complaints, money, rants

Look what I got!

Yesterday was a somewhat exasperating day. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I had to call USAA because of their heavy handed fraud alert system. I think it was triggered on Sunday night, when I decided to buy some underwear from Amazon. I use Amazon a lot, but because I had been traveling and had set a travel alert, I guess USAA’s bots figured I shouldn’t be ordering underwear. I’m wondering what would have happened if I’d tried to use my debit card in France.

I didn’t realize I had tripped the fraud alert until I went to order some brandy from my favorite Armenian brandy retailer, another vendor I use pretty often. I went to pay for my order, which included a bottle of apricot brandy for a local friend, when I realized the payment didn’t go through. Then I saw an urgent automated email from USAA telling me that they’d “tried to contact me” and I hadn’t answered. I didn’t answer, because I wasn’t wearing my Apple Watch and didn’t have my phone with me. I didn’t realize I’d need those items for buying underwear from a vendor I use all the time.

I got really pissed. Why? Because this happens ALL THE TIME. Several months ago, when I was trying to book hotels for our trip to Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, I got the same annoying fraud alerts from both USAA and PenFed. And because I live several hours ahead of USAA and PenFed, and it was the weekend, I had to wait hours before I could call them and straighten out the situation. It used to be that USAA would send me an email or text asking me to verify things. And I did notice that they sent texts this time. But again, I didn’t have my phone with me, because it was just underwear.

You can’t send USAA an email, so I complained on their Facebook chat. “Jason” responded with apologies, but I never heard from him again. Thanks for nothing, Jason. I can see that I did the same thing in October, when they blocked my card as I was trying to book lodging. I complained then, too, and even spoke to someone who called me while we were traveling. Fat lot of good that did.

Yesterday morning, as I was composing my blog post, I got an automated call from USAA. I answered it and verified the charges. The automated voice on the other end of the line said that my card was open and I didn’t need to do anything else. Wonderful. So I went back to the Armenian brandy purveyor and successfully completed an order… which tripped the fucking fraud alert system again. But again, I didn’t know I had tripped the fraud system, so I downloaded a couple of albums.

A couple of hours later, I was walking the dogs, and I got another fraud alert on my phone/watch. I tried to answer the watch while juggling my dogs. I had to give up, though, because it was impossible to walk the dogs and answer the phone. I checked my iPad and noticed that Apple had sent me a message that my card was declined. So I called up USAA and spoke to a very pleasant representative. Really, she was very nice… much like the representatives used to be, when USAA was still customer service oriented. I expressed my frustration at having to make international phone calls every time I need to unblock my card(s). I told her that I was strongly considering changing banks because of this issue.

I do have an account with PenFed. I used to have a checking account with them, but closed it because they charged a fee if the minimum balance wasn’t high enough. Last night, I started an application for another checking account with them, just so I have an alternative to USAA. But really, I think it may be time to migrate our business elsewhere. PenFed is also a bit of a pain in the butt about fraud alerts and shutting down access to things. I’ll have to call them later today to verify my identity because of the checking account request I made last night.

USAA really has gone downhill… and not just because of these customer service issues, but also because I suspect it’s a very culty kind of a place. I remember when Bill was looking for a job in 2014. He spoke to people at a USAA job fair and they asked him if he knew anyone who worked at USAA. He said he didn’t, and it became very clear that not knowing someone there was the “kiss of death”. It didn’t matter that he’s a retired veteran with about 30 years of service, or that he’s been a member of USAA since 1984, or that I’ve been a member for 27 years. I remember writing about that incident on my original OH blog, and USAA’s public relations goons stalked that post for months. If it had been up to me alone, I would have ditched them years ago.

Another thing I noticed last night was that, unbeknownst to me, Amazon put my underwear order on my credit card when the debit card was declined. That isn’t a huge deal, since the order was for less than $100, and I have a huge credit line. I’m just very particular about what I charge on my credit cards. I usually only use them for large purchases or travel. I did make a big payment this morning to cover our trip to France, though. I guess I need to remove that card from Amazon so they don’t do that again.

And then, after I straightened out the USAA blocking issue, I got an alert from Corona Warn, which is a German app where one can upload vaccine certificates and monitor the COVID situation in Germany. I also have a German app called CovPass, which is what I used exclusively when we traveled. We had to show our vaccine certifications at our hotel and in restaurants. The Germans and the French have different procedures. In Germany, we had to wear FFP2 masks and show the QR code, as well as our IDs. In France, surgical masks were okay, and after we showed our vaccine certifications, we were allowed to unmask.

So anyway, even though I didn’t use Corona Warn when I showed my vaccine certs, it was monitoring my location. And yesterday afternoon, I got a message from them, letting me know that I was exposed to COVID-19 sometime on March 2, 2022. It was either at a McDonald’s I went to when I needed to pee, or it was at the restaurant in Stuttgart where we had lunch. Either way, the exposure was five days ago, and we have been in France for most of those days.

Now… I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 at all, and I pretty much lead an isolated existence as a general rule. I don’t use public transportation, and once we got home from our trip, I have stayed at home, with the exception of a very short walk I took with the dogs yesterday as I was trying to deal with USAA. But when I got the “red tile”, as they call it, I went to the app to find out what I’m supposed to do now. I found information that was posted in December 2021. According to that info, I’m supposed to go home, check for symptoms, call the health department or my “doctor” (which I don’t have), get tested for COVID (supposedly free of charge), and if I have a positive result, isolate and share my test result.

I should mention that Bill doesn’t have Corona Warn on his phone, so he did not get an alert. However, since we were together the whole time, I guess he would get a “red tile”, too, if he had Corona Warn, which was silently monitoring me based on my cell phone’s location and bluetooth technology. While I understand how this works, it’s a little creepy that this app was monitoring me, even though I wasn’t using it when I showed my certifications.

The instructions on what to do are kind of confusing, depending on a person’s vaccination status. Because I am fully vaccinated, it’s supposedly not compulsory for me to quarantine. But the exposure happened six days ago, anyway. And if I hadn’t had it on my phone, I would never have gotten this alert at all, tardy as it is. I had to make a separate Apple account for the German store to even get these apps, since they weren’t available in the US store last summer, when I downloaded them. That was a bit of a pain, too. I have heard that CovPass, at least, is now in the American Apple store. I’m not sure about Corona Warn.

The tile will turn green again on March 16th. Fortunately, I don’t think we have any big weekend plans… Bill says he’s going to do the taxes. I’ll probably work on my latest jigsaw puzzle… or maybe we’ll clean up the backyard and bring up the furniture for the forthcoming warmer weather. And maybe we’ll enjoy some of the Ukrainian vodka I just ordered. My German friend says she knows a lot of people who get the “red tile” and never get sick with COVID. It’s just a very sensitive app that lights up if you’re even in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive and shared that information with the app. Obviously, not everyone does that, though, so really, I could have been getting red tiles for months.

Standard
complaints, Germany, housekeeping tips

My new vacuum is a German speaker…

When Bill told me he was going away for three weeks, I said I was going to buy myself a “present”. Most women would buy themselves some earrings or something. What did I do? I bought a fucking vacuum cleaner. But it’s not your ordinary vacuum. This one is a dry/wet vacuum. It’s like a hybrid steam mop and vacuum. It has an app, and “speaks”. I didn’t decide to buy it for its ability to speak, though. I bought it because it’s cordless, upright, and lighter than my corded Dyson, which I’ve been dragging around for the past few years.

This guy did a review. He’s in America, though, so his vacuum speaks English.

Supposedly, I can change the language in the app, but I wasn’t able to access it yesterday, even after I registered and got an email confirming that I did. Somehow, I wasn’t able to click on anything that shows them I received their verification and would allow me to set a password.

Tineco is supposedly very responsive, but I left them a message on their Facebook page and, so far, nada. I also found it rather concerning that there was a sticker on the vacuum that asked consumers not to take the vacuum to the store, but to contact customer service. I’m not sure how to take that. But anyway, I haven’t tried it out yet. By the time it got to me, it was late afternoon, and it took some time to remove it from its box. Every part was wrapped in plastic and shrouded in cardboard. Since I’m still in pain from my recent spills, I’m moving slower than usual and was in no mood to mess with the new toy. Aside from that, it needed time to charge.

Ah well… I’m sure I can learn the German phrases uttered by my new cleaning buddy. As long as I can figure out how to use the damned thing and it does what it’s supposed to, I’ll be happy. I think Dysons are overrated. I’ve had several of them, and they never quite live up to the hype. I decided to buy my current one only because the Dirt Devil I had when we first moved back to Germany fell apart after less than a year. The Dyson may not suck as well as it should, but at least it doesn’t fall apart. And at least it’s not designed so that when I round a corner and the machine brushes against the wall, it doesn’t accidentally hit the power button and shut off the vacuum. That happened many times with the Dirt Devil.

For some reason, upright vacuums are hard to find in Germany. Everybody seems to prefer canister vacs without powered heads. I find the canister vacuum cumbersome and annoying, and I hate using it. So hopefully, this new vacuum with be good for lighter jobs, especially since Noyzi deposits so much hair all over the place and tracks mud on the floors.

In other news, I also ordered a new laptop computer yesterday. I did so as I Skyped with my mom. I don’t really need a laptop that badly, as the one I have currently is mostly used for travel purposes and I’m not traveling nowadays. However, it’s also seven years old, and doesn’t move as smoothly or efficiently as it used to. Of course, I have a feeling that my fucking credit card company might have declined the charge, since I rarely charge things and this is a high dollar item. Usually, they text me to get my approval, but I never got a text last night, and the pending charge isn’t showing up on my bill anymore. So that will probably mean calling them, which is a pain in the ass, since I pretty much hate calling people. I might just say fuck it and either use another card or wait until I’m feeling impulsive again. Like I said, I don’t need a new computer so much as I want one.

I’m not as sore as I was yesterday, though I still have some pain from the bruises and actual wounds. My knees look even uglier than they did when I photographed them the other day. The left one has developed a light brown scab, while the right one has a dark red one. The bruises are slowly changing color. Last time I saw the one on my right knee, it was kind of greenish, while the one on the left is more bluish.

Arran continues to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning, but I am a lot more careful about going up and down the stairs now. Don’t want to have another accident. Next time, I might fall on my face, and I don’t need to be any uglier there.

My former student in Armenia, who now works for the Peace Corps, has asked me to make a very short video in honor of the 60th anniversary of the agency. That will mean putting on some makeup, which I haven’t done in weeks. Maybe I’ll make a new selfie, too. The one I’m using now is a year old, although I look kind of pretty in it. It was taken just before we went to France for the annual wine expo, which I believe was postponed this year. It’s a shock to see how much things have changed in just a year’s time. Now, Angela Merkel and her pals are talking about extending the fucking lockdown until March 28th. I suspect people will freak out.

I was feeling a bit depressed and sad for the future yesterday. I probably shouldn’t read so much doom porn in the papers. Every day, it’s more about COVID-19, and how new variants are popping up. I read comments from people who are all about living life the way it is now. I read articles about how the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to end the mask mandates and allow businesses to reopen. I hate the fucking face masks, and being forced to wear them is very depressing for me. However, I am not dumb enough to believe that it’s safe for everything to open up, especially in the United States.

At the same time, I’m tired of all of the hostility and disrespect people have for each other. Everyone is on edge, and there’s no room for differences of opinions. People who don’t want to take the vaccine are being harangued by honor graduates of the Google School of Public Health. To be sure, I have no issues getting vaccinated myself. As soon as I can get the shot, I probably will, mainly because Bill will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t. But I can understand why some people don’t want to be vaccinated. Some people are legitimately afraid of the vaccine, for whatever reason. It should be their decision, even if I don’t agree with it– as long as they aren’t directly working with vulnerable people. Being rude, derisive, and confrontational towards people who aren’t with the official program is not the way to change their minds. Same thing I’ve been saying about the fucking face masks. All that behavior does is polarize people even more.

But… as it is now, the fucking vaccine will take awhile to get to us. I am low on the priority list. And I suppose that is how it should be, since I’m not officially high risk and I live like a hermit anyway. It sucks, though… and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t think about checking out on a daily basis. This is nothing new for me, as I have often felt like this even before COVID-19 was a thing. It doesn’t mean I’m planning to off myself, either. It’s more like I feel like I’m stuck at a never-ending party that isn’t fun anymore and I’d like to go home and go to bed. 🙂 And since I have no real purpose, other than to feed my dogs and make Bill laugh, I wonder what the point is of staying.

Anyway… at least the weather is getting somewhat better and the days are getting longer. I’m hoping the backyard will dry out some and we’ll get some grass back after Noyzi destroyed the lawn. At least we can sit outside and drink cocktails, right? And listen to music from a time when things were less bleak, exhausting, and downright annoying.

I guess I’ll go try out my new German speaking vacuum now… and maybe put on some makeup and make a video for Stepan. Have a special day.

Standard