Category Archives: rant

How you get ripped off when buying concert tickets

I’ve been buying a bunch of concert tickets recently. I typically buy two and then figure out who I want to bring.

The math used by the online ticket sellers is stunning. Here is an example of ticketmaster:
2 x $32.50 for the tickets
2 x $9.45 convenience charge
1 x $5.15 order processing charge

Total: $89.05

That’s a 37% premium over the ticket price! The total would have been even higher if I chose to get the tickets delivered rather than will call.

Sure, they’re running a business and have to make a profit on every transaction. That’s what the order processing charge is for. But what is the convenience charge and why is it per ticket? Isn’t an online transaction more cost effective for them? If I called in my order they would have to pay an operator. In some cases I even print the tickets myself. Shouldn’t ticketmaster pay me for doing some of their work?

I got so annoyed that I went over to StubHub and see what they have (after checking Craigslist too). There my experience ended at the sign-up flow where my email address with a 2-letter country code didn’t validate. Too bad.

I then went on to ticket liquidator which I hadn’t heard of before.

I found better tickets for the same show for $44 instead of $32.50. Add to this a $16.28 service fee and $15 for shipping (cheapest option) and you end up with a total of $119.28. Again, I feel like I’m getting ripped off with a 35% premium. The show better be good!

Know your audience – and spell check your creative!

I recently received a newsletter from AT&T thanking me for choosing AT&T and stressing how lucky they are to have me as a customer. This was immediately followed by an invitation to visit a store! No special offer, reward or anything. But that’s not the point here.

The headline reads “lucky. gl├╝cklich. chanceaux.”.

Congratulations on being international! The French translation is obviously wrong and should be “chanceux” unfortunately. I’m the first one to admit that foreign languages are tricky but screwing up a one word translation takes some skills.

Why German and French? What about Spanish and Chinese?

What I don’t get is why they picked German and French. This would make perfect sense in Switzerland but not in the US. Spanish and Chinese would have been more powerful in addressing important local populations. Note: The newsletter closes in Spanish with “Muy afortunado!”.

Further reading: I wrote about another AT&T marketing blunder not too long ago.

The Real Yellow Pages, Really?

I just heard the AT&T ‘real yellow pages‘ commercial on the radio which reminded me that I wanted to write about the corresponding billboard campaign a while ago. Who came up with the idea that anyone cares about the ‘real’ yellow pages? I’ll give up ‘real’ for ‘relevant’, ‘accurate’, ‘up-to-date’ or ‘easy to use’ anytime. Consumers don’t care about real in commodity products.

Why does AT&T still care about their printed yellow pages? Are the listing fees/ads generating a significant amount of revenue? According to AT&T their pages are referenced 4 billion times annually. I wonder what the corresponding CPM is. And do businesses compare this to running their own search result ads?

In fact, who is still using yellow pages? With the Internet at your finger tips with more complete and current information it’s hard to imagine still sifting through a paper copy. Granted there is an online version at but I prefer or that include consumer feedback, links to the official web site and a map.

The ad campaign should have been built around ‘complete’, ‘comprehensive’ or ‘most referenced’. Make the consumer feel like she’s missing something by ignoring these yellow pages. Reserve ‘real’ and ‘original’ for fashion and luxury items.

Citibank is Phishing Me – Do Banks Never Learn?

Phishing is a huge problem and you would think banks know better.

What is Citibank thinking? The email I just received contains:

Link text:

Actual link (see status bar):….4CA8377332533513….

Link destination:…

Login form? Check

Citibank logos all over the place? Check

Domain that isn’t Check

SSL certificat not issued to Citibank? Check

So this must clearly be a phishing email, right? Actually I think it’s not. But it’s definitely not very smart.

Citibank has some instructions so I will report this as phishing. Let’s see what their reply is…

Washington Mutual 6, Capital One 4

Capital One is closing in on Washington Mutual trying to be the most obnoxious bank (see Number 5 – Thanks Washington Mutual and My Fourth Credit Card Application in 1 Week). Today’s pre-approved credit card offer comes from Carole M. Vaughn personally. Thanks Carole.

And we have a new contender: Tribute! Tri who?

Ok, back to more interesting stuff…

Update 10/26/06: Washington Mutual is not giving up that quickly. I have just received number 7! That’s a pretty comfortable lead..

Number 5 – Thanks Washington Mutual

I just received number 5 (!!) of the exclusive pre-approved offer (for a credit card) from Washington Mutual (see My Fourth Credit Card Application in 1 Week). Washington Mutual must really like me. 5 applications in 3 weeks… C’mon, give me a break! Save the paper, I won’t sign up! I never liked obnoxious companies and you’re only making it worse.

At the same time I received some credit thing (credit line) from Citibank. Including a number to call to ‘stop receiving “prescreened” offers’. Maybe I should give it try (the phone number, not the offer). I wonder if it would take care of Washington Mutual too. Does anyone have experience with this?

Update (10/19/06): I received number 6 from Washington Mutual! WTF? And number 3 from Capitol One. Oh boy! I’m feeling bad for the trees that had to die for this nonsense…

Upping Your Credit Limit – I don’t get it!

While I’m still being flooded by credit card applications pre-approvals and offers (see comments to ‘My Fourth Credit Card Application in 1 Week‘), I also had a very interesting experience with my existing credit card. Here is a summary of the phone call:

Me: Hi, I would like to increase my credit limit.

Customer Care Representative: Sure, what amount were you thinking of?

Me: 3000

CSR: I can offer you 2500.

Me: Ok.

CSR: Good, I can change your credit limit to 2500 right now.

Me: Ok, sounds good.

CSR after a couple of minutes: Ok, you’re new credit limit is 3000.

I asked for 3000 and got 3000. But I was told I could only have 2500. Huh? Nevermind.

My Fourth Credit Card Application in 1 Week

I received 4 credit card applications this week (and it’s not even Friday yet)!

- Western Mutual – No thanks

- United Mileage Plus – This is the only one that interests me a little. But CHASE has refused me before (no credit history). So there you go!

- Capitol One – Who?

- Jet Blue – American Express just doesn’t sound appealing to me

I have 1 credit card and that’s pretty much all I need. Thanks for asking.

The Washington Mutual return envelope made me smile. It had a warning about tempering with the envelope and a customer tracking code on it. I thought about sending their stuff back but ended up not to bother…

Cingular, Please Fix Your Website

While looking around for a new mobile phone I was stranded on a blank page on The source looked like this:

<!– Vignette V7 Hybrid V6 Tue Aug 01 03:27:09 2006 –>

<form name=”frmCingIdx” action=”/index_b2b_orange” method=”post”>
<input type=”hidden” name=”ClientIP” value=”” />
document.frmCingIdx.ClientIP.value = “”;

I can’t reproduce this anymore. Note: The was my real IP.

Budget is Trying to Screw Me Again

I got a letter from Budget [1] with a check in it. Again! This time $5. How nice of them!

The check also says: “Cashing this check automatically activates a membership in the Elite Excursions program.” Smells fishy. Let’s see…

The small print reads: “Unless you call XXX to cancel during this one-month period, all privileges will be automatically continued at the $19.99 monthly membership fee for the first twelve months after your initial trial period. Your membership will be automatically continued at the $20.99 monthly membership fee for the next twelve months, and continued at the then-current monthly membership fee for each month thereafter. For your convenience, we’ll bill the card you have on file with Budget, without you having to do anything further.”

Aha. I wonder how many people are stupid enough and fall for it. You end up paying $239.88 for the $5 you get within a year.

Thanks Budget, but if you call me stupid I’ll take my business elsewhere!

[1] At least I think it’s Budget. Their logo is on the envelope and mentioned several times in the text. But it seems to be sent by Elite Excursions.

Update: A quick search for “Elite Excursions” reveals others complaining about the same scheme one year ago already. I wonder if this deal works for Budget!?!

Parking Tickets – Online Payment

I just paid 2 parking tickets or ‘parking citations’ as the DPT refers to them. Damn street cleaning! My car needs a street cleaning aware GPS system that sends warnings to my cell phone the evening before. Well, one was actually a real parking ticket. Not enough money in the meter. But I digress…

I went to pay them online and had to pay $2.50 convenience fee – per ticket! WTF? I pay more because it’s more convenient?

All payments in the U.S. are heavily check based (compare this to Europe). So it doesn’t come as a surprise that you don’t pay a fee if you mail in a check or pay in person at the office (M-F 8-5). I kind of got used to the checks but still don’t quite understand it.

Everyone writes checks for rent, utility bills etc. instead of setting up recurring payments.
Which is less expensive for the DPT? Processing the mailed in checks or the automated credit card processing? And for which do they charge a fee? Exactly!