)

Each credit card holder who doesn’t pay off the entire balance each month is being charged interest from the day the charge was first posted. So, the credit card company is double dipping — getting money from the merchant and the credit card holder for the same transaction, while they hold on to — and use — my money.

The purpose of credit cards is so that merchants can be paid quickly — that’s why we pay the fees.

I’m sure they have some way to justify their decision — but to me, it’s just wrong.


Beware the Jury Duty Identity Theft Scam

My credit union just alerted me to a new identity theft scam going around. The FBI calls it the “Jury Duty Scam.” In researching it, I discovered that it’s not really new, but since it’s new to me, perhaps others are unaware as well.

So, I’m doing my part to spread the news. If even one person is kept from having their identity stolen and their bank accounts wiped clean, it will be well worth my time and effort.

Here’s how the scam works:

An unsuspecting person receives a phone call from someone claiming to be a “jury coordinator,” who threatens that person with fines and arrest for not responding to a jury duty summons.

When the recipients protest that they were never contacted, the scammer asks for their social security number and date of birth in order to verify their identity and cancel the arrest warrant.

Often the caller indicates that a small fine is involved, offering to take care of it over the phone — thereby saving the person a trip to the court house. Of course, the caller will accept any major credit card.

Once this information is shared, the called person’s identity is then stolen and their bank accounts wiped clean.

The reason this scam is often successful is that thieves, claiming to represent the court system can easily intimidate their victims into doing whatever is asked of them to avoid further problems.

To protect yourself, never give out any personal information to anyone via an unsolicited phone call or email.