Multiple shops increased TV prices this weekend

How does this work? I used to think large shops set prices independently, but a strange thing happened today Sunday 4 December 2016.

Amazon, BestBuy, Walmart, Beach Camera, and many others I'm sure, all increased 4K TV prices by $100 to $200. How did they make this happen, do they coordinate prices? Sony and Samsung brands were affected, probably all brands raised their prices. Did the brands do this - did they send out a notice on Saturday, or was this a pre-coordinated all-across-the board increase?

Here's one explicit example:
Sony XBR55X850D a 55" TV was sold at $898 in all those shops, until Saturday Dec 3, 2016.
On Dec 4, all these shops, within a period of just 12-24 hours as far as I can tell, had raised the final price to $998!
Amazon Sony XBR55X850D $998.
Best Buy $999 and similarly others: Walmart, Beach Camera, etc.
Most of these shops did not change the List Price which they showed as $1,198.00. They all changed the Savings shown: it was $300 before, and it is only $200 today. Strange that all shops decided to change the amount of the Savings they offered.

Similar Samsung 4K TV examples showed an increase of $200.

Very eerie that all these different shops all increased their prices at the same time.

Phone scam artists using IRS threats!

Scam artists calling with threats! They picked the right caller area code for DC (202). They use automated calling devices, and keep calling repeatedly. Given that I only pick up my phone for known callers, they all go to voicemail on my phone.

Shockingly, it seems some people do fall for these scams. Just this week in my town, there was a news item about one person being taken in. On receiving a scam call, this person immediately filled a Green Dot card (the favorite device of scammers) with cash and transferred it to the scammer.

Here's is a audio of the voicemail scam as an example of the threats and messages left. This one showed 202-506-9988 as the caller-id, and the message said to call 202-506-8147 immediately. So, these are the currently used number by these scammers.

Lahey Clinic - Poor Billing Practices

Lahey Clinic is a large hospital organization, just outside Boston.

They have a cozy relationship with the insurance companies. With insurance, consumers can reap advantages - the rates billed are quite low and certainly reasonable.

But Lahey Clinic completely turns a deaf ear when the patient is paying out of their own pocket. Outrageous bills are presented, and they refuse to offer any consideration at all when it is the lone patient asking them to be reasonable.

If the insurance company called, they would slash their rates by a lot. When a patient calls, they say no reduction is possible - and the patient has to pay the highly inflated, outrages list prices. This is a perverted system - there is no way any consumer can make a dent in the way medical system billing occurs in the US.

This is why a single payer system makes far more sense - medical service is not like purchasing cars or furniture - there is no way for the consumer to make any dent in the transactions involving such huge medical enterprises.
And surely if single payer is not acceptable, we can design a system where everyone gets to pay what insurance companies pay for medical treatment? Right now the hospitals soak the people who are not insured - essentially, robbing the self-insured and the uninsured to pay for the insured. Of course, they are also robbing the taxpayers in this system.

US Health Care - Confusing and Confounding

The US medical system continues to confuse and confound - this time my strange tale is regarding the worst aspect of this system - the pricing and the billing.

Some conservatives loudly trumpet that consumers must be made aware of medical costs and that such comparison shopping will reduce the cost of medical care in the US medical system.

Bah, humbug, I say! The system is geared towards making that not work at all. The people who wish to self-insure and pay out of their pocket end up getting a raw deal.

The biggest problem with "comparison shopping" for medical care is that it is not possible. When you are in the doctor's office, and he or she tells you to get a bunch of tests done or a bunch of exams from other specialists - it is impossible to start asking questions and inquire about costs. Then we are told that before getting such exams done, the consumers should call up the insurance company and the doctor to make sure the costs involved are understood. This fails too - it is difficult to get a reasonable answer from them - since they can't know the cost until they examine the patient. And there are so many rules and exceptions that it is really not possible to get any idea of the cost involved before the treatment.

Even after all that, when the time comes to bill the consumer - the self-insured consumer who wants to pay from their own pocket gets completely shafted by the system.

In this story, my mistake was assuming that when my insurance said things like: "we cover preventive care", "we don't cover dental", and "we don't cover eye-glasses", it meant that they would cover preventive eye exams. That was completely wrong. They did not cover preventive eye care.

A tale of two jeans - $200 vs $25

After years of always buying Levi's 505 jeans, curiosity got the better of me and this year I ended up with two different blue jeans:
One is just under $200. Brand name does not matter, but there are many brands in this range: AG Jeans, 7 For All Mankind, Brooks Brothers Levi's, Citizens of Humanity, Hudson Jeans, Fidelity Denim, True Religion Brand Jeans, etc.
The other is $25 - way less cost, newly found at Target and made by Levi's: denizen jeans and sold in a few countries only: denizen USA.

Now all that matters about pants is that they feel comfortable and in the end blue jeans are just blue jeans! Given that the denizen jeans look pretty good, and I frankly can't find the difference between many of the jeans under $50 and the ones over $150. Maybe this year I'll find out if there is any difference, now that I have one of each. I doubt it, will update this post if things change and the cheaper jean just falls apart or zipper just fails or something. Otherwise, for now, I think the inexpensive jeans are just as good as the expensive ones :-)