Monday, December 22, 2008

Closed that account did you? Think again.

These days we are hearing a lot about "credit", lending, banks, ponzi schemes, unscrupulous financial institutions, etc. Well let me share my own little tale that recently brought a fine bit of sunshine into my life. A while back I got a new credit card from Juniper/Barclays bank. Good rate, etc. Not long after the relationship began I got a statement telling me that APR had been jacked up into the stratosphere. Apparently they had discovered a sixth-grade detention Ms. Moose gave me (yes, really - Ms. Moose...) and the bank felt it was reason enough to treat me as an international flight risk. The bank also used the nefarious shifting cycles, whereby a month never was a month, maybe 26 days, maybe 32 all in an effort to catch me off guard and hit me with a late fee, which would be a reason to raise the APR even higher. Within just few months of opening the account, I said - like a Saturday afternoon UHF feature movie - "forget you", paid them in full, closed the account, & received a letter confirming that I had closed the account (they hate when you close the account, it is supposed to reflect well upon you , but banks are scum and they hold it against you)
So flash forward to 6 months later to last week when I get a statement from the usurious bastards "New charges on your account are $34.95, due date is...blah, blah, blah". My reaction is a predictable "WTF?!"
Turns out that last year when my child was "selling magazines" as a fundraising mechanism for her school band (sidebar: I will write another post the disgusting practice of companies using local student bodies as their extended sales organization, usually under the guise of "charity"), anyway... my wife used the credit card number in question to purchase a magazine. The magazine companies take these opportunities to set you up for automatic renewals that you must opt out of. Sound scummy? It is. So here we are months after I've closed my account, and the credit card company, not wanting me to miss a single issue of the magazine, authorizes the automatic renewal ON MY CLOSED ACCOUNT.
Now I've been and seen the person standing in line, checking out of a store, who is saying "that's weird, I'm not over my limit, I wonder why it won't go through.." to the cashier who is holding a suspect credit card that refuses to authorize.
So what is going on here? My account is closed, but they put a transaction through?
Gee, they wouldn't charge me extra fees and interest while this is all getting sorted out, would they? And any "sister" institutions wouldn't use this silly misunderstanding as a red-flag "troubles" reason to apply more aggressive terms to any relationship I have with them, would they?
So I call the handy 800# "HI, there has been a mistake, you authorized a charge on my closed account". The response from the CSR? "Oh, you'll have to call the magazine company, I'm not authorized to do anything...". Me - "let me speak to your supervisor". The Girl from Ipanema keeps me company for a few minutes until the CSR comes back on - "We don't have any supervisors here right now, they are right now, you'll have to call the magazine company and we can put in a DISPUTE on this charge".
Me - "there is no dispute, I didn't do it, not me, not authorized, no account any more, no balance, me no pay you any". CSR - "we'll put it in dispute and you can call the magazine company". AAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Is there any wonder why we're sliding down the shitter these days?
So, I call the magazine company. Get through the menus, and eventually get a live person on the line. "Hi, yeah.. mistake, etc". CSR - "OK, well we'll pro-rate a refund since you received some magazines", which would leave me owing $5 to the credit card company. Me - "Uh no, I didn't buy anything". CSR - "Well they shouldn't have authorized it". Me - "duh. I'll send your magazine back, even pay for postage". CSR - "we can only credit the pro-rated amount". I will say, I've dealt with many-a-CSR and I feel sorry for most of them. They have these awful jobs where you know they only deal with angry people all day long, but this one, she was good - she liked arguing, you could tell, and she was good at it, she revelled in the "power" of throwing roadblocks in front of any logic I tried, she stayed professional, but you could hear the MEAN in her voice "ha ha little man, dance on my string". I'm no psychologist, but I'd bet that she takes a whole lot of hell from someone outside of her job. So I take my pro-rated credit and move along.
Anyway... Flash forward to today. I get a letter from the lovely bank card people, which basically said "well, thank goodness we figured that out, you now owe us $5." Fortunately for all, the dog was out of kicking range. Argh, argh, and argh. 800#, menus, girl from ipanema, and live-CSR named Tammy (always write the name down and use it back when talking to them, I always try to get them off "script" also). Me - "look, I didn't do this, I don't have any account, you shouldn't have authorized anything, etc". Tammy - "well, these automatic ones can be forced through, even when the account is closed, it is part of the deal Mastercard and Visa have set up". Me - "I want my account zeroed out, I am not paying for this, and I apologize at my tone, I just find this whole thing to be scummy". Tammy did not like that I called her bank scummy. Tammy does not like how little $ the scummy bank pays her. Tammy does not like that she has to work on Xmas day for the scummy bank. Tammy wishes she could close her own account with the scummy bank, and Tammy does not like being asked "is this your dream job, did you grow up thinking: I want to be a CSR for a credit card company?", but a question like this make Tammy get coldly professional and aloof "that is not relevant to the conversation, we will credit you the amount, we do not normally do these kind of things, but will in this case". I again apologize for my tone, wish her a happy holiday season. I really meant it, what a shit job to have - and to have some angry jerk throw it in her face like that - of course, she also seemed to know that it is only because of the bank's unscrupulous practices that such things happen. She wouldn't even have her shit job if the bank wasn't so damn scummy.
I can only hope that Barclays is heavily leveraged in the credit-default-swap market and they are about to go under (and they have some vengeful IT personnel who'll delight in, ahem... "database alteration" as their last measure of compensation.)
And perhaps a band of disease-borne chimpanzees will escape from the zoo in Wilmington, Delaware and somehow find their way into the homes of senior banking executives and board members, delivering a holiday payload of parasitic organisms to the truly deserving.
I'll let you know if I get a statement next month for some kind of "fee". Just let me know if you've seen the keys to the chimp cages...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do you have any advice that I can ignore or make fun of?

A friend of mine asked me to post this story/commentary.

"I have some friends that just had a baby, no matter how you try to help them out they want to do things the hard way. Which in some ways I understand like, being comfortable enough to have someone you know look after your baby and such. But I just offered them a coupon for formula, and the guy was like no thanks she’s strictly breastfeeding. So I said yeah I know, but for when she’s not. And he informed me that she will breast feed for the entire year. I pretty much told him to forget it.

"They didn’t prepare for the baby that well and are now wondering why they didn’t have enough diapers or burp cloths etc. Maybe I’m being annoying I don’t know it’s just frustrating when you’re trying to help and they are so friggin stubborn about everything. They can’t even accept valid advice from anyone!"

What struck me about this commentary is that I know many people who outright ask for opinions or advice and then completely shoot down anything I offer.

I mean, advice may, in fact, be sh*t. But still, have some grace.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

and I thought I was cynical

I belong to a twin group and read this forums post this AM:

Chicken Pox Parties
Posted by: "XXX" Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:19 pm (PST)
Hi Everyone, If anyone out there is unvaccinated and interested in coming over for a "Chicken Pox Party" at our place we have the virus and are contagious, probably through next week.I know the timing stinks what with the holidays and all, but if that doesn't matter to you, come on over. Best playdate times for us are mornings anywhere from about 9 till about noon or so.We are in NameofTownRemovedToProtectTown. There is parking. My guys are 2, so kids around that age would be the best fit. We have a cat. Please email me offlist to set something up if you are interested.

And I thought South Park (when they did an episode on this years ago) was just joking.

I hope...that when this woman's kids are older....that they pay her back the same way the SoPk kids got revenge.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

now THIS is cynical

American kidnapping expert kidnapped
Consultant was grabbed after he taught a security seminar in Mexico.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Nation's Sorrow, A Nation's Shame

National Park Service Bathrooms
Note to Self--#5,328: Never again enter a national park service restroom that closely resembles an adorable adobe cottage.

Exhibit A: The Toilet Seat Too Skeeved Out By the Toilet to Remain Atop It Exhibit B: A Ranger's Plea, Which Continues to Haunt Me to this DayRestroom Ratings to save you the trauma:

Intelligence on Big Wave Dave's in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua--as I know you'll be traveling there this holiday season:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Someone please explain

Please, I will go so far as to beg here. Please tell me how a Marcom department who has more resources than almost all other Marcom departments put together (yet doesn't bring in as much revenue) has no time to do anything.

Tell me how our department who is currently down TWO positions, how I am now magically in charge of thirty thousand different things am supposed to put my time aside to do YOUR JOB.

Guess what buddy, when you receive a promotion and accept, not only is it usually more money but MORE responsibility. If you can't handle it then don't accept the promotion.

I am going to freak out on someone today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Only the good get overlooked.

OK. I knew this would happen. I hoped it wouldn't, but it did:

Reworked mortgages not working

Turns out that more than half of the delinquent homeowners who had their mortgages reworked thanks to the bailout are once again late on their payments.

May I just say:


Listen: people who are losing their homes due to being unable or deciding not to pay their mortgages do not need to have their hands held and money given on their behalf. I know that citizens deserve to have a roof over their heads, but there are many, many options available. Get an apartment. Find a home that's not as expensive to pay for. Or, just pay your damned bills.

I have a mortgage and a home in constant need of repair. It costs a sh*tload to keep my family sheltered and warm. Yet, I make timely payments. How about reworking a mortgage for me? I will pay the premiums and you, Mr. Mortgage Lender, will still make a good amount of money off of my interest.

Just goes to show that if you're a citizen that does everything they're supposed to, you ultimately get overlooked. Instead of rewarding the people that do a good job, they instead help everyone who doesn't. It's that damned "no child left behind" hippy legislation that's behind this all, I tell you.

What about the adage, "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll be darned sick of seafood and go looking for a handout so he can go get steak?"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't Let Christmas Stop You

Ok. Christmas is my favorite time of year. But even with all that yuletide cheer and hohoho, I've no difficulty dredging up some cynicism. Where are my fellow cynics? Helllloooo. Are you out there? Put down that egg nog and let it rip.

A quick nugget of cynicism:

All you charities with your hand out.....Did you hear about the recent increase in unemployment, home foreclosures, and stock market woes? You are part of the problem. You keep sending notepads, stickers, and all that spam junk mail. STOP. You want to do some good? Save the paper and email me or just bugger off. If I want to donate to your cause, I know where to find you. And what EXACTLY are you doing with the donations you do get? Remember the chick who headed up the Amer. Red Cross and her salary? Yes, I said "salary". People who run charities should do it out of the kindness of their hearts. Donate their salary to their charity.
Mail order catalogs. See above. You're killing trees. You're using inks that have lead in them. If that won't stop you then consider that NOBODY wants popcorn as a Christmas present. NOBODY wants a rosemary tree with ribbons. Just. Stop.

Ok. That wasn't cynical. It was just a rant. Sue me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

From a Friend inspired by Amy and Sarah

A friend of mine was inspired by Amy and Sarah and has decided (via me) to share a co-worker story. Since the co-worker might actually read this blog, my friend has had to skimp on details so this will be a short one.

Co-worker says (after much sighing, moaning, and different annoying sounds): This is broken. I don't know why.
My Friend: What are the symptoms?
Co-worker: Blah blah blah broken.
My Friend: Did you check X?
Co-worker : Yeah yeah yeah, I checked X, Y, AND Z.
My Friend: Ok. So then it should be fine.
Co-worker: No. It's definitely broken.
My Friend: The only reason for that is because X is broken.
C0-worker vehemently insistent: No. Nope. No, I checked it and doublechecked it. It's 100% correct. X is fine.
My Friend: Do you want me to take a look at it?
C0-worker: If you don't mind.
My Friend definitely minds as this is the 1 zillionth time similar sitch has occurred.

1 minute later.

My Friend: X is broken. X has a typo.


Earlier that same week, Co-worker blamed a broken thing and the typo that caused it on the boss (let's call boss Hugo).
My Friend's response to the nameblamegame: Really? Hugo? Really? You're going to blame YOUR typo on Hugo?
Co-worker sheepishly: Well, if he hadn't typed the How To doc so oddly......


A branch in my office hired someone to do all of their online generating lead forms. So this person should know what the internet is right? Right? RIGHT?

Email #1:
Hi Sarah, I’m working on a form for [coworkers name] and one of the questions has multiple possible answers.
The two questions on the right of the page should allow for multiple radio button choices. Can you tell me how I can set that?

Me: re-reading three times...looking at form 3-4 times...figure I must be reading something incorrectly.

My Response:
Why don’t you give me a call so we can talk more about this. I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Email #2 back (spelling errors and all):
Hi Sarah, I was really busy today but can cal tomorrow. I want to be able to allow multiple radio buttons selected to answer one question. I’ll call tomorrow.

Me: re-reading three times again. Deciding this person is plain idiot.

My Response:
Then you should use a check box question, not a radio button question.

Email #3:
Ah! Thanks.

Seriously?? WTF??

I should also say that she has been with us for over a year making forms, so she is NOT new.

Network guy vs. development guy

Background: Offsite person has trouble hitting a report. (There's a screen with a clickable link on it.)

The conversation goes like this...

Development person: What address is that link going to?

Network person: 98

Development person:
No, the web address

Network person:
Yeah. 98. Well, I'm off Monday so maybe I can get back to it on Tuesday.

Development person: Cool. I can get back to Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now, Why Didn't I Think of That?

Texas man says God told him to ram other driver at 100 mph

Texan Michael E. Schwab said that the woman driving the sedan on U.S Route 281 near San Antonio "was not driving like a Christian" and that "God said ... she needed to be taken off the road,” according to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

So, Schwab, 52, of Blooming Grove, Texas, rear-ended the car with his pickup truck — at more than 100 mph, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Though Schwab told deputies "God said she wasn't driving right" and "it was Jesus' will for him to punish the car,” he did not describe the other driver's alleged transgressions of the holy rules of the road. Deputies determined the unidentified 35-year-old woman “had done nothing wrong,” according to a news release.