23 January 2015

Sheer Gall

Imagine your have a business selling a product that consumers purchase every year because it's the goto standard for years and years. Would you quietly change it by taking away features forcing paying customers into a higher cost version?  And then tell them we did it to improve your experience.

That's what Intuit did with TurboTax(tm). Some IRS forms supported at the basic and deluxe levels are no longer supported, pushing users to more expensive products. Worse, they didn't make it clear up front.    Hold onto your socks Intuit, your arrogance not only pegged the  "how to alienate loyal customers" meter, you bent the needle around the peg!

I have used the deluxe version for the past 15-20 years because a portion of the DayJob(tm) compensation is in the form of company stock. This is an incentive to employees to do everything possible to see that the company does well, but adds an extra step at tax time. The benefit easily pays for the extra paperwork.  Trading stocks means filing a schedule D. The deluxe version has handled schedule D for as long as I've needed.  But no more. Intuit removed schedule C, D, E and F from the deluxe version so users needing any of those forms now have to upgrade to the Premier version (+$30).

The Amazon reviews have been scathing.  Wish I'd read them before purchasing.

Intuit released a "we screwed up" letter (excerpt):
We messed up. We made a change this year to TurboTax desktop software and we didn't do enough to communicate this change to you as proactively and broadly as we could or should have. I am very sorry for the anger and frustration we may have caused you.
They don't even come close to understanding the breach of trust.   And the VP responses "We did it to improve your experience" exude that "I'm sorry if you were offended" non-apology apology.

To atone for their "mess up", they offer a $25 rebate for users that purchased the deluxe version last year and had to upgrade this year.  Hmmmm...  a promised $25 rebate towards a $30 upgrade I didn't need last year is not even remotely a fair deal. For one thing, it builds the price increase into next year's product, not to mention the whole "bird in the hand" thing.  You could have just fixed the Deluxe version, but no.

I'm going to avoid the rush and switch now.  Intuit, you've seen you're last nickle from me. buh-bye!

The trust broken is enormous.  TurboTax served my needs for nearly a score and now they change support under the table.  That's dishonest,  low.  I have a long memory.  And lots of friends.   And if I tell 10 friends, and they tell 10 friends, and they tell 10 friends....  And a blog...

So I'm out.  Nice job Intuit, this is how you lose long time loyal customers.  I predict you are well on your way to becoming a textbook case study in how to destroy a business.  Sure glad I don't have any shares of Intuit.

I spent the better part of an hour on the phone tonight explaining why they have lost a customer.  All they would offer me was to sign me up for the $25 rebate.  Tonight I'd have settled for a free upgrade to Premier and a free version next year.  Since then, we were able to return our CD and I've uninstalled the product.  TurboTax won't be filing my return this year, Or ever,  Again.  AMF/
She, of Intuit customer support,  said she'd have to escalate to a manager level to do any better so sure, do it.   I don't know what it will take to repair the trust now, But the price just went up.  A couple years Premier level won't cut it anymore. I am gone!

Bottom line:  Caveat Emptor, Baby!   If you are a TurboTax user, read the fine print before you buy this year so you understand exactly what you are getting and understand what you are buying.

FTC disclaimer.  Does anyone in their right mind really believe Intuit would pay for a "review" like this.  I haven't yet chosen nor recommended a replacement program but early research shows TaxAct has a "free for everyone" option.  This should be the default, provided by the IRS,  It's to their benefit!  So I'll look closely there.  But I'll look at the HRBlock version as well.

Update 25Jan2015:  There are a lot of bad reviews for TaxAct.  Only thing worse than not filing a return for a customer is not filing that return but telling them that it was filed!

OldNFO reports good experiences with HR Block so we'll give it a try.  Also it's on sale at WallyWorld this week:

List price from HR Block is $44.95.

Update 2 25Jan2015  Block is not off to a good start.  The program crashes when importing my 2013 return.  After waiting ~2.5 hours for tech support tech all he could offer was "It's a known problem with no workaround and no ETA for a fix"  :-(

11 December 2014

November ePostal results

Thanks All for  your entries in the November ePostal match.  Thanks for playing along!

 Sharp-eyed readers may notice a glaring lack of participation of a couple usual suspects - Neither the SCSon nor I have entries as yet.  Though that's not for lack of trying.  We had a range trip on 11/30 specifically to shoot the match.  The targets were in the SCSon's range bag and somehow they ended up left on the stairs.
Good thing there is a special rule associated with this match - extended entry time!  This being the last match of the year, I will continue to accept entries and update the scores until the next match is posted in March 2015.  So fear not, we will get our entries in.  And so can you!

(For the record, this is not a new rule because we blew our chance to shoot.  Refer to last years match results where the same rule was in effect)

- no title specified





Sandwich order


Rimfire Pistol, Iron sights


Mrs True Blue Sam

Ruger mk III, Red Dot sight


Turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Deli Mustard & Mayo


Mike B

S&W 617


Turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Black Olives, Onions, Green Peppers, Yellow Mustard & Honey Mustard



Ruger .22/45


Ham & turkey, Canadian Cheddar & Swiss Cheese, Black Olives, Green Peppers, Tomatos, Mayo


Pat Butler

Remington 617


Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Shredded Lettuce+tomatoes & onions,  Deli Mustard & Mayo



Ruger 12


Ham Swiss, Onions, Tomatos, Green Peppers, Mayo


Engineering Johnson

Ruger .22/45 Red Dot


Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Deli Mustard



Ruger SSS .22Mag 9 ½


Ham Canadian Cheddar, Tomatoes, Onions (no condiments)


Rimfire Pistol, magnified optic sights


True Blue Sam

Ruger mk III, 2x scope


 Ham & Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Black Olives & Onions, Deli Mustard



TC .22LR 2x scope, 10” bbl


Black Olives, Onions, Deli Mustard & Mayo


Rimfire Rifle, Magnified Optic sights



Marlin 795, 3x sight


Ham, Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Onions, Deli Mustard


Center Fire Pistol, Iron sights


Pat Butler

S&W model 19


Turkey, American Cheese, Shredded Lettuce+tomatoes& onions,  Yellow Mustard + Deli Mustard & Mayo



Rossi .357


Ham, Swiss, Tomatoes, Onions, Green Peppers, Mayo



Dan Wesson 4” vent heavy BBL


Ham, Swiss, Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes, Black Olives & Yellow Mustard


Center Fire Pistol, Magnified optic sights



TC 9mm 2x scope


Roast Beef. Swiss Cheese, Black Olives,


Center Fire Rifle, magnified optic sights



Hi Point Carbine, .40 cal 4x scope


Ham, Turkey, Canadian Cheddar, Swiss cheese, Black Olives, Onions, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Deli Mustard


Fun class



Pedal Powered air gun


Ham, American, Onions, Black Olives, Green Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Mayonaisse & Stoli


04 December 2014

USAF Band does it again!

We posted last year's USAF band performance at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.

They did it again, this time at Udvar-Hazy center.

Magnificent!  I wish I were there to see it first hand.

01 December 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend at the SandCastle

Thanksgiving weekend was pretty quiet here at the SandCastle.  We didn't go anywhere and no relatives came to visit which is too bad because we had some really nice 80+ weather with clear skies.  So sorry for those digging out from record snows and freezing tail in other parts.  This is merely our payoff for putting up with a summer of triple digit temps.

Friday the SandCastle Crew collected on a Groupon deal for go-cart racing.  K1 Speed had a groupon deal that worked out to free signup & half price racing.  I thought it would be fun for the SCSon and I to do.  When I mentioned it to the SCQueen, she whimpered "what about me?"  Ok.  fine, lets buy two.

With the deal set to expire in the next week we had to act.  We signed in and waited to be called to race.  They first gave a briefing on the car.  These are electric carts.  ~20Hp with torque from 0 RPM.  "Go" on the right, "Stop" on the left.  Brakes only on the rears so if you step on them in the middle of a turn, don't be surprised at the resulting spin!  And don't step on the steering push-rods.

I'll skip the gory details but I had a blast.  We had two red flags in the 1st race and the SCQueen decided she'd had enough.  The 2nd race was cleaner, one yellow and no reds.  Good fun!  But Alas, I don't fit the cars... I'm about an inch too wide :-(  And I think it's a bone issue rather than a weight issue.  So I'll burn off the last races but that'll probably be it for me.

Today we took in the Trans Siberian Orchestra show.  I haven't been to a concert in many years.  A week or so ago the SCSon made an offhand comment "they'd be nice to see".  Which got me thinking "Hmmm... I've wanted to see them too" and to the internet to learn they are on stage this week!  YOLO, lets go!

With computer controlled and synchronized lights, lasers, sparks & flames, the show was an audio and visual assault on the senses.  The colored floods aimed at the audience were a "light too far".  The SCQueen shielded her eyes a couple time at the floods.  Just because you can do something with computer controlled lights, doesn't mean you should!  Cool it guys!  Otherwise the show was very enjoyable.

FTC disclosure:  eat it!   Venues/shows mentioned here provided no compensatory value.

07 November 2014

November ePostal "метро"

This challenge transports you back to a common teen first job: making sandwiches.  However this particular sandwich shop is in Mother Russia*.  So you only have one choice of bread and you will like it!  From there need to build a sandwich with a meat choice from the left column,  a cheese from the 2nd column, toppings from the 3rd & 4th, and condiments from the 5th (circles).

Download Target .pdf here  English Version here.

Course of Fire:
Distance:  10 shots at 10 yds or range minimum, which ever is larger.

Scoring is simple:  Your task is to assemble the bestest sandwich you can with 10 shots.  Each FIRST hit on a meat, cheese, topping & condiment counts one point.  No penalty for additional hits on a target.  "Complete sandwich" bonus 2x applies for targets with at least one hit in each of the four categories.

Liner's count.  Even liners on text extending outside of the normal target area.  Any hit touching a line counts as a hit (does not have to be enclosed).  No penalties for liners, no adders for clear hits.  This is intentionally an easy target!  I want to see lots of high scores!  (hits/liners on the course of fire notes do not count.  Those are on the target because many times I've printed targets when it comes out, but don't get around to shooting them until a week or three later.  As I'm driving out to the range I've wondered "How many shots? what distance?".  So it's right there on the target)

This is such an easy target, if you shoot a 10 shots without scoring a point, I want to see that too!  There will be a special class for zero scores! because I expect that will be challenge in itself!  Heck, if you shoot a one score, send that in as well.  This is a "just for fun class" so these targets will be accepted in addition to your best score with the same firearm, the multiple entry rule below not withstanding.

Don't worry about it... just shoot it and let me know the conditions, including if you can't shoot at the specified distance. You may assume a normal caliber/optic/barrel length/distance matrix of classes,   From  .177 air pistol garage range to a bowling ball mortar in a free field.   Potato Gun?  Why not?  Bring it!   Wherever (but post/send/link pics!  Particularly on the BB Mortar, without video, it didn't happen ;-)... just shoot it and I'll find a place to record the score.

Get out and shoot it!
Send in your target scans/photos or links to same to sand castle scrolls at emm ess enn dot com  (apply human filter to resolve actual eaddy).  Include your name (as you want it reported in the results), caliber, distance, sights (iron/ red dot or magnified optic) Gun Make & Model, and any web links you want to include for linky love.

Multiple entries are allowed and encouraged, but please only send your best per firearm.

* Why Russia?  because I needed a plot device to explain the limited options at this particular sandwich shop. My local uboat-way franchise offers many more options than I can fit onto an 8.5x11" sheet, but they can't explain why the advertised Honey Oat is not an available today,  several times in a row!

** I am not  Russian speaker.  "Dos Vidanya", "Nyet" and "minoga" are pretty much the limits of my vocabulary and those reach back to "Hunt for Red October".  The translations  offered here are credited to/blamed on  translate.google.com.

26 October 2014

"Just give them what they want"

How many times have we heard that from"'experts"?  NBC recently ran a report advising "treat them like royalty".

Today's DGC entry (#509) tried to be the good Samaritan, but the bad guys took advantage.  The good guy went along until what the bad guys wanted was the 19YO grand daughter's honor.

Grandpa scored hits on all three invaders, but unfortunately took some hits himself.  But it stopped the attack so I score that as a win, and I'd bet Grandpa would agree.  Heal fast Grandpa!  And good onya for saving your Grand daughter from these thugs.  You sir are a USDA certified 100% hero!

May the surviving bad guys spend many years at the greybar motel until they are old and grey themselves.

22 October 2014

DGC Update

DGC  506: Two guys rob a bank and leave the get away car running out front.  Someone at a nearby business  notices what's going on and takes action.  First he shuts off the car and takes the keys, then he draws his own weapon and waits.

Needless to say, the bad guys weren't amused when they emerged from the bank carrying a garbage can full of money to find their get away compromised. One bad guy gets hit in the ensuing gun fight and does not make it to the hospital.  The other bad guy left quite the carnage of dented cars as he tried for a get away.  But he didn't get far.

I feel bad for those with damaged cars.  They will likely be out their deductible to get their cars fixed.

DGC  507: (Via Bearing Arms) four guys invade a residence, at least one carrying  a gun.  But the residents have been robbed before and kept a weapon handy.  The now dead guy was out on bond waiting for a July trial.  So the taxpayers get to save a bunch of money on those trials and a whole lot more in incarceration costs.  Good shooting!

But I wonder what the bad guys hoped to find in the residence?

Again, what did he think was worth the risk?  The story notes the home had been broken into several times recently.  Was it thought of as an easy mark?  A close relative is a criminal defense attorney.   He tells me "criminals are not stupid.  They know that when a home is robbed, the homeowners typically have insurance to replace the stuff that was stolen.  That means the house now has new stuff to steal and thus becomes a known target."

Good on the resident for taking responsibility for his and his son's personal safety.  Also good shooting!