Here’s what happened with DirecTV – Smart Circle at Sam’s Club

When I enter a Sam’s Club, or any membership based shopping club, I expect a certain level of protection from fraud from 3rd party vendors in the store, especially from vendors that are doing promotions with the club directly.

On Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, I was approached by Sales rep at Sam’s Club located at 1725 34th Street N., St. Petersburg, FL 33713. JP (the rep) told me that DirecTV was doing a promotion with Brighthouse and Verizon. Customers could keep current internet and switch to DirecTV and save significantly. I told him what my current internet-tv bundle was and he said that my internet alone with Brighthouse would remain at $40 ($39.99 to be exact)/mo and that DirecTv would cost 56.99/mo for the first year and $91.99/mo for the second year. I again asked if he was sure about my internet remaining with Brighthouse and being $40/ month unbundled for the 30 Mbps high speed internet I currently had. Please note, he specifically asked me which internet speed/bundle I currently had and told me what the new internet-only price would be with Brighthouse, while saying that DirecTv and Brighthouse were working together on this deal.

As told to me by JP, the new configuration would save me approximately $40/mo the first year and be about $7/mo less than my current costs in the second year. When he told me that part of the discount was for paying via auto pay, I again asked about the internet remaining with Brighthouse and if I would now have to make separate payments to both Brighthouse and DirecTV, since DirecTV was automatically withdrawing the TV portion of the bill. I was once again assured that even though I was splitting the internet and TV, DirecTV was working with Brighthouse to bring this deal to Sam’s Club members. They were also doing a similar deal with Verizon customers, and at this point John directed my attention to a computer screen nearby with a page advertising a DirecTv/Verizon deal, branded with both logos visible on the screen. I assume (now) this was to support his claim that DirecTv was indeed working in conjunction with both these companies.

Because of these repeated assurances that my unbundled internet would cost $40/mo with Brighthouse and JP’s assurance that he knew this because DirecTv was working with Brighthouse on this deal for Sam’s Club members, I signed up for the service. Mind you, I’m a skeptic, so when I began this conversation with the rep, I really didn’t believe he would be able to save me money over my current Brighthouse plan. So once he had shown me that the plan would indeed be cheaper, I felt it would be silly to reject it at that point. He had indeed shown that he could save me money as he claimed he would.

On Tuesday, once the DirecTv was installed, I called Brighthouse to discontinue the cable TV service and was told that the unbundled 30 Mbps Internet service was $75/mo. Which means that I am saving less than $10/mo the 1st year (maybe not even that after taxes) and will be paying $27 more per month the 2nd year. They also informed me that they were definitely not involved in any promotions with DirecTv or Sam’s Club.

Needless to say, I would not have signed up for this had the person representing DirecTv not blatantly and repeatedly lied to me. By assuring me that DirecTv was working with Brighthouse, he falsely presented himself as being able to speak to Brighthouse costs as if he were representing them as well. This is clearly fraudulent.

I now realize that this was a Smart Circle employee, not a DirecTv or Sam’s representative. Yet all of the material I received said DirecTv or DirecTv for Sam’s Club Members. The only way I discovered he was not with DirecTv is when I called the number on the DirecTv for Sam’s Club members pamphlet that I received when I signed up in order to complain on Tue, Nov 26th and the phone was answered by Smart Circle.

I am currently trying to get some resolution to this matter. I would like to give DirecTv/Smart Circle a chance to make things right and at least deliver on the same amount of savings that I was promised in order to entice me to sign up for the package in the first place. There is nothing that I can expect BrightHouse to do about their billing. They were not involved in the matter at all and I cannot expect them to change their pricing because a DirecTv/Smart Circle Representative committed fraud.

UPDATE:

I am canceling the DirecTV within the 24 hour grace period. Brighthouse is reinstating my service with them at no extra cost and no hassles whatsoever. They were the most understanding reps I spoke with all day. I would advise people approached by any DirecTV Sales reps to tell them to go fuck themselves. to walk away without response.

FURTHER UPDATE:

Just spoke with someone from the Office of the President of DirecTV (I sent an email to a VP). I will still be canceling the service, but they are now at least doing their best to be sure that I’m not charged anything and that the contract is canceled without penalty and my installation fee is reimbursed. They also assured me that they will be sending the information to their dealer services department in order to be sure it doesn’t happen again. They were surprised to hear that Smart Circle had been accused of the same behavior in another local Sam’s Club, so perhaps they will re-think allowing that dealer to continue to represent them. We’ll see. I remain skeptical.

FINAL UPDATE:

Well, Smart Circle contacted me the week after Thanksgiving with all sorts of apologies for their representative misleading me. They sent me a $200 check as an apology. I also still received the $200 Sam’s Gift card that was part of the original deal with DirecTv. So in the long run I came out $400 ahead….at least until I have to remove the damn dish from my roof and patch the screw holes.

The Importance of Sources

It seems that creationists have trouble understanding the importance of source material. They are constantly linking to “scientific” articles that supposedly disprove evolution, yet one quick glance is all it takes to discover these articles are written by other creationists with either no scientific credentials or degrees from a university that consists of a trailer in the desert with nothing more than a phone, computer and printer.

Let’s make this simple. If you want to learn about a topic, you need to go to the appropriate source for information. For example, if you want to learn what the theory of evolution is and what the most current knowledge about evolution entails, you need to go to SCIENTISTS. STOP looking for creationists who claim to be scientists. Find an ACCREDITED college and take a class from a real scientist. If you can’t afford to take a college course, go to coursera.org and take one online for FREE. You can even audit a course in your spare time if you don’t think you can keep up with a regular course – it’s ok, a lot of people work and don’t have the time to take a course online. By auditing you can download the course materials and study at your own pace.

Let me be clear. If you are truly interested in learning you must start without looking for only those ideas that support your preconceived beliefs.

If I want to learn about the bible, I read the bible. If I want to learn why it says something or what something means, I am not going to ask a religious leader with their own agenda. I will talk to experts in HISTORY and LINGUISTICS. If you look for information that only confirms what you already believe, you are not going to learn anything. Sectarian leaders are only going to confirm what their own sect believes. A historian can shed light on the actual activities in the area and time that a text was written. They can confirm or debunk events that are claimed by a text. A linguist can confirm translations from the texts original language and speak to nuances. Most translations of the bible were done with specific agendas.

When creationists post links to “pseudo-scientific” articles about DNA “code” published by a religious organization rather than an accredited scientific laboratory, it only shows us their ignorance.

How to Avoid Twitter Suspension from False Flagging

Many progressive twitter users have fallen victim to a fundamentalist technique for silencing those people who disagree with them. They take advantage of the twitter algorithm that checks reported users for spamming activity. Twitter does not have the resources to physically check each account that is accused of spamming. What they do is run an algorithm that checks for things that are common to spambots. The most common ones being following/follower ratio and the number of tweets that are responses.

A lot of real live, legitimate twitter users follow far more people than follow them back. It’s particularly common for new users or people interested in a wide variety of topics that don’t really care whether they are followed back. You could avoid this by following people more slowly and only adding when more people have followed you, but why should you have to limit yourself?

The second item can be easily avoided. Twitter considers tweets to another person that begin with the user’s screen name to be a “response.” A tweet that has the user’ name anywhere within the tweet is a “mention.” Since spambots generally direct their spam toward individual users, most spam tweets start with a user name. This is easy to avoid. When responding to other users and holding conversations, always put something before the username of the person you are responding to. For example, when having a conversation:

Me: @coolguy I can’t believe those teabaggers are so stupid.
You: @AssassinGrl I know, what a bunch of losers.
Me: @coolguy You are sooooo right!
You: @AssassinGrl You are sooo smart and beautiful.

This conversation could easily be flagged by twitter’s algorithm as being spam if someone false flags us, especially if one of us follows significantly more people than follows us.

This can be avoided.

Me: You know @coolguy, I can’t believe those teabaggers are so stupid.
You: Yeah @AssassinGrl I know, what a bunch of losers.
Me: . @coolguy You are sooooo right!
You: . @AssassinGrl You are sooo smart and beautiful.

Even putting a punctuation mark like a period (.) or slash (/) before the user name will protect you from being mistakenly caught by twitter’s anti-spam algorithm.

If you are unlucky enough to get suspended, contact twitter help at support.twitter.com and explain that you were falsely flagged. There is a form to fill out. This will start the process to have a real person review your account. In the meantime it might be a good idea to keep a backup account with a similar name so that you can let followers know when you’ve been falsely suspended. Be patient. It sometimes takes a while when they have to have a person follow up.

Why call atheism a religion…

It seems the big ‘insult’ from theists is to say, “But atheism is a religion, too.” And this gets atheists ruffled up and fighting amongst themselves over whether atheists “don’t believe in any gods” or “believe there are no gods.”

The semantics of the whole argument distract us from the tactic itself. The claim makes it sound like the theists are agreeing that religion is a bad thing. They may just be attempting to make a point that atheists are hypocritical. But whether some people define religion as a ‘belief system’ or whether it has to have some supernatural element, I think that when the ‘atheism is a religion’ argument is thrown into the mix, that’s the time to pull back and simply say,

“Well that’s not my definition of religion, but even if it were, so what? It has no bearing on whether or not a god exists.”

Myself…I’m thinking about becoming a High Priestess in the Church of the Everlasting Atheist and demanding all my tax exemptions.

Who That Twitter Follower Really Is

There are certain ‘code words’ in Twitter bios that can give us clues about who is really following us on twitter. Sure, we’ve all read the blogs that tell us about the different “types” of twitter users. But don’t you wonder if that person on the other side of the Brad Pitt avatar is really a pimply-faced 13 yr old that tortures cats? While I’m not sure if I can accurately predict the skin conditions of all of your followers, there are some clues in those bios.

Let’s take a look at some actual twitter bios and I’ll take a stab at describing who is behind the keyboard.

1. ” Team Builder, Looking 4 JV Partners, Success Mentor”

The clue here is “looking for JV (joint venture) partners.” This screams “I have no money and I live with my mother.”  This is the guy that claims to be “self-employed” when he can’t find a job. Appearances are everything so he’s shuffling constantly to make it look like he has something going. Anyone who describes themselves as a “success mentor” hasn’t experienced any success of their own. Think Bernie Madoff without the persuasive skills.

2. Life Coach: “Helping you create amazing changes in your life. Personal development and self growth coach.”

These always have vague descriptions of how they can mentor or guide others to a perfect “self-actualized” life. These are people with no definable skills in life. They like to toss out psychobabble to sound as if their lives have some important purpose, but they actually are about as useless as nail polish on prairie dog toes. You want to make amazing changes in my life? Give me a million dollars and I’ll take you on a trip around the world and show you what living really is.

3. “Internet entrepreneur, eCommerce, Social Media & Networking.”

Yes there are some legitimate internet social networking professionals out there, but I’m convinced that at least half of these guys spend their days updating their facebook pages. The “entrepreneur” & “eCommerce” tells me this guy is getting pizza money by selling his mom’s old lampshades on eBay.

4. “I’m a comedian and a graphic designer. I’m really good at both.”

If you have to say you’re a really good comedian, then you’re not. Really.

5. Weird bios like “Unicorns think I’m a myth.”

This guy doesn’t have a clue about humor. He throws out non sequiturs like skittles for aliens, thinking it makes him look hip and funny. There is a time and place for the offbeat, but if it’s the only trick in your bag you need to stick to actuarial work.

6. Assassins: “I used to rule the world…still do sometimes.”

Obviously, a hardworking mom who dreams big but doesn’t get out much. She’ll probably end up turning to a life of crime…or writing a book as an outlet for those violent tendencies.

Seriously, though, most of us on twitter aren’t nearly as fun, cool and witty as we appear to be.  If we were, we would all be super stars. So if you see a bit of yourself here, don’t take it too hard. I don’t.

Ain’t No Folla Back Girl (Re-Remix)

If you’re one of my new followers on Twitter, you may be wondering what it takes to get a follow back.  I try to share the love and help others build a following. But I do have a few guidelines to who I will follow back.

To follow…

I’ll probably give you a follow back if you:

  • are a writer or participate in Sunday afternoon #writechat
  • have an interesting bio that isn’t just a sales pitch
  • actually post tweets & interact with others even if you have a few marketing links
  • have witty, funny, risque (but not completely tasteless) posts
  • give me some #FollowFriday love (That’s not a guarantee, though)

Or not to follow…

I’ll probably not give you a follow back if:

  • your bio still has the default pic from twitter
  • you are a huge Glenn Beck fan or some other radical right wingnut
  • you ARE Glenn Beck or someone who pretends to be him
  • your last 5 posts were about how to gain more twitter followers
  • you are constantly begging people to follow you…Just STOP…it’s unattractive and a sometimes little creepy
  • all of your posts are retweets of other peoples posts
  • all of your posts are quotes that were obviously sent robotically
  • all of your posts are boring – don’t care what you’re doing every minute of the day.
  • Jesus is your co-pilot, pilot, captain, crossing guard or library hall monitor.  I don’t believe in taking jobs away from hard working Americans and giving them to middle-eastern, 2,000 yr old zombies.
  • you’re a crazy political extremist – in a way that is not entertaining
  • you stalk prepubescent singing sensations
  • you are naked (not always an automatic no follow)

The last one is a struggle for me. While I really don’t mind people surfing the internet in the nude – I’ve even done it myself at times – the problem is when people post nude picture of themselves on the website in their bios. Sometimes I click that website to see if they are someone I want to follow.

Now I don’t necessarily want my naked followers to stop following me, because that would cut out some of my most fun twitter conversations, but I don’t really want to follow them back and have that image in my head every time I read a post.

So, if you’re one of my naked tweeps, and I don’t give you any follow back love, don’t take it too hard. You’re still important to me.

That’s really all there is to my follow back guidelines. I try to check those followers I’m not following back, but I have a lot so a good way to catch my attention is to mention @AssassinGrl in one of your posts (in a nice way).

Also note that politically I am Radical about being Moderate. I want the government out of my womb, out of my bedroom, and out of my spiritual practices. I think people who want the government to support any type of religion should be voted off the island. I don’t go to your church and tell you to worship broccoli, so don’t go to my kid’s school & tell them they have to pray.

For you Left wingnuts. I believe in the death penalty in certain (limited) situations, I have no problem hunting down and killing a coward that sends others to fly planes into buildings & I think PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. So, consider yourselves warned.

Hope that helps and as always…

Tweet ya’ later!

Taking Aim…Again

I find that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about religion and politics and how they affect our social contract with those around us. I’m especially bothered by the control that the religious right seems to have on our government and how that leads us toward the state of religious persecution that our forefathers attempted to escape over 200 years ago.

Although I was raised as a protestant, I have been an atheist since my teenage years. However, since my family was Christian and still attended church, I learned to keep my opinions to myself in order to not offend anyone. Something I’m sure a lot of atheists out there will understand. Being part of the minority, allows me to understand the intentions of our Founding Fathers and what they were trying to accomplish with the first amendment.

Conservative Christians mistakenly believe that our ancestors came to America to avoid being persecuted because they were Christian. This is not the case. They were persecuted because they were not the “right kind” of Christians. Throughout Europe in the 17th Century Catholics persecuted Protestants, Protestants persecuted Catholics and pretty much any religion could claim to be victims of persecution somewhere in Europe.

The reason for this was the conviction that for the good of society, everyone must follow the same religion and it was up to the government to impose that religion on the people. This is why our founding fathers wanted our government to have NOTHING to do with religion. They recognized the dangers of government becoming involved in the spiritual lives of its citizenry.

Today we are seeing religious persecution of non-Christians. It is not the disembowling or executions that Jesuits or Mennonites suffered at the hands of the Scottish or the Dutch leaders of the 17th Century. And I won’t diminish the horror of the Holocaust or other genocidal events of history by claiming that it is just as bad. But every act of terror, every genocidal movement, every subjugation of a minority population begins with people turning their backs on the rights of their fellow man to have, to hold and to practice his own beliefs.

When our government starts to support any belief system by making laws based on “biblical morality,” such as laws banning gay marriage, they start down that same road that our forefathers fled over 200 years ago. These laws are no different than the miscegenation laws that prevailed up until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.

People have the mistaken belief that because the majority agrees then it should be law. In the 1950’s the majority agreed that Blacks should not be allowed to even eat in the same restaurants as Whites. Let alone go to the same schools or marry them. History has proven repeatedly that the majority are often idiots. Ever heard of “mob rule?”

There is one rule that most religions got right. Christianity calls it the “Golden Rule” and ironically it was the one law that Jesus supposedly put above all other commandments. Ironic because it is the one law that the Conservative Christians break with impunity. Matthew 7:12, the summation of Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

It is a simple rule that all societies recognize, regardless of their belief in a god. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Put yourself in the other guy’s place. Walk a mile in my shoes. Don’t be a selfish jerk. Funny, how something we learned as children, whether in Sunday School or Kindergarten, is considered Liberalism or even Marxism when we put it into practice.

Conservative Christians claim to follow Christ and his teachings, but when it comes to what their own religion claims is his most important law, they refuse to practice what they preach. This is why I believe the majority of people in the world are stupid.

UPDATE for FTC Compliance:
In return for this post, God has promised me that he will not reveal himself as really being a computer nerd in Poughkeepsie, thus keeping the mystery of his true nature a secret and my blog posts relevant. I also slept with him. He demanded that when I climaxed I didn’t yell his name, but instead screamed OH DARWIN!