Monday, February 13, 2006

Another one in my series on screwing their users to make more cash.

I signed up on a long time ago. I could search for drivers and download drivers fairly quickly. I logged in today and found that I needed to complete some "special" offers before they could validate my log in. Once I did complete one these offer, which entailed giving my personal information to companies I really don't want to hear from, they continued to give me the message that I had not completed the activation of my account, which I did years ago as I recall. Finally I noticed that I might be able to get rid of that message by logging out and then back in. At this point I started getting messages about their servers being too busy to let me in. After an hour of this I find that what they were pointing me to was a firmware upgrade for my Pioneer DVR-A07. What I wanted was a driver, since I can't get the thing to install on WIN2K without a driver, thus I can't even apply a firmware update without the OS knowing about it. This part of the problem is not DriverGuide's fault, but Pioneer and/or Microsoft. We can save that rant for later.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


To continue my rant about being charged "dormancy" fees by online service companies let's talk about E-Trade.
Many people got on E-Trade to not have to deal with stock brokers and manage things themselves. Many of those people were average people that don't know much about trading stocks. People like me. E-Trade made it easy to not have to know much, but being able to dabble in the market. It was great. I believe the premise I signed up under in the 90's was no fees to get started just get charged for each trade.
Move on to the market going rocky. Many of E-Trades customers are losing money on the stocks they bought so they can't afford to buy more or sell the ones they already have. Thus E-Trade is making less money. Then E-Trade introduces a few for not trading. I think it started for a few months as charging the fee that they would get from you everytime you made a trade every month if you did not trade that month. Shortly after that they changed it to charging the equivalent of two trades every quarter, so they were giving a month free.
The market is tough on everyone. Why treat customers that skyrocketed your business this way when things are down for them? Once I figure out how, this customer is going to leave because of this. On the other hand, if they had left me alone I would have perhaps bought some of the other services they were offering and even started trading again. An example of this is that I just bought a new house and still own the old one (because it is not selling). I had a relationship with E-Trade and they were one I considered getting one or both of the mortgages redone with. As I thought about the way they had treated me and the fact that I should probably just close all accounts with them there was no way I was going to be tied to them any more tightly than I already am.
BTW, before I joined E-Trade I was considering a compeditor of E-Trade who had lower fees per trade, but had other fees akin to dormancy fees. That is why I chose E-Trade, because they made it easy and did not have those other fees. I understand that it is all about making more and more money with businesses and not being satisfied at doing well, but I feel a little bit like something was shown to me as being one thing and then got shifted once I was locked in. is a virtual Master Card. I received one of these from an online rewards program in June of 2005 loaded with $25. I was able to use $17 for an online purchase. I have had a terrible time getting the remaining $8, since no one I can find online will take payments from two different cards.
From there the story gets even better. It seems that there is trend going with online services where they are starting to issue domancy fees, service charges, or whatever the particular service is starting to call them onto their customers' accounts. decided to start this December it looks like to the tune of $3 a month. I guess they have figure out a way for me to get rid of my $8 that I couldn't get out of there. I'm now down to $2. I received no notice in the mail or in my email, even though they have both of those addresses. They seem to have posted a notice on their site. The irony is that a person whose account is "dormant" probably isn't going to be on the web site and see the change in policy before they start incurring the new charges.
This is not the only business that I have dealt with that has had me pinned to them and then starts charging dormancy fees.