Where The Money Goes

« April 2008 »

Memo to MCI and E*Trade: THANKS, FUCKERS.

Yesterday was death, and today is taxes. And yes, I know, thematically, the taxes thing is a day off, but the way I see it, the day AFTER you send your forms and checks off into the United States bureaucracy is a good day to reflect upon money and where it goes when you don't have it anymore. And I'm not actually going to talk about tax money anyway, so the whole shebang is tenuous at best.

The point is, the economy has moved past "recession" into a brand new phase economists have designated as "Amy Winehouse's Hangover". And while nobody can agree on how we got this way, I have a few ideas backed up by wholly anecdotal examples.

First, there's corporate fuckery in the deregulated era. Capitalism's dirty little secret is that fucking someone over is always more profitable than not fucking someone over. Especially in the short term. Whether it's forced abortions in the Marianas Islands for the women sewing your "Made in the USA" shirt, or the more casual, small-scale fuckings delivered unto us every single day, we haven't just been victimized by bastards trying to squeeze a few more cents out of us by any means possible, we've come to expect it as the status quo.

Anecdote in point: a while back I received a long distance phone bill from MCI. This is not new. I'd been receiving them for years. Most times, the bill was for zero dollars and zero cents because I don't make many long-distance calls. I was happy, and except for the envelope-licker in MCI's billing department, MCI seemed happy. On those occasions when I did make a call, MCI could extract not only a quite ridiculous per-minute fee, but all the miscellaneous taxes and surcharges they could make up names for.

But this time, the bill had a $5.99 "minimum service charge" on it. They had arbitrarily decided that if I did not make six dollars worth of long distance calls in a month, they would start treating me as if I HAD. ALong with all the taxes and surcharges they could make up names for, applied to that six dollars of service I hadn't actually used. I found this surprising and unacceptable. Surprising, it turns out because I had apparently missed the postcard they'd sent me informing me of the change. I'm not sure how that happened, because I, like all Americans, painstakingly peruse the fine print on every glossy bit of cardstock corporations dump in my mailbox. But anyway.

Since it was unacceptable, I called to cancel the account. Which led to time on hold, which I expected. And the customer service representative trying to talk me out of my decision, which I also expected. And lies about them valuing me as a customer. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. But then the call center drone informed me that to actually cancel my account, they would be directing me to an automated system. In which I would be required to perform a series of not uncomplicated and not imprecise tasks. At the end of which my service would be cancelled. Bonus fuckery!

The only possible reason for a system like that is bastardry. An extra barrier between the customer and the goal of cancellation. Something the customer might fuck up in a way nobody can catch until the customer receives the next bill. At which point another billing cycle has already begun and another six bucks has been dumped into the shareholders' piggy bank. Did it trip me up? No. Is it a big deal? No. But it's representative. The whole point of free market competition is that companies that pull shit like this will suffer when we all move our business to companies that don't pull shit like this. And there you see the problem - there aren't any companies not pulling shit like this, because shit like this makes them more money. Especially if everyone's pulling this shit.

The other factor contributing to the economic decline is the bestupidization of finance. You may know bestupidization by its more common layman's name, "democratization". It's the process by which complicated activities previously available only to experts are given over to the common people. For example, stock trading. In the old days, if you wanted to trade stocks, you had to consult with a guy who knew how to do it and ask him to do it for you. And if you were lucky, and asked him to do something that was completely retarded, he'd slap the stupid out of you. If you weren't lucky, he'd take your commission and run, but the point is, the process was complicated enough that there was the possibility of intervention.

Now, though, you can buy and sell stocks yourself, using services like E*Trade. And E*Trade can market those services to you. With commercials. Commercials that tell you that one good way to use E*Trade is to stay up until midnight, then with a single click, buy 200 shares of a Chinese energy company. Why? Because it's COOL. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I mean, how cool is that? Shangdao Energy, in HONG KONG?! That's China."

Fucking marvelous. Thanks to E*Trade, bald bearded assholes can fuck with the global finance markets based on nothing but their sleep-deprived vague memories of high school geography. In case you, like me, were wondering what could possibly be worse than the mystical machinations of the financial experts who insist they've studied this stuff and know what they're doing? Here it is. Throw some money at that, because it's CHINA.

We're so fucking hosed.