Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Subterfuge at Megabanks

Another word we the publicly educated rarely visit is Subterfuge: a strategy used to delay, distract, evade and eventually wear down one's opponent. In the world of banking, it appears the opponent is the customer.

One of my favorite websites is RipoffReport.com, where I do research on companies and individuals prior to making any contractual or financial commitments. On one of my news feeds I caught wind of someone who produced a video about their trouble with Bank of America. Customers who wanted to legally modify their bank loans after the housing bubble burst, are the victims of subterfuge that eventually forces the customers into foreclosure. Bank of America pulled out its last stop when it requested from a customer, a death certificate.

I went to Ripoffreport.com and produced a small chart showing the number of complaints about a handful of banks in the United States.

I wonder what it must be like to be customers for Megabanks. Before I moved across the country I did research to find small local banks instead.  I used a site called "MoveYourMoney." The original website no longer exists, but the Facebook page is still there. I find that disturbing.

The proliferation of complaints online about Bank of America alone makes me wonder if their current customers will be their last. Maybe they adopted their subterfuge tactics as part of their anti-fraud strategy, but they clearly act with impunity and won't stop or change on their own.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hobo Chicken

Hobo Chicken coming to Walmart
Hobo is short for Homeward Bound, but everyone associates the meaning with regular transient homelessness and its accoutrements. "The chickens are coming home to roost" is a phrase recently resurrected in the scathing essay On The Justice of Roosting Chickens by Ward Churchill regarding the attacks on the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001.

Not to spoil the recipe of its namesake, Hobo Chicken represents the arrival of one's comeuppance in the form of just rewards, which could be construed as good or bad depending on your perspective.

If perhaps you are a national franchise such as HostessChic-fil-A or Papa John's Pizza, you have certain institutionalized character flaws that will invite Hobo Chicken, but Hobo Chicken has his sights set on a much larger prize, Walmart, and of all the times of the year, Black Friday of 2012.Target also faces Hobo Chicken.

This seems to be a growing trend. For decades people didn't have a choice but to accept lower wages, and because they accepted lower wages their living standards suffered, they had to shop for steeper and steeper bargains, trample over each other to get the last Cabbage Patch Kid or Pokemon. Now businesses are blaming the workers for accepting the lower wages. A Manpower representative in a Reuters interview called it a "wage scar caused by workers accepting lower wages," not that employers had anything to do with it.

The employers had little choice but to continue discounting their supply, because they don't have a second mirror that allows them to see the backs of their own heads, or they would see a target painted by who else, Hobo Chicken.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Savings or Social Engineering?

There are lots of suggestions about how to save your money at FeedThePig.org. The theory is, if you strictly follow the instructions on saving money, eventually you will have enough to start living a better lifestyle. Does that math really work? You must look beyond your normal perception of events to the long-term consequences of your behavior.

What would happen if you decided to do what you normally thought was the right thing and stopped buying foreign-made products? If you chose not to purchase something that was not made in your country, who would get hurt? The factory workers in another country, but also everyone involved in packaging, shipping, distribution, purchasing, displaying and selling at the destination, your own neighborhood. How likely would you be able to find a similar product that was made in your country? By now it would have been priced out of the market and made extinct, because everyone's a bargain shopper.

Let's pretend that everyone eating at restaurants decide to only order water as their beverage, skip the appetizers, and share one dessert like so many penny-pinching tipsters suggest. How much overhead does the restaurant charge for operating expenses on only the main course? Could the restaurant stay in business only on the profits from the main course? If not, what do you think would happen to the cost of the main course? Clearly the lack of interest in more expensive beverages, appetizers, and desserts for individuals would require that costs be shifted to the main course.

Cost redistribution by suggestion is one type of subtle market manipulation that occurs outside normal human narcissistic perception of reality. Some people proudly brag about saving twenty cents per gallon at the fuel pump, but they likely didn't think about the time and fuel they used driving to that particular station. The costs are actually the same or higher, they are just redistributed to you in a way you cannot perceive, clouded by distorted values that appear to be satisfied on an immediate level.