Today’s post is just going to be lighthearted ribbing, since it’s a Sunday, and I don’t feel like writing a long, sanctimonious post. As I updated in yesterday’s post, USAA finally gave me a “temporary” refund on the fraudulent Insomnia Cookies charge. And because that means I won’t have to call them, I’m now in a pretty decent mood. You know what that also means? I don’t have to listen to the hold music from Hell! Yea!
I am definitely not the only one who hates USAA’s “football cheer” hold music. I bonded with a fellow member the other night on Twitter over this little tune that plays, sometimes for hours on end, as members desperately try to reach a customer service representative. This morning, as I was telling Bill about it, I actually found quite a few Reddit posts about USAA’s jaunty hold music. A few people even uploaded it to YouTube. Check this out…
As a musical person, having to listen to this kind of hold music is especially hellish to me. It’s very catchy, so it easily gets stuck in my head. All day, I keep ruminating over that droning, pulsating, sterile, pseudo-jazz. And because I’m almost always calling them because I have a problem and am irritated, the enthusiastic “USAA” cheer usually further sours my mood pretty quickly. In fact, as I sit here thinking about it, recovering from the repetitious “jazzy” sounds, I am randomly coming up with obscene lyrics I could sing to the “USAA” rah rah cheering. Like “bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, BUUUUM…. kind-ly fuck off!” Or maybe “bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, BUUUUM…. you guys suck balls!” I could probably entertain myself for an hour coming up with new “lyrics” to that hold music.
One USAA employee confessed that they try not to call USAA themselves, because they hate the hold music. It makes one wonder if their objective is to annoy people so much that they hang up. I think it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that getting people to hang up is one of their goals. Or maybe they want to make the music so annoying that the person is relieved to hear a human voice when the hold music finally ends.
Bill told me that the hold music he gets at work is also pretty bad. Some people on the USAA reddit thread mentioned CISCO, so I looked them up on YouTube. Sure enough, I started playing the below video, and Bill said “That’s it!”
But the CISCO music could possibly be nice to listen to. Below is a video made by a YouTube musician who played it on his piano. I’d much rather listen to his improvised version than the crappy, overly synthed one above.
This guy did a pretty good job, too… Makes me wish I had stuck with piano lessons.
But it’s not really possible to make USAA’s chanting hold music from Hell any cooler. It just so irritating. Here’s what one person wrote on a recent messageboard…
1000YearBan Nov ’21
For decades I thought the on-hold music at USAA was the absolute worst, most annoying shit I ever heard – until recently, when they changed it! Now I sob silently, keening for the innocent salad days of yore. The new, far worse music features what sounds like a football team chanting “U-S-A-A!” every 16 bars. Kill me.
The funny thing is I was recently on hold at some local place and got the old USAA music! I was wistfully nostalgic, like a political torture prisoner recalling the relative pleasures of an abused childhood.
And what is especially distressing is that USAA probably paid some composer and musicians a lot of money to create that diabolical audio torture device. Where did they get the money? From members like me… many of whom are driven crazy by the pseudo-funky rhythm and cutesy guitar riffs interrupted by the “football” cheers– USAA!!! Ugh! Here’s a link to a business that makes these little musical gems for credit unions and the like. Wonder what it’s like working there!
I wish I could find PenFed’s hold music. Theirs is not like USAA’s. It’s more like very sad horn music that sounds like it’s consoling you for calling them. It’s like the musical version of, “Hi… we’re so sorry you have a banking problem. We’ll cry with you while we put you on hold…” It’s on an endless loop, which makes it even more obnoxious. I didn’t mind it the first or second time it played, but having to hear it for several minutes is pretty terrible. I still prefer it to USAA’s ear worm, though. Several days later, the PenFed music is no longer burned on my brain. It’s hard to forget USAA’s music. And, thanks to Chordify, I can even play it on my guitar, if I want to. Maybe it’s time I ended this post and tried it…
A few years ago, while spending a few days in Lesa, Italy, I wrote a post called “Bullshit frosting”. It was inspired by the LuLaRoe, which was in the news a lot at the time. I happened to run across an epic blog post written in 2017 by a former LuLaRoe “consultant”. She was mad as hell and not about to take it anymore, and she used her blog post to soundly dress down LuLaRoe founders, Deanne Brady and Mark Stidham, for taking advantage of all the “moms”, who were busting their asses to sell LuLaRoe and going into massive debt to make LuLaRoe’s founders richer. Brady and Stidham, as well as higher level LuLaRoe leadership, thanked those women by criticizing and blaming them for all of their failures and disappointments in the business. I began my post with the paragraph below:
Have you ever run across someone who reeks of bullshit? I mean, all you have to do is look into their eyes and take a close look at their overly enthusiastic smiles and you just know they reek of shit? These are the kind of people who will appear to be happy all the time, yet they’ll be grinning big as they brutally cut you down in front of your peers. They are astoundingly and overwhelmingly full of shit, yet people still clamor to get on their boat and kiss their asses.
In my post about LuLaRoe, I included a screenshot I found on the woman’s epic blog post. It was about how the LuLaRoe consultants were expected to dress and conduct themselves at a LuLaRoe event…
I thought about reposting that post that I wrote in those days, since it was a pretty good and, I think, an entertaining rant. But instead, I think I’m going to revamp my theories about “bullshit frosting” with a new issue. Not that many people are talking about LuLaRoe now, even though that whole phenomenon remains fascinating to me. However, as I noticed on Twitter last night, a lot of people are talking about USAA, and not in a nice way. And like LuLaRoe, USAA has been resting on its laurels and coasting along on a prior “good reputation”. Historically speaking, lots of people have sung the praises of USAA for years, and people want to “get on their boat”. But if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find that something rotten has been covered with a lot of “bullshit frosting”.
If you’ve been reading my blog over the past couple of days, you might have noticed that I have had some recent trouble with USAA– the huge insurance/banking company so popular and widely used by military servicemembers, retirees, and government employees. Just click on the “USAA” tag, and you’ll see that I’ve had repeated issues with them blocking attempts to make purchases and locking my account arbitrarily. This practice, supposedly done in the name of security, has caused me to have to call USAA to get things unfucked.
It’s a real pain to call USAA, because they’re in Texas, and I am in Germany. Most of their offices aren’t open 24/7– as I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be, if they were a “normal” bank. However, a lot of USAA’s customers live abroad, so it seems like they could come up with ways to make things easier for those people. One would think they would have online systems that would allow me to confirm or deny questionable charges without my having to call them. For one brief time, it seemed like they did have that option. I could just go on the app and mark things “yea or nay”. Now, they will send a text, but as I have to unlock my devices, am sometimes “indisposed” in some way, and don’t always have my phone, watch, or tablet with me, sometimes I’m not able to answer quickly enough.
So… the blocks on my account and having to call to straighten them out were annoying enough. But then, a few days ago, I noticed that I had three actual fraudulent charges on my debit card. It was about 5:00am when I saw these charges, so I had to call the fraud department while half asleep. They blocked my card. I told the representative about the fraudulent charges, one of which never successfully posted. USAA gave me a “temporary” refund on one of the charges. The other one– for Insomnia Cookies– remains. The funny thing is, a USAA representative gave me grief over a vendor in Belgium I’ve made purchases from lots of times, but they allowed a charge from Insomnia Cookies… which has a Web site that, as someone who lives outside of the United States, I can’t even access without a VPN! I suppose I could have ordered cookies for a friend, or something, but why wouldn’t that charge be suspicious over one that originated in Belgium, which is only a couple of hours’ drive from me?
And then, because I had to update my payment info on revolving accounts, another false fraud alert was triggered, this time on my credit card. That issue led me to have to call the rude “gentleman” at USAA who has left me with “shell shock” bad enough that I actually feel traumatized.
Yesterday, I thought about calling USAA again, but my last call to them was so shockingly unprofessional that I just couldn’t stomach it. The charge for the cookies was about $43. Today, I can easily cover that amount, but there was a time not so long ago that losing $43 would have devastated me financially. ETA: as of 3/20, USAA has “temporarily” refunded the $43.
I went to Twitter, where I was surprised to find that just like in the song, “Message In A Bottle”, I was one of many, many people “sending an S.O.S. to the world” about problems with USAA. And some of the messages people were leaving led me to believe that I was actually kind of lucky I’m just out $43. Moreover, a lot of people who really have been screwed, have reported that they’ve been on hold in USAA’s annoying phone maze for hours. For hours, they’ve been forced to listen to USAA’s God awful jingle over and over again, which I found myself commiserating about with a fellow disgruntled member. Below is a screenshot of one of the USAA jingle hater’s recent tweets, which indicates that, like me, she was exposed to the jingle because of some fuckery at the bank.
I directly tweeted USAA myself the other night. It was while Bill was busy tending to personal business. I was sitting alone at the kitchen table, drinking wine and feeling sassy. I almost never use Twitter, except to engage with one of my anti-Facebook friends. But I was doing it on St. Patrick’s Day, because I had my Irish up. I let USAA know that I was shopping for a new bank, which we found yesterday. They invited me to PM them with my name, contact details, etc. I declined, since I have already gotten those phone calls recently, and they haven’t fixed the problem. Aside from that, I don’t want to call them, because I run the risk of getting “serviced” by the mansplaining jerk I encountered the other day, who refused to listen to me and, instead, was talking louder over me, and wasting my time. He flat out didn’t care about my issue. He needs to be fired, but since I don’t know who he is, I can’t complain to anyone who can actually do something. And again, as I noticed on USAA’s lively Twitter account, I am not the only one who has woes… nor am I, by any stretch, one who has been fucked over the worst. Have a look at these tweets.
“As its customer base and revenue grew in recent years, USAA F.S.B. willfully failed to ensure that its compliance program kept pace, resulting in millions of dollars in suspicious transactions flowing through the U.S. financial system without appropriate reporting,” FinCEN’s acting director, Himamauli Das, said in a statement. The bank “received ample notice and opportunity” to fix its anti-money-laundering controls, he added, “but repeatedly failed to do so.”
This doesn’t sound good at all, does it? So I told Bill that I wanted to open an account at another credit union, since I’ve also had unrelated issues with PenFed lately, trying to get a checking account with them. Bill was a little hesitant, since he’s done business with USAA for so long, and so many military people have drunk the USAA Kool-Aid. I’ll admit it, I used to drink it myself. But he finally started the process to open a joint account at the other credit union.
Then, after he started that process, I suggested to Bill that he should refinance his USAA car loan, noting that the credit union’s APR is more than a percentage point less than USAA’s is, and USAA won’t even allow us to get a car loan from Germany anymore. They quit allowing Germany based car loans in 2019, which was when we got ours. I guess we just got in under the wire. They’ve also stopped allowing us to open new CDs from here. I read that it has to do with licensing in Germany, which probably involves money and oversight.
I told Bill that it made sense to refinance, since we have already successfully financed two cars together with a credit union, and I financed a car on my own with them before Bill and I met. I have always been very happy with that institution’s service regarding loans. And USAA, quite frankly, doesn’t deserve our business anymore. He can keep paying the higher payments he’s already been paying USAA, and it will ultimately result in a cheaper loan, paid off faster. Again… he was reluctant, but ultimately acquiesced. I don’t think he’ll be sorry.
USAA has always promoted this idea of “family” and solidarity. Likewise, the same “family concept” was promoted in LuLaRoe. As I mentioned in my “Bullshit frosting” post from 2018…
Keep in mind, the people who sell LuLaRoe aren’t company employees. They buy clothing from LuLaRoe and sell it, and they make their money based on what they sell. In essence, they are LuLaRoe’s first customers. And yet, here’s a “coach” lecturing them about what to wear and how to wear it. Above that post was another one by the coach. She’s in a van with her sister and their kids, headed to a retreat in Wyoming. She implies that she and her sister had dropped everything to attend this function because “Aunt Deanne” said so.
Notice that she calls the founder “Aunt Deanne”. I’m sure the company promotes the idea that they’re all one big family. On the surface, it sounds good. If you’re family, you’re “loved” and cared for, in a sense. Family members are supposed to have your back. We love our family members and don’t want to disappoint them. That’s what makes it easier to trust family members, and more devastating when family screws you over. Lots of people think of a business that treats people like “family” as a good thing. But there is a downside to being a figurative “brother”, “sister”, “aunt” or “cousin”. Sometimes when you think of someone as “family”, you let your guard down when you really shouldn’t...
“One big happy family” sounds great… until you realize that some of the most toxic relationships a person can have are with family members. Family members have that advantage of being in the group… they have access to you that other people generally don’t. They know you better than most people do. And when something unpleasant needs to be done, family members feel okay about asking other family members for help. If you go against the grain, you run the risk of being cast out… lovingly, of course, because you need to see the error of your ways. While I don’t know for sure, I get the sense that LuLaRoe and some other multi-level marketing businesses are kind of culty like that. You toe the line so you won’t be towed outside of the group.
It’s not that I think USAA and LuLaRoe are that much alike in terms of what they do, or even their business practices. I would not, for instance, equate LuLaRoe’s seemingly disastrous business practices with what’s been going on at USAA. Rather, what I’ve noticed is that both organizations are kind of “culty”. I remember, when we lived in Texas, people acted like USAA was just the greatest company to work for and bank with, and people stick with them, even when the writing is on the wall that things aren’t good.
When Bill was looking for a job in 2014, he approached a USAA recruiter, whose eyes very quickly glazed over when Bill confessed that he didn’t know anyone who worked at the company. The guy encouraged Bill to consult USAA.com… This, even though USAA supposedly values its members above all else. And yet, here was Bill, a guy who’s a retired Army officer and has been a member since 1984, and the recruiter treated him like dog shit. Of course, now I am delighted that Bill doesn’t work for USAA. I don’t think he would have enjoyed the experience. Things turned out fine for us, anyway.
Incidentally, I wrote a rant about Bill’s USAA job hunting experience, and USAA had its public relations firm stalking my blog for months. But this time, after having written about them several times this week, I’m not getting any attention from USAA’s PR firm. Not that I mind not being stalked by USAA. I just think it’s kind of telling… it’s like the leadership just doesn’t care about the company’s reputation anymore and has given up on trying to satisfy its members.
I tweeted a couple of responses to people who tweeted last night. USAA was tagged in those posts, and both times, they sent demands that I send a PM with my contact information. When I didn’t do as they asked, they posted this:
My response to USAA’s request for cooperation was, “That’s okay.” I no longer expect them to help. And based on their Twitter feed, it looks like other people need their assistance much more urgently than I do. What a sad state of affairs for what used to be a great company.
So now, about the title of this post… When I wrote my original “Bullshit frosting” post in 2018, I was reminded of a classic episode of the 70s and 80s sitcom, Three’s Company. Have a look below:
Back in 1980, there was an episode of Three’s Company called “Lee Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother“. Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) was very upset because his very good looking, financially secure, egotistical brother, Lee, had come to visit. Lee spent the whole time trying to impress people and making Jack feel small. When Jack accompanies Lee and Jack’s roommate, Chrissy (Suzanne Somers) to a restaurant for dinner, he accidentally spills wine on Lee’s suit. Jack is feeling horrible, but Chrissy consoles him by correctly predicting what Lee’s going to say after he cleans up in the bathroom– “Don’t worry, I’ve got another suit like it at home.” Chrissy also says, that guys like Lee are like cakes with too much icing. Jack, on the other hand, is all cake with a lot of layers! I think that’s a very apt analogy of a fake person who’s full of shit as opposed to a person with depth, character, and substance.
I think the same could be said for certain businesses who have allowed themselves to become “culty” and too big for their britches. Before long, the quality product that helped them make their good name and form their reputation turns into nothing but “bullshit frosting”…. all icing, and no cake, as Chrissy says. So now, like quite a few others, I’m looking for financial services provided by an institution that is “all cake, with a lot of layers”, instead of just a bunch of pretty frosting.
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.
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. 😉
When I was a youngster in the late 1970s, there was a popular song by the late singer-songwriter Randy Vanwarmer called “Just When I Needed You Most”. I am reminded of that song this morning, just after I called USAA to report fraudulent activity on my debit card. Some of my most faithful followers might remember that on March 8, 2022, I wrote a post about exasperating issues with USAA involving “heavy handed” fraud detection alerts. For the past few years, USAA has been shutting my debit card down at the drop of a hat. Every single time they did that, the charges they were detecting as potentially fraudulent were legitimate.
This morning, as I was checking my bank balance, I noticed that I had three weird charges that I know didn’t originate with me. One was for Insomnia Cookies, which I have learned today is a cookie bakery chain in New York City that, evidently, delivers at all hours. I had never even heard of Insomnia Cookies before today, but I have a pending charge from them on my debit card. One fraudulent charge was for Uber Eats, which does exist in Germany, but not in our area. I have never ordered from Uber Eats in my lifetime. The third charge, which was evidently reversed, was for Uber. I have also never in my life used Uber.
None of those wonky entries tripped USAA’s fraud alert system, even though they were “in person” charges for goods and services obviously made in places where I don’t live, and have never told USAA I was, or ever would be, visiting. And yet, last week, when I was bitching at USAA for denying my legit charges in Europe, they were questioning a charge to an Armenian Brandy Boutique in Belgium that I have ordered from multiple times over the past several years. What gives?
I spoke to a USAA member representative at 5:30am, who began the dispute process for me. Now, I have to wait until the new debit card gets to me, which will take some time. And I have to change all of the payment methods for which I’ve been using the USAA debit card and use credit until I get the new card. I don’t like using my credit cards unless it’s absolutely necessary. I spent too long getting myself out of debt to feel comfortable using credit cards for everyday purchases, even though I can and do pay them off immediately. It is annoying that I’ve had to call them so many times about having my card erroneously shut down, but now they’ve missed actual fraud. Clearly, USAA’s security system isn’t working to its fullest potential.
Meanwhile, last week, I made a request to PenFed that they open a new checking account for me. While I was talking to them, trying to get the new checking account set up, their computer system went down. I was told they would send me information about opening the account. It never arrived, so I’m going to have to call them again today.
When we first moved to Germany, I told Bill that I thought we should get a local *German* account. He disagreed, and got one at the credit union on post. Now, he’s changed his mind, and we’re going to look into opening an account that can be used locally so that this kind of crap might be less of a pain in the ass for us.
A number of my friends have told me they’ve stopped using USAA. I’m beginning to think maybe that would be a good idea for us, too. This decision is probably going to be painful and inconvenient. We’ve used USAA for so long that it feels like dropping them would be like divorcing a spouse we’ve been married to for decades. I have been a customer since 1994. Bill has been one since 1984. But unfortunately, it looks like the time has come to reconsider this business relationship. Or, at least start moving some of our business to more secure/less irritating outlets. I actually wanted to ditch USAA years ago, but deferred to Bill, since he’s the breadwinner. I think maybe he’s starting to see the light.
I also checked the Corona Warn app to see if I’m still getting a “red tile”. As of right now, I am. The tile is supposed to expire today, though. I haven’t been sick with COVID-19. Or, at least, I haven’t shown any symptoms of illness, other than my usual asthma cough. So, I guess the bright side is, I still have my health. At least for the time being.
I might be back later with a rant about current events or something else. For now, I think I’ll practice guitar and walk the dogs. That will help me blow off some of this irritation and tension.
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.
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