Dean Clough

September 13, 2021

Portico Darwin: Predatory Capitalism

(Yes, I did publish essentially the same article on LinkedIn over the weekend.  Hey, I'm multi-platforming, but  apologies to my friends that might have seen this already.)

Required disclaimer so I don't get somehow canceled as a wannabe communist:  I love capitalism.  I've read some about the alternatives, and shocker:  capitalism is the winner.  I'll go even further:  one of my favorite books, absolutely, is "Atlas Shrugged" (itself a cancelable offense now?).

But I've said it here before:  unregulated capitalism can't work.  That's because humans are unique among animals in that they will take more than they need.  A major role of government is to control that impulse.  Yet, in America, we have a toxic stew of a freedom obsession (yet we're very free already!) and an irrational adulation of financial success.  That's resulted in an indigestion of corruption, wealth inequality and predatory capitalism.

I've talked plenty here and elsewhere about wealth inequality, and American corruption deserves its own post, so I will now share my recent experiences with predatory capitalism.   

Please:  I would love if anyone reading this would share their own experiences with this subject.

It's not a bad service, as we did OK in Park City a couple of years ago with a big contingent of Michaels and associated hangers-on.  And I think the 2020 VW Arteon I have booked via Turo for my excursion to Ormond Beach in January 2022 will be ideal. 

But after happily paying $300 for a week's rental and declining some optional offerings, I get a message from the owner.  The $25 cleaning fee is "highly recommended".  In fact, it will "be hard for you to find a car wash where you can return the car to the condition in which it will be delivered" (trust me, I cleaned up the grammar).

I actually pushed back, and said that it's just me, I'm OCD neat, and the car will be fine.  I also made the point that this nearly 10% increase should be included in the base rate - isn't the car being clean for the next renter the owner's problem?  The person whined more and I relented. 

Imagine in your own business if you could add 10% to the bottom line this easily!

This is disgusting, because these guys and their ilk have sooooo much control, and they've always sucked, cheated, and screwed with our data.  Plus, what I'm talking about is completely regulated by the FTC.

We recently had an incident where we felt a credit card had been compromised.  No problem - I just had read something about how the big 3 credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) must, for free, allow you to freeze your credit report such that no one can nefariously open a new account based upon a stolen identity.

Well, kudos to Equifax and Transunion.  It was as easy as it should be to freeze our credit, online, with both of them.

Experian?  They should be ashamed.  We had to mail documents in and request in writing that our credit be frozen.  When I tried to chat with their customer service online, they said I must call them.  This after I had been successfully and completely verified at their website.

None of this would matter if they hadn't kept offering me their "Credit Lock" product, at $25/month, to do what I wanted.  It sure looked like a ruse to goad me into paying for an upgrade, when the free product was all I needed.  It was impossible to conveniently access the free product.  That is the definition of "predatory capitalism".

TP/Paper Towels
I doubt I need to provide any information here, and perhaps many have already noticed this.  Too many choices.  Too many indecipherable measurements and sheet counts.  And of course - it's a "Double Roll!"  Or more!  You'll never know - because what, exactly, is a "single roll"?

Really the same thing as my toilet paper and paper towel problem.  Next time, just try to find a big tube of toothpaste (>= 8 oz.) in a fun flavor.  They don't exist.  And bring your calculator:  are two 5.2 oz. tubes in one box at $4.59 better than one 6.3 oz. tube at $2.99? 

Unavoidable Online Service Charges
As a technologist, this may indeed be the most offensive.  Online concert tickets.  Online game tickets.  Online museum tickets.  Any online tickets.  WTF is the "service fee"?  The "convenience fee"?   I get running websites and processing stuff online costs money - great:  include it in the ticket price. 

But don't insult everyone's intelligence by pretending these are anything other than "profit fees".

Resort Fees
Which brings me to a granddaddy in the predatory capitalism family and the winner in the profit fee sweepstakes. 

Some genius in some hotel company some time ago:

"I know, rather than our published room rates reflecting reality, we'll bait-and-switch and just add non-negotiable fees to their bill for things guests really want while staying with us!" 

Renting a Car
OMFG.  Gas.  Insurance.  Car seats.  Toll transponders.  The car itself.  Is there a single less transparent experience in commerce today? 

14.5 Oz.
You ever notice how many canned vegetables aren't 16 oz. any longer?  From the meetings:

"We can keep prices the same, give them less, and no one except for nutty newsletter writers will ever notice!"

How I Did It
This whole subject is near and dear for me, because I owned my own business for 17 years, and during that time, had a unique opportunity to rip off or otherwise pad the bill of some of the wealthiest people in the world. 

I did the opposite.  I left money on the table, and often undercharged.  The trust I built with my clients more than made up for it, and my business was a great success. 

Plus, I kept my integrity and could look at myself in the mirror. 

We reached out, and they responded.  Live, from Croatia, I give you the sporty twosome Elizabeth "Polly" Michaels and Primo Harvey, PhD!  Looks awful!


But their second (somewhat pitiful) outreach - from a Croatian National Park no less - begged for a rethink on the exclusion of international national parks in The Showdown.  "Polly" said America's National Parks are just a part of a global "brotherhood and sisterhood" of biospheres and they thus want Plitvicka Jezera and Krka included.  We'll see, but this photo (and "Polly's" impassioned plea, which I'll publish soon) is pretty damned compelling. 

But maybe this park ploy by "Polly" was fueled by maybe one too many glasses of Grk or Plavac Mali?

image (1).jpg

And a special thanks to the artistic genius and my cousin Cyd Darwin for the ongoing encouragement.  Right back atcha, my friend.  We want an in-person West Coast showing of your work!

Thank you to any one that is reading this blog newsletter.

These recommendations just get easier and easier.  Here is Pink Floyd and "Dark Side of The Moon".

And for good measure, although I don't really get why he's such a big deal, is a bonus on the subject.

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.