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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/25/12

Don't You Just Love Choices?

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This story should be a wake-up call for us all.  We learn, in this story, that when we use our credit card or debit card at any vendor's business, the machines that read the card are not immune from tampering. That means that when we hand our card to the waiter at a restaurant our information can be stolen from that card at the speed of light. Even if we are standing at the cashier's counter, and we watch the cashier swipe our card in our presence neither the cashier, nor we, can be confident that the card has not been compromised.

Even if our card is placed in one of those now old-fashioned stand-alone portable machines that imprints our embossed card's information on a multi-copy paper transaction slip we cannot be certain that the machine does not have a hidden magnetic strip reader/transmitter attached to its underside that steals our information.

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The point of vulnerability is the magnetic strip on our card. If it was illegal for banks to encode any personal information on a magnetic strip or other electronically readable unit (such as RFID) then a theft of information could only be accomplished manually from a transaction ticket. The theft would still be possible, but the difficulty of theft is greatly increased.

Also, we now have to consider the security of the devices that convert our written check into an electronic command to debit our bank account. When this kind of transaction occurs at a cashier's stand our handwritten check is returned to us marked paid, but...the information necessary to debit our account has been transmitted over a telephone line. The check reader is insecure just as is a magnetic strip reader.

These transaction methods increase our personal risk while decreasing the manual labor cost necessary to employ old-fashioned, secure methods. The profit created by this "improvement" is a cost that is definitely as much or more than the cost of the old methods involving employees, and the customers bear that cost.  So the electronic age, or information age, has not really benefited the population in this regard; it is another way to enrich the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

Hold that thought and consider this one.  Computers were supposed to make life easier for all of us, we were told in the hype that ushered in the personal computer, the cell phone, the ipad, the ipod, as new universal benefits of the space exploration extravaganza.  Right? Well, it hasn't worked out that way. You and I now spend our precious time dealing with telephone robots, punching an ever-increasing number of buttons to answer their questions and spending minutes or hours never before required of the population in order to get a simple question answered that is not handled by the robot. And the companies have sent the jobs of the humans who are waiting to handle the inquiries that the telephone robot can't dispose of, to a third world call center with minimum labor costs. The result is that Kevin or Donna, sitting in that call center cannot speak English well enough to be understood and sits in front of a computer screen that provides him or her with stock answers and rules by which to limit the level of service available to callers who eventually are handed off to them by the telephone robot.  When this level of service fails to satisfy the caller, often the caller is dismissed with the concluding statement, "I'm sorry, but AT&T (or whoever) is not equipped to provide help with third party software (or whatever)." But sometimes a higher tier of service is made available if the caller knows to ask for it. (Oh, joy!)

Now, are you ready for this? The question is who pays for this complex "customer service" scheme? Answer: All customers do, whether they ever get sucked into this whirlpool of time wasting, frustrating, nonsensical, inefficient, ineffective button pushing activity or not. And the "service provider" doesn't give a damn.

And that's not all.  Anytime we sign up for a service--be it a bank, a website, a new service provider, or whatever, we are presented with a voluminous legal document on the internet or in the U. S. Mail warning us that the provider is not responsible for A, B, C, ... X, Y, or Z, and that the terms of this "agreement" are subject to change without notice, so...(we are warned) it is our responsibility to keep up to date with the current terms as they exist at any time we may need customer service. The final statement in this agreement is that by clicking "Accept" or by opening this mail we have testified legally that we have read and understood every sentence and every word in the foregoing mind numbing document and we understand that it is legally binding us in our relationship with the service provider with whom we desire service.

Many of you are not old enough to remember when there were universally understood rules of service between customers and providers. They were very simple, not subject to change, and not written. They were common law. The changes have come about as the 1% has invaded and conquered government. They have brainwashed the populace into believing that a myriad of choices makes us happy--the more choices the better, right? NOT!!!

Here's an example.  Time was, long ago and far away, that we didn't have all these choices facing us daily that we now spend all our discretionary time poring over. When we moved into a new home we called the phone company to get a phone. Soon a technician appeared at our door. He installed one or more phones in our home. It was understood that the phones and the wiring belonged to the company, and any malfunction was their responsibility--not ours. Our responsibility was to pay the bill monthly--the bill being carefully regulated (as to profit) by law since this service was regarded as a public utility. We paid about $7.00 per month for the basic local phone service and so many cents per minute for long distance calls. Period. End of story.

Do you really think we are happier paying the dollar overhead necessary for the phone companies and energy companies to have all those storefront facilities where we obediently go to consider our options? Do you really love reading all those emails and snail mails containing sales hype for all those choices that are really only used by the companies to compete with each other for a larger share of a finite, limited market? How about all the time we spend on the phone or on-line dealing with customer service robots and reading (yeah, right!) all those changing agreements we are charged with understanding (without recourse)? Are we really happier with a blue tooth earpiece/microphone hanging off our ear that lets us talk and listen to jabber on our cell phone every waking minute we have left after we do our work (if we have a job) and do our choice-making each day?

Are we really happier and better off than when we had only black phones owned by the phone company?

Think about it. Have we been played for fools?

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Jerry Lobdill Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a retired physicist and hold a B.S. in Ch. E. as well. I have been an environmental activist since the early 1970s. I was a founding member of the Save Barton Creek Association in Austin, TX. In 2006 I was a member of a select (more...)

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