Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Beware of Electronic Toll Roads When Driving in the Orlando Area!

I had to travel and attend a diving show convention in Orlando, Florida a few weeks ago.  Sorry, but there is very little reason to travel to Orlando.  Maybe you have to go there for business, maybe the kids would like to visit Disneyworld, or maybe the cheap airfares there will help you attain elite status on your preferred airline.  Personally, I've never been a fan of this rather colorless city, and I will strive to stay away even more from now on.

There are toll roads in Florida, and particularly around the Orlando area, where a driver from out-of-town is given no notice whatsoever that he or she is going to be charged, no notice whatsoever that he or she is about to enter a toll road, and no notice that he or she HAS been charged.  Here's what happened to me.

I was in Orlando and drove to Jacksonville to meet a client.  I've set my Garmin unit, which I carry with me when traveling and renting cars, to avoid toll roads.  Nevertheless, for some reason, it routed me to go east on FL-528 and then north on Hwy 417.  Both of these are toll roads, and both are electronic -- meaning that there are no toll booths and no cash collection booths.

From Wikipedia, I see that both of these highways are toll roads, charging $6.75 and $3.25 for the use of the road.  I also went to Google Maps after the trip.  Google Maps, as opposed to my Garmin, routed me directly through Orlando -- no toll roads, and it would have been a faster trip.  I attach the route that my Garmin had me go.  Google Maps even showed me that the route I was on had tolls.  The Garmin did not show me this.  This is a good reason to use Google Maps on an iPad or iPhone with a cellular internet connection rather than a Garmin.  I've probably bought the last Garmin that I will ever buy, after this experience.  And like I said, no more Orlando for me if I can help it.

I returned my rental car thinking that all was fine.  A month later, on my credit card statement, I see a charge for $9.95.  I was going to dispute the charge (see posts from various forums below) but after doing my research, I think that the charge is valid and am going to pay it.

Here are some posts from various forums about the toll roads in Florida, and how Avis and other car rental companies might be taking advantage of the situation.

Beware of AVIS - unexpected hidden E-Toll tags charges

 Mar 17, 2010, 6:44 AM
I think that most have missed the point.

The poser (sic, the writer clearly means "poster') clearly indicates that he is aware that he has to pay tolls when using a toll road , and where to pay them.

But seems unaware of is that nearly all rental companies offer the facility of pre paying tolls with the hire car. This is a standard charge of $10 per day ( I think + tax ), or a weekly rate. this enables drivers of hire cars to drive straight through the sun pass lane without having to stop and pay. This charge is for every day weather or not you use a toll road any particular day or not. As rental cars are not fitted with the necessary transponder to pay each ossacion. (sic)

This Toll pay by rental companies is advertised as "Offered" but in fact in many cases is a standard additional charge on bills, and the hirer has to ask to have it removed. Like ticking the box to NOT to recive e-mails.

This assumes he knows its on there in the first place, cos he he often not told.

It is very often " NOT Offered" because most renters turn down the offer..

I bit like the roadside emergency assistance. And Free car.

In short "Another Scam" to get money out of visitors.

Before leaving the rental counter you should always ask the person serving you to explain in detail your invoice, and make sure you know what if anything you have to pay on return. If you have a mobile phone record this conversation and ask the person their name. then write it on the paper work they give you. Just so that if there is any dispute. you know who served you, But more importantly what they told you.

I always tell them I am making a record.

Another post:
If your totally convinced that you didn't go through a toll without paying, then I would ask for phographic evidence, Avis can't help as they aren't the ones that charged you for it.

Thanks for your clarification. I am pretty sure I paid by cash everytime I went through the toll. Where do you suggest I should ask for the photo evidence? From the Toll company or Avis?

 Some of the tool booths where you pay are on the very far right where you have to actually smei exit to poay them then merge back on. (sic)

A third post: 
It is easy to do this, so you may have missed a toll and they have chrged it with a 'service charge'. You go toff lucky, may who rent with other fuirms are charged $25. It is easy to pay these (if you know or suspect you have missed one) while still in florida. But once you are back, they go thru the owner of the car.
A last post: 
Ask Avis to provide the phto evidence to you and in the mantime disopute the charge with your card company who will 'out it on hold' while the matter is investigated. As the owner of record, avis can request it from the toll authority involved.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac Stops Working on my Mac; Microsoft Customer Service Blames Their Spy Website!

Wow.  It seems that Microsoft monitors the software that you purchase from them and deactivates it remotely.  Here's the story that just happened:

I tried to use my Microsoft Office 11 Mac software today (Word) which has been working on my Mac Mini for many months.  Instead of opening as usual, I was confronted with a window asking me to enter my product key.  I had my product key on file and entered it.  When I tried to activate the software, I was told that "online activation did not complete successfully because the product key has been used the maximum number of times permitted."  

I then tried phone activation.  I entered the 9 sets of 4 numbers or so.  The robot voice asked me how many computers I had used this software on.  I answered "two."   The computer voice then told me  "Thank you.  Goodbye." and hung up. 

I have used this software on my MacBook Pro and my Mac Mini (Mac Pro before then) for a couple of years at least.  I've deactivated the software when upgrading computers and have kept records of the product IDs issued and the messages I received when deactivating. 

I tried going online to see if perhaps I am using the software on too many computers.  I couldn't figure it out.  So I called.  After much trouble trying to get the robot to get me to a real person, I reached a woman in India.  I recorded this conversation.  She told me the following and confirmed the following:

1.  I have purchased a copy of Microsoft Office 11 Mac software and have been using it on my Mac Mini for several months with no problems.

2.  She said that their website for activating this software was down and I needed to try again, or call to see what the status was, in 24 hours.

3.  I asked, and she confirmed twice, that this was not subscription software, but regardless, this software had checked back with Microsoft at some point and de-activated itself.  I therefore needed to re-activate it again.  This seems to me to be blatantly, flagrantly, and ridiculously illegal; or at least it should raise a real furor with anyone who uses Microsoft software.  Perhaps this support person was wrong, but I repeated myself several times to be sure of the answers and recorded the conversation. 

If a user buys Microsoft software (not on a subscription basis) and Microsoft has this software check back with this severs secretly to de-activate it, then this seems illegal and outrageous.  I purchased this software legally and am unable to use it for at least another 24 hours, not to mention having to spend valuable time to get it working again.