Category Archives: Shopping

More Consumer Annoyances (Insurance Dept.)

Toyota RAV4 (XA20) in the mud

Seems cars like this, which mine vaguely resembles, cost a lot to insure.

Generally, I find that my car insurance company, GEICO, has among the most pleasant phone support folks I deal with.  And, fortunately, I don’t have to deal with them very often.

Today I called in to find out why my insurance rates had jumped 10%.  It’s not like I had an accident; indeed I hardly leave the house these days.  And the car is, to put it mildly, somewhat ancient, so it’s not as if its value (if any) has created a high risk.  But maybe GEICO has a model in which drivers of aging cars (even Toyotas!) are a greater risk to other drivers?  Or maybe it’s just aging, although neither one of us had a milestone birthday.  So what was it?

I called GEICO, got a phone tree, and eventually lost patience and demanded “Operator”.  So I got put in the operator queue, and told I’d be better off online (nope, tried that already) or I’d just have to wait for the next available operator. And the wait would be … 40 minutes.  40 minutes??? Fortunately there was a ‘call you back’ option, so I took it.

About 40 minutes later the GEICO robot called me back, and then connected me to a charming representative. She explained to me that the reason my insurance had gone up 10% is that, and I quote, “the cost of insurance has gone up.”

Charming as she was, she seemed puzzled by my suggestion that there was something circular in saying that the cost of my insurance had gone up because the cost of insurance has gone up. “Some people had theirs go up even more,” she added. “But they had accidents.”

Someone is doing well out of this….

Interestingly, the cost of insurance for a new car of the same model  would only be 25% more than the cost for my old one.  So it’s either about inflation in medical costs or other people’s cars. Or price gouging. I’ve read there had been a lot of inflation in car prices, with prices at least for used cars dipping a lot in the past month.  But I’m going to bet my insurance cost does not go down in the next six month period, not even with GEICO.

My last question was whether GEICO was passing on 10% raises to its workers.  That got a laugh. It’s not.

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Annals of Consumer Law (Contracts of Adhesion Dept.)

After twenty or so years of reliable service the old fridge had started taking days off. We were not sympathetic.  The outages came without warning, and they did the food no favors. So out with the old and in with the new.

This morning, indeed about 45 minutes prior to the four-hour envelope in yesterday’s email, the delivery truck from Home Depot came bearing a shiny new fridge. They detached the rusty old fridge from its plumbing, carted it away, and attached the new one via the $17.98 “12′ Upgraded Braided Water Line ” which was a consequence of ticking the box asking for installation. Ten minutes after arrival, they and the old fridge were gone, leaving a warning to give the new machine several hours to cool, and even longer to start making ice.

It was not until this afternoon that we noticed that along with a users’ manual they had left this:

"By using ... you agree ... biding arbitration."I would be far more annoyed had stuff like this not been the hypo I gave my students years ago when teaching about so-called ‘clickwrap’ contract terms.  Now I try to be amused.

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Verizon: Please Try After Sometime (Updated)

A couple of days ago I tried to add international roaming for a family member who was planning a short trip abroad to see relatives. It seemed to go through OK.

This morning I get an email from abroad to say there is no international plan on the phone.

So I call Verizon. The customer service rep is very nice. He can’t find any record of the order, but offers to re-set it. But every time he texts me a link to confirm his changing the service, I get a message saying there is an error.

After 32 minutes of this, he puts me on hold, comes back, says Verizon has changed the procedure and reps can no longer make these changes directly. Instead they have to walk the customer through it. So I go and repeat exactly what I did a couple of days ago.

I get to the final screen, hit “confirm”, and then I get this:

I would give them a point for honesty, except that I translate this to mean “never”.

(As I post this, I’m on hold again…47 minutes into the call and counting.)

Update: They sorted it after 55 minutes, 45 seconds…without me having to do it myself again….

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An Open Letter to Pretty Much Everyone I Ever Bought from or Donated to Online

Dear Online Retailers:

I am so tired of you punishing me for having bought from you by automatically sending me marketing emails, often only days after the sale — even when I don’t check “YES! Send me lots of email I don’t want.”

For the record,

  • I don’t want a follow-up email asking me to give you a high rating on Amazon or some other platform;
  • I don’t want a follow-up email asking how much I love the product, doubly so if the choices regarding filling in the survey are “Yes” or “Later”;
  • I don’t want to know about your new items on sale;
  • I don’t even want a reminder, after a decent interval, to buy more of your consumables, although this at least is more forgivable.

Your Former Customer,

Michael Froomkin

P.S. And please don’t get me started on all the punishment I’m getting for having made some political donations.  Candidates from all over the US are sending me appeals for funds that look like they came out of one of the same pair of cookie-cutters. All opt-out, never opt-in.

It’s so bad that I am ready to give to the first candidate who sends me an email, even an unsolicited one, promising never to email again unless I reply. Although, come to think of it, if I do that, I guess I’ll get more email anyway…

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Five Random Mysteries

  1. A constitutional question. Why do people who think Donald Trump won the 2020 election think he’s eligible to run again in 2024, when the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution says, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”? (Gary Trudeau wonders this too.)
  2. An ID theft ‘prevention’ question. What is the point of (for pay post-website-breach) so-called ID-theft-prevention services sending me notices that my email has been found on some (unspecified) hacker site and I should change my (unspecified) password? I have few emails and many passwords, all unique except the worthless ones. How am I supposed to figure out what to do? Why not send me the password if it’s compromised anyway so I could search my password manager and password spreadsheet and change it?
  3. A basketball question. Why does the NBA penalize teams for taking good shots that miss when it doesn’t penalize bad shots? The NBA uses a shot clock to force teams to move quickly to score. Ordinarily a team has 24 seconds from getting possession to attempt a shot on pain of losing the ball. If they miss but hit the rim and rebound, the clock is reset to 14 seconds. That makes sense if the offense took the shot with fewer than 14 seconds remaining on the shot clock, and matches how the clock is reset if the other teams fouls or kicks the ball when there are fewer than 14 seconds left on the shot clock. But unlike fouls and kicks, where taking the ball out on the side never costs a team shot-clock seconds but only adds to them if the shot clock is running down, when a team shoots with more than 14 seconds on the clock, misses but hits the rim, then the short clock is shortened to 14 seconds. This just penalizes a team for quick offense. The absurdity of it is even clearer when you consider what happens to a team that attempts a shot when there are more than 14 seconds on the shot clock, but the shot is so bad that it doesn’t hit the rim — that wild shot has no effect on the shot clock at all! The incentives are all wrong: the NBA should reward good shots more than very bad ones rather than the other way around.
  4. A religion in the public sphere question. How come more evangelicals don’t entertain the idea that COVID was a plague sent to punish us for electing Trump?. Goodness knows they’ve claimed all sorts of earlier natural disasters were chastisement for progressive policies.
  5. A shopping question. You have to figure Gatorade is suspicious given the origin story with U. Florida…but this bad? Maybe it’s a good thing G2 is missing from stores? And is lemon-lime G2 cancelled? It does seem to have gone missing from the G2 website.
Posted in Basketball, ID Cards and Identification, Law: Constitutional Law, Shopping, Trump | Comments Off on Five Random Mysteries

Perils of Online Grocery Shopping

For health reasons, I’ve been doing almost all the grocery shopping online.

It isn’t more convenient, because the shopping process involves a fair amount of following along as the shopper ignores one’s fallback instructions and either does or doesn’t text for instructions. (I think of it as “the world’s worst video game”.) Unlike in-person, I don’t get much control over timing, as the shopping will happen some random time up to 3 hours before the delivery time. And the delivery window is also only notional; I suspect that the ratio of would-be shoppers to customers has gone down and as a result my often sizable orders with good tips get grabbed early. Indeed, they are often delivered well before the window I set, which can also make for conflict with online meetings and the like.

And it is expensive: I figure between the app’s markup over the store prices, and the tip, I’m paying at least 25% more than if I went myself.

And it’s frustrating when some types of things that I think I could find in person are not offered on the app. [Yes, there’s a ‘special requests’ mechanism, but it is a bit of a pain.] And it’s also frustrating when stuff theoretically on the app turn out to be not available, although I imagine that this likely would be equally frustrating in person too, given supply chain issues.

Today, however, I experienced a new online grocery shopping problem–or at least one new to me.

Amidst an order with several items, I asked for this:

I got most of what I asked for, but in addition to the chicken I asked for (or meant to ask for?), I also got (and got duly charged for), this:


Yes, I got FIVE chickens. Five. I didn’t save a copy of the original order (I sure will from now on) so I can’t prove I didn’t do something to cause the app to record an order for a record number of chickens, although I can’t see how I could have done that.

So now I have five chickens. Guess I know what we’re eating this week. And next.

Plus I have a new appetite for chicken jokes. (Bonus: Painful chicken jokes from Iraq 2004.)

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