December 31st, 2008


No "Oops" At The Terminal

End Of The Year Bills

Every year at this time I take care of one last pile of things -- magazine subscriptions, gifts to universities, professional memberships (American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers), and any other odd bill.

This year the financial meltdown has made people even stupider, so while I used to give myself about a week to expect a first-class envelope to get somewhere to pay a bill, I've been backing up the dates. Pay late and a credit card company will (a) hit you with a late fee, (b) jack up your interest rates and (c) reporting this to the credit score geniuses may cause other accounts to jack up your rates.

Now this would be one thing if we're talking about deadbeats here. But we're not. We're talking about anybody these companies can chisel in order to make up for their own financial stupidities.

And I don't want any part of that shit, which should be illegal anyway.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

So imagine my surprise when I open my AT&T Universal MasterCard bill and see a huge minimum payment and a bunch of other crap. Now I know I paid last month's bill, and I checked the checkbook and yes -- there it is.

The thing that really made me livid was that I paid off the new Fujitsu U810 UMPC and other purchases, so we're not talking about making the silly usual "minimum payment", I'd sent them over two thousand dollars. And they didn't get it? I was so mad that the first time I tried to punch in that stupid sixteen digit card number into the phone I messed up, and my angry, determined, carefully spaced voice apparently couldn't be understood by the computer, so I had to input the number a third time. And then I hit "0" instead of wading through all those stupid menus and immediately got someone.


About this time, Mrs. Dr. Phil came upstairs, having heard me roar at something. (grin) And pulled out the latest bank statement. Luckily the statement periods overlapped just right, so the bank confirmed the big check had been cashed. So WHERE THE HELL WAS MY MONEY?

Eventually we determined that AT&T Universal Card managed to take my check for my MasterCard account (in my name) and paid it to the Visa account (in Mrs. Dr. Phil's name, for which I also have a card). Even though the addresses are not the same.

You know those partial sheets of paper you have to tear off and return with your payment? The ones that have your name, your address, your account number, and a place to put down how much you paid? Apparently THOSE DON'T MEAN A DAMNED THING. Don't they use those slips of paper to call up the record? Doesn't someone key in the payment amount somewhere down the fucking chain, even if they separate the checks from the statement slips? Shouldn't someone NOTICE THAT THIS PIECE OF PAPER SAYS THIS GUY PAID MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS -- WAY OVER THE MINIMUM AND WELL BEFORE THE DUE DATE -- AND THERE'S NO MONEY PAID TO THE ACCOUNT?

Don't you think someone would notice that?

No. Instead you get a statement that you are overdue, you are being fined and when you call the credit card company the automated voice says, "Your payment is overdue. Do not use this credit card until you have paid on this account."

Now I Have To Say

Priya, the Indian woman whom I talked to, did a careful and pretty good job of ascertaining the problem, figuring out where the money went, and resolving the problem. We've had these accounts since the early 1990s, and this is the first time the payments went awry. And she assured me that it would never happen again.

But I Still Reserve The Right To Be Pissed

I shouldn't have to ride herd on AT&T Universal Card, which for the record is owned by Citicorp and not AT&T these days, and do their due diligence in a timely fashion for them. And I really hate that I now have to go and triple-damn check the triple-damned credit rating companies and make sure their records show that this was COMPLETELY AT&T Universal Cards' fault and I had better not see any problems down the line anywhere on this.

Because I personally believe that we are going to see another disastrous round of credit stupidity in this country, as banks move to foreclose on people who are late with bills other than their mortgage, or try to foreclose on bunches of mortgage paying people because the mortgage crisis has made more people upside down on their mortgages.

And I want no part of any of that shit. And no one else should either.

Dr. Phil
  • Current Mood
    angry angry

End Of Year Bills Part II

Pay Attention E-Commerce People

One of the reasons that I buy more than just books/CDs/DVDs from is that I don't have to think about the user interface. It's not just about knowing something is in stock, as opposed to wandering out to stores -- which I mostly hate -- and then coming home empty handed. It's not just the convenience of online shopping. It's not having to keep track of sixty-eleven different damned interfaces, each one more abusive than the next.

Which Brings Us To...

... the online part of my end-of-the-year bill paying ritual. My professional memberships to APS, ACS and AAPT I've been able to do online for a couple of years now. The American Physical Society went just like December 2007. American Chemical Society changed their online login system, so I had to set up a new username and password. The American Association of Physics Teachers login swapped the username and password (which had been the member ID number) -- not the most secure system ever invented. But AAPT was the only one that wanted the verification numbers off the credit cards.

The NRA renewal was annoying only because the default for takes you to some glitzy blinking video-embedded news page, and the link to renewals was a mess. Eventually figured out you could get to real NRA homepage, login with last year's login and then the damned e-forms are filled out for you. Way to make easy and simple web page design guys.

Next up, the gifts to universities. All new this year, at least for me, was an online way to give to Northwestern. Only one of the lot which doesn't do Discover, which I can understand. What's good for us, isn't necessarily good for recipients. (grin) Then Michigan Tech -- bumped up their gift to equal NU's this year. As long as I'm making full-time money, you see. (grin)

And I'm done!

Finishing Up 2008

Thank goodness that yesterday's mess came up yesterday. So I could resolve that and still get the three snail mail bills in the mail. Post Office closed at noon today on New Year's Eve, and after writing late into the night -- I saved the files and copied them to the Swiss Army Knife flash memories at 4:04am -- I wasn't going to be up and showered and dressed in time to go the post office before noon, let alone starting to write up the bills.

So that leaves a bunch of cleaning up piles on the kitchen table, which will go into New Year's Day, and continuing to work on a story I'd like to submit tonight. Still not sure it will be done, but last night I started going through it to make it a coherent story and I like it so far. Which is always a good sign.

Dr. Phil
  • Current Mood
    amused amused