Day 1

Theres a certain romance attached to arriving in Europe with a backpack full of clothes and no plans. Its one of the most stereotypical expressions of freedom and soul-searching there is. Unfortunately, it no longer seems to be approved by the British government. I got up to customs today with a blank space on my address in the United Kingdom card, since I honestly didnt have an answer. The agent asked me where I was staying, I said I didnt know yet, he asked how long I would be staying in Britain, I said probably a few days, he asked if I had tickets out of the country, I said yes but theyre electronic so I dont have them on me, he asked if I would be going to any other countries, I said maybe but I didnt know when, I was just planning on backpacking around.

Then he flipped the fuck out and started almost-yelling at me in the customs area, something about how it looks from his end or something and how just backpacking around isnt good enough. How it looks from his end? Why doesnt it look like Im a 20-something looking to do a little self discovery? Perhaps Im still a little bitter and biased, but I just dont see how that looks. Like Im a terrorist? What terrorist would be stupid enough to make themselves that conspicuous? Like Im not legitimitely in the country? I dont see how what Im doing when I get there has to do with my legitimacy entering it. Luckily my ass was saved by my friend in Cambridge who I am in fact planning on seeing at some point, which is somehow enough to qualify for an address.

On a much, much lighter note, there are some awesome storefronts to be seen in the area around my hotel, including a Scientology center, a technology store called Guiltronics, and a lingerie store whose logo looks like the Apple logo with an additional bite taken out of it.

I talk fancy.

A Pulitzer prize-winning author once described me as a “sensual writer.” Of course, this was in the context of “you gotta look out for those sensual writers,” as their engaging language will trick you from realizing that their plot actually sucks.

I really like utilizing the English language to its fullest, and I’m always happy when I run across a new word to add to my vocabulary. I realize, however, that sometimes I take this a little too far… Presented here is a sentence taken from an actual email that I wrote to a friend while we were planning a vacation.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am shallow enough so that the aesthetics of the hotel may play a significant part in my appreciation of a vacation.

Reading over the email again, I paused as I reread that phrase. This 28 word, 150 character, sentence can be translated to:

I like it ’cause it’s pretty.

::sigh::

A True National Hero

What are the qualities that define a hero?

Other than superhuman powers, wicked cool technology, and blood-flow-constricting spandex, they all stick it to the man in defense of the little guy. Sometimes this happens in real life, too.

Mary Bach, a consumer advocate from Pennsylvania, has made it a personal crusade to protect the rights of the average consumer from the monolithic giants of retail. Angered by the careless disregard for our money, she has taken such companies as WalMart, KMart, and CVS(-Mart?) to court over repeated & illegal overcharges.

Such corporate transgressions include:

Charging $0.28 tax on toilet paper, a non-taxable item

A $3 item ringing up as $5 dollars, repeatedly, despite being informed of the error

Charging $5.60 in illegal sales tax on a pair of digital converter boxes

Now, to be fair, she was the one being directly wronged in these instances, but since all the stores failed to correct the problem after she informed them, the problem obviously applies to everyone who buys toilet paper. (which, we should hope, is mostly everyone)

Every time Bach goes to small claim courts she files for minimal damages, to the tune of $100 + court fees. Money is clearly not the issue, but it’s so nice to know that someone is paying enough attention to their receipts to notice when these stores don’t care to notice how much they’re wrongly charging their customers. Whether or not these overcharges are intentional, it says a lot about the direction of retail that customers are too busy to notice or care about paying $0.28 in tax when they don’t have to. It’s not a lot of money on a single receipt, but when Walmart is running ads telling consumers they can save $700 per year, it’s clear that the idea of making savings out of change is becoming a pretty big deal. It makes me pretty angry to think that stores encourage people to shop around to find the difference between a $7 item and a $6.50 item and then think nothing out of charging $0.50 illegal tax on that $6.50 item. It’s just another pathetic example of corporations pulling the wool over the eyes of their customers and taking advantage of that demographic of over-stressed, under-paid people who just want to put food on the table and toilet paper in the bathroom. Which is a pretty damn big one.

I can’t seem to find anywhere whether or not the stores actually changed their ways after these lawsuits, but my guess would be the money they make from overcharging nickels and dimes is a lot more than losing $100 and change. A valiant effort, nonetheless – one which will hopefully raise the indignancy of the general population to a level where big-retail can no longer get away with stuff like this. Maybe. Someday. Until then, I’ll just go right on being angry.

Against all advice, I’m starting a blog.

After I have repeatedly heard how blogging is a dying form of communication, and even microblogging is being oversaturated, here I am starting a blog. I certainly have my reasons, though they’re of no business of yours. Being a super dork I’m rather excited about fiddling with this thing and will likely skin it no end. Most importantly though, I find it impossible to express any of my thoughts in 140 characters or less.