Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LifeLock- More Family Disfunction, and a Cheaper Alternative

"Honey, I don't know how the thieves got in, but our bank accounts are drained. All our money is gone!"

"Honey, don't worry! I called Lifelock months ago and signed us up for their service. We're covered! We've got nothing to worry about!"

We've all heard the Lifelock Commercials- smarmy dope opens by telling us his Social Security Number (Oh My God! What's he doing?? Is this man CRAZY? Doesn't he know that his Identity can be stolen using his sacred, Top-Secret, used only on Driver's Licenses and Student IDs and countless other readily-available government documents Social Security Number?) He's not afraid, though, because he has LifeLock!

The guy in the commercial quoted above signed himself and his wife up for Lifelock "months ago," which means he handed over his SS number, and his wife's, and God Knows what other financial information, to some huckster he heard on the radio. You just learned something about your husband's respect for your privacy, lady- and how do you respond? "Thank goodness you made that call!"

But wait- what does Lifelock really offer? "They have a million-dollar guarantee- that means they'll spend up to a million dollars fixing our lost identity problem." Does that mean that if your bank accounts are cleaned out, like this couples has been, Lifelock will put back up to a million dollars? HELL NO! It means exactly what they say (give them credit for honesty on this point)- they'll spend up to a million dollars restoring your identity. The cash removed from your accounts? That's between you and your bank.

Sorry, lady- but despite what your incredibly disrespectful husband told you (and you really should sit down and ask him what else he has done in your name and without your consent- any Life Insurance policies you should know about? Investments? Time Shares?) you have plenty to worry about. Lifelock may be helpful in getting bad credit ratings created by imposters removed from your files, but they aren't going to be sending an agent down to the bank with a check to replace your lost cash.

And here's my cheaper alternative: If I'm ever dumb enough to sign up for Lifelock and I get my identity stolen, please don't spend a million dollars restoring it. For half that amount, I'll accept a brand-new identity. Just cut me a check, and I'll walk away. I like my name, but I'm not married to it. I'd even wish the very best to the poor sap who stole my identity and thought he was getting something of immense value. :>)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tronix Country - nice place to visit, but you can't afford to live there

Commercial on XM/Sirius Radio goes something like this: "Need a high-level laptop, but you can't afford it? Afraid you'll be turned down because your credit is bad? Call Tronix Country- if you've got a Checking Account and can afford payments of just thirty dollars a week, we'll get you that laptop you need, PLUS exciting free gifts! Call now, you will NOT be refused!"

Ahem. Here we go again with yet another commercial which preys on people with little, no or bad credit who are easily convinced that they "need" stuff they simply can't afford. No doubt their houses are already filled with junk someone on another commercial told them they simply MUST have. This time, some middleman has decided to buy a bunch of Dell and HP Laptops and sell them at a preposterous markup to these gullible dopes.

The testimonials are a riot- "Ah'm really enjoyin' mah laiptop." "I just love my new laptop, and I tell everyone, if you need a computer, Tronix Country is the place to go." Yeah, Tronix Country is the place to go if you can afford to have $120 sucked out of your bank account every month for god knows how long (but it's a fair assumption that you are going to pay at LEAST a 50% markup on a laptop of limited quality- and don't think they spare these suckers on the shipping and handling chargers, not to mention the warranties.)

I'm willing to bet that an $500 laptop that you "need" but can't buy in a conventional manner because your credit cards have long since been maxed out or cancelled is going to cost you $1600 through Tronix Country. And you'll pay for shipping, even though Dell ships pretty much all it's equipment free. And the warranty will include a nice big markup. Thirty bucks a week doesn't sound like so much to people who have a steady job- but when you are a year into the deal and your laptop is out of date, and you are still seeing that money automatically deducted from your checking account, the reality is going to hit home mighty hard.

(And those "free gifts?" A set of ginzu knives, perhaps? A genuine Clapper? Nope- they include a plasma tv and a printer, which is included in your paid shipment- which means you get them after you've paid for the computer. Which means, of course, maybe a year after you started making those astronomical payments. Considering that you can buy a printer off the shelf at Staples for under $60 these days, and a plasma tv for maybe $400, you most likely find yourself shelling out $1600 for about $960 worth of electronics. And don't forget what I'm sure are outrageous shipping and handling fees. )

Do yourself a favor. Stay away from Tronix Country, Rent-A-Center, Check Cashing Services, and Rapid Refunds (I'm sure I'll be posting about them as April 15 gets closer.) All these "conveniences" are designed to squeeze money out of the gullible and the impatient. If you can't afford a laptop, you can't afford a laptop. Save your money until you can pay for one outright. Crossing into Tronix Country is easy- getting out is a very expensive proposition.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm just a hard-working, honest American who doesn't want to pay my taxes

The voice on the radio intones "The Three Scariest Letters in the English Language: I.R.S."

The message: The Internal Revenue Service is out to get you. That shadow you thought you saw behind the bush in the front yard? IRS agent. That ringing phone? IRS agent.

The IRS is everywhere, and they prey on Honest, Hard-Working Americans like you who forgot to pay taxes for the last five years. Honest, Hard-Working Americans who find the tax codes too confusing (they are made to be that way, to CATCH you in their EVIL TRAP.)

Tax Counselors all tell prospective customers the same thing: DONT contact the IRS on your own. Why? Well, they won't say why, but the reason is that by calling the IRS you'll find that in the overwhelming percentage of cases, the agency is downright EAGER to help you work out your problems. That's doing no favors for the Tax Counselors, who only survive by convincing people that the IRS is only interested in landing your ass in jail, and the only thing between you and Al Capone's fate is Roni DEUTCH.

On television, we get to see beaming tax cheats gloat about getting out from under the tax burden they created for themselves: "we owed $3 million, but we only paid $1 million!" "We only had to pay $4000 out of a $30,000 tax bill!" Yay for you! I bet you sit in your sunken living rooms and watch Fox and bitch about welfare cheats and big government and the deficit, too. Just one question: what do you think happens to the debt you didn't have to pay? It just floated into the ether?

Here's a clue: "Honest, Hard Working Americans" don't "forget" to pay their taxes. They don't seek to shunt their legitimate tax burdens on to the rest of us. That's not being honest, its' not being "hard-working, " and its not being "American." It's being a tax-dodging freeloader who likes racking up bills and not paying for them. I'd be more angry except I know that most of these people just end up handing over money to Tax Counselors and getting nothing in return, except more debt. Sucks to be you.

I'm just a hard-working, honest American who doesn't want to pay my bills

Anyone who has Sirius/XM radio has noticed by now that 99% of all commercial time sold is acquired by companies hawking A) Debt Counseling Services, B) Work at Home Opportunities, or C) Male Enhancement Products. I know I'll be commenting on (B) in the near future, but let's start off with a general examination of (A.)

These commercials generally all launch the in the same way; with a series of rhetorical questions designed to get the pathetic miscreant listening to start shaking his head with righteous "hell yeah!" indignation: "Are you an honest, hard-working American? Are you TIRED by the harrassing phone calls from credit card companies? Do you feel TRAPPED by the outrageous interest rates and fees?" Then, having formed a relationship with the listener, the announcer continues: "well, we at (Insert Name of Bogus Money-Sucking Agency Here) aren't here to JUDGE you (good thing, because really, you're a spendrift who is trying to avoid paying your debts.) We're here to help!"

The commercial then goes on to explain how that in 2009 you have a Legal Consumer Right to Decrease Your Debt. Wow, sounds impressive, like it's HR 458 just passed out of the Appropriations Committee. One Problem: it's just a jumble of nonsense words. If you are in debt, you have every right to TRY to NEGOTIATE lower monthly payments or even a decrease in total owed- you do NOT have a "Right" to actually REDUCE YOUR DEBT. Can you even imagine the impact of such a "Right?" "Hey honey, I'm off to spend ten grand on our Credit Card, but don't worry, we have the right to get that knocked down to six grand, the guy on the radio told me so."

Then we get to hear from "satisfied customers"- "they got my debt reduced from $30,000 to $6,000..." "I owed 250,000 but settled for only $40,000...." and my personal favorite: "they worked great for me, I've recommended them to several of my friends" (wow, what a great crowd this clown runs around with- a bunch of deadbeats who love racking up bills but DAMN its a hassle paying the bill, and anyway, why should I? I'm an honest, hard-working American!)

One woman in a service which promises to limit credit card debt tells us that "I was getting twenty-five calls a day!" Good lord- if you are getting twenty-five calls a day from creditors, you either have a dozen delinquent cards, or you are constantly hanging up on the bank and forcing them to call back. What is the matter with you?

Two points, if I may: First, all of these Credit Card Counselors behave in the same manner: they charge you a fee to do what you can just as easily do yourself: Contact your creditors and ask for lower monthly payments and/or a drop in interest rates. They will NOT get your debt reduced. The "best case scenerio" is the lower payments and lower interest rate which you could have negotiated yourself, but instead paid someone to negotiate for you (easy to see how you got yourself into debt in the first place, stupid.) Second, if you find yourself with a thousand dollars to hand to a Credit Card Counselor to do what you can do yourself, why don't you just SEND THAT MONEY TO YOUR CREDITORS YOU MORON??

I didn't even get to the part where I ream these idiots for calling attempts to collect money owed "harrassment." I bet that's not the word they use when they try to get that twenty bucks back from the "friend" who borrowed it from them last month. Losers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You Didn't Remind me to Breathe, So I Died

Quick Round Up of these insipid "I had no bars, so I missed that call" cell phone commercials:

1. Guy is being loaded into a police cruiser-- "We're house-sitting for my friend, but I don't have any bars up here, so we didn't get that call about the security code." Three things: I really don't think that the reaction of police when someone attempts to use A KEY to enter a house but doesn't know how to turn off the house alarm is to haul that someone off to jail. Second, its' more than a little inconceivable that in all the planning that went into arranging this guy's house-sitting stint, something as obvious as the Security Alarm was never brought up. Third: If the Security Alarm really wasn't ever mentioned, then this guy's anger is more than justified. He offered to house-sit, and his "friend" never told him about the security alarm? What a great friend. Sounds like someone's just given himself a nice big helping of revenge for some past slight.

2. Snowman is melting, ticked off that his friend didn't warn him about the heat wave approaching. Seriously- in no time at all, the geniuses in marketing are reduced to showing us snowmen with cellphones. Hey Mr. Snowman, here's a clue- heat wave or not, your life span is going to be very, very short. It will involve dogs using you to mark their territory, so maybe that's not a bad thing. And best of all, you'll be gone before the first monthly bill arrives, so at least you went out screwing over the cell phone company!

(BTW, what would this snowman have done with the information that a heat wave was arriving? Kidnap a little girl and take a refrigerated boxcar to the North Pole? Haven't we seen this already?)

3. Moron is standing near the smoking crater that I guess used to be someone's lawn, complaining that he didn't get the call warning him to defrost the turkey before deep-frying it. I wonder if in the past this guy hasn't found fault with his friend for warning him to pull down his pants before attempting to use the urinal. I mean, really, how helpless ARE these idiots?

4. Woman whines (I'm not being sexist- she is whining, speaking in an exaggerated, stressed-out voice) that the loveable Dinosaur character hired to entertain the little munchkins at a birthday party won't be showing up- instead "they're sending a T-Rex." Again, she didn't get the call because she has no bars where the party is taking place. So a party featuring a dozen or so very little kids is taking place in a building which is totally cut off from the outside world. Call 911 in case of fire? Sorry, no bars. Kid suffers an allergic reaction to something he ate at the party? Again, tough for the kid. Great planning, lady.

There's another one, involving a news reporter about to get blown to smithereens because he's standing in the new blast zone, but you get the idea-- if you don't have good cell phone service, you will miss the Vitally Important Information you should have had already or that you don't really need because you aren't retarded. Keep up the great work, cell phone manufacturers. We feel more dependent and infantile every day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ram This- Howie Long Questions Your Manhood

Fat doofus struggles to find the little folding step that pops out from the back of his pickup, as a disapproving Howie Long looks on. Howie asks this guy "hey, that's a nice 'Man Step' you have there, but wouldn't you rather have a Dodge Ram?"

"Man Step?" Looks like it's a convenient folding step that would make it easier for any man to cart bags of cement, dirtbikes, tools, shovels, fishing poles or any of the other things men devote their weekends to carting around. At least, that's the impression I get from commercials.

In another episode of Howie Long Basically Calls Men Who Don't Own Dodge Rams Homosexuals, Long walks up to a guy sitting in his truck and asks "is that a heated steering wheel?" The guy (another fat doofus, probably wets his pants when his wife asks him if he's cleaned out the garage yet, you know the type) at first says "No!" and then, under the glare of Real Man Howie Long, admits "well, yes." Long then says "which would you really have, a heated steering wheel or a Dodge Ram?"

This is a new, interesting strategy by the good people at Chevrolet-- purposefully point out the luxuries your truck LACKS, and suggest that the LACK of those luxuries is a GOOD thing, because if your truck DOES have those luxuries, then you are a GIRLY, EFFEMINATE PANSY who has NO BUSINESS calling yourself a MAN. I mean, the guy in the second instance should just respond "I guess a Dodge Ram does look pretty cool- but other than the fact that it DOESN'T have a heated steering wheel, how is it 'better' than my truck?"

What's next? "Is that a DVD PLAYER I see in your truck?" "Um, yes." "Well, I guess that's important to you, huh? A DVD player- what are you, a girl? Wouldn't you rather have a Dodge Ram? It doesn't have a DVD player, which means it's better than that 'truck' you are driving?"

There are more of these commercials, in which everyone's favorite washed-up overrated NFL "star" and would-be Action Movie Sensation (remember Firestorm? How about Broken Arrow? Me neither) rolls from parking lot to parking lot sneering at the inferior trucks he sees inferior men driving around in. One is enough to convince you that Long appears determined to dedicate his life to picking up a paycheck from any source he can, even when that requires him to play a character who is clearly deeply insecure in his own choice of trucks and his own "power under the hood."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Milky Minutes" and more Fun Family Disfunction in Cell Phone Commercials

Dad and the boys are sitting at the table, mom is in the kitchen (of course- where else would mom be?) Dad knocks over a glass of milk, drenching the "cell phone minutes" (represented by little orange clocks.) Mom reminds the kids and dad that the minutes are still good; the response of the family is to look at eachother as if to note "bitchfest coming, gird your loins, boys, we can ride this out together."

Mom, who acts as if she's nailed to the kitchen floor as she takes not one step toward her family (which remains planted firmly on it's collective ass- clearly no one is going to clean up the spilled milk) finally delivers the set-up line: "My sister's family would love to have those milky minutes!"

Dad snarks "isn't your sister lactose intolerant?" promoting giggles from his asshole sons. Mission Accomplished: Mom's authority has been successfully undermined, and Dad has been established as Friend of the Kids and Ally Against Mom.

Mom's response is to shake her finger- and remain firmly nailed to the floor.

My response? Take the cell phones from the kids, and get into marriage counseling with dad to find out why he feels it's more important to be his kids' buddy than his spouse's partner.

I wonder if that milk ever got cleaned up.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Family Disfunction in Phone Commercials

I will be posting many, many times on the subject of cellphone commercials, because practically all of them- even the ones that DON'T include the "Can You Hear Me Now?" geek- tend to fill me with rage. I'll just give two examples of thoroughly repulsive cellphone commercials right now, and add more as time goes by. Because God Knows, they aren't going to get any better.

1. Daddy announces that he's signed his family up for a new Unlimited Calling Plan (this is pretty common in these commercials, as is the response of the family: No family member EVER says "Thank You," even in the commercials where Daddy hands out phones to wife, daughter, son. EVER.) He says "now we can call people any time we want."

In case the concept of being able to call an unlimited number of people with the new plan isn't quite clear enough for the average tv viewer, members of the family quickly provide examples of people who can now be called: Wife says "now we can call Vivian." Well, I don't know who Vivian is, but if she's a human being living on planet Earth, then yes, I imagine she's included in the Unlimited Calling Plan. Little Boy Sitting on the Floor helpfully adds "and you (daddy) can call that woman you are always staring at at my soccer games." Hmmmm....I guess that's true, young man, if daddy has her phone number. Oddly enough, outing daddy's lust for the strange woman at the soccer game has no impact on mommy.

Finally, freakishly thin daughter, who looks to be about 13, says "and I can call Derek." Father says "you mean mustache, Mustang Derek?" Reminded of how dreamy Derek is, girl sighs "yeah." Father: "Um, no, sorry, there's a 'No Dereks clause in the plan...oh, bummer. Dude."

Groan. Hey dad, how about telling your daughter she's too young to be calling a guy old enough to have a mustache and his own car (seriously, this girl is not over thirteen) instead of concocting some lame falsehood designed to shift the "blame" for not supporting your daughter's infatuation on to a faceless phone company? Seriously. It's called parenting. Stop being afraid of your daughter and set some guidelines. And while you're at it, don't be so obviously terrified in front of your family. And get a new suit- the seventies are over.

2. Family arrives at Christmas Tree Lot to pick out a tree. They are warned by a creepy tree salesman "dont go down (to that part of the lot,) there's no cell phone service there." And one of the kids in the family has his cellphone out, ready to text, talk, surf the internet, etc. at a moment's notice.

What the hell is going on here? The family is out to get a Christmas tree. Is it really so damned hard to be out of contact with the rest of the world for a few fricking minutes while you help your family pick out a Christmas Tree??? What will happen to this kid if he can't get text messages for five minutes?? If I were the father in this family, that phone would be shut off and put away anyway- you are with the family. This is a family function. You don't need to be texting or talking to your friends right now!!

Cell phone companies hate families, because they always show them as groups of people who just happen to live in the same house and are therefore eligible to share calling plans. They hate society, because they encourage people to believe that they must be texting or talking away every waking moment of their lives instead of interacting with the actual people around them. So, I hate cell phone companies. And their commercials, which always, always suck.

Five Dollar Foot Longs?

Ok, before you interrupt and say "hey, these commercials are actually pretty cute!" what with the retro look, including hula girls, Godzilla, etc. let me just say that I agree with you- the ORIGINAL Subway "Five Dollar Foot Long" commercials were pretty cute. But almost before you could blink, the Suits at Subway decided that it was time to pretend that the "Five Dollar Foot Long" had become a popular jingle, and it was timee to unleash the Mother of All Obnoxious Commercial Concepts- the Man on the Street Sing-Along!!

That's right, folks- because this is the American Idol Judge Judy I Want To Be On Television And I Don't Care What I Have To Do To Get There generation, Subway has no problem getting drooling, overweight pasty morons to stand in front of cameras and sing "Five Dollar Foot Longs" and then giggle as if they've just done something funny, instead of humiliating themselves in front of millions of people and giving their children something to cringe about someday. As if people all over America have embraced "Five Dollar Foot Longs" as the "Where's The Beef?" of our time. Yep, this jingle has captured the hearts and minds of America, all right. Of course it has.

So to hell with the hula girls and Godzilla clips and Mimes and finding creative ways to get people to make what I guess is a "foot long" sign with their hands. Just take a video camera into the street and get dumbasses to display their lack of singing talent instead. Sure, the result is a commercial that makes you want to scrape off your ears with a cheese grater, but at least it didn't cost you much of anything to produce.

As for the people who debase themselves for their fifteen minutes of fame? They've given those grinning morons who make up the "Viva Viagra" band someone to look down on. Hope it makes them proud.

Precious Christmas Memories

No company has done more to promote the concept of Christmas as a season for greedy, rich jackasses to display their wealth in the most ostentatious way imaginable than Lexus, and this year they really outdid themselves. Since I was a very young adult, I've gritted my teeth and managed to get through the yearly Spoiled Rotten Materialistic Undeserving Prick Gets Lexus With Showy Red Ribbon For Christmas commercials (btw, does Lexus make a car that isn't silver?) But this year, Lexus decided to make them even more hate-inducing by introducing the "wonderful memory" concept.

Here's how it went: Nasty rich little girl or boy "recalls" the Vewy Vewy Bestest Christmas Gift EVER from their childhood- little boy actually barks "Wait a minute, what are you doing?" as if threatening us for the fleeting thought that we might turn the channel or hit the mute and not listen to his Tale of Upper Class Excess from the late 70s, when he got Space Invaders on Atari and stayed up all night to get to 140,000- a memory unmatched in the annals of Christmases (never mind that Little Lord Fauntroy probably went on to get a dirtbike at 12, a car at 16, an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe courtesy of Mommy and Daddy at 18, etc.) until Spoiled Little Brat grows up to be Spoiled Big Brat and gets a Lexus. The very worst episode involved a little girl who actually gets a PONY for Christmas- to make it more horrible, little girl is in Adowable Pigtails, to make it EVEN MORE HORRIBLE, the pony's name is DOLLY:

"Remember DOLLY? She was the BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER! Remember how you screamed so loud that the neighbors came over?" (and in the commercial, the neighbors in fact do come over, and walk right into this creep's palatial suburban estate, still wearing their bathrobes!) And here's the most stomache-churningly grotesque part: What this girl remembers MOST (with a disdainful toss of the head) is that "Ann-Marie was soooooo jealous" (neighbor girl, her own Christmas shattered along with her family harmony by the discovery of the pony, just stands there with her mouth open, dropping her inferior TOY pony to the floor.)
So what this nasty little cretin REALLY remembers is how jealous the neighbor was of her pony.

The story concludes, again, with the Adult Version of this vermin getting a Lexus, which FINALLY tops that damn pony. Just like the guy's Lexus finally beat out the Atari Game System, and in another commercial, the Lexus finally takes the place of a Big Wheel in Big Entitled Moron's fondest Christmas memories.

Personally? You put a brand new Lexus in your driveway with a bow on it before Christmas time, I hope you find yourself the neighborhood lepers. Because you deserve it. That and a rock through the windshield. And a painful death. Preferably from rabies.

Football is ruined

It started with "Saaaaaaved byyyyyy zeeeeeeeeeeero" which would appear, without fail, at every commercial break during every college and pro football game, every weekend, like clockwork. I thought I would never loathe anything more than this nonstop mantra which felt like sewing needles entered my brain.

But now, I am nostalgic for the days when people sang about being saved by Zero. Because what has invaded my television set and absolutely RUINED my football viewing is far, far worse.

It involves a bunch of apparently inbred hicks spending their weekend driving trucks through some Obstacle Course of Death, all the while screaming "WOOOOHOOOOOO" and "AWW MAN" and "GOGOGOGOGO!" while offering pearls-of-wisdom observations about the trucks they are driving, like "it's got a too'box an' stuff" and "you can throw some fishin poles an' hammers an' stuff (you know you are a real man when you check out the fishin pole and hammer capacity of your potential truck purchase, I guess) in between trying to maneuver these Real Man Machines between swinging logs (get the allusion? GET IT?) and explosions.

And as if this weren't enough to send me diving for the mute button at every break in the football action, they've gotten even worse lately- now you've got these worthless hicks trying to describe the noise the truck makes- "it's goin' mmmmm.." "It's kind of like, Grrrrrr...." "you put your foot down, an' it's kind of sayin RRRRRRR..." before retreating back to familiar ground with "WOHOO" and the Speaks For Itself "YEAH!!"

I can't remember a series of commercials that have made me want to put my foot through my screen more, or a series which has caused me to miss more minutes of football because I've jammed down the mute button, walked away, and forgotten to hit it again. And they are on ALL THE TIME, during EVERY FOOTBALL GAME. Damn you, Car and Truck Industry. May you burn in hell.