In RS's defense, the kit you're referring to is the Make magazine's Raspberry Pi starter kit, for $130. I looked it up and it is the same price Make sells it for. It includes the Pi, power brick and MicroUSB cable, breadboard, cable to go from it's GPIO pins to the breadboard, an SD card, jumpers, components, and I believe a case. Is it overpriced? A little, but for someone who is looking to buy a starter kit rather than sourcing the parts on their own, it isn't that bad. Personally I think it is great that they're stocking them. I hope it gets more exposure to young kids in there while their parents are looking for the latest cell phone. Where they fall short now is they don't have anything to really take someone beyond the kit.
I needed a new MicroUSB cable to charge my phone the other day. I walked into radio shack and the cheapest one they had was $20. For a stupid cheap MicroUSB cable. The local convenience stores have cables for $7. It has MiniUSB, MicroUSB, and the 30 pin apple connector on the same cable so it will charge nearly every device. And RS wonders why they're failing. It is a sad day when a convenience store, known to have high markups because of the convenience factor, has a better price than the place that should have be best deals because it is their specialty.
When I was growing up, Radio Shack had an entire wall dedicated to electronics components, kits, 300 in One educational kits, etc. Tons of RC cars, walkie-talkies, scanners, even a few pieces of ham radio gear. Lots of good stereo equipment too. Most of the employees were ham radio operators who knew electronics and could answer any question you had, or point you to a buddy that was an electronics engineer somewhere that could. I used to love picking up a couple copies of their catalog every year, and would drool over things in it all year long.
They talked about getting "back to the roots" but they've not done anything to actually do that. Sure they added some Make kits, but that's about it. If they want to be marketable they need to add not only the make kits, but the components needed to actually do something with them. I can walk in and get a Raspberry Pi starter kit for $130, but no servos, no OneWire temperature sensors, no addressable LEDs, etc. They used to have project enclosures of all shapes and sizes, but now they have 1 or 2 and that is it.
Sadly Radio Shack today is nothing but an oversize cell phone kiosk. You walk in to buy a cable, and all they want to do is get your cell phone number so they can "check your account for available upgrades." They need to go back and actually serve the hobbyists as they have, or they need to close. As much as I'd hate to see a chunk of my past go away, it is better than watching it suffer.
Part of the problem in my opinion is the way they're metering it. Take my cell phone for example. I get to "choose" ahead of time how much data I think I'll need for the following month. Right now my family is able to stay under 2GB every month. I could go the next step up and choose the 4GB plan for another $10 per month, or 6 GB for an additional $20 per month. The problem is I don't know what my data usage is going to be. What if I take an unexpected trip for work and the WiFi is unreliable. What if we go on a trip and send a lot of pictures back and forth to family members. I'm faced with a couple choices. I can leave the data plan where it is, and hope we don't end up going over. If we do, I'm charged at $15 per GB for overage. Oh, it's the last day of the billing cycle, and you used 300K too much? Too bad, pay $15, and no your extra data you just paid for doesn't roll over to the next month. I could bump up my data plan to the next notch if I know I'm going out of town, but then if don't actually end up going over the usual plan, I paid extra for the privilege of *maybe* going over. Again, no refund or carry-over.
I don't have to worry about that for my electricity. It is 100% metered, and I like it that way. There are no pre-planned packages, I use what I need and I pay for what I use every month. The billing unit is small enough that I don't fret over it. If cellular and/or hardline data providers would do something similar I think they'd see a lot less resistance to implementing metered billing. I use about 300 GB in a 30 day period on my home Cable connection. I'm not a light user, but I'm not what I'd consider a high-usage user either. Most of my data usage comes from the family using Netflix for the primary video choice. If I run the math, I'm paying on average of 20 cents per GB. If my service were metered at a similar price, I wouldn't lose any sleep worrying if I used an extra few hundred megs.
Honestly I wish my cellular provider did bill in this manner but billed on a KB or MB unit. I hate worrying at the end of the month if I am going to wind up paying an extra $15 and only being able to use a small fraction of what I just paid for.
They're more than welcome to move to Iran, Afghanistan, or North Korea. After they've been there for a year, they can come back and I'll be happy to discuss the merits with them.
Why not? If the law of the land requires all of it citizens to carry a certain coverage, and therefore all of the employers to provide said coverage, they shouldn't be exempt. It has been determined time and again that laws trump religious beliefs in most cases. There are people out there that refuse to pay taxes due to their religious beliefs. They get prosecuted for tax evasion. Some religions practice polygamy. Other than some grey area in Utah right now, it has been determined in court to actually be illegal and people get prosecuted. Otherwise what is to stop me from founding my own religion that says I can marry 10 women, make my own weed-infused moonshine, and ignore speeding laws? If I want to partake in those activities, counter to local law, I can either move somewhere that looks fondly upon such activities, or face the legal consequences of doing so here.
If this particular belief is so near and dear to them, they can make the same choices. They are free to move their business to another country where they aren't required to offer contraceptive coverage, or they can stay here and face the consequences.
I don't understand why the religious people are so up in arms about this. Are they getting some non-negligible discount on their current insurance plans because they don't offer contraceptive coverage? Logic says it would be the opposite because lack of availability of inexpensive contraceptives has proven to increase birth rates, and that is a lot bigger expense for insurance to cover. Just move to an ACA-compliant plan, and don't announce the "new" coverage. If the employees want to research and use that benefit on their own, that is their burden.
Just because a plan offers contraceptive care doesn't mean the employees are forced to use it. My plan has coverage for inpatient drug rehab. When that coverage was added it didn't make me go out and start smoking meth. Adding birth control coverage isn't mandating that these employees go out and start taking the pill. Do the employers have agents follow their employees around when they shop to make sure they don't buy condoms?
These employers need to understand that they don't own their employees. They have no say over what goes on in the bedroom when the employee isn't working. They can't force their employees to follow their beliefs. If an employee makes the decision that it is better for their family to use contraceptives to delay children (or prevent more) then that decision is between them and their particular deity.
I'm familiar with Ting. I have a phone with them (my old Sprint Hero) for my "tween" daughter. I decided to give her a phone for her birthday, and contacted Sprint about adding her on with our existing plan. Despite already having a phone, meaning no "free" phone needing a subsidy, they still refused to add her line without a 2 year contract. Sprint yet again shot themselves in the foot.
That said I have not tried roaming with her phone on Ting, but I'll take your word for it that it works. She has traveled to see her grandma with her phone and it worked for her, but I wasn't with her to see if it was roaming or not. We have data disabled (She has Wi-Fi wherever she needs it) so that wouldn't have made a difference anyway. My wife's phone and my phone are both to the point of needing to be replaced. She is always hard on her phones, and while I'm usually great on my phones it did have a freak accident a couple of months back and shattered the screen. It still works, but it is time to replace it once I figure out what I'm doing. When I do the math on Ting, it would actually cost us quite a bit more based on our existing usage models. I use my phone a lot for work data wise, and my brother's phone uses a ton of minutes due to the custom farm work he does. If Ting had free mobile-to-mobile calling it would probably be cheaper if we modified our data habits a bit.
I've considered that route. You are correct in that Virgin is a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) using Sprint's network. The kicker for us is that MVNOs (on Sprint anyway) will not roam to another carrier if signal gets too low. For example, with Sprint Proper service, if I get into an area where Sprint coverage doesn't exist, my phone happily roams over to Verizon's network. I travel to some locations for work (within a couple hours drive) on a fairly regular basis that have zero Sprint coverage. If I were to switch to Virgin, I'd have no cell service at all when in those areas.
That said, the roaming threshold settings in Sprint phones is horrible. If there is any Sprint signal whatsoever, even if it is unusable for a call, my phone will not switch to Verizon's tower. I can be standing next to someone with a Verizon phone, full signal, while mine is at one bar flickering. If they had some intelligent roaming configured I'd probably be staying with Sprint rather than most likely switching.
When I switched to Sprint from AT&T, it was nearly half the price for 2 "smart" phones with data and one "feature" phone. Sure Sprint's coverage was nowhere near as good, but for the price difference it was worth it since it worked OK in most of the places I was at anyway. Over time their signal quality has not improved, actually I'd say it's degraded quite a bit, and their pricing has gone up. If I were to renew my contract on the plans they offer today, I'd be within $10 per month of Verizon's plans with the amount of data we actually use. Add to this the fact that Sprint doesn't have LTE in my area, yet they only offer new phones with LTE data, not the older WiMax 4G. I'd have to downgrade my data speed to "early upgrade" our phones, and they aren't offering any kind of discount until LTE is in place. They won't even give an estimate of when LTE will be available. I talked to a Sprint rep a couple of weeks ago and was told they have tower techs working in this area, but they were working on a 3G capacity expansion, not an LTE upgrade.
I've been with Sprint now for about 10 years, but unless something changes (in a big way) in the next 5 months before my contract runs out, I'm highly likely to be joining the mass exodus.
Whether they are "forced" into doing this or if it is an unwritten agreement is the only real question here. Cable and satellite companies are scared to death of ala carte premium programming. I'm sure they don't make much on premium channel subscriptions like HBO, Showtime, etc. Their bread and butter is in the low tier packages. Right now they hold the monopoly on premium content. If you want the movie packages, you're forced to have the $30 basic package full of channels you don't want before you can even think of paying for the channels you actually want. If everyone could get just the movie packages without the basic fluff by going directly to the premium networks, the traditional cable/satellite providers will lose their primary source of income.
When the "small satellite" DSS trend began, DirecTV (DTV) and United States Satellite Broadcasting (USSB) were 2 separate providers that used the same bird in the sky to provide service. DTV had the basic and "expanded basic" levels of programming with the usual fodder. USSB had HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and other premiums. The key was you could get USSB service without DTV, basically giving you what people are asking for now. You could walk into Circuit City, Future Shop, or even Sears and buy a DSS receiver (and self-install kit,) put it all on your house in an evening, and pay a reasonable amount for movie channels with no fluff. Unfortunately that didn't last long, and DTV acquired* USSB and it went back to the basic plus premium model.
Consumers are now demanding split service again. They don't want 50 channels of MTV reality shows, shopping channels, and Spanish programming because they want to watch Game of Thrones or Shameless. Technology making this model possible, combined with the economic situation people are faced with today, is making people want to cut more waste out of their lives and out of their bills.They don't want to spend upwards of $150 per month for background drivel to be able to watch a few specific shows on a few specific channels, but it is what they're being forced to do. As others have said, if the providers aren't willing to provide it this way, they'll go to places where they can get it, piracy in this case.
* I don't recall if it was a merger, buyout in one direction or the other, but one way or another DTV became what it is today.
Actually... Yes. All you have to do is look at the webpage for the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.
Just the headlines near the bottom of the page show $20K fines for operating without the appropriate license, interfering with licensed users, etc. If you browse around a bit you'll see some fairly recent enforcement of CB operators with illegal setups, primarily amplifiers, but some are also related to out-of-band operation.
I don't think the FCC really has time or resources any more to go randomly look for violations, but they will react when they receive complaints of interference. They also don't usually accept "But I didn't know" as an excuse.
It can be rather interesting reading through the enforcement actions, especially since some contain responses from the accused, and the subsequent FCC responses.
About 15 years ago I checked into renting a stereo VCR (these weren't all that common yet) to copy some VHS tapes. We had one stereo and one mono in our house. All I wanted to do was rent the machine for a week. By the time I would have paid the initiation fee, the 3 month minimum rental fee, and some other charge I don't even remember now, I was $25 away from going out to the electronics store to buy one brand new. In the end I decided to just go buy one and I gave away our older mono deck to a friend who didn't have a stereo TV anyway.
I learned a lot about how those places work that day. It was my first and only experience trying to rent from one of those places. Since then I've had numerous friends and some family members mention wanting to go rent a couch, or washer/dryer, etc. I've set each of them down, shown them the math, and proven that they could do without for 4 months, save what their weekly payments would have been, and outright bought the item at a regular furniture or appliance store. Most of them did just that, but of course there were those who "couldn't wait" and did it anyway. The only use I have for rent-to-own stores now is sometimes you can get a *screaming* deal on a return if it is a model or two behind the current stock. Nobody coming in to rent an item wants last year's TV when they can get this year's for only a couple of dollars more (per week.)
Where does all of this FUD come from here on
There is so much wrong with that comment that I don't even know where to start...
First of all, most retailers do not have "insurance" that covers fraud. Yes accidental liability insurance for legit (or less than legit) accidents. As far as merchandise goes they simply "write off" any loss of products in whatever form (shoplifting, credit card fraud, bad checks, damaged, etc.) in the retail industry we call this "shrink." In that aspect you are correct. Insurance is a gambling game, the insurance company is betting they'll pay out less than the insured has in claims. Something like shrink, which is all but guaranteed to happen, is not something an insurance company is going to be offering. They may have some policies on individual high-ticket items in some cases, but I don't know of any "umbrella" shrink insurance available.
Where you really go astray is in saying this "write off" is a "victimless" crime. Let's take your example of walking into a store and buying a $1000 TV with a stolen card. Right off the bat, the merchant will pay somewhere in the 1-3% range to take that card, depending on its card processing volume, card brand and type and other factors. Let's just say 2% to make it easy and call it $20. Anywhere from 1-90 days later (more in some cases) the merchant receives a chargeback request from the card processor, saying the cardholder is disputing the charge. Merchant sends all required information, but since the cardholder wasn't actually the one using the card, the dispute is successful. Merchant now has $1000 removed from their account, along with a $25 chargeback fee. They've now spent $45 out of pocket, plus they're out the merchandise which probably cost them closer to $800 (electronics themselves don't have that high of a markup rate, unlike accessories like cables.) All said and done the merchant lost $845 tangible costs, plus intangible costs like the employee time required to stock that item on the shelves, the cashier's time to run that transaction, etc. Where the retailer would have made $200 on the item, they now have to sell 5 of them to make up for the one lost item and have a little profit.
Now do you think the merchant is just going to accept that loss and move on? Of course not, they have sales numbers and profit margins they expect to maintain. If they have no control over whether that item left, which at the time of the sale they had a card approval and no reason to suspect otherwise, what can they control? They can control the price they charge for all of their items. Retailers expect to have a certain percentage of shrink, so that percentage of profit is added back into every item they sell in the form of higher prices. When shrink goes up over time, retail prices go up accordingly. If the retail market won't support higher prices, then costs must be cut by means of reduced personnel and other means, or they close their doors completely.
What this means in the end is that you and I, along with every other honest customer, are the victims. Because of this credit card fraud, we pay higher prices and deal with reduced service levels at the stores. Even if there is a shrink insurance that some retailers may have, the money to pay for the premiums and deductibles would be passed down to us in the same way.
Enforcement for any retail fraud, including shoplifting, seems to take a back burner for police. Unless the retailer has the person detained (which can be a whole new can of worms) police are very unlikely to pursue the case, even if the retailer has positive identification and video of the person leaving the establishment with the merchandise. Even if they do, prosecution is likely to plea it down to a lesser charge so the person gets a slap on the wrist and is free to go do it again, learning from the mistake of getting caught. Credit card fraud is even worse because it involves coordinating with out-of-state organizations such as the card processor, the actual cardholder if it wasn't a local theft of the card itself, etc.
I'm pretty sure this violates their merchant agreement with the various card issuers. Denying customers one of the key benefits of using a credit/debit card is a big no-no. It sounds like they're trying to be way too cheap, trying to ship without insurance and via a carrier that can require signature upon delivery. It actually makes me a little suspicious that perhaps this is part of their business model:
1. Use a shoddy shipping method without confirmation of correct-person receipt
2. Wait for packages to get mis-delivered
3. Charge customer for said merchandise at full retail value
I was actually a little intrigued by this service until I read that in their terms. I also don't like that you can only have the item for a month. If they'd correct their shipping method and chargeback terms, and make it similar to netflix where you can keep it as long as you like while continuing to pay the monthly fee, I may decide to give it a try. Sometimes 30 days is not enough time if you're on the fence, and sometimes it may be useful to rent something for a few months.