Excalibur Online

Tech Crimes

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With new technologies come new ways to do old things, and some of them not always desirable. For example, separating other people from their goods and money has always been a popular activity. Some people will go straight up to you and demand your goods, but others will go at it in a sneaky way.

There's a joke that describes the colour of the iPod headphones as "mug-me-white," the idea being that iPods are more expensive than most competing MP3 players and therefore more appealing to thieves. The headphones on my somewhat less flashy and less expensive Rio Forge MP3 player are black. Good old leave-me-alone-I-can't-afford-an-iPod-black headphones. Or rather, I should say the headphones were black since I no longer have possession of them.

You see, I was robbed of them along with my MP3 player and money last night while walking to the bus stop from Scott Library. Well, the four gentlemen in question were nice enough to leave me with 22 cents, but decided to keep the rest - black headphones and all. Ha, well the joke's on them, as I seriously doubt that those headphones are going to work - given how violently they were ripped from my ears - but they seemed quite happy to have them all the same. Or perhaps they weren't, because one of these fine young men punched me in the jaw during our transaction; I suspect he wanted a nice, white and expensive iPod instead. Beware of people not wearing headphones, because they might want yours.

Speaking of greed, on a lighter note, I would like to describe another type of crime: Corporate crime against the consumer. I decided to cancel my Rogers Hi-Speed service a while ago and they made it extremely difficult to do so.

First of all, I did my homework and went online to see what the procedure is. The Rogers web site states that one should bring their cable modem to a Rogers Video store. Don't take it to the Rogers Centre, they won't help you. I dutifully unplugged the modem, carefully placed it into a bag and took it to the store. So I take my place in line - who knew there would be a line to cancel Rogers' oh-so excellent service, but there it was - and it was a long one. After reading a chapter of The Hobbit I luckily had with me in my bag, my number was called. Oh joy.

The first thing I was told was that since it was not my name on the bill (I share the service), the person whose name is on the bill has to personally come to the store and return the modem. I informed them that this was ridiculous, especially since I was the one that ordered the modem in the first place. Why am I allowed to add a service to the bill, but not to cancel it? This bit of logic was not readily accepted, but it turns out that if you repeat it enough times and loudly enough so others in the store will hear, you get your way.

So after this, it should be smooth sailing, right? I mean, Rogers had their fun punishing me for cancelling their service by making me wait in line and making me yell at their underpaid staff, but no; they bring out the paperwork. And I don't think they expect people to read this paperwork, because there are some rather odd statements in it, not the least of which says that I agree to pay a monthly fee for a second cable outlet. So I decide to play along and say, "But I don't want a second cable outlet, nor do I wish to pay a monthly fee for one," or something similar that may or may not have had profanities interspersed in it.

Well, they informed me, since you disconnected your modem, you now have an extra outlet hanging from your wall that we must charge you a rental fee for. After the obvious "Are you kidding?" questions, I found out that Rogers was, in fact, not kidding and proved it by billing me a fee for an extra outlet on my next bill. Of course, I offered to unscrew the cable from the wall, but they said I could not and I had to take a day off to wait for a technician to come to my place to unscrew the cable. The technician came, shook his head at what a waste of his time this all was and complained to me about how little he is paid by Rogers. He shared the exact figure with me, and let me tell you that he was right to complain.

So I'm annoyed, the technician is annoyed, the store employees were annoyed - and Rogers is laughing all the way to the bank.

What's interesting is that while violent crime is clearly punishable by law, theft at the stroke of a pen is greatly tolerated in our society. Corporate overlords use automated billing systems, "service charges"and all kinds of trickery to acquire our money, and we barely say a word. The technology and the legalities obscure something that isn't very different from common theft.

All I can say is that at least Rogers didn't punch me in the jaw.

Excalibur Naked Tech