Friday, February 13, 2015

Modern life all about managing addictions

This software goes for $30, or about $70 less
than what TurboTax charges for the same forms
All of us are addicted to something. Some know this, others don't.

Some addictions are necessary and others aren't.

When people hear the word "addiction," they naturally assume it only applies to drugs or alcohol.

But, they aren't the most common, not in this age of electronic gadgets where new addictions can sap the bank accounts of millions of people.

Such is the case with TurboTax, the popular tax software that I've been using for more than 15 years.

Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax along with Quicken, the checkbook-balancing software, felt that the addiction to TurboTax, which must be purchased every year, was so great that it could jack up the price without telling its longtime users.

Well, Intuit is learning otherwise.

This year, the Deluxe edition of TurboTax does not come with a few forms that longtime users had expected to see.

Specifically, those who have a rental home had to pay $90 for the Premier edition. And those who work from home had to get the Home and Business edition for $100. Previously, those forms were included in the Deluxe edition for $60.

Now, the easiest programs to create on a computer involve numbers. TurboTax is nothing but the processing of numbers. The programming skills needed to create a TurboTax are not that special.

Yet, the honchos at Intuit felt that their products are so indispensable to millions of Americans that they could do a bait-and-switch tactic and that TurboTax "addicts" would pay the piper.

In turn, Intuit could show Wall Street how they were "growing the business."

Indeed, Intuit's stock price hasn't been harmed that much by the outcry over its deceptive pricing "strategy." It isn't about the customer, but the shareholder.

Intuit, though, is learning that their tax software isn't that special afterall. In fact, it can steal your money.

There are plenty of legitimate options available.

Check out this IRS site that lists a number of alternatives to TurboTax, some of which are completely free of charge.

Thanks to Intuit, I'm no longer "addicted" to TurboTax. I'll be using one of the other software programs for free.

Or, I'll just pick up the forms at the library and save myself a hundred bucks.

Intuit is not alone in its hubris. Most tech companies believe that those who use their products are hopelessly addicted to them.

Clearly, Apple has the most addicts, Yet, you can get close to the same iPhone, iPad or Mac for hundreds of dollars less than what Apple charges.

That is why Microsoft Windows rules desktop/laptop computing and Google's Android rules the smartphone market.

I'm hoping that Apple introduces its breakthrough TV later this year because, thanks to Apple addicts, I'll be able to get a near exact copy from a competitor for hundreds less in no time.

I'm not addicted to any brand because companies today are acutely aware who uses their products and consequently extort more money from their users. Okay, I'm one of the few addicts left who subscribes to a daily newspaper, but I hope to kick that habit this year.

And yes, I'm a basic cable subscriber/addict, but I'm looking at ways to cut the cord this year.

I'll still have to pay a ridiculously high fee for high-speed internet, but I'm hoping Google Fiber will eventually push prices down for us internet addicts.

Actually, I'm hoping that free wi-fi access becomes universal so that I can stop paying the monthly internet bill altogether.

Of course, the telecom giants like their monopolies because they create addicts.

The monopolies that control my water, electricity and natural gas addictions sure like the status quo.

Like everyone else, I try to manage my addictions so that my monthly Netflix bill doesn't become the straw that breaks this camel's back.

In fact, I hope to cure my Netflix addiction once I figure out this "streaming" world.

I'd love to get an electric car with a suitable range. I would then get some solar panels just to charge the vehicle. This would enable me to kick my addiction to oil, which, in turn would decrease my support of oil-producing Islamic countries that fund terrorism. A win-win-win situation.

It's vitally important to routinely change products, from car insurance to computers, because otherwise you'll be taken advantage of.

American companies are the worst because the money they reap from the higher prices they charge   "addicts" goes directly to the executives and not to the people who produce the products.

The key is identifying your addictions and taking constructive steps to rein them in.

Thank you, Intuit, for this reminder.

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