Friday, February 22, 2008

StubHub is Flub

Free enterprise is one thing, but sneakiness and lack of transparency are another...

Recently I went online to see if I could buy tickets to take my wife to see the comic stylings of Ricky Gervais, writer of The Office and Extras, our favorite shows. I had a $50 gift card for StubHub and figured I could put it towards this purchase. So far so good.

I entered the StubHub website and found what I was looking for very quickly. Let the record show that the price came out to $78 per seat (for the nosebleed seats... but hey, we've all got a budget to follow!). Let the record also show that this price was already about $25 more than what Ticketmaster was offering for virtually the same seats (I checked there as well to see what they were able to offer). So after comparing the price between the two sites, I began to place my order at StubHub since the gift card would basically even out the lower price of Ticketmaster.


I go through the whole process of signing up, filling in my address, credit card info, the whole shebang, and THEN comes up the final order tally:


That's a far cry from $156... the total of the listed ticket price of $78 x 2.

Without any forewarning, here's what they did... they tacked on a 10% commission of $15.60 and $11.95 in FedEx shipping and handling (because handling two tickets is so much work).

Silly me thought that the original $78 price included a built in commission, and I could understand paying extra for shipping, but not 12 bucks worth. (Note: apparently picking up at the box office or sending via mail were not options, so $12 was the minimum charge. Yay, what a bargain.)

So I backed out of my order and went over to Ticketmaster, another company that irks me with the way they do billing, but it turned out to be a much better deal. For virtually identical seats, I was able to buy the tickets straight up (no added commission, other than Ticketmaster's tacked on charges), and have them simply mailed to me the good ole-fashioned way for $115.45. That's a savings of almost $70, which equates to a real-time savings to me of $20 if I had went with StubHub and used my $50 gift card. Twenty bucks isn't a big difference, but I wasn't about to give StubHub my business after this whole snub.

While I will admit that StubHub does provide a helpful service for people that are looking for hard-to-get tixx, I was not happy with their fees and the fact that I would have been paying more per ticket even though the same basic seats were still available at Ticketmaster. Note that StubHub is offering better seats for the show that Ticketmaster is now out of, also at jacked up seller's prices, but I could at least understand that due to supply and demand. Makes no sense to sell the same tickets for 60% more than you can get 'em elsewhere.

The moral of the story here... you better shop around.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Jersey Asks for Spending Cut Ideas

In a small blurb on page 3 of the Metro Section of a recent Philadelphia Inquirer, I read about how New Jersey's Governor Corzine has set up a portion of the State's website to allow citizens to make suggestions on how to cut spending for the State government. This is a good start and something that all 8 million NJ residents should look into.

As has been well-publicized, NJ's taxes are among the highest in the nation, and that definitely hurts the common man's wallet. While it's overall a good state to call home, losing out on large chunks of money due to propery, income, sales, and other taxes does negatively affect us New Jerseyites. Which is why I whole-heartedly support the idea of asking residents what they think the State can do to save money. I submitted a few ideas, none of them groundbreaking or likely to put us back in the black, but I at least feel like my voice is heard and maybe the State can cut some costs based on my ideas or other citizens' ideas, which is what democracy is all about.

So if you're an NJ resident who is tired of shelling out money for government spending, here's your chance to chime in. Click here and suggest ways that NJ can cut costs. (Then click on "Direct Citizen Input on Reducing Spending" to fill out the form).

Remember, a penny saved is a penny less that 8 million people have to shell out...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Parenthetically Speaking: Let's Update the Area Code Norms

Perhaps I get it from the comic stylings of Jerry Seinfeld, but I tend to appreciate, scrutinize, and contemplate on the small things in life, just like he does in his comedy career.

Case in point:

Every day I look at dozens, maybe hundreds of phone numbers. And I came to realize... what a waste it is to put parentheses around area codes. I think we're mature enough as a society to realize that the first three numbers in a phone number indicate the area code. It's simply excessive to surround those three little digits with unnecessary parentheses, just like it's unnecessary to put http:// in front of your website name, every time you reference your website in marketing materials. They served their purposes for a long time, now we move on.

Let's revolutionize the world of telephony and ditch the parentheses (shall we?).

Now that we have that settled, please enjoy this tangentially related video clip featuring Victor Borge, Dean Martin, and punctuation noises (just watch):

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Thought on Voting: The Offset

A fictional, though believable voting situation:

Georgie and Georgia are two loving spouses who have many things in common but inherently disagree when it comes to politics. One is a left wing sympathizer, the other is a right wing supporter. They go go vote and, guess what?, their votes cancel each other out completely. So... What's the point to their voting?

Okay, yes, every vote counts and it is important to have your say in an election, but if one person's vote is going to be cancelled out by another person's vote like G and G in the above example, perhaps it's just a waste of time for these particular people to go out and vote. Their votes offset one another and basically for them to go out of their way and spend precious time and resources to press a couple of buttons seems counterproductive in their minds. And they'd probably be right in some regards.

But, if we were to institute a simple and easy system for citizens to vote quickly and easily, perhaps online, then it would do no harm for these two people to vote, even if their votes do offset one another.

Here are more reasons why people would be happy to avoid voting:
-it takes too long
-it wastes gas to drive to polling location
-out of town that day
-terrible weather
-too busy
-etc., etc.

My point here: the act of voting expends too many resources, and people can easily find a reason to not vote and thus save those resources. The easier and more efficient voting can be made, the less people need to worry about expending said resources. And we all vote happily ever after.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let's Modernize the Voting System, Shall We?

Ok, I'm going to tell you one huge reason why voting-aged people don't vote in high numbers like they should....

They always say go in the morning to vote when there's less of a rush compared to after work. Okay, that's sensible. So on primary election day this past "Super Tuesday" I went over to the school where I vote, somewhere around 8:15. Well lucky me, all the buses are rolling in and all the parents who pay for the buses but don't want their kids riding on the buses are dropping their kids off at the front door. (Mind you it's a beautiful morning, there's no reason to be driving them as the young'ins could have comfortably stood outside, but that's a different story.) So anyway it took me a good 10 minutes just to be able to park my car in an out of the way spot and get into the building, after previously spending 10 minutes driving out of my way to get to the school. I then walked in and registered, and just as they said, there was no rush of people. So I go in the booth and press two measley buttons and leave-- one button for my candidate of choice, one to enter the vote. It took me another 5 minutes to get out, and then it added 10 minutes for me to get to work. So basically it took away 30-45 minutes of my life to press two buttons.

Now I'm not one to complain, but rather I'm looking out for the future of this country... is there no way, what with all of today's brilliant technology for people to be able to vote online, or something similar? Who wants to take a half hour or more out of their day to press two buttons? I know there are plenty of computer geeks out there who can come up with a secure solution to this outdated form of voting in person... there's GOT to be a better way to do this than our current system. And think about all of the productivity lost, gasoline wasted, and people's time manning the polls that is needlessly spent when sombeody could just as easily open his or her laptop, press a few keys and be done in 2.3 minutes flat.

The lesson here: make it easy and people will vote in record numbers, guaranteed. GUARANTEED!!!

And for those of you wondering, I voted for Pedro.