Not Bait. Definitely Switched

I went to Walgreens to cash in my 4,050 points against the two gallons of $4.19 milk I bought yesterday. They wouldn’t let me.

“Plenty of points. In plenty of places,” the Walgreens ads trumpet. The store’s “Balance Rewards” appear on featured items in the store fliers and online each week. They promote buying “more for healthy behavior.”

Walgreens, at the corner of Happy and Healthy chocolate barsThis week, the flier offers 1,000 points on Lindt Chocolates, 1,000 points on Schweppes seltzer water, 1,000 points on Planters winter spice or brittle nut medley, and 1,000 points on Hallmark greeting cards. Yep, healthy choices all.

“Oh, we have a policy not to redeem those points on dairy,” the manager said.

Turns out the fine print does say that points are “good on next purchase. Points are not earned if Store Credit or Redemption Dollars are used in a transaction and cannot be redeemed on some items. Complete details at”

I wondered about the policy that sells healthy chocolate and soda and nuts and greeting cards but won’t redeem them on milk, so I turned to the Interwebs.

“Due to state and federal laws, points cannot be earned on some items. Points will not be awarded to anyone who currently is or was at any time in the 6 months prior to purchasing Pharmacy Items covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or any other government-funded healthcare program. Pharmacy Items must be purchased at participating Walgreens Drugstore, Rxpress, Duane Reade, or Walgreens Pharmacy locations (“Participating Stores”) to earn points. Excludes Pharmacy Items purchased from AR, NJ or NY pharmacies and prescriptions transferred to a Participating Store located in AL, MS, OR or PR. See Balance Rewards terms and conditions for full details.” [Emphasis added]

The Terms and Conditions of the loyalty program offered by Walgreen Co. to its customers (also referred to as “the Program”) (I presume the loyalty program is referred to as “the Program,” not the customers) runs to five dense, single spaced pages of legalese. Buried near the bottom of page 3, I found this:

“Redemption Dollars may not be used for the purchase of the following: dairy; alcohol; tobacco; stamps; phone/pre-paid/gift cards; money order/transfers; transportation passes; charitable donations; prescriptions; pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products; immunizations, health tests or other healthcare items or services; Prescription Savings Club membership fee; clinic services.”

Walgreens may, of course, at any time and without notice, change, eliminate, or terminate the Point earning and redemption procedures and offerings.

I can understand that a drug store might not want to encourage discounts on booze and tobacco and would “lose” money on cash stuff like stamps, cash cards, and money order and the like. I don’t understand why a drug store “at the corner of happy and healthy” would discourage discounts on prescription, immunizations, health tests, items and services.

CVS annoys me, too, but I really wish they hadn’t left town.

“I dislike CVS,” Liz Arden said, “simply because they refuse Google Wallet and Apple Pay forms of payment. I like Walgreens because they accept Google Wallet.”

There is that, of course.

As far as I know, Walgreens does not sell bait. I feel happier and healthier already.



A very nice surgical physician’s assistant grabbed the couple of cysts I had mentioned. Easy peasy. He mostly shaved my chest and numbed me up with a quick acting, long lasting ‘caine-based anesthetic. Made a couple of cuts. Popped the cyst sacs out intact. Dug around in the bigger one to pull out all the scar tissue and cauterized the grave. Pulled the tissue together so there wouldn’t be too much depression. And did two layers of stitches. There are about 15 stitches all together.

The whole procedure was absolutely painless. And the dermatology practice will bill for just one procedure including the initial consultation, the excision, and even the return visit to remove the 27 miles of stitches. As an aside, people who can tie stitches awe me. I’m good with fine handwork. I can tie up a dinghy or a destroyer. I have no trouble with a reef knot. I have never mastered the surgeon’s knot in 4-0 silk.

They will also send the cysts themselves in for lab analysis. That will cost extra.

The phone call with the results won’t cost extra but it may not be painless.

When Nurse Nancy said she would call me, I reiterated that she could leave a detailed message on my voicemail. See, I know that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires privacy so you have to fill out a form in quintuplicate and seal it with the blood of a goat to allow a doc to leave you a message.

I had already given them the blood of the goat.

“Well, maybe I can,” she said.


“Does your message identify you?”

Of course it does but apparently some people don’t.

“Lots of people leave the wrong number. Sometimes I don’t dial correctly. If I can’t tell for sure it is your voicemail, I can’t leave the message,” she said.

Geico called my cellphone and left a message for [name deleted] that their insurance wasn’t bound yet because they had not supplied enough information.

I don’t know if the poor schlub gave them the wrong number or if the Geico rep misdialed but not even my “Hi this is Dick Harper. Don’t leave a message and particularly don’t leave one for [name deleted]” outgoing message deterred them.


Then there is the famed, federal Telemarketers’ Sourcebook (the FCC calls it the “Do Not Call” registry but we know they’re “here to help”). The first phone call in history happened on a nippy March day in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell rang up Mr. Watson. “Come here. I want to see you,” he said. The second phone call in history happened later that chilly when a telemarketer called for “Mr. Fell” and offered to sell a genuine medicinal oil. The third phone call in history happened when Mr. Bell asked the Feds for help.

128 years later, a law made it illegal for telemarketers to call people on their list. Uh huh.

I get a lot of calls from “Consumer Svcs,” and “extended warranty” robocallers, and “Skycare,” and more. One enterprising phisherman even “spoofed” Swanton Lumber’s number. I do a fair amount of business with Swanton Lumber, so I answered that one. Snake oil.

The law doesn’t deter them. They just keep calling.

My outgoing voicemail message doesn’t deter them. They just keep calling.

My stadium air horn hasn’t deterred them. They just hire another, not-yet deaf, crook and just keep calling.

There are a number of hinky solutions such as anonymous call rejection, priority rings, and complete call blocking from your phone company to smart phone apps that do the same. My cordless phone has call block built in. All I do is scroll back through the Caller ID screen, select the offender, and save that number to the blocked list. Most amazing of all is that the phone turns off the call to my entire system so all the phones in the house stop ringing. I have no idea how that works. Black magic, I’m thinking.

People.Just.Don’t.Listen. but thanks to my phone’s extraordinary “Call Block” feature, I don’t have to listen either.


In the Cloud(s)

I spent an entire day, on and off, obsessing over Internoodle storage. I still don’t have a good answer.

The issue isn’t (quite) what’s out there. Everybody seems to sell cloud storage today. Except me.

Cloud Storage My real question is which cloud storage companies have the couple of important pieces like file versioning and file locking.
File Versioning: A computer file system which allows your files to exist in several versions at the same time. Most common versioning file systems keep a number of old copies of the file which is exactly what I want.
File Locking: A way to restrict access to your file by allowing only one user or process to work on and save it at any given time. If you open this post in your word processor and correct the spelling, you definitely don’t want me to come along, open it, and move the paragraphs around which would wipe out your work. Or vice versa.

Most (not all) of the vendors seem to let multiple computers and other devices sync to the same account.

Most (not all) of the vendors won’t protect you from having the same file open in two places at the same time, even for me alone.

I called a couple of vendors.

You are now chatting with “Noah” at GoDaddy:
Thank you for contacting Sales Chat. My name is Noah. Who am I speaking to today?

Hi Noah. I’m Dick. I’m an ordinary geek. I have 4 or 5 Windows computers I need to sync, plus a couple of smartphones and a couple of tablets. I absolutely need to lock open files. I have under 100GB of files.

Can I do that on GoDaddy?

sure! if you are just looking to get an online storage that you can access files online that you can access from anywhere. What types of files are you trying to share?
I’m trying to open files on, say, this laptop and then open them on the one in the next room, much as I would if collaborating in an office. This is everything from Word .docs and Lotus spreadsheets (Lotus, not Excel) to photo RAW files

so with the online storage option you would be able to upload all those file types to the storage however you would have to download each thing to be able to make edits/modifications, and then re upload for them for collaboration.

Don’t the files automatically sync with your storage once I’ve uploaded them?

hmm. lets me take a look at that portion of it.

ahh okay sorry I thought at first you were talking about online collaboration where you can update it online and it will right away update online. This can be setup to sync between multiple computers so you have all the files that you need online accessible to all pc and macs. It does not do tablet or smart phone syncing.

Good. Will it lock a file I may have open on PC #1 so I can’t change it at the same time on PC#2?

Yeah it wont do that. honestly this is kind a old product of ours that is starting to phase out. Its not even on the main website anymore so I don’t know how you found the page. I would recommend looking at something like Microsofts Onedrive as its much cheaper and has a lot more features to it.

Huh. Starting to phase out. Worrisome.

Noah’s comments were oddly refreshing except the GoDaddy online storage Online Storage “WORKSPACE” page looks pretty current. “Store your files in the cloud! Access documents, photos, video, and more — anytime, anywhere.”

I also spoke to “Margie S” at Microsoft. I’ve shortened that conversation. A lot.

I’m an ordinary geek. I have 4 or 5 Windows computers I need to sync, plus a couple of smartphones and a couple of tablets. I absolutely need to lock open files.

Can I do that with a OneDrive account or do I need a Business account?

Do I have to do all work in a browser or can I use local apps and Windows Explorer to manage files?

Now, what if I decide to include *all* my photo files, about 1TB and growing?


Margie S –
Thank you for sharing your concern Dick. I am more than happy to assist you.

May I have your email address tied up to your Microsoft account.

And a good contact number in case we’re disconnected I can call you back.

Margie S –
Dick regarding to your question you need our Office 365. Because Office 365 Home can be installed to 5 PCs or Macs, plus 5 iPads or Windows tablets. It also has the applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, One Note, Access and Publisher. Another feature that you can take advantage of is our Skype world minutes where you have 60 minutes of Skype calls each month.

I’m not an Office user. I have locally licensed Word. I use Lotus. I have Corel products including both CorelDraw and WordPerfect. All I want is file storage, syncing, sharing and access.

Margie S –
I understand you Dick, in this case you can only purchase Onedrive

Cool! Last question. Really. I still have an XP computer. Can I use it with OneDrive or OneDrive Business?

Margie S –
Yes Dick.

I tested a OneDrive personal account here using two Windows 7 computers and a Windows XP box. The OneDrive app would not even install on the Windows XP system. And I opened an Excel spreadsheet on this laptop, then opened it on the other computer. Did the same with a WordPerfect document. I worked on and saved each with no file lock or versioning apparent.

Bottom line, OneDrive failed all three tests.

I simply don’t know that the reps know any more than I do.

Prices are all over the map.

Amazon Cloud Drive costs $50/year for 100GB, $500/year for 1TB.

Dropbox slashed their price to $9.99/month for 1TB and has multi-computer sync.

GoDaddy charges $4.99/month for 100GB and also has multi-computer sync.

Google also “slashed the price of its cloud service by as much as 80%” so 100GB is $1.99/month and 1TB plummeted from $49.99 to $9.99. Google Cloud Storage pricing is based on a flat rate for storage plus a usage rate for network access which is akin to paying for “message units” for your local phone calls which I find abhorrent.

Houston-based MediaFire offers $2.50/month for 1TB, “promotional pricing.” It is “developing applications” for iOS and Android. Their free 50GB is ad-supported. MediaFire calls AWS “cost prohibitive” and a potential security and privacy risk.

Microsoft’s new personal monthly prices are $1.99/100GB (previously $7.49) and $3.99/200 GB (previously $11.49). OneDrive for Business has 1TB for $2.50/user/month with annual commitment (down for now from $5/user/month) with additional storage costing more.

Surprisingly Microsoft’s $30/year for a terabyte is way below anyone else. Sadly, OneDrive now works only on Windows 7 and Windows 8.x; when Microsoft drops support for those now-current operating systems, that means a OneDrive will likely stop working for millions of computers just as it doesn’t work now for the millions of Windows XP owners.

They have almost 45 million seats on O365 today and nearly 4.4 million home users of O365 with $2.5 billion in annual run rate.

A huge number of the sites have remarkably similar websites so I wonder if coincidence, plagiarism, or reselling is involved. I also found that Bitcasa has cash from Horizons Ventures which manages the Internet and technology investments of Mr. Li Ka-shing of Hong Kong and Andreessen-Horowitz.

Out of pure contrariness, I’d normally avoid Microsoft and Google, MS because they are so clouded .DOCX-centric and Google because they charge for message units and push the same “use our cloud-apps” schema.

It pains me to say this but I’m (almost) a Microsoft Live/Sky/OneDrive convert. The Microsoft cost-structure is attractive. The Microsoft consistency is attractive.

I won’t do it, though. The Microsoft ability to suddenly orphan my equipment isn’t attractive at all but it might work for you and it might work for some of my own clients.

I still don’t have a good answer. If you do, please share.


Thursday Thorn

This tweeted ad from 2009 has gone viral: “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your severs?” Hmmm. Maybe because they, um, lied?

Sonasoft IRS Update
Sonasoft has a lot more words about it in an “IRS UPDATE” on their site now: “Sonasoft Corp., a leader in enterprise-class email archiving and eDiscovery tools, clarifies its role with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Sonasoft’s email archiving services. Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email.

OK, so the company that wanted you to use their products because the IRS uses their products maybe fibbed a little.

Call me crazy but I’m thinking I don’t want to do business with someone who lies to me. Of course, that seems to be business-as-usual inside the Beltway.