Category Archives: Commentary

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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Tom Brady’s not so secret new weapon

With preseason football back on TV and fantasy football drafts in full swing, today’s Squirrelologist sports report takes a look at Tom Brady and what is new in New England.  Last season Brady came back from a devastating knee injury to put up some pretty good numbers.  Not good enough to lead The Patriots back to the big game but good enough to show he is still a top gun slinger.  So what is Tom going to do different this year to enshrine himself in the upper echelon of quarterbacks?  The answer is Bieber.  Tom has gone Bieber, and in a big way.

Separated at birth?  Tom’s secret love child?  An alien conspiracy?  Maybe we will never know but we should be concerned.  Tom, wear the same shirt to the stadium every game day.  Don’t change your underwear.  Do any of a thousand rituals designed to improve your mojo on the field but a Bieber?  I suppose if I had Giselle at home and it turned her on I could be convinced to wear a dead racoon on my head as well but short of that, The Squirrelologist has no choice but to drop Terrific Tom’s fantasy draft ranking a few slots.

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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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Those Razorbacks are sure squirrelly, and todays bad nut

Today’s bad nut goes to radio station KAKS, general manager Dan Storrs, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and that segment of Razorbacks who called for reporter Renee Gork to be fired.

Arkansas FootballThe cause of the firing, Gork wore a Florida Gators hat to work.  Now granted Gork is a sports reporter and wore the Florida hat to a Arkansas press conference, unquestionably a faux pas.  Coach Petrino called her out on it and after answering her question said that was the last question he will answer from her while she is wearing the Florida hat. 

Gork made a mistake, a big mistake but not one that reflects her skills as a reporter or radio host.  And Coach Petrino was well within his right to call her on it.  That’s how it goes in the culture of college football.  Had that been the end of it, all would be fine.

Like all people with too much time on their hands and a lack of concern about real issues that plague our society a segment of Razorback fans  called for Gork’s demise.  Now The Squirrelologist isn’t blaming the majority of rational thinking Arkansas fans (go Razorbacks), just the rabid senseless ones that wanted someone fired for one meaningless mistake that had no reflection on how they did their job.  Did Coach Petrino or any Arkansas officials call for Gork’s termination?  They claim they did not but of course stories are starting to leak out suggesting they did.  At a minimum, if they did not want her fired they could have diffused the situation, made a joke and welcomed Gork to the next press conference with a new Arkansas hat.  They could have saved her job.  So if they didn’t want her gone (and we are not sure they didn’t) they are guilty of standing by and watching her hang.

And to general manager Dan Storrs and the KAKS management a giant bad nut for being such cowards and capitulating to a few crazy people who wanted Gork gone.  How pathetic that they could not stand up to support their own employee and instead took the easy way out.  It makes one wonder if there were actually forces from Arkansas and the football program that put pressure on the radio station to take this action and the station had no choice but to do this to maintain their access to the football program.  Either way its sad and pathetic.  Hopefully Gork either sues them for a boatload of cash or rides the wave of publicity to a bigger better job.  She will have the support of The Squirrelologist.

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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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The worst show on TV

What is the worst show on TV?  Without question, Nancy Grace.  Even with hundreds of channels to choose from and endless hours to fill, no show stands up to Nancy.  This awful, awful excuse for a human being should be banned from television.  Anything that would shut her up would be welcome.  Not only does Nancy berate her guests, she attacks and dresses down her own correspondents.  She behaves like a petulant child, cutting off the mic of anyone who strongly disagrees with her. 

Nancy’s track record is questionable as well.  She has been repeatedly accused of prosecutorial misconduct and was even cited by the Georgia Supreme Court for “inappropriate and illegal conduct in the course of a trial”.  She has been implicated in the suicide of Melinda Duckett.  She tried and convicted the Duke lacrosse players of gang rape on national TV only to have them found innocent and the prosecutor in the case disbarred.  She plagiarized in her book.  The list vile half-truths and mistakes that have flowed from her lips is far to long to list.

Nancy Grace represents all that is wrong with our country.  It doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal, republican or democrat, christian, jewish or muslim.  Every person should detest her excuse for journalism.  It’s not journalism.  It’s not even entertainment.  Even calling it trash is to good of  a term for what Nancy puts this country through. 

Just do the right thing, turn off the channel.  Refuse to watch her.  If you feel the need to do more, write the companies that advertise on her show and tell them you will no longer use their products and services so long as they advertise with Nancy.  Lets do all of us a favor and refuse to wallow in muck with Nancy. 

And to Nancy Grace herself, we give the bad nut of the day.

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