After School Special: Booze Lotto Parenting
Sure, you love kids, so you gleefully punched out one, two or even octo-quantities of them. (Hint: Almost as many as a nine-round ammo clip.) But then, like a baby chick a few days after Easter Sunday, they stick around and are always underfoot, demanding attention and care.
It’s not like you can make a chicken-and-egg scrambled omelet with them and viola! Problem deliciously solved! (Although an amazing number of parents do find a way to carry out filicide but that’s decidedly outside the scope of this post.)
Like the vast majority of my blog posts, it all started when I decided to set foot out of my house…
Looking for some dinner my wife and I drove into the parking lot of the divey Chinese restaurant. The lot was amazingly full. What gives? The food must be awesome here, eh?
But when we walked into the dining area, only two tables were occupied. Huh?
That’s when I slapped my head and yelled, “D’oh!” I almost forgot I live in Oregon. That’s where they have a state-run lottery and run a continuous stream of commercials urging the citizenry to go out and gamble because doing so accomplishes “good things.” (Like increasing revenue into state coffers.)
Sure, they simultaneously run anti-gambling ads but that’s only because they like a mixed-up, dazed and confused populace. Let’s blast ’em with a hot mix of pro-gambling and anti-gambling messages … at the same time, they seem to be saying whilst rubbing their hands together in glee. That’ll learn ’em a lesson!
Indeed. What’s not good for the individual is apparently good for the state.
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Roll them Scrapples
My day job is negativist. In my spare time I try to earn some scrillas for survival. After that, the bulk of the remainder of my time is spent philosophizing and inventing. And pondering the ways of love. And packing lots and lots of boxes.
What I’m saying is I invented a new gambling game and I’m giving it to the world for free. In that way I’m just like the fellow that found the cure to polio and didn’t try to exploit it for big bucks.
Yeah, we need more gambling, so I hope this catches on.
Like most of my inventions, necessity turned out to be one fantastic mother. And, like most of our most harrowing tales, it all started one Christmas not too many years ago…
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Whole Lotta Lotto Goin’ On
It’s a banner year for Unfair Taxation of the Stupid (UFS or LOTTO for short).
I don’t have the economic data to back up the “banner” claim but who cares. I feel it in my gut. We just had a big jackpot which means were were subjected to all of the usual big-lotto-prize bullshit:
- Local news covering the “story” that people are buying more than the usual amount of lotto tickets.
- Chit chat from the UPS driver about $2 tickets and that no one from our state ever wins. (He was right.)
- Lots and lots of news articles on the internet about how winning can be bad. (Fuck you.)
- Blog posts up the ying-yang about how the ill-gotten booty would be spent.
- Nigeria and Facebook users teaming up to rock the scams like there’s no tomorrow.
- Excitement about who won and – do tell! – what are their plans?
I also see a lot of stories about all of the “good” that comes from government-sponsored gambling in the form of lotteries. “$X amount went to upgrade caskets for drowned puppies.” Well, la-dee-da! When I read that all I can see is: “Citizens in the great state of Iowa wasted $10x dollars by throwing their money in the nearest toilet.” That’s $10x not spend at local stores. That’s $10x not saved for retirement. That’s $10x not spent on their past due bills. That’s $10x not given to charity. That’s probably $10x money gone forever that most of the people who spent could ill afford to lose.
Wow. That is good.
They were talking about the lotto in the office. The boss made the mistake of asking me what I’d do if I won. “You’d never see me again,” I quipped. Sometimes I’m so damn proud of myself. Of course, I then immediately played it off like I was joking. It’s only a joke. Yeah. Right.
I thought about it for a moment and I said this. “I just read a story that says winning the lotto doesn’t necessary make people happier. I call bullshiats.”
This is what I’d do…
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Gambling For Jobs
With the invention of The Lotto, the government become a bookie. The state is now a purveyor of legalized gambling. Proponents tie the organization to positive benefits like funding schools and other governmental activities like parks.
But where does that money come from? People who gamble, methinks.
Governments have turned gambling into, what I like to call, “unfair taxation of the stupid.”
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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!
The non-smoking cloud
Some time back our state banned smoking in bars. It was day full of optimism for me. Then this week we were in the mood for a burger so we decided to try one of these bars that we never would have visited back when smoking was still allowed.
We’d been to this particular establishment a few times before only because they were hosting certain charitable events. The smoky atmosphere was a serious gross out and we’d coming home coughing and our clothes reeked. It was disgusting.
This time when we walked in we noticed the air was noticeably fresher. How nice!
We placed our order and enjoyed a few minutes of the regional football team on the plethora of TVs.
Soon I noticed, however, that I was coughing again. I looked around but no one was smoking. It took me a minute to figure out the problem, then it dawned on me. A lot of people in there still reeked of cigarettes. The disgusting smell that clung to them was affecting me, just like the smoky cloud used to, only to a lesser degree. Amazing. “That’s just fantastic,” I thought. “Even when the place is non-smoking they still find a way to fuck it over.”
There was the one guy walking around who always had an unlit cigarette in his mouth. I imagined it was his little form of protest over the goddamn law that made the bar non-smoking in the first place. His quivering lips and tongue would fidget with his little unlit phallic symbol incessantly. Then he’d dart out to the patio for about 60 seconds and be back inside with a fresh batch of smell and another unlit ciggy back between his lips. Talk about an oral fixation.
The “outdoor” patio itself was visible through a big plate-glass window so thoughtfully provided. The patio was a section of former parking lot converted into a smoking area with walls that made it a tightly enclosed space. From where I sat I had a clear view of the people out there smoking away within the thick lingering clouds of their own toxic wastes. Such a lovely site to enjoy while dining on your burger, enjoying a cold one and watching the game. An understated elegance of ambiance to be sure.
Behind our table was the bank of state-run gambling machines that was a constant hive of bustle and activity. We could smell everyone as they walked by and frantically plugged their money in. Alcohol, smoking and gambling – three things that seem to meld into the perfect storm of civility. The earnest gamblers would hop from their seats and walk with urgency to the patio door, much like someone who needed to use the potty but had held it too long. Within minutes they’d be back pounding the “gimmie money” buttons on those stupid machines.
All in all it was a thoroughly disgusting experience. I could only laugh at the inanity of the “no smoking in bars” law. Like always humans had found a way to taint and destroy that which should have been good. Later while getting undressed and pulling my tshirt over my head, I noticed that my clothes still had that reeking smell. Just lovely.