Metro Express crazy billing errors

A few years ago California decided to have toll roads. They made a transponder to bill people for driving on toll and express roads. You would think that reading a transponder and billing people is pretty straightforward. You would be wrong. My car's transponder is set to HOV3. Last month, I got a bill, which showed my car transponder set to HOV3 at all times, except once, when it was set to SOV (single person), and I got billed $0.95. The odd thing is that 2 minutes before this, and 3 minutes after that the transponder was set to HOV3. Clearly the transponder was misread. Any sanity checking would show it to be a false reading. But I got billed for it, and I had to dispute it. This has happened a few times before.

So this month, I got a charge of $15.45. No idea why. They claimed that the lane was closed, and therefore I got the maximum fine. But the lane was not closed. Why is it that the errors are always charges, and never credits? If someone paid with their transponder, how would they know if there was a mistake? Amother feature is I referred a friend, which is supposed to result in a $10 credit. It has been about 2 months, and there is no credit yet. How long can it take? Certainly not 2 billing cycles.

Yellow Freight - shipping

Yellow Freight I needed to ship a used engine block to someone far away, and I decided to use Yellow Freight because they had the cheapest price. I had wanted to use UPS, but the box weighed over 150lbs, which is their max.

I called Yellow Freight, and told them I had a box that weighed about 190lbs. I told them where I was, and where I wanted it shipped. They told me it was $176.51. I drove down there to deliver the box to their depot. They were very professional. They put the box on a fork-lift, and got it inside their warehouse. I filled out all the paperwork, and told them I had weighed the package at 190lbs using my house scale. The forklift scale said it weighed 145lbs. They crossed out my weight, and filled in 145lbs. I told them I thought it was much heavier, as I can tell the difference of 45lbs, and if it was really 145lbs, then UPS would have shipped it.

A clerk there had to call and get a quote number, which she did. They took my credit card number, and I drove home. Yesterday, I got a call from Yellow Freight. They needed my credit card number, as they couldn't find it. I gave it to them again. I verified the charge was $176.51. They said it was roughly $25 more, because the package weighed 194 lbs. I told them that I was told that they charged in increments of 100 lbs, and when I questioned the weight of 145 lbs, I was told it didn't matter, 145 or 190 lbs. I told them that I had agreed to pay $176.51, not $200+.

Based on my limited law experience, I had a written contract (the bill of landing), and consideration (me giving them my credit card). And once there is a contract and consideration, you cannot just change the contract without mutual agreement.

I told them that they weighed it, and we had an agreed on price, and that I wouldn't pay any more money. They got upset and argued with me a bit, and finally they hung up the phone on me!

It is a good thing I paid by credit card. If they try to bill me more than the agreed amount, I will complain to my credit card folks who can then deal with it. I am shocked my the unprofessionalism of Yellow Freight, and I won't use them again. For stuff less than 150 lbs, I will deal with the professionals at UPS.

American Express (credit card)

American Express I decided I wanted to get an American Express blue credit card. They have no annual fee (because they charge the merchants so much), a very good price protection policy, and lots of nifty Internet-enabled features. Well, the Internet enabled features only work with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

I tried to sign up for for the blue rewards (or something like that), which involves getting some kind of points when I use the credit card. So I clicked my browser over there, and their web pages were broken. I have dealt with broken web pages before, and so I enabled javascript, which usually solves the buggy web pages. (Note that good sites like Netscape and Quicken actually tell you that they want javascript to be on, and work in a less feature full manner when javascript is off. I happen to keep javascript off because I consider it to be a security problem, and I don't like pop up ads appearing everywhere.) Well, the American express web pages were still broken. Since I was running a real operation system (Mandrake Linux), I rebooted into a lesser operating system (Windows 2000), and fired up Internet explorer. Surprise! The web pages worked!

So it was a simple case of some morons writing non-portable web pages. I understand when a really clueless company like United Airlines does that, as they are superb at canceling flights, losing luggage and the like, but I expected better from American Express. After all they have a credit card reader that attaches to the computer, and brag about all the on-line services that they offer. So I called them up, and got to a technical support person. They explained that they supported the latest Netscape browser. When I told then that I had 6.2 (which is much more standards compliant than older browsers), they told me they supported only 4.7x, and that 'Netscape had not told them how to program their web pages' or something like that. It was clear that I was dealing with morons, as their web pages should work with *all browsers*, not just Internet Explorer. Browsers like Opera, Lynx, and the silly ones built in to PDAs, and cell phones. It isn't rocket science to write portable web pages, but it seems to be beyond American Express's ability.

I told them I wanted to cancel my card until their web pages were usable with different browsers. Perhaps one day they will learn how to write portable pages...

American Express (credit card)

Well, things have changed from 2002. I recently signed up for an American Express card. There were no problems using Firefox 3.0. I guess they got the message about writing portable HTML code. They don't give out card readers for their cards anymore, but I have no problems logging into their site. Perhaps canceling in 2002 had a small impact in getting them to fix their web pages.

ChargePoint Electric Car Charging Stations

I have a Plug-In-Prius. I got a free ChargePoint card a few years ago. I started using it a bit. It is very easy. You put it in front of a ChargePoint charger, it releases the power cord, you get electricity. What could possibly go wrong. I was told that the chargers where I was parking were free for the first four hours of charging. I used some in the parking garage. Worked great. One day, when they were full, I used some others that were 100 feet away. I swiped my card, plugged in, and got a charge. Then I got a bill for $2.01 for using 0.89 kwh of power in 45.14 minutes. It turns out that that particular charger charges $1.50 per hour, which was not obvious to me. Now a kwh of power costs somewhere between $0.05 and $0.25, depending on where you get electricity and when. I was charged roughly 20 times what the electricity cost. I complained to ChargePoint, and cancelled my card.

That day, which was April-29, I got the following email from them:

This email confirms that your ChargePoint card(s) may now be used to charge your vehicle on free stations only, and you may no longer charge your vehicle on stations that require payment. If you have any questions, please call Customer Support at 888-758-4389..

Drive happier.

Team ChargePoint

Well, that wasn't so bad. So on May-02, I took my car to the free ChargePoint charger, but it did not accept my card. I called them up and they said my account had been cancelled, and that I needed to change my account to a free account, which can only use free chargers. That didn't sound so bad. I tried to set up my account that way, but I was unable to do so. So I called their support number. It turns out that the email was incorrect, because I can't use free chargers. It turns out that the person at ChargePoint support was incorrect because there are no free accounts. There were free accounts at some time in the past, but they no longer exist. I asked if there were free accounts when I called earlier in the day, and I was told there were not. I asked why I was told there were free accounts and I was told the person was not properly trained. I asked why I got the email 3 days ago, and they said it was a mistake.

I don't expect perfection, but charging stations that charge 20 times what electricity costs is usury. It was not clearly marked that it was not a free charging station and what the costs were. The email was quite wrong technically and should never have been sent. The first person I spoke to today was either confused or lying to me. I cannot recommend ChargePoint as they seem clueless at best.

Gehr Industries - power cords

I bought two 100 foot 12 gauge power cords. While using one, and drawing 10 amps, the female power connector at the end got very hot and started to melt. I have never had this happen before in a power cord. Using the numbers on the power cord end and the internet, I identified the likely manufacturer as being Gehr Industries. Looking at their website, their extension cords look quite similar to mine.I am not 100% sure it is them, but whoever makes the power cord has a serious issue, as it could have caught on fire.

So I contacted them by phone on Jul-02-2014, and I spoke to Ana Flores an e-commerce sales assistant. I then sent her a picture of the melted socket by email. Jul-03-2014 I got a reply "Hi Good Morning <>, my engineer was asking me where you found the numbers that associated With our company. On the label or indented on the cord?" I sent in that info.

Jul-09-2014 I sent them a message "Is there any news about my power cord with the melted socket?" and Jul-10-2014 I got a reply "Go ahead and send it to us we will inspect in and let you know if it is a Manufactures defect."

Jul-17-2014 I got a message "Hi <>, I did receive it in. The sticker part was missing from the connector. Can you send us A picture of the silver sticker per our engineers request. As for some reason it looks like it Is not our merchandise.

Jul-17-2014 I sent a message "I will get a picture of the sticker to you this afternoon or evening. I didn't realize you wanted it." and I got a reply "Thany you".

Jul-21-2014 I sent a message "I sent you a picture of the silver sticker on friday. Did you get it?" and Jul-22-2014 I got a reply "Yes, I did still looking into....."

Sep-09-2014 I sent a message "It has been over a month, and I have not heard back from you. If your company made the cord, I would like it replaced. If your company did not make the cord, please let me know that. and on Sep-11-2014 I got a reply "Ok I will have an answer today...." Sep-17-2015 I sent a message "I have not heard back from you."

I fear the customer support person wasn't doing a good job, so in frustration I contacted the president. Sep-17-2014 I sent a message to the president "I have been in contact with your e Commerce Sales people for over 2 months. I mailed back the melted socket. I have not gotten a definitive answer if your company made the power cord, and I have not gotten a replacement cord. I would appreciate any help you can provide." Sep-18-2014 I got a reply "My name is Victor Chan and I am the Engineering Manager at Gehr Industries. I would like to apologize for the late reply as that Customer Service department was being relocated in the building and didn't get back to you promptly. The extension cord you purchased is from Prime Wire and Cable who can be contacted at the link below. I will mail back to you today the connector end you sent us in case you need to provide it to them to show the problem. Please tell me if I can be of any further assistance." Well at least I finally found out who made the extension cable, and they are nice enough to send the melted end back.

I contacted them Jul-02-2014, and finally on Sep-18-2014 I got an answer. At the least, their customer support is really poor.

Prime Wire and Cable Inc - power cords

So Gehr said that the cable was made by Prime. (The UL code is E-56075.) I called Prime today. They said that they probably didn't make the cable and that Gehr probably made the cable. The also said that Gehr owned them a few years ago. In any event, they said they would mail me a new cable. I asked them if they wanted me to mail in the melted plug, and they said no thanks. They didn't even ask for a picture of the melted plug or the UL tag on the cable. Gehr could learn something about customer support from Prime. I am not sure who made the cable, but Gehr gave me a runaround for over 2 months. I had to contact their president to get a response. Prime took one 5 minute phone call to customer support, and they are mailing me a new power cord. Do the math.

FreeChoice Communications

FreeChoice Communications offers phone service in the US. They said for $40 a month, you could make unlimited calls in the US (and perhaps Canada). I had service with a cable company, and FreeChoice said they couldn't switch my number from the cable company. So I switched to a normal phone company from the cable company (and kept my number). I then switched to FreeChoice.

Little did I suspect at the time that they were lying sacks of *!@#!

Everything was good. I could make calls as long as I wanted, and not worry about the billing. FreeChoice even set up automatic billing from my credit card. What could be easier? Then the first bill came. It was $40 or so, plus a bunch of charges they had told me about. I noticed that my caller id was being displayed when I called out. I called FreeChoice and was told that I would have to pay a monthly service charge to have my caller-id suppressed. I told them that was unreasonable. They said tough luck.

I called them around Jan 19 2005, and told them to remove the caller-id at no charge or cancel my service. They said they couldn't remove the caller-id at no charge. I told them to cancel my service. I guess even though they recorded I wanted to cancel my service they didn't take me seriously. I had assumed they canceled my service.

I was quite surprised when the next bill came. Not only did they not cancel my service, but there was a notice that they were raising rates by $10 due to increased costs on their end. I really didn't care, as I had canceled my service. But being billed for service was confusing to me. I called them, and they said that even though I told them to cancel my service, they didn't. I told them I wouldn't be paying them, as I had already canceled my service. I thought that was the end of FreeChoice and me. I was wrong.

I switched the phone back to the cable company. Now, when you switch phone companies, you go through what is called third party verification. When this happens, you go to a neural company which records that you are switching service from the old company to the new company. Everything is recorded. This is to prevent some bad person from switching some good persons phone service without the good person knowing about it. I suspect it is also due to the practice of 'slamming' where some bad long distance company with high rates would somehow get to be the long distance carrier for some good person, without the good person knowing about it.

Well, today I got in the mail a bill form Apr-28 through May-27 from FreeChoice. I called them. They had cleverly listed the wrong number on the bill under 'Customer Service'. They listed Micron Semiconductor's phone number. Fortunately, they also listed in another place on the bill the correct number. I called them. They admitted that I called them Jan 19 and told them I was canceling the service. But I guess they didn't take me seriously, and cleverly decided to keep on billing me. I told them to fix the problem and refund me all the money they automatically billed my credit card since then. They said I have not canceled my phone service, so they would continue to bill me. I said to fix it or I would call my credit card company and report the problem as fraud. They said to go ahead and do it.

So I called my credit card company. I told them the whole story. About FreeChoice knowing that I called Jan 19th, and not listening to me canceling. About the third party verification system which lets everyone know that I am really switching phone carriers. The credit card company said there was no way to deny charges from one merchant, and that I had to switch credit card numbers. I told them to do it. So now the fraud department is investigating FreeChoice.

When I signed up with FreeChoice, I was told if I got another 5 people to sign up, they would give me free phone service. When I called up today, they said they were not taking any new customers. I suspect they are in a very bad way. I suspect there are others, like me who canceled when they raised rates, and are still being billed. Needless to say, I do not recommend dealing with FreeChoice under any circumstances. Better to deal with *anyone* else.

But wait, there is more. Around May-12-2005, I got yet another bill from FreeChoice. It said Invoice 05/09/05. They charged me for 05/28/2005 - 06/27/2005. I called them again. After being on hold for about 10 minutes, I told them I canceled my service in January. I was told I had to call another number. I did. I spoke to 'Kim', who was very rude and told me a collection agency would get the unpaid bill amount from me. I called back, and spoke to 'Dontae'. He was much nicer. He admitted I no longer had service with FreeChoice. He didn't seem to know I canceled service Jan-19-2005. He did say he would try to straighten the bill out. He said I would have to pay an additional $25 'charge-back' (that is when they refused to explain why they were still billing me, and I had to have my credit card company talk to them and they eventually refunded me the bogus charges). Of course I should pay my bill through Jan-19-2005, but there isn't much I can do if they failed to disconnect the phone when I asked them to. As best I can tell, they owe me for about 15 days of service. I won't go after them for it, as they are clearly clueless and it would be a huge hassle. After all, if they had the smallest clue, they wouldn't have sent me a invoice dated May-09-2005.

I thought I had heard the last of these folks. I was wrong. On Nov-28-2005 I got an invoice dated Nov 7 2005 for $308.42, along with a threat unless I pay them before the due date, my credit card will be charged the amount, I would be subject to a $5 late fee, and other threats. I called them up and let them know they have been listed as weasel of the month, and that I wanted a written apology for all the $%#@ they had put me through. I was told the matter would be referred to a supervisor who would contact me.

Freedompop

Freedompop offers 'free' cell phone service. They will sell you a phone that supports this service. Sounds too good to be true? It is. I bought a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 phone for $55. It even worked, for about a day. It did not hold a charge, and it could not be recharged. No problem, right? That is what customer support, and exchanges are for. So I called Freedompop to get an exchange. First you need a RMA number. They said I would have one in 24-48 hours. I ended up calling at least 10 times as well as emailing them. After a week, I called and said if I didn't have a RMA number in one hour, I would dispute the charge with my credit card company. About 3 days after that, I eventually got a RMA number, after over a week.

The RMA did not include a paid return shipping label. I called them about that. No problem, just wait 24-48 hours. After a few days, I called a few more times. They eventually emailed me a return shipping label, but it was not prepaid. It is curious that the subject of the email was prepaid shipping label. It is now well over a week, and I have no prepaid shipping label. I have called them at least 4 times, and emailed them once. I wonder if I will ever get a prepaid shipping label? They sure were fast to confirm the order. It didn't ship so quickly, but it did ship a lot faster than the RMA authorization. I have probably spent over 10 hours on hold in my attempts to phone them. At the best, their customer service sucks. At the worst, they sell crap that doesn't work, and won't stand behind it.

So FreedomPOp did finally send me a paid return shipping label. It was after my credit card company issued me a full refund. It was 28 days after they sent me a non-prepaid return shipping label. I really should have e-waisted the broken phone, or charge FreedomPOp for a months storage, but I will send it back. If I recall correctly, it has been at least 6 weeks since I asked for a RMA. I cannot recommend FreedomPOp under any circumstances.

US Mobile Cell Phone carrier

My old cell phone service provider was PlatinumTel aka PTel. The shut down last month, so I needed a new carrier. US Mobile seemed like they had a good deal. I ordered a sim card from them. It wouldn't work in my phone. Their 'tech support' was clueless people reading from scripts. They tole me to reinsert the sim card. They told me to reboot the phone. They asked me to try another cell phone. I was finally able to find another cell phone with a sim card. After about 10 or so calls, they finally figured out what took me about 5 minutes to figure out - their sim card was bad. They sent me another one, which worked perfectly. So I was able to use their service, but there was a big catch. I tried to dial my home number. I got an error message saying "We're sorry, this service is currently unavailable for non t mobile users roaming on t mobile's network. Thank you." I reported the problem on Thursday. They couldn't figure it out. I checked back on Friday - no joy. On Tuesday night I still couldn't call my house. US Mobile had no idea what was wrong, how long it would take to fix, or anything else. I cancelled my service. I ended up calling them at least 20 times. I switched to another carrier, and I was able to call my house with no problems.

So US Mobile sent me email reminding me to sign up for my next months service. Even though their support people told me multiple times that I was never charged anything except for getting the sim card, on Feb 15, they charged me for a month's service. I did sign up for it and agreed to pay for it, but I only successfully placed one phone call, to a friend with a cell phone number. I never was able to successfully call my house. So their reps lied to me multiple times. I contacted them today to dispute the charge. They said it would take 2 to 5 business days to fix it. If it isn't fixed in 5 business days, I will dispute the charge with my critic card company, which is like a rabid dog when dealing with shady companies. So in addition to having a track record of cluelessness, they now have a pattern of lying to me about charges.

Amazon.com - Internet book seller

Amazon claims to be the worlds largest bookstore. I needed a book, and I decided to try them out. I ordered the book at around 8pm at night, and selected standard shipping. Two days later, the book was at my door. Less than 48 hours from ordering to delivery. That sure was fast!

More recently, I ordered a hard drive from them, as mine had failed. Less than a month later, the price dropped by $25. I called them up and they credited my account for $25. They really are the gold standard for e-commerce.

Barnes and Noble - Internet book seller

I ordered two HP TouchPads from Barnes and Noble. The order went through, and I thought I got a great deal. About a day later I got an email from them saying

We are writing to you regarding your recent Barnes & Noble order for "HP TouchPad Tablet with 16GB Memory".

Due to unexpected customer demand for this item, our inventory was depleted prior to your order being processed so we are unable to fulfill this item as requested. Consequently, we have canceled your order and you will not be billed for this amount.

You may see an authorization on your credit or debit card for the order, but please be assured you will not be charged. The authorization will be released in accordance with your bank's policies.

We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Perhaps they don't know to count. The problem is the TouchPad was selling out quickly, and I assumed that since the order was accepted, that I would really be getting a TouchPad. If the order had not gone through, I would have tried to get it elsewhere. I have a hard time understanding how they could tell people their order was accepted, when they were not keeping track of their inventory. Have you ever seen an 'out of stock' for an item? Do they not have a real-time inventory system? Is this a professional sales company, or is this amateur hour? I guess the answer is now clear. I cannot imagine Amazon selling something that they didn't have in stock. Time for Barnes and Nobel to learn how to play with the big boys. They didn't even offer me some kind of compensation for their cluelessness.

Borders.com - Internet book seller

Borders started out as a conventional bookstore. I guess after seeing Amazon's success, they wanted a piece of the market. For some reason that escapes me, they sent me a $5 off coupon. I needed another book, and Amazon and Borders had similar prices, so I thought, "duh, they must all be alike, I will save five big ones", and I ordered from Borders.

So I got some email from them, the next day saying the following:
Thank you for ordering from Borders.com.
Due to temporary system problems, we've been unable to ship your order in a timely manner. Your order information and titles affected are listed below:
...
Your order will be shipped just as soon as we have resolved these issues. We're sorry that we failed to meet the usual high standards for customer service for which we're known. As a token of our regret, we will be sending you a Borders.com Gift Certificate for $5.00, which you can redeem online at Borders.com only. (We're unable to accept it for Borders store purchases at the present time).

Well, I wasn't in a big rush for the book, so I thought no big deal.

Well, the book finally arrived, and so did another $5 off coupon. Well, don't you know, I needed another book, and there was that $5 coupon... So I placed another order with them. I ordered a book on neurology that cost $70. It was close to the same price at Amazon, and I had that $5 coupon. The book was listed in stock, and I specified the standard shipping. I ordered the book Saturday morning, may-29-1999. Now there is a US holiday on Monday, but I thought that I the book would be shipped before Monday.

Now Borders claims to have a stated on "many pages on their site" that:

...all orders placed on Friday the 28th with US standard shipping would be sent out on Saturday, but due to the Holiday weekend any orders placed between Saturday and Monday would not be shipped until Tuesday.

I don't doubt that they had this on many pages on their site, but I sure didn't notice it. So I am not blameless. Well, on Wednesday, I got some more email from them, saying they had shipped the book. I was a bit miffed. Wednesday isn't Tuesday. And I needed the book. I was a fool, and I should have ordered from Amazon. I called up Borders. They said that perhaps the book was in stock when I ordered it, but perhaps between the time that I saw it was in stock, and the time I placed the order, someone else had bought it. Seemed unlikely to be, for a book on neurology, and a time span of 3 minutes or so.

They never explained why they shipped the book on Wednesday, but they were kind enough to refund my the shipping cost. So, from the time I ordered the book, to the time they shipped the book was 5 days. A carrier pigeon would have been faster. So I thought it would show up in a day or two... On Saturday Jun-05-1999, I sent them email asking where my book was, and when it would show up. They said that it takes 3 - 7 business days for shipping. On Monday Jun-07-1999 they said the book should arrive tomorrow, Jun-08-1999, and gave me an UPS tracking number. Well, guess what? No book. I called them, and told them that if the book didn't arrive by Wednesday, Jun-09-1999, that I didn't want it.

Well, sure enough on Wednesday, 12 days after I ordered the book, it arrived. It was 6 business days after they shipped the book. They sat on the book for 5 days, due to the holiday and their corporate policy not to ship until Tuesday after the holiday.

Now I live in a suburb of a major city, which is not exactly the middle-of-nowhere. If Amazon can get me a book in 2 days, I find it hard to understand how Borders takes 6 days for a similar package. I have ordered lots of stuff from all over the country, and typical delivery times are 2 - 3 days via UPS. It is quite rare for it to take more than 4 days.

I am not impressed. The advantage to buying something over the Internet, is that you don't have to wait until a store opens. Now I don't expect every mom-and-pop shop that has a web page to order stuff on to really be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, if you want to play with the big boys, need as good service as they have. So Borders has lost one small customer, and I will stick with the serious player, Amazon.com. Better selection, similar prices, and no sissy excuses for taking two weeks to get a book.

Fry's and Frys.com Black Friday Meltdown

It is Black Friday 2014. Frys.com is starting their online sale at 5am. The website is working fine. I am able to add items to my shopping cart and log in. Frys sent out secret promotion code for each email address that subscribed to their mailing list. You need the promotion codes to get the discounts on the sales items. Using several email addresses, I had several promotion codes. Sometimes during the process of ordering the codes worked and sometimes they did not. It was very frustrating and time consuming. There is no way I mistyped the codes, as I was cutting and pasting them from the email. When I try to enter my credit card CVV, I get an error message. Sometimes everything in my cart goes away, sometimes I get logged out. I try several times with several browsers. I am able to capture some screenshots showing the items in my cart. I call the support line. It has melted also. After a few hours, I am able to speak to someone. They say their site is down. I ask when it will come back up, and they have no idea. I ask if they will honor the items in my cart from my screenshots (as Tiger Direct did in 2012 after a bunch of emails and phone calls) and Frys.com says they won't. Eventually the site comes back up, and the items I wanted are 'unavailable' for shipping as well as store pickup. Their site shouldn't melt for black friday. Amazon, Target, and others worked well. Given their problems they should have honored the screenshot I had, but they didn't.

I decided to go to the store, Thursday at 5pm when they opened. I got a few items, and I presented my discount codes. They didn't work. It wasn't just me. Everyone seemed to be having the same problem. Even the Frys employees that were generating new codes sometimes had them work, and sometimes they didn't work. Clearly there were serious problems with the codes. I got to wait in line about 20 minutes to get a Kindle reader (at a good price). It then took me another 20 minutes or so to get a discount code from the Frys employees that worked in order to get the discount price. If you are going to do special stuff that requires computer interaction for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, you need to test the special stuff to be sure it will work when you need it. Someone near me walked away after complaining loudly about waiting 5 hours and being unable to get what they want. I am sure they were not the only dissatisfied customer.

I noticed an electric charging station with a parking space really close to the entrance. I parked my plug in Prius there, hoping to get a charge. upon closer examination, one of the cords has a broken connector on it, and could not be used. The other cord had an inductive charging paddle, which was used for the GM EV-1, which stopped production around 1999. It is also used for the Rav 4 EV which was sold during 2002. According to Wikipedia, there are almost 500 in use. So if you have one of them, you could use one of the charging stations. I asked the manager what was going on with the charging stations. He said they would be fixed, but not any time soon. He also said Frys would charge $3 an hour to use them. $3 will buy roughly 15-30 KWH at market rates. I have used several charging stations, but they have always been free. That might be an ok deal for a Tesla, if the station can put out 30 kilowatts per hour and the car stays there for an hour. Otherwise, is a bad deal. Of course having a charging station for the Rav 4 2002 is nice, but the other parking spot is useless.

Fry's and Frys.com Jul 4th Meltdown

You would think I would learn. Or you would think that Fry's would fix their web site. You would be wrong. I tried to place an order on their web site today. Well, you can't with Firefox. There are a variety of errors. Using Firefox, I added an item to my cart. When I viewed the cart, I got the message "The shopping cart is empty." Using Chrome, you can add a item to the cart. When you try to view the cart you get the message "In order to Complete Your Request, Cookies Must be Enabled". It seems that you can only buy stuff if you use Internet Explorer. That is a clever strategy, especially if you have something like a smart phone or a mac.

Using Internet Explorer, I tried to place an order. It crashed multiple times (with a fully patched IE 11). It let me place an order, and then crashed without placing the order, after I finished placing the order. It told me the items were out of stock. It finally did place the order, but the arrival date mysterously changed from around Jul-10 to Jul20. I eventually did get a confirmation email for the last time I placed the order. So I decided to cal customer service. Ecentaully I was able to speak to someone who admitted that the web site was having issues. They did say that both items I ordered were out of stock (though the web site said they were both in stock). The estimated arrival of the parts at Fry's was Jul-11, and they would ship them after they arrived. I asked them to upgrade my shipping because the arrival date was not what I had agreed to. They said that onee an order was placed there was no way to change the shipping. You would think that sites that did e-commerce online would have a site that worked on multiple browsers, didn't crash, and had an accuratre idea of what was in stock. You would think that customer support would be able to address any issues that came up. In the case of Frys.com, you would be wrong.

Fry's sells used stuff marked as new

I have heard for many years from multiple reliable sources that Fry's sells used or returned stuff marked as new. I have seen some stuff with returned labels on the box, so you know that stuff was returned. I have not had direct evidence of it until now. I bought a Panasonic microwave from Fry's. It looked new. The box showed no evidence of having been opened. However, there was quite a lot of noise when I moved the box, as if the contents were shifting. When I opened the box, I found the glass rotating plate inside the microwave, was in fact inside the microwave and bounding around. It turns out that when you buy a new Panasonic microwave, the glass plate is mounted in the Styrofoam that holds the microwave, and is not inside the microwave unit. Unless gremlins moved if from the Styrofoam to inside the microwave, it was a returned unit. Shame on you, Fry's.

Harbor Freight

I have bought a bunch of stuff over the years from Harbor Freight. Most of their products are of reasonable quality. When I have had issues, I returned the items. For example, their car strut compressor seems like a very dangerous design, because some 5/8 inch bolts bend and look ready to snap. On May-27-2013, I bought some tire pressure gauges. One of them broke in half. I switched to a different one, that works fine. On Dec-06-2013 I decided to return the broken one, so I drove to the store where I bought it, hoping to exchange it. I had the packaging, which included a sheet of paper stapled to it showing a 1 year warranty. The salesperson said they didn't accept returns or exchanges after 90 days. I asked to speak to the manager. He said the same thing. I pointed to the 1 year warranty paper, and he said that really meant 90 days. I said it was pretty simple, and it said 1 year. He said I could contact the manufacturer (thought the warranty said "Harbor Freight Tools Co. makes every effort to ensure that its products meet high quality and Durability standards, and warrants to the original purchaser that this product is free from defects in materials and workmanship for the period of one year from the date of purchase." He suggested I could call harborfreight.com. I was really quite unimpressed with the salesperson and the managers professionalism. I had merchandise which was clearly a harbor freight product. I showed them that it had broken in half. I had the paper with the warranty on it. I didn't have the receipt, but I asked them to look it up from their system. They said they couldn't look up any purchase over 90 days old.

So, after returning home, on Dec-06-2013 I called harborfreight.com. They said they would open a complaint against the store manager, and that the field supervisor would contact me within 24-48 hours. I said I didn't care about a complaint, I just wanted them to honor their warranty. I was never contacted. On Dec-10-2013, I called again. I was told there was no record of me contacting them about the issue. I was also told that the warranty on the item 92142 (the tire pressure gauge) was only 90 days (which is what their website showed). I said that when I bought it, it had a 1 year warranty stapled to the packaging. They seemed to not really believe me, and suggested that I contact 'cs@harborfreight.com' and include a copy of the warranty. So there are two problems. One is that the record of my phone call from Dec-09 'got lost'. This is not how you handle customer interactions. I was told I would be contacted, but I never was. The other issue is they didn't really believe me that the warranty was 1 year.

So I sent an email to cs@harborfreight.com on Dec-10. I got an automated reply stating A Customer Service Representative is reviewing your email and will respond as soon as possible. Please do not reply to this email directly. It has been over 7 business days, and I have heard nothing back. I was hoping for a timely response. I wonder if I will ever hear from them? Right now, I cannot recommend purchasing anything from Harbor Freight. It is clear that they do not honor their warranties, and that they 'lose' customer complaints. Also their sales staff are quite unhelpful at best. Of course, the field supervisor has not contacted me.

So I called them Dec-20-2013. After a while, they said they would give me a new one for free, but there would be a shipping charge of over $6. This is not a real good deal for me, as the tire pressure gauge cost 2.99, but is now on sale for 0.99. I asked when I would get a reply to the email, and they wouldn't tell me.

I finally got a reply to the email I sent Dec-10-2013. It said We have forwarded your request to the appropriate District Manager. Please allow 24-72 hours for a response. And I had given up on them completely...

On Dec-23-3013, I got another email, this time from the Store Manager. It said My name is <redacted>; I am the store manager of Harbor Freight Tools in <redacted>. I am truly sorry to hear of the trouble you had while attempting to exchange a defective tire pressure gauge. I am aware of the warranty stapled to the package and you are absolutely correct that the warranty is for one year from the date of purchase. I would be happy to exchange this gauge for you. Please feel free to give me a call at your earliest convenience so that I can discuss this matter with you. If I am not available, please ask to speak to either <redacted>. I have explained this situation to them and they aware of what needs to be done to get you taken care of. Once again I apologize for the inconvenience.

I called to verify they knew who I was, and they said they did. I drove down there, and exchanged the defective tire pressure gauge. The new one had the same '1 year warranty' form stapled to the back of the packaging. It is unfortunate that I had to go to such great lengths to get Harbor Freight to honor their warranty. At least they did. It would have been nice if they mailed me one, after the hassle I went through. Of course, it would have been ideal if they honored the warranty when I first went to the store with the defective tire pressure gauge. I didn't have my receipt, but I had assumed they could look it up. It seems they only keep records for 90 days. I had a car battery that failed, that I bought at Costco. Just giving them my membership number, they looked up the purchase even though it was 8 years ago. So it wasn't crazy for me to assume that Harbor Freight could keep records for seven months. So keep your receipts from Harbor Freight.

Tiger Direct

It is Black Friday 2012. Tiger Direct started their sale at midnight. I put 3 items in my shopping cart, including an OCZ Vertex 3 hard drive. I proceeded to checkout. It ended up talking 100 minutes. After I paid with my credit card, when I got the confirmation message, the hard drive was not in my cart, but 2 webcams were. I did add one webcam to my order in the 100 minutes it took to checkout, in order to get the total to $100, which would give me free shipping. Somehow two of them got in my 'shopping cart'. What is worse, is the hard drive disappeared after I paid for it. Amazon didn't have a meltdown with its web site during Black Friday. Neither did Newegg. Any serious e-commerce site needs to deal with peak loads, and not cause delays and not screw up orders. Tiger Direct failed on two counts. Clearly they are not a serious e-commerce company. I sent them email explaining the problem. I did get an automated response. I called them in the morning, and after about 20 minutes on hold, I was told that the item was no longer in stock, and there was nothing they could do about it. During my 100 minute wait, I even got a screen shot of my shopping cart. The customer service person didn't care. By the way, some of the error messages I got indicated they were running Microsoft IIS, which is rarely a good sign...

They replied to my email saying things like "Upon checking it shows that the OCZ Vertex 3 120gb drive was not included. There is also request for stop shipment and order was not release." I am not sure what "not release" means. Then they said "We are sorry for the inconvenience and annoyance this incident caused. Thank you again for your comments. We hope that you will give us another chance to serve you." That means I wasn't getting my order. Then I got another email saying "We understand that you are looking to purchase the OCZ drive and wants to purchase 3. Please be advised that you have the option to place the order over the phone. You just have to call 1-800-800-8300. We can check if that is still in stock if you can provide the item number." I found it very amusing that my order of an OCZ Vertex 3 120gb hard drive somehow transformed into 3 OCZ drives. Perhaps they have a hard time reading? In any event I called, and they said sure the drive is in stock. It is only $109.99 (with free shipping). I said that was nice, but when I ordered it it was $50, and that is the price I had agreed to pay. After sending them a screen shot of my order in the shopping cart, and being on hold for a few minutes, they finally agreed to sell it to me for $50. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Perhaps replying to their emails helped.

So Black Friday 2013 rolls around. There is nothing really worthwhile at Tiger Direct except some 32gb usb thumb drives which are $4.99 each. Now, this is a pretty good price. In 2012, I bought some sandisk 32 gb thumb drives for $10 each, so $4.99 was a better deal. I ordered six of them, and paid with a credit card. One and a half days latter, I get an email Unfortunately, the item you ordered H19-2049 - HP 32GB v125w USB Flash Drive was listed with an incorrect price. We are therefore declining acceptance of this order and it is in the process of being cancelled. ... Please accept our most sincere apologies for the error and any inconvenience it may cause. I am glad they are sincerely apologizing. I called them, and said I wanted them to honor my order. They said too bad, I could get some other 32gb thumb drives for a lot more money. I said I wanted the $5 flash drives. They told me there were some 2gb flash drives I could buy for $5 each. I know price mistakes happen. A good company like Amazon, Newegg, or Walmart will honor their price mistakes as the cost of doing business, and no doubt will do something to minimize such mistakes in the future. A bad company, such as Tiger Direct will wait over a day, and than say tough luck, sucker. One would think that they would check their prices carefully at all times, and especially during Black Friday. In the case of Tiger Direct, not so much.

vikyhwt and eBay

Everyone has heard of eBay. Most stuff you get there is sold by decent people, however there are always people who will take advantage of honest people. EBay does try to some extent to weed them out, but as long as eBay is making money, I suspect they don't try too hard to weed out the crooks.

Recently, I was the high bidder for a watch on eBay. The auction ended. I paid within a few hours. Since the seller was local and they said local pickup was ok, I decided to not pay the shipping charge (as the ad stated). Here is what I wrote:

I drive by Alhambra twice a day, in the early morning, and the late
afternoon. If one of those times is good, I can pick up the watch. Otherwise,
I can stop by almost any time that is good for you this weekend, as I live in
******.  

Please let me know what time is good for you, 

Here is their reply:

I am sorry. Actually, I moved out from ALhambra almost a year ago. And this
item I didn't put local pick up was available. Therefore, please pay the
shipping so that I can ship you your item immediately. And if you still have
any concern please feel free to emial me. Thank you for your purchase again. 

Here is my reply:

The item *does* specify local pickup is available, check for yourself. 
Your paypal address is also listed in Alhambra. 

Where are you currently located? 

A few hours later I got this from paypal:

wan huang (vickyhwt@yahoo.com) has issued you a full or partial refund for
your payment.  

Message from merchant: 

Next I got the following:

I am sorry for the incorrect post, but I live in SAN JOSE now. The old address
is the the address I registed in ebay and paypal. Sorry for that mistake I
made. I just gave you full refun for the transaction. Sorry again.

Next I got the following from paypal (note the address):

wan huang has cancelled the shipping label for the reason below: 

Changed Mind

Your package will no longer be shipped using PayPal Shipping with U.S. Postal
Service.  

Ship From:

wan huang
316 W. Ramona rd
alhambra, CA 
91803
United States

I asked ebay for his contact info, and I was given the following:

User ID: vickyhwt 
Name: wan huang 
Company:  
City: alhambra 
State: CA 
Country: United States 
Phone: (626) 823-7839 
Registered Since: Saturday, Aug 02, 2003 10:40:10 PDT 

I really wanted the watch, and since the seller refused to let me pick it up, and claimed to live in San Jose, I decided to pay the shipping charge. I could have simply contacted ebay, but I fear they don't really care, as I will show below. I eventually got the watch, which was postmarked in Los Angeles CA. What is wrong with this picture?

I suspect the reason that he wanted the item shipped was it was a light watch which would likely cost about $5 to ship. Since he was charging $11.99, he was making about $7 profit, and ebay gets zero percentage of shipping costs. Just speculation on my part

I contacted ebay and told them everything. They said "I understand the frustration you're feeling. Please know that we are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.". That was 3 weeks ago. They told me that paypal had to deal with the issue. I contacted paypal and after about 2 weeks, I finally got my money back, and I got a letter from paypal saying the issue was closed. So I presume that paypal pressured the seller to pay me back.

A few years pass, and the watch died. This is a solar powered watch that has a battery that is supposed to last for at least 10 years if exposed to light regularly. I took the watch to a Casio service center, and they told me the watch had the wrong battery inside of it. The correct battery is a rechargeable lithium coin cell, but the battery was a non rechargeable coin cell. The problem is the watch tries to recharge the battery using its solar cells. The non rechargeable battery won't recharge, and could easily get damaged. So either vikyhwt or someone before him switched the battery with a much less expensive, incorrect battery. The watch has a water resistance rating of 200 meters. Smart people don't open well sealed watches unless they have to, because it may compromise the sealing of the watch, so I didn't check that the correct battery was in place.

computerville and eBay

I sold a partially broken notebook and power adapter to computerville. I have sold several notebooks, and this was no different. I wrapped the notebook in bubble wrap, and stuffed the power adapter in a box. A few days later, I got an email saying the power adapter was missing. I told them to look in the box. They said the brick was missing and they wanted me to send them one. Of course, I couldn't as I had already done so. They opened an ebay dispute and said they wanted their money back. There were two problems. The first was the shipping was $16, and I would not be paid back for that. Worse, they wanted to return it without a power adapter, which would make it harder for me to resell. Looking at it from ebay's perspective, how could they tell who was telling the truth? I decided it would be cheaper to refund the amount a power adapter was selling for on ebay, which was $6.86. The only explanation that doesn't involve significant deception would be if the package was damaged during shipping, the power adapter fell out, the notebook stayed inside, and the package was resealed. Not very likely. I did ask if the package was damaged during shipping, and I got no reply. Needless to say, I don't recommend doing business with computerville.

datavis_sales and eBay

Recently, I bought some computer cards from datavis_sales. A few days later, I got an email saying "Unfortunately the item that was listed was an error. We have rectified the issue causing this error and we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. For that reason the order has been canceled." I went to their ebay store, and they are currently selling 35,442 items. According to ebay "Bidding is a lot of fun, but remember that each bid you make is a binding contract to buy the item if you win." A binding contract binds both parties. If you win the auction, you have to pay, and they have to deliver. I called ebay, and they said that since it was a mistake, datavis_sales didn't have to ship the item. Needless to say, I don't recommend doing business with datavis_sales.

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