What's All This Then?

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Monday, January 16, 2012

As regular readers with good memories know, I have had issues with the Chicago Tribune from time to time - with columns, with news stories and with the letters section. And now I’m part of a class action law suit against the Trib over a home delivery price increase that was sprung on subscribers without notice. They just took an increased amount from subscribers’ bank or credit card accounts and that’s how we learned of the new price. I had no part in filing the suit. I’m just a member of the class. But today, I have a what might be thought of as a raised blog eyebrow at something that appears in the only daily paper that I read and what one of its columnists has been able to accomplish..

I may have commented on this particular Trib feature in the past, so please excuse if I repeat myself somewhat. The feature to which I refer is called "What’s Your Problem." People who have come to the end of their patience trying to resolve differences with companies or branches of government can turn to the Tribune for help. They just write or e-mail "What’s Your Problem" with their story and if they’re lucky, the paper will take up their cause. It’s an interesting feature, but what it demonstrates more than anything else is the intransigence and/or thickheadedness of companies large and small and just about any branch of government - issues that are of particular interest to me as demonstrated in the subject matter and specific stories found in my other blog Consume Stories

As you can see if you click on the link, I have been trying to gather stories similar to the ones illustrated there but with very little success. It seems very few people who have done battle with corporate or government behemoths have in their possession back and forth correspondence and written evidence of a successful or at least amusing conclusions necessary for inclusion in the book. I have quite a few of my own - but only enough for a very small book. I need contributions and I’m still looking for them. But now comes an announcement from the Tribune that John Yates, the "What’s Your Problem" columnist has written a book on how mere mortals, without the benefit of a major newspaper’s clout, can solve their own problems with problematic companies.

My first reaction to the news of the book was mild amusement followed by a touch of bitterness at the ability of someone who has the clout of his job and his employer to get a book deal for this kind of topic, something I would dearly like to do. I don’t know what’s in his book and I’m not going to buy it, but I imagine it doesn’t contain the following advice.
"If all you get is frustration trying to resolve a problem with a corporate behemoth, just publish the story in your own major newspaper, embarrassing the heck out of them - oh and be sure to mention the name of the "spokesperson" of the company who you were miraculously able to reach."
Much as I am envious of Yates’ ability to get a book published, I would not have bothered to make comment about it except for one thing. In last Sunday’s paper - January 15, What’s Your Problem had a two thirds of a page story with the headline AT&T MISSTEPS OVER THE LINE - a stothry about a woman who had problems with her AT&T Internet account. If you look at my Consumer Stories blog, you will see that it was MY frustrating experience with AT&T that prompted me to begin writing and compiling "BATTLING THE BEHEMOTHS" and you can read how I began to do battle with this particular Behemoth.

Maybe Yates has some magical formulas that I haven’t heard of in my battles with Behemoths that stretch back more than 35 years, but I doubt that any advice he has to offer is as amusingly readable as my own collection of battles, a few samples of which are on my Consumer Stories web site. But for anyone looking for advice but unwilling to shell out the cost of the book or blow thirty bucks to meet the author at the Tribune Tower - yes, there is a meet and greet and I gather a Q&A session with Mr. Yates on January 18 and the price of a "ticket" is $30 - here’s a single piece of consumer advice for free.

Do not call any toll free numbers and do not use a company’s web site to send a message or ask a question. Of course you may be able to resolve problems doing exactly those things and if yours is not a pressing problem, perhaps you can try either approach first. But if you want to cut through reams of red tape and corporate double speak - call or write to specific individuals at the corporation’s home office, or research the individual e-mail addresses of appropriate corporate executives and direct your e-mail to them. Those addresses aren’t readily available, but with a little bit of digging you can find them. If you bother to read the "opening salvos" of my battle with AT&T back in 1974, you’ll get clear idea of what I mean and how trying to resolve problems by talking to anyone at the other end of a toll free number is often the first step on the road to madness.

Oh - In case you think I have any personal animosity towards Mr. Yates and that’s why I’m writing this - not so. I wish him great success with his book on how to do what I’ve been able to do with more success than failure for perhaps - just a guess - more years than he’s been alive? I’m sure there are a great many more ideas in his book than the few lines of advice I’ve offered here. But if enough of you would like to send me $30, I’ll publish my formulas for solving consumer problems right at this space.

Friday, January 13, 2012

As readers if this blog know, from time to time we are able to break important news stories. It was here that the world first learned of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Ikskobarian origins and about retirement income "Ponzi Schemes." Now, through our recently created one of a kind FLY-ON-THE-WALL app, we are able to break what is perhaps the most astounding political story in United States history - bigger than the Constitution and all of its amendments.

The story begins with the true head of the Republican party - Rush Limbaugh - and his disapproval of the circular firing squad that is the Republican contest to select a challenger to President Obama. Having had more than enough of the candidates attacks on each other and the total absence of any acknowledgment of his leadership during the endless comedy presentations masquerading as debates, he summoned all of them to his royal palace to inform them of his decision of the way forward. Attacking each other was making Obama look a little better each day. Even some tea party members had begun to drink morning coffee toasts to what was appearing more and more like the inevitable - four more years of a socialist, welfare, food stamp, taxing the job creators administration. But the mouth that fouls had the answer - a political strategy so audacious that by the tine the Democrats figured out how to respond to it, the 2012 election would be all over.

No more fighting among themselves. No more Newt calling Mitt a liar and Ron calling Newt a draft dodger and Rick S coming out against masturbation and Rick P wanting to invade the rest of the world and John acting like a Manchurian candidate. Rush decreed that on January 31, they would jointly announce their new strategy. They would be forming the Republican Presidential Candidate Corporation with each having an equal number of common shares and Mitt holding all the preferred and splitting the bonds with Newt. They would no longer be battling among themselves to determine who was best equipped to beat Obama and to run the country. They would ALL be "the" candidate. GOPCAN Inc. The Grand Old Party Presidential Candidate Corporation. Positively brilliant. Romney had said it himself at the Iowa State Fair last August. "Corporations are people my friend." At the time he thought he was just putting down a rabble rouser in the audience, but Rush heard it and heard something entirely different. A whole new way to run for president. The Supreme Court had already answered the challenge that Limbaugh knew the Democrats would launch against his brilliantly conceived strategy. They had already decreed that corporations were people - so why not a corporation running for the presidency.

Rush could see no way the corporate candidate could lose - and after he described it to the individual presidential wannabes - neither could they. Romney resisted for a while, insisting that he had the nomination virtually locked up - all by himself. But when Rush threatened to endorse a five member corporate candidate without the Mitt man, he came on board and within minutes all were salivating over Rush’s description of the advantage they would have in presidential debates, able to attack Obama from six different points of view. And whoever moderated the debates would have to stick to the Marquis of John Roberts rules of order and allow much more time to the six corporate stock holders than to the single, unincorporated human. And with a six man corporate presidency, there would be no need for a vice president, so Joe Biden would be left debating himself - another brilliant advantage.

And the campaign itself? The Republican corporate candidate would be able to appeal to just about any voter. To those who wanted to see all of our troops withdrawn from all the countries where they are currently stationed, the Paul plank of the corporate platform would satisfy their every concern while Perry, Romney and Gingrich would be placating those voters chomping at the bit for air strikes against Iran and expanding Gitmo to include the south side of Havana.

There was the small problem of the age restriction. Obviously an entity incorporated on or after January 31, 2012 , although "natural born" - incorporated here and not off shore - after all, this wasn’t a run of the mill, tax avoiding business deal - wouldn’t qualify as a 35 year old person. But Ron Paul came up with the idea of using the Hebrew calendar figuring anyone challenging the year 5772 could be accused of anti-Semitism and would soon be forced to back down. As the Texas oddball put it, "see, the Jews are good for some things even if I didn’t make that quite clear in my news letters."

So there you have it folks. Unless the FLY-ON-THE-WALL app was running low on battery power and having technical hallucinations - a new era in presidential politics is about to emerge and turn this nation on its 235 year old head. Stay tuned and hold on tight. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.