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The Anti-Green – Catalogs [Comment]

Last week I posted The Anti-Green – Catalogs; which was triggered by receiving a catalog from B&H Photo Video, the day that article posted I received the following.


I appreciate the sentiments in your post although I am disappointed to see “Comments are closed.”

B&H regrets your dissatisfaction. At the same time we have many more customers thanking us for sending our useful resource book than otherwise so we have to presume it is not time for us to discontinue print publication. While I understand your sentiment, and agree we need to maintain a sustainable world for our children, I also recognize that other customers of ours have alternate perspectives.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video


While I don’t allow comments on my BLOG posts, I do provide a contact mechanism (which Mr Posner used), and I’m more than happy to provide space for any reasonable rebuttal…

I’m happy that B&H Video Photo has many customers that thank them for their printed catalogs (at least some of those catalogs might actually be received by someone who doesn’t immediately throw them into a recycle bin, or worse) — but I’ll underscore that they send them to EVERYONE that’s ever done business with them rather than allow people to select whether or not they desire the catalogs (or any other mailings).

I’ll stand by what I said in my original post…

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.¬† Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

Apparently I’m not the only one who took a moment to comment on getting a catalog they didn’t want here’s a forum thread on the topic “Unsubscribe from B&H’s forest felling catalog“, which happens to includes the post.


henryp
May 05, 2010 at 07:27 PM

First, I apologize to those who received more than one book and to those who opted out but received books anyway. There are a variety of possible reasons why, but suffice it to say we won’t send you what you don’t want if at all possible.

I want to thank the OP for posting the unsub link. Very thoughtful and much appreciated. The unsub link has been tweeted and retweeted repeatedly (more than once by me). I doubt Twitter needs it again. ūüôā

Anyone who got multiple books – please send me the individual alpha-num codes via email (NOT PM) and I’ll forward them to the list maintainer. An example of the code is JC1026#####.

Having read a lot of “why do they bother” stuff here and elsewhere, the answer is because more people want them than don’t and they do get used. People circle stuff with ballpoint pens, highlight stuff with those yellow markers, fold down page corners or tag pages with post-it notes and tear out pages and post them on the refrigerator.

We want to keep our mail list to folks who really do want them and appreciate your help to keep our list clean. Thank you. FWIW, the whole thing’s online here.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video

PS Recycle, don’t discard!


Here is B&H Photo Video’s catalog unsubscribe link — but notice it doesn’t take the catalog number on the label, but rather wants to collect personal information…

Originally posted 2010-05-12 02:00:35.

Joke Day USA

That’s the best name I can think of for elections in the US… it really has become a joke.

But I have a few ideas that “we the people” need to push for:

  • No elected official will serve more than two terms (if it’s good for the president, it’s good for all offices);
  • All elected officials will receive pay at the rate of minimum wage for forty hours per week (and won’t be eligible for overtime);
  • All elected officials will receive the same health care coverage as do Americans who work hourly jobs (ie, they will have to deal with insurance provided at the national level); and they will pay for that insurance out of their pocket;
  • All elected officials will receive the same retire plan as do Americans who work hourly jobs (ie, Social Security);
  • All elected officials will have to publish their complete tax returns (including all supporting documents);
  • All elected officials will have to publish their complete calendar;
  • It will be a felony punishable by a minimum of fifty years in prison should any elected official use their office for personal gain or fail to provide “transparent” access to their activities;

I personally think we’ve given our elected officials too long in the candy store without parental supervision — this crap where congress get’s a raise unless they vote against it is just wrong; congress should only get a raise when the average American get’s a raise — too long has this country catered to the elite; it’s time now for this country to recognize that America’s strength is in it’s masses.

US National Debt Clock: Real Time


INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-11-02 02:00:18.

Fate

I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
· Buddha

Originally posted 2011-03-22 01:00:01.

Drupal Review

I’ve was waiting for Drupal 7 to do any major work; but with Alpha 2 only barely out (as of writing this) I decided to go ahead and use Drupal 6 and cross my fingers that the upgrade would go reasonably smoothly.

Drupal 7 will be released when Drupal 7 is ready for release.

NOTE:  Drupal does not maintain any backwards compatibility; while they do support upgrading between minor and major revisions it is possible that you may be using a module that does not have [and will not have] a compatible version.

Drupal is an open source software solution; you can read about the history on their web site, as well as get a little better feel for the zen of Drupal development and developers.

Drupal is a Content Management System (CMS); and in all fairness, I would call Drupal more of a Content Management Framework or as Drupal itself call it a Content Management Platform.

Why the distinction?

Well, I think primarily to clearly delineate Drupal’s strengths from CMSs.

Drupal talks about it’s organization in terms of a “stack” (or layers) and “objects”… and glue that binds and manages these to form a web site.

Unlike some of the heavy weight CMS products on the market Drupal allows a user to build a fully custom web site through custom theming and customizing object interaction.¬† And you can see from the list of sites that use Drupal it’s amazing what has been done (and can fairly easily be done) with Drupal.

Now for the fine print.

Drupal isn’t easy to learn, and you’re not going to be building an incredible site with Drupal ten minutes after installing it (though it is very straight forward to install).

First, you need to wrap you head around the Drupal model, and then you have to think about your web site in terms of object relationships in a very database centric model… and it’s very likely you’re going to have to read, play, and learn (a lot).

Why put this much effort into learning a tool to build a web site?

Well, clearly if you’re building a one or two page web site you’re wasting your time.¬† In fact if you’re building hundreds of one or two page web sites there are much more efficient tools to use… but if you’re building a large (complex) web site, that you have a very specific user experience in mind for, and it will be dynamic (meaning content and maybe even appearance will change) then you should be interested in Drupal.

Drupal is very power; Drupal is very complex; Drupal is what Drupal does…

The real power of Drupal is that maintaining a well designed Drupal site is straight forward, making sweeping changes to a well designed Drupal site is straight forward — and all of that is largely irrelevant to the size of the site.

It’s a lot of work to learn Drupal; particularly if you’re only going to build one complex site in your life; but if you’re a consultant, or you’re going to make a career out of building (or re-building) web sites… it’s a tool you will want in your toolbox.

http://drupal.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-05 02:00:12.

Microsoft Live Essentials 2011

Late last week Microsoft pushed out Microsoft Live Essentials 2011 as a “critical” update…

I don’t ever recall a new version of a piece of software being labeled as a critical update; and perhaps there was some security flaw found in the last version of Microsoft Live Essentials that Microsoft felt wasn’t fixable, or perhaps they just wanted to have people downloading an update that probably few will really want.

The only part of Live Essentials that I use is Windows Live Mail; so I can’t really speak to the rest of the pieces — but my first impression was that I’d be moving to a different email program soon, very soon.

Everything has changed, and menus you need to setup the program (it only copies some of your setting from the previous version) are buried deep, and in confusing places.

Additionally this isn’t just an email client any longer; it’s moving closer and closer to what Outlook is rather than what Outlook Express was… and to me that’s a shame.

I really can’t imagine most people have a surplus of screen real estate to comfortably accommodate all the eye candy and glitz that Microsoft has wasted time and energy into putting into Live Mail when they could have fixed some of the bugs (actually a bug that I reported during the beta over two years ago is still in even this version — I guess the kids in Redmond just don’t know how to keep a scrollable window in the same place after a change… and now rather than putting you at the top of the scroll you’re at a random location — so it looks like someone tried to hacked a “fix” in, and didn’t bother testing it… as seems to be all too true of most software these days).

My advice is don’t take the update… just continue using the version you have now until Microsoft forces you to upgrade; and if you don’t need the Hotmail/Live mail interface afforded by the Windows Live Mail program, consider one of the other free alternatives.

Originally posted 2010-10-24 02:00:38.

The Anti-Green – Postal Mail

Receiving postal mail, such as bills, statements, etc and making payments via paper check (either dropped off or mailed in) wastes an incredible amount of natural resources.

Like junk mail and advertisements you receive in the mail, your bills and statements require the use of paper and energy to produce them, energy to distribute them, and energy to properly dispose of and recycle them — plus your paper check payments require the same.

Electronic bills and statements provide you the same information in a form that is far more environmentally friendly.  The production and distribution of that information requires a fraction of the power sending out traditional paper would, and totally saves the paper.

Additionally, paying electronically further reduces the wasted paper and energy.

Most institutions offer statements and bills via electronic delivery at no cost, some even offer incentives such as statement credits or some type of bonus or reward for signing up for electronic statements; and you needed be afraid of electronic statements, you still have every protection that a paper statement would have offered to you.

As for electronic payments, there’s a number of ways in which you can do that…

You could authorize a company to automatically debit your account for the amount you owe.¬† There are there often used methods.¬† First, a company could issue an automatic draft against your checking account — that’s essentially like a paper check, though since Check21 it’s likely it would be transmitted electronically.¬† Second, a company could issue an ACH (Automated Clearing House) transaction against your checking (or savings) account — that’s presented to the bank generally though a purely electronic medium.¬† Third, a company could issue a charge against a major credit card account.

Personally, I’d be cautious about authorizing any institution to directly remove money from my checking (or savings) account; while there aren’t any real long term issues with them taking out too much, you might find that the time required to correct a mistake is quite long (and you don’t have use of the funds in question during the resolution period).¬† With credit cards, however, all the mechanism are in place to insure that if someone makes a mistake — you won’t be out the money (or charged any interest) while the error is being looked into and resolved.

Another (entirely different) way you could pay your bills electronically is by using a bill payment service.¬† Most financial institutions now offer free bill payment services and puts you totally in control.¬† You decide who to pay, when to pay them, and how much to pay them.¬† If the bank makes an error, they’re totally responsible for resolving it — and if they remove funds that you didn’t authorize, or in a way you didn’t authorize then they are responsible for the ramifications.¬† At worst this type of bill payment generates a paper check that’s sent out on your behalf; generally it’s totally electronic.

Another place to look for reductions in postal mail is to discourage companies to send you out anything by mail that can be delivered electronically (remember, in the United States, electronic signatures are legally recognized — faxes and physical signatures are no more binding that an “electronic” signature).¬† So the bottom line, companies that feel the need to interact with you in writing are simply showing you that they care little for the environment and do not wish to invest in the future.¬† My advice, look elsewhere and send them a clear message by terminating your relationships with them.

Finally, many people use postal mail to send pictures, greeting cards, personal letters, etc.¬† Sure, sometimes you’re going to have to — but have you ever considered that most people just throw those away, or put them in a shoe box at the bottom of the closet?¬† Consider sending what you can electronically — if they really want a picture printed, they can do that locally (for probably the same it would have cost you — and less than the postage you paid).

As I’ve said a number of times before… it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.

Originally posted 2010-05-11 02:00:16.

Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union

Much of this post is comprised of excerpts of a letter sent to Chris Rutledge, President/CEO, and Jearil Crawford SVP Operations of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s how I opened…

Over the many years I’ve had dealings with financial institutions, it’s generally been my finding that credit unions offer a much better value to a consumer as well as much better service. And further I’ve found that smaller institutions are generally better focused on customer satisfaction.

I can assure you that in the case of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union the level of service is much worse than many large faceless banks, the focus on customer satisfaction is non-existent, and while the rates your institution pays for deposit account might be good, they in no way make for a better value to a consumer given the nightmarish customer (dis)service which seem to be deeply ingrained in your institutions culture.

What happened?

Well, Gulf Winds offers a higher interest rate (up to the first $15K) in your checking account if you accept electronics statements, make at least one ACH/direct deposit, and do twelve transactions using their (VISA) debit card.

So I stopped on first of July to make one of those twelve transaction, and had my card declined because it was expired. ¬†Sure enough, the expiration date was clearly embossed 06/12 on the card. ¬†But I decided to stop at one more retailer to make sure it gave me the same message and that there was no grace period (though I knew that the magnetic strip would have the same expiration date encoded on it that was embossed on the card)… and sure enough, a second time I got a card expired message from a point of sale terminal.

When I got home, I sent an online message requesting a replacement card.  The reply I got told me the card I had was still good.  WRONG.  I had to send a second message for the exact same issue.  Clearly the customer (dis)service person was in too much of a hurry dismissing customer issues to really care to look into what the issue might be.

Then I was told that I’d have to drive to the corporate branch during business hours; a drive which would be one hundred miles round trip for me; so I ask if it would be possible to transfer to a closer branch (which they indicated yes, but I never actually ask them to do the transfer).

I drove to the corporate branch; stepped in, no one was at the receptionist desk, so I had to wait… finally a young woman told me that the high interest checking account cards weren’t in yet; then she checked again (at my request), and told me my card was at the branch I¬†inquired¬†about having it transferred to; then I ask to speak to someone who actually might have a clue what was going on… and I was ask to wait.

I waited until I’d been at the branch nearly half an hour then left.

One the way back I got a call from a woman there who told me that my card had been at the corporate branch all this time.  And I (not so politely) told her to throw it in the trash, that I would never step foot in a Gulf Winds branch again.

After another half hour I got a call from a man at the branch I normally do business with offering to bring the card to me (he had no idea of the distance), and I told him that Gulf Winds didn’t deserve my business.

I’ve put all this (and more) in a letter (as I said) to Gulf Winds, but to me (since this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues like this with Gulf Winds; nor did the pathetic customer service on this instance only involve one¬†individual) ¬†this is a cultural issue where Gulf Winds people do not take ownership of issues, and only care about going through the motions and moving customers through a (broken) system.

Even though you might be able to get better rates at Gulf Winds than other local institutions, I highly recommend putting your assets in an institution more deserving of your support.

After all, I wasted more than two hours of my life that I will never get back, and will never be compensated for… as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing at Gulf Winds for me.

Originally posted 2012-07-08 02:00:30.

US Postal Service

I just dropped off some US Postal Service Form PS-1500s at the post office down the street, and have to relay a “funny” (maybe sad is a more appropriate word) episode…

The postal clerk said she’d never seen these forms before and went into the back to get her supervisor (who refused to give me his name).

He told me that the post office didn’t do “that”… and ask me where I got the forms, I told him the USPS web site (the people in line laughed, and that didn’t make him particularly happy).¬† Then he insisted again that the post office didn’t do “that”… and I ask him why the post office would have forms for something they didn’t do (and again I got laughs from the line).

He agreed to take the forms, and I reminded him that throwing them away would be a violation of postal regulations… he told me to get out of his lobby (presumably that would make him the station manager).

I’ve filed complaints with the US Postal Board of Governors before (and I just fired off another), but I always find complaining to my Representative, Senators, and President (all at once – which I’ve done as well) creates enough inquiries that the complaints is actually taken seriously.

I generally expect bad service at the post office, and it’s always amusing that the post office and quote postal regulations left and right when they benefit the post office… but few postal persons know anything about postal regulations that benefit the consumer.

For information on PS-1500 and taking control of your mail box, see my previous post:

Originally posted 2009-01-24 01:00:21.

Summer Solstice 2017

June 21 2017 04:24  GMT

A Pledge of No Privacy

Part of the intent of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) and the rules and regulations for federal banking and credit unions was to put into effect requirements on financial institutions1 to safe-guard the personal, confidential, and financial information of their customers2.

On of the main parts of the law was that it required institutions to provide customers with their privacy policy which explained their information sharing and information safeguarding.¬† However, because the law was heavily effected by lobbying, and even reviewed by large financial institutions before being considered by congress there are cases where institutions aren’t really subject to many limitations on what they can do with your information.

You might find it interesting that every large financial institution I have dealt with since the law was passed (ie Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclay, etc) have specifically allowed for an “opt-out” of the sharing for personal information for use both inside and outside the company (effectively limiting the information to be used only as require by law and as necessary for the maintenance of your account).

However, you have to be very careful about smaller institutions.

Credit Unions are in general very customer oriented, and most the time “do the right thing” — particularly when it comes to building a solid, long term customer relationship based on trust and respect.¬† However, take a look at the “Privacy Pledge” for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union3 (formerly Monsanto Employees Credit Union) http://www.gogulfwinds.com/page/privacy — WOW — that’s a really nice pledge to no privacy.¬† In essence what it says is that they’ll use any information they collect on you (both public and non-public) and use it to the full extent allowed by law (I’d guess to profit from) and won’t allow a customer (or consumer) to “opt-out”.

How many ways can you say “non-customer focused”???

The moral of this, don’t assume you’re better off dealing with small “local” financial providers that might seem to have your interests in mind — you might actually end up getting better over all service and respect from a much larger financial provider.

I for one will be re-assessing my financial relationships; and likely terminating a few — and trying to convince congress to stand up to the financial services companies and actually pass a law that protects me.

REFERENCES:

In Brief: The Financial Privacy Requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

NOTES:

1 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 apply to banks, credit unions, securities firms, and insurance companies as well as a number of other type of companies providing financial services to consumers and is part of a larger framework of federal, state, and local banking laws.

2 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 privacy requirements apply to customers; which are defined to be consumers (not business) with which the institution has a “long term” relationship (ie holds an account), and does not necessarily cover all consumers who might interact or transact with an institution.

3 You can find the same type of non-privacy policy at a number of smaller financial institutions; Gulf Winds is particularly sad because they refer to it as a “Privacy Pledge” rather than just a “Privacy Policy”.

Originally posted 2010-07-05 02:00:15.