Left to right – Courtney, Mike, and Jayke

Did you ever hear a song that you love, but you just can’t listen to it because you don’t like the artist? For me… That’s Kickstart my Heart from Motley Crue. A badass tune from a band that I don’t care for.

Of course… there are also bands that I adore, with songs that I despise… Like Crazy, Crazy Nights from Kiss! Where’s that throw-up emoji when I need it?

It’s a lot more difficult for me to fall in love with music. Maybe it’s because I’m a musician myself? I always thought that made me more forgiving of bands… but now I see that it makes me more cynical.

I don’t just want a catchy tune… I want the band to be cool too, I want their sound to be awesome, and I need them to be among the 8% of people on the planet, who don’t deserve a flaming bag of shit thrown at their front door.

Maybe you’re surprised that great people can be found in disguise and in unusual places? So if you judge a book by it’s cover, then you’re on the wrong website and you probably won’t ever find yourself at a Goddamn Gallows show either.

But if you’re like me…

You hate having popularity jammed down your throat. You prefer to stumble upon it when you least expect it, and sure enough, that’s how it went for me with the Goddamn Gallows. A beautiful thing when I least expected it.

I first saw them when they toured with the Koffin Kats in Philly… And while I don’t remember most of that night, a few days later, I saw them again at Roxy and Dukes in Jersey. On this particular night, The Koffin Kats wrapped up first, so I was on my way out the door… But as I was leaving, the Goddamn Gallows came on and played “Down With the Ship” off their new album ‘”The Trial”.

I turned around, gave them my full attention… And the hook was set.

Courtney – Bass and Vocals
Uriah – Drums and Vocals

I will forever describe that tune as Oscar the Grouch singing a nursery rhyme, and I loved it! So when I got home, I bought all of their albums.

Their genre was all over the place. One minute I thought that I was listening to John Denver, and the next minute I thought that I was listening to Necrophiliac from Slayer… The line between those two was a complete blur.

Mike – Lead Guitar and Vocals

Over the next few weeks, I struggled to make sense of it all and to find my “comfy zone” within their very large catalog… Finally, it was time to put their music to the test. And my two-step authentication process… Never fails!

Step One; clean my house with your music on shuffle. If I don’t have to hit skip… Then you’re in.

The Goddamn Gallows passed this test with flying colors… Scoring extra points because I was inspired to grab a beer and hit repeat a few times.

Step Two is a bit tougher; it requires me to shake your hand. That’s not so easy when a band is touring all over the world, 320 days a year. So when I heard that the GDG were coming to the Stanhope House in Stanhope New Jersey, I got ready to do some driving.

2.5 hours to be exact.

I arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon, and at 3:30 on show night, a band is always in a state of flux… They don’t know whether they want rest, alcohol, food, or action, and in my experience, the choices that you make early in the day have a lot to do with how your night will end. So, I opted to stay away from them until show time.

The bands manager Mike and I went for lunch, which consisted of my pre-show ritual… a juicy steak and frozen margaritas! After that, we headed back to chill at the merch table while we waited for the show.

As the evening unfolded, the rest of the band crept out from wherever they had been lurking… Each resembling a vampire whom was unexpectedly awoken from a 100 year slumber, but each just as cool as the ice cream man.

I was instantly confident that I didn’t waste a two and a half hour trip on a bunch of nut-sacks.

I’m high-strung and OCD, so I envy people that can just roll along, and the GDG roll better than most bands that I’ve seen. Relaxed, calm, and enjoying the evening… Not running around like primadonnas who were out of Aquanet.

I got to spend some time with Courtney (the bass player) and Uriah (the drummer) before the show. Both were down-to-Earth guys that I’d have gladly driven 3 hours to hang out with, even if they weren’t playing any music.

I barely got to see Mike and Jayke before the show. However… They’re rockstars, so you need to give them their space if you expect to juice them for a killer performance… At least that’s what they told me.

And that they did deliver!

The band hits the stage, and unless you’ve ever seen them before, you can’t possibly be prepared for what’s about to unfold.

Even if you were lucky enough to guess how it was gonna go, it’d be some place else long before you ever had a chance to brag about it.

Their cross-genre attack immediately explodes in your face, leaving you intrigued, captivated, and hot on the heels of toe tapping. And just when you think that you have them pinned down, the wind kicks up and the tide has changed.

Stand there long enough, and you’ll likely be inclined to start throwing bodies around the room.

To say that they’re diverse would be an epic understatement, to think that it can’t be done would be a rookie mistake… Whatever they do, they do well, and you’re well aware of the fact that they wrote the book on it all.

The audience was at full attention at all times, and it was clear to me that no amount of sweat, beer, or volume emanating from the stage could keep them at bay for very long. It wasn’t just a big crowd… It was a good crowd too.

A tough, rockabilly, punk gang on the outside, but decent humans on the inside… And that’s just how we like em’. Good people.

The Maker

The absolute last thing that a busy, adrenaline fueled stage needs is an idiot crawling around with a camera, but whenever an idiot is needed… I’m on it! The band let me creep around and get some good photo’s and video… and I made it out alive, so next time, I’ll bring better camera’s, cigars, and a bottle of bourbon.

I got to hear “Down with the Ship”, “Load your Guns”, and a cover of Venom’s “In League With Satan”… Which oddly enough is the first song that I ever learned on bass guitar about 35 years ago.

I couldn’t have been happier with the band and their performance.

The show was awesome, the talent was amazing, and when I started worrying that it all would be over too soon, it was clear to me that the GDG had also passed Step Two with flying colors.

If they were playing there every night this week, I wouldn’t have missed a single show.

To me, the Goddamn Gallows represent the little remaining great about America… You can be who you want to be, go where you want to go, and do what you want to do. Some of us choose to plant our ass on the couch and fritter our life away, others carve their path through the world, fully embracing everything that life has to offer.

The Goddamn Gallows have done this, and they’ve earned my praise and support.

They may represent the American dream… But behind the scenes, the dream requires incredible sacrifice. Life on the road, away from family, pets, comfort, and the security of a home, isn’t for the faint of heart.

When you consider that they’re doing it for you… How can it not inspire you to show up with a big appetite for a good time?

Take it from me… If you do, you will.

Go to their website, sign up, follow them on social media, and get out to see their show. You won’t regret it.

And… It’s a scientific fact that seeing a Goddamn Gallows show will dramatically improve your street cred… So it’s likely that you’ll walk out of there being up to 70% cooler than you’re telling everyone you are on facebook.

Promo poster

NOTE: Special thanks to Armya for making this come together, 11th hour style. If I wasn’t ordering from Ticketmaster, and paying who-knows-what for fees, I’m not comfortable… Brown Paper Tickets managed the ticket sales for this venue, which is cool for some… besides, I thought to myself, there’s no way this show is going to sell out. It did.

We both contacted the venue… Armya was successful; I wasn’t… explaining one of the M’s in SCTMMC stands for Music, which we wholeheartedly support on our website. He spoke with owner Andreas Kleinert who reserved two tickets for us at the door, in the name of journalism… Scroti style… which begs the question… Why wasn’t I forwarded a Press Pass?

Located at 251 W. Fifth Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, The Shrunken Head offers live music, open mic nights, and may be extremely easy to locate, in the day time. Not so much, at night. My friend and I were having problems finding it, but deduced the venue was located behind the fleet of vans and trailers parked in front of the establishment, belonging to none other than the groups we were here to see… screw GPS, Siri! We’ll find our own way!

Goddamn Gallows skateboard

The first person I introduced myself to was Nick Magoteaux, SH’s sound engineer. Super nice guy, and after reading the reviews, seeing and listening to his efforts both before the show and during, my hat is off to him… Nick didn’t disappoint, both helping the bands manage their sound, setup and teardown… solid effort, Nick!

I also met Mike ‘Snappi’, the manager of the GD Gallows, who just so happened to be working the merchandise displays.

Spidey and Snappi
Biram merch


Urban Pioneers merch

… again, super nice! I asked how he knew Jimmy Jam, and he whispered in my ear, “It goes back to our old cow tippin’ days.” That’s when I left, to go get a beer.

Having not paid our entry fee yet, I inquired of the bartender how they collect. She said well before show time, they corral everyone back out of the bar, and then process tickets from a list, probably printable through Brown Paper Tickets. Sure enough, our names were written in, at the end of the list, just like Andreas and Armya had worked out.

Pre-show crowd

Stage, audience view
Used gear for sale, anyone?

A couple of tall PBR’s and we were ready to be entertained, and indeed we were…

First up, The Urban Pioneers.

Martin, Jared and Liz

The group consisted of Jared McGovern on banjo/guitar, Liz Sloan on fiddle, and Martin Sargent on double bass. What a great opening act! Their feel good performance consisted of original songs that encompass old time hillbilly music, western swing, rockabilly, and even a few gypsy type songs for good measure. Jared may have been the front man, but all three contributed vocally, and very well, at that. Whether playing banjo or guitar, Jared fast paced strumming carried the band through their well-timed set… even broke a string midway through, never missing a beat to finish out the song. No drums, mind you… in between booming bass notes, Martin was also playing a percussive slap on his double bass. Made me wonder how long it takes to pick this technique up to be proficient? I’m thinking he’s been playing a while. I saved the best for last, though… Ms. Sloan was a spitfire on fiddle. My goodness, could she play! Very expressively, too… great job guys!

The Urban Pioneers
Martin Sargent, on DB
Martin, Jared, Spidey and Liz

Next up, Scott Biram…

Scott Biram

… jam master, one-man band extraordinaire! His setup consisted of about 3 Gibson acoustics and a couple of electrics, including an Explorer… and, were they well worn. From the way he played, these instruments were not faux relic’d, at all. A beat driven stomp provided the vehicle for most songs, with the audience joining in, as well. Definitely, a Texas blues influence in his playing, and at one point in the show the glass slide made an appearance… phenomenal.

Biram, jamming out

Our headliner for tonight, which you have heard our fearless leader highlight one or two times, here and there, was none other than the GD Gallows!

The Goddamn Gallows

I caught up with the bassist, early on, and asked if I could get a pic with him for our website… super cool guy, too!

… and, this is what I got in return… I wonder if he knows where my nose has been.

After replacing a noisy instrument cord, they commenced bringing it. My buddy and I…

Spidey and T’Challa

… only stayed for about 3 of their songs, as it was almost midnight, and I had a pumpkin carriage to return, before getting charged another day’s rental. The Gallows did not disappoint! Musically tight, with a great overall sound, their genre is hard to nail down. If you kegged a mix of rockabilly, punk, and metal, with a smidgen of bluegrass thrown in for good measure, from the tap you would get a healthy dose of the Gallows. At one point, the lead singer/guitarist morphed into what I considered a real life animation, straight out of ‘The Mask’, speaking in tongues between verses, which fired up the audience even more.

Rounding out their sound, the rhythm section consisted of a 3-piece drum set, a thunderous double bass, and a rock solid second guitarist who doubled, sometimes tripled up instrumentally, providing support with mandolin, banjo, and possibly a flugelhorn.

GDG bassist

Overall, a great night to spend with some outstanding musicians! Much thanks to Andreas, Snappi, The Urban Pioneers, Scott Biram, and The GD Gallows, as well as our own Armya for making this all possible. I highly suggest if the entourage stops at a town near you, it’s well worth the trip to see them live.

Love and Peace,

Spidey2112

The Goddamn Gallows

This band has grown on me at an alarming rate. I met them on tour with the Koffin Kats, and it’s hard to say whether I had more fun goofing off with the GDG or listening to their music… Fortunately for me, I don’t have to choose.

Nowhere Left to Roam

As with the Koffin Kats, the GDG have an extensive music catalog… And that makes them a Grand Slam in my world. I throw on one album at the gym, another at work, another back in the studio… And then I still have a few albums left to crank up during my weekend war mongering.

The music is folk… I guess, but it has pepper on it… A lot of pepper. Think the Kingston Trio meet the Sex Pistols. I’m never bored while listening for sure. There’s plenty of diversity, intriguing hooks, first class writing, and outstanding talent pouring out of the speakers.

If you’re a fan of hard-driving music that gets you moving, and looking for something completely unique, then look no further. Wailing vocals, accordion, metal guitar, banjo, upright bass… It’s addictive.

They tour regularly and their live show is straight-up captivating, so I urge you to check their schedule and get to a show! They’re a musicians band, so whether you like their genre or not, you’re going to walk away in love with the band and a fan for life…

And if you’re lucky, I might even buy you a beer.

Take it from a guy who only steers half of you wrong 70% of the time, Support this band my friends. You’ll be glad that you did. Heck… if you post a pick at a GDG show, I might even send you a Genuine, Luxurious, Industrious Dudes SCTMMC Hoodie. Come and take it!

7 Devils

Here’s their Touring Schedule: https://www.thegoddamngallows.com/tour

The bands albums are available on their website through Itunes here: https://www.thegoddamngallows.com/music

And Amazon, Spotify, etc. as well.

Check out this interview with the band: https://thepreludepress.com/interviews/2018/4/11/qa-with-the-goddamn-gallows

The Bands Bio…

Spit from the heart of America’s Rust Belt, arising from a night of flophouse violence. Drifting across the states, they cemented their sound in Portland, OR and later in Los Angeles, CA, where they lived in abandoned buildings, squatter camps, storage units and shoebox apartments.

In 2007, they left everything behind and spent the next 4 years living out of whatever vehicle would get them to the next town. Building upon their original sound of twanged-out, punk rock gutterbilly (Life of Sin 2004 and Gutterbillyblues 2007), they began picking up stray musicians along the way and adding to their sound; washboard, accordion, mandolin and banjo (Ghost of the Rails 2009 and 7 Devils 2011) creating a sound referred to as “hobocore”, “gypsy-punk” or “americana-punk”, while never being stuck in any one sound.

Enter 2018 and The Goddamn Gallows have reinvented themselves once again with The Trial. From rockabilly, psychobilly and punk rock, to bluegrass and metal, The Trial infuses disparate sounds into a new strange recipe of seamless genre bending profundities.

Chock full of impromptu antics of the shocking variety and hauntingly eclectic instrumentation, The Goddamn Gallows have made legions of fans with their legendary, live shows.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Serves: 8

Ingredients

1 three-pound beef chuck roast

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 garlic cloves

1 red onion, sliced

1 cup Italian dressing

1 cup beer (use your favorite!)

2 bay leaves

Hawaiian slider buns

Sliced Colby-Jack Cheese

Directions

1. Place the chuck roast into a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Sprinkle the roast with the salt and pepper. Place the garlic cloves on top of the roast. Add the red onion, then pour over the Italian dressing and beer. Place the bay leaves on top.

2. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8-10. Don’t open the lid during the cooking time.

3. Discard bay leaves and shred the meat with 2 forks, smash the garlic with the back of a fork and stir the garlic into the shredded meat. Discard any fat, and drain off the grease. Serve the shredded meat on Hawaiian slider buns with the Colby-Jack Cheese. Melt the cheese under the broiler in the oven if desired. Enjoy!

As most of you know, I have a heavy passion for hot peppers.

I’ve been growing my own for about 20 years, and about 10 years back, I came up with recipe for hot pickled veggies that my friends and I adore.

Unfortunately, it requires harvesting peppers and then turning my kitchen upside down for a week to make them, so it’s definitely a treat that I don’t get to enjoy frequently.

As a result, I’m always on the lookout for similar items, so when my buddy Mktrat heard me talking about em’, he found just the cure.

Amish Country Sweet Hot Habanero Pickles

I got home and found these babies on my door step. So I went inside, grabbed an ice cold Go To IPA (the official IPA of all things Amy), made sure that the insurance premiums on my underpants were current, and I tried one.

Man are these babies delicious!!

I don’t usually go for anything sweet, but it’s just the perfect compliment to the heat, and I can’t see it working without it.

The first bite wasn’t too hot, but as with all hot pepper foods, it’s cumulative… So by the 2nd nibble, my mouth was a blazin!

As usual, Go To was perfectly refreshing… maybe a little too refreshing actually. It cooled me down so fast, that I began shoveling the pickles in at an alarming rate! Wow are they addictive.

I literally could not stop enjoying these babies, and I’m quite sure that this is exactly what the Amish were hoping people would do with them.

It’s been about 16 hours since I attacked the jar, and so far my ass is exactly where I left it… No ill side effects or weapons-grade-sprints to the bathroom either.

The label says that these things are “especially made for” Amish Country Bulk Foods… So I’m gooing to look into having them made for the SCTMMC too. They’re that good. And if not, then I’ll make my own again.

Either way… I won’t be without these suckers ever again!!

For the record… The same goes for Stone Go To! All hats of to Stone!

And special thanks to Mktrat for making it all possible…

Should my ass ever burst in to flames, then I will curse you the curse of a thousand scorpions on your breakfast cereal.

During a conversation with my old pal Spiderman the other day, he said to me, “I’m flattered that you’re wearing my underpants”. However, that’s not what intrigued me.

It was his statement:

I’m still a firm believer in, if you don’t like what you’re currently watching, change the channel…

Certainly we here know that, but have any of you ever tried to figure out what makes us different?

On the surface, I’d say that we were all willing to give up quantity for quality. Of course, we didn’t really give up anything. We merely stopped buying into the perception of value where there was none.

I was watching South Park this morn, and the episode about facebook was on. It’s amazing how those guys nail reality… And crude as it may be, reality it truly is. Hat’s off to them for calling the world out on its short comings.

Facebook is massive, but it’s filled with people who could care less about whether you live or die.

When I read the Talkbass thread that was linked to here, I realized that it was exactly the same there as it is on facebook… I don’t know why I never saw it so boldly before, but TB truly is as I mentioned in the Sad things that do Good story; Generic advice at best.

Other than one or two of us who went in there for comedic value, it was blatantly obvious that everyone posting in the TB thread had absofuckinglutely nothing else to do… The subject matter was 1st day material, which is typically sung to you while you’re learning to tie your shoe laces.

No offender walked away enlightened by the advice, no victim felt soothed by it… It accomplished nothing more than garnering fleeting attention and accolades for the OP, who’s now feverishly trying to top his moment in the spotlight.

And… All so that he can spend 24 more hours on a pedestal in a sea of shit, and all because he favors a sea of shit over a pond of beauty.

People love their own kids, cats, and dogs… Not other peoples. The random “look at what my kid did”, and the comments and likes that follow are meaningless preoccupation, which is evident in their actions… They don’t actually care in real life.

I then read another touching Fb post… a mothers “share” of a heartfelt statement to her daughter. I emphasize share, because it wasn’t even the mothers own words, it was someone else’s creation.

The statement informed the daughter that she should know, no matter what, wherever she was, that the mother always loved her more than anything.

It had several hundred comments, likes, and shares… And it was truly beautiful.

It was also complete bullshit, and thanks to social media, it’s politically incorrect for me to call it out.

The reality of that post is; it was created as a tracking cookie. Someone is getting paid, based on how many times that it’s liked and shared. It tells them how many friends that you have, who they are, where they shop, where they bank, what kind of car they drive, and what kind of porno that they watch.

For the record; If you truly love your kid, they already know it… and if they have to read about it on facebook, then you should be cancelling your internet service immediately.

No topic is off limits to a schmuck… Which is pretty much how you become one. I’ve seen fake posts about cancer, autism, racism, and even the holocaust. Things that society has perceived to to be socially off limits, are prime game for phishing trackers, because who’d expect a tracking cookie to be disguised as a story about breast cancer?

Many of you may recall my Philadelphia excursion at 3am, when I stumbled upon a group of kids staging and filming a car jacking. People are being duped into believing that is going on in their community, when all it is are a bunch of kids trying to get paid by Google.

But if the only time that you actually get involved with your community is when you’re on facebook… Then Ye shall reap… And duped you are.

Thanks to the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus, we’ve groomed the youth of the world to prize “views and likes” above all else.

14 year olds aren’t dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up. They’re financing $1000 iphones so that they can film a staged “puppy theft”.

Then, there’s the poor guy who had his guitar stolen…

His friends and followers will become obsessed with circulating and telling the story. Of course they will, because it’s drama and it’s front page news, and they’ll want to know every detail.

But how many of them will actually try to find the guitar?

Whereas… If that happened here, every one of us would join to resolve the matter by nightfall.

All I ever wanted to do, is exactly what everyone else on social media wanted to do; Be loved, respected, cared for, and treated with decency. The only difference is, I was willing to leave 6,000 people who were pretending to care about me, in order to live out my days with the 100 who actually do.

Life is about sacrifices. The sacrifices that it took to make the Sarcastic, Coffee, Technology, Music, and Movie Club, pale in comparison to the dividends that it pays.

Everyone reading this possesses the finest qualities that humanity has to offer. The SCTMMC was created to ensure at all costs, that good people like you would be united with the people who you deserved to be with.

The people who look forward to you. The people who notice when you’re missing. The people who might not give a rats ass about your kid or your cat, but who rejoice in how important those things are to you.

Always look behind the curtain. Spread the truth to all who will listen. And above all else, run like Hell from those who won’t.

Yesterdays passing of PJ, an employee of the now defunct “Oktober Guitars” in Maryland, brought up a lot of talk in the forum about how we spend our time here on Earth. PJ wasn’t a member here yet, but I have no doubt that he would’ve loved it, because he was just like us.

His story was tragic, and when I told it, it made everyone sad… but that wasn’t the reaction that I was going for. How do you write about death, while inspiring your audience to feel good and be happy? I don’t know… but I do believe that is how we should respond, and certainly what PJ would’ve wanted.

Many of us are career Heavy Metal musicians, so we’re no strangers to aggressive lyrics about tragedy and bad luck… As such, you’d think that we’d be more prepared for them when they occur… But the odd thing is; no matter how smart I’ve ever felt, or how prepared I’ve ever been.. I never seem to see the light when things are dark.

If you’re like me, then you hate the generic, cliche BS that people throw at you when you’re in trouble (and they’re not). But since it’s unavoidable, find a way break the cycle and be better.

While talking with Rattbones yesterday, I was throwing a lot that generic advice out there myself. I think that it’s instinct to want to help others, but I believe that the line is drawn exactly after that sentence. Yes you may want to help, but simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, well that’s just not helping at all.

The outcome isn’t what matters in life… it’s how you handle the situation that matters. PJ has passed, that’s the outcome… How I handle it is how you will judge me. So what good is it if I mourn him for the day, and then simply go back about my business on the following?

We all aspire to leave a big impact on the world, so I can’t imagine that I’d be doing PJ justice by being plain. This is my opportunity to find happiness in sadness, and all that’s required is for me to care enough to try.

PJ left a lot behind that can bring others joy for the rest of their lives. He especially loved to build and play guitars, and since we live for music, we’re enamored by his collection. No doubt that would make PJ grin from ear to ear.

Through his guitars, we can make PJ’s spirit echo on, and to me, that’s a genuine gesture to his family, as well as a refreshing perspective on making the best of the worst.

Most of us cherish a few inanimate objects… maybe a little more than we should, but it’s a tough world, so you have to adore what gets you through the day. If that’s a guitar, then so be it.

Music has a massive impact on the world, and we are the proud few whom realize that making music is the greatest feeling of all. Our instruments are our companions through life, so we protect them just as we do our families. As a result, you can’t help but wonder what will become of them when you pass on.

I’ve often thought about this over the years, and until PJ passed, I just assumed that family would get them, but that got me thinking… That means my guitar will likely wind up forgotten in a dark, attic or basement… or worse yet… a nameless piece on the wall in a pawn shop.

That is definitely not what I want.

Going back and forth with Tony from Oktober yesterday, I realized that what would really make me happy, is being able to put a smile on the face of someone who would otherwise not be able to smile. That’s the person who’ll cherish my guitar, and never forget who I was or what I did for them.

In this situation, I’m fortunate enough to be the person in need of a smile. And since one of PJ’s guitars is on it’s way to me from his family, even though he’s gone, he’s going to do something incredible for someone who will never forget it.

I will love this guitar like PJ did, and every time that I see or hear it, I’ll be inspired by its ability to make beautiful music… Every time that I show it off to other musicians, I’ll tell the story of PJ… And now that I’ve written this, whoever inherits it from me will know that it’s far more than a mere pile of wood and parts.

So whenever you see one of PJ’s guitars and you hear the story of that goes along with it, don’t be sad, and whatever you do, don’t pass on any generic condolences to me. Honor the men who made it and those before you who played it, by making the world a better place with it.

Help whoever you can, whenever you can, and be grateful for what you have. Never forget the sacrifices that others make so that you can have what you do, and do your best to give some one less fortunate a chance that they never would’ve had otherwise.

I adore this bass… and with PJ’s passing, it has found its way to my hands. My life is now better… and I intend to make a lot of people smile with it… Starting with PJ.

Have you given me a gift card lately? If so, chances are pretty good that I love you… Nevertheless… Please don’t do it anymore, because gift cards are the Devil.

To be specific, gift cards are the ninja’s of the market place… They strike so precise, that you don’t even realize your ass was just kicked. They’re the matured and refined version of shady business, and we just can’t get enough of ’em.

I discovered the fraudulent process way back in the mid 90’s. Back then, phones were frequently “refilled” using “cards”, which could be purchased in various time blocks. So you bought a 60 minute card, entered the code, and you could use your phone for 60 minutes.

It was a relatively easy process, so of course the billionaire companies that run the world, couldn’t wait to sink their greedy claws into it… Leaving us with the confusing, misleading, remnants of honest business… The Gift Card.

This is how I discovered it.

I bought a $25 card, which gave me 60 minutes of talk time, and I called and activated it. I later made a phone call for a few minutes. A few days later, I went to use the card again, and it didn’t work.

I called the company and told them about the problem that I was having, and they explained the following; The $25 card, had a $10 one-time activation fee, and if you used it during off-peak-hours, then they charged you 3 times the normal rate. Now there was only a few dollars left on the card, so unless I recharged it, it was worthless…

Well who in their right mind would recharge a deceptive card like that?

When I got home, I whipped out the magnifying glass, and sure enough, this was written on the back of the card, in hieroglyphics, upside down, and under a scratch off.

So I threw it away in 1995… Along with 2 million other consumers, but that $2 is still mine, and it’s sitting in a bank somewhere collecting interest… For the bank!

Turn the clock ahead 10 years… Verizon gives you a discounted cell phone with your plan, and when you buy it, there’s a mail in rebate. You go home, cut the UPC off the box (so that now you can’t return the phone anymore), and then you mail it off to Verizon… Along with a DNA sample, proof of citizenship, and a picture of your wife in the shower.

Three months later, Verizon sent you a $50 Visa Gift Card (if you were lucky), and you can just call this Game Over.

Their experiment was a massive success for them, and the businesses of the world followed their lead at an alarming rate.

Right off the bat, anyone who didn’t follow Verizon’s stringent eligibility process, was shot down in flames… So they probably made a good chunk-o-coin right there, but that’s not where the big bucks came from.

For those of us whom actually followed the instructions to the letter (which as I recall were only slightly less difficult than escaping Hell with your soul intact), we got a $50 Visa Gift Card!

Immediately upon receiving the gift card, you find your life becoming complicated. You have to carry it with you at all times, there’s no easy way of tracking the balance, not all places accept them, and some stores can’t run the cards unless you tell them the exact balance.

For those whom ever even use them… Just like with the phone card… you get down to $2 or $3 and you throw the card in your junk drawer.

Which brings us to modern day Gift Cards…

Now we live in gift-card-Utopia. Everyone gives them, everyone wants them, and everyone loves them. You might think that the store on the card is issuing it, but you’re probably wrong… It’s typically issued by a bank.

Why is the “hype” to use them so great? Because now your money is sitting in their bank, earning interest for them… and when you throw that card in the junk draw with only $1.75 on it… They’ll continue to profit off of you, for the remainder of eternity.

You might be thinking “that doesn’t sound very profitable for them”, but if you’ve read my other stories, then you know… That thought process in itself is part of the scam. Like I said… The Ninja’s of the market place!

No one’s going to complain about losing $1.75, and when they’re joined by 20 Million other consumers… The bank is sitting on the beach in Hawaii, drinking a Frozen Margarita, while you’re back at the stew factory taking meat in the can.

BTW, this is also how Credit Repair Services work too, and it’s why they’ve become so incredibly popular. They combine all of your debt, take a lump sum from you on the 1st of the month, and then pay all of your creditors on the 15th. Now all your damn money is sitting in their bank for two weeks a month, times millions of customers.

So what can you do… As for credit repair services… any creditor that you have trouble with, offers services for their customers in need. Sit down with your bills, call them one at a time, and do it yourself. If you got yourself into a mess, you’ll feel better if you get yourself out of it.

As for Gift Cards; Tell your family and friends about this story, and tell them not to buy you gift cards. That’ll cut most of it down right there. If you do get a gift card, take it to the store ASAP, and buy something that costs more than the cards value. That way, the card is spent, and you can light it on fire and send it back to Hell where it belongs.

Chapter Three – The final part in our Consumer Awareness Series 

Most of us have already heard the used-car-sales pitch about the little old lady, who only drove the car to church on Sundays. If so, then you might fancy yourself an old pro at spotting fraud… But I guarantee you that you’re not.

Okay, so maybe you can spot a lie, but how are you at forensic, psychological marketing  and magic tricks? Not too good? Well you better get good, because that’s what you’re up against.

By design, deception is much more difficult to catch today. Specialty stores are almost gone, and “Big-Box” stores have taken over… So why does that matter?

Because if you go to a tool store and buy three wrenches, you’re more likely to catch a pricing error, than if you go to Walmart and load two carts with wrenches, deli meats, work boots, HBA, home goods, back-to-school supplies, and pet goldfish.

I can remember the first time that I became fully aware of strategic marketing and the deceptive sales tricks that were taking place in open sight. 

The Big Box Scamola

I was wandering around Target and I came across their video game section. They were broken down into two categories; Arcade Classics and New Releases. Classics were $20 (and in a bin), New Releases were $70 (and locked in a case).

I saw a hot title in the classic bin, so I threw it in the cart and went about my business… I went through the checkout, got my total, and it sounded a bit high. I checked the receipt a few times, found out that the game wasn’t $20, it was $70! There was a growing-impatient-crowd in line behind me, so I felt pressured to buy it anyway.

When I later reflected on what had occurred, it struck me…

“Everyone in here is probably buying at least 20 items and piling them into the cart. Then they get up to the register; there are 25 registers, but only 3 of them are open. The lines are long, so everyone is forced to wait, made impatient, and desperate to get out of the store”.

Most people never realize that they just got ripped off, and only a few of the ones who do, would ever be inclined to do anything about it”.

Every time that I returned to the store, I checked for the same trick, and I found it every time… So I started looking for it everywhere else, and I found it everywhere else.

Whenever standing in line at Home Depot; I found that all of the impulse items were strategically priced below $5. I’d pick out the coolest item that I could find, but it never seemed to have a price on it. Naturally, I’d assume that it was similarly priced to the items around it. But when I’d run it through checkout, and it was always priced 2-3 times higher.

Customers are always on their toes when they’re buying a big ticket item, but they completely let their guard down when they’re buying trinkets, and that’s what the sellers are banking on.

You’re not going to get ripped off on a $300 TV, you’re more likely to get tricked out of a buck. Why? Because when I sell you a $300 TV; I have to design a TV, build it, package it, ship it, store it, inventory it, advertise it, sell it, ring it up, and put it in your car. That’s an investment, which returns a very small profit in a competitive market…

But if I trick you out of a buck, that’s a pure profit.

Consider the fact that most consumers wouldn’t waste their time arguing over a buck, and that 5,000 customers a day visit the Big-Box stores. If you took $1 from half of them, that would be $75,000 profit each month.

To put things into perspective, a store would have to sell about 7,000 TV’s to make the same money.

The Shipping and Handling Shamu

Watching an infomercial one night, they went on and on about how their product was the Be-All-End-All, and included a satisfaction guarantee. Then they announced…

“And if you act now, we’ll throw in a second one for FREE! (Just pay separate processing).”

Now I’m thinking to myself… How could it be? How can they give stuff away… and how can they guarantee junk, which will just wind up getting returned?

First, they price it so low that most people won’t bother to return it.

Second, since the majority of the profit is in the separate processing, shipping, and handling, the seller still profits big by the few who go through the agg of returning it.

The “Would you like to Donate” Dickover

One of my all time favorite scams is the sympathy scam.

Most consumers see this one regularly, but they never question it, because the topics are so taboo, that an ethics violation seems unfathomable.

I see it on Facebook every day… A tug-on-your-heart-string tale of cancer, abuse, suicide, animal cruelty… Inevitably followed by the phrase…

I’d like to see how many of my friends will post this, but I know that they won’t. So for those of you that are my TRUE friends, please share this and then type “Done”.

It’s impossible to believe that anyone would use such devastating topics in a scam… But do you really think that someone who’s lacking any ethics, has a line that they won’t cross?

When shopping at Pet Smart one day…

After standing in line with an 80lb bag of cat food for 5 minutes,
I get up to the “single-open-register”. The cashier asks me “would you like to donate $5 to save animals that will be killed if you don’t?”.

I look behind me at the other customers, who are all giving me the beady-eyed “You better do it jack-ass-or-else” look. So I do… And then I wonder, what the Hell, how can this be acceptable?

I started noticing that a lot of other stores were pulling the same stunt, so I sat down and figured it out.

The next time that I returned the store, I get up to the cashier, and she asks the same question. This time I say “NOPE!”. I then turned to the line behind me and said…

“Why would I make a donation through the store, and allow them to get the credit for my money? If I decide to donate, I’ll do it on my own”.

This time, instead of giving me the stink eye… the crowd was enlightened. The store is using your fear of embarrassment by asking you this question when you’re on center stage. Turn the tables on them and enlighten the crowd to the scam at hand.

These stores collect your money, and then write a deductible check to charity at the end of the year for 3 Million dollars. They get treated like royalty… You get sand kicked in your face.

The Unobtainable Warranty Woes

TOOLS!

One of my uncontrollable passions in life. I was always a Bosch and Dewalt man, but years ago, a buddy tells me… Buy Ridgid brand tools, because they give you a lifetime warranty.

Set in my ways and loyal to the core… I have a hard time making the leap, but I finally do, and I’m a pretty happy customer as a result.

But I get home and discover that I have to go through a fairly involved registration process to validate the warranty… It takes a while to do it, and then a month to confirm it, and then the confirmation never comes.

Ever the diligent consumer, I follow up, repeatedly, and after a few weeks, I reach someone at TTi Headquarters. TTi… or Techtronic Industries, is the company that owns;

  • Ridgid Tools
  • Milwaukee Tools
  • Ryobi
  • Hoover
  • Dirt Devil
  • Homelite
  • Oreck…

I explain to them that my registration never works, and they fix them for me, so I’m a happy customer again.

As with most Tradesmen, because I’m so fanatical about brand loyalty, I sell all of my other tools, and I replace them with Ridgid Brand.

In fact, I even go so far as to “not buy” a tool unless Ridgid makes it, and I become the company’s staunchest walking advertisement.

After buying over 100 tools, the registration process never works as it should, which requires me to email them after every single purchase, and then spend weeks tracking the registration. 

Four years later, one of my TTi tools breaks and I need to get it replaced. I figure that my hardcore loyalty has probably earned me some serious cred with them by now, so I’m excited to call up and get my warranty service.

When I do, they ask for a receipt, which is understandable, however…

I explain to the woman, I buy 200 tools every year, and shop at Home Depot twice a week. Your request will require me to sort through thousands of receipts in order to replace a $30 tool.

TTi could’ve cared less, and they found nothing unusual about having an essentially unobtainable warranty… Why essentially? Because if you buy a hammer and then carry the receipt in your pocket, every day for the rest of your life… Then you’re covered.

If I was a Consumer Protection Investigator, and I had an intimate and loyal relationship with this company… and they’re ignoring me, how are they going to treat you?

I escalated my concerns through the company, and I was shunned at every turn. The reps were rude, short, and unconcerned about what I was going through… So I went online and found their Chief Executive Director, Joseph Galli.

His Bio read like St Jude, so I figured that he’d flip when he found out how poorly I was treated. I confidently sent him a certified letter and I awaited his response, but it never came.

For all of my effort, loyalty, and dedication, they didn’t even feel that I’d earned a response.

But in the end… They need me, and I don’t need them.

I started doing some research, and TTI’s own employees post horror stories about their ethics and tactics, so now I’m and educated consumer.

I know what they own, so I know what to avoid now, and most importantly… whether it be on the internet, or during the classes that I teach to the trade unions, I spread the word.

This is your only defense against a corporation.

Todays market is a heartless place. We shop every day, and we’re forced to put faith in merchants, based on the hope that they’ll honor us when we need service, as we did them when they needed our money.

Do your homework… Take names, business cards, pictures… Protect yourself… Expect the worst… Stick to your guns…

Instead of using your $800 PC to hang out on Facebook looking at fart jokes, use it to spread the word about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you don’t do your part, then don’t complain when no one else does either.

Chapter Two  – The 2nd part in our Consumer Awareness Series

When the big gas crunch hit, fuel in this area went up to almost $5 a gallon. As a result, I was frequently asked; “where can I buy the cheapest gas?”. My response was always the same…

Why would you want cheap gas?

I understand wanting a bargain, but at what point does bargain hunting become counter effective? At this point.

Thanks to the craft brew movement, it costs $6 for a beer, which no one complains about, but charge $4 to get to work, and we’re ready to start burning crosses on the lawn.

30 years ago: College was optional, jobs were everywhere, and yet no one had money to drink.

Today: College is mandatory, there are no jobs, and yet the bars are filled with kids drinking $6 beer from a tap.

So what data can we collect from this? Well to start off, what consumers say and what they do, are two different things, and if you think that your empty threats are causing the merchants to shake in their boots, then think again.

We live in a statistic age… You think it’s a Godsend, but it’s the Devil in disguise.

Thanks to Twitter, Snap Chat, Google, and Facebook… (You know, the billion-dollar companies that no one finds suspicious are free) merchants know exactly what you’re up to… and they know it better than you do. I guarantee it.

So stand on your soap box and slam your fist to palm as you rage against the machine! $5 a gallon and you wont pay it! Just remember, thanks to “free apps”, I know that you’re full of crap… and more importantly, so does the government, and so do the manufacturers.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that when fuel was more expensive than it had ever been in history, the number one selling vehicles in America, were giant, gas-guzzling SUV’s.

This sent everyone on a frantic search for discount fuel… and as I mentioned in Chapter One of this series, the industry responded accordingly.

You want cheap fuel, you got it!

So now, rather than continuing to patronize your neighbors Hess Station (as you had been for the last decade, and as your parents did before you), all of the sudden it makes sense to drive 15 miles away, to start buying fuel from guy that looks like he’s probably got dynamite taped to his underwear.

Good plan!

Let’s recap:

  • Thanks to “bend-over” economics, a family car costs $35k.
  • You’re fueling said family car from a questionable source.
  • You drive an extra 15 miles to save 75 cents.
  • The staunchest advocates for this madness are your wife and daughter, both of whom have no problem paying $6 for a double shot, caramel swirl latte, with almond milk, and then peeing it out 30 minutes later.

And the whole country runs with the ball… WTF indeed.

Now, here’s the truth.

  • Octane… The most misunderstood label on any product. Simply put, high octane is good. If a car gets 14 miles to the gallon, requires one annual tune-up, and has a motor life of 190K miles, you can expect it to get two more miles to the gallon, need no annual tune-up, and have a motor life of 240k miles if you run high octane fuel.
  • Most cars have a 12-gallon gas tank, so if cheap gas is $1.75 and good gas is $2.00, then you’re paying an extra $3 a week to protect the thing that’s getting you to work and paying your mortgage… Or in layman’s terms, 10% of what the average 15-year-old girl spends at Starbucks every week.
  • Cars are all computerized now. The computer constantly monitors your car, and it automatically adjusts for performance, economy, and health, as needed. When a fault is detected, the computer waits for the same condition to occur several more cycles, before it compensates for it. So if you switch fuel indiscriminately, your computer will never fine tune your car.
  • Cars are easily capable of getting well more than 50 MPG. Ask any mechanic, and they’ll verify that statement. So why don’t they? Well, because “fear” drives the market place. Talk of war and shortages make consumers quickly disregard sensible buying. But the number one reason that cars get poor mileage is…. We’re stupid enough to allow it.
  • Perhaps most importantly… all failures give notice. If your car holds five quarts of oil, and six have leaked onto the driveway, what should you expect? So If you feel like a dirty whore as you’re sneaking into the unscrupulous part of town to save $3 on gas, then don’t be shocked when the wheels fall off your car.

Find gas that you like, from a station that you like, and go there every time, regardless of what fuel costs.

They’ll have business, so they’ll stay in business. Your computer will automatically adjust for it in order to maximize performance, and best of all, if you ever have an issue, you’ll know where the fuel came from. Plus… since you’ll be a familiar face to the station, they’ll likely help you resolve it.

This wraps up awareness in the series. Stay tuned for deception!