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Wanna Know Who You Really Are? Spit Here.

5 Jun

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So the wife finally convinced me to do this ancestry DNA thing you’ve probably heard or read about. Ya know, you send in your DNA sample to this mad scientist type place somewhere in Utah and a few months later you get to find out you’re not Scotch-Irish like you’ve been told since you were 3 but are in fact one-fifth Bosnian-Herzegovinian with a touch of Latvian Orthodox and a slight dusting of the Saskatchewan Moose Jaw Clan. Which is probably why your family just said you were Scotch-Irish and left it at that. Much simpler.

Anyway, one day the wife hands me this cardboard box and excitedly proclaims, “Here’s your kit! Time to provide your sample!”

I was instantly horrified. The only “samples” I’ve ever had to provide for medical/research purposes involved either (a) needles, blood, and pain; (b) sitting alone in a room with a tiny container, some tissues, and a “men’s” magazine while trying hard to think sexy thoughts; or (c) forcibly going to the bathroom and then, while completely mortified, placing my uncomfortably warm “sample” into a tray in the wall of my examination room while praying to God no one opens the tray from the other side of the wall while I’m providing my uncomfortably warm “sample.”

To my great relief, I found out that the ancestry guys just wanted my spit. For a moment, as I self-consciously began earnestly trying to hock up a nice loogie, I eyed Ralph asleep on the floor and pondered what the results would be if I gave them a vial of elderly long-haired dachshund saliva. “Dear Mr. White,” I envisioned, “from your unique DNA sample, our labs have concluded that you are eight-tenths Old World German with a family history of hunting badgers and an unusual tendency toward heartworm. For long-term health, you may consider drinking less from the toilet and going for ‘walkies’ at least three times a week.”

But no, I diligently hocked up my sample, sealed my little vial, and we both shipped off our DNA data in hopes of discovering if great-great-great-great-great grandpappy was perhaps Nebuchadnezzar II or Spike Jones or whoever.

We have since been in the “waiting phase,” while—according to the company literature—the DNA lab experts and biochemists in white labcoats spend arduous weeks attempting to deconstruct our respective spittles down to the double-helix level and painstakingly extract our ancestry information. A substantial part of me thinks that in reality, there’s a big basement room in Provo somewhere with a giant wall map of the world and a bunch of guys in t-shirts and sweatpants armed with darts.

“OK,” a rotund guy yells out, still munching a pizza crust, slouched at his chair. “Watch out. This one is for, let’s see, this dude’s name is ‘White.’” He reaches into a coffee can full of darts, takes a dart and heaves it at the wall. “Rocko,” the guy yells. “Where’d that hit?”

Rocko takes a swig of Miller Lite from a longneck bottle and shuffles over to the map. “It’s in the middle of the damn ocean. Try again.”

The rotund “lab expert” sighs and throws another. “Bingo!”

Rocko burps and leans down to inspect the dart’s landing zone. “Bolivia. Somewhere in the middle of Lake Titicaca. Wow.”

“How ’bout that? Bet the guy never knew he was one-quarter Titicacan. OK, watch out, here goes again…”

I’m hoping that’s not how it goes, but the cynic in me can’t help but think the whole thing is at least a little bit scammy. I did read somewhere that the results aren’t 100 percent accurate and that some folks tend to be over-identified Scandinavian for some reason. I guess Scandinavian is the default heritage, kind of like on the Magic 8 Ball how more times than not the answer is “Results Hazy. Try Again Later.”

 

Roger White is a four-sevenths Scandinavian freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely six-elevenths Creole wife, two half-Sri Lankan daughters, a full-blooded Obesian dachshund, and a cat that refuses to provide a sample. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

A Cautionary Tale from the Planet Retha

27 Jul

by Regor White

 

Sit down, kids, and I’ll share a tale. Mikey, don’t sit so close to the fire. Your Keds are starting to melt. That’s it. OK, good.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (turn right at Andromeda, second star cluster on your left), there was a planet called Retha. The dominant species on the planet Retha were beings known as Nahums. Now, to energize their transport Planet Rethapods and to heat their dwelling units, for many years the Nahums of the good planet Retha used a substance known as ilo—a gooey byproduct of gigantic decayed creatures (called oarsiduns) that lived long before the Nahums.

As time went on, technology developed rapidly—as did the burgeoning population of Retha. The great thinkers and scientists of the planet began to wonder and worry about the safety and the continued availability of the resource ilo. They found, you see, that ilo gave off foul emissions when consumed for energy—and common sense told the thinkers that only so much ilo could be used before it was all gone. Furthermore, the thinkers had found wondrous ways to harness Retha’s natural, reusable energy—such as her great winds and the heat from her nearest star—to fulfill all of the planet’s power needs.

Alas, the influential and powerful Nahums who owned the ilo reserves resisted violently any consideration of these new energy discoveries. They intimidated the thinkers, employed their own so-called scientists to refute and discredit the thinkers, and they paid great sums to Retha’s lawgivers—an unscrupulous class Lopiticiansknown as Lopiticians—to ensure that laws and edicts quashed any and all acceptance of this upstart “renewable energy.”

Disaster followed disaster regarding use and transport of the volatile substance ilo—such as the great ilo spills in the waters of Oximec and Askala that killed all manner of creatures and fouled the once-healthy waters.

The strained rationalizations and twisted logic of the ilo elite reached the pinnacle of absurdity, however, when a process known as farcking became widespread in the Retha region known as North Aricema. Farcking was a procedure invented by the ilo industry to reach deep into Retha’s crust and force out pockets of ilo and its sister substance (called natural sag) by injecting great quantities of high-pressure liquid. This farcking process and the resultant injection of the mass quantities of farcking waste into Retha caused violent tremors—planet rumbles known as rethaquakes—where there had seldom ever been such tremors before.

In the North Aricema provinces of Sexta and Olkamoha, for example, where there had been an average of only one measurable rethaquake per year for decades, they began experiencing an average of 100 of these tremors per year since widespread farcking began there. Yet the pawns of the very wealthy ilo industry quakes!claimed there was no connection—no “concrete proof” of what was patently obvious.

Even after scientific journals all across Retha proved a definite link between the flurry of rethaquakes and the farcking procedures, the province of Sexta went so far as to forbid the governments of its very own villages to ban these rethaquake-inducing processes.

Under the guise of scholarship, ilo industry propagandists, such as the Institute for Policy Doublespeak in the village of Sallad (an ilo stronghold of the Sexta provincmr merrille) produced stories blaming geology itself for the uptick in rethaqakes. A Nahum named Merrill Swetmath, a “resident scholar” of the Doublespeak Institute, even wrote that the high-pressure injection of farcking wastes might be to blame, not the farcking itself. The ridiculous premise of this argument, of course, was that the waste-water injection WAS a basic component of the farcking process! Astounding, no?

Well, you probably know the outcome here, kids. The Lopiticians refused to listen to the scientists and true thinkers who were looking out for the future of Retha. The great and powerful ilo industry reigned supreme over the land—until, that is, swarms of rethaquakes ruined the landscape, and the ilo reserves eventually ran out, throwing an unprepared population into a new Dark Age. Poor Retha.

Thank goodness Earth is no Retha. Eh, kids?

 

Regor White is a freelance Nahum living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spousal Nahum, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

Pondering My Mortal Coil Options: Boxed or Broiled

16 Feb

by Roger White

 

I think it finally hit me how old I am this past weekend. Not so much that the wife and I packed it in and went to bed at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, and not even because we had both spent that whole day doing little more than picnicking in the sun (including a nap)—and were still exhausted before the prime time TV shows got rolling. No, I believe the realization of my impending decrepitude smacked me upside la cabeza when the wife and I began seriously debating burial versus cremation plans. For our own selves, that is.

Friendly Funeral Fellow

Yes, the big decision: the Perpetual Dirt Nap or the Oversized Oven.

It occurred to me as we pondered the possible fates of our earthbound carcasses that I’d never really given it much thought. But I figure since I’m not leasing out this anatomical apartment anymore by the time they put a twist-tie on my big toe they can pretty much do what they want with the ol’ hide. They can boil me down and pour me into so many jars of Nutella, for all I’m going to care. I may not be a top-selling flavor, but hey. It would be somehow comforting to know that I’m living on as a snack spread and that folks from Nantucket to Nacogdoches have jars of me in their pantry.

me as nutella

Anyway, as Sue and I delved deeper into the topic du terminàl, we came to a bit of a snag. A corpse conundrum. A deceased dilemma. A cadaver quand—OK, I’ll stop. Despite my self-professed indifference regarding the destiny of my mortal coil, I found myself leaning toward the traditional tacklebox treatment. I like the idea of me being gussied up, laid out in my Sunday best inside a cozy carton, and having everybody file by my formaldehyde-stuffed face to tell me what a great guy I was. Some may have to stretch the truth a bit, but what will they care? I’m dead.

Now, Sue, on the other hand, prefers the kiln. She sees herself in a nice vase on someone’s mantel, silently scolding a great granddaughter or two to dust the den for heaven’s sake.

Though I can’t envision the eternal me as a pile of cigar ash, the wife may have a point. Not to wax morbid, but have you laid a loved one to rest lately? Your standard funeral—with the rectangular real estate and the coffin and the headstone and the viewing and services and eulogy and graveside wailings and all—costs more than a brand-new jet ski, nicely equipped. I’m talking over $10k, thats all folksmy friends. Although I did notice that Sea-Doos were on sale the other day for a pretty good discount, but you have to join the credit union. Wait, funerals. Right.

Here’s another thing about the whole burial option: If you go that route, have a trusted compadre accompany you to the funeral home—because if you haven’t endured this before, beware, my pallbearing pal. Funeral parlor people are car salesmen incognito. They may speak softly and smile and nod more compassionately than the guys at Big Al’s Auto Emporium, but they are cut from the very same cloth. The things these people will try to sell you—at a time when they know you are at your most vulnerable—would make Great Aunt Eunice roll over in her “value-added” grave. They’ll insist that if you really loved ol’ Eunice you won’t settle for a run-of-the-mill pine box. You’ll of course want the Cadillac of coffins, lovingly handcrafted from the finest mahogany and appointed with cashmere pillows, tuck-and-roll upholstery, the sincerity-package extra legroom, ivory handles, and whitewalls. Get this, they’ll even tell you that you need to line the coffin with a protective seal that will keep your dearly departed from moisture, rot, or nasty invasive weevils and such. That’s correct, they’ll try to sell you a casket gasket. It’s the height (or depth, I guess) of absurdity. Isn’t the whole point of committing your bod into the ground so that you will be absorbed back into the bosom of Mother Earth?

There’s a host of accessories like this that the smiling mortuary man will gently present to you as a means to show Aunt Eunice how much you truly cared. My advice? Picture yourself at the car salesman’s desk at Big Al’s—that protective seal on your aunt’s casket is nothing more than the rustproof undercoating they want to put on your Buick. Forget it.

tasteful

It’s like Joe Pesci said in Casino just before they played baseball with his noggin—always the dollars, always the dollars. Shee, maybe the wife is onto something. I guess I wouldn’t mind being vacuum-packed into a beer stein perched over the fireplace. As long as I can face the TV.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Sorry, Kids: There Ain’t No Betty Crocker

2 Dec

by Roger White

So I was watching “Seinfeld” for the eleventy-millionth time the other night, mainly because there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching these days other than reruns of “Seinfeld,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I know, I know, you young whippersnappers will hold forth that there are some great new shows today, like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Big Band Theorem” or whatever. I’ll stick with the classics, thank you very much. Don’t you love the word eleventy-million?

not that theresAnyway, I realized that the shtick Seinfeld was doing was aimed right at me. He was talking about pretentious, faux-authentic-sounding brand names, particularly cars. Names like the Integra or the Impreza. They’re made-up names that are meant to sound like other meaningful words, like integrity and impressive. The punch line: Seinfeld simply hoped he hadn’t bought a Lemona. It hit me that the last three cars I owned before my current little Korean vehicle were just that: an Integra, an Impreza, and a Lemona. All true, I previously owned a 1986 Acura Integra (a great car), a 2003 Subaru Impreza (a fast but frustrating car), and a 1979 Lemona (a VW bug—a true bomb I never should have purchased).  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, buying a 35-year-old POS as my daily commute. Besides, that’s another story. A very sad, long story.

Again, anyway. Things then got cosmic as I sat pondering Jerry’s sage words. It struck me as I lifted a spoonful of my Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter flavored ice cream to my mouth. My ice cream brand, too, was a made-up name meant to sound exotic and luxurious. Remember when Häagen-Dazs first hit the haagen whatmarket? Ooh, we thought, super rich frozen goodness from some strange Nordic country where they surely make ice cream from virgin glacial streams, from milk of cows that graze only on Alpine truffles, and from melted gold flakes from Icelandic lava flows. Or something. Turns out, Häagen-Dazs is a nonsense word concocted by one Reuben Mattus from the Bronx. The name, which is not Danish or Swedish or anything slightly lederhosen-ish, doesn’t really mean a thing—except that ol’ Reuben was a marketing genius.

Same with Löwenbräu beer. Back in 1975, just about the time I started my prolific and illustrious drinking career, Miller Brewing of the US of A acquired the North American rights to Löwenbräu, which was originally brewed in Munich. Ya know, the real Germany. Well, when Miller got hold of it, they “Americanized” the recipe, and the original German version of Löwenbräu was no longer imported to our fair shores. Basically, the Löwenbräu we got was Miller swill in an umlaut-sprinkled wrapper. Of course, we young and impressionable drinking types had Millerbrauabsolutely no knowledge of this. We just saw a new, mysterious foreign beer on the market—in a green bottle, even! The name was obviously German, and if anybody knew their brew, it was the Germans. We was hoodwinked.

Same holds true with so many other brands, like bottled water types. I really never understood the billion-dollar explosion of the bottled water industry. It’s water. In a plastic bottle. Water! H2O. This is where brand-name marketing gurus have a field day. There’s one out there called, get this, Glaceau Smartwater. I kid you not. And I not you kid. Both parts of that faux moniker evoke good feelings, don’t they? Aah, a pristine glacier. And intelligent liquid. What could be better? An intellectual body of glacial ice—you can’t get more new-age trendy than that. You know who produces Glaceau Smartwater? Coca-Cola. I picture guys in the back of these massive Coke plants running tap water into these oh-so-fashionable containers of Water de Glaceau. And they’re probably smoking, too. Unfiltered Camels. And laughing.

And don’t get me started on Evian. Look at your Evian bottle in a mirror. Yeah.

uh huh

So. Cogitating on this unsettling realization that so many of the products we consume are purchased under false pretenses, I jogged in a mild panic from the den to the kitchen, where my lovely esposa was making a batch of Betty Crocker pancakes. Paranoia was setting in, so I had to check it out. I ran to the computer and googled “Betty Crocker.” Gads, sure enough. There was no such lady!! Say it ain’t so! I quote from Wiki-whatsis: “The name Betty Crocker was created for the Washburn Crosby Company, later to merge with General Mills, as a way to personalize the company’s products and customer relations. The company picked the name because it sounded warm and friendly.”

I was aghast. Agog. I needed comfort food. “Ah, pancakes. Thanks, dear. Pass the Aunt Jemima.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.