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August 2011 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

August 2011 - Posts

  • Do you care about being tracked?

    I find the idea of living "off the grid" very appealing -- just a person in a shack in the woods, making their own food, generating electricity (or going without) and being quite free from society. I doubt I will ever fully be that person in the shack, but I don't like the idea of the government or marketers or my internet company (or anyone else for that matter!) knowing what I'm doing all the time. 

    There have been a lot of articles in the news lately about how marketers track Internet users in order to put targeted pop-up ads in their path. And today I read an article about how the CIA has been working with the NYPD to infiltrate minority (read Islamic) neighborhoods and monitor people. I'm not doing anything sneaky or suspicious or treasonous, but I still like my privacy just fine, and the idea of anyone (especially big businesses) knowing my every movement just doesn't sit right with me.

     Some steps I'm taking?

    I try to always pay cash for stuff, so I don't have a big banking trail.

    I think about abandoning (but have not yet abandoned) my grocery store rewards card.

    I've installed ad-blocker software on my computer -- those marketers may still know where I'm going, but I don't see any ads at all (and it's great).

    Does anyone else have any tips for getting off the grid? I'm sure not using a computer/internet is probably a prime way to have more privacy and liberty, but I'm not ready for that step quite yet!

  • How no TV has changed my shopping habits

    It's been about a year since I sold my television, dvd player, and antenna at a tag sale. I have not missed having a tv AT ALL. I kept some favorite DVDs that I watch from time to time on the computer (maybe 5 times since last August), and I have watched Hoarders, 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theater on my computer. But I go weeks and months without seeing a moving filmed image.

    Today I accompanied someone to a drugstore that I don't normally shop at. I used to love going to drugstores and seeing all the "fun" lotions and hair notions and new products. Today,I had absolutely no interest in looking at new products, smelling containers, or buying a thing. I didn't feel like I was missing out by not knowing the new brands or products, and I felt absolutely no desire to pick up, inspect or purchase junk I didn't need. I think this must be related to the lack of advertising in my life. I listen to public radio or cassettes in the car, I don't watch tv, the shows I watch on the laptop don't have ads, and I have adblocker software on my computer. I see ads in the New Yorker and Elle Decor magazines, but the things they advertise are so far beyond my means that the ads are more like abstract art than a call to shop. I haven't seen an ad for a beauty product in a very long time.

    It was a wonderful realization in the store --- the store is there to supply me with things I truly need (and really use) when I have run out of them. It is not there to introduce me to new things that I do not need. And if I'm not being bombarded with advertisements (and television shows themselves) telling me that I need the newest this or that to be an average person, then I don't think I need that or this -- I know what I need it, and I get it when it runs out. What a concept!

  • Local vs. National banks

    About two years ago, I opened a Bank of America checking and savings account. I had received something in the mail offering $100 if I opened the account. I'd had an account with a local bank for about ten years, and planned to just open the Bank of America account, do the ten transactions or whatever was needed to get the money, and then close it. I found I liked BoA's online banking system (for paying bills) better than my old bank, and I liked how they rounded up transactions and put the money into savings. So I closed my local bank accounts and just used Bank of America. I was fairly happy, although I never seemed to be able to reconcile the account -- transactions seemed to pop up and then disappear. The online services were great, but the in-person service was pretty bad. They seemed to want to push customers to do everything themselves (use the ATM instead of tellers, use online services rather than in person customer service), but I dealt with it. Plus, there are BoA ATMs everywhere, so I never had to worry about a fee for using the ATM. I hated the Merrill-Lynch advertising on the online site, and I certainly think of myself as someone who prefers local banks, but I didn't really see myself going through the hassle of closing the account.

    This spring, I started a new part-time job and the HR person told me that if I opened an account with (a different) local bank and had my paycheck direct deposited, I'd get $100. Again, I figured I'd just try it out and then close it. But the service at this local bank is fantastic.They sent me a hand-written thank you card for opening my account with them. They don't try to up-sell me every time I walk in the door. There are always plenty of tellers, and they seem genuinely happy to be working at the bank. As with BoA, there are no monthly fees, and my online bill pay is quick and easy. For a while, I thought I'd just keep the two accounts, because my mortgage is with BoA and it's easy to pay it each month by dragging the money from one account to the other. But it got to be a hassle divvying up paychecks between the two banks, so I decided to close the BoA account.

    I went into one branch and the one and only customer service rep (non-teller) who could close the account for me was with a customer and had another waiting. I went into another branch, and the one and only customer service rep was with a customer and I waited 15 minutes to be seen. While I was waiting, two people in line disputed their transactions, and one person stormed off because the ATM wasn't working. Seeing all this unhappiness definitely reinforced my belief that I made the right decision.

     I'm looking forward to just having one place for my checking and meager savings to live. And I'm happy to support a local bank that makes an effort to thank me for my business.

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