You know, you could almost get jaded.

For example: I have long had two Citibank accounts, a High-Interest Checking account that currently earns the High Interest rate of eight-tenths of one percent (if there were no income tax, a dollar would double in just 87 years) and a Super Yield Money Market account that earns a lot more, though I don’t remember how much. I just remember that when I signed up for it many years ago it seemed fine.

There’s no way to find the rate it pays on the web site – although similarly named accounts are paying 4.5% or 4.75%, so I guessed that’s what mine was paying, more or less.

In fairness to Citi, with which I am actually quite satisfied, lo these last 35 years, I should say that the Super Yield is in fact revealed on my monthly statement, in smallish print, if you know where to look, and it’s basically my fault for not looking.

Monday I noticed that my Super Yield was 2.23%.

One call to the bank was all it took to switch to an Accelerator Money Market account and double my interest rate.

They don’t automatically give you the higher rate because, well, how do they know you would want it?

You almost get the feeling they purposely started the Super Yield Money Market rate high, years ago, and then dropped it, knowing that some people – even normally rapacious people like me – would simply not notice.

* For a second example: I got an email from Norton Utilities telling me that my annual virus protection would automatically be renewed unless I clicked a link to cancel it.

If you wish to turn off the automatic renewal feature, you may cancel your enrollment in Norton On-Going Protection. To do so, please visit: You may be required to provide your Product Serial Number (KJBX5PR9VTK5) during this process.

I clicked the link because, as best I could tell (they do not make it easy to tell), this must have been the protection on a prior laptop I no longer use regularly.

Upon arrival at the CANCEL web page, I was confronted with a request for that serial number, which was easy enough to cut and paste. But that wasn’t enough. How could Norton really be sure I wanted to cancel? Yes, I was responding to the email they sent me. And yes, I was supplying the 12-character serial number. But with 12 characters, letters and digits, there are only 36 possibilities for the first character, times 36 for the second, times 36 for the third . . . all told only 4,738 quadrillion different possibilities . . . so Norton didn’t want to take any chances that maybe someone had guessed that serial number and was trying to cancel my protection without my knowledge (or had hijacked my email). They required that I also supply my 16-digit “product key” if I wanted to cancel this charge.

In other words, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to cancel the charge with less than an hour’s work . . . which I have not yet completed . . . and, well, you almost get the feeling they purposely make it difficult.

* For a third example – it’s been that kind of month – I finally got around to trying to cancel my Sprint mobile broadband. It’s easy to buy and sign up for a Sprint mobile broadband card, naturally; but actually using it with an IBM ThinkPad and Windows XP proved hopeless for someone with my limited skills. It would occasionally work for a few minutes, but then require that I turn off my Microsoft Loopback Adapter, whatever that is, without telling me how, or what other consequences that might have.

Even My Smart Friend (surely, you have one of these, too) was stumped.

By the time I finally gave up trying to make it work, and by the time I then finally got around to trying to cancel, Sprint had several hundred dollars of my money, and full knowledge that I had gotten perhaps 20 minutes of connectivity for that money.

I leave you to imagine how many calls it took, with what kind of time spent on hold, to cancel without paying an additional few hundred dollars in penalties. You almost get the feeling they purposely make it difficult.

How about a consumer protection regulation requiring that it never take more than four times as long to reach a cancellation specialist as to reach a sales person?

* My final example is my new IBM Thinkpad, which arrived yesterday loaded with Vista Ultimate. Come back tomorrow, if you enioy my suffering. (Listen: as fortunate as I am, I deserve some suffering.) But in preparation – and especially if you’ve been considering Vista yourself – take a minute to watch this clip. (And yes, I know, I know: Macintosh.)


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