punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Price Obscuring and Junk Mail

There's an old saying that says, "if you have to ask, it's too much." As I go through my junk mail today, I get a brochure from Scotts Lawn Care, which promises my lawn will look great if they take care of it. But like many such brochures, never once is a price mentioned, not even a ballpark price. Is it $40/month? $60? $100? What? No idea. So I never buy from them because I don't want some specialist to come over and give me high sales pressure, compounded with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

"If you don't take care of your lawn, Mr. Larson," will say the salesguy, "you could risk financial ruin." Or some other such bullwipe. Sorry Scotts, you give no pricee, I give no callee.

ADT was the same way. Scared the crap out of me with their sales pitch. Speaking about how burglars are high on cocaine, and will kill you while you sleep, just because they are jealous of your lifestyle. How we live behind an alley, and that's where 99% of of crimes are committed in our area. But I didn't want to spend several thousand to have a system installed, nor pay the monthly fee, which had a ton of tiny print footnotes about paying a fee every time the thing goes off, even accidentally, plus what 911 charges you for a false call. They didn't tell me what prices were either without pressuring me to a commitment. It was only when I said I distrusted their methods that they told me every time the alarm goes off, it's $50. No thank you.

Salespeople in stores who don't tell me up-front pricing always make me suspicious. They don't know they waste their time with me. I have the advantage of flatly stating, "I simply cannot give you the money, because I don't have it." The reaction is always the same, something about payment plans. They always try and break it down to some ridiculous per day sort of thing. "This ring may seem expensive at $4995, but with our payment plan, that's less that $1000 a year, or only $85 an month. Can you honestly say your wife is not worth $3 a day? That's less than a latte at Starbucks!" Then I can say, "That ring does not seem worth $4995. Can I have it independently appraised?" No, they can't allow me to do that. Of course not. I also try an educate myself before I buy a high-dollar item, and if I haven't, or they give me some off-the-wall reason, it's always stuff like, "Cubic zircona has gone up because the diamond merchants have put an import tax on all fake diamonds traveling state lines..." Uh huh.

If I have to ask, it's because they know they overcharge.

This leads me to another gripe. Going through junk mail is pretty aggravating. I'd say I'm like most people when I say that 90-95% of what I get in postal mail is junk. Here's how it breaks down for me:

60% - Newspaper-like ads, usually called "circulars" with coupons for things I never need
30% - Things in envelopes, usually applications for credit cards, loans, and clubs
5% - Catalogs of something I am actually interested in
5% - Real mail: bills, letters, or orders

The 60% goes right in the trash. I don't need all those things. What bugs me are those ads for something I couldn't even get even if I wanted them, like pool-related stuff. Our neighborhood is not zoned for pools due to the subrock. All you can have are above-ground pools, and no one's back yard is even big enough for a real sized one. I also get a lot of "local business" coupons for crap I never even would want in a million years. Today's mail had a huge 10-page 8 x 11 catalog for wrought ironwork accessories (railings, posts, tables, chairs, and benches). Another for some local overpriced "all natural and organic" food store. Columbian seedless bananas: on sale for $4.95/lb! No thank you, I'll pass.

The 30% really busts my chops. First, the flood of "pre-approved" loans and credit cards. That's unsafe! What of some identity fraud person gets ahold of that mail? That's why I have a monthly credit check service (via American Express). So far, no one has stolen any credit card application, pretending to be me, but I figure it's a thing of when, not if. And some of the terms and conditions are outrageous! 8.956% Interest !!!!!! and then a footnote of "With transfer of new balances only, 23.99% interest thereafter, $55 annual charge, all late payments we claim to have never gotten will default your card to 30.99% interest. Some extra fees may apply. Terms subject to change at our whim... No no no. And some won't give up. I now get 2-3 Discover Card applications a month. Two to three. American Express doesn't get the clue I won't upgrade to a Gold or Platinum Card, even though I told them to stop sending them. Fee for normal Amex card: $80/year. A Gold card: $300/year. And I get....? No. Nothing. And the sales reps that used to call me on the phone couldn't even tell me anything useful except the "status and prestige" of the card, or discounts at places I could never afford to go to in the first place. "Wow, $1200 off a $12,000 cruise to Tusacny, airfare not included." Far out. Thanks, but no thanks, and put me on your "do not call" list... again. Then they want me to get a "Amex Blue" card, because I get "free rewards" on every purchase. That would be great... if places actually took the card, and your "rewards" weren't ambiguous, or things like they offer with the Gold card (except even less of a real value). Even Citibank, a card I use, sends me applications for the exact same card I use. They can't even match up their mailing list database with their current customers! How inspiring. In total, I'd say I get 10-25 credit card applications a month. Some are loan applications, usually off my current equity. "How would YOU like a $128,698.23 check in 24 hours?" they ask. It's always some weird amount, like they are trying to squeeze out every penny. But then I look at the interest rate terms, and see that $128,698.23 goes to $328,877.19 after I pay it all off. Then there is mail that tries to look like something else: a birthday card, a rebate check, or it's blank, like a credit card notice, and you feel a card inside only to find out... it's a credit card application with a dummy card to make you open it. Fuck you, Discover Card. Fooled again.

The 5% of catalogs are my fault, and don't include the ton of catalogs I didn't request, I might add, which I put in the 60%. I have read them less and less these days, because rarely do I need anything in them.

I look forward to the 5% real mail, even if it is just bills today.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000393.html
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