Consumer frustration

December 27, 2011

I recently bought a Samsung Android tablet, and have found it more useful than I had anticipated. It uses a lot of power to charge the battery, and therefore requires a special charger. The charger that came with it has removable prongs for 110 volt outlets, presumably so other plugs can be used while traveling outside the US. Unfortunately, that also means the plug module can separate from the charger, which happened to me inadvertently while traveling recently, only to be discovered when I returned home. I got in touch with Samsung concerning a replacement for the prong module (which I figured should cost no more than $10), and was chagrined to find out I would have to buy a whole new charger for well over $55, plus shipping. While I understand that it is expensive for manufacturers of consumer products to maintain inventories of parts, and that therefore those parts will be more expensive than one might expect, it’s frustrating to see individual parts inseparably bundled into larger and far more expensive assemblies, as was done here.

Fortunately, yesterday at Radio Shack, I found a connector for $10 (it’s a cord, not just the plug, but that’s okay) that allows me to use the original Samsung charger.

Score one for the good guys!

NYRA mismanagement — again!

December 21, 2011

This Times-Union story discloses overcharging by NYRA on exotic bets that were supposed to have a 25% takeout, which is exorbitant enough. NYRA had been charging 26%, and will have to make good, apparently by a combination of refunding accounts of those it can identify and charging the public “only” 24% for a period to be determined by the Racing and Wagering Board. I guess they aren’t paying enough to attract competent enough executives to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen.

Amtrak/subway update

December 3, 2011

Yesterday, I took a round trip to NYC on Amtrak. The good news is that both trains I took were on time, and that the new, free on-train wi-fi worked extremely well. The bad news is that the trip cost $97.00 (the trip down on the 6:10 am from Rensselaer was $40.00, which seems to be pretty standard for off-peak; the trip back on the 7:15 pm from Penn was $57.00 – thank you dynamic yield pricing). My other complaint is that the train (as well as the waiting area in Penn Station) were about 90 degrees, which I’ve experienced almost every time I’ve taken a train during heating season.

In New York, I rode the E train from Penn Station to Lexington Ave. and 53rd St. The cars were brand new, with neat electronic signs showing the time, next stop, etc. Gone were the old, crackling, incomprehensible announcements like “Borty decnd tweet, Brt Autorty, toity-toid Penn Stn nxt.” Instead, there were crystal-clear recorded announcements. And the cars seems very clean and graffiti-free. Nice job, New York City Transit Authority.

787 to go?

December 1, 2011

A recent Salon article asks a question highly relevant to – and periodically debated without resolution in – Albany:  Should downtown freeways be demolished, rather than rebuilt, at the end of their life cycle?  My opinion as to 787 is yes, but I see many arguments for no:  1.  In a market dominated by suburban office parks, the last thing Albany needs is for it to be (in perception or reality) harder for commuters to get to; 2.  it would moot the multi-million dollar pedestrian bridge connecting downtown with the river; 3. unlike in larger cities, Albany does not have the ability to accommodate displaced motorists on public transit.

On the other hand, demolishing an appropriate part of 787 (burying it probably would be cost-prohibitive) would open up a lot of land for development, some attractive for residential use, which downtown Albany desperately needs.  It would render the river and Corning Preserve more accessible, possibly prompting expansion and upgrades.  It might be a first step toward a more sustainable, less auto-dependent city.