Thursday, September 30, 2010

These Companies Suck: T-Mobile and Citibank

Citibank: if you apply for a credit card, expect a call at 7AM in the
morning asking to verify your social security number. Why? And the
last time I applied for another credit card, the amount of phone calls
and credit checks was staggering. Then they started denying our credit
transactions, stating that they were "protecting" us from fraudulent
activity. I told them that we were already covered by federal law from
any fraudulent activity on our credit cards, so we weren't being
protected by this policy -- Citibank was protecting itself. They did
not argue with me.

No other credit card company has hassled me so much or made me call them
so many times.

T-Mobile: all customers in California get a 30-day trial period to test
out if a cell phone company's products work out for you. Return the
phone or SIM card within 30 days, and you should legally not be charged.

Not with T-Mobile! They are obviously trying to hoodwink folks who
don't have the time or the knowledge to combat this evil corporate
entity, which uses standard evil corporate tactics. Here's how they
work: you try out a SIM card for a service. You return that card within
30 days, in which case you should not be charged at all. T-Mobile then
sends you bill after bill each month, each month charging you for
another month's service. You call. You tell them that you cancelled
the service before the first 30 days. You tell them that you returned
the SIM card. They say that they cannot do anything. You yell and
scream, and finally one of their representatives, after putting you on
hold for 15 minutes, tells you that the best they can do is take $10 off
your now $150 bill. You ask to speak to a supervisor. He finally comes
on and understands that you know the law and are not giving up. He
finally does the right thing (we'll have to see) and says that he is
cancelling all charges and all the bills.

I won't even go into how difficult it is to order a SIM card for a
month-by-month plan, which is clearly visible on their website, but
impossible to order without ordering a $200 USB modem as well. It's
always amazing to me when I know more about a company's products (that
are featured prominently on that company's website) than their
representatives. I spent hours on the phone a month ago trying to order
a SIM card for their month-to-month data service. I already had a USB
modem that would accept their SIM card and just wanted the SIM card and
month-to-month service. Guess what? Impossible to order. If you
already have a USB modem from T-Mobile and just need to have data
service for one month, you have to buy another modem from T-Mobile for
that month? Use the data plan for two months, and you have to buy the
modem for sure. Now you have two modems at $200 each. Stop the plan
(it is month-to-month, by the way!) and you have to pay the monthly rate
of $24.99, the activation fee of $35, and buy another modem all over

After hours of speaking to T-Mobile sales and customer service reps, a
supervisor told me that the only solution around this was to order a
smartphone SIM card, then to call and change the service. Guess what?
The smartphone SIM card didn't work in the T-Mobile modem that I already
had. It was super slow. And then T-Mobile charged me over and over
again even though I returned the SIM card.

I wish a cell phone company would offer a simple data-only,
month-to-month data plan that is actually under $25 per month, lets you
stop and start service when you need without having to pay activation
fees each time, and will let you use the SIM card in a Blackberry, smart
phone, or USB modem for a laptop. T-Mobile is close, but watch out for
the above scenarios. Virgin Mobile's new plan is close, but requires
you to buy a Blackberry for $300 rather than allowing you to use your
old Blackberry. BS!

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Product Recommendations

I'm laid up with a giant bruise that turned into a bacteria-eating flesh wound of some sort. It's been six weeks now and looks like six more weeks before I am able to go diving again.

I'll recommend a few things below.

1. Western Digital Live Media Player: this little unit is fabulous. I held off on buying one since I figured that an existing PC could hook up to my TV and do everything I needed. After getting a $300 electricity bill the last two months, I am on a mission to reduce the power consumption of my devices. Anyway, this little unit does indeed read Mac-formatted disks, and it does indeed play back files recorded by a Media Center PC! It plays back just about every file that my Mac does. Incredible little machine.

2. I finally gave in a bought a hot tub (made by Sunshine or something like that). The thing costs $100 to $150 per month to use! Granted, I am using it on 110V. I will be putting a 220/240V outlet for this and this should reduce the energy consumption, but still -- this is a lot of money to run a hot tub. Regardless, I've experimented with keeping the water crystal clear. Besides using the shock chemicals about every 4-5 days rather than once a week, I HIGHLY recommend a product called Spa Bright and Clear. I had a problem with cloudy water, and despite keeping the water chemically up-to-date and the filter cleaned, I was still getting cloudy water. One treatment of Spa Bright and Clear made the water completely clear for a good three weeks. The product seems like little more than soap, but it is inexpensive and supposedly binds to small particles in the water, so that the particles can be captured by the filter.