Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maybe I'll Just "Have Less & Live More!"

I was sitting at my computer when I heard the familiar sound of my rusty mailbox creaking shut. A sure indication that mail was waiting for me. "What could it be?", I thought to myself as I headed to the front door.

Real, hard copy mail comes less frequently these days as more communication is electronic. Perhaps this heightens the anticipation of opening the creaky cover to my mailbox.

It was, however, as expected, a couple more blatant appeals for me to "buy more stuff!" The first envelope was personally addressed, but gave no indication of the sender, other than a local P.O. Box number. Tearing open the envelope I was greeted with an uplifting holiday message.

Dear Leonard
It's holiday time - we're just counting the days. Are you ready? do you have the extra cash you need to help handle the additional expenses?
Use the attached Access Cheques to:

Be Spontaneous -Sometimes the best parties happen without a lot of planning
Buy some new furniture - A new sofa or reclining chair is a great addition to your home.
Start new family traditions - A family vacation could become an annual event.

Just think about all the fun you can have in the coming weeks. Use the attached cheques just like personal cheques, and start living your dream.
Wow! This is pretty exciting! Who knew that life can be so easy?!?! No money? No problem! I just need to write myself a cheque, or several if I need to, then I can throw caution to the wind, buy things & go places! I can be whimsical! I can Live Large and Start Living My Dream!!!

Feeling the enthusiasm rippling through my veins of how I will be enjoying life now that these wonderful cheques have arrived, I turn to the other envelope. Hmmmm, perhaps the news isn't as good. This letter is simply addressed to "The Resident". Nothing personal here, but I decide to look anyways, because it does proclaim on the front that "It's shiny. It's new." Opening the glossy enclosure wrapped with what appears to be a big red Christmas bow I discover images of gift cards from Best Buy and Future Shop. In bold letters it proclaims GET A FREE $200 GIFT CARD FROM FUTURE SHOP OR BEST BUY. Apparently, all I have to do is sign up for Rogers Digital TV & Rogers Hi-Speed Internet. Ah, but there is a tiny number 3 at the end of that last line indicating a footnote. Could there be a catch? I turn the four page card over to discover the "fine print" written in an ever so delicate, light gray font on a white background. To read it I need to turn on the big overhead light and reach for my reading glasses. With a bit of squinting I discover:
While quantities last. Offer available for a limited time and for new Digital TV and Hi-Speed Internet customers only, cannot be combined with any other discount and subject to change without notice. 1-year term required. Early Cancellation Fee applies. Excludes Rogers Ultra-Lite Internet tier.
So, what do these conditions mean? There is no mention of how much this will cost me, so, I decide some research is needed, and I head to the Roger's GiftCard promotion website. It takes about ten minutes to compile the figures. First, I discover that I will need to either rent or buy two pieces of hardware. A modem that will service my two computers will cost $4.50/mo. or $149 to purchase and a digital cable terminal costs $4.49/mo. or $99 to purchase. The least expensive Internet connection would cost $35.99/mo. and the least expensive digital TV would cost $31.49/mo. Finally, I need to pay $49.99 for installation. All numbers, of course, need to be multiplied by a minimum of 12 months. So, what does this add up to?

If I purchase the equipment required, that would be $248 upfront, before I have watched a single show, or read one email. Then, I would need to agree to pay $67.48/mo for 12 months for a total annual outlay of $809.76. To this, I add $49.99 for installation. All of these figures, of course, are then subject to 13% HST. So, to get my "FREE" $200 gift card I need to commit to spend $280.24 today for hardware, $56.49 for installation and $915.03 within a year for Internet and TV, for a grand total of $1,251.76. This outlay gets me the next to slowest Internet speed (that charges extra for downloads in excess of 15 GB/mo.) and basic cable, for one year. And of course, they would sincerely hope that have hooked me to pay a minimum of $915.03 every year thereafter, for just about the most basic service they provide. Wow! What a deal!

Yes, the sarcasm is dripping off the screen as I type. First of all, I currently spend $34.97/mo. or $418.64 per year, (taxes included!) for high speed Internet from National Capital Freenet (a local, not for profit group) that includes up to 200 GB of download per month. I obtain a free local digital TV signal from three channels with a homemade aerial that provides an uncompressed signal. The quality is far superior to the compressed cable signal. By next summer all broadcasters in Canada will be required to provide a digital over air signal. Sure, I don't get the cable only, or any American channels, but, why do I need 24/7 advertising streaming into my home?

Of the 33 channels offered on "Basic" Cable, I immediately discount one third of them as being completely superfluous to my needs. Five are in the French language, two are government legislature channels that are available online, two feature children programming, and there are two shopping channels. There are several other channels that I would never count as real channels. These include the TV listings, Rogers TV local, CP24 (it's local news out of Toronto. I live in Ottawa.) or the Entertainment! pop culture offering. APTN, W Network & CTS are marginal at best, essentially showing long forgotten re-runs intermixed with a show that may be of modest interest to a narrow audience. We are now down to about a dozen channels, half of which I can get for free with my antenna. This latter group includes CTV, CBC, Global, OMNI & the A Channel. So, it seems I am being urged to pay several hundred dollars a year extra for a more restricted Internet service, a news channel, the weather network, and three American TV networks. Maybe that gift card isn't "FREE" after all.

Back to my mail, the absurdity of it is that the so called "gift card" urges me to purchase yet ever more junk that will continue the media onslaught that implores me to buy more, and more, and more, while, the marketers hope, I sit on the couch, eat chips, and gaze at the screen imagining how I can spend money I don't have on things I don't need.

But wait! I've got money! I've just got to write myself one of those cheques that came in that other bright red envelope! Just in time for Christmas!

Hmmmm...on second thought,

Maybe I'll Just
and enjoy life, all year round, with less stuff!

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