Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Good Ole Days

Yesterday, someone on Twitter asked what we'd do if the Internet suddenly went away. My immediate response was "I'd be out of a job", but after what I just went through trying to pay a bill online, I'm not so sure the lack of Internet would be so awful.

Caveat: I have never, ever, had a problem paying any bills, nor had a credit card declined, so this was all foreign territory for me. Being anal-retentive has its benefits.

Let's review the events of the past 2 hours:

I go online to get my invoice for the Water Club I manage for the department (in my spare time) and I see that my bill is past due. Crap, I forgot to pay it the end of last month. Now I owe for 2 months. No problem, we collect in advance, so we're covered.

Coworker: You might want to consider keeping all our money in checking and setting up auto-payments so you don't forget again.
Me: But we earn interest on Savings.
Coworker: Is it worth the $1 we earn to go through all this?
Me: I'll check on the interest and get back with you.

I go to transfer money from my Credit Union (CU) savings account into checking so my debit card (my ONLY debit card) will be funded. I forgot half the secret codes to get logged in to my CU. Third try I got in and did the transfer. Sigh.

I go back to the bill I need to pay, fill in the form with all the appropriate secret passwords and codes, and hit Submit.

"There was a problem processing your payment. Please try again later."

About 20 minutes later, I tried again with the same result. Sigh.

I called the company to see if they could tell me what was wrong. No problems with the payment service, so it must be my card. She checked and payment was declined.

Me: Okay, can you tell me why?
Her: No, I'll need to process it again to get the error code.
We do this, and she tells me my card was declined. [pregnant pause]
Me: Um, do you know why?
Her: No, you'll have to call your bank.

I go downstairs to the CU to see if they can tell me why my card was declined. Apparently there's a daily limit to a debit card transaction, and since I was trying to pay for 2 months, I'd exceeded it. She offered to bump my limit temporarily so I could run back to my desk and pay the bill.

She also noted that there was a $1 hold on my account by the other company. Apparently they do that to verify the validity of the card, and when mine failed, they put a lock on that $1, so I had to pay $1 less than the amount of the bill. Grumble.

Back to my desk. I log in to pay the bill and there is no credit card listed any more. Sigh.

I call the company back.
Me: Where did my credit card information go?
Them: Oh, we automatically wipe it out when a card is declined for any reason.
Me: But the card wasn't bad. There was a limit by my CU I'd exceeded.
Them: No matter - we treat them all the same for security reasons.
Me: Can you put it back?
Them: I can key it in for you, or you can key it yourself (read: start over).

I go back to the payment site and key it back in, setting myself up for automatic payments.

"There was a problem processing your request. Please try again later."

At this point, I was ready to scream. Yeah, it took me that long.

I unchecked "automatic payments" and it let me add the credit card back in.
I paid the bill minus the $1.
The remaining $1will be paid to them on the 15th of the month. Good.

Tomorrow I'll look into setting up automatic payments. My coworker is correct - this is not worth the $1 we earn each month on our Savings balance. Totally not.

So here I sit, 2 hours later, and I've just managed to pay a bill. I don't get paid to do this. I do this "in my spare time" as a service to my entire department. No one else wants the job, and they will pay me extra if I stop asking them to take it.

If we didn't have the Internet, I would have written a check to the water company, put it in an envelope, added a $.44 stamp, and stuck it in the mail box in our mail room. It would have taken about 5 minutes. This is a perfect example of why I still have a check book, and why some days I wish it was 1965 again. Okay, maybe 1977. My "good old days".

Monday, July 19, 2010

Honking Horn: The New Knock

Wow, it's been a long time since my last rant. Lately, by the time I've typed them, I'm over it, so I delete the post. But tonight ... not so much.

This is about basic respect for your fellow human beings. WHAT is the deal with people sitting in front of a building honking their horn? Are they there to pick up someone? If so, why not get out of the car and knock on the door?

What really gets me is when it's a father picking up his kids for the weekend. What kind of message is this sending the kids? I don't care if the father doesn't get a long with the mother. Show your kids enough respect to go to the door and tell them you are here.

When I was in High School (a loooooong time ago), my parents told me if the guy picking me up for a date didn't respect me enough to come to the door, then I wasn't going. Simple enough, right? I never even had to say anything, as the guys I went out with were decent guys.

Fast forward a lot of years, and I have people laying on their horns in front of my building because whoever they're picking up isn't coming out of their door fast enough. After the first honk, how about you get out of the car and knock on the door? You'll get a faster response since you'll be harder to ignore.

Side benefit: the neighbors won't call the police and report you disturbing their peace.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Feel So Vindicated

From my Eats, Shoots & Leaves page-a-day calendar:

The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive "it's" (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler.

ETA (from the next day's page): The rule is: the word "it's" (with apostrophe) stands for "it is" or "it has". If the word does not stand for "it is" or "it has" then what you require it "its". This is extremely easy to grasp.*

* Emphasis is not mine. It is actually italicized like that on the calendar page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Open Letter to Montgomery County, MD

Dear Montgomery County, Md:

Your Helpless Desk is nothing but a source of endless frustration to the tax-paying populous. Here is my story, and I beg you to tell me where I went wrong.

I am anal-retentive. I pay my taxes on time. In December, I usually go to the online site and pay via e-check, but this time I was running early (EARLY), but didn't want to actually mail the check yet. I scheduled the payment from my bank to be paid by Dec 30th. They automatically mail the payment early enough to arrive by my Pay By date. I pay all my bills this way and have for years. Never had a problem.

Fast forward to this week, when I received a notice I was past due on my Property taxes by $10 + interest. WHAT?

I checked my statement, and the amount paid = the amount billed.

I checked with my bank, and the check was sent on December 24th. PLENTY of time to get there by the 30th, even with the Christmas holiday.

If I was out to defraud the County, or pay late on purpose, would I have picked the 30th to pay by, or do you think that would have been the 31st?

Today I went to the Web site to see what day you received my check, but that option is not available that I can see, so I decided to call the phone number on my letter. I was on hold for almost 30 minutes, and the person who finally answered only transferred me to the Finance department. The phone in the Finance department rang at least 25 times with no answer and no transfer back to the person who'd transferred me. #FAIL

I went to the Web site again, looking for a Contact Us link, and found it. I got an automated response saying I would only receive an answer if I'd checked the box that I wanted a reply. Excuse me, but if I am filling out a form to ask a question, when WOULDN'T I want a reply? #FAIL

So I went back to the form again, filled it out again, this time checking the box. What a PITA.

Then I tried calling again on the off-chance the transfer was handled incorrectly. After 15 more minutes on hold, I got someone who wanted to transfer me, but I yelled WAIT A MINUTE! and explained what had happened the last time. He gently explained he was just part of a call center, and this was all he could do. I had him give me the address for the Finance office in case I need to go in person on my day off next week. Got it.

Then he transferred me. The phone rang about 30 times before I hung up. #FAIL

I have a job. That job enables me to pay my property taxes. I need to actually WORK while I am at my job, and I cannot afford to sit on hold for an hour at a time on the off-chance someone will actually pick up the phone.

Now I get to spend all or part of my day off next week in line at the County offices to challenge this late fee. Is it worth the $10+ ??? In my mind it is, if only on principle. Grrrrr

I'll be sure to report back to my readers on how that experience goes next week. In the mean time, get your freakin' phone system fixed! If you cannot pick up the phone on a timely basis, have it go to a hold queue to be answered as the calls come in. Experiencing a high call volume? Fine, TELL ME, then give me alternate times to call, or the physical location to where I can go in person. You did neither of these today.

I hope I never need to call your Customer Disservice line again, because it sure is worthless.