Saturday, April 29, 2006

DoubleAs is Generous, FirePay is Not, and More on Poker Blogging (UPDATED)

Good karma. Scott (DoubleAs) just e-mailed to inform me that "we" did well in the followup to his "Casino Mystery Picture Challenge," which I got lucky and won. While I explained the logic in how I solved the puzzle in the comments over at his site, the truth was a bit more erratic --- I made a couple of fortunate guesses and they turned out to be right.

My prize? Shoot, that was a no-brainer --- taking a 25% slice of one of our resident expert players in his next $109 MTT. Lo and behold, Scott placed something like 16th and cashed for $240 and change. It meant $40 for me and $20 which is planned to go to Scott's favorite charity, kidney-disease research, which is part of my thank-you in turn to Scott and Wicked Chops Poker for coming up with this cool idea. I hope they keep doing it, though I've promised not to solve any more of these myself for a good while.

And we now we move on to my latest episode of windmill-tilting, an often fruitless enterprise for which I seem to have a special affinity. This time the culprit is FirePay, one of the most popular online banking services.

Screw 'em. May they rot in hell for their base dishonesty. All for a measly $10.

I'd like to preface the rest of this story by stating that I'm a small-potatoes player. My typical online poker transactions are in the $50-$200 range, and I can't think of one over $400. I do a lot of site-sampling, too --- I can play a bit, see if I like a site, gather enough information for a review and/or work on a small bonus, then move on to the next. I'm not a bonus whore in the strictest sense, but I won't turn down a good deal, either.

I am entirely unexceptional in this regard.

I needed to pull out some of my poker money recently, not that there was any profit to take. Rather, my car decided to break down during long-distance trips, not once but three freakin' times with what was essentially the same problem. Repair place #2, A-R-A of Madison, WI, gets a special wave of the toilet plunger for charging me $100 and change for gluing and wrapping a cracked plastic connector, instead of replacing it. Said connector was a of a type of plastic that oozes its own lubricant, and is not glueable.... so sayeth repairman #3. Of course, repairs #2 and #3 wouldn't have been necessary if repairman #1 hadn't cracked the connector when replacing the nearby fuel pump in the first place.

Grand total in damages, including two tows: approximately $1,000. Enter the need to use some discretionary funds.

So I go to my FirePay account to snag the couple of hundred I have in there, and I'm greeted with a banner keyed to my account that says in order to withdraw back to my bank, I have to pay a $10 fee, due to infrequent use of the account in the other direction. Of course, if I've recently deposited from my bank account into FirePay, then the fee for that is only $3.99, but the withdrawals are then free.

Okay, I can understand that a site has the need to charge fees. But how often does one need to make a deposit from one's own bank account to avoid this arbitrary $10 fee?

The customer-no-service person who answered my e-mail simply pasted back the same text as was already showing on my page. Thank you, Miss Duhhh. I returned that e-mail to them, writing that no, I wanted to know how often they'd like me to make a deposit. Now I quote from the "customer service supervisor" who sent FirePay's second response:

"Our records show that you had last made a deposit into your FirePay account on: (date/amount --- the date was in September of 2005)

"That is not considered as active user.

"The specific definition of frequently will not be supplied to you.

"Rest assured that you will be warned if there are any fees being charged to your transaction."

Unbelievable. These slimy creeps want to charge me a fee, but they refuse to tell me what the timing periods are involved with the application of the fee they want to charge. Can you believe their audacity?

I sent a third letter, rather more heated. This time I was answered by an Anthony from "Risk Management" who, among other things, wanted to know "Which payment method do you usually use to deposit funds at online merchant sites?"

I bet that you can bet what I told him, and which utensils to use. I also told him to go ahead and take the $10 fee (keeping the extra $6.01), because there was no way in hell FirePay would ever see another dime of my money --- I withdrew the remainder of my account immediately. I also promised that I would publicize to the best of my ability the bad faith in which FirePay acted... if I can cost them a thousand times that $6.01 in bad publicity, I will do so. Wanting to charge a fee is fine; refusing to disclose the nature of the structure upon which those fees are charged is the action of corporate pond scum.

Apparently, what had happened is that I had six or eight small withdrawals, but no matching deposits. God forbid if you should actually win a dollar or two online --- even though most of what I pulled from an online site was quickly redeposited elsewhere, as this Anthony dude admitted when he relayed his research into my account. No matter.

So beware, if you use FirePay. Not only will they arbitrarily assess you a fee when they feel like doing so, they'll even tell you that it's none of your business when you try to plan the best way to use your own funds.

There have been several good posts on the nature of poker blogs and blogging recently. I'd like to point out two --- Jordan and BG --- that have well-reasoned ideas on the topic. I agree with both of them in part, neither of them in entirety. This is a good thing.

Please check into my previous posts as well, particularly my "Reviews, Apologies and Rants" and "Poker and Charity" pieces. Despite the fact that you likely won't agree with me, I'd like to add something at this time to the "Poker and Charity" piece, in which I said why I no longer have any interest in being part of the WPBT. Note that this is distinct from showing up to play in a DADI event or somesuch that has WPBT points attached to it; the WPBT part of it is no longer part of my concern. It's like the old running-for-office saw: "If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve." (Damn good thing, too, since no one would vote for me.) But I'm not here to please you; I'm here to entertain you and make you think.

Oh, yes, the WPBT. One thing that I was acutely aware of but chose not to mention when I posted my piece was the A-B-C-whatever structure of the poker-blogging "community." Please let me clarify me something here: I thought that the charity-tournament concept was wonderful, but I thought that selling out an otherwise-frivolous WPBT for the purpose of the charity was terrible. And I left out one reason, beyond everything that I did say: there was a hidden pressure placed on the C-listers to "pay to join" to feel part of the inclusive inner poker-blogging group. I could not be a part of that, whether I'm B, C, D, Q, Z or whatever. I recognized that and made my stand --- my principles, whatever they are, are way more important than whether some A-list or B-list blogger likes or hates my stuff, and links or doesn't link to me.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've got an e-mail or two to prove it, though I will not release the names of those who commented in support of what I wrote.

Overall, it's not even a close call. I'll huckster and promote myself to the best of my ability, but I will not pay anyone to like me. But even if you hate me, I insist on respect.

. . . .

An update on the above --- both BG and Jordan pulled down their posts after a flame war developed between the two, and at least one phone call was exchanged. I was mentioned temporarily as having "pointed out" the existence of BG's post to Jordan, but my input was rather more indirect --- I just said that I was linking back to both of those blogs to refer to the pieces. It was actually over at tripjax's place where I discovered the existence of both pieces.

But both of the pieces have been removed, now. ROFLMAO.

I did not point out the base hypocrisy in BG's piece as such, obvious as it was; rather, I just said it was an interesting post that would make the reader think. (Check what I said for yourself --- it's in the paragraphs above.) But removing the post, BG? Hiding your head in the sand and hoping the whole mess will go away? That's not hypocrisy, that's gutlessness. If you've got the cojones to write in public --- and get paid for it, no less --- then you better well have the cojones to stand up and take whatever heat comes your way. Own your words if you expect us to respect anything else you might say.

On that other stuff with EasyCure and Biggestron, I was never mad at them. I like both of them, too, Byron in particular. I just thought that the decision that was made wasn't a good one, for several reasons. I'd thought that I'd put that one to bed, and now I have --- I won't return to the matter. I had my say.

As always, people can leave comments for me either through e-mail or through the comments link (below). I do not know how to do the coding for comments or to generate an RSS feed on my own, which is why a comments forum is not at that version of my site. But I do value all feedback, even that of the idiot from Turkey who demanded an apology from me on another matter. (If nothing else, I enjoy a good laugh.)

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