Award Winning Blog

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Making of a Digital Curmudgeon

             OK, I recognize that I have never been this old and the elderly—bless their hearts—tend to stick with the reliable and proven. They (we) typically appreciate frugality, but willingly pay a premium when the value proposition seems fair. On the other hand, we realy, really resent getting nickled and dimed by bogus new billing line items.

             With that benchmark, I retain my wireline (Verizon) phone service, have a prepaid (Pageplus/Verizon) monthly wireless subscription, and have a grandfathered, slow, broadband (Comcast) monthly plan.  My wife and I used older smartphones, typically with the data capability off.  We both use tablets and personal computers at home.

             We make do just fine, except for traveling instances where a data plan would come in handy, e.g., to find an alternative route when unexpected construction blocks onramp access to an interstate.

             Increasingly, this strategy has become unsustainable, for reasons that, to me, do not come across as compelling.  Here are some examples:

             Several restaurants conserve waitstaff time and numbers, by requiring guests to scan a QR code for the menu and online ordering. No one is available to answer questions about the meals and beverages offered.  This strikes me as significantly reducing the value proposition in dining out.  Why bother when the restaurant unbundles elements of the dining experience?  Adding insult to injury, payment by phone or terminal defaults to a 22% tip which takes time and maneuvering across multiple screens to change or eliminate.

             Grocery stores have started offering discounts that one must "load onto your app" in lieu of bar code activation.  While I am ok with the compilation of a dossier building from analysis of all bar code scanned purchases, the app install strikes me as a trojan horse.  What kind of surveillance does the app generate, especially across multiple sites and commercial transactions having nothing to do with the grocery store?

             Comcast and Amazon, among other major ecommerce vendors, go out of their way to make it unduly complicated and time consuming to terminate or modify service.  The FTC recently sued Amazon for erecting an epic "Iliad" lengthy hassle to terminate a Prime subscription. See:;

             Finding news ways to reduce customer care has become the prime mission of way too many ventures.  They route calls to unqualified, offshore staff equipped with nothing but mindless scripts to recite.  Now, some have eliminated any option of interacting with a live person. See

             Vanguard Investments, which already accrues ample management fees from me, recently raised from $1 million to $5 million the amount required to secure a waiver of a $25 account servicing fee.  To avoid paying, clients must agree to receive all documents via email, including monthly statements.  How many of us maintain a file of hard copy statements for banking and other financial service transactions?  If not, are you content to have online access to prior statements?

             I guess Digital Natives and other non-curmudgeons have no affinity to paper.  I like reading the newspapers, magazine, and books on paper.  I consider it essential to maintain monthly hard copy statements of credit cards, etc. for budgeting and tax planning.

             Call me old, but also prudent.