Friday, May 24, 2013

Company Rip Offs and My Silent Protest

Nothing frustrates me more than the rip-offs that some companies try to wiggle in under your nose, there but just so well hidden that you may or may not see them. I understand that it is my responsibility to be a diligent consumer and go over all my bills. I also understand that in a world where I am pulled in 90 different directions, social media constantly breaks my train of thought and everyone is encouraging me to single-handedly save the planet by getting rid of paper billing that noticing small discrepancies becomes more and more difficult. Then you have to consider the fact that I, personally, find my time more valuable than the 30 minute conversation I have to have that puts me in a bad mood to get a $15 charge removed from my bill. This led me to the "sit-in" type of protest against Suddenlink.

Now cable companies in general have always been some of the worst with mobile phone companies a close second as I paid a city tax for 10 months for a city I didn't live in, but that's another billing nightmare. Add to that Suddenlink was the same company totally kissing my ass after I turned them into the FCC for blatant violations of the new laws regarding third party DVRs (I love TiVo) and it is amazing how quickly they forgot their own ass chewing from the top. Chris and I are traveling for his job and we do not currently have a TV in our bedroom in Mammoth so in October I turned in our stupid DVR/cable box. I call it that because I am TiVo loyal but our TiVo is in the living and the other is with us on our journey. I proceed to be charged $15 per month for a box I don't have. It is being "looked into." I don't pay my bill. I call again, it's still being "looked into," mind you with computer systems shouldn't a simple keystroke show you that I no longer have the freakin box? I pay the past due amount and continue to send an email every month when I pay half my bill in silent protest of the continued overcharge. By silent I mean not raising my blood pressure by screaming into the phone about their incompetence and truly crappy internet service that they charge $50 per month for, but I digress.

Flash-forward to May when my silent protest ends in a simultaneous victory and defeat. Out of town for my brother's graduation I didn't get to my past due payment in time. Though I am not exactly sure how that is possible given that I paid on the exact same day last month and everything was fine. I log on after our friend gets to our house and finds a disconnect notice on the door. Now anyone who knows me knows that in times of excitement or anger it is very, very difficult to keep my voice at a normal, non-offensive decibel. Online chat has been my savior as well as many of a "Tim" in India.

Begin chat with a rather snotty guy after I pay the bill in full just to get it reconnected but it is significantly more than I think it should be. Snotty guy asks me to confirm the last four of my social which I accidentally do wrong but he doesn't even notice and continues to talk to me. Wow, security is top priority there. He proceeds to go through resetting up the account because paying the bill doesn't do that, tells me I overpaid by $60 so that will be a credit because of the "non-returned equipment fee" and that everything is scheduled to be turned back on tomorrow. He tells me the new monthly cost which is obviously wrong. I confirm that internet will be turned back on as well and he swears that it will be. I ask him to break down my bill because I don't understand how I only overpaid by $60 and he can't. He won't go over one penny with me and he won't look into the internet factor, the steam is rolling out of my ears. I ask him to look into the equipment charge and he needs a calculator and yet cannot tell me what the equipment is. I give up, thank him for his time and move onto the phone call.

I open with an apology to Emily who is likely to hear my frustration though I understand it is not her fault whatsoever. I probably sound like an escapee from the looney bin as I am kind of laughing and kind of pissed as I describe the situation in rapid fire language, it is just so utterly ridiculous. She confirms what I thought, the internet has not been slated for reconnect and she begins to take care of that. She goes over the bill to which the snotty guy left only a single note, overpaid by $60. Even Emily is less than pleased. As her screen shows it I overpaid by $240 for the modem that is not returned. Mind you, it is probably one of the worst modems out there and where they have come up with this price for it is beyond me, but as my service is back up and running I won't be paying it. And how snotty guy got $60 from $240 is disturbing especially since it seems to be a line item not something requiring calculation. This is where "I win," as I then address the monthly $15 charge for a box I obviously don't have as it would be on the non-returned equipment list. The pause is brief as she immediately recognizes how ludicrous this is and why I have been staging my prolonged "sit-in."

Of course by the end of the conversation there was still a lag when it comes to when the internet will be back up and running and how long it will take for them to assess the refund for the box I am paying for that I don't have. The big question in all of this remains, when did this become acceptable customer service? Not to mention the fact Suddenlink has had the town by throat for years as the only provider (can we say monopoly?) of internet service but Digital 395 is rolling in very soon with faster cable and Suddenlink still treats their customers this way in the face of certain destruction? I cannot wait to cancel that part of my service, I think I might even send Emily a bottle of bubbly.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Checks and Balances that Don't Work

I could rail on about the health care system, the abuse of the Emergency Room, the sad state of immigration and the job market ad nauseam, but I won't. Instead I will say I find it incredibly frustrating when incompetence on a company's part leads to me having to jump through massive hoops to get something corrected when a simple warning could have stopped all the drama.

As many of you know I am somewhat recently marred (advice...never change your name) and a freelance writer. One of my main contract sites, I won't name names, but I should, recently shut down my account (no warning) because my IRS data does not match my name. First, I have processed the paperwork and my name change is forthcoming but I cannot control what they have in the computer. Second, I have worked for you for over a year, why is this coming up now? Third, why didn't you warn me, ask for paperwork or at least give me a week to see where we are? And finally, I specifically kept my old name in the system because it hadn't been changed yet and asked to be published under a different name, you are the ones who decided in a fit of craziness to make all the names match. Pen names have been around since the dawn of time, Mark Twain, and now it is suddenly a problem?

Now, the IRS has no problem taking my tax money or understanding that I am married. I have a marriage license with my new name and a driver's license. A simple email could have taken care of this or a phone call but instead I am instantly suspended and have to wait for the situation to be rectified for me to withdraw the monies I have earned. I didn't do anything wrong! You put my pen name in the wrong box and now my name doesn't match, um whose fault is that? Let's move past that, how many stories have I seen/heard of people with a million different names working a million different places and maybe having the right paperwork or not. I submitted my passport and my social, that has not changed. My first name is rather unique and I am not playing a switcharoo type thing so what is the problem? I feel like I have been harshly punished for something I didn't do and something that is simply a clerical error.

I really just had to vent because I found it absurd. These are the types of things that make bureaucracies ineffective and serve to do nothing but punish those who are trying to "do the right thing." I am out there working, getting paid and doing it in my own way, not taking public assistance and finding a way to be productive in a harsh job market. No, wait, we don't like that so we will cut off your access. Seriously!?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I am a Grown Up, but I am Not a Mother

I know it sounds silly, but I am totally offended by all the email I get assuming I am a mother. I know I am a woman of a certain age and there are a plethora of sites out there giving my demographic information to others. I also know that by the nature of some of the things I buy for other people's children it could be deduced by a computer that I am a mother, but it just isn't so. Does that make me a lesser person? Even worse, this has suddenly happened since I have been married. Just because I got married I have to have kids!? Why isn't my husband getting this addressed to "Dad?"

Parents work hard and I respect their choice, but why jump that very wide gap to assume everyone procreates? I love celebrating the many moms in my life. They have shaped my life and they make it wonderful everyday. This includes my friends who are mothers, my real mothers and even my aunts. There are so many mothers I respect out there, I feel like a cheat being called something I am not. I don't "deserve a day" or want to be sent accolades for things I don't do. And it isn't just this time of year, I constantly get things that ask me if I need a break from my kids. If you mean my husband, maybe....kidding.

It seems that in the world of social media it isn't that difficult to find out who is really a mom and who isn't. What if I wanted to have kids and simply could not? Then every time I open my email I am accosted by being called mother, reminding me I am not one? It seems that it would behoove these companies to be a little more careful with what they send out. Truth is 90% of the women who are my age and are married are probably parents, but not everyone is. This isn't a PC thing, I am not into "titles" this is just a fact. I am a woman, not a mother and that doesn't make me any less important. I can tell you, I have never seen anything in my husband's email box that assumes he's a Dad.

I am not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but when you have jackasses like the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch (I refuse to use his name, jackass is more than he deserves) is telling women what is attractive after his face has been distorted by what I can only assume was a bargain basement plastic surgeon, I feel like the assumptions of the world are more dangerous than the facts. More than ever before the world of big business is trying to target their marketing and they seem to be doing a worse and worse job. As women we get pigeonholed into what we are supposed to be: thin, married, mother, chef, party girl, shopping guru, why not just ask me? Why try and grab my attention in a way that could backfire? Just tell me the facts and let me decide for me.

Let's not forget that this comes on the heels of me just resenting things being sent to my email in the first place. I took the time to finally get rid of all the crap in my box. 32000 emails later and an attempt to "unsubscribe" to everything I am bitter that my name and information is passed around. Even worse, Tookie Clothespin is apparently a mother too. A made up name I gave one time to one store that now appears constantly in my inbox. Sure you don't sell my data, because Tookie is totally what my license says.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Banned from Store Hoax/List of Great Wal-Mart College Pranks

The letter that has been going around since 2006 resurfaced today on Facebook. The letter claims (falsely) that a man and woman have been banned from the store due to a husband's ridiculous pranks after she forced him to start shopping with her post his retirement. The letter remains obviously false on many levels. One, the supposed security camera footage would not yield the very specific dialogue or "screaming" accounts mentioned in the letter. Two, a man could not possibly do all these things while shopping with his wife and not being noticed. This is the same woman who can be scolding one kid, stop something from falling and breaking and grab a third kid all at the same time. She would have seen her husband do these things. Had it been written in re
verse, I am quite certain a woman could get away with ALL these things and her husband would be none the wiser. Third and most importantly, the store would not wait to compile a list of this length. Wal-Mart can barely tell you what you purchased off the electronically scanned receipt you present, you think one store would have such complete records of a problem customer?

I read the letter much more as a college "how to" guide of things to do in Wal-Mart at 2 in the morning when you are full of energy and have no money. The list is very funny but omits some of the things we liked to do to blow off a little steam.

1. Test out the roller blades, usually with a race from one end of the store to the other. (It is very difficult for a store clerk to catch you when you have wheels). This can also go for bikes, skateboards, anything that will roll.

2. Try on the most ridiculous outfit combinations and do a photo fashion show.

3. Rearrange the medication area so that all the anti-diarrheal has been switched with the laxative/constipation medication. Just move the boxes, don't actually open and swap the pills. (Now this one might seem mean, but you really should read the package of what you are buying).

4. Stand behind a self-checkout cash register and check other people out. It is amazing how many people will let you do this for them.

5. Screen lock all the display phones, computers and televisions.

6. Remove all the "opposing team" clothing from the racks putting it in carts and hiding it in the corner.

7. Coordinate with your friends to all be at different cameras at the same time and hold up signs that make a sentence when put in the correct order.

8. Attach all the belts in the clothing department together and wrap them around the rack. If you are really bold you can see how many aisles you can serpentine the belts through.

9. Take "interesting" photos on all the cameras and cell phones that have a memory stick.

10. Move all the store hour stickers around so the "pharmacy" is open 24 hours but the store is open from 9am to 6pm.

11. Walk around wearing floaties and snorkel until a clerk is brave enough to talk to you. You will be shocked at how many won't. We used to "win" if we could look the most crazy scaring off the workers for the longest amount of time.

12. Make a "wanted" poster of one of the employees and tape them up all around the store.

13. Play a game of "SuperMarket Sweep" seeing which team can ring up the largest bill in five minutes of filling up only one cart. Everything has to fit inside and you should be nice and put all the items back when you break it to the clerk that you won't be buying any of it.

Finding things to do in the middle of the night is always fun...and here is the letter so you can add to your repertoire.