ethics, Ex, family, money

She’s back “on the fence” about things…

This is going to be another frank, and potentially “inappropriate” post. Proceed with care. And if you think I’m a jerk for writing this, you’re probably right. But that may be the worst you can say about me.

It’s Memorial Day, but not in Germany, where it’s a normal workday for German people. It’s not a workday for Bill, though, so he’s home, sneezing because of all the trees having sex, as spring begins to turn into summer. Bill’s big plans today are to get himself on my cellphone contract, at long last, and to pay a visit to the local Telekom and speak to someone about the useless cable box we’ve been renting since late 2018.

A technician came by our house at that time, but was unable to hook up the cable to our television. He didn’t tell me why, other than to say “it’s not possible”. My guess is that it has to do with the phone line, which we don’t use, since we have cell phones. Anyway, we are technically subscribed to German cable TV, but we can’t watch it. I’ve been bugging Bill to do something about it, since his German skills are better than mine are. He’s decided that today is the day.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to recover from my restless night. I am not quite menopausal yet, in spite of my apparently ancient appearance to mean-spirited “pro-life” losers on the Internet. I spent all night having to go to the bathroom, because it’s that time of the month. Consequently, for the second night in a row, I didn’t get much sleep.

Then, when I finally did fall asleep, I had a nightmare about the singer, Anne Murray, and her daughter, Dawn. There were some aspects from my recent life that were in the dream, to include people moving (common in the military community at this time of year), and people committing suicide, which sadly has also been something in our lives recently. But, you know how dreams dissipate when you wake up, unless you’re very disciplined about remembering, like Bill is. He’s been working with a Jungian therapist for the past year, so he makes a point of remembering his dreams. He even writes them down and sends them to his analyst. Then, at their weekly meeting, they have fascinating discussions about what the dreams might mean.

I have no idea why Anne Murray was in my dreams this morning, or why she would be part of a nightmare. I like Anne Murray’s music. Remember, I am a child of the 70s and 80s, so her music was a big part of the soundtrack of my extreme youth. I find some of her songs comforting, even.

Once I was awake, and tried to tell Bill about my bad dream, adorable Noyzi, the street dog, decided to pay us a visit. He still hasn’t figured that he can push open doors by himself. Maybe he’s too polite to try that. It took him forever to realize that he can push open the screen curtain on the back door, which is poorly held together by magnets. Once again, I’m amazed by how different Noyzi is from the beagles we’ve had. He’s very well mannered, and doesn’t try to make trouble. Ironically, I’m sure our former landlords wouldn’t have wanted him in the house, because he’s a big guy. But he’s probably the best behaved dog we’ve ever had.

So, once we were awake and enjoying breakfast, I decided to check in on Ex, to see if maybe she knows about the latest grandchild. I would have expected her to mention it on her very public social media by now. But nope… she still advertises her “4.5 grandchildren”. She was actually pretty quiet over the past few days, but I guess she needs money again, because she’s posted another crowdfund request for people to help fund a fence for her youngest son, whom she’s said has severe autism. Now… I have no reason to doubt that her son has autism. In fact, I’m sure he does have severe autism. However, I have learned to take what she says and writes with a grain of salt. After twenty years of observing her, I have concluded that she’s not a very honest person.

Regular readers might recall that a couple of months ago, Ex was begging people to help her erect a tall fence for her son, whom she says has a bad habit of escaping her home. She’s said she’s been confounded by his efforts to run away, and she’s tried a whole bunch of things to keep him from taking off. All have reportedly failed. So now, she needs the help of strangers to pay for a fence to contain the young man, so he can “play” outside. She also wants to get a therapy dog for him, and that costs big bucks that she doesn’t have, because there’s only one paycheck coming in to her household– my guess is that it’s #3’s work as a certified nursing assistant that keeps their household going.

In March, Ex paid a manipulative visit to my husband’s widowed stepmother, and asked her for “financial help”, which SMIL wisely declined to offer. Then, Ex brought SMIL packing and mailing supplies, in case SMIL wants to give Ex anything to “pass down” to Bill’s MIA older daughter, who still doesn’t speak to Bill, and didn’t have much of relationship with Bill’s dad when he was still living. On the trip to see SMIL, Ex brought older daughter and her daughter with #3. I’m not sure what she did with her “escape artist” son with severe autism, who desperately needs a fence because he runs away. Perhaps #3 took some time off work. I’ve heard that #3’s mother lives with them, but I’ve also heard that she isn’t in the best of health. It seems unwise to have her watch a teenaged boy with autism who runs away.

Anyway, after that visit, I noticed that Ex quietly took down the link to her fundraiser. But yesterday, she put it up again. Or, she put up another one, and tweeted celebrities, begging for money. Looks like she’s leaving Mark Hamill alone this time, but George Takei got tweeted at, as did a couple of actors from a show she watches, and a famous author whose books she reads. This time, she’s asking for $6000, instead of $5500. Last time she did this, she contributed $500 to her own campaign, which didn’t result in inspiring anyone else to add any funds.

You’d think that Ex might try to come up with another way to get the money she claims to need so badly, given that the crowdfunding technique hasn’t worked in the recent past. I know it can be difficult to apply for grants and loans, and I know for a fact that Ex isn’t the most creditworthy person. She says that crowdfunding is her only recourse. But, as someone who has a master’s degree in social work, I call bullshit on that. I think she just needs money, and figures that her son’s situation is the best sob story to present.

Money provided by grants and loans would likely require accountability, or at least paying back the money, plus interest. Ex would rather depend on the kindness of strangers to take care of her family’s alleged financial needs, as she also plays fangirl to entertainers, artists, and authors. Does she access their works from the library? Or does she buy autographed copies of things… or monthly “gift” boxes of trinkets from Scotland? Seems to me she might have more luck funding the fence if she spent more time figuring out how to make the money herself. But… I don’t think she actually wants to build a fence. I think she has bills to pay, or burning desires that she wants to fulfill. And she rationalizes that if nice people who have money to spare can help her out, she won’t have to repay them, and they don’t have to know how she uses the money.

I also wonder what will happen if she actually manages to get a service dog for her son. Does she realize that dogs are a financial commitment? How does she intend to pay for all of the things a dog needs? And what will she do when the dog is more into her son, as is appropriate, than her? She’s not proposing getting a family pet. She claims she wants a service dog. But if they get a service dog, that dog will have to pay attention to the boy. Knowing Ex, I think that might be a real challenge for her.

Anyway… I realize it’s none of my business. I am lucky enough to be wise to her. I think that younger daughter is wise to her, too. I suspect that she hasn’t told her about the latest addition to her family being born. I’m sure that’s because Ex will make it about her, and might even threaten to visit. And I’m sure that younger daughter could use some peace and quiet, not to mention some rest. I do think it’s interesting, though… that the people who were denied access to younger daughter for so many years, are the ones who care the most about her baby being born. And they were evidently the first to know. Meanwhile, Ex is “back on the fence about things”, again. 😉 Come hell or high water, she’s gonna get that fence… maybe by the time her son is legally a grown man.

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family, money, musings, work

Repost: You’ll never make more than minimum wage…

Here’s a repost from January 16, 2016. I am reposting it because it sort of relates to today’s fresh content, right down to my sharing of Ron Block’s beautiful song, “Someone”.

Today’s post is going to be some personal, self-indulgent, introspective drivel that may not interest everyone…  apologies in advance.

Yesterday, a guy I used to work with who is now a Facebook friend posted a tribute to a retired Air Force colonel who recently died.  The colonel, whose name was Luke, had been a manager at the restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia where my friend and I used to work.  I never knew Luke, but I heard many stories about him.  He was one of those people who became legendary everywhere he went. 

My friend’s tribute to Luke was very moving and inspiring.  Luke knew my friend when he was very young and broke.  He stood up for my friend when others were against him.  He helped him become who he is today.  Luke was a few years younger than my dad and may have even run in the same circles with him a time or two.  He retired from the Air Force six years after my dad did; but he was a full colonel, while my dad retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The restaurant where my friend and I used to work was notorious in Williamsburg.  It had a great reputation as a place to eat, and a horrible reputation as a place to work.  The chef, who was also one of the owners, was rather famous because he’d been on television and written a lot of cookbooks.  He was also a Marine.  Having worked in his restaurant, I definitely picked up the military style that was used there to keep things running.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t chaos from time to time.  In fact, when I worked at that restaurant, my life felt like it was totally chaotic.  I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt like I’d never amount to anything.  At that time, I was also living with my parents.  I was in my mid 20s and had a college degree and international work experience.  But I still felt like a big loser and was unable to find work that would help me launch. 

I remember the day in March 1998 that I decided to apply to work at that restaurant.  I’d had a huge fight with my father.  He told me he thought I was a very arrogant person and that I’d never succeed at anything in life.  He said, “You’ll never make more than minimum wage!”  At the same time, he and my mother were putting tremendous pressure on me to move out on my own.  I was paralyzed by depression and anxiety at the time, and their demands made me feel panicky, helpless, and hopeless.  I was also very angry about a lot of things, particularly that my parents seemed to be ashamed of me and didn’t seem to recognize that I really was trying to become a full fledged adult.

Immediately prior to working at the restaurant, I had been temping at the College of William & Mary.  I was there for several weeks, working in their admissions office, as well as several other places on campus.  I spent the longest time at the admissions office, where I filed away report cards, SAT scores, personal essays, and all of the other stuff hopeful high school kids sent with their bids to achieve admittance.  Having worked in the admissions office and in other places around the campus, I could see why people wanted to go there.  It’s an excellent and prestigious school.  Looking at all the stellar academic records and flawless personal statements written by potential students, I felt a bit sad for myself.  I was a college graduate working as a temp, filing endless reams of papers.  It was mind numbing work that didn’t pay well.

My sister is a William & Mary graduate.  She’s done very well for herself.  They never would have accepted me.  I didn’t measure up to my sister’s greatness, although I do have some things in common with her.  We are both returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we both have advanced degrees in public health; and we both worked at that same restaurant in Williamsburg.  She worked there when it first opened, and I worked there eighteen years later, when I decided I would make more than minimum wage and get on with my life. 

I remember being very determined on that day in March when I applied for the job at the restaurant.  It was my first time waiting tables, though I had worked with food in other capacities.  I had even been a cook.  I enjoyed working with food and thought I could be successful.  It also wasn’t lost on me that the skills one learns waiting tables can be applied to many of life’s trials.

As I sat for the interview, I thought of my dad and how pissed off he made me… and how much I wanted to get out from under his thumb.  It was my second attempt at getting a job at that restaurant.  I didn’t mention my initial unsuccessful attempt to the captain or the manager who interviewed me.  I knew if I got hired, I’d make money and be able to get away from my dad and his belittling comments.  I would someday prove myself.  I set my mind to it and got the job.  I’m still friends with the man who hired me.

Working at that restaurant was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  It was even harder than being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The work itself was very demanding and stressful.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  I remember coming in every day, when I first started working there, and feeling like I was going to throw up.  I lost a lot of weight and learned how to wait tables.  I made good money.  I was also sick a lot during those 18 months.  I saw a lot of people quit and a lot of people get fired.  I was incompetent as hell at first and worried that I, too, would get fired.  One time, I accidentally spilled beer on a customer.  My dad sneered when he heard about it and asked if I still had a job.  I did.  I learned that if you were reliable, worked hard, and were honest, you wouldn’t get fired.  And eventually, I became competent and even good at the job.   

I was promoted a couple of times and made enough money to cover all my bills.  Living with my parents allowed me to save up for the next step I needed to take.  I sought help for the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from my whole life.  That process, too, was very difficult for me.  I came to some tough realizations about people I cared about and trusted.  After a brush with insanity and suicidal ideation, I finally felt a lot better and made the decision to go back to school. I took the GRE and applied to graduate school and was accepted.  I haven’t had to look back.  It was my final escape from Gloucester County after several dramatic attempts, one of which being my decision to join the Peace Corps.

Going back to school was a life changing experience for me… as much as the Peace Corps was.  But, I have to admit, working at that restaurant with people who knew and loved Luke, was equally earth shattering in the grand scheme of things.  I never knew Luke, but seventeen years after quitting, I am still friends with many of the people I knew in the late 90s when I was working at that job.  I have read their tributes and comments about Luke.  I can see that they all think of him as a comrade or even family…  Maybe they even think of me that way.  I hated the job when I was doing it, but now I’m honored to be in that group of people.  We were the ones who didn’t quit and had achieved some success.

This morning over breakfast, I was talking to Bill about all this stuff on my mind.  I remembered how my dad had told me I’d never make more than minimum wage and would ultimately amount to nothing.  Back then, that comment was devastating to me.  I was in my 20s, and unsure of what to do with my life.  I felt like I was really struggling, even though others surely struggled more than I ever have.  I kept doing all of these things that I thought would help me succeed, yet nothing seemed to lead anywhere.  But now I think of my friend who wrote the tribute to Luke; he actually slept outside a couple of nights because he lived far so away from the restaurant and had to take buses to and from work.  He’d missed the last one and couldn’t afford a motel.  He did what he had to do to succeed in the job and survived.  Now he’s thriving, living in Washington, DC and enjoying what appears to be a very good life.

Thanks to my parents, I never had to sleep outside.  But I felt like I was never going to launch.  Now, I look back on what my dad said and realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of me.  While I may not be the highest achieving person on the planet, I’ve done alright.  And I have made more than minimum wage more than once.  Maybe I didn’t end up being as successful and awesome as my sisters have, but at least I found someone to love, who loves me back.  I haven’t done anything really shameful or embarrassing.  In fact, aside from being overeducated and too fat for my Dad’s tastes, I’m even living an enviable life.  Maybe that was part of his problem with me.  Maybe he felt like I didn’t deserve what I have.  He probably thought I wasn’t living up to his idea of what my potential was… or maybe he was just projecting some of his psychic shit on me.  Who knows? 

Anyway, though I can’t say working at that restaurant was a whole lot of fun most of the time, I did learn a lot and met some fine people.  The skills I picked up have served me well in life.  In fact, I’d say in many significant ways, I ended up rather rich.  Reading my friend’s tribute to Luke made me realize something important.  Ripple effects can be positive.  Luke inspired and influenced my friend and my friend, in turn, inspired and influenced me.  I’d say that’s worth as much or more than minimum wage.  And I don’t have to be “someone” to be worthwhile.

This isn’t the way I feel about my dad, but it is kind of how I feel about success…  This song is called “Someone”.  It’s by Ron Block, a musician who has earned my admiration and gratitude.  The words are very wise and meaningful to me.  I think this song could be a theme for my life. (And at the time I wrote this post, Ron hadn’t shared a video of “Someone”, so I made one myself.)

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blog news, business, history, money

A grateful thank you to all of my readers…

Yesterday was somewhat less annoying than Wednesday was. There were no unexpected visitors; Aunt Flow vacated; I didn’t get involved in any online pissing matches; and as of this morning, I crossed the threshold allowing me to be paid for writing this blog. And so, today’s post is going to be focused on gratitude for everyone who has been reading this rag. Some of you have been surprisingly faithful readers, and I really do appreciate it. I know sometimes I can be cranky, negative, and gross, but it does my heart good to know that some people don’t seem to mind. Or maybe they just read so they can snark. Either way, I make a few pennies when people read, and they’ve now finally added up to enough that I can actually get paid.

Love me some Andrew Gold.

I’m actually impressed by how quickly this happened on WordPress. I moved my original OH blog from Blogger in February 2019. It was one of three blogs I had on that site, and all three were earning spare change through AdSense. During my heyday, I usually made enough money on Blogger from all three blogs to cash out every nine months or so. To do that, I had to earn at least $100. Remember, I had THREE blogs going, so they weren’t earning much individually. The original blog was the fastest earner, but the travel blog was also pretty popular before we moved to Wiesbaden. None of them were making big bucks, though.

At this point, I only have one blog left on Blogger. That would be my Dungeon of the Past music blog, which is mainly about music from the 70s and 80s. I don’t update it very often anymore, and right now, I have almost $98 sitting in AdSense. As soon as that blog earns the last two bucks I need to cash out, I’ll probably discontinue it. However, at this point, earning those last two bucks could take years! I usually only make a few pennies a month from just the music blog. This past month has been an exception. Looks like I made about 60 cents this month.

In July of 2019, when I moved the travel blog to WordPress, I immediately set up ads for that blog only. At this writing, the travel blog has made a grand total of $5.09. That amount is the whole total since the blog was created, having collected ad revenue since July 2019. COVID-19 was pretty devastating to my travel blogging, since we’ve been locked down and unable to go as many places. I suppose I could have been creative and come up with other travel related content, but to be honest, I had kind of lost my motivation. Happily, since COVID restrictions are loosening, I think we’ll be traveling more soon. In fact, next weekend, we will be on vacation. I am delighted to report that the travel blog is now consistently earning more than it ever has.

This blog has only been running ads since July 2021. In nine months, I’ve earned enough revenue to be paid. As of today, the “new” OH blog has made $109.61. That’s got to be because people are actually reading this stuff. So thank you! Writing is really all I ever wanted to do with my life, anyway, and while $109 isn’t enough to live on, it’s still money that I made, doing something I love doing! I do love to write, even if I do complain a lot about first world problems. I probably won’t be getting the $109 payout until June, which is fine. I’ll possibly get it just in time for my 50th birthday!

I didn’t want to run ads when I first started writing on this space. Like most people, I find ads annoying, and sometimes I want to write about topics that advertisers don’t like. But I was curious to see if this blog could make any money, which was why I turned on the ads. At first, I did it as an experiment, but then when I noticed that this blog made a lot more than the travel blog did, I decided to keep the ads going, just to see how long it would take before I made enough to cash out.

I know I have some readers who met me on the now defunct review site, Epinions. Those people are also writers, and they know the pleasure of seeing monthly “income share” come in. I remember my first month on Epinions, I wrote a rant about my cell phone service provider. I was really just looking for a place to vent, because I was pissed. I didn’t even know I could make money writing on Epinions. But when I saw that the review made 19 cents, I decided to write more. I spent almost eleven years writing on Epinions, and I made about $12,000, just reviewing stuff I was using anyway. Considering that I usually wrote in low paying categories like books, music, and travel, I think I did alright!

Sometimes I still miss Epinions, but that site became decidedly less fun as it was dying. I like writing on my own site now, since I can curse with wild abandon, add photos and videos, and don’t have to worry about obnoxious advisors, leads, or just oddball members lowballing ratings or leaving petty criticisms. 😉 That’s not to say that I can’t take legitimate criticism, per se. It’s just that some of them wanted to criticize things like how often I wrote, or disagreed with my review… or, in some cases, they would try to correct me when they, themselves, needed to edit.

I remember one particular Epinionator felt just fine about leaving me a low rating because she felt that instead of using Preparation H on my asshole, I should be using apple cider vinegar. And, as she commented, she signed off with the annoying phrase, “sharing the light”. I ranted about that incident on the original version of this blog. I’ll probably repost it today because, what the hell… I know some readers will get a kick out of that little taste of nostalgia.

Those kinds of comments and ratings were not supposed to happen. We weren’t supposed to downrate because we disagreed with the review; we were supposed to rate based on the quality of the review. Like, the rating was supposed to be based on how informative and well-written the review was, not someone’s personal opinion about the product or the reviewer. Anyway, not long after that “asshole” incident, in which I was advised to use vinegar instead of a soothing cream on my bum, I ran across a review by this particular writer. I gave her a slightly lower rating (helpful vs. very helpful). I think she genuinely earned the rating I gave her. She sent me a pissy email full of excuses as to why her review was the way it was, and why I should give her a higher rating. I couldn’t help but shake my head. A few weeks later, the site went belly up. It made me sad at the time, but then I realized that it was for the best. If Epinions were still going, maybe you wouldn’t be reading my first world rants here, and I would still be dealing with people like that person!

$109 is not a lot of money. In fact, it’s not even enough to pay my subscription fees for this site. But it’s a good start! It feels good to make money again. I do, on occasion, get weird, rude, or mean comments from drive by visitors; but this blog, by and large, attracts far fewer crazies than Epinions did. Like, for instance, the woman who went absolutely batshit nuts because she was posting rubber stamped reviews of her Canon camera under multiple listings and getting tons of “not helpful” ratings. Even though people tried to explain to her how the site worked, she didn’t get it… and she raised holy hell. It caused quite a drama! I don’t think she ever did learn how Epinions worked. After a weekend of rampaging with inappropriate comments and ratings, she was kicked off the site.

Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that kind of nonsense here. Most everyone who reads this blog is perfectly nice. Or, at least they are basically respectful, which is really all I ask. It’s a bonus when people come back for more, even when I’m in one of my crotchety moods. So, once again, thank you! Thanks for reading and commenting– no need for ratings, here. And thank you all for being a friend. Thanks for helping me turn my opinions into something that has actual worth. It means more to me than most of you will ever know.

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complaints, money, rants

An hour I’ll never get back…

A couple of weeks ago, the security on my USAA debit card was breached. There were a couple of fraudulent charges made, which I immediately reported. Because of the security breach, I had to get a new debit card. And because I live abroad, it took approximately two weeks to get the new card. In the meantime, I was relying on my credit cards to make purchases.

Three days ago, I got an alert from USAA to activate my card, which I couldn’t do, because it hadn’t yet arrived. But when I did get the card yesterday, I immediately went on USAA’s Web site and activated it. It was pretty funny, too, because as soon as I activated the card, I got an urgent alert in my inbox letting me know that the card was activated. Then, there was a follow up alert, letting me know that the card was activated and urging me to contact them immediately if I didn’t initiate this action. I deleted the second message and went on with my day.

Again, since I haven’t had my debit card, I’ve been using my credit card to buy things. I don’t like using my credit cards, because I once had a very high balance and it took me ages to get out of debt. When I do use credit cards, I tend to pay them off immediately. I usually only use credit for large purchases or travel expenses that require the extra protection that comes with using credit cards. I was looking forward to not using credit this morning, when I decided to buy some dog food for Noyzi. I have bought dog food for Noyzi using my old debit card a whole bunch of times. It was a run of the mill charge from a vendor I use all the time. I put in the new debit card’s information, clicked on “pay”, and sure enough, USAA immediately declined the transaction.

Off I went to USAA.com, where I went looking to see if my new card was listed. I’ve learned that when USAA turns off a card, it won’t show up if you go to the block/unblock card page. Sure enough, the new card, which was supposed to be active as of yesterday, did not appear on that page. So rather than call USAA and listen to their highly annoying hold music, I decided to engage chat. I figured it would take less time, since it’s the wee hours of the morning in the United States as I write this.

I used USAA’s chat function for the first time two weeks ago today, and found it somewhat less annoying than calling them. Plus, I am still pretty traumatized from my most recent USAA call, which involved talking to a man who was very rude to me. Granted, I was rude back, but my rudeness was borne out of extreme frustration, concern, and annoyance over trying to use my money. His rudeness seemed to be more because he didn’t like his job, didn’t like talking to a woman who wasn’t “keeping sweet”, and lacked a concept of customer service. Given how upset I was after that last phone call, I figured chat was the better option. When I used the chat two weeks ago, I noticed that the queues weren’t too long, probably because most of America is sleeping right now.

This morning, when I initially requested to chat, I was number 18 in line. It took about 45 minutes or so before I was finally at position 1. Then, Miranda T. came online. She advised that it would take two to four minutes to pull up my account. It took about seven minutes. Then, after another minute or two, she told me that there was a security alert on the card. She asked if my attempted transaction this morning was valid. I answered that it was. Several more minutes passed with no acknowledgement from Miranda, so I reiterated that the transaction was one I attempted to initiate. Another couple of minutes passed, and Miranda finally told me that she turned on the card and it was good to go.

I looked at the clock. I was engaged in this process for about an hour at a time of day when online traffic should have been pretty low. It was still the wee hours of the morning in the US. I decided to tweet, and didn’t even tweet at USAA. But they responded anyway, with apologies and an invite to send them a direct message. I thanked them, told them I was “good”, and quipped that it only took an hour. Seriously… a lot of people, lately, have been saying that they’ve been on hold with USAA for hours, or waiting hours for chat to initiate. To the Twitter responder’s credit, they did at least realize that I was being slightly facetious. And they said that USAA was “working on” shortening the queues. Does that mean hiring more “high quality” employees like the guy who was so rude to me two weeks ago?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten repeated false security alerts from USAA on valid transactions, which have required me to contact them multiple times. It’s honestly a crap shoot as to whether or not my card will be accepted on any given transaction. Every time I talk to their representatives, they apologize, but then it happens again. I complain, and then they call me and apologize, but nothing gets permanently fixed. It’s crazy that every transaction requires entering multiple security codes and assurances that I’m not being defrauded by anyone. But then when there’s actual fraud on the card, I get crickets…

Now… my question is… next time I try to use this new card, am I going to get another security alert as my card is declined? Will I have to spend another hour (or more) waiting for someone to chat with me about the problem? Or worse, will I have to call them and listen to their hold music from Hell for hours while I wait for them to turn on the card? I really hope we can make some changes soon… and get much better customer service. We have already refinanced our car loan with another financial institution, and as I write this, the pay off check is on its way to USAA.

I just think it’s crazy that in spite of all the erroneous fraud and security alerts USAA has enacted over the last couple of years, the one time there is actual fraud, they don’t engage that system and I have to deal with their fraud department. They randomly flag charges from retailers I’ve purchased from repeatedly and am geographically close to, but they ignore charges from US based food vendors whose Web sites I can’t even access without a VPN.

Then, I have to spend two weeks using my credit card because my debit card was compromised, and I have to wait for a new one to get to me. When I finally get the card and activate it, they send me two urgent alerts making sure it was me who activated the card– from my supposedly secure account, no less. And then, when I finally try to use the card for the first time, I immediately get a fraud alert, causing me to have to waste an hour waiting for help.

This isn’t a good look for USAA. They didn’t used to suck. What a shame. What good are new debit cards if they don’t work, even after I have TWICE confirmed that I have the card and need to use it?

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business, complaints, money

Green again! But not “in the green” with USAA!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Take heed.

Yesterday’s post didn’t get any hits until the evening, when I posted an appeal to my Facebook friends to tell me if they’d seen the post. I was actually concerned that people weren’t finding yesterday’s rantings, because I usually get at least one or two hits on every post, even if it’s a “repost”. The reposts don’t typically get a lot of hits, unless they happen to be about a hot topic. For instance, I continue to get many hits on my reposts about Erin McCay George, as well as certain book reviews. But when I repost something quirky from the old blog that I just find funny or potentially useful, a lot of times, it gets ignored.

Lately, a couple of fresh posts have been pretty much ignored. The one I wrote called “Just lie back and enjoy it”, about Michigan GOP candidate, Robert Regan, has a grand total of two hits on it a week after it went live. I don’t know why that one hasn’t attracted any interest, since it’s about a seemingly misogynistic political candidate who actually said those words. But anyway, when I didn’t get any hits on yesterday’s post, either, I was wondering if people simply couldn’t see the posts on Facebook. A couple of friends confirmed that the post is visible. One even commented. Thanks, Karen! I guess sometimes I’m just not very interesting. 😉

I thought I’d offer a quick update on yesterday’s angsty morning. I called PenFed to ask about the status of my attempt to open a checking account. For some reason, they were still getting an “error” when they tried to open that for me. So they said they would have the IT department take a look and get back to me. I’m not holding my breath. I think we will look into opening a local account, since it appears we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

There haven’t been any more “weird” charges on the USAA account, since that card is blocked and I’m waiting for a new one to arrive. I did do some scary reading about UberEats and Uber and issues with fraudulent charges yesterday. That caused me to do some deep scans of my machines, to make sure there weren’t any viruses or security breaches causing issues on my end. Nothing was found, so I guess one of the online purveyors I used had a security breach, which is bound to happen sometimes.

In the midst of all of that, Apple decided to do an update, so I spent a couple of hours updating all of my devices. That resulted in my preferred screensaver being messed up, and I can’t seem to fix it. It’s now only showing pictures that are several years old, instead of the whole library. This morning, I’ve spent an hour inputting and updating passwords and fucking with the two-factor authentication systems. That was a major pain in the ass. I think I’ve mostly got it secured, though.

Good to know… And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

And finally, I’m back to “green” status on my Corona Warn app. Yep… it’s been two weeks since my “exposure” to COVID in Stuttgart, which caused the “tile” on the app to turn red. As far as I know, I didn’t get infected. If I did, it was a very minor illness. I didn’t go out anywhere, anyway, so no need to worry. I lead a very solitary lifestyle. It’s nice to see the green tile, especially since today is St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m surprisingly chill about the security breach on my bank account. When USAA shuts down my account for no legitimate reason, I have historically gotten very upset. But yesterday, when they didn’t shut down my account when I finally did get fraudulent charges, I wasn’t even that angry about it. I’m not sure what that’s about. I should be really angry, shouldn’t I? For some reason, I’m not super peeved, even though I just checked my account and see that one of the fraudulent charges has gone through. I mean, yes, I’m pissed off that there are lowlife thieves out there who rip people off. And yes, it irritates me that the one time I really needed USAA to secure my account, they didn’t deliver. But I’m not nearly as annoyed about this as I have been when I’ve had to call them to unblock my card because they decided that one of my legitimate charges was fraudulent. Go figure.

Anyway, I just had a chat with a USAA customer service dude named Tyler. It was my first time using the chat function on USAA.com, and I must say, it was pretty convenient. I definitely preferred chatting to calling them, if only because when I use the chat, I don’t have to listen to their fucking hold music. I asked Tyler about the fraudulent charges being posted. Tyler says the charges would go through until they finish doing their investigation. He explained why, and his explanation made sense. And as long as no other charges can go through, I guess it’s okay for now. At least I have the money to cover them. What else can I do? He did seem to lack situational awareness, though. USAA’s service has really gotten crappy lately. What a shame.

Speaking of hold music, PenFed’s hold music is especially bad. They play the same sad “dentist office” music over and over again. It’s really loud and a bit of an earworm. I was on hold with them for several minutes yesterday, and I kept thinking about how the music was bringing me down. What they were playing was the musical equivalent of a consolation… like, sorry you’re doing business with us. Or sorry you have to call us because there’s a problem. Except, I didn’t have a problem, per se, with PenFed. I was just wondering when I was going to be able to open a checking account with them, so I can move my account from USAA. Now, it looks like that might not work out, either. Perhaps it’s time to find another credit union. SIGH… I’ve had a PenFed account since I graduated from college. My sister gave it to me as a graduation gift.

Seems like customer service is universally sucking lately. I just now got a sweater I bought in early February. I ordered two pretty sweaters from Celtic & Co, a clothing retailer in the United Kingdom. It was my first time ordering from them, which I did because they have such nice (but expensive) stuff. I didn’t know the sweaters I chose were backordered for five weeks. So I waited a couple of weeks for the sweaters to show up… not that I’m going a lot of places lately. Finally, I emailed them, and they told me of the backorder status, which for some reason, I didn’t notice when I placed the order. I think it’s because they didn’t notate it on their Web site.

I just tried on the sweater, and it is indeed very nice quality. It’s also a little big on me, which is always a good thing. I am basically pleased with the product. However, I don’t think I’m going to order anything else from them, because they’re located in England, and that means dealing with customs and slower delivery times, even though they have a German Web site. And it would have been nice to get my sweater(s) when it was still winter. Spring starts in a few days. I’m still waiting for the other sweater I ordered to ship. Remember, I purchased on February 7!

Well… my guitar is calling me to practice, so I guess I’ll wrap this up and get busy. Gotta vacuum the house, too. I wish I had a riding vacuum cleaner. That would be a great invention, in my view. Or maybe a better robot version of a Roomba that can go up and down stairs.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all. Hope it’s a fun day. And to all the haters out there, see today’s featured photo. 😉

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