, Inc. digs a deeper hole for themselves

Below, in reverse chronological order (most recent to oldest; start at the bottom of this post and scroll up if you wish to read in chronological order):

9/30/2015: My rejection of, Inc.’s second BBB response; also carbon copied two other agencies
9/29/2015:’s second response to my BBB complaint
9/28/2015: My rejection of, Inc.’s first BBB response
9/28/2015:, Inc.’s first response to my BBB complaint
9/24/2015: See this blog post for my initial BBB complaint (scroll down)
9/22/2015 and earlier: See this blog post for prior email exchanges with, Inc. and the Washington Attorney General’s office

September 30, 2015

Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington, case #: 10830673
Washington Attorney General’s office file #: 471704
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reference #: 1509-37467 / MLH

Hello,, Inc. has stated, in response to my complaint regarding their theft of my gift card balance of $451.20 and termination of my customer account, that their actions are justified based on their Conditions of Use stating that “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

This is quite an amazing response. It is in blatant violation of the CARD act, Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington, and Florida Statute 501.95, which do not allow an expiration date on gift card funds.

Since’s legal department will not answer calls from me, I left a voicemail for them on 9/22/2015. I also sent them a fax at 206-266-7010 on 9/24/2015. They have ignored me.

It is my belief that, Inc. is only digging a deeper hole for themselves; they are allowing me to compile a rather large paper trail indicating that they deliberately mislead, ignore communication, and have repeatedly presented a position that is completely untenable, in reply to my complaints to the Washington Attorney General’s office and Better Business Bureau., Inc. should not take this matter so lightly. Their actions may have dire consequences in the long run.

I ask the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington, the Washington Attorney General’s office, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to consider my remarks and the below reply received from Amazon on 9/29/2015. Please also note that we are dealing with merchant gift cards which have special protections under the law. These are NOT promotional gift cards, rewards credits, or coupons that have been seized. Gift cards are of a different class. Unless, Inc. is in bankruptcy, they are legally obliged to honor my gift card balance of $451.20, or offer a refund.

Richard Thripp

Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 4:37 AM
To: Richard Thripp
Subject: Your Inquiry – BBB Complaint ID: 10830673

Hello Richard,

I’m writing in response to a complaint filed on your behalf by the Better Business Bureau BBB – I’ve provided the BBB with a copy of this message.

I understand that you want us to provide the exact information justifying our decision.

As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

You may review our full Conditions of Use by selecting the link below:

Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we’re unable to discuss with you, and the decision to close your account is a final one.

I realize you’re upset, and I regret we’ve been unable to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter will not receive a response.

We appreciate your understanding.


Information received: 9/28/2015


Consumer Information

Richard Thripp
[Phone Number]


Complaint filed against:


Latest correspondence: I am rejecting this response because:

This response is identical to the response that, Inc. provided to the Washington Attorney General’s office.

It is NOT acceptable, because, Inc. has no legal basis to steal my gift card balance of $451.20.

Furthermore,, Inc. has declined to provide further information justifying their decision.

Many of the gift cards that I had applied to my account were purchased by me, and it would be possible for me to provide bank statements and compile a comprehensive list of gift card codes and sources, with several hours of work. This process is made much harder based on the fact that Amazon has terminated my account and willfully removed all access to my gift card redemption history and all other account-related information, in an effort to obstruct my ability to construct my case. However, Amazon retains all information and records for their benefit.

Recently, I tried calling into Amazon’s corporate office (no one there will help my, anyway) on a recorded line. Once announcing I was on a recorded line, I was informed their policy is to reject all such calls. However, they record every call and announce as such. This is hypocritical and is one of many examples of Amazon’s attempts to create an uneven playing field for their benefit.

Please request a satisfactory response from, Inc. on my behalf. I am willing to take this to small claims court, though I would prefer to avoid the hassle if, Inc. will just be reasonable about this.


Best regards,

Suresh P.

Amazon’s initial response to my 9/24/2015 BBB complaint, received 9/28/2015 (note it is basically identical to their response to my prior complaint with the WA Attorney General)

Dear Richard Thripp :

This message is in regard to your complaint submitted on 9/24/2015 4:44:15 PM against Your complaint was assigned ID 10830673.

BBB has received a message from the business regarding your complaint. Please review this information below and provide BBB with a written rebuttal. All responses with be copied to the business for their review.

Please provide your response within 7 calendar days so as to avoid closure of the complaint as assumed resolved.


Megan Holstine
Dispute Resolution Consultant


Hello Richard,

I’m Suresh of I’m writing in response to a complaint filed on your behalf by the Better Business Bureau BBB – I’ve provided the BBB with a copy of this message.

I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused by the closing of your account.

I’ve reviewed the account and our previous communications with you, and can confirm the decision was a valid one.

Please note this isn’t a decision we can reconsider, and we won’t be able to issue a refund for the gift card balance.

Regarding textbook rental: You can use the following address to return your Textbook Rental.

Amazon Textbook Rental Returns
1085 Aviation Blvd
Hebron, KY 41048

You must return your rental prior to the scheduled due date in order to avoid any additional charges. You can return the rental using the carrier of your choice. Since you’re not using a pre-paid mailing label provided by Amazon, you’ll be responsible for any return shipping fees.

I realize you’re upset, and I regret we’ve been unable to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter will not receive a response.

We appreciate your understanding.

Suresh P.

New email to, Inc., 2015-09-24

Over two days have passed and, like they said they would,, Inc. has ignored my communication from 2015-09-22.

Today, 2015-09-24, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington, and send, Inc. this email, informing them of the tenacity they can expect from me regarding this matter.



Refusing to refund my Amazon gift card balance of $451.20 is not an acceptable answer, regardless of how many further inquiries you ignore.

While these tactics may work with a typical customer, they will not work with me. I am not going away and I have many other avenues of recourse besides the Washington Attorney General’s office.

I submitted a complaint to the Better Business Bureau today. I have many other agencies I can contact:

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Federal Trade Commission
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
Local police
Local news agencies
Informing other Amazon customers of Amazon’s fraud via blogging, social networking, and online forums

You can expect that I will be pursuing all of these avenues and more over the coming weeks, months, and even years if necessary. I may even be willing to exert efforts disproportionately large to the amount in question, to reveal, Inc.’s fraud and bring this matter to justice.

As a resident of Florida, I am afforded additional protection under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

You can also expect small claims litigation originating from Volusia County, FL, for which you will have to send a representative from Seattle to contest.

Richard Thripp


Here is my complaint to the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington (DuPont, WA), sent 2015-09-24:

Tell Us About Your Problem: Amazon has terminated my customer account and acknowledges, but refuses to refund, the gift card balance on the account of $451.20. Amazon has stated that they will not discuss the reason for my account being terminated due to the “proprietary” nature of their business, that their decision to withhold the gift card balance is final, and that they will not respond to any further contact from me. They actually have the nerve to say on record to the Attorney General of Washington that my account termination and the failure to remit my gift card balance is valid under the section of their Conditions of Use saying “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.” I have received nothing but misdirection, obfuscation, rudeness, and patronizing statements in reply to numerous emails and calls to Amazon since noticing my account was rendered inaccessible as of 8/25/2015.

Desired outcome: I request a refund of $451.20 for my gift card balance. I also request a textbook return shipping label for my outstanding textbook rental, due back 12/19/2015. Amazon is in violation of their textbook rental terms, since it was advertised that they pay for the return shipping, but Amazon has said on record that I will be responsible for the return shipping costs due to my account being terminated.


I also left a voicemail with Amazon’s legal department on 2015-09-22 and sent them a fax at 206-266-7010 on 2015-09-24. They have not replied.

Hypocritically, a representative at, Inc.’s corporate offices refused to speak with me when I announced I was calling on a recorded line. He said as a matter of policy, Amazon does not accept recorded calls. However, they record all calls on their end., Inc. Steals Gift Card Balances; Callously Commits Fraud Jolly Roger

The following is an email sent by me (Richard Thripp) on 9/22/2015 regarding the atrocious treatment I have recently received from, Inc., including the blacklisting/termination of my Amazon customer account and theft by, Inc., of my account’s legitimate gift card balance of $451.20. Following this email, I have included several prior emails and my original complaint to the Attorney General of Washington on 9/04/2015.

An introduction for the Attorney General of Washington, Consumer Protection Division; the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Office of Citizen Services; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services; the Federal Trade Commission; Jeffrey P. Bezos, Chairman of, Inc.; and Paul Dauber, Manager of Bystander Revolution, LLC:

At some point between 8/11/2015 and 8/25/2015,, Inc. (“Amazon”) terminated my Amazon customer account with username [email address], which has an Amazon Gift Card balance of $451.20 attached to it, as well as an outstanding textbook rental.

Amazon has repeatedly obfuscated the termination of my Amazon customer account in phone conversations on 8/26/2015, 8/27/2015, 8/31/2015, 9/01/2015, 9/04/2015, and 9/15/2015, has failed to return my emails or phone calls, and on 9/19/2015 and 9/22/2015, in response to my complaint with the Attorney General of Washington (state), has admitted:

1.) My Amazon customer account is permanently closed,
2.) No refund of my gift card balance will be offered,
3.) Amazon refuses to elucidate any reasons for the closure of my account,
4.) Amazon refuses to offer any recourse or consider any appeals, and
5.) Amazon will not reply to or acknowledge any further communications from me.

Amazon has not alleged that I have violated any terms from Amazon’s “Conditions of Use.” Mr. Suresh Potnuru, who appears to be an Amazon “Account Specialist,” has stated the following:

I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp’s received from our Account Specialist team is correct. As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

I maintain that this is manifestly illegal and is an example of corporate bullying.

To Mr. Suresh Potnuru of Amazon, Inc.,

Refusing to honor or issue a refund for my gift card balance of $451.20 is in violation of both Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington and Florida Statute 501.95, which do not permit an expiration date for gift cards.

It is also in violation of Public Law 111-24 (the “CARD” act, 2009), a federal law.

Furthermore, Mr. Potnuru has alleged this theft is permitted under Amazon’s Conditions of Use, specifically: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.” However, using such a provision in this manner is illegal at both state and federal levels: for example, 7 U.S. Code § 6b.

I have read the accounts of hundreds of other customers who have been similarly defrauded or mistreated by Amazon, such as those at It appears to me that this pattern of fraud has been systematically orchestrated by Amazon and constitutes racketeering activity.

Please know that this matter will not simply “go away” by being ignored, as you have so tactfully promised: “However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter won’t receive a response.”

Please be informed that I will be publicizing and reporting your actions, and that any attempts to silence me may be considered as retaliation against a whistleblower.

Please note that you are also in violation of Amazon’s Textbook Rental Terms & Conditions, which state: “After the first 30 days of the rental period, you may initiate a textbook return through the Your Textbook Rentals page in your account.” As you have admitted, I cannot use the “Your Textbook Rentals” page (since my Amazon account has been terminated), nor am I being afforded the free return shipping that was advertised when I initiated the textbook rental, despite having paid a $4.98 fee for shipping and handling.

Regarding the termination of my Amazon customer account, please issue a check for $451.20 to:


Please provide a postage-paid return shipping label for my textbook, Learning and Instruction (2nd Edition), in respect to Amazon order # 002-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX. Please note that the textbook is not due to be returned until 12/19/2015.

To Mr. Jeffrey P. Bezos, Chariman and CEO of Amazon, Inc.,

I suggest you reevaluate your corporate priorities, because you cannot expect to bully and defraud a minority of your customers without them becoming agitated. The benefits you reap from stealing your customers’ gift card balances and other balances will not outweigh the outrage, in the long run.

I suggest that you should instruct your customers to avoid doing business with Amazon or use an abundance of caution, since it is clear that Amazon is willing to commit fraud, with fraudulent intent, unabashedly and without fear of being punished under the laws of the United States, the laws of the State of Washington, the laws of the states and territories where their customers reside, nor litigation in small claims court.

The fish rots from the head, so to speak.

Perhaps you should add the Jolly Roger to your logo?

Here is a suggestion for your new slogan: “Welcome to — the online retailer that steals your gift card balance and tells you to fuck off.”

Richard Thripp


The 2nd (personal) reply from regarding my Washington AG complaint, on 9/22/2015, where they tell me, in purposefully patronizing terms, to fuck off:


I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused by the closing of your account.

I’ve reviewed the account and our previous communications with you, and can confirm the decision was a valid one.

Please note this isn’t a decision we can reconsider, and we won’t be able to issue a refund for the gift card balance.

Regarding textbook rental: You can use the following address to return your Textbook Rental.

Amazon Textbook Rental Returns
1085 Aviation Blvd
Hebron, KY 41048

You must return your rental prior to the scheduled due date in order to avoid any additional charges. You can return the rental using the carrier of your choice. Since you’re not using a pre-paid mailing label provided by Amazon, you’ll be responsible for any return shipping fees.

I realize you’re upset, and I regret we’ve been unable to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter won’t receive a response.

We appreciate your understanding.

Best regards,
Suresh P.


An excerpt from the Washington AG’s reply on 9/21/2015, where they wash their hands of the matter:

The Consumer Resource Center of the Attorney General’s Office received the enclosed response from regarding the consumer complaint you filed with our office.

We realize you may not consider this response a satisfactory resolution to your complaint; however, the Consumer Resource Center cannot compel a business to respond or to make an adjustment in resolution of a dispute. Your complaint has been closed accordingly.

We regret that we are unable to provide further assistance to you regarding this complaint. If you would like to pursue the matter further, you may wish to contact the Small Claims Court in your county, or a private attorney for legal advice.


My reply to, on 9/19/2015:


Can you provide a timeframe for when and how you will disburse the gift card balance of $451.20 from the account?

I do not believe you have provided a legal basis to seize the gift card funds.

Also, note that it is NOT correct that I received any information from Amazon’s Account Specialist team. In all cases, I was ignored by them. I only pieced together information from reading the accounts of other blacklisted customers online, and from the cryptic information provided by Amazon’s Customer Service department. Multiple times, I was told I would be contacted within 24 hours by an Account Specialist, which never happened.

This is in bad faith, given that Amazon has blacklisted me and BOTH refuses to discuss the matter AND refuses to even confirm nor deny that I was blacklisted, until now.

This matter is NOT resolved until I receive a full refund for my gift card balance, as required by law.

Also, please inform me how I am intended to return my textbook rental that is due back on 12/19/2015 if I am unable to log in and print a return shipping label? I will be using the textbook for one of my classes through mid-December, so I am unable to return it early. Am I to assume that Amazon intends me to shoulder the return-shipping cost, in contradiction to the textbook rental terms? Can I expect that Amazon will charge me the full buyout price of the textbook regardless of what action I take? It seems as such, given Amazon’s extra-legal activities to date.

Richard Thripp


The 1st reply from regarding my Washington AG complaint, on 9/19/2015:

Dear Andrew,

I’m Suresh Potnuru of I’m responding to Mr. Richard Thripp’s subject matter complaint, and copying him for his reference.

I’m sorry for the trouble Mr. Thripp’s had in accessing his account.

I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp’s received from our Account Specialist team is correct. As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

Mr. Thripp can review our Conditions of Use here:

Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we’re unable to discuss with Mr. Thripp, and the decision to close his account is a final one.

Regarding gift card balance: At this time we may not be able to issue a refund to Mr. Thripp for his gift card balance.

Please contact me directly by replying to this email if I can be of further assistance.

Best regards,
Suresh P.

Thank you.


My original complaint to the Attorney General of Washington on 9/04/2015:

As of 8/25/2015, Amazon has suspended my account with email address [email address] and refuses to relinquish the existing Gift Card Balance of $451.20 that was present on my account, despite repeated attempts to contact them via phone and email on 8/26/2015, 8/27/2015, 8/31/2015, 9/01/2015, and 9/04/2015.

From speaking with multiple phone service representatives via calling in at 888-280-4331, I have repeatedly been told my account is “on hold,” possibly due to a discrepancy with my billing information or mailing address. I have repeatedly provided my correct name and billing address (which also matches the information on my Amazon account), and have been told I would receive a reply within 24 hours, but in no case has a reply ever been received.

Amazon has neglected to reply to multiple emails sent by me via their online form at

Amazon provides no legitimate reason for this suspension, nor any timeframe for it being investigated or resolved. I attest that the gift card balance on the account was acquired from legitimate sources and that no illegal activity nor activity that is knowingly in violation of Amazon’s terms has occurred on the account. Further, in none of the phone calls with Amazon has Amazon alleged that any of these factors are in question.

No notice of the suspension was given via phone, email, nor postal mail (to date). I am unable to log in to my Amazon account due to receiving the error message “There was an error with your E-Mail/ Password combination. Please try again,” which persists even after resetting my Amazon password. Only after my initial call to 888-280-4331 on 8/26/2015 was I informed by a customer service agent that my account is “on hold.”


In conclusion, I am angry because Amazon has stolen $451.20 from me and is basically laughing in my face about it. Amazon has acted unethically and illegally, and should be the subject of scorn and derision for gift-card related crimes and other crimes, including mistreating their employees and warehouse staff, about which many stories can be found online. Jolly Roger

Chipotle: Bad Twitter Customer Service in Action

I complained to Chipotle via email and Twitter about not receiving the “BOGO” (buy one get one free) coupon from participating in their “Friend or Faux” online game / marketing campaign. I had participated in the game and entered my cell phone number on 7/25/2015 at approximately 12:30 AM EDT, for which, according to the terms, all participants would receive the BOGO coupon via text message within 7 days. Many of my friends had received their coupon within 24 hours, yet I received nothing, like several others complained of in the comments on a post on Money Saving Mom:

Chris says
July 22, 2015 at 9:47 am
I played the game yesterday and did not receive the coupon. :(

Veronica says
July 23, 2015 at 12:30 am
I participated in the game. But never received confirmation of BOGO. I eat here often. Thank you

Autumn says
July 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm
Mine said coupon will arrive in 7 days also..

Veneece says
July 29, 2015 at 1:13 am
Did anyone else have a problem where they played the game but never received their coupon? I’ve played from my phone and 2 tablets and i have not received a coupon or text to either device.

Given that I did not receive the coupon and that I could not sign up again because when I played the game again and entered my phone number, it said I had already entered the phone number, a friend recommended I complain to Chipotle via Twitter, since they would resolve the issue.

I proceeded to have a surprising conversation where Chipotle repeatedly asked me to send them an email via their contact form and then feigned not receiving the emails. After opining that rival Qdoba sent me a BOGO coupon for my birthday without asking, ChipotleTweets appears to have “muted” me, because they stopped replying to my tweets, even without apologizing or resolving the problem! I can only conclude that this is indicative of the hubris of American corporations:

Chipotle Twitter Conversation

Chipotle Twitter Conversation - Addendum

Richard Thripp, 8/05/2015:
@ChipotleTweets Never got the BOGO coupon even after signing up 10 days ago. Disappointed! Apparently everyone else got theirs.

ChipotleTweets, 8/05/2015:
@richardxthripp Check with and they can look up your smartphone records. -Joe

Richard Thripp, 8/11/2015:
@ChipotleTweets Thank you — I emailed them 6 days ago but still no reply.

ChipotleTweets, 8/11/2015:
@richardxthripp I’m not seeing an email from you. Perhaps there was a technical issue. Would you mind resending, please? -Myra

Richard Thripp, 8/18/2015: [Yes, there was a 7-day spread here. I don’t use Twitter much.]
@ChipotleTweets I sent the email as Comments + Questions > General Inquiry. I sent another email today. I recd. no texts or coupons.

ChipotleTweets, 8/19/2015:
@richardxthripp What name did you use for sending across your email so we can look into this for you? -James

Richard Thripp, 8/21/2015:
Richard Thripp

Richard Thripp, 8/24/2015:
@ChipotleTweets While Chipotle wastes my time, Qdoba sends me BOGO coupons without asking.

Qdoba, 8/24/2015:
@richardxthripp Happy birthday.

Richard Thripp, 8/27/2015:
@qdoba Thanks! Chipotle doesn’t even reply anymore.

Richard Thripp, 8/29/2015:
@ChipotleTweets I never got my BOGO coupon I signed up for in July, and after numerous emails and tweets, you now ignore me. Dissatisfied.

Richard Thripp, 9/04/2015:
@ChipotleTweets Why do you ignore my tweets and emails? I signed up for the BOGO coupon on 7/26/2015 and never got anything.

[Update: Based on reviewing my browsing history logs I actually signed up on 7/25/2015 for the coupon.]

While I did not save the emails sent on 8/05/2015 or 8/18/2015, I did save a screenshot of the email I sent on 9/01/2015, which is below. No reply was received to any of my emails (yes, I checked my spam folder):

Chipotle Email, 9/01/2015

What could Chipotle have done differently?

Why ignore a customer who is clearly dissatisfied? Particularly when said customer has his own website where he has complained about corporate grievances before, and probably will again?

Why offer to fix the issue by having the customer email his phone number, and then pretend not to receive the emails and not fix the issue?

Instead of wasting my time and annoying me with the silent treatment, Chipotle could have simply said in their first tweet: “Our apologies, but we are unable to re-issue BOGO coupons.”

Alternately, they could have send another coupon, or a $10.00 gift card, which is the maximum value of the coupon according to the terms.

But instead, they jerked me around and then ignored me.

What could I have done differently?

When I signed up for the free coupon, I opted out of text message marketing by clicking a checkbox, because I had read the terms which indicated you could still get the BOGO coupon without opting into text message marketing. I could have been more cautious and opted in, in case the terms were not correctly implemented by Chipotle.

When I mentioned rival Qdoba and uploaded a copy of the BOGO coupon I received from them, I assumed that would get Chipotle’s attention in the interest of not losing business and face to a competitor. Evidently, given their lack of response afterward, this backfired, pissing off the employees that manage the Chipotle Twitter account. Also, note that Qdoba responded with “Happy birthday” even though I didn’t actually alert Qdoba with an @ symbol or hashtag.

What happens now?

Chipotle has been my favorite restaurant for over a year. As a vegetarian, I like that they have two vegetarian burritos (the veggie burrito and the “Sofritas” tofu burrito). They have also made their black beans vegetarian. I like that their ingredients are fairly good, their prices are low, and they do not charge extra for many things.

Chipotle will continue being my favorite restaurant, but I have less respect for them now. Or, perhaps I have more respect, because I know now that they won’t take kindly to being pressured into honoring an offer that they made of their own free will? I can only be happy that there is not a Chipotle “blacklist” like with many online banks and retailers, such as Amazon and Chase. Given that it is much less palatable to blacklist individuals from brick & mortar stores (à la the “soup nazi” from Seinfeld), I am not worried about being refused service by Chipotle.

However, I would not be surprised if they either offer me a gift card or demand I take this blog post down. I suppose they could even offer me something as a condition for removing the blog post. However, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on this blog post (approximately 1 hour), so I may not be so willing.

Unrecognized Greatness

An irony when someone’s creative work becomes recognized after many years of toil and advertising: their work that was previously ignored did not change. It did not suddenly “become” great simultaneously with its rise to notoriety. Therefore, it was previously great but just not recognized.

With the idea for this blog post, naturally I searched online and found articles citing such people as Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, and Johann Bach (for musical compositions) as people who were only acclaimed posthumously. While Kafka did not make an effort to publish his writing (and even wanted it destroyed upon his death), others do publish and advertise their work. We would think that great works would generate a “word of mouth” effect where the initial small audience is so impressed that they share it with others. It seems logical that great work is timeless and will naturally be recognized in concordant magnitude and expediency with its worth. Yet, in practice this is so genuinely uncommon that unrecognized greatness (and lauded trash) might be proposed as a general rule rather than exception.

Search on unrecognized greatness, hidden genius, etc. and you will naturally find a lot of platitudes about perseverance, fortitude, and personal worth. These platitudes may do more harm than good. It’s easy to assure ourselves that others simply do not recognize the great work we are doing. Yet, what is great work for one might be mere child’s play for another. The former individual is not discredited; she may have unique and ingenious creations to make, from a different perspective than the latter. However, frequent, conscious consideration of how she should use her time and focus her energy is necessary to make these contributions. The 10,000 hour rule comes to mind. You cannot get good at most things by daydreaming, sporadic bursts of effort, or endless deferment.

Compare Franz Liszt to the local piano teacher, and we could definitely conclude the piano teacher should just stop trying. Yet, while what is peak performance for a hard-working muggle might barely be a blip on the radar for a masterful wizard, that does not mean individuals of lesser talent are anywhere close to their personal bests. Albeit, the value we place on being recognized and reaching peak performance varies across individuals and cultures. Like an attraction to redheads or a hatred of celery, we may even be unable to rationalize or counteract our desire for fame. Recognizing and dealing with it might be a worthier course than suppression.

People experiencing unrecognized greatness naturally get a lot of really horrible feedback encouraging them to destroy the aspects that make their work quirky, tantalizing, or otherwise useful. “I really couldn’t relate to your [story / photograph / song] at all” is possibly more of an admission of the reviewer’s divergent taste (or ineptitude) than useful feedback. However, hearing enough garbage without commensurate uplifting testimonials is bound to hurt one’s self-image and might be discouraging or prompt changes that turn unrecognized greatness into mainstream trash. In a marriage and relationships workshop at University of Central Florida, I learned from Yamille Aponte that it takes 5 or possibly even 25 nice comments to make up for just 1 disparaging comment to your partner. Hearing a lot of so-called “constructive” criticism can really do more harm than good. As much as we humans like to think we are continuously objective, is our objectivity continuously foiled by elementary psychological experiments. Worse still is the person critiquing you thinks they are doing you a “favor” and walks away with a dose of good feelings. Even benevolent feedback frequently stymies unrecognized greatness. For instance, requests to simplify and streamline a work are common. Editors love to cut out the best parts of stories. Consider that trying to appeal to a larger audience may backfire and make you appealing to no one.

There are many ways we can operationally define greatness. We could say a work is great if it immune to criticism, i.e. performing a musical piece with complete technical accuracy (let’s say a lot of complex emotions are included so it cannot be criticized as robotic or some other drivel). We could define a work’s greatness based on how many man-months of attention it commands: Candy Crush Saga is really great because look how much time people spend on it. We can define a work’s greatness based on the opinions of “experts” in the field. We can define a work’s greatness based on revenues generated, popularity among its target audience, dedication of its fans, or comparative analysis with similar works.

In American culture, greatness is probably mostly commonly defined merely by quantity of recognition. If a lot of people have something to say about what you do, whether positive or negative, then you are great. In a recent psychology course at University of Central Florida, I learned from Valerie Sims that children who are “isolates” (completed ignored) in 5th grade are far more likely to be depressed and suicidal in later life, compared even to peers who are universally hated (but acknowledged). Thus, one might conclude that “recognized badness” is universally superior to unrecognized greatness. Motivational figures encourage us to “fail” big—repeatedly, without fear or shame. Yet “trying too hard” versus “not trying hard enough” remains a delicate balance. If we are to optimally use our time, clearly we must fail “right”—in a way that helps us learn and improve. Unfortunately, failures can also lead to type II errors (false negatives), where we erroneously believe we have eliminated a fruitless path. These variables and more can morph future iterations of our work from unrecognized greatness to unrecognized mediocrity. Therefore, what we “learn” from failures is damaging if we tag something as a dead end when it would actually work if we tried a different approach. Sadly, our time is highly limited (350,000 waking hours in a typical adult life) and we do not have time to comprehensively manipulate every variable.

As an aside, what I dub as unrecognized greatness can also be under-recognized greatness. Once again, we are encountering one of the shortcomings of the English language where it is impossible to present nuanced yet compelling vernacular. For example, I have been annoyed lately when people say things such as “not all people do [some bad behavior].” With a semblance of objectivity, such phraseology is completely meaningless! It literally means the range of people who do not do [some bad behavior] is from zero to N minus one (where N is all people). Similarly, “unrecognized” greatness implies no one sees it—yet more often, we are looking at situations where a few people recognize an individual’s greatness at least partially, but they are significantly under-appreciated compared to matched peers. However, writing it as such does not make for a compelling essay title, nor does it piss enough people off to provoke attention or thought. More accurately, statements such as “not all people” or “unrecognized greatness” should be rephrased in terms of speculated percentages or proportions. Example: “while many childless Central Floridians under 30 dislike cantaloupe, I think at least 7.5% love cantaloupe but have only tried it in assorted fruit bowls.”

People often encourage us to take personal responsibility for our successes, failures, and circumstances of our lives. Unwittingly, this is better than its polar opposite. Our locus of control truly defines (or results from) how we look at our world. Doing whatever we can to achieve the type, quality, and quantity of success we desire is vital in our pursuit of happiness. Some people have little interest in being recognized for their greatness but just want meaningful personal relationships; they may even be married to people who think their artistic works are of little consequence. Others are desirous of widespread public acclaim and may pursue it at the detriment of other fulfilling paths, with regret or relish. Truly, identifying what is right for us, or what we seek to make become right for us, is of substantial importance. It is even more important than any external markers of greatness, because it justifies our behaviors and beliefs.

Recognition might be icing on the cake, or the cake itself. Desire of recognition is easily derided, but perhaps deserves more respect. “If you really love [some craft], you shouldn’t care about what people think” is a deleterious mantra. Yes, we care about what people think, and we are tired of hearing that it makes us shallow and inferior. The call to action here is to recognize and honor the greatness in both yourself and others, by devoting time and energy to it, and by calling it out in others. At opposite ends of the spectrum, we have the realists who told Elvis Presley he should not quit his day job, and the dreamers who say we should follow our most passionate interests with reckless abandon. In fields where substantial equipment and supplies are required, the path to greatness might entail accumulating funds through unrelated work. Giving up on our dreams is not the answer, nor is pursuing them in a short-sighted manner that leaves us exhausted and destitute.

The best antidote for unrecognized greatness is self-discipline. When you get noticed, there will be a long history of tenacity and perseverance that will basically be ignored. Expect to be told that you “lucked out,” in both getting noticed and being born with a gift. Those who attribute your success to luck will remain in their blissful fairytale world where they struggle without really doing anything. You can try to help them, but you’ll just get laughed at.

MetroPCS rebate scam / run-around / fraud / bad faith

This is what I am dealing with for buying a MetroPCS phone with a mail-in rebate.

Bear in mind I already sent them a demand letter on 4/25/2015, and I wrote this email below after MetroPCS erroneously rejected my rebate and sending me a rejection postcard not once, but TWICE; the first time, I called 800-999-6389 on 3/13/2015 and a representative told me he fixed the issue, and then I got another rejection postcard on 4/25/2015.

The associated phone was the ZTE ZMAX and was purchased by me on 1/23/2015 and activated on 1/28/2015. I mailed the $100.00 rebate form on 1/31/2015 (17 weeks ago). The rebate is for handsets purchased between 1/21/2015 and 4/05/2015, yet I have been rejected twice for the phone being “activated outside the program period,” even though a phone rep on 3/13/2015 admitted the postcard was completely wrong.

Here is the email I sent 5/28/2015 after finding that their rebate tracking website does not work on 3 separate attempts:

Hello, Amanda [last name redacted], or other Young America Special Services Team employee,

It has been over 4 weeks since the date of the email below (4/28/2015) and the $100.00 rebate card hasn’t shown up yet.

On 5/05/2015, I received an email with tracking # XXXX-XXXX-XXXX for this rebate. However, your rebate tracking website is completely broken / non-functional. I have checked it on 3 separate occasions (Fri., 5/22/2015; Tue., 5/26/2015; and Thu., 5/28/2015), and both times, I have received the following error messages:

When entering Option 1: Phone # and ZIP code:
“We’re Sorry. That request cannot be completed.”

When entering Option 2: Tracking Number or Option 3: Contact Information, the following error message has been received on all occasions:


Please provide the date my rebate with tracking # XXXX-XXXX-XXXX was mailed, or when it is expected to be mailed.

It has now been 117 days (almost 17 weeks) since I mailed my initial rebate submission.

Respectfully, I remain,
Richard Thripp
4-year MetroPCS Customer

4/28/2015 email from Amanda at MetroPCS’ rebate processing / fulfillment house:

Hello Richard,

Thank you for contacting the MetroPCS Rebate Center, we are happy to help you with your inquiry.

Your submission has been reprocessed and you can track the status of your rebate on our website; within 48 hours. Please allow 4 weeks for your submission to be processed.

If there is anything further we can assist you with, feel free to contact us by email, Web Chat or calling 1-800-999-6389 Monday – Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. CST.

We apologize for the confusion.

Amanda [last name redacted]
Special Services Team | YA Canada – a subsidiary of Young America, LLC
770 Richmond St., Unit C | Chatham, ON | N7M 5J5

4/25/2015 demand letter (email) to MetroPCS:

My rebate has been twice rejected with a postcard saying “the product activation for your submission occurred outside of the program period.”

The first postcard was received 3/13/2015, and I called 800-999-6389 on 3/13/2015 and was told the rejection was MetroPCS’s mistake and that I would receive the rebate in 8-10 weeks.

I received a new postcard with the same rejection message on 4/25/2015.

This is erroneous and at this point, arguably is an act of bad faith.

I demand my rebate for a $100.00 Visa prepaid card on the ZTE ZMAX mobile phone be honored as advertised, and have documentation proving the phone was purchased from, activated during the program period, and that the rebate was accordingly submitted and rejected in error.

Further, I demand an additional $15.00 concession for my rebate being repeated rejected and delayed, arguably in bad faith [this demand was not acknowledged in the 4/28/2015 reply from Amanda at Young America].

If my demands are not met, the actions I will take will include, but not be limited to:

1.) Submitting a chargeback with my credit card issuer (Chase Bank) regarding the transaction, in the amount of $100.00.
2.) Filing a complaint with the Attorney General for the State of Florida and the applicable state(s) of MetroPCS and MetroPCS’s rebate processors.
3.) Being that the rebate is processed in Texas, I have additional recourse permitted under the Texas Business & Commerce Code, Title 12, Section 605.
4.) Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
5.) Filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
6.) Being that the repeated rejection of my rebate has arguably been in bad faith and been conducted via correspondence delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, filing a complaint with the United States Postal Inspection Service for a possible case of mail fraud.

Richard Thripp

Text of MetroPCS rebate tracking error message which has been showing up on their site for at least an entire week when I try to track my rebate:

Server Error in ‘/’ Application.
Runtime Error
Description: An application error occurred on the server. The current custom error settings for this application prevent the details of the application error from being viewed remotely (for security reasons). It could, however, be viewed by browsers running on the local server machine.

Details: To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a tag within a “web.config” configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This tag should then have its “mode” attribute set to “Off”.

<!– Web.Config Configuration File –>

<customErrors mode=”Off”/>

Notes: The current error page you are seeing can be replaced by a custom error page by modifying the “defaultRedirect” attribute of the application’s configuration tag to point to a custom error page URL.

<!– Web.Config Configuration File –>

<customErrors mode=”RemoteOnly” defaultRedirect=”mycustompage.htm”/>

Reaching Peak Performance for Knowledge Workers

A presentation about attention- and time-management for “knowledge workers”: people who solve problems and approach problems creatively, and who deal primarily in knowledge (mental labor) rather than physical (manual) labor.

Prepared and presented by Richard Thripp of Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL on 2015-05-20, in fulfillment of Competent Communication Project #6: “Vocal Variety” in the Toastmasters curriculum.

Download the PDF of this presentation here (1.1 MB).

Keywords: attention, knowledge workers, peak performance, personal development, self-discipline, time management

Covey’s “Quadrant II” tasks and why you should know about them

The following speech, titled “Quadrant II Tasks,” was prepared and presented by Richard Thripp of Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL on 2015-04-15, in fulfillment of Competent Communication Project #4: “How to Say It” in the Toastmasters curriculum.

After hearing my speech, the audience will be educated on “Quadrant II” tasks as presented by Stephen R. Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the audience will be encouraged to prioritize Quadrant II tasks in their daily lives.

Covey's Quadrants
Image source:

  • Quadrant 2 tasks are important but not urgent.
  • More examples of Quadrant 2 tasks:
    • An ambitious exercise regimen
    • Quality time with your spouse and family
    • A side business you hope to eventually replace your day job with
    • Pursuing higher education or educational enrichment
    • Eating healthful meals; taking care of your teeth
    • Learning another language
    • Writing an enthralling book
    • Producing glamorous works of art
    • Developing your speaking skills
    • Toastmasters attendance and involvement; completing your CC and CL manuals
  • Quadrant 2 tasks are the “big picture.” They are vital to your long-term goals, dreams, and effectiveness in general. However, they can get swept under the rug because of the other 3 quadrants:
  • Quadrant 1 tasks are important and urgent. These tasks usually have deadlines, and not completing them on-time has negative consequences. For example, filing your taxes.
  • Quadrant 3 tasks are urgent but not important. If you are like me, your coworkers, friends, and family are likely to pile up quadrant 3 tasks on you, such as requests for technical help, proof-reading, or shopping advice. Ironically, a lot of these problems go away if you ignore them. A ringing phone is a prime example of an urgent but often unimportant stimulus.
  • Quadrant 4 tasks are not important and not urgent. Effective people minimize these tasks. Reading junk or chain email, using Facebook, watching TV or YouTube, reading blogs or the news, and text messaging might be in quadrant 4 for you.
  • Quadrant 2 tasks are most important to the effective and self-actualized person.
  • Quadrant 1 tasks are necessary and should be dealt with as needed.
  • Quadrants 3 and 4 should be ignored to the largest extent possible.
  • You can be very efficient focusing on quadrants 1 and 3, but be ineffective. Efficiency and effectiveness are two distinct concepts. Think about what will matter in a year or 5 years.
  • Caution must be used when applying these principles to interpersonal relationships. As Covey says, with people, “slow is fast and fast is slow,” meaning that trying to be efficient simply does not work. But these relationships may belong in Quadrant 2 and may be worth the time.
  • Quadrant 4 activities can be restive and relaxing in moderation. However, try watching documentaries, reading nonfiction books, and listening to audio books rather than the radio.
  • People who refuse to use social networks and refuse to give out their phone number or email might not just be aloof. They may be taking preventative measures to allow themselves to focus on ambitious Quadrant 2 tasks without distractions.
  • “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” – Stephen Covey; a good example of Covey’s Quadrants. He said Quadrant 2 is most important.
  • “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – President Dwight Eisenhower. Sometimes called Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix.
  • WHAT does your Quadrant 2 look like? How much time do you spend in Quadrant 2? How can you improve that?
  • Is your Quadrant 2 being neglected and ignored? Do not feel bad—you are not alone. Start saying “no” to Quadrant 3 and 4 tasks, and work on a Quadrant 2 task first thing each morning.

Download the PDF of the Quadrant II Tasks speech here (420 KB).

Richard Thripp’s 5th speech titled “Why Toastmasters?” has been posted on

Responsible Credit Card Usage

The following speech was prepared and presented by Richard Thripp of Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL on 2015-01-14, in fulfillment of Competent Communication Project #3: “Get to the Point” in the Toastmasters curriculum.

Initially, I prepared the following essay, which was subsequently adapted into index cue cards that I used to deliver the speech.

After hearing my speech, the audience will be able to articulate three benefits of credit cards and contrast these benefits with drawbacks that can result from poor spending habits, a lack of self-discipline, or other factors.

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Regarding self-discipline and credit cards, a common response is to advocate using cash or debit cards to limit our spending. Psychologists tell us we are likely to spend less if we have to fork over cold, hard cash rather than swiping a piece of plastic. However, credit cards offer a great number of advantages. Many credit cards now charge no annual fee and offer at least 1% in cash rewards on all purchases. Customers paying with credit cards have the recourse of pursuing a partial or complete chargeback against the merchant if receiving bad service, which is an avenue not available to users of cash and some debit cards. If the statement balance is fully paid within 21 days after the monthly statement closes, credit cards offer an interest-free loan with no risk, besides risk associated with a lack of self-discipline. If we pay them on time, credit cards help us build a good credit history. If we utilize less than about 30% of our credit lines, they are also likely to improve our credit scores, which can result in lower interest rates and more generous credit lines, not just with credit cards, but also mortgages and auto loans.

Despite these benefits, credit cards are not for everyone. Considering the average annual interest rate on a credit card is about 15%, deferring a balance of $5000 for one month will cost you about $63, completely wiping out the 1% in cashback rewards you may have earned. Further, missed payments can result in the penalty interest rate taking effect, typically 30%, as well as a late payment fee of about $37. Given these dire penalties, credit cards should be used by choice rather than out of necessity, and a wise consumer should always have enough money saved to cover all their credit card purchases.

Rather than condemning credit cards, we should recognize that for some people, they are effective, beneficial, and can actually help us build wealth. The credit card industry has a term for consumers who always pay their balance in full: “deadbeats.” This is because they earn far less money off these consumers than consumers who succumb to making the minimum payment while being subjected to high, compounding interest rates. The credit card business is so lucrative that credit card issuers offer large incentives to new account holders, often in the neighborhood of $500, as well as promotional 0% interest rates from 6 months to as long as 24 months, designed to get you in the habit of not paying the balance in full each month. Being a deadbeat means you can take advantage of these financial incentives while never giving them the satisfaction of profiting through interest and late fees.

The savvy, deadbeat credit card user is likely fiscally responsible in most areas of life, and has developed prudent habits that make him or her far less susceptible to the pitfalls of credit cards. When evaluating whether you are cut out to be a deadbeat, I suggest taking the approach of a financial actuary—rather than relying on emotions and self-image, compile statistics on how much money you have lost to high interest rates, late fees, cash advances, and other financial mechanisms over the past year. If this amount is any more than a few dollars, I suggest you avoid credit cards like the plague.

INDEX CARDS (used for actual speech):

Regarding self-discipline and credit cards, a common response is to advocate using cash or debit cards to limit our spending. Psychologists tell us we are likely to spend less if we have to fork over cold, hard cash than swiping a piece of plastic. Since credit cards are not for everyone, this may be an appropriate response in many cases.

POINT 1: Credit cards not for everyone
• High interest and late fees
• Avg. 15% APR = $63 interest on $5000 balance in one month!
• Penalty 29.99% APR + $37 fee
• Minimum payment = trap
• 0.00% APR lures you in [transition]

POINT 2: Benefits of credit cards
• Interest-free loan (if paid in full)
• Sign-up bonuses and rewards, I made $5000 in 2 years, nontaxable income
• Builds credit history/score, tracking
• Chargebacks (more leverage than cash)
• “Deadbeat” users don’t pay interest/fees

POINT 3: Builds credit history
• Over time improves credit score
• Keep below 30% utilization
• Multiple CCs = less effect to avg. acct. age when new CC is opened
• High credit score = very valuable in life

While credit cards can be a trap for many people, they can allow you to make thousands of dollars in bonuses and rewards while building your credit. Lenders and scoring models look favorably at a long history of on-time payments, which will benefit you when seeking a mortgage, auto, or personal loan, or even when renting an apartment or car. Thus, using credit cards responsibly can pay large dividends.

How to Avoid Losing Computer Data

The following speech was prepared and presented by Richard Thripp of Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL on 2014-10-08, in fulfillment of Competent Communication Project #2: “Organizing Your Speech” in the Toastmasters curriculum.

A presentation of ideas regarding avoiding losing typed work on webpages, backing up computer data, and the format and compression of data.

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Tonight I would like to talk about some basic concepts regarding computer usage and steps you can take to avoid losing data.

Have you ever filled out a form on a website only to have everything you typed vanish due to accidentally pressing the back button or some other glitch? This can be avoided by careful consideration and planning. If you are typing a long report, get into the habit of typing it in another program such as Notepad or Microsoft Word and saving the file regularly using the Ctrl + S keyboard shortcut. Then, when you have finished typing, you can copy and paste the results into the website, with the Word file serving as a backup. For users of the Mozilla Firefox web browser, there is also a free extension called Lazarus Form Recovery that saves all text you type in the browser, so you can retrieve it after a browser or operating system crash, server timeout, or other problem.

Backing up your computer files by making duplicate copies of them on other devices is critical, not only due to the risk of hard drive failure, but also viruses, software problems, and user error. For a backup to be effective, it must be updated regularly and stored on a different device—for example, it must not be stored on the same hard drive or a partition of the same hard drive. When updating your backup, care must be taken to ensure you are not deleting or overwriting previous versions of files that you might want to recover later. One piece of software I use to back up my files is called SyncBackFree, which allows you to configure options regarding the types of files to be backed up, and also to synchronize files based on variables such as file size and the “last modified” timestamp. Synchronization is also available, and is useful if you are actively making changes to the files on two devices, such as your home PC and a USB flash drive. For simplicity’s sake, I do not use synchronization, but rather edit most of my documents and school files directly from my flash drive even while at home, and thus use the software to perform a backup from my flash drive to my internal hard drive or other device at all times, which means my flash drive is treated as the authoritative or master copy. When using powerful software such as SyncBackFree, you should be careful to understand the interface and review the files that are going to be changed before proceeding with the backup, since it is possible to make a mistake and end up overwriting the data you intend to preserve.

In principle, you should also always have at least one copy of the files you intend to preserve NOT connected to your computer, in case a bug, virus, power surge, or curious toddler manages to delete both copies of the files. Thus, it may be necessary to have three copies of important files, with no more than two connected to your computer at any one time. I would also recommend looking into online backup, as it is increasingly becoming an effective option, especially for people who merely backing up documents and spreadsheets, rather than many gigabytes of photos and videos.

The final concept I will discuss is data formatting and compression. While you may think these are only of interest to computer science students, in fact they are quite important to the literate computer user. Consider that you are preparing a poster for work that you would like to both display in print, and distribute by email. A common mistake is emailing the same file you intend to print—this wastes many megabytes of space in each recipient’s email inbox. In fact, you should create a separate file to send via email, which can simply be the original file resampled to a lower resolution and saved with more compression.

Over-compression is also a common mistake. One example of this is misuse of the resolution and quality settings on your digital camera. As a new digital photographer in 2004, for several months I made the mistake of choosing the one megapixel resolution setting instead of two megapixels on my camera. My logic at the time was that the photos look the same anyway in slideshows on my monitor, and that I had only a small memory card and small hard drive in my computer. I regret this decision whenever I look at these photos, and wish I would have used the highest resolution setting on my camera and bought a larger memory card and hard drive earlier. Additionally, monitor resolutions have increased since 2004, so one megapixel photos do not even take up my whole screen now. When working with data, this is a very important principle to keep in mind—you can always remove data later, but you can never restore data that has been destroyed or was never recorded in the first place. Thus, it is wise to avoid making irreversible changes to any original file. Thanks to the abstraction that is the digital world, we are fortunate to be able to make perfect copies of digital files and perform our experiments safely.