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Comment Re:America, land of one-stop shopping! (Score 4, Informative) 63

Arbitration does not mean you get to resolve a dispute, it is not "small claims court, lite-version". Arbitration means that whoever has the most money will win.

I disagree strongly. I have gone to arbitration close to a dozen times against big companies. And I've won in every case but one. MOst of the time they settle before the process gets going.

What arbitration does is remove the prospect of a big punitive award against the company. But in all my cases, I got exactly what I wanted to the extent that I had actual documentated losses or damages. Would it have been nice to win a punitive award for a million bucks here or there? Certainly.

I found in all cases, that the arbitration method produced pressure on the company to assign a real person with authority to settle issues (usually a paralegal or in house counsel), and produced incentive for them to settle before owning fees to the arbitration company. In virtually all cases, the arbitration clause specified that the company would pay the initial filing fee, which usually runs like $700-$1000. That basically means that if your claim is for less than $1000, they'll just give it to you without much fuss.

The basic method to follow is:

1. Read your agreement. It will say how to file. Usually it's with the American Arb Association, which is the favorite. Or a competitor, but it's almost always the AAA.

2. You almost always have the right to have the hearing near you or a place of your choosing. Or often your place of last billing. In one case, I used this to my benefit by changing my billing address to a mailer forwarded in remote Alaska.

3. Almost every agreement, because of the patchwork of state laws and Federal Law like the FAA, have the company pay the initial filing fee. This is usually around $1,000. For example, here is Sprint:

(4) We each are responsible for our respective costs, including our respective counsel, experts, and witnesses. Sprint will pay for any filing or case management fees associated with the arbitration and the professional fees for the arbitrator's services.

4. Almost every agreement has constraints on the company as well, which means that they have to negogiate first. So:

Before initiating an arbitration or a small claims matter, you and Sprint each agree to first provide to the other a written notice ("Notice of Dispute"), which shall contain: (a) a written description of the problem and relevant documents and supporting information; and (b) a statement of the specific relief sought. A Notice of Dispute to Sprint should be sent to: General Counsel; Arbitration Office; 12502 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mailstop VARESA0202-2C682; Reston, Virginia 20191. Sprint will provide a Notice of Dispute to you in accordance with the "Providing Notice To Each Other Under The Agreement" section of this Agreement. Sprint will assign a representative to work with you and try to resolve your Dispute to your satisfaction. You and Sprint agree to make attempts to resolve the Dispute prior to commencing an arbitration or small claims action. If an agreement cannot be reached within forty-five (45) days of receipt of the Notice of Dispute, you or Sprint may commence an arbitration proceeding or small claims action.

This basically means they get a chance to make it right before you can cost them $1,000. This is an awesome incentive for them to settle, every time. If what you want costs less than the filing fee, and you seem determined to fight them, they will just cave. It's simply mathematics.

5. Without arbitration, in most cases, companies have a huge advantage. You can't sue them in small claims court or state court because of jurisdiction. The first thing the company will do is petition for removal for diversity of jurisdiction - that means moving it from small claims or state court to Federal court. They'll win, you'll have to deal with a different court, with a lot of procedures and burden on you. 99% of the time this means that you aren't even ever going to get to a hearing, let alone a trial. They'll file a motion to dismiss, and in most cases, you won't be able to even formulate an appropriate response to the Court. All that procedural bias goes away in arbitration.

So those are the good sides. The bad sides are, they can process a few cranks like me sending arbitration demands, day in and day out, and it becomes just another cost of doing business. It never gets anything changed. Class action awards are enough money that it forces the companies to pay attention.

I think if we have a strong regulatory framework, where the regulators are going after the big problems, and individuals use arbitration, things will be better than the class action system.

I'll put to you this way, if you ever are dealing with customer service, and have decided, well, I am just going to have to sue them, you know it's over. If you tell them that, they'll say go ahead, and they are out. If you instead document your problem, send a dispute notice with intent to arbitrate, they have 45 days to deal with you (in most cases), or else they are $1,000 minimum. You will get a call, it will be someone who can settle and solve problems, and that's that.

Comment This could be good for consumers, bad for lawyers (Score 1) 63

Class-action suits typically just end in big payouts to the class, that end up getting divided into a million or two parts, with a 1/3 going to the lawyers who represent the class. It's not all that useful really.

I think what an enterprising person needs to do is set it up easy to have class members compel individual arbitration. This isn't cheap for AT&T. A good trial lawyer with a nice system could bring in clients, help them file an arbitration claim, and then wait for the system to implode. Most agreements specific American Arbitration Association or a competitor. I have fought many mandatory arb. claims using AAA, and the process is titled to the consumer in a way because the mediation happens near you, the consumer, in almost all cases, often within 50 miles. There's also a lower standard of evidence, and it's relatively informal.

For most agreements, and basically anything with the AAA, requires that the company pay the filing fee.

So in the past, when I filed against Sprint, for example, they did everything they could to get me to withdraw the filing before they had to pay the $1000 or so in filing and case administration fees that become due automatically after so many days. My claim was only for about $800 (I wanted out of a contract because I literally went from perfect service to no service for over a month, straight). In the end, they unlocked the phones, refunded me a few months service, and voided the contract with no penalty. A value of about $1200.

For small claims, it's actually pretty efficient and you don't need a lawyer. If I had a lawyer, he or she could have collected 33% of that easily, for perhaps 1-2 hrs of work. Not go to Vegas, big victory, riches, but if you repeat a few hundred thousand times, it could easily add up, especially if you built a system that makes the filing and paperwork easy.

If I had one of these deals with AT&T, I'd be filing every month or so. Just on principle.

Comment Re:Where's my tinfoil hat? (Score 4, Informative) 610

You are incorrect. CALEA only applies to carriers and manufacturers of carrier technology. It does not apply to manufacturers or providers of handsets for regular commercial use.

Here is a good overview from Wikipedia:

"The U.S. Congress passed the CALEA to aid law enforcement in its effort to conduct criminal investigations requiring wiretapping of digital telephone networks. The Act obliges telecommunications companies to make it possible for law enforcement agencies to tap any phone conversations carried out over its networks, as well as making call detail records available. The act stipulates that it must not be possible for a person to detect that his or her conversation is being monitored by the respective government agency."

Comment Re:Ian Murdoch was a racist (Score 1) 464

You can draw a dividing line one the colour scale and call every darker than that "black" and everyone lighter "white" or some other ethnicity, but it's not nearly as meaningful as we imagine. We use that characteristic because it's the easiest to see, but if we started grouping by some other gene variants then we would get a drastically different set of races.

In the context you are talking about, is race only color? Race has also had the meaning of a subgroup within a species sharing characteristics. In the terms you are talking about, is only characteristic superficial skin color?

Comment So Twitter is completely fine now, right?? (Score 1) 214

Now that Twitter is winning the Troll Wars, the platform is finally going to turn the corner, right? Any day now?

It's really hard to censor and block and ban your way to stability and profitability and growth. Creating small circles of users who are banned and blocked from each other isn't a long-term recipe for success.

Comment Re:3rd Party Clearing Houses (Score 1) 556

Yeah, a man in the middle which will be mercilessly DDOS'd, hacked, cracked, and physically stolen time and time again by foreign powers, kiddies, syndicates, and the mob.

Worst idea in a long line of bad ideas from Congress.

It's over. Anyone on their staff thinking otherwise is delusional. No one trusts government, programmers will never implement this, you can put the math back in the bottle.

Comment Nope (Score 1) 556

Sorry. Next time Senator, you are faced with a moment of truth, and the choice is: support hidden, destructive, illegal government surveillance or support telling the public the truth, choose truth. Next time if you have a choice between calling a brave man doing something important a treasonous coward or a hero, chose hero.

In the meantime, fuck off.

Comment Is he really this stupid? (Score 1) 164

Is he really this stupid? Nothing in those first two months gives the kid the advantage. For a good chunk of that time the child will be functionally unable to see much of anything. Bonding with the mother and establishing healthy sleeping and feeding habits will be more important than having him around.

The point of these studies are that the ability to take time off CORRELATES to better outcomes, not that they are CAUSED by taking this time off. Being the type of dad who can take time off, who is financially stable, who is involved, who is willing, etc are all related to having better outcomes at all the little points in time that add up to influence the outcomes of a child.

Zuckerberg is probably missing the pages of virtually every long-term study every performed which show, pretty decisively, that parental income is the single best indicator to positive educational and life outcomes.

Comment That's fine (Score 1, Interesting) 291

I will support this "zero knowledge" key escrow when I have three assurances:

1. Death penalty for any government employee who misuses data. You look up data about a girlfriend, or an enemy, or a political opponent? No problem, enjoy your Federal death penalty.

2. Death penalty for the cabinet level director for any agency who abuses or has a single employee who abuses data. Oh, sorry, low-level contractor abused data? Enjoy your needle.

3. Excess funding to 0 for any agency that abuses data - no health insurance, no travel, no coffee in the lounge, no flat screen TVs, no car repairs, no vending machine fixes, nothing. No comforts at all, for 1 year.

Comment Re:And by emergency they mean (Score 1) 48

You got it. There has been hardly any wage increases. Shortages always lead to higher prices. If there are no higher prices, the shortage is a lie.

Whats the rate of growth for salaries? A good rule of thumb is that there isn't' a shortage until nominal prices have doubled.

Comment Re:What's Good for Microsoft is Good for K-12 Scho (Score 1) 48

"We need talent [venturebeat.com], we need it now, and we simply cannot find enough."

What they mean is:

We need talent [at a wage we are willing to pay], we need it now [but not so much that we are willing to train people, and spend the time and effort developing corporate training of people with aptitude], and we simply cannot find enough [who are willing to move to our area, fund their own skills development, accept a mediocre wage, put in longer than normal hours, have a lower than average quality of living, and do things which are pretty unimportant].

The reality is that there are plenty of people with talent, they are just working in areas of the country where the economics are better, where they don't have to live like paupers, and they don't have to deal with megalomaniacal personalities like the people running Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.

These are just not good places to work. They are not paying enough to entice otherwise talented people to upset their lives, move to an overpriced bubble driven real estate market, and try to put up with these quacks untested, new age, assine management techniques.

The word is out out about these tech giants.

Microsoft - guess what - you have a toxic culture where co-workers have incentive to back stab and dethrone managers, in order to "make the cut" each year? Why would I move out to a very pricey area and give up superior pay, superior work-life balance, and superior education opportunities for my kids, just so I can be stabbed in the back, shuffled around, re-org'ed, and eventually laid off because I don't have whatever latest skill you want and you aren't willing to invest in workforce development? All for 90k a year starting salary? Pass.

Facebook - why would I want to move to one of the most insanely expensive places in the country to work, ride a bus to work each day, be locked up inside your campus for "free lunches", be part of data mining, spamming, and exploiting users personal habits, relationships, and preferences for money. It's not revolutionary, it's not hip, it's not cool. All for about 95k a year starting salary? Pass.

Google - why would I want to work for the new evil empire, single handily expanding a dark shadow of data collection and kowtowing to authoritarian powers worldwide in order to sell shitty text ads to users, all the while locking out competition and blocking users from knowing whats really going on? Why answer to two silver-spoon billionaires who have delusions of importance for a starting salary of under 100k a year, while moving to yet another bubble driven real estate empire and being forced once again to ride a shitty bus to campus? So I can redirect funds from one or two profitable lines of business into trying to find the next hot thing which won't do anything important or lasting for mankind? Pass.

The problem is not a lack of a talent. It's a lack of talent who wants to work for these shitty companies, doing insignificant projects that will probably never see the light of day, while paying too much to live and having to answer to people who are convinced they are doing something special.

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