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Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles

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That title isn't just what my wife sings while at the Bubble Lounge in San Francisco or while in a spa... it's the topic of today's article.

Earlier this week, I said I was going to try to be more positive. So before I get into some heavy negative stuff, I feel it's worth reflecting how awesome life is. It's not lost on me that I'm part of small percentage of the privileged few in a privileged country. We carry awesome computers with us that have almost any information that people want. We can tell our Amazon Echo to play Jack Johnson and instantly be happy. (Or maybe that's just me.)

Sometimes I think the negative stuff stands out to me like a sore thumb because of the sharp contrast with all the awesomeness of everything else? What's that phrase that people use nowadays, "first world problems"? Exactly.

I want everyone to have all the awesomeness and none of the bad stuff. And a lot of that awesomeness comes with money and financial freedom. When I see people or business taking that away from people, it makes me sad... very sad. No one likes a sad, Lazy Man.

Let's Get to the Bubbles

I'm not really sure if these really meant the definition of "bubbles", but that's kind of the road I went down. One might also call it capitalism running amok without regulation... or at least "timely" regulation.

Cable Companies and Bundling

Yesterday, I wrote my experience with Cox cable/Internet pricing. In case you missed it, they seem to automatically assess a $25 fee for a declined credit card. In addition, they require products that some consumers don't want (me in this case) to get a "bundle deal." When that expires consumers who fail or forget to complain feel the pain of raised prices. For what it's worth the FTC does have a page about bundled communication services, but it looks like it really isn't a priority for them at this time.

I got several comments and not one was in support of Cox or their cable company. Many claimed that because they have a monopoly in their area (like Cox in mine) and lack choice, the pricing just keeps going up and up. I'd say that's an example of capitalism run amok without regulation. In fact, a few people commenting openly wished regulators would step in.

In the meantime, is it wrong for Cox, or any other cable company, to make as much money as it can? It's in the business to make money, right? If tactics that some described as "shady" makes them more money that's just the business doing business stuff, right? I don't agree with this thinking.

Housing Market in 2008

This is an easy and famous bubble, right? We saw housing prices go up and up. At least part of the reason was because mortgages were easy to get. And as prices of homes got higher, banks created new mortgages to keep putting people in homes. You can reduce the monthly payments on house by making offering a 50-year, interest-only mortgage.

I wonder how many people are still digging out of that mess. The condo I bought in 2005 is worth about $50,000 less than what I paid for it. That's kind of a big deal, right?

Student Loans

I haven't followed student loans too closely as I'm passed that age (Thanks for the scholarship, Brandeis!) and my kids are in pre-school. However, it seems to me that colleges have been regularly raising prices (similar to the home market above) and using a similar idea to the new mortgages... people will just get more financial aid.

Medication (such as EpiPens)

I'm sure you haven't missed the news of late, but prices of medication are drastically shooting up as well. It's rarely that the products are better or more effective. Instead we find the same kind of passing of the buck as above. In this case, insurances cover some of the cost, so the medications may not seem as expensive, but the result has been raising insurance premiums.

Multilevel Marketing Scams

I've covered these extensively in the past. This isn't exactly like the above products, because you can simply choose not to buy the products, and it doesn't hurt that like not having a home, education, internet, or medication. Instead, companies found a way to sell hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of consumers things like $45/bottle juice or $70/bottle salt water make outlandish health claims by its salesforce and bundling the purchase with a "business opportunity" in selling products via an artificially closed market.

What Can We Do?

In all these cases, I'm not exactly sure what we can do. Congress and the FTC are looking into one or more of these areas, but it seems like all they do is talk. I don't see any meaningful action.

In the meantime, it seems we are left to fend for ourselves as best we can. We try to stay healthy to avoid rising medical costs. We say "no" to $45/juice and MonaVie goes out of business. We decide to look into ways that we can eliminate our cable package. We look schools that present better "value" rather than the very best education.

It's not ideal, but it's your money and in the end, you are the only one who can protect it.

Posted on September 8, 2016.

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3 Responses to “Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles”

  1. Marvin says:

    I agree. This is maddening. It is truly a consumption-driven society where instead of lowering prices, they add more “services” and raise your bill.

    A recent example:
    I had Phone, Cable and Internet with Company T. Not a bad bundled price, ($120 including all taxes) but decided we didn’t really need cable anymore (because it’s 200 channels of reality shows). Called company T. “Because of the great deal we are giving you bundling all three (wink, wink) you really can’t save anything by getting rid of cable. Sigh.

    Called Company W. Wanting a quote for Internet only. Internet is slower, and will cost about $100 with fees, etc. “Are you sure you don’t want our phone and cable option? We can give you more for about the same price.” Yes, I’m sure. Click. Sigh.

    Got on Chat with Company T. Chat rep said, “internet only for $60, no fees.” Great, now we’re getting somewhere. Talk to DW. She finally agrees.
    Get on Chat again with Company T. Confirmed. $59. No fees. I need to call to make the change. Get “Customer Solutions” team which is the name of the team that is designed to get you to NOT drop your services. They are the “wheelers and dealers.” Except not this time. “Michelle” told me that $59 is the slower internet. Oh plus $10 for the modem rent. I would need to pay $79 for the same speed, plus $10 for modem. See what’s happening here? I asked “Michelle” to have a manager call me because a) her attitude sucked, and b) this is classic bait and switch. Guess what! NO manager ever called me. Sigh.

    Walked into the storefront for Company W. Stood face to face with representative. Could get similar speed internet only, but it’s cheaper with phone! WTF? Oh, and when you add the phone, you add…..drumroll…..fees! So my bill would come to about $75 with the fees. Sigh. See what’s happening here? Even when you have options, you have no options…..

    Looked longingly at website for Company A. They are coming to my neighborhood. But probably not until December. Fiber optic service, with 1GB available (I don’t need that speed) for $100/month. They have a slower option, for $45, modem included, but it sounds like phone is necessary. So fees. Can’t get firm info until later fall. Sigh.

    Call back to Company T. Get someone in my local office. They apologized for no manager calling me back. Apologized for “Michelle’s” Attitude. They couldn’t do anything for me but would have HIS manager call me. Later that day, VOILA! She did. Yes, she will give me same speed internet for $59 plus $10 for modem, HOWEVER, only for 1 year. They are merging with Company CH, and so can’t have any “forever” promotions. This is a promotion, though it was promised to me. Fine. Company A is coming in less than a year.

    However, Company A, is tearing up yards, streets and sidewalks all around me. DW says that she can’t stand that and she never wants to have company A. Sigh.

  2. Martin says:

    I really liked the final message. Only we can protect our own money. Nobody else will do this for you because nobody else will ever care. There’s so much more to life that we just don’t get taught in college.

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