Archive for October, 2011
Is Verizon Wireless cheating its 4G LTE MiFi customers by charging an activation fee it waived at signup?
Compare my first bill from Verizon Wireless for my new 4G LTE MiFi device with the confirmation email I received from Verizon right after I purchased the device. You’ll see in the email below that the activation fee is listed as ‘Free’ and that my first bill should reflect that. You can see from the bill above that that’s my first bill.
Verizon manager Lindsy, identification #2422512, removed the USD $35 charge, and said she checked her trouble ticket database to see if any other customers had been charged fraudulently as I believe I was. She didn’t immediately find any signs that she told me about. She did say she would file a ticket on my behalf. I spoke with her October 14, 2011 around 6pm Pacific Time.
I told Lindsy that I suspect that Verizon is charging all customers the $35 activation fee and then removing it only when customers call to complain like I did. I speculated that Verizon is doing this on such a scale that they are effectively taking possession of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from their customers that they are not due. I said there was no way for me to be sure without asking the public for help in sorting this out. I told Lindsy I expect no compensation for my trouble, and that I am not asking for any. I told her that if any is offered, I will return it. She said it is understandable that I want to blog and Tweet about this, and she did not try to discourage me from doing so, to her credit. I found numerous discussions about improper activation fees when I did a Google search as I was preparing this post. People are clearly upset, as I am upset.
This is such a flagrant mistake or fraud attempt, I don’t know which, that I felt duty bound to post the details and make them easy for others to find. It certainly seems like this matter might form the basis for a class action lawsuit against Verizon, as I don’t see any way for this to be isolated to just me, from what I know of programming and big companies.
Here’s the complete text of the Verizon confirmation email to me. I bolded the two lines for emphasis so you can see the email said clearly and twice that the activation fee has been waived, and that would appear on the first bill. You can see the first bill above and that an activation fee is listed but there is no matching credit:
Thank you for shopping at VerizonWireless.com.
Your order has been received and is subject to final credit approval. Pre-orders will ship when the item becomes available. We reserve the right to limit quantities. Customer signature is required at the time of delivery. You cannot change your shipping address after you submit the order. We will contact you if we need additional information to complete your order or if the item is out of stock or no longer available. If you have any questions, contact us at InternetOrders@Verizonwireless.com . Be sure to include your order reference number.
For your convenience:
Check the status of your order online: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/orderstatus/OrderStatusForm
ORDER DATE: 09/17/11
PAYMENT METHOD: VISA XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-1045
SHIP TO: BILL TO:
Kevin L Warnock Kevin L Warnock
113 WARREN DRIVE 113 WARREN DRIVE
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94131 SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94131
(415) 661-5600 (415) 661-5600
Calling Plan 1:
1 Mobile Broadband – 5 GB (2-year contract):
Recurring monthly charges $ 50.00
One-time activation fee (charge & credit appears on 1st bill) Free
1 Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L -regularly $99.$ 49.99*
Included accessories for Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L:
Battery, Wall Charger, Connect Card, USB Cable,
Protective Pouch, Documentation Kit
*An instant online discount has been applied to the phone price and cannot be combined with mail-in rebate debit card offers.
SUMMARY OF CHARGES:
Total recurring monthly access & service charges: $ 50.00
Total one-time charge on your first monthly bill: $ 0.00
Due now: detail of total charges to be billed to credit card
Subtotal: $ 49.99
Taxes, Governmental Surcharges & Fees: $ 22.95
CA State Sales Tax* $ 16.20
CA Local Sales Tax* $ 6.75
Total charges to be billed to credit card: $ 72.94
In California, sales tax is calculated on the full retail price of the device, not the discounted price you pay. In Massachusetts and Nevada, sales tax is calculated on the inventory cost of the device.
*The sales tax charged on your device was based on $269.99.
Enjoy the ease and convenience of My Verizon online! Check minutes used, view and pay your bill, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and much more. Register today at http://www.verizonwireless.com/myverizon. When you don’t have computer access, you can get basic account information by dialing *611 + Send (airtime free) and selecting automated options.
At the beginning of 2011 the Alexa Rank for this blog was about 12,000,000 in the world. Sadly, I didn’t make a screen capture back then to show you now.
Blogging is not easy. Blogging is fun and rewarding however, and I’m hooked. I plan to blog the rest of my life. At the end of my life, this blog will be my memoir, and it will capture a lot of me, since I don’t write a one topic blog, unless you consider the top to be me.
I am still a beginner, and there are many things I don’t do properly. For example, I don’t have this site outfitted with buttons that make it easy for readers to post a story to the social networks. I need to do that, for I suspect I am missing a lot of traffic by putting a roadblock to users sharing my posts.
Despite my mistakes, I’m on track to crack the top million in the world this year. My world ranking today is 1,464,388 and my United States ranking is 385,915.
I will get this blog into the top 100,000 by the end of 2012, and into the top 10,000 by the end of 2015, I predict, just working on it as a side hobby. I feel I could crack the top 1,000 if I made this my full time job, but I don’t plan to.
Here’s a screen capture of my Alexa Rank as of today, October 14, 2011, the day the Apple iPhone 4s was first made available for retail purchase.
If you like or dislike this blog and have suggestions for me, please leave a comment or send me a private message. Thanks!
Without question, I was exceptionally impressed with the results of Founder School as explained at Demo Day. In fact, I was more impressed with what I learned and saw than I have been by anything else I have ever seen at UC Berkeley.
The only events that can compare for shear impact were two rock concerts I saw years ago — the B52s promoting what I consider their best recording Wild Planet at the Zellerbach Auditorium, and Alanis Morissette promoting Jagged Little Pill at The Greek Theatre.
Yes, I am comparing presenters at a geeky entrepreneur event to actual rock stars, which I’ve never done before.
Founder School was that impressive.
Here’s the video of the event so you can see what I am talking about here:
The website for Founder School does a good job of describing the basics of what it is. But their site doesn’t capture the excitement I felt at Demo Day. What got me so excited?
First and foremost, Founder School is more than even the most ambitious business plan competition. I am a fan of business plan competitions, and have judged three separate competitions at three schools within UC Berkeley over the years. But those competitions are all outclassed by Founder School, because Founder School resulted in three out of the five companies raising USD $3,000,000 before Demo Day. The biggest prize I have ever seen at a university business plan competition is USD $50,000. It’s possible to start a company on well below $50,000, of course. But Founder School companies that raised money raised an average of USD $1,000,000 each during a program that was just ten short weeks. It’s much more possible to start an important company on $1,000,000 because that’s enough to hire paid staff, where $50,000 really isn’t.
The next feature of Founder School is that it’s the first large scale jointly run event sponsored by The Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) and The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. The technology I saw as a judge for the business plan competition at the engineering school in about 2006 was more memorable and to my eye more sophisticated than what I usually see at the larger Berkeley Business Plan Competition. I’ve been telling people for years that the engineers need to be incorporated more into the teams for the Business Plan Competition. The Business Plan Competition teams are far too heavily weighted towards MBA candidates, to the decisive detriment of the teams.
Founder School was conceived by serial entrepreneur Steve Newcomb. He approached Jennifer Walske, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at The Lester Center, shown in the picture above. Walske then introduced Newcomb to Andre Marquis, the executive director of The Lester Center. Marquis and Newcomb had a series of meetings, and Ikhlaq Sidhu was brought into the mix. Sidhu is Director of CET, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley. Newcomb, Marquis and Sidhu worked together to make Founder School happen. From what I can gather, the success of Founder School was a huge group effort, with many more than these three people contributing tremendous effort. I gather that it would never have happened and been successful without the relentless push provided by Newcomb, who has started a sold an impressive series of companies.
Here’s some background on the graduating companies, from the Lester Center website:
Thirst: Building new web and iOS apps that will use proprietary natural language processing technology for social media (think Rapportive or Xobni for Social Media).
Soragora: Augmented reality app allowing users to see the world in a novel way-simply point your phone at any nearby business, restaurant, landmark, or point of interest and learn all about it!
Flotype: Software that lets programmers build massively scalable web applications using Node.JS.
500Friends: Innovative Software-as-a-Service platform that enables leading e-commerce retailers to increase customer retention, acquisition, average order value, and social media engagement by rewarding shoppers not only for purchases but also for brand promotion, product referrals, and creating UGC.
I’m not sure if there were any MBA students on the teams at Founder School, but the staff of The Lester Center was prominently featured and highlighted, so I think in future years more and more mixing of business students with engineering students is likely.
Another great perk provided by Founder School is the access it has arranged for graduating companies to present at SFBeta. For those of you who don’t know it, SFBeta is Bay Area’s ‘finest startup mixer’ according to their website. The founder of SFBeta is Christian Perry, in the green shirt immediately above. Perry invited everyone in the audience to attend as his guest the next SFBeta event on November 8, 2011. For those not in the audience, here’s the link to buy a ticket to attend the November 8, 2011 SFBeta.
Yes, it’s nice to give companies a soapbox on campus to talk about their startup, but the real movers and shakers of the Internet world don’t come to Berkeley to see these pitches. Instead, they’re at events put on by TechCrunch, AlwaysOn and other industry taste makers and pace setters. To my knowledge, no winning teams from any other business plan competition at Berkeley have been awarded guaranteed spots to demo at SFBeta.
I predict that next year the graduates of Founder School will be covered the day after Demo Day by TechCrunch, as it’s likely others have noticed the results this year and won’t miss it next year.
The video above shows the graduating teams describing their startups, and they do it better than I could write about it, so please watch the full video, even though it’s over an hour. It will be an hour that will change your impression of UC Berkeley, I promise.
I introduced myself to Steve Newcomb, the instigator of Founder School. I told him then that what I had just seen was the most impressive thing I had ever seen at UC Berkeley. I’ll say it again here in case he’s reading this.
Founder School is the most impressive thing I have ever seen at the University of California at Berkeley.
I want to help put on Founder School next year. Please let me know how I may contribute.
Here’s a short clip of the networking hour and the audience as they’re taking their seats. These scenes are not included in the official video above, but they capture some of the energy and sold out excitement of the event, so I am publishing this clip.
[Note: I am a member of the Advisory Council for the Entrepreneurs Forum at The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. I am a Venture Coach at CET. I am writing here as an independent blogger, not in any other capacity.]
These helpful people in the park probably have formed strong friendships with each other. They are probably extremely agitated right now. They are probably tired but energized. I can see them resisting being evicted to the point where the police bring out their Tasers and guns. That’s a recipe for somebody being injured or killed. It will be tragic if Zuccotti Park joins the ranks of the words Kent State or Columbine. I support Occupy Wall Street to the extent I know about it. I certainly applaud the people participating, and I’m impressed with the press and support they have generated.
On Friday, October 6, 2011, my birthday, I attended Founder School Demo Day on the University of California at Berkeley campus. As I was heading back to the Bay Area Rapid Transit train station, I heard a loud and surprisingly good percussion performance. I followed my ears and discovered the student group named ‘EGO: UC Berkeley Traditional Korean Drumming (P’ungmul).’ Here’s some information on Korean musical instruments.
I had my good camera with me since I took photographs and video at the Founder School Demo Day. I was so impressed with the drumming that I switched lenses to my Nikon 50mm F1.4 lens that I’ve had since college.
I waited for a break and then started capturing video in the extremely low light conditions, since it was about 9pm and the open gathering spot wasn’t illuminated except by sunlight bouncing off the moon and a street light in the distance.
I introduced myself to the students at the conclusion of the piece I recorded. Dan Kong explained that EGO is student group that practices and performs traditional Korean percussion works. I gave him my gOffice business card as I was out of my new blogger cards, having given them all out at the Demo Day.
I explained to the students I am a blogger and that I liked what I heard and saw so much that I planned to write about it and post the video. I made sure they were all OK with that, as I didn’t know for certain if they might be doing something the university might object to, like make a LOT of noise on campus. The students assured me it was fine to post, and they were excited they were about to get some ‘press’, I gathered.
Sadly, I know little about percussion groups or compositions. But I liked what I heard very much. Kong and the other students asked me to mention that they were just practicing, so there were likely to be some errors in their playing. I didn’t detect any errors.
Kong emailed me later that night and provided me with the address to the Facebook page of their group. Here’s a bit of what he had to say to me in his email:
“Sorry about our brief conversation; like I was saying we were practicing for our performance tomorrow and I felt like our conversation may have somewhat been curtailed. I just wanted to provide you with a little bit of info on the piece we were playing, called 사물놀이 (Samulnori which literally translates into “entertainment of four instruments”), and as you may have noticed, there ware four different types of instruments, each representing a weather conditions of: thunder, rain, wind and cloud.”
I captured the video in full HD, but I uploaded it at less than full HD size since I’m running out of space on my main iMac, so I didn’t have room to process the full size file, which was nearly 3 gigabytes.
The video doesn’t capture the impact of this group. I was mesmerized watching them, as they displayed genuine enthusiasm, excitement, and from what I could tell, skill. I hope to see them perform a finished and fully rehearsed piece one day.
I saw Steven Paul Jobs in person only a few times, once at Stanford University when he was showing his NeXT computer, once on the floor of NeXTWorld, the tradeshow for NeXT computers, one or more times giving keynotes at MacWorld, and most recently at a Mexican restaurant in Palo Alto, California. The most recent time was about 18 months ago, with my friend and former coworker Hib Engler. Engler pointed out Jobs sitting in the doorway dining area of the restaurant, where burritos sold for about USD $7.00. I couldn’t believe it was Jobs, so I got up and walked out the door, and then back in, passing within a foot of Jobs both times. I was able to look directly at his face, and I am 100% certain it was Jobs.
I was and remain impressed that Jobs ate in such an affordable restaurant.
Steve Jobs passed away today, October 5, 2011. I’m writing this on an iMac. My phone is an iPhone. My laptop is a MacBook. I’m hooked on Apple products, with no regret. Jobs changed my life and changed so much more of the world than one person can dream of.
PS – I had a nice conversation with a woman about Jobs this evening on BART coming home from UC Berkeley where I had a couple of meetings today. I told her about this blog, and if she’s reading this I invite her to friend me on FaceBook or send me a message.
I don’t like working at home.
There are too many distractions, and too few people around. That’s true even though I now have five roommates.
These spaces are interesting, but they all have issues.
i/o Ventures is too noisy, as its associated restaurant and coffee shop is just over a half height wall that lets in all the sound to the work area. I’ve been there only twice, but both times the coffee shop part was jammed with laptop using customers and the working half of the space was either completely empty or almost empty, with just 3 people visible.
The Hub is bustling with activity, but it’s mainly for social entrepreneurs. That’s great, and I admire The Hub, and I know two companies that use the space regularly. To be admitted, you are supposed to be pursuing a social venture, and right now, I’m pursuing gOffice, which I don’t suspect could qualify.
Next Space is clean, quiet and well situated. It’s my favorite of the San Francisco coworking spaces that I’ve been to. But there doesn’t appear to be many Internet companies there. I need to meet and hang around with other Internet entrepreneurs. I wish that Hacker Dojo was not so far away, in Mountain View, California. I read yesterday that Hacker Dojo just signed papers to expand to 13,000 square feet, making it one of the largest hacker co-working spaces in the world.
What makes the Verizon MiFi device so great is that I can now sit down nearly anywhere in well populated areas of California and work. Coffee shops without wi-fi are my new favorite, because they tend to be quieter. I’m writing this from Muddy Waters Coffee House at 521 Valencia Street in San Francisco. The sound system is set to low volume, and half the tables are empty. There are no conversations taking place, and I’ve been able to get real work done for hours now. I love it.
What sets the Verizon 4G LTE MiFi Wi-Fi hotspot device I am using apart from other wireless connection devices is that this new Verizon device is faster than my home ATT UVerse wired connection. Even at the rear of Muddy Waters, 70 feet from the nearest window, my connection speeds to the Internet are an astonishing 8 megs a second download and 6 megs a second upload. The latency was just 68 milliseconds. The result is that I can access the Internet faster than at home. Never before have I experienced such great connection speeds in the United States.
I bought a Muni Fast Pass public transit pass today for the first time this year. My plan is to roam throughout the City this month, working from dozens of interesting nooks. I predict the down time I experience traveling will be more than made up for by increased productivity that results from fewer onsite distractions and the increase in social interaction inherent with being out of the house.