Highway Robbery, At Your Service

DSC_0896A few days ago, I examined options for pre-paid credit cards, the modern day wannabe equivalent of a traveller’s cheque. The idea is simple and not without appeal: you buy a credit card and deposit money into the credit card account. Later, you use it to pay for travel expenses. When the card is lost of stolen, you might have lost the $220 remaining on the card at the time, but your bank account, house and livelihood is not tied into the missing piece of plastic.

Within seconds of highly scientific research, I concluded it’s a scam, a method of luring fools into handing more money than before over to the card provider. Basically, it works like this:

You’d receive a piece of plastic worth pennies, and they provide database infrastructure worth a fraction of a penny per transaction. Then, they receive several levels of assurances from you, including of course the full amount of money which you’d think you might need at some future point in time. They play with your deposit until you need it, and then some. In return, they take absolutely zero risk. Zero, zilch, naught, none.

For the pleasure, they charge an initial fee in the £5..10 range, or a monthly fee in the £3…13 range (some providers charge both, initial and monthly), and a variety of staggering  per-transaction fees. Some even charge for the pleasure of loading your money into their account. [click]

Call me old-fashioned if you like. In my naive little world, I am happy to pay for a good service. The offers under review all seemed like highway robbery to me. I’d consider switching credit cards as soon as someone offers pre-paid cards as a free service to cardholders for use during holidays, or for use with online transactions. You’d think this should be dead cheap for the card companies to provide, and be a real service to boost customer loyalty and attract new customers.

Real service. Looks like I’m on the wrong planet.


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Highway Robbery Schemes For My Dishwasher

DSCF1774 Buy any one appliance anywhere these days, and you’ll be pestered with numerous attempts to make you sign up for an extended warranty or appliance insurance of some sort. Do as I do, and buy multiple appliances from multiple places at the same time, and you’ll get a flood of those calls.

Just in case you’re reading this and aren’t sure about these schemes: forget it. It goes like so:

I buy a new dishwasher today for £400. They’d like to sign me up for their lifetime warranty scheme at £6 per month, claiming an average expected life of 3 to 5 years.

I’d have made a poor purchase decision if my new dishwasher indeed breaks down after 3 to 5 years already, but even if it does, I’d have paid almost the equivalent of a new unit in “insurance premium” by then.

If my dishwasher lives more than 6 years, I’d be wasting my insurance money. The merchant gets a better price than I do, so he has a nice little constant earner from 2 to 3 years lifetime onwards, plus a guaranteed return customer. If the merchant goes under meanwhile, he’s in no obligation to me.

This doesn’t even include the many causes of dishwasher death which would, presumably, be exempt from the policy by way of fine print.

I am a great big old fool, but not big enough a fool for them.

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