Saturday, August 08, 2020

How can the economy be working this way?

I thought this was going to be the year they rolled out some interesting new phones. But last week I decided that wasn't going to happen. We will be lucky to get anything new at all.

My phone is back-rev'ed a few years. Burn-in is pretty savage and it's running super sluggish. So today I broke down and went to the phone store. We roll in and find out they are not letting anyone inside at all. Which is normal I guess. No problem.

They want you to buy through the online app and then you can pick it up they say. So, we went to lunch and tried to buy it on the tiny screen. Which was impossible.

No problem. We decide to come back to the house and buy it on a bigger screen. Only to find out they won't let you pick it up, it can only be delivered. Frustrated at that I tell Mr S. - let's go back to the store and do some distance buying. We will park right in front of the store and have them help us.

When they greet me at the door I tell them I'm just trying to buy the phone. I don't want to change my contract. I don't want installments. I just want to purchase it outright.

He starts walking me through the purchase app on my phone. As he's doing so I told him they the phone company made it so painful I almost bought the phone from Amazon. I was not being a dick about it. I'm super kind. Everyone's default is asshole these days. Mine is not.

Finally the app was being so difficult they let me inside even thought they were not suppose to. He tells me, "I'm not going to go tell you to figure out it yourself". Which made me laugh. I say - well..... you can, I just don't think it would be a good long term decision. I will just go buy this thing from Amazon. Which made him laugh.

After a few times we couldn't make the purchase go through. They have the phone right in the back in stock, but they can't give it to me. He says- I know this sucks but this is how the phone gods are. Which makes me laugh and I respond, yeah - but this is why the Amazon gods are killing everyone. I have money right now. The full amount. You have a phone and I can't buy it. It's crazy.

He's like - you can call the support line. I ask him - have you been on hold lately? I then asked them if they had an internal number. He said they didn't.

He tries to send the purchase through again. As it's thinking I say, if it doesn't go through this time I'm going to Amazon. At this point I have all the people working on the inside in a circle around me.

When the purchase fails I say - AMAZON WINS. And all of them chant Amazon wins! Seriously.

The fucked up thing about this recession is - even if you have money you can't spend it. And I don't give a fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck how rich Jeff Bezos is - he is literally the only company keeping this economy going.


  1. Capital of Texas RefugeeSunday, August 09, 2020 1:18:00 AM

    "I thought this was going to be the year they rolled out some interesting new phones."

    Commodities trading shows that's not going to happen.

    SAC305 prices say that's not going to happen.

    The number of large cargo ships being converted into floating oil storage instead of moving those other commodities says that's not going to happen.

    You don't really need "5G" anyway: American cell phone companies are just blowing smoke about their existing 4G stuff on new frequencies.

    But they can (try to) force you to buy a new phone in 2022 by claiming that the impending shutdown of 3G networks will make that necessary, despite the fact that most of them have imposed this network restriction at activation time entirely out of greed.

    In my case, if I came back to that kind of imposed network idiocy (as a tourist), SIP would continue to work over data and I'd no longer have any annoying voice calls on the number that I only want to use for data.

    "My phone is back-rev'ed a few years."

    Mine's almost current now.

    It's nice not having to hack your phone and be ready to destroy it every time you visit a certain place because you don't visit that place anymore.

    Enterprise purchasing channels were pretty good for dealing with cell phone companies, but then things moved, the enterprise purchasing deals were dumped, and that was pretty much that.

    I knew I'd be better off buying a phone directly from the manufacturer as an unlocked unit, and so I did through someone who didn't mind receiving a phone for me.

    SIM cards are easy these days, just go to Target or Walmart for SIM cards. Here you get hit with SIM card options nearly every time you turn a corner, and it starts at the airports and train stations.

    Even now, so much of what I need comes from Amazon.

    Paying import duties but actually getting my stuff?

    Yeah, it's a win.

    So here's how Amazon really wins: by letting you off the hook when there are super-irritating things you'd have to do to return something you've purchased.

    I bought a phone from Amazon, had it shipped to Country A, then traveled to Country B where I had problems with it. I couldn't return the phone from Country B because Country A had different shipping regulations that meant it was legal to ship the phone to Country A but not Country B, and so I was stuck with the phone.

    I then offered to let Amazon wait a few days until I'd be in Country C, and I could send them the phone from Country C because they didn't have those problems.

    Amazon's answer: fuck it, that's just insane, and for that much trouble, keep the phone, throw it away if you want, and we'll credit your account.

    I gave the phone to a friend who also had one of these phones, and he used the LCD out of it when his finally cracked.

    AMAZON WINS! :-)

    "A part of me dies every time they use QR codes for this."

    In China now there's often no option to pay with a regular credit card, and so you have to sign up for some Chinese payment thing so you can do ordinary stuff like buying your own lunch.

    You scan the QR code not for the restaurant, but for every fucking item.

    I prefer the menu QR codes because that's not as much of a pain in the ass as having to make my purchases with PRC Government Approved Purchasing App and scanning each and every item like I'm in a self-checkout line.

    Now you might also understand the deal with destroying phones.

  2. Capital of Texas RefugeeSunday, August 09, 2020 1:21:00 AM

    "I have money right now. The full amount. You have a phone and I can't buy it. It's crazy."

    Here's what it's like to buy an Internet hotspot with service in the UK as a visiting business traveler: you have to find someone who can sell you a prepaid version because they won't accept American plastic and they won't allow you to enter into a contract for a monthly plan without a bunch of paperwork, most of which you won't have because you're just visiting.

    So you find the one cell phone company that will sell one to you with prepaid service and then you buy an over-priced "top-up card" that will blow out in 30 days that gives you 5 GB of data allowance.

    You get bent over for another 30 GBP on top of the retail price of the hotspot because they're charging you activation fees for a prepackaged product that has a SIM card in it, which of course they "activate" by scanning the UPC and then scanning the barcode next to it with the SIM card number on it.

    A day later, you find out that there was another card in all of your shit that you were supposed to activate first, and so you do this only to find out that your extra 30 days and 1 GB of data doesn't stack end-to-end, and so now you have 6 GB of data allowance to use in 31 days.

    Then you say fuck it, blow through it all, and discover that the long lines at where you bought it aren't going away even if all you want to do is to drop in to buy a 30 GBP "top-up card" for another 5 GB of data.

    A friend you're commiserating with later tells you that you were an idiot for doing this because a Tesco near where you're staying in Canary Wharf has these cards for 30 GBP for 10 GB and they last 90 days.

    Then you figure out what they mean by "top-up cards" also includes new SIM cards with "pre-loaded data", and that these new "top-up cards" are also SIM cards. You think this is a deal, but what you don't know is that the sales person set up some stuff so all of the age verification stuff has already been done, which is not the case with your new SIMs.

    At least the new SIMs didn't have an activation fee versus the original purchase having an activation charge that's as much as one of these new "pre-loaded data" SIMs you're buying.

    But now you have to stop by the cell phone company's retail locations every time you switch out SIM cards because you've blown through that much data, just so you can show them your passport and that yes, you would in fact like to be able to connect to your company's VPN in America to read your mail.

    Eventually I got so tired of this that I asked one of the people I knew there if I could kindly hang off his cell phone plan and just pay for the whole fucking thing while I was visiting.

    That was good for a laugh, a new device, a larger data allowance, and a few beers.

    This is where America is going.

  3. My phone is going on 5 years old now, and is finally acting wonky enough that its time for a new one. I didn't even think to check if they're letting people into the store. Guess I better do that before I decide to walk in and get a new phone.....

    And yes, companies that can successfully handle large volume online orders and have them shipped in a reasonable time frame are winning all the way around right now. The smaller stores that somehow managed to stay open and stocked are right behind them because the average consumer is actually trying to shop small and local right now (at least here). Those inbetween companies? Not technically locally owned, or not able to stay open and stocked, and the ones who have screwed over their online ordering system? People are absolutely finding new sources.

  4. It's all sort of weird to me. Despite being 20 years into the public internet now - this is still how things work. It feels like early internet days when the public thought AOL was the internet. No, it's basically facebook. Between restaurants and major cell phone companies, I'm starting to have less sympathy for them. The people who have their shit together aren't having any problems selling things.

    The funny thing about that experience is before I left the first time, I asked the guy - so.... there is a ~chance~ I will get a phone today? And he was like - oh, you are definitely getting a phone today. My phone comes from Amazon tomorrow.

    Texas Refugee - I've been hearing those stories for years. That's why I laugh when Americans say they are moving out of America. It all seems nice and quaint until you are waiting a month for a phone line. As fucked up as America's still not as bad as wherever the eff you are. You'll be back.

  5. Capital of Texas RefugeeMonday, August 10, 2020 1:24:00 PM

    "As fucked up as America is ... it's still not as bad as wherever the eff you are. You'll be back."

    Yeah, I'm totally missing out on such things as the ongoing lawlessness of Chicago, Day 70 of the Portland Insurrection, and so forth.

    I'm also missing out on the slow but painful to watch meltdowns of people in America who have climbed into various kinds of bottles only to emerge as bigger assholes than they were going in. Yeah, totally missing that shit. I don't pay attention to the incoherent, impotent, and cringe-worthy noise anymore because it all sounds the same anyway.

    The only way I'm coming back is if I need to help out the blonde with logistics with her upcoming move, and that depends on whether she gets all of her paperwork and other arrangements in gear.

    If she can make this work, she's probably a keeper.

    You asked about winter?

    There are some really cool places to visit during winter.

    But here's the thing: just as "anti-terrorism laws" made buying that hotspot in London a really silly and stupid experience, you're going to get the same thing in America.

    Lots of people are right about the decline and fall of the Pax Americana, but what they don't realize is that when that rage isn't outwardly focused, it's going to be turned back on America itself.

    That's why I used a British example of what the bureaucratic state can do to something that should be easy like buying a phone or hotspot. There's a reason Britain's called "the angry island" after all. The British ran out of places they could bully with their colonialism, and now they've been reduced to smacking themselves in the collective nut sack every now and then.

    In Canada, I just went by a few cell phone retail shops in a mall before selecting a cell phone company and a plan I could put up with. The cost wasn't great, but they took American plastic and set me up on a monthly plan just like they would for a Canadian citizen.

    But here's the bottom line: eventually if you can throw enough money at the problem, you can ignore people who say you should play stupid games so you can win stupid prizes.

    The decline of Pax Americana is something that people who can afford it will willingly pay their way out of.

    But I'll let you in on a little secret: this article is actually a form of disinformation.

    There isn't an American expatriates list.

    There never has been one.

    Having one could be seen as a retaliatory act against people acquiring citizenship in other countries according to several treaties.

    What we have here is an American problem, although not a distinctly unique one in global terms: this is yet another instance of a lack of reading comprehension, in this case as to what "within the meaning of section 877(a) or 877A" happens to mean.

    This is an American taxpatriates list -- it's a list of all of the people who were unlucky enough to fall under Internal Revenue Code Section 877 rules, and so they're being "named and shamed" for running into a tax compliance issue.

    You see, that's one of the things about living in America that isn't as obvious when you're living in it: every truth you hear is actually a lie wrapped in enough truth that you'll chow down on it.

    I won't be on that list.

  6. LOL. I don't make the rules - I just observe them. Ittle take you a few years, but you'll be back. And I'm not really worried about 6000 people. Its a phase Americans go through from time to time to denounce their citizenship.

    Listen, I'm not saying the US isn't super fucked up. Silicon Valley just has gobs of people from other countries. You start to get a feel for how people want things to be vs. how they really are. People say a lot of things..... but they all wind up here. Love it or hate it. I don't make the rules. I just try to understand them.

    I don't recall asking you about winter.....:) But go on. Winter is also another reason people move back.

    As for the slow but painful meltdowns - they are dying down. I'm still not sure why people are not using the ovoid option, but people hav a nack for choosing the option that is not in their best interest. It's best to just go around the boulders and move on.

  7. Capital of Texas RefugeeFriday, August 14, 2020 5:47:00 PM

    "And I'm not really worried about 6000 people."

    That's the point I was making: the 6k number is just the people who can't get out from under the IRS when they leave, and so they wind up on the IRC 877 list.

    The people who are in this business tell me the real annual number has been at least 500k, and right now they are busier than ever, meaning it's probably a lot higher for the types of people who need professional departure help.

    Many of these people won't show up on the IRC 877 list because they're not expatriating with a lot of wealth, but instead have married and are taking citizenship in a country without dual citizenship treaties (such as Singapore or Germany).

    But I can tell you it's a big pain in the ass to deal with banks when you're being told that despite being a citizen of three other countries besides the US, they won't take you as a customer because you're a US citizen and they don't want to deal with FATCA and all of the other shit that the US demands.

    There are ways to cope with that.

    Also ... winter approaches.