Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A rose by any other name still has to be delivered. Fees may vary.

So I'm trying to order flowers online for my sister in San Diego, who, tomorrow, celebrates the 65th anniversary of her arrival on this planet. (OK, that's a fancified, overwritten way of saying it's her birthday; I do not mean to imply that it's the day on which she stepped off the mother ship from Baantar-5, or some such.) Anyway, I go to FTD's site, and get most of the way through the process when I remember—being the cheap SOB I am—that I have a "save up to $15 on FTD flowers!" coupon from one of those massive Entertainment [fill-in-the-year] books. The coupon, however, requires you to order through a dedicated sub-page of the usual FTD site; I go there and begin anew.

Everything's fine until I get to the part where you have to input your credit card, which is where they also spring the shipping/wire fees on you. (They don't do that in advance, at least in part, because people blanch at the idea of paying 25 percent of the price of the flowers themselves just to have the darned things delivered; FTD figures that once you're that far into the process, however, you're more likely to just swallow hard and go along.) And here is where I notice something odd: When I was ordering the regular way, through the main FTD page, the shipping charge was just $11.99. But now, when I'm using a coupon, the shipping charge—for the same exact item, to the same exact address, on the same exact day—is $13.99.*

I call the FTD customer-service line, wait on hold for 10 minutes to experience FTD's "superior level of customer care," and you know what the rep tells me? "I'm surprised," she says. "Usually it's $15 no matter where you order." I guess that was supposed to make me shut up and count my blessings.

I know, I's two bucks. And to paraphrase that famously cynical line from Saturday Night Fever, these days two bucks doesn't even buy one buck. It's hardly worth worrying about, let alone blogging about. It's just the principle of the thing. I get tired of being hosed in a dozen little ways each and every day. I get tired of the gimmicks and the shticks and the ruses. Don't you? I mean, here I am sending flowers to my sister for her birthday, very pretty flowers that I am quite pleased with, and something like this takes just a little bit of the edge off it.

Or maybe my critics are right. Maybe I am becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.

* I printed out both invoices and kept them. Just in case.


RevRon's Rants said...

Yeah, you're a curmudgeon, all right. Welcome to my world. And just be glad that they didn't tell you that even though you had actually bought & paid for the flowers, you'd have to pay for your sister to attend a Floral Appreciation workshop and buy her a Secrets of Olfactory Awareness DVD - for a cool grand - before she would be able to actually *smell* said flowers. And to truly experience the divine nature of those flowers...

You get the point! :-)

Tell her Happy Birthday from us... no charge. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Wait--you're offering birthday greetings--free? You mean there's no "sentiment communication subcharge?"

RevRon's Rants said...

"You mean there's no "sentiment communication subcharge?"

Ahhh, naive one! We wouldn't be so crass as to do something like that. However, if you would like to upgrade the greeting to one with sincerity...

Cosmic Connie said...

LOL, Ron and Steve. A little levity is just what we needed after the serious discussions here the past few days.

And yes, Steve, the B.D. sentiments for your sister are free. And because there are two of us -- Ron and me -- she gets two free good wishes for the price of one!

I'm tired of getting hosed by the credit card companies (aren't we all)? I am so diligent about not going over my meager credit limit, and I never do with my purchases. But if the finance charge they tack on at the end of the billing cycle happens to bump me over the limit, they hit me with a $29.00 over-limit fee. This is Capital One. They suck you in with their funny commercials and then they still stick it to you.

But I still like the commercials.

Steve Salerno said...

The ubiquity of its commercials notwithstanding, few people realize the enormity of Capital One's total financial footprint (worldwide, now) and its growing reach into the financial affairs of Mr./Mrs. Average American Consumer. C-1 has come a long, long way from the days when, as Signet Bank, it used to solicit customers with marginal credit for plastic at near-usurious rates. And you're right, Connie, about the $29 over-limit (and, at some banks, $59 late-payment) fees. There are banks who have calculated the percentage of customers likely to be in the position of getting hit with such fees, and they factor that into their annual budget as an added profit margin. (I.e. they're almost disappointed if everyone pays on time.) That, along with predatory mortgage lending (just now getting the attention it deserves), is one of the major consumer nightmares of today's economy.

See how long it took me to get waaay too serious again?

a/good/lysstener said...

I add my birthday wishes too, Steve. It is nice that you send flowers. Btw I also have a capital one card, which they were willing to give me before I'd even graduated college, and so does my best friend. It makes you wonder if there's anybody who doesn't have one! I guess it's "in everybody's wallet" now, as the ad goes.

Steve Salerno said...

Yes, Alyssa. I think that for Cap One's 12 million cardholders (and that figure is from 2006, so it's probably out of date), the answer to "What's in your wallet?" is "a bill from Capital One."

Incidentally, the answer to the question, "What's in Capital One's CEO's wallet?" is "oh, about $37 million." That was Richard Fairbank's total compensation package for 2006, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with RevRon --you're a curmudgeon. But getting hones is the order of the day...just count on it.

I purchased a new iMac and got a "free" iPod. But the "free" means I have to complete a ton of online "paperwork" and mail in my invoice with the UPC sticker from the Nano attached.

In time and effort, I wonder if it's worth it. Then I remember that I'm double-dipping. A little effort and I get back nearly $200. Since my friend wants to buy it from me, I'm making another $200.

That's 400 bones. Not bad considering the annoying headache of online "paperwork."

Steve Salerno said...

And while we're (not) on the subject, here's another curmudgeonly complaint: My brother-in-law, who's rapidly becoming one of those Green Freaks, tells me I'm not very Earth-friendly because I'm still using regular incandescent lighting. Plus, he says, I'm wasting money on utility bills. (That's where he really got my attention.) So I go out and replace most of my lights, including those in my home-office, with more "eco-friendly" fluorescents. And you know what? They're wonderful...unless you actually want to see. It's absurd. The fluorescent bulbs I bought claim on the packaging that their 26 watts = 100 watts for a conventional bulb. Oh yeah? In what galaxy? Remind me to ask my bro-in-law what wattage of these things one needs to buy in order to be able to, like, READ something....

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
Some of those fluorescent bulbs are pretty crappy, but others are quite good. I've replaced virtually all in our home with some I got at Costco, and aside from Connie's complaint that the light isn't particularly flattering, we're both happy with them. The 3-bulb fixture in the bathroom has the 23w/100w-equivalent fluorescents, and it's lots easier to shave or read in the tub than it was with 60w incandescents.

Admittedly, we have "soft light" pink bulbs in the bedside lamp and in the living room in deference to her desire for "mood" lighting. And who am I to argue with a woman's desire? :-)

Cosmic Connie said...

Don't listen to Ron. I'm blue; I look good in any lighting. :-)

Actually I haven't complained about the Costco lights either. I like 'em, including the bathroom lights. It's some of those others we've used in the past that made my face look green. And we have some recessed lighting in the living-room area that tends to make people look like they're not feeling too well. The upside is that the brighter light makes it easier to see the hairballs on the floor before it's too late (cats, you know).

How's that for a mood-spoiler? :-)

But I'm with Ron; go to Costco and get those lights.

Steve Salerno said...

OK, but how about those of us who naturally have a green tone? (I'm guessing it's the olive oil.) Hey, I can disavow Da Vinci and all, but what's a guy to do about the genetic linkage?

Funny thing about human nature, though. (Or maybe female nature, more precisely.) My wife used to love the way she looked in the bathroom mirror downstairs, where I always thought the lights had a decided yellowish cast, making skin tones look softer and more subdued. Also a little bit like you had a tan, no matter what time of year it was. Now, the new "true light" fluorescents seem to emit a much starker (and probably more accurate) whitish color. And she's not at all fond of the way it makes her look. So I said to her, "You mean you'd rather see a reflection that was more pleasing to you--but that you know is factually suspect--instead of seeing yourself as you really are?"

And she said, simply, "Of course!"

Ahhh, I think I get it now.