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50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful expose that calls for some sort of action, January 8, 2008
This review is from: Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About It (Paperback)
Technology writer Bob Sullivan has compiled a powerful accounting of the various ways that American consumers are routinely being screwed by companies large and small. The driving force behind this explosion of unfair business practices is computer technology and the shift to an online/database economy: economic transactions are essentially invisible now, and it is much easier for profit-driven companies to simply make up a bunch of fees or "service charges" when no actual services are being provided, and tack them onto our already-expensive bills. Even that tiny fraction of consumers who figure out the scams will find it hard to get the bogus fees refunded, and the vast majority of consumers will either be unaware of how they're being ripped off, or will be too tired or busy to object.

Sullivan explains and documents with great clarity how companies have scientifically researched the most effective methods for hiding bogus fees, and what the tipping point are, so that they steal tiny amounts from millions of customers, but in ways that these customers either won't detect, or understand. And it doesn't matter if you catch one company ripping you off: they all do it, so there's really nowhere for consumers to turn. Don't like your cell phone company? Of course not, but is it worth it to drop them and go to another? Probably not, since they're all total crooks.

While this book does a great job cataloging these injustices, it leaves open the question of what we can actually do about it. The book promises readers that they can save $1000.00 if they know how to guard against various unfair business practices. What is really needed, however, is legal protection against these fraudulent and deceptive practices. Hopefully this book may do for digital-age consumers what "Silent Spring" did for the environmental movement: spur politicians, citizens and citizen activists to rein in the insane greed of these large and powerful companies, and pass legislation that has some actual teeth to it. Otherwise, the hopelessness and passivity that these companies are counting on will continue, and we will all lose out.

I definitely recommend that as many people as possible read this book, take it to heart, and get our leaders to do something to correct the problems it describes. (Joe Sixpack)
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 20, 2008 8:23:17 AM PST
Just Me says:
re: "I definitely recommend that as many people as possible read this book, take it to heart, and get our leaders to do something to correct the problems it describes."

I don't know that I want big government trying to fix big business. Big government is, as you recall, responsible for bringing us bridges to nowhere, graduated income tax, and all manner of far-reaching legislation that they really have no business getting involved with. The answer is education and this book is the first step. Recently I cancelled a Citibank card. They tried every imaginable ploy to keep me feeding the credit leech. They offered free this and free that and reduced rate this and that. I finally had to ask "What don't you understand about 'NO!' ". It must have made a dent because it only took five more minutes of arguing to get a confirmation that my account was closed. About a week later I heard Citibank took about a ten billion dollar quarterly loss. Heh. Now they know how it feels!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2008 8:42:39 PM PST
Sorry: I do believe in government. I know there has been a concerted effort to discredit and undermine the concept of government and the social contract in general -- I think that effort has contributed greatly to the mess we are in today. One of Sullivan's main points is that a "free market" doesn't mean a free-for-all, or complete, rapacious greed, which is what we have now. I'd rather have governmental intervention, with all its shortcomings, than simply leaving us at the tender mercies of heartless corporations. They simply do not have our common interest at heart, and uncoordinated individual protests such as you describe really ain't gonna cut it.

Posted on Feb 3, 2008 7:39:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 3, 2008 7:45:27 AM PST
Brent Fox says:
Sorry Joe, but what "Silent Spring" did for the world was bring about hundreds of thousands of deaths in the third world. By bringing about the outlawing of DDT thereby, allowing horrible diseases to return that had all but been eliminated from the world. I don't think anyone has been responsible for more death and, disease that the author of "Silent Spring" Rachel Carson. Her legacy still haunts the world and, will for decades to come.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 21, 2008 4:51:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 21, 2008 4:51:30 AM PST
From WikiPedia article on Rachel Carson:

Reactions to environmentalism and DDT restrictions

Carson and the environmental movement were-and continue to be-criticized by some conservatives, who argue that restrictions placed on pesticides have caused needless deaths and hampered agriculture, and more generally that environmental regulation unnecessarily restricts economic freedom. For example, the conservative magazine Human Events gave Silent Spring an honorable mention for the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries".

Carson's attack on DDT has come under the most intense fire. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration sought to undo as much of the environmental legacy of the 1960s and 1970s as possible, and Carson and her work were obvious targets. Political scientist Charles Rubin was one of the most vociferous critics in the 1980s and 1990s, though he accused her merely of selective use of source and fanaticism (rather than the more severe criticism Carson received upon Silent Spring's release). In the 2000s, critics have claimed that Carson is responsible for millions of malaria deaths, because of the DDT bans her work prompted. Some have attributed as many as 100 million deaths to Carson's legacy, though biographer Mark Hamilton Lytle finds these estimates very unrealistic, even assuming that Carson can be "blamed" for worldwide DDT policies, and suggests that malaria is much less significant than a number of other widespread preventable public health problems in Africa. Carson never actually called for an out-right ban on DDT.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2009 8:08:41 PM PST
Gregory says:
Just Me, the "Bridge to Nowhere" was brought to you by Sarah Palin and the rest of Alaska's GOP politicians. The same ones who claim to be opposed to "big government" when the government tries to regulate big business, but all for it when they try to control the rest of us.

The graduated income tax is why you and I don't pay the same tax rate as Bill Gates.

But, you're 100% correct about Citibank. Maybe the government should regulate them?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2009 8:26:19 PM PST
Dang right I want big government to rein in big business - they're the only ones who can. And guess what? You have a say in government with your vote. What say do you have in altering the practices of big business? Next to none - if you refuse to do business with them (assuming you're not already locked into a contractual relationship where you don't have a choice), they just find the next guy to swindle...
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