There's no particular theme to this piece, except that the practices detailed herein have managed to annoy me for rather long periods of time, and while I don't necessarily expect anything to be done about them, I see no benefit in keeping quiet about them either.

Extraneous automotive badges:
Automakers have always had a knack for calling attention to features about which you may give less than a damn. Thirty-odd years ago, some GM pickups sprouted a shiny rectangular badge just north of the doors which read "ELECTRONIC SPARK CONTROL," as distinguished from whatever the hell it was, if anything at all, that was controlling the spark on rival trucks. Cadillac fans rue the V8-6-4 badge, marking the fusing of a very good engine with a control system that wasn't ready for prime time. These, though, are technical achievements of a sort. Now that everybody has fuel injection and cylinder-deactivation schemes are no big deal anymore, what you get is a badge telling everyone how much you spent on options: the so-called "trim level," which properly isn't anyone else's farging business but which automakers think is essential. Maybe it's to help out that small percentage of car salesmen less than 85 percent, I am told who can't keep the option packages straight.

So-called "long-distance" calling:
Just about everyone has a cell phone now, from the dullard doing ten under the speed limit in the left lane to the oaf who walked into you at the mall while she was texting, which means that most people have figured out that it really costs no more to call Saskatoon than to call Shawnee. Landline providers, however, depend on scavenging all available long-distance dollars from their remaining customers, and if you call them out on it, you'll get a lecture about LECs and tariffs and a whole lot of jargon that should have been put to sleep the first time the Bell System was dismembered.

Gasoline prices ending in nine-tenths of a cent per gallon:
I've griped about this before to no avail, but there's no reason I can't gripe about it again. Not that anyone is ever going to abandon a relatively-minor example of skulduggery that brings in well over a billion dollars a year in your lifetime or mine. The Feds, who collect 18.4 (!) cents of tax on every gallon, cannot be expected to assist in this matter.

Cluster boxes for mail:
If you live in an apartment complex, these might be just barely tolerable, and with at least half of all apartments being upstairs, well, there's really nothing to be gained by wearing out a mail carrier ten years early. (I have questionable knees, so I know whereof I speak.) Besides, this is about your only chance to see that redhead in 7C without engaging in tactics of dubious legality. But the presence of a cluster box in a standard garden-variety neighborhood of single-family homes says one thing and one thing only: "You're lucky we're bringing it this far."

Laughable dawdling in electronic funds transfer:
Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 I signed into my bank's online-payment system and keyed in the next month's mortgage payment. It cleared before six and was posted on Wednesday morning, on time; one day early, in fact. Now if I want to move a few dollars out of that same account to PayPal, or to load up my prepaid American Express card, it will take, no matter what the time of day, day of week, time of month, or whatever: "three to five business days." And they mean it, too: PayPal invariably reports the funds available three days after the transfer, and Amex four days. I'm sure there's some esoteric Official Reason for this fraud prevention? but I studied enough physics to know the speed of electrons, and they're a hell of a lot faster than that. Amex, at least, will send me a text to tell me that the dollars have arrived from whatever galactic bus station they've been parked at for the last 95.9 hours.

The Vent

  1 September 2011

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 Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill