Monday, May 23, 2016

Beware of Toro lawn equipment

The self-propel mechanism on my lawnmower became inoperable and neither of the only two Toro authorized repair shops in my area - A-Z Lawnmower Parts in Lexington, South Carolina and Catoe's Equipment in Columbia, South Carolina - could repair it.

A-Z failed twice, and charged me for work I didn't authorize. After their second effort failed, one of A-Z's employees advised me to hold the mower handle with one hand and force the self-propel mechanism down with the other. This is dangerous advice and provides no solution.

The Toro Company offers no help - AVOID THESE BUSINESSES like the plague.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Listen up AGAIN, AT&T: One year without home phone or Internet, and I LOVE it

Wow. Tomorrow, 5/13/16, a whole year will have gone by since discontinuing my "service" with AT&T. And what a year it's been.

The absence of robocalls has been absolutely WONDERFUL. I didn't realize just how stressful the daily, decades-long annoyances had been until they ended. For the first couple of weeks, all I wanted to do was sleep, and being retired, I could afford the luxury. In fact, before the "unwinding" ended, I got downright worried.

Ironically enough, when I had a home phone, wunna the worst robocall offenders was United Health Care. They showed their appreciation for my Medicare Advantage business by targeting me with robocalls demanding that I sign up for regular home health-care visits. Much to the medical fraternity's chagrin, I've been blessed with exceptionally good health, take no medications, and have no interest in United Health Care's supposedly optional program. I'd told 'em so more than once, but the robocalls continued, sometimes ringing my phone for up to 50 times. Much more of that - their strategy, perhaps? - and I woulda needed home health care visits.

What a pleasure it was - after I no longer had a home phone - to get a letter from United Health Care - suitable for framing - angrily informing me in big bold print at the top, "We've been trying to reach you." followed by a demand that I contact them. Really.

Okay. This venture has also been about the money, but only in the sense that I don't appreciate being kicked around by a crooked corporation that assumes everyone who can afford it somehow has to have home phone and Internet.

Ah yes, the Internet

I've cut my computer use by 75%, visiting the library has been a ton of fun, and a cute girl who works there even sang to me on my birthday. Top that, AT&T.

To sum it all up, this first year without home phone or Internet has been a delightful experience. The bicycling turned out to be so much fun that I've used my bicycle instead of my car 95% of the time. I've learned new riding techniques, saved at least $1,500, and look forward to continuing this modern day adventure in self-reliance.

Update 5/18/2016 - My pleasure to send AT&T and the SC Dept of Consumer Affairs a link to this post.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Roundabouts and school buses don't mix

Update 4/25/2016 - This morning, I witnessed an ambulance negotiating one of the roundabouts. The driver was attempting to go on down the road, but to avoid running over the roundabout or going off the pavement, he drove into the oncoming lane, stopped, and backed up in order to direct the ambulance forward. 

Few days ago, I witnessed a school bus negotiate the roundabout at the entrance to my neighborhood, Quail Hollow, in Lexington county, W. Columbia, South Carolina. I've blogged about the roundabout issue before.

The school bus had to run over the roundabout in order to make a left turn, and the bus leaned to the right. Isn't it a joy when tax dollars are put to such good use?

And then there's those pesky emergency vehicles, and people who attach trailers to the back of their vehicles. I saw a person pulling a trailer give up on going around Quail Hollow's other roundabout, deciding instead to make his left turn by entering the oncoming traffic lane. Nuthin' like tax-funded efforts to protect the public...

Wonder why the SC Policy Council isn't screaming about roundabouts as part of the group's outrage (#SCRoadsDebate on Facebook and Twitter) over South Carolina legislators refusing to repair the roads. Roundabouts ain't cheap, the boondoggles are poppin' up all over the place, and I'd like to know who's making money off the scam.

Let's quit wasting tax dollars on roundabouts. Let's repair the roads.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Probate in South Carolina is a racket

Some topics warrant a separate blog, and I published a new one today: Here's a link to my first post, "10 year limit on probating Wills is one of many horrors facing heirs"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Listen up, AT&T: No home phone or Internet has been a blessing

Update 4/22/2016 - AT&T's sales guy dropped by this wk, SUCH A PLEASURE tellin' him how much I enjoy not being bothered by robocalls, the money I've saved, and the pleasure of putting my tax dollars to work for me by using a computer at the library. I happened to be sittin' on my bicycle in the driveway as we talked. JOIN CONSUMERS UNION'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST ROBOCALLS.

Why should this government - Repukes n Demagogues alike - and its crooked corporate cronies be allowed to terrorize citizens within their own homes?

Over two months without my "service," and the benefits remain well worth any inconveniences. Not being harassed by robocalls is relief beyond measure.

The biggest surprise was receiving notices in the mail that automatic payments for various bills hadn't been received. Really had me puzzled until I remembered that a "rewards" checking account I opened years ago required home phone and Internet. Bank First in Macon, Missippi (AVOID 'em like the plague) never sent any notice, they just suddenly stopped my autopays. Fortunately, I never had to shell out any late fees, and it wuzza pleasure to close the account. Bank First plays the teaser-rate game, and if anyone raked in "rewards," it wuz banksters and AT&T. I can get a better rate with a CD.

Cashing in - pardon the pun - on prior bicycling experience, I've made most of my trips to the pay phone and the library (8-10 milers) on my bike, done most of my shopping along the way, and saved a bundle on gas. Lots of fun, and phone calls have averaged a measly $1.25 per month. The trick is to cut way back on using computers, and I've made great progress.

Of course, I'm getting nasty threats in the mail from those sleazy, robocall-supportin' crooks at AT&T. Their latest absurdity is a bill for $118.09, which I ain't gonna pay. Successful collection efforts will be based on a "Grand Total" of $34.95 per month, and will be for February, March, and half of April. The banditos get nothing for the periods my "service" was "temporarily interrupted," partially disabled, or whatever the bullies wanna call it.

In addition to robocalls, AT&T had been ringing my landline with a tacky little recorded message about their bill, and the day before my "service" was "permanently disconnected," I unplugged all three of my phones. So go ahead, AT&T:

HIT ME WITH YER BEST SHOT.

Update 7/15/2015 - My pleasure to send AT&T, SC Dept. of Consumer Affairs, and Bank First a link to this blog post.

Update 8/29/2015 - It'll soon be four months without my "service," and things are going extremely well. Still early in the game, but I'm beginning to doubt that I'll ever pay to have home phone or Internet again.

Update 11/14/2015 - Yesterday marked six months without home phone or Internet. Going into the cooler months will be interesting re the bicycling, but so far so good. I only got one mailing from AT&T's collection agency. When the gang realized they couldn't harass me by ringing a phone, they backed off. Phones have been turned into tools for crooked corporations. 

Update 11/30/2015 - Consumers Union just now exposed our corporate-controlled, paid-off stooge of a Congress for creating a loophole whereby crooked corporations like AT&T can route robocalls to cell phones. I quit participating in America's two-headed, one party SHAM of an electoral system years ago.

Update 12/16/2015 - I love it when AT&T drops by my house lookin' for business and sez it costs me gas to use pay phones and the library. That's when I smile EXTRA BIG and tell 'em about... The Bicycle. It's also been a ton of fun tellin' folks that I no longer have a home phone and explaining why. Bicycling is working out - pardon the pun - better than I expected. Temps have generally been mild so far this winter, but I've taken several rides in the 40's without any problem. 

Update 1/12/2016 - Tomorrow marks eight months, and the winter bicycling is going SUPER well. This morning's ride featured wind chills in the 17-24 range, but with ski gear, I wuz too WARM by the time I completed my 4.5 mile trip to the library. #FUN

Update 1/21/2016 - LOVE the bicycling, and in addition to all the moolah I'm savin' on gas n phone bills, this morning I scooped up a quarter, two coppers, and a nickel - all in one spot - on my way to the library. Hee hee: It PAYS to eliminate robocalls. 

Update 2/10/2016 - Better still is the absence of political robocalls. I quit voting long ago, and the robocall situation epitomizes why. 

Update 3/11/2016 - Winter is quickly winding down in South Carolina, and the cold-weather bicycling turned out to be nuthin' but fun. Couple months shy of the one year mark, and I'm enjoying the absence of home phone and Internet more than ever. It's all in whatcha get used to.

Update 4/16/2016 - 11 months, still goin' strong without home phone or Internet. I appreciate the peace and quiet more and more as time goes by.

Update 4/28/2016 - CONSUMERS UNION IS NOW TARGETING AT&T. JOIN THE EFFORT.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Good riddance, AT&T. No robocalls, I save $80 per month

AT&T plans to throw this rabbit in the briar patch come 5/12 by "permanently" disconnecting my U-verse "service" that they promised me - in writing - for a "Grand Total" of $34.95 per month, then jacked up the price, and I refused to pay. Actually, I view AT&T's high-handed behavior as an opportunity.

For quite some time, I've been concerned not only about a constant barrage of robocalls, but also the fact that I've been spending way too much time sitting in front of my computer. Prolonged sitting isn't good for anyone, neither is the glare from monitor screens. Adding insult to injury, computers tend to be addictive, especially for folks like me who are retired and like to write. I've exchanged one bad habit - watching TV - for another. Fortunately, writing is only one of many interests, and the others cost a lot less than the $80 per month I've been handing over to AT&T.

An extended break in routine is an idea whose time has come, and I look forward to the peace and quiet of not being bothered with robocalls. Never wanted a cell phone, and I refuse to shell out one cent to avoid harassment that greedy, dishonest carriers like AT&T could have eliminated years ago. Things have gotten to the point where I rarely answer my phone. Pay to be harassed? No, thanks.

Last but not least is the satisfaction of not handing over about $200 per year in extra taxes to the corrupt state of South Carolina via the phone-tax scam. Dunno what the state's scumball legislators do with all the revenue they rake in, but they sure don't do anything for consumers. It's been a real hoot watching the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, the so-called Department of Consumer Affairs, and AT&T squirm after I obtained written evidence of AT&T's false advertising and insisted that all communications to "resolve" my complaint with Consumer Affairs be done by e-mail. AT&T and Consumer Affairs - bullies that they are - thought they could force me to go "off record" by AT&T constantly ringing my phone a ridiculous number of times, about 85 on at least one occasion.

America has fallen prey to a government - Repukes n Demagogues alike - owned by unscrupulous corporations. The situation is propped up by a cowardly, brain-dead public that accepts anything dished out by this warmongering, police-state oligarchy and its presstitute mainstream media. Just for the record, I don't blog under any illusion that my efforts will change a thing. Really, folks: I just enjoy speaking the truth.

Will using library computers and pay phones work out? I dunno. It'll be quite a change, but it's worth a try, especially when ya factor in the $80 per month I'll be saving. Considering what I've refused to pay AT&T, I'll come out of the starting gate at least $330 ahead.

Let the game begin.

Update 5/12/2015 - At least for the time-being, I still have partial access to the Internet. I've been without phone service for almost a month, and robocalls have continued, along with efforts by AT&T to contact me by phone instead of e-mail. AT&T is now billing me for $183.76, and I've updated the SC Dept. of Consumer Affairs, encouraging them to refer this matter to the appropriate authorities for an investigation of AT&T for fraudulent business practices.  

Update 5/13/2015 - Speaking of fraudulent business practices, AT&T and other carriers have been scamming customers with unauthorized charges, $50-70 million settlement reached this week with Sprint and Verizon. Kansas Attorney General said it well: "Consumers have a right to know what services they are signing up for and to be clearly informed about the cost of those services." 

Update 6/19/2015 - AT&T disconnected my "service" on 5/13/2015. So far so good without home phone or Internet. KNOWING my phone ain't gonna ring is jus' flat out DELICIOUS, and I have no shortage of better things to do than sit in front of a computer all day. Hope to publish a blog post about how things have been going - in the meantime, here's to PEACE and QUIET. :-)

Update 7/1/2015 - It wuzza hoot seein' AT&T get fined millions (drop in the bucket for 'em, of course) for misleading customers. I agree with remarks posted on Consumers Union's Facebook site: AT&T's customers should be reimbursed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AT&T promotes government tax scam

No wonder AT&T deceitfully quoted me a "Grand Total" and made no mention of taxes and surcharges. These exorbitant fees are quietly levied by crooked, cash-strapped state governments, amounts vary from state to state, and it's a matter that neither phone companies nor legislators wanna talk about. From their point of view, it's best if the public can be duped and cowed into "just paying" phone bills without further ado. Sucker 'em in with misleading rate quotes, then tack on exorbitant charges when bill time rolls around. Exorbitant indeed. In my case, the additional charges amounted to about 50 percent of the rate I was promised.

Last thing the culprits want is news headlines that might cause an overtaxed citizenry to reflect on how they're being ripped off. That explains why so-called news media in my area and elsewhere have turned a blind eye to AT&T's outrageous bait and switch marketing ploy, and why the South Carolina Attorney General's Office quickly referred me to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, a toothless agency limited to "facilitating a resolution" of disputes with businesses.

My situation doesn't really constitute a "dispute" at all. It constitutes a simple, straightforward case of the marketing ploy known as bait and switch. The reason nothing is being done to stop crooks like AT&T is due to the nature of this corporate-controlled government and a paid-off mainstream media. If I hadn't lucked out and managed to obtain written confirmation of the rate I was promised, I wouldn't have ever attempted to confront the power structure's deceitful effort to soak people for extra revenue. Trying to downplay taxes, surcharges, fees, etc. is bad enough, but when there's no mention of such charges, even in general terms, and a rate is touted in writing as a "Grand Total," it becomes fraud, pure and simple.

It wuzza hoot the way AT&T "mistakenly" overbilled me about $165 when I got my first statement for U-verse, and then gradually - as I complained - lowered the amount down to an additional $17 in an effort to dupe me into thinking "Wow - look how much AT&T has reduced my bill," when in fact, of course, AT&T was increasing my bill from the $34.95 per month I was promised to a whoppin' $52 per month. The absurd ploy was even emblazoned on my account in the form of a graph. Along the way, billing amounts have inexpicably changed several times, raising questions about exactly how AT&T "computes" these additional charges.

AT&T's nauseating degree of gall evidences how utterly corrupt this government - Repukes and Demagogues alike - has become, and how powerless consumers are when confronted with corporate fraud. Likewise for AT&T claiming (I got it in writing in an e-mail) that they "couldn't calculate" the additional charges. Never mind, of course, that they have no problem "calculating" such charges when bill time rolls around. The person I communicated with in their president's office never did get around to offering a reasonable explaintion of the company's glaring misuse of the term "Grand Total," and I wasn't surprised that AT&T balked at my insistence on communicating only by e-mail. Nor was I surprised that the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs tried to persuade me to communicate with AT&T on the phone instead of by e-mail. It was a hoot when AT&T stated (here again, I got it in writing in an e-mail) that they would never include those additional charges as part of a "Grand Total." Standard definitions of terminology aside, AT&T apparently thinks folks should agree to buy their products wihout knowing how much they cost.

Isn't it a shame when government aligns itself with crooked corporations like AT&T, Toyota, GM, etc. ad nauseum in an effort to pump ill-gotten gain into corporate coffers? The "phone-tax and surcharge" scam bears stark similarity to the Homeowners Association (HOA) scam, whereby crooked legislators allow neighborhood gangs to bully homeowners into handing over what amounts to extra taxes.

quit voting over a decade ago, and the fact that elected officials are beholden to crooks like AT&T epitomizes my reasons for refusing to participate in this corporate-controlled sham of an electoral system. It's gotten to the point where we don't even have a free press in this country. Americans are confronted with a pervasively crooked power structure - tyranny is the word - that cannot be remedied at the ballot box.

Update 4/29/2015 - It has now come to light that AT&T's top advertising honcho - Aaron Slator - has been fired, and the company sued, due to a whistleblowing employee exposing racist images she found on Slator's cell phone. Nothin' like pristine, unassailable character when it comes to advertising. Worse yet, racism seems to be a systemic problem within AT&T.

Update 5/3/2015 - check out Time Warner's claim - at least they attach fine-print making vague reference to "additional" charges - of Internet only for $14.99. In South Carolina, that quietly prompts a tax - er I mean "surcharge" - of about 40%, increasing the monthly fee to around $21.00. 

Update 4/9/2015 - Not surprised that South Carolina's Attorney General - the son of Congressman Joe Wilson - is embroiled in controversy over his dismissal of a Special Prosecutor charged with investigating public corruption in the South Carolina legislature. Maybe he should hand the investigation over to the South Carolina Dept. of Consumer Affairs...