Category Archives: Business

Vistaprint sucks and a Bieberific Brady Update.

I am pleased to report that The Squirrelologist is alive and well.  After a lengthy absence due to an extensive field study I am back to report on my squirrelly findings. 

The” most squirrelly corporate behavior and example of bait and switch tactics Bad Nut Award” goes to Vistaprint.  It seems that the powers that be at Vistaprint have not gotten the notice that you are supposed to honor the prices you clearly advertise. 

Your very own Squirrelologist went to Vistaprint to order some business cards for his other nut collecting ventures.  The site very clearly promotes 500 business cards for $10.  Should you go to the “premium business cards” link and follow it to the pricing you will find the same great price.  Follow the links at that bottom of the page to pricing and yet again, the same prices clearly listed.  Sounds great so far.  Now start to place an order, it gets even better.  The site tells you that shipping on card orders in quantities over 500 is free.  This deal just keeps getting better and better.  But wait, this can’t be so.  Nothing is this good, and this company is no exception. 

Since this deal seemed so good I decided to order three different sets of cards.  What did I discover, the first set costs the advertised price but the second two sets cost three times as much.  It’s not the price that bothers me so much as the fact that no where on the site does it say the listed prices are only applicable to the first item ordered and additional items will have different prices. 

Finding this bait and switch somewhat disturbing I decide to investigate this squirrelly behavior and call customer service.  The first individual I get listens to my complaint and says he can see about creating a different offer to improve the price.  Already a bad sign of worse things yet to come.  The representative comes back with a new offer that brings the cost down significantly, though still not as low as it should be if they honored their advertised prices.  And to make matters worse, suddenly there are shipping costs.  And we are not just talking about average shipping costs, these are grossly inflated shipping costs with a significant profit margin built-in.

Shocked at this outrageous bait and switch I ask to speak to a supervisor to share the fact that California frowns on companies not honoring their advertised prices.  I am connected to the soon to be infamous customer service supervisor Latoya in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Latoya appears to have a very distinct job, to be as rude and argumentative as possible with customers.  Latoya’s response to my requests to be shown anywhere on the Vistaprint site that the advertised prices are only applicable to one item and that other items will be charged at different prices is to essentially go $#*% myself.  She raises her voice to a near yelling volume, constantly tries to interrupt when the other party is speaking and tries to speak over them to shut down whatever they are trying to say.  It seems that if you are right about something and Vistaprint is wrong, the corporate policy is to yell at you until you give up and go away.

Little did Vistaprint and Latoya know, they were dealing with the Squirrelologist.  A trained expert in researching just this sort of squirrelly behavior.  In addition to sharing this story with all of the faithful Squirrelologist readers, it was also shared with Dennis Rockstroh, consumer advocate and writer of the Action Line column in the San Jose Mercury News.  Dennis and his consumer advocate colleagues share in much of the initial inspiration for The Squirrelogist.  Be a good nut and read Dennis’s column and send him or your local advocate your reports about lousy business practices at Vistaprint and other companies.  They can help.

So to Vistaprint, our Bad Nut of the Day award and two pieces of advice, honor your advertised prices and be honest and clear about any changes or limitations, and show Latoya the door. 

****Special Tom Brady Bieber hairdo update****

After extensive observation the Bieberific object observed on Tom’s head over the last few months appears to be an as yet unidentified species. This species seems to have an unexplainable behavioral impact on adolescent girls and underwear models.  It does however seem to have a negative impact on Tom Terrific’s quarterback skills.  131 completions for 198 attempts and only 1362 yards through 7 weeks.   Even Alex Smith has thrown for more yards, Yikes.  The Pats are 5-1 but it will be hard to maintain that spot behind the Jets with Brady’s Bieber chasing off Moss like talent.  Rumor has it that the Bradber bit Fred Taylor’s foot and is responsible for his missing so much time.

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Sutter Health Bleeds Patients

Sutter Health bleeds patients, and not just as a medical procedure.  A recent article by journalist Peter Waldman for Bloomberg News that ran in the 8/22/10 edition of the San Jose Mercury News provides some amazing price comparisons.  A MRI of a knee costs $1,271 at a Sacramento Sutter Health facility while a nearby center charges $696.  That is a $575 difference.  A whopping 45% more expensive.  An Silicon Valley obstetrician delivering a baby at a Sutter facility costs an astounding $5,890 while another local provider charges $2,052.  Could they be doing anything that warrants an additional $3,838 (yes that is 65% more with Sutter Health)? 

The list goes on.  An abdominal CT scan in San Francisco cost $1,500 more at a Sutter facility then another hospital.  A colonoscopy is a bargain at only $400 more.  Yikes, no wonder The Squirrelologist can not afford to get sick, though reading these figures makes us want to throw up our nuts.

Why does Sutter Health charge so much more?  They offer up the usual array of worthless answers about how they offer a better experience and outcomes for patients.  40-70% better?  I think not. 

One of the major causes of this problem is the lack of transparency in pricing.  Time and again patients are told to compare prices and make good health care decisions that are affordable, but when the prices of medical care are not available that is impossible.  Most of the agreements that large health service providers have with insurance companies prohibit the insurers from posting the contracted costs of services with the provider.  This leaves the consumer in a position where they can not get the prices for services from their insurer or from the provider so they have to blindly accept services and pay whatever the provider can get away with. 

Now The Squirrelologist is not suggesting we move to a socialized form of medicine but we do strongly support an increased level of transparency.  How about a law that requires insurance companies and large health care providers to post their charges in an easy to find, clear manner.  If you want to buy a television you check the price in your local store, walk into a Best Buy and then check out prices on Amazon or other on-line retailers.  You decide if you want the cheapest price regardless of customer service and convenience or if you are willing to pay a bit more to be able to return it to a nearby store or have a conversation with a salesperson.  But if you want to decide if you would like to choose a less expensive physician or lab or clinic you have no idea what you are paying.  Maybe, if you are lucky, you can navigate a system designed not to make this information available and ask the provider what the cost is.  They tell you it depends on who your insurance company is and that you have to contact them to find out what he contracted price is.  Then the insurance company doesn’t want to tell you and sends you back and forth until you give up.  Maybe they post some average prices online but either the service you need is not listed or if it is, you still don’t get the actual cost for the provider you are interested in.  And that all assumes you have hours and hours free to research. Most of us go to the doctor or hospital when we are sick and getting medical care takes priority over detailed comparison shopping. 

If competition is supposed to keep costs in line and drive improvements in service then we have created a system that is designed to eliminate competition and slow down the rate of progress.  It’s not a question of if you support the health care reforms of the Democrats or the Republicans.  Transparency is a concept that we all can get behind.  Capitalism and competition are not perfect but lets allow those market forces to actually work to the benefit of consumers and drive health care costs to reasonable levels.  Everyone is entitled to earn a fair profit for their work and if they can get more, good for them.  But to allow the system to be gamed to the benefit of powerful business interests to the detriment of the rest of society is just to squirrelly for us.  To Sutter Health and the other non-transparent providers of health care our bleeding bad nut of the day.

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Even More Love for Shortees

Our friends over at Shortshrifted.com just released a lengthy review of Shortees shirts.  Shortshrifted is a great blog that writes about fashion issues for shorter men.  Josh, the man behind the blog does a great job of trying to help the under 5’8″ population address the challenges we face when it comes to finding great fitting clothing.  Needless to say we are happy to hear he likes how Shortees shirts fit.

Shortees T-Shirts: Your Choice of Hem Length — Short or Extra Short

August 17th, 2010

When Seth Levinsky first contacted me back in May to let me know that he’d launched Shortees — the world’s first-ever T-shirt company by and for short men — I was floored. I broke the news to you in this post (which is worth a read if you haven’t already). And I was excited when Seth sent me some actual tees. With two choices of hem lengths (Short and Extra Short) in sizes ranging from Small to XXL, I figured: What more could you ask for?

Well, some good designs, mainly. But I’m getting ahead of myself… There’s so much they get right.

When it comes to fit, Shortees nails it.

I can’t emphasize enough just how huge that is. Fit is by far the toughest thing for us short guys when it comes to clothes. In some ways, your typical off-the-rack T-shirt is even a lot worse than other articles of clothing. The average industry length ranges from about 28 to 32 inches long. But unlike, say, dress shirts, T-shirts are notoriously difficult to have tailored. They just never look right.

Not a problem with Shortees. Every size (from Small to XXL) comes in two different lengths, both of them significantly shorter than average: 25 inches and 26.5. That’s the thing that I love about Shortees. Not just that the shirts are short, which is great, but that they’re offering us options — something smaller guys are sorely lacking.

These options are an absolute godsend for guys struggling with nightshirt-length tees. Especially heavier men, because as they know all too well, as a shirt’s chest size increases, length usually goes up accordingly. As Seth told me: “If you happen to be more muscular or have some extra pounds there is no way you can go with a typical Small or Medium, so you are always stuck with a 29.5-31″ shirt.” Have you ever seen an XXL shirt that’s 25 inches long? All I can say is: these guys are for f—ing real.

So how does the advertised length stack up against the actual?

Dead on. At least, for the shirts that I tried: a Small in each of the different lengths and a Large in the shorter size. In my experience, actual measurements usually differ a bit (sometimes even greatly) from what’s listed on a company’s size chart. So I really appreciated that these were more exact. That’s the whole point, eh?

How well did they fit me?

At 5-foot-5, 130 lbs, both Smalls fit me great. The shorter one probably better, which squares with what Seth told me originally: “I recommend that people under 5′6″ try the 25-inch length, and those between 5′6″ and 5′8″ go with the 26.5.”

Chest size was 20.5/21-inches across on the Smalls, 22.5 on the Large. And after my usual laundry cycle (cold wash, tumble dry low) they seemed to shrink about half and inch to an inch across and about the same in length. Not bad. Sleeve length was good on the Smalls (about mid-bicep), but a bit longer on the Large. It wasn’t down to my elbow or anything, but my guess is it could stand to be shortened up a tick. Granted, I’m not a Large and was just testing one out to cover all the bases, so take my sleeve critique with a grain of salt; it might be perfect for someone who actually is that size. I also think they could stand to add an XS size. But I’m splitting hairs.

And costwise?

These pass muster. At $20 a pop, that’s a decent price for a graphic tee. The fact that these will actually fit you is almost priceless.

So what’s rub?

In my opinion, the designs are lame. Besides fit, graphics are the next biggest selling point… or potential turn-off. The four designs Shortees currently offers don’t happen to be to my personal taste. But I see other people wearing stuff that looks similar to this, so my criticism isn’t so much that I just don’t like the looks of them. My real problem is that they’re generic-looking. This is, unfortunately, a real bummer.

Luckily, they also come in white and black.
 OK, twenty bucks is a little pricey for a plain tee, but the material is nice and the fit is unmatched. And every guy needs at least one of each color in his wardrobe — I’m glad mine come from Shortees.

I don’t do much cheerleading on this site. Especially when it comes to official product reviews. As always, I think I’ve been fair with this review, laying out the positives, but not shying away from criticism.

That said, this is a brand that I really want to succeed. You guys probably do too.

Shortees is off to a great start. The length options are unprecedented, the fits are good and will hopefully get even better, and the price is moderate. The only major problem area — lackluster design — is something Seth is fully aware of and wants to improve. At 5-foot-5-and-a-half, he’s one of us.

There is so much potential here. So let’s make sure it happens:

  • Visit the Shortees website.
  • Friend them on Facebook.
  • Subscribe to Seth’s personal blog.
  • Send him an e-mail with your feedback, criticism, ideas, wants, desires, and designs or designers you like.
  • And buy a shirt. So he can invest in another run — this time with cooler designs, of course.
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    Some love for Shortees

    Recently Shortees has been getting some love on this newfangled interweb thingie.  Here’ s a peep from our friends at Hideyourarms.com

    Shortees – t-shirts for short people!

    by Andy on August 13, 2010

    I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall, not exactly a giant but not short either, so I’ve never really had to take this into consdieration before; shorter people need shorter t-shirts. I imagine that ‘little people’, as I’m sure is no longer the correct term to descrbe them, can get around this by buying clothes that are intended for children, but what about people that are five or six inches shorter than me, why must they go on suffering t-shirts that are just that little bit too long!?!

    Thankfully, the appropriately named Shortees has stepped in (presumably quite a small step with their little legs) and started producing their own custom tees that are cut a little bit shorter so that they flatter the shorter torsos that ehy will adorn. I’m not too impressed with the designs that they’re offering, though in fairness to them they admit they aren’t trying to be the coolest design company out there, and it’s admirable to see that level of honesty in a company, but if you’re a designer (and not a particularly tall one) you can pick up a few blank tees and put your own designs on there if you’d prefer.

    via Shortees – t-shirts for short people!.

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    Good Nut of the Day: Target Protesters

    Todays Good Nut of the Day award goes to the group of protestors in Minnesota who are holding Target accountable for its donations to a political group backing candidate Tom Emmer (R).  The $150,000 donation was made to MN Forward which has been supporting Emmer.  Emmer has publicly come out as a strong opponent of gay marriage as well as taking a tough stance on immigration issues.

    A Facebook page supporting a boycott of Target has already gathered 54,000 fans.  Target’s donation comes on the heals of a recent Supreme Court decision that allows  companies to make political donations.  Target has apologized and said they will re-examine their donation policies. 

    What is the lesson here, perhaps companies should keep business and politics separate if they do not want to alienate large segments of their customer base.  With all of the campaign finance issues that arise when business interests appear to try to curry favor through donations maybe the smartest companies will decide to focus on their customers instead of politics.

    So to those concerned citizens who organized, spoke up and held one of our large corporations accountable for their actions, a good nut to you.

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    Something is amiss at HP.

    Jodie Fisher

    By now you’ve probably heard the news.  Hewlett-Packard CEO, Mark Hurd has resigned over a sexual harassment scandal.  That sounds pretty cut and dry, and that is just the problem.  Something about this entire situation reeks of cover-up.

    HP claims that Hurd’s departure is not because of an impropriety with his accuser, Jodie Fisher.  His departure is due to false expense reports and his failure to live up to HP’s ethical expectations.  Anyone buy that?  Fisher has retained the services of the always non-squirrelly Gloria Allred, has already accepted a private offer from Hurd and fervently denied any sexual relations took place.  Sounds like someone took a page from the Tiger Wood’s playbook of how not to deal with a sex scandal.  Pay big, pay fast and require total silence. 

    When is the last time someone hired Gloria Allred and they weren’t looking for a payoff, book deal or movie of the week?  Have we forgotten that it was only in 2006 that the HP board was embroiled in a scandal involving spying on  reporters and directors phone records, forcing the resignation of then board chairwoman Patricia Dunn.  Does HP really have ethical standards that would force out a CEO who has overseen a $41 billion increase in the market value of the company.  A 38% increase in market value since Hurd took the reigns to $108 billion, making HP the worlds largest technology company.  In just the last day the value of HP has dropped 8%, almost $10 billion.  That makes the truth behind the Hurd/Fisher/HP scandal a  matter of public interest. 

    Now don’t feel bad for Mark Hurd.  In addition to the tens of millions of dollars Hurd has already earned at HP, he is in line for $12.2 million cash in severance payments and another $25 million worth of stock, at today’s prices.  Maybe this was just an exit strategy for Hurd.  Maybe the truth about his actions was so damming that it was worth it to everyone to pay off Fisher and distance Hurd as fast and far as possible from HP?  Maybe we will never know but of this we can be sure, something is rotten at HP.

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