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Last Year’s 5 Biggest Consumer Snafus

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It’s difficult to choose the top/worst scandals of 2011 for consumers. There were corporate data breaches, wireless customers left incommunicado, and ill-fated new fees such as Bank of America’s $5 debit card charge.

SmartMoney.com asked a range of experts for thefive biggest/worst snafus of 2011, the affects of which will still be felt by consumers in 2012. In no particular order, here they are:

Bank of America’s $5 Debit Card Fee

Bank of America announced in September that it would plan to charge a $5 monthly fee for use of its debit cards. Customers revolted. Over 40,000 people joined credit unions as part of a protest that began on Facebook, according to the Credit Union National Association, bringing around $80 million with them. BofA killed the $5 fee in November, saying it had listened to its customers. “The bank was betting that the other mega-banks would follow, making debit cards a thing of the past,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and co-founder of CardHub.com. “That did not happen.” However, it’s not over yet. Experts warn the banks will search for other ways to make up the 50% reduction in interchange fees merchants pay when purchases are made with debit cards.

Blackberry’s Global Network Outage

This was the year of the perfect storm for Research in Motion, analysts say. Not only did it do battle with the rise (and rise) of the iPhone 4S and a massive glut of unsold Playbook tablets, RIM was forced into major damage mode following an outage of its network that impacted millions of people around the globe. “While technical glitches happen all the time, RIM really has no excuse to have major outages like they had had in the past,” says Rick Singer, CEO of GreatApps.com. Blackberry users were down for approximately four days. “This is not an acceptable amount of time,” Singer says. For its part, RIM offered its business customers a month’s free technical support and a selection of apps worth over $100 to those retail customers affected by the outage.

Extreme Couponing Hit A New Barcode

The name J’aime Kirlew may put fear into the heart of manufacturers. The star of the first episode of TLC’s 12-part series Extreme Couponing cut nearly $14,000 off her grocery bill in 2010 by clipping coupons. She matched barcodes – not products. Some couponers reacted angrily, but Kirlew said she wasn’t the only one to do this and told Pay Dirt, “I was a scapegoat.” But manufacturers rolled out a new barcode system “GS1 Databar” to help prevent using a 50-cent coupon for a single 33-cent carton of yogurt, when it’s intended to be used for a multi-pack, as it would in theory result in “overage” or an actual profit for the customer. Rite Aid, Target and Publix also restricted their coupon policies.

Discounted Missoni Crashes Target’s Website

Target’s September foray into high-end designer labels caused a mad rush in stores, but also crashed the company’s website for much of Sept. 13, the day of the launch. It left some consumers frustrated and analysts wondering how the company didn’t predict such high demand for the multi-colored, zig-zag Missoni prints. At the time, a Target spokeswoman apologized to shoppers for the inconvenience of not being able to access the site. However, analysts pointed out that Target switched from Amazon’s web platform to its own three weeks earlier and said that, despite the fact that the website platform switch was planned in advance, it still wasn’t equipped to handle a one-time surge in demand.

Black Friday Mania Goes Too Far Again

In November, an isolated incident in one Walmart store got global attention and left some commentators wondering if the excitement surrounding the door-busting bargains had gotten out of control once again: A woman shopping at a store in Los Angeles shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale. An attorney for the woman later said she did it to protect her teenage children as they tried to buy Xbox consoles, and a spokesman for Walmart says it fully cooperated with the authorities. The news story went viral on social networking sites. Walmart was also among those retailers opening its stores at 10pm on Thanksgiving – two hours ahead of Macy’s and Target. With competition among stores intensifying for recession-scarred consumers, retail analyst Jeff Green says stores have profit and sales targets to hit, shareholders to please and headlines to make.

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      Read The Icon Imagemap Technique for Multivariate Geospatial Data Visualization: Approach and Software System by Zhang,Xianfeng,Pazner,Micha – Cartography and Geographic Information Science,Vol. 31,Issue 1,January 2004. Read The Icon Imagemap Technique for Multivariate Geospatial Data Visualization: Approach and Software System now at Questia.
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      The Icon Imagemap Technique for Multivariate Geospatial Data Visualization: Approach and Software System
      By: Zhang, Xianfeng; Pazner, Micha
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      Cartography and Geographic Information Science, January 2004 |
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      The Icon Imagemap Technique for Multivariate Geospatial Data Visualization: Approach and Software SystemZhang, Xianfeng, Pazner, Micha, Cartography and Geographic Information Science Introduction Scientific visualization, or more generally data visualization, is the process of creating representations to analyze computational or measured data. Typically the visualization process results in an image, animation, or interactive environment that might include other sensory feedback such as “haptics” (Schroeder et al. 1997; Grinstein et al. 1992). Currently, scientific visualization mainly includes geometric, icon-based, pixel-oriented, 3-D, dynamic, and hybrid visualization techniques (Keim 1996). Iconic representation or icon-based visualization is used in computer interface design (Horton 1994), scientific computation, physical experimental simulation (Walsum et al. 1996), and medical diagnosis (Rangayyan and Zuffo 1998). Early applications of icon or glyph visualization were mainly used to visualize the similarity or clusters of point data sets. For example, “Chernoff Faces” display data using cartoon faces by relating different variables to different facial features (Chernoff and Rizvi 1975). Icons or glyphs arc- also often used in cartography, for example in tourist maps where certain meaningful icons are used to give tourists intuitive guidance (Horton 1994). The rapid development of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies provides us with a large volume of spatial data. A key concern in geographic information sciences is how to process geospatial data to extract features and visualize the potential geographic patterns (Wood and Brodlie 1997; MacEachren et al. 1997). Due to the characteristics of geospatial data such as multi-scale, multi-dimensional, large data sets, and complex spatio-temporal change, the visualization of geospatial data is yew challenging. Geospatial data visualization is also called geovisualization (Kraak and Ormeling 2003; Slocum et al. 2001), which integrates approaches from scientific visualization, exploratory cartography, image analysis, information visualization, exploratory data analysis (EDA), and GIS. Multivariate geospatial data can be processed in cartography and in GIS using a group of operations that axe based on map algebra (Demers 2001; Tomlin 1990). A “composite image” is often used to represent and visualize the resultant data layer. This kind of visualization can be termed fused multivariate visualization. Icons or graphic symbols are commonly used to characterize geospatial data entities in traditional map visualization (Ogao and Kraak 2002; Wood 1997). The objective of our research is to develop an icon-based technique for visualizing multivariate geospatial data in a raster GIS environment. While iconic or glyph maps have existed previously, we present a raster GIS icon based visualization approach for creating icon imagemaps for the visualization of multivariate geospatial data sets. The methodological approach is an adaptation of the work oil iconographic and glyph constructs for exploratory visualization in computer graphics (Erbacher et al. 1995; Pickett and Grinstein 1988). A conventional image is typically composed of a group of pixels or cells, and each pixel has a single value (Tomlin 1990). An icon imagemap is a type of image based on a three-tiered structure, namely pixels, icon blocks, and image (Pazner and Lafreniere 1997; Lafreniere et al. 1996). Icons rather than pixels are the meaningful primitives in an icon imagemap. Each icon block includes several icon elements which represent multivariate data layers. A very large number of adjacent icons form geographic patterns that are based on interrelations between the individual data variables. The icon imagemap technique can be used to visualize a group of related geospatial data layers as a single imagemap without having to fuse the data layers. Thus, it is termed here a non-fused co-visualization approach. Visualization with GIS icon imagemap is different from other icon-based visualization approaches such as Kleine-Hartigan Trees and Chernoff Faces where each icon is a graphic representation of a case (e.g., one Chernoff Face represents one case). The icon imagemap visualization technique is an adaptation of icon representation in a raster GIS environment which depicts variation over geographic space. Raster GIS icon imagemaps inherit the advantages and drawbacks associated with raster- or cell-based representation. Raster GIS is well suited for processing image-based data such as remote sensing data and terrain data represented as DEMs (digital elevation models), both of which are increasingly abundant. There is no need for a data model or format conversion to visualize the results of cartographic modeling in raster in the form of icon imagemaps. The raster model is a space-filling approach that lends itself to dense, continuous, areal coverage over a fixed (square area) increment of space. Each location is explicitly represented in raster–and in a derived raster icon imagemap. Raster icons employ color as well as other graphic elements in order to take advantage of the al-locations-represented property. This allows raster icon imagemaps to depict incremental changes and trends in variable interrelation at a range of scales in the image from local (micro) to cell neighborhood to global (image wide). The paper presents the icon imagemap approach and its implementation in software, and gives an example of its application. The paper is organized as follows. First we introduce the concept and place it in the context of related studies. Then we discuss how to extend visualization from conventional pixel-driven images to icon-driven images. In the next section we describe the implementation of the IconMapper prototype system and how this system is used to create icon imagemaps. A terrain traversability model is then presented as an example to demonstrate the effectiveness of the icon imagemap technique. The paper concludes with a summary discussion along with suggestions for future work. Extending Geo-visualization from Pixels to Icons Iconic Representation The term “icon” is often used in the computer industry as a synonym for any small visual symbol on the computer screen (Horton 1994). In the context of scientific visualization, the general meaning of the term “icon” is an image or sign that can be arbitrarily linked to data quantities. The function of an icon is to act as a symbolic representation which “shows essential characteristics or features of a data domain to which the icon refers” (Walsum et al. 1996, p. 111). Icons ideally yield their meaning at a glance and we should not have to read, analyze, ponder, or translate them. Studies of road signs typically find that iconic signs can be read twice the distance and in half the time as word signs (Horton 1994). Icons can be used to represent spatial arrangement such as spatial mapping, spatial analogy, and spatial grouping (Pazner and Lafreniere 1997; Horton 1994). The use of icons encompasses areas such as computer interface, cartography, and scientific visualization. The use of symbolic representations may be more obvious in abstract data and information spaces, whereas objects and patterns in physical spaces can …
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      Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. questia.com
      Publication information:
      Article title: The Icon Imagemap Technique for Multivariate Geospatial Data Visualization: Approach and Software System.
      Contributors: Zhang, Xianfeng – Author, Pazner, Micha – Author.
      Journal title: Cartography and Geographic Information Science.
      Volume: 31.
      Issue: 1
      Publication date: January 2004.
      Page number: 29+.
      © 2008 American Congress on Surveying $ Mapping.
      COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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    • no kidding! I agree.

    • Agree with the previous commenter: The Netflix story should be on the list rather than the couponing story.

    • What about Netflix raising prices 60% for, initially, a worse service because the queue and billing would be divided up between Quickster and Netflix, before dropping that silly and annoying idea while keeping the steep price raise and sending an appology that only justified the price increase while millions of customers left Netflix never to return?
      Did you forget this one? It should have been in the top 3 for sure…
      It may have been economically rational, but what a marketing disaster for Netflix!

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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