A utility bill worth looking at?

Here in Dardenne Prairie, MO (a suburb of St. Louis; see what WikiPedia has to say about it) our electricity is supplied by the Cuivre River Electric Cooperative. CREC surprised me this month with a genuinely informative addition to the data on the bill: a graph of usage over the last year.

My expectations of utility companies, most of whom operate as monopolies, have not been high. CREC, though, in addition to do a good job supplying electrical power (without the long outages that have plagued the next county over), supplies data which may help me figure out how to consume less of their product!

Of course I already knew we use far more power in the summer than in the winter; but to quantify that amounts I would have needed to sift through a pile of old bills. Seeing this chart, I wonder why our baseline (winter) usage is so high; I’m inspired to get out my Kill-A-WATT and investigate.

Dear PayPal, My Thoughts Do Not Fit In 40 Characters

I recently closed a PayPal account. During the closing process, and again thereafter, I was surveyed as to why I closed the account. Predictably, these surveys offered a few choices for why I didn’t want the account, with only a tiny field if I wanted to explain in more detail why I closed it. I picked the choices that were closest to my actual reasons; but they really were not close at all.

(Kyle’s Business Tip of The Day: You really aren’t helping yourself, or your customers, if you set up feedback mechanisms that only allow you to hear messages you want to hear.)

So here is my reason to be wary of PayPal: I can start with a credit card, but I won’t get far that way; to do anything useful with PayPal, I need to grant them full access to my bank account. At every bank I’ve ever used, there is no mechanism for partial access. Once a vendor is in, there is nothing I can do to stop them from withdrawing all my money. For example, there is no way to say “this vendor can pull out up to $N in a month, and no more”; at most I can get, in some cases, notification of transactions. This is unsafe: fraudulent access to my PayPal account, or a bug at PayPal, could empty my bank account.

There is no “push” way to get money in to PayPal. An example of Push would be that I mail them a check, they deposit it, they wait N days for it to clear, then they put the money in my PayPal account. Push is safe; it avoid granting them “Pull” access to my accounts.

These issues are not solely PayPal’s, rather they are caused by the broken bank payment system here in the U.S.; but it is clearly PayPal’s choice to not provide a workaround in the form of a “push” deposit mechanism.

(European readers will probably find all this silly; apparently in that part of the world there are “push” mechanisms to transfer money electronically, and for all I know PayPal may work like that European customers.)