Archive | swindles RSS feed for this section

Call Me a Goober. I Don’t Get Uber.

2 Mar

by Roger White

 

OK, my fellow aficionados of the absurd, before we slice into the juicy prime rib of this here column, let’s settle the squabbling once and for all: What color are these words? Do you see blue type on a black background or gold type on a white background? I’ll give you a minute. No, Leonard, fuchsia on lime is not a choice.

who gives a

Apparently, because of one silly photo of a dress that was e-passed around the globe in about, oh, twelve seconds, everything we knew and believed about how we human types perceive color is right out the window. I heard tell that there were acts of gun violence in many cities and more than a few divorce proceedings initiated because of this stupid dress.

Fox News even reported that Turkneckistan declared war on neighboring Rosannadannastan over this garment argument. Citing an anonymous source, Fox claimed that the dress was to be worn at a Democratic fundraiser and that the current White House Administration is to blame for all the hubbub. As the Fox anchor concluded, “Thanks, Obama.”

Anyway. That’s not my rant for this episode. (It’s blue on black, by the way.) No, the rusted bobby pin stuck in my lower craw this time out is this Uber phenomenon. If you haven’t heard of Uber, it’s an app—started in California, of course—that magically transforms any Tom, Dick, and Hot Rod Harry with a set of wheels into a taxi cab driver. Here’s actual wording from the Uber site: “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine. The city is buzzing, and Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started.”

So, if I may extrapolate, I need nothing more than my derelict little Ford Pinto, some free time, and a desperate desire to make some cash without really working in order to chauffeur my way to riches? What a fantastic concept! What could possibly go wrong?

ruh roh ruber

Hmmm, let’s see. If you’re the guy behind the wheel—we’ll call you the Uber-er—it’s all easy money—until you get summoned to the lower east side of town to pick up a half-dozen Hell’s Angels, whose request is something like, “Just drive us around town for a while, lights off, and DON’T look in the back seat! Got it?” Or, say you’re the one looking for a ride—you’re the Uber-ee—and you get picked up in a two-tone primer and day-glo yellow ’63 Impala by a dude with a patch over one eye and a tattoo of Jeffrey Dahmer on his bicep. “Um, Sixth Street, please. Wait, um, downtown’s that way. No, wait!”

waitYou see my concerns. The threat of death and dismemberment aside, did you know that if you—the Uber-ee— opt for the Uber route during a time that is considered “high demand,” you will be charged what the smiling Uber people (Uberites? Ubereeenos?) euphemistically term “surge pricing”? Yeah. So, say you’re having little luck getting an honest-to-gosh taxi at 3 a.m. on New Year’s, and you punch up Uber on your phone thingy. It’s only a five-minute ride from the bar to your house, but you’re a little tipsy—and besides, your neighbor used Uber for the same trip only a few weeks ago, and it was only $25. Uber to the rescue! Your Uber driver is a tad odd and smells like onions and cat litter, but he gets you home in one piece. You whip out two twenties, feeling generous, and your cat-litter-smelling-cabby laughs. “That’s $675, lady.” Yep, surge pricing.

You see her concerns.

If I may extrapolate further, where will this lead? Will we have Uberfied air travel soon? I can see the Uber site now: “Got an airplane? Got at least a student’s license? Turn your Cessna into a money machine. The nation is buzzing, and many people—especially those on cartel payrolls—need transportation fast! Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started….”

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.

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.

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.