Wednesday, January 30, 2008

eBay's new Final Value Fees (FVF) and Insertion Fees

An open letter to eBay:

Hello eBay,

Today I received an e-mail from you with the subject - "Important seller pricing changes". In it, you write "You asked, we listened. We're reducing Insertion Fees and adjusting Final Value Fees to lower your up-front cost to sell on eBay." Wow, I thought; that's so nice. eBay is making so much money, they finally realized that they're charging too much commission and fees, and decided to lower it so that their users will be happier. So I clicked on the link to learn more, and noticed that when you say that you are "adjusting" the Final Value Fees, it actually means that you are "increasing" them. But of course you can't write that in the e-mail, it would be bad marketing.

I decided to open an Excel spreadsheet and see how exactly this would affect your sellers. Imagine my surprise when I realized that in every situation (where an item sells for above $1.30), whether it be an auction style listing or a Buy It Now, in the end, you - eBay - end up with more of our money. Let's see how this works:

Will ya look at that! eBay wins every time. But that's with Buy It Now auctions. Let's take a look at what happens with regular auctions:

Wow eBay, you're making even more money when I use the auction format! So again, let me ask you... When you say "You asked, we listened", what exactly did we ask - for you to take more of our money? I don't recall asking for that. I'm pretty sure if I ask the other thousands of sellers on eBay they would also tell me that they never asked for such a thing.

I would like to finish off by saying that I still like eBay, and I will continue to come to eBay to buy and sell. But if you start seeing serious eBay sellers moving to Amazon, don't be surprised. And next time you want to raise your rates, be honest; don't make us think we're gaining when we're really losing.

Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Annoying iPod BUG with no-album songs

About a year ago I began noticing that some of my songs on my iPod are not listed when I go to Music > Artists > Artist-Name. It happens when you have many songs, and some of them have a certain album tag, and the others have no album tag. Once you have songs from more than one album, it'll show All >, as the first entry and you can find all the songs, but if the albumed songs are from one album, it won't show the other songs. I researched this problem and people are saying here, and here, that it's actually a feature so that you don't need to click on the album name which would mean going through another screen. But hello? What about the songs with no album? I figured this would be fixed with a new firmware, but it hasn't yet. The only workaround I found is to search through iTunes and add an album name of "Unknown" to any no-album songs, but that's ridiculous.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why I Like Vista

Tonight, while taking a long drive with a friend of mine, I asked him to give me and idea for something to blog about. Initially he said "Treo vs. Palm", and then decided against it since it's been written about many times. Maybe I'll have my own say on that in a future column. He then thought of a "Vista Sucks" column, but that too has been blogged about many times. But while he was saying that, I realized that I actually like Vista, and that has NOT been blogged about too often. After all, who likes Vista? So here is my blog post, dedicated to Why I Like Vista.

To be brutally honest, I initially liked Vista because I was one of the first to have it when it was still in Beta. That sort of forced me to like it. When everyone saw it on my computer and ooh'd and ahh'd at the beautiful OS, I HAD to tell them it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. But after a while Vista started to piss me off. File copying was excruciatingly slow, and to create a new folder in the Program Files directory took 4 UAC prompts. But I got used to it, and now with Vista SP1, many issues have been fixed, including the 2 annoyances mentioned above.

I think the main reason people dislike Vista, is because when it first came out there were many hardware devices and software that were not compatible with the new OS. This caused everyone to say "why should I upgrade if nothing is compatible?". But that's not true anymore. Everything (or at least almost everything) including software and hardware, are now fully compatible. People were also complaining about the UAC prompts; to that I say, just turn it off! Most importantly, Microsoft screwed up with Windows XP. Why? Because it was a really good and stable operating system, and people had no need to switch.

But if you take a deep look at Vista, especially now that SP1 is out, it really is much cooler and more stable, and at the very least, the same as XP. It's definitely nicer. It's definitely more user friendly (the search box in the start menu is awesome, if only poeple actually knew what it could be used for). And, the kicker is that if poeple would leave UAC on, I would get a lot less tech support calls.

There is one thing that makes me wish I was still using XP, and that is the way MS redesigned the networking on Vista. It's an IT nightmare. If anyone at Microsoft is reading this, please, I beg of you, bring back the old Windows XP network apps that allow us to see our IP address in 1 double-click instead of 4. And allow us to have separate icons in the tray for the different networks we may be connecting to. Believe it or not, I actually want to know if I'm connected wirelessly, or hard-wired, and I want to know when my computer is aquiring an IP address. Thank you.

Bottom line people, stop complaining. I'm not saying you should spend money and upgrade, but if you buy a new computer, just get Vista. In a few years from now you'll thank me.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cingular's "Courtesy Credit" Policy

Today, my friend got his first bill in the mail for his new Cingular/AT&T cell phone plan. I noticed on the bill that aside from the usual $36 activation fee, there was an additional $36 fee for no apparent reason. My friend asked me to call and complain for him, so I called Cingular Business Customer Care and got connected with Matthew. Off-topic for a second...Matthew was in middle of training. There was a supervisor sitting next to him telling him what to say the whole time. Now why would they have someone in training answering calls for Business Support? Put him in regular consumer support for a few months before promoting him!

Anyway, after he finally realized that the extra $36 was a mistake and credited it back to me, I mentioned that I want an additional "Courtesy Credit" for wasting 20 minutes of my precious time dealing with this issue. His response outraged me - "Sir, the maximum courtesy credit I can place on your account is $25, and you will be unable to get another credit for 12 months!" How ridiculous is that?

After he placed the credit on my account, I promptly asked for the cancellations department. I rest my case.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TeamViewer - Excellent Program

Every now and then I come across a piece of software that's simple to use, and is really good at what it's meant for. TeamViewer (TV) is one of those programs. TV basically allows you to remote control your friends computer - for free. I used to use UltraVNC SingleClick, which required me to open ports on my router, and always know what my external IP address is. With TV, the process couldn't be easier. No matter where you are, no matter who's computer you're on, no matter what type of firewall you or the other party are behind, you simply head over to and click on "Start Full Version" (1.04MB). Tell your friend to go to the same website, but he should click "Start Customer Module" (792KB). Once he runs the program, he gives you an 8 digit ID code, and a 4 digit password, which you type into the software on your end, and KABOOM, you're in.

There's a host of features available with this software. For example, you can run TV as a system service, which means you can always access your own computers from a remote location. Another really cool feature, is that you can easily change who is remote controlling and who is presenting during a session with a single click. Of course the standard features include RC4 security, file transfer, and no installation necessary for either side.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

What does T9 have against food?

T9 is the predictive text application for sending text messages/e-mails from your cell phone. I recently discovered that it may have a hatred towards certain foods. For example, on my phone and many others I've tried, the T9 dictionary does not have the words "bagel" or "pretzel". Isn't that strange? The T9 dictionary has almost every regular word you can think of, but I guess it assumes you're never gonna ask your friend to grab you a bagel with tuna from the local bagel store. Try it on your phone - see what happens.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I love Target -- and I hate gas stations

When was the last time you've been to Target? That place is amazing. I don't know how they do it. The credit card transactions in Target are way faster than any other store in the country - by far. Not only that, but they make returns so simple. I was in there today to return 2 items totalling about $40, and I'm not exagerating when I say that I was at the customer service counter for less than 25 seconds. Target should open a gas station, which gets me to my next subject...

Why does it take so darn long from when you swipe your card at the pump until you can begin your fill-up? Did you know that in most gas stations, after you swipe, it beeps in the store, and they have to manually approve the transaction before you can start pumping? What's the deal with that? Now if Target had a gas station, that would be awesome! Before you could get the pump into your car you could already start filling up. I would go to a Target gas station even if it was 10% more expensive.

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PayPal Just Screwed Me

I'm still on the phone with PayPal, so things might end up working out, but in the meantime I wanted to share the crazy experience I just had. I had bought something on eBay and went ahead to pay for it using PayPal. While I was at the "Complete Your Payment" page, my outlook pops up with a new e-mail from PayPal saying that the payment has completed and the funds were taken from my bank account. I couldn't believe my eyes. I immediately opened a new tab and confirmed that indeed the payment had processed. But how could that be? I'm still staring at the "Complete Your Payment" page and I'm in middle of changing the funding source from my bank account to my credit card, since I don't have enough money in that account to fund the purchase!

I immediately call PayPal Customer Service at 888-221-1161 and tell a rep what just happened. She tells me I'm crazy and unless I clicked "Pay", there's no way that payment could've been made. I proceeded to explain to her that I'm not an idiot user and I couldn't have possibly clicked "Pay" since I'm still looking at the "Complete Your Payment" page. I end up getting escalated to someone with a higher pay-grade who offers to credit me the $8.98 of the transaction. I politely declined and told her what I really need is someone to pay the bounce fee of $30 that my bank is about to levee against me. We finally settle on a $15 credit to my PayPal account.

Oh well, now I'll have to fight it out with my bank.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Finally a Blackberry I can use

I've been saying for over a year now, that my ultimate BlackBerry would be the 8700c with 3G (HSDPA/UMTS). I think my dreams may be fulfilled - at least for the most part - with the rumored new BlackBerry 9000 series. BoyGenius Report has more info on that. I'll tell you why I would rather the 8700c look and feel over the Curve. The 8700 is more rugged, clicks in and out of the plastic holster much easier, and has the scroll wheel on the side instead of the new 'pearl' in the middle. I know that using the side wheel too much makes your thumb hurt, and is right-handed-person friendly, but I'm a righty, and I can deal with the thumb problems. I just don't like the button in the middle like the new ones have. Also the plastic holster is a big feature for me. With the Curve, the only decent holster is a leather one, and it just takes much longer to remove and replace the device. For someone who gets e-mails every few minutes, this can get very frustrating. And lastly, I've dropped my 8700c many times and it's still in perfect working condition.

What's strange is that this new BlackBerry is slated to come out around May - why would they wait so long? In Europe they've had a 3G Blackberry for almost 2 years - the 8707! I actually purchased one of these babies on eBay only to realize moments later that the 3G radio in it is compatible with European frequencies only. Either way, I'm excited that RIM is finally taking the step. From what I understand this blackberry will also have Wi-Fi and GPS built-in.

We'll just have to take a wait and see approach.

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Kudos to Google

Google is awesome. There's no other possible way to say it. There has almost never been a situation I've had, that Google didn't come in the clutch for. Now granted it's not really Google per se that helped me out, but it was Google that got me there. Whether I had a problem with my USB devices not working after resume, or I wanted to know why gas prices end in 9/10th's of a cent, Google pointed me in the right direction.

Thank you Google, you will forever be my best friend.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Leaving a Voicemail

Why do the cell phone service providers make it so complicated? Can't they just get their act together and have one - just one - key to press to leave someone a voicemail? I don't care if it's "1", like Sprint, or "*" like Verizon, but just do it already! I especially hate companies like Cingular, that depending on where your cell phone is registered, would it matter what key to press. Sometimes it's "1" and sometimes it's "#" and once in a while it's "*".

It drives me nuts.

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