And how the government has found a way to get their hands on our financial information.
I bought a new computer today: a MacBook Pro. I needed to replace my G4 eMac with a machine that could run Leopard and Boot Camp. I’m under contract to revise my Mac OS X book for Leopard and need to be prepared to get to work when I get my hot little hands on the software.
After much agonizing, I settled on a 15″ 2.16 GHz model. It had the extra RAM I needed and that tiny bit of extra power in the processor and video card will extend its useful life. I’m hoping to get 4 years out of it — I think that’s how long I’ve had the eMac.
I was going to buy from Mac Connection because they offered a sizable rebate and didn’t charge sales tax or shipping. But after doing a little research, I discovered that I qualified for an Apple educational discount. The final price would be the same and I didn’t have to deal with rebate bull.
The last time I bought a computer with a rebate, they tried to deny it, claiming that I hadn’t sent the right paperwork. When I told them I had copies of everything I sent and could resend it, they changed their tune. I got the $150 check in the mail a week later. I guess enough people don’t keep copies that they can get away with that crap.
The other thing that convinced me to buy from Apple was the 90 days “same as cash” program at the online Apple store. (I’m between royalty checks, which is a crappy place to be right after paying income taxes.) My sales guy, Elvis (really), told me that all I had to do was apply for an Apple credit card. But before he began taking my information over the phone for the application, he read me some disclosures. One of them said that my information could be given to the government to investigate terrorists.
He explained. I later realized that it was the Patriot Act in action. An affront on my privacy in the name of the War Against Terror.
I was ready to tell him to forget it, but I wanted the computer and I didn’t want to pay for it in 30 days. (I always pay my credit card bills in full every month. I hate paying interest.) I wanted the extra two months. So I consented and we got on with the process. I was approved over the phone — why the hell is it so easy to get credit in this country? — and completed the transaction.
Oddly enough, later today I was in a meeting with Merchant Services, a company that does credit card processing. I’m trying to get a deal with lower rates than I’m paying for Flying M Air transactions. After going through the details, I asked the representative what I’d have to do to get the ball rolling. She listed the documents I’d have to show and sign. One of them was a Patriot Act document saying that I wasn’t laundering money (yeah, like I have that kind of cash) or funding terrorists. Of course, if I were doing those things, I’d be breaking the law anyway so signing a piece of paper saying I wasn’t doing them wouldn’t be a big deal. According to the credit card lady, though, it was more to protect the bank than anything else. In other words: protection against liability.
Ah, life in the United States in 2006.
Does the government know I just bought a computer? Are they trying to decide if I’m going to use it to plan terrorist activities? When I apply for the new credit card approval account, will they suspect me of laundering money? How does one launder money anyway?
These are questions I may never know the answer to.
But it’s probably better that way.