The Great Urban Chicken Debate at the Supreme Court…

…of Nova Scotia.

My past and future colleague Trevor Smedley just lost his appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia of his criminal conviction for having pet chickens.  As the Supreme Court noted in Trevor J. Smedley and Her Majesty the Queen:

They are not just any chickens – they are special chickens. They are heritage chickens that are brought to this province from Quebec.

Indeed, the court agreed with Mr. Smedley that there was nothing wrong with the chickens:

The trial judge found that they are in every way inoffensive. There is no excessive or even noticeable noise, no odour. The way in which they are kept is not unsightly. The chickens remain on their property seemingly doing no harm to either the aesthetic qualities or the quiet enjoyment of the property of the immediate neighbours. So finds the trial judge.

As I haven’t seen much news about this case in the mainstream media, I’m posting a copy of the complete opinion here to shed public light on the matter. I know very little about Canadian chicken law, so I’m not sure whether further appeals are possible, but I hope Mr. Smedley can keep up the fight.

Is Axe Flix a Scam? (Or “What Is Axe Flix?”)

I received a glossy mass mailing today from “Axe Flix,” enclosing a DVD for a film supposedly entitled “A Diary.” (I haven’t loaded the DVD). The promotional copy:


Did the resounding climax merit a four-hottie rating?

Do the action scenes provoke a second go-around?

Or did the ending leave her wanting just a little bit more?

Be a critic. Rate this movie and you could WIN a year’s supply of Axe.

The whole thing seems suspicious. In my experience, most unsavory operations quickly come to light as such with a Google search. Oddly, there is only one result in a Google search for “Axe Flix”, and it’s not relevant. There is also no IMDB Entry for a movie called “A Diary,” nor do the named actors (Suzanne Knack, Patrick Kelly, Max Lenderman, Alexis Karsant, Jamie Butts, Chad Anderson) show up as real actors. It purports to be based on a best selling novel by “Robert Walker.” Also no dice.

Can something possibly be real in this era without significant confirmation of its existence in Google? I think not. Ontology recapitulates search engine optimization.

I’m writing this entry to create an anchor for future discussion. Does anyone have any idea what this is? The return address for “contest entries,” “Axe Spread the Love Sweepstakes, P.O. Box 511425, New Berlin, WI 53151,” also doesn’t provide many clues, other than possibly some relationship with toilet paper.

[Tags]Axe Flix, A Diary[/Tags]

Update: it took all of thirty seconds for this entry to appear as the first result for several related Google searches, and another thirty seconds for me to get my first comment from someone else with the same question.

Update 2: Based on discussion in the comments below, I seem to have unintentionally “fed the troll.” Maybe I wouldn’t have walked smack into this if I had heard of this product before. I guess this is my punishment for not having a cable or broadcast TV connection.

TSA Gripe of the Day

I arrived back late last night from DC (National Airport, called “Reagan” by some) to Logan Airport. I got to National about an hour before my departure and checked two bags. Only one of them appeared at the baggage claim on the other end. The U.S. Air baggage people were surprised; they said National rarely loses or delays bags, especially where the passenger checks in with reasonable lead time.

My second bag finally arrived this afternoon. I found the solution to the mysterious delay within: a Transportation Security Administration “Notice of Baggage Inspection.” Presumably they held my bag for too long or it just didn’t get routed properly after being manually inspected.

I don’t believe the random manual inspections provide much improvement over the full CT scans now mandated at all airports. But apparently they do create inconveniences.

On another note, I noticed for the first time this trip that the now obsolete “no smoking” signs above every seat have been replaced with “turn off electronic devices.” (Query which is more addictive.)


Crazy Amtrak Rule of the Day

My itinerant brother, presently in Tucson, Arizona is trying to visit my less-itinerant brother in Tahoe, California. (The latter is an editor and photographer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, now available online in full print-like layout). Later this week, the itinerant brother flies from Tucson to Sacramento, the least expensive airport closest to Tahoe.

Amtrak has a route from Sacramento to Tahoe (actually nearby Truckee), but it is actually a bus. Having made his plane reservations, my brother waited until today to order his Amtrak tickets online, only to discover the following:

You can't take a bus without taking a train.

Yes, it’s true, you can’t actually board that bus (the only way to get to Tahoe after my brother’s plane arrives), unless you’ve at least set foot on a train first.

Some research suggests that California State Law prohibits Amtrak from offering bus-only services within the state, apparently so it won’t compete with bus companies.

I did figure out what I hope is a clever workaround: the next closest train stop on one of the lines to Sacramento is Davis. Amtrak allows you to buy a ticket from Davis to Truckee via Sacramento for basically the same price as the bus from Truckee to Sacramento. Hopefully no one will check to make sure he actually traveled from Davis to Sacramento before getting on the bus to Truckee.

There must be some profound lesson here. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the floor debate in the state legislature when this law was enacted.

Webloyalty Recap

My “webloyalty is a scam” blog entry from 2004 continues to get thousands of hits per month, despite the fact that it appears to have dropped off the top Google search results. It should hit 100,000 unique visitors any day now, and 2,000 comments.

Every once in a while someone comments to defend the service. E.g., this, today, from “Jim”:


And then, a few minutes later, from the same IP address, from “Brian P.”:

I actually agree with Jim 2 posts ago. People who say these things really did not read what they were signing up for and that is all of your own faults.

I used to get more of these kinds of comments from people actually posting from their workplace, where their workplace IP address resolved to Webloyalty. Someone must have told Webloyalty employees to stop doing that, as the comments above come from an AOL IP address.

Questionable Verizon EVDO Support

Once you’ve had a taste of EVDO (presently offered only by Verizon and Sprint), it’s hard to imagine not having it. Like cell service, you quickly forget what it was like not to be online always everywhere. (It’s a great example of our rising “baseline” standard of living).

Recently, I switched to an embedded EVDO card on a new laptop (running Windows for reasons beyond the scope of this blog entry). It worked for a couple of days, and then I started getting mysterious “error 913” messages when trying to connect. After trying all the solutions that seemed obvious to me, I contacted Verizon Wireless Tech Support as suggested by the error message, which otherwise provided no information about error 913.

Perhaps surprisingly, Verizon Wireless Tech Support didn’t really know what error 913 was either. After a few minutes, I was escalated to second level tech support. They had me reboot. Then they had me reinstall the card controller software. The second-level tech support person put me on hold to speak with whatever higher level tech support she had access to. Then they had me delete the EVDO connection from the dial-up networking control panel and re-create it. None of these things worked. So she said I should just return the laptop to the store and get a new one.

It was perhaps the best example of the three “R’s” of Windows Tech Support I had ever experienced: reboot, reinstall, replace. This may perhaps be the only cost effective way of providing such support.

I persisted, though, as I was pretty sure there wasn’t a hardware issue given that all the diagnostics were coming up without error. I would rather not return a perfectly good laptop just because we couldn’t figure it out. I was also suspicious because I had seen several instances of precisely this problem popping up in message boards, and the tech support person herself told me that she had recently been unable to solve the same problem with another customer. It just didn’t have the symptomology of broken hardware.

After a few more minutes of speculating about why this might happen, the tech support person said she had an idea, and asked me to try to reconnect. Since then, it has worked perfectly.

As I understand the problem, my account was enabled for unlimited “roaming” EVDO access, but did not actually have authorization for “non-roaming” (i.e., within the network) access. Thus the connection was rejected.

There are several things wrong with this picture. Why didn’t the EVDO access manager software provide an error message that actually indicated that the connection was refused for lack of authorization? Why didn’t anyone at Verizon know what error 913 was? Shouldn’t Verizon have a checklist for such issues that includes “check to see if the subscriber is properly signed up”? (For that matter, why did my account spontaneously lose non-roaming access?) These are just a few questions that come to mind.

I hate to beat on Verizon, since I’ve done it three times before, but it’s almost like they’re just asking for it. Maybe it’s time they rethink their organizational strategy.

Webloyalty… sued.

Update March 8, 2009: Webloyalty Settlement.


Frogs Review Home Depot and CBS Sportsline

After a long hiatus, the Frog Review is back. I can’t recall how I first came across this site, but a while back they reviewed the Ticketmaster Website. More recently, they did insightful reviews of The Home Depot Website and CBS

If I had more free time, maybe I could be that funny.

Webloyalty and Marketworks

As this blog has become one of the top sources of information on the Webloyalty scam, I’m reporting this news about Webloyalty and Marketworks, a third party eCommerce site that supports high volume eBay sellers. Marketworks is apparently throwing the switch to make a Webloyalty subscription the default for the thousands of eBay sellers that use its services:

Over the past two years our users have experienced tremendous success incorporating WebLoyalty in their checkout. For those of you unfamiliar with WebLoyalty, it’s a special rewards program offered by Marketworks that benefits merchants with cash and repeat shopping.

Given the success our participating Sellers have experienced, effective June 21, 2006, WebLoyalty will be enabled as a default setting in all US-based users’ StoreFront/Checkout profiles. We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions to reflect this setting (effective June 21, 2006 for existing users).

If at any time you wish to discontinue your participation, simply indicate your participation preference by clicking the appropriate radio button on the WebLoyalty settings of your StoreFront/Checkout profile.

Note that at this time WebLoyalty is only available to US sellers and buyers.

Learn more about WebLoyalty.

The Marketworks Team

So now not only will there be millions of Webloyalty subscribers who aren’t even aware they are paying for this useless service, there will also be thousands of eBay sellers who aren’t even aware that they are signing their customers up for this useless service. I understand that a number of Marketworks sellers who actually know this is going on are upset, but the majority of users don’t read the forums where this is being discussed. (Full disclosure: I have nothing to do with Marketworks myself.)

To be fair, I should mention that a Webloyalty executive (the “lead Consumer Affairs representative” — Mary O’Reilly) has apparently posted to my blog in defense of the company. The following comment appears about 1,000 comments down on my main Webloyalty entry, and is in response to this entry mentioning inflammatory comments posted by other Webloyalty employees calling Webloyalty customers ‘suckers’:

As lead Consumer Affairs representative for Reservation Rewards, I apologize on behalf of WLI Reservation Rewards for the inappropriate and offensive comments posted by the person identifyingthemselves as “WLI Customer Service Representative”. Our company does not condone or tolerate this type of unprofessional behavior and providing consumers with the highest level of customer service is of utmost importance to us. If we can confirm that the comments were actually posted by one of our customer service representatives, appropriate action will be taken with that employee.

As a company, Reservation Rewards takes consumer comments very seriously. We have hundredsof thousands of satisfied customers and we consistently strive to provide our customers with first class membership programs and customer service. In the past, our approach has been to deal with consumer concerns on an individual basis rather than in a public forum. To fully address a consumer’s concerns we need some specific information (e.g. the consumer’s full name or email address) so that the consumer’s record can be accessed. Once the consumer’s record is accessed, we can identify exactly how, when and where the membership offer was accepted and also cancel the membership if that is what the consumer wants.

However, it troubles us to see the concern that some consumers have expressed on this blog with regard to Reservation Rewards. At this time, wewant to make an open and sincere attempt in this public forum to clear up the misunderstandings that are generating the concerns. We thought the following Question & Answer type format might be the clearest way to share information and address the primary areas of concern expressed on this blog:

1. How Is The Reservation Offer Presented To Consumers? How Did I Get Signed Up For This?

We try to make our offer as clear as possible so that consumers can make an educated decision on the offer. Over the years, we’ve incorporated a number of client and consumer suggestions to clarify the offer even further.

Consumers are presented with the ReservationRewards offer when completing a transaction at one of our client’s websites. It’s not a check box that you have to unclick to reject the offer. Instead, the consumer is presented with a full offer page (separate from the client’s transaction page) and is required to take 3 actions to accept the offer and authorize the data pass of personal information. In addition to entering their email address twice, a consumer must also click on a ‘YES’ button to accept the offer. The offerpage includes all the Offer Details, clear mention of the monthly charges, a description of the membership benefits and instructions on how to redeem the Cash Back award.

2. How Does Reservation Rewards Get Consumer Credit Card Numbers?

Please be assured that our clients aren’t passing credit card information to us without the consumer’s authorization. The security of your credit card information is of utmost importance to each of our clients. They would never provide a consumer’s credit card information without proper authorization. The security of your credit card number is also important to Reservation Rewards and we require consumers to provide us with authorization. In order to accept the Reservation Rewards membership, we requirethe consumer to provide us with their email address twice to make them pause and take the time to read and understand the offer. Immediately next to the boxes where a consumer is required to enter their email address is the statement:

‘By entering my email address as my electronic signature and clicking YES, I have read and agree to the Offer and Billing Details and authorize to securely transfer my name address and credit or debit card information to Reservation Rewards for billing and benefit processing.’

If a consumer just clicks on the ‘YES’ button without entering their email twice, the membership is not accepted. If a consumer does not want to accept the offer, there is a ‘No Thanks’ option right under the ‘YES’ button.

3. Reservation Rewards customer service said they sent me multiple emails about the membership before billing. What emails? I never got any.

Once a consumer accepts the membership we make a significant effort to make the consumer aware of the membership and send multiple communications to the consumer before the first membership billing occurs. We use sophisticated monitoring tools to track the deliverability of these emails and our records show a very high delivery rate. We actuallyhave these records audited by a third party to ensure we are consistent in sending them to consumers.We also work with two outside companies to assist us in maximizing our high delivery rate. If an email bounces back as undeliverable, we send the consumer a letter via U.S. postal mail.

However, we do understand in this day and age of spam, some of our email communications maybe filtered out and not read by some consumers. So, in addition to the email communications, each member is also presented with a membership acknowledgement page immediately upon acceptance of the membership. Our intent with this acknowledgement page is to make the consumer immediately aware theyaccepted the membership and to give them an opportunity to cancel it if that is what they want. We have hundreds of thousands of members that happily use the Reservation Rewards benefits and we don’t want people to be in the membership that they didn’t intend to join.

4. Why didn’t I get my Cash Back Award or access to membership benefits? I don’t believe there really is a Cash Back Award or Membership Benefits.

We apologize if some consumers find it unclear how they can redeem their Cash Back Award or take advantage of the membership benefits. We have many members taking full advantage of the membership benefits and redemption of their Cash Back Awards. We encourage members to redeem their Cash Back Award and use the membership benefits by immediately presenting them with the membership acknowledgement page. In addition to instructions on how to redeem their Cash Back Award, the membership acknowledgement page also includes a password to log into the Reservation Rewards website. We also send each customer an email 13 days after accepting the membership that reminds them to redeem their Cash Back Award. We encourage you to go to to review the array of membership benefits. We think you’ll find that we partner with many top names in leisure, dining and theme parks to provide our members with significant discounts. At the lower left-hand corner of the home page you can review positive comments from Reservation Rewards members who regularly use the benefits.

When a misunderstanding occurs, we’re more than willing to cancel the membership and provide a refund. Wecan assure you that our customer service representatives are all trained to respond to consumers in afriendly and accommodating manner. When you contact our customer service department to cancel a membership, you won’t be faced with a rep trying to convince you to keep the membership ’ our reps aren’t allowed to do that. The rep will just need some basic information from you such as your email address, full name and/or zip code to access your record and immediately accommodate your request. Once your membership is cancelled, you can be assured that we will not bill your credit card again.

We value consumer comments whether positive or negative. They help us consider ways we can further improve the communication and value of the Reservation Rewards offer to consumers and they also gives us the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings. If anyone would like us to provide more specific information on the actual offer that was presented specifically to you, just send your full name and email address directly to We’ll be happy to assist you and address any further concerns you have.

Mary O’Reilly
Consumer Affairs
Reservation Rewards

I don’t know whether or not the above description is currently true, but it is certainly entirely inconsistent with my experience. I did not enter my email address once — or twice — to “confirm” my subscription. My server logs from that time period showed that no confirmation emails were ever sent by Webloyalty (regardless of whether they might be caught by a spam filter), and the customer service representative I spoke with did try to keep me to keep my membership (and moreover was exceedingly rude). Hopefully my experience with the company is no longer true, but based on the comments on my blog that’s not the case.

Webloyalty seems to have found a novel and profitable solution to the opt-in vs. opt-out tradeoff — don’t give the customer any option at all!

Webloyalty Call Center Reps

My blog has apparently become a canonical source (at least by PageRank) for the Webloyalty Scam (see also this update). It’s been about 18 months since I first posted about it—since then that page has gotten over 40,000 hits and over 1,000 comments.

Perhaps the best testimony about this company comes from its own employees. At least two people purporting to be Webloyalty Call Center Representatives have posted comments to that entry; in both cases, the IP addresses resolved to a Connecticut location, so it is at least plausible that these people really work for Webloyalty. Here’s the most recent comment, posted from

WOW!! The level of stupidity on this board is incredible. You people don’t get it, do you?? Webloyalty didn’t sign you up for anything. You signed yourselves up. The details are right there, in plain sight, in normal sized text, right in front of your faces. It details EVERYTHING, including the cost of the service and the billing cycle. The problem is that all of you idiots chose not to read it. You saw “free”, and figured “gee, something free for me? golly, I must be special”. WRONG!! YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL, YOU’RE JUST FUCKING LAZY AND STUPID!! YOU SIGNED YOURSELF UP! NOTHING HAPPENED AUTOMATICALLY!! THERE WAS NO SLIGHT OF HAND OR MISLEADING WORDING!! The bottom line is you’re all a bunch of stupid, lazy, crybabies who don’t want to take any responsability for your actions. NONE! Well, thats what you get for being stupid and lazy.


And here’s another for a few months ago:

comment: I’m a rep in the call center at Webloyalty. I have no pity for any of you people. You’re all suckers, plain and simple. Didn’t anybody ever teach you that nothing is free? When all of you idiots made your purchases on whatever website you did business on at the end of your transaction there was an offer asking if you wanted to save $10, or get award miles, or whatever. When you clicked on that link you were not automatically signed up. What happens is that you’re brought to the Reservations Rewards website. On that website it tells you that you are on the website for Reservations Rewards. You see, you can tell that because the banner at the top of the site says “Reservations Rewards”. Unfortunately you were too stupid to notice or remember. It then gives you instructions on how to redeem your “reward”. At that point you are instructed to enter you email address in twice and click accept. Now you have to manually type in the email twice in those boxes. No cut and paste is allowed. Then it tells you to click accept. Now, if you had any fucking brains in your head you would have noticed that right above the box where you enter your email mail address its says, in regular sized type, in plain sight, right out in the open, that entering your email twice will act as an electronic signature and that by clicking accept you are accepting that the website you just made a purchase on can share the billing information with Reservation Rewards. Also in the big box next all of this it gives the exact details of what you are signing up for, again in regular sized print, in plain sight, right out in the open. If you are too stupid to take the time to notice all of that then you deserve what you got. which was a membership in a overpriced bullshit ptogram.

Webloyalty depends on idiots like you to not notice this stuff. To be blinded by the idea that you are getting something for “free”. To not look at you credit card statement so charges go through every month. Its unbelievable the amount of dummies out there that fall for this stuff. Even if you do catch the charges eventually, and get a refund they still made money off of you by collecting interest on your money when they had possesion of it. Stay a member or cancel its win-win for webloyalty.

So, anyway I hope all you dummies learned a valuable lesson and wont fall for this again. I’m sure many of you will, though. You’d be shocked at how many people are repeat members where they canceled the service a while back but fell for the scam again a few months later.

Perhaps the funniest thing about my Reservation Rewards entry is that I get emails every day or two from people asking me how to get them to stop taking their money. There are, in fact, over 1,000 testimonials (including my own entry) explaining exactly how to get them to stop charging. Every few months, I receive an email from someone furious at me for charging them all this money. I wonder who these people are who get as far as doing a Google search to find my entry, but can’t seem to figure out that I have nothing to do with the company.