The conn of the fox
After three plus decades in the PC/IBM-compatible world, I recently acquired two Apple computers. I plan to blog a bit later about the transition from one world to the other.
Apple products are sleek, stylish, elegant, quiet, cool and fun to use. My last PC computer was the size of a small suitcase and I paid extra money for the “super quiet” case. Yet it sounded like a 747 taking off and we practically had to yell over the noise when in my office. By comparison my Apple “Mac Mini” is so small that it sits on my desk and I didn’t even realize it was a computer at first. I mistook it for an external hard drive. The size and the fact that it made absolutely no noise at all was deceptive.
“The facilities at Foxconn are fine, but the management is poor. Hundreds of people work in the workshops but they are not allowed to talk to each other. If you talk, you get a black mark in your record and you get shouted at by your manager. You can also be fined.”
–An investigator of Foxconn’s Longhua plant
So, for the first time in my life, I’ve signed up as an Apple customer, I’ve made purchases from the Apple store, and I’ve received three shipments so far from Apple. And I’ve noticed that their boxes, sleek and stylish also, say things like “Designed in California.”
The phrase “designed in” is, of course, a euphemism for “made outside the U.S.A.” At my former employer we sold apparel products in our store that had large labels sewn into the garments. These labels were representations of the flag of the United States. In smaller print, under the flag, were the words “Designed in the U.S.A.” I often wondered if this actually worked on the non-critical thinkers out there. I guess that approach must work on some. The garment was actually made in Pakistan but I wondered how many purchasers actually realized that.
Some shoppers would make it very clear they only wanted “made in the USA.” I’d say great, and show them to the rack of USA garments. These were, however, about three times the cost for the same item. And, I’ll be painfully honest here, were not of the same quality as the items made in Pakistan. Sad. Even the most hardcore patriotic shopper withered in the face of such facts.
So my Apple products proudly proclaimed that they were “designed in California.” A check of the label told the rest of the story. “Made in China.” No big surprise there. It’s the age old story of companies wanting consumers with American dollars purchasing their products but not wanting to pay American workers to produce them. And it’s not just Apple. My Google toys were also made in China.
A few days later a news story about Apple caught my eye. It seems that their products made in China are handled by a company known as Foxconn. And, in 2010, “nearly a dozen” Foxconn workers committed suicide, some by jumping from buildings. In fact, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tim Cook, the man likely to fill the shoes of Steve Jobs, personally visited Foxconn in 2010 to improve “working conditions” there. Cook was accompanied on his visit by “two leading experts” on suicide.
For its part, Foxconn also took action. Among other brilliant ideas it began attaching large nets to buildings, Apple said. Is it just me or does that seem like treatment of the symptom? Sure, you could fix the underlying problems that lead some to think suicide is a solution or, even better, just try to catch more of them before they hit the ground and cause annoying negative publicity.
Foxconn also hired counselors.
So nets and counselors, eh? Both of these solutions are decidedly aimed at workers. But where is any indication that Foxconn is willing to fix itself and improve working conditions? Sadly I can’t find evidence of that in the news reports I’ve seen.
Apple reported that it found 91 underage workers. Not a good sign of a responsible culture.
It was also reported that some of the materials used to produce its products, like tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold may not be “fair trade.” In other words, those products may be sourced from regions where armed conflict and/or human rights abuses are known to be occurring.
Apple said it had required companies to reimburse $3.4 million in “recruiting fees” to workers. Yeah, employees had to pay bribes for the right to be mistreated workers.
Chinese environmental groups recently released a report critical of Apple saying that the company didn’t do enough to address health and environmental concerns at its manufacturing plants. In one case, they claimed a worker at a Wintek Corp. plant had nerve damage caused by a chemical known as n-Hexane. Apple said it required Wintek to stop using n-Hexane after 137 workers had experienced health problems after exposure to the chemical.
It seems to me that a job has to be pretty poor indeed if that many workers think the only way out is to die. Last year, the Telegraph reported that 16 workers jumped, 12 died, and that 20 more people were caught and stopped by the company before they could jump.
Personally, when I eat a plate of food, perhaps a little chicken, I like to know that the chicken had a pretty good life, at least by chicken standards. At least up to the point where it was killed to become my dinner. I’d like to think it lived free and enjoyed the sorts of things that chickens enjoy. What I absolutely do not want to hear is that the chicken was mutilated at birth, kept in a tiny box for its entire life, and was forced to stay awake and eat under bright lights 20 hours a day. Some say God put animals on Earth for humans to use, but that’s just taking things too damn far.
I feel something similar about my shiny new Apple products. I’d like to know with certainty that the company I’ve chosen doesn’t abuse human beings. Even those in other countries. I’d like to know that the employees were paid a fair wage, given things like reasonable breaks, had safe working conditions and were treated with dignity and respect. I’d like to know that workers weren’t pushed to work 70 hours a week or subjected to so much stress that they “twitched” during their off hours.
Is that too much too ask?
- Apple sent top exec to China after rash of suicides at supplier plant
- Inside Foxconn’s suicide factory
Quick. You have to quicheck this quiout before it is too quilate!
Hurry, there are only a matter of seconds left. Act fast or you will lose!
Are you ready for QuiBids???
Johnny, tell ’em what they are playing for!
Product: Nikon D5000 Camera & Lens
Description: “The D5000’s 24-fps HD D-Movie mode with sound captures video clips with amazing clarity–offering new and exciting creative opportunities.”
Value Price: $699.00.
Opening Bid: 2 cents (Holy mother of God and WTF?)
What in the name of an aborted eBay is going on here?
Yep, just when you thought shopping was too easy and simple, along comes QuiBids, to capitalize on shopping excitement and cash in on basic human traits like addiction, compulsion, greed, and competition.
If you haven’t heard of QuiBids before, here’s how it works.
First, you sign up as a member and fork over your credit card data and purchase a “Starter Account” consisting of 100 “bids” for $60.00. This entitles you to visit the QuiBids site and click the “Bid” button 60 times. In other words, each bid costs you 60 cents.
If you bid on an item, like a iMac computer, for $35.54 and no one outbids you, you win the item. QuiBids brags about auctions like this iMac and the “95% saved” right on their web site. Just go pay the amount of the winning bid, in this case $35.54, and a shiny new iMac computer is yours.
Whoa! Hold on. This isn’t your grandparent’s eBay. Things work just a skosh differently on QuiBids.
First, win or lose, every time you click that “Bid” button you are spending money. You are giving up one of your pre-paid “Bids.” Think of “Bids” like poker chips in a casino. Just like a casino, QuiBids wants you to disassociate your actions from how you would feel if you were paying real money. Imagine if that “Bid” button read “Pay 60 Cents” instead. That wouldn’t do at all, would it?
Second, actions never end until 20 seconds have elapsed without bids. And every time you click the “Bid” button new seconds are put back on the clock to give other people the chance to outbid you. If you are a veteran auction sniper then QuiBids is a wet dream for you. The entire system is based on sniping.
So, let’s take a look at how a typical auction works.
The one that caught my eye today was that Nike D5000 Camera. I stumbled across it when the auction was at $22.00. QuiBids had my attention (to say the least).
I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, though. I smelled danger. If something seems too good to be true it usually is. I went looking for the catch. There always is one.
The catch is the two points I just explained above. Each bid costs 60 cents and each bid extends the clock. Additionally each bid raises the new bid amount by the increment for the item, which is shown in the corner of the image. On the Nikon D5000 the bidding increment is 2 cents.
It has now been hours since I first spotted that camera. The wife and I literally showered and went downtown for lunch and came back home. The action is still running!
The current bid amount is $91.24. Still a good deal on a $699 camera, right?
Ah, my favorite part the post has arrived. It’s time for some math!
According to the QuiBids video I just watched, all items are listed at $0.00 and have a bid increment. Let’s say we want to calculate QuiBid’s profit on an item. After all, they are entitled to a little something for services rendered and managing the auction, right?
SOLD PRICE / BIDDING INCREMENT * BID COST = PROFIT$$$
Let’s plug in the numbers for the Nikon D5000 I’m watching right now. Yes, it has gone up in price as I composed this post.
$93.00 / $.02 * $.60 = $2,790.00
Profit??? Indeed! Not a bad amount to collect in fees on an item that retails for $699.00. Don’t forget that the wholesale cost for the item is probably closer to $400. (That’s a wild ass guess on my part.)
QuiBids has got to gets paid, yo. Skillz to pay the billz.
Let’s look at one more auction that just closed. The item is “Dragon Cinch Sunglasses.” The so-called “value price” is $74.95. The bidding increment was 2 cents and the item sold for $1.52. Even on this laughably puny auction QuiBids still pocketed $45.60 in bidding fees. Wow! (The wholesale cost on the item might have been around $45.)
But Wait, There’s More
Even if you lose the auction, QuiBids isn’t content to let you, the bidding fish, off the hook so easily. So you can apply the value of your bids wasted in a losing effort towards “Buy It Now.” In other words, if you entered 10 bids on an item but still lost the auction, just go buy the item and convert those wasted bids into a $6.00 credit off the retail price. A win-win. Or, as QuiBids describes it on their web site, “This way there is no bid that is ever wasted on QuiBids.” Of course that assumes every auction loser goes and pays full price.
Basic Human Pyschology
I previously mentioned human traits like “greed” and “addiction.” How does QuiBids push these buttons?
First, every bidder has a username and a cutsey little avatar to represent them in this QuiBids version of Tron.
Each time you click the “Bid” button your name gets flashed on the screen as the “Current Winner.” Oooooh, I just “won” something? Yes, the right to see your own username on your monitor for 1-20 seconds or so. Exciting, eh?
The current high bidder is always referred to as a “winner” whether the auction is over or not. I find that to be rather insidious.
When QuiBids says someone is the “Current Winner” they are hoping (and knowing) that people will key on the word “winner” even though in the context “Current” is the only word with any actual meaning. 99% of all bids will be outbid and that’s the moment when “winners” become “losers.” Gee whiz, for the life of me, I can’t imagine why they don’t flash that on the screen. D’oh.
To emphasize even more that QuiBids is merely a game there is even something called “Achievements.” You’ll find this word gets its own real estate on the site’s main menu bar. Once clicked, you’ll be taken to a page with subtle hints like a giant scoreboard (is QuiBids a sport?) and the word “Gameday” written on it. Using the achievements system you can earn little graphics called “Badges” that your competitors can see with your online profile. This allows QuiBids customers to identify which competitors are the biggest idiots. But the pyschology at work is still significant. “Let’s turn spending bids on QuiBids into game.”
This is sounding more and more like a casino, isn’t it. Perhaps QuiBids should be legally required to disclose that bidding is for “entertainment purposes only.” Just like a stripper pole, only there you actually get something.
Closing Thoughts – A Peek Behind the Curtain
In the end, QuiBids is just another form of gambling. Somehow online casinos are outlawed and even games like Holdem Poker have to be hosted on shady criminal islands so that compulsive Americans can illegally gamble. But QuiBids has found a way to make it all legal. I think. I’m not really sure if it’s legal or not. The fact that it’s online doesn’t prove shit.
Welp, I’d like to say that I’ll see you all next time but the truth is I’ll be gone from the blog for a while. I’m investing next month’s rent check into QuiBids. Wish me luck!
P.S. That Nikon D5000 auction is still going and at $103.96. I bet it goes longer than the Energizer bunny!
More Beatles songs to be used in marketing
Now that the Beatles library has been whored out to the highest bidder, I thought we could brainstorm more uses for the library. Here are some ideas:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
Americans For Prosperity
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down on her head.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure she was dead.
Sears Craftsman Tools
She’s so heavy…
Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centers
Why don’t we do it in the road?
No one will be watching us.
Why don’t we do it in the road?
Goodyear Tires and/or Mr. Goodwrench
Sitting a corn flake, waiting for the van to come
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
Well, she was just 17,
You know what I mean,
And the way she looked was way beyond compare.
So how could I dance with another (ooh)
When I saw her standin’ there.
Roman Polanski legal defense team
I’m trying to think of more, but I’m stumped. What others can you come up with???