Posts about consumerism

Wrong number

And I thought I had problems with Sprint customer service reps. They wouldn’t help rescue a kidnapped kid.

: Thomas Hawk had problems with Cingular, but not quite as severe.

Death to the 6 percent

Burnham’s Beat has a great post about the walled gardens that are most under siege in an open, searchable, post-scarcity, edge-controlled world. They’re all the classified categories — real estate, jobs, stuff-for-sale, personals — that technology took away from newspapers. I’ve long contended that this was only a temporary move: expensive, monopolistic, and inefficient marketplaces (newspapers) were replaced by cheaper, more efficient marketplaces (Monster.com, eBay, et al). But they’re still centralized marketplaces in a decentralized world. Search, Google Base, microformats, structured blogging, and so on will slay the monsters that slayed newspapers’ businesses.

: The one category that has been less open than the others is real estate: the most irksome, closed, anticompetitive, quasimonoplistic, overpriced service out there. What they do is simply not worth 6 percent. But because brokers control access to the multiple listing pool, you’re pretty much screwed without them.

When I started working on the internet a dozen years ago, I predicted that would be one of the first walls to fall. I was wrong. But I think it’s teetering under constant barage from community (see: CraigsList), would-be competitors, technology (see, again: Google Base and microformats.org), and customers eager to be set free.

The New York Times writes today about banks trying to fight the huge lobbying power of Realtors to offer competition. Factoids:

The association’s power has swelled during the heady days of the real estate boom. Its ranks have grown by more than 500,000 in the last five years. With almost 1.3 million members, it is the largest trade association in the country. One out of every 203 adults is a dues-paying member, according to August statistics from the association and the United States Census.

The boom has enriched many brokers. With the average cost of a home reaching historic highs, consumers paid roughly $61 billion in brokerage fees for residential real estate in 2004 as some 6.8 million homes changed hands. Last year, the industry was on track to sell almost 7.1 million homes, according to estimates in December.

I have no idea what percentage of real estate sales people belong and so this calculation is suspect, but if you divide those numbers and then give the brokerage half of the take, it works out to $23,400 per. After the boom and the invasion of all the new market factors above, that is bound to shrink.

I’ll be that you’re going to see a lot of former Realtors as competition and openness encroach on their turf.

Doomed relationships

Dr. Phil, that hack quack, is giving relationship advice on Match.com to fools stupid enough to pay for such wisdom as, “If you want to be a winner in love, you want to be a winner in relationships, then do what it takes.”

Caveat vendator

Consumerist justice has been done. The NY Times reports today that Price Rite Photo — the object of Thomas Hawk’s proper blog fit — is nothing but tumbleweek.

Your friend inside

Brad Berens interviews Wired editor Chris Anderson about, among other things, Chris’ experience getting help from Microsoft with his XBox 360, comparing and contrasting the experience with my Dell hell. Chris emailed Microsoft bloggers asking for help and they put him in touch with the right people. Though Chris acknowledges that he might just get more attention because of his business card, it’s still an example of a new relationship companies can have with customers made possible by the individual relationships employee-bloggers have with customer-bloggers. This is what Chris Locke argued for in his book, Gozno Marketing: It’s about the people inside and outside the factory gates finding that they have shared interests.

: Speaking of Dell…. Inside Engadget’s incredible CES coverage is this from the media Q&A with Michael Dell et al:

The Jeff Jarvis factor: “We don’t want anyone to have a bad experience, whether they’re a blogger or anyone else. The broad body of evidence suggests that those experiences are rather anomolous, even though they’re completely unacceptable to us. What we found with Tech Connect is that a number of these problems — like rootkits — somebody has that problem, trying to solve it themselves over the phone, it’s just not gonna happen. But with a tool like Tech Connect, the guys can go in and fix it rather quickly. We’re also making an investment to improve service levels across the board. Adding new support sites. Edmonton, Ottawa, Oklahoma City. (And, no, Mike has no plans to blog himself.)

Compare and contrast Dell with Microsoft… Sun… the former Macromedia… and other, smarter tech companies, where personal relationships are possible. What would happen if somebody could actually find a friend in Dell? To this day, I get emails from fatally frustrated customers of Dell having nowhere to turn — and, unfortunately, there’s not a thing I can do for them, either. They need friends.

Yahoo strikes again

So I had a hissy fit sometime ago because Yahoo deactivated my email, which I think is a dumb thing to do to a prodigal customer who comes back and wants to try to use your service again. But I created a new identity for one purpose only: to try out the new Yahoo email. I waited patiently. I was told that finally, I could try out the new mail and when I had some spare time, I sat down prepared to enjoy what I’d heard such good things about. And what happens? Deactivated. I don’t care how groovy it is, I am not using Yahoo email or RSS if I cannot trust that it will be there. Old girlfriends and stray dogs are more loyal than Yahoo.

Compare and contrast that with Seth Godin’s Squidoo. A lens-creator (aka page-creator) there got an email saying that if he didn’t update his lens, it would killed. He blogged it. And Seth threw himself on his sword with abject apology and Squidoo sent email to all the affected users telling them to nevermind. [via Bubblegeneration]

I certainly hope Yahoo doesn’t start thinking they can kill my Del.icio.us and Flickr accounts because I don’t use them as often as they think I should. They did kill my beloved Oddpost, which I used for email — even paid for — as they took it behind the walls at Yahoo and cooked up the new email I am constantly thwarted from using.

This is why I say Yahoo is the last of the old media companies — because Yahoo thinks they’re in control. No, I’m in control. I’m using Gmail — which, it so happens, is good enough to use every day.

UPDATE AND APOLOGY: I do have a Yahoo account. I’ve had three recently. The first two were killed. But the third and latest is alive. My mistake. I am still antsy, having had prior identities zapped. But this one does exist. So my wrong. Oh, and I’m still not in the new mail.

Has anyone else…

…heard about delivery problems this Christmas? Last year, UPS employees stole two of our presents, so this year, we sent via the USPS, priority mail, insured, in plenty of time. Two packages should have arrived four days ago. One didn’t arrive. My father had to go chasing a mail truck to get the other; they’d left a note on Christmas Eve saying it could be picked up next week. My mother-in-law said she has heard of all kinds of problems with the Postal Service this year. Meanwhile, a vendor didn’t get two packages out by the time promised; nonetheless, they still should have arrived via FedEx in time for Christmas and neither did.

Too good to be true?

I’m trying to figure out whether this is too good to be true: My father got a pitch from LowerMyLease.com, owned by ACS, which promises to lower his car least by almost half. I can’t find the trick. The means either that the GMAC lease he has is so stuffed with margin that it’s easy for another company to come along and do this… or that there’s a trick or hidden fee here I can’t find. Any wiser minds than mine able to figure this out? Is this a case for Consumerist?

: LATER: My father talked to someone there. Turns out you need to add lease buy-out plus the residual value and that raised his payment. Oh, well. No free leases.