Monday, May 23, 2011

So, Wells Fargo, That's How It's Gonna Be, huh?

With Wachovia signs coming down and Wells Fargo signs going up, I had a vision of the dystopian future that awaits us all.

At 8:10 on Saturday morning the phone rang. Anxious to ensure that the ringing phone didn't wake up my sleeping wife, I did something I almost never do: I answered it. Caller ID told me its was Wells Fargo so when an automated message wanted me to confirm I was me by pressing "1", I complied. In the twinkling of an eye I was transported half way around the globe to some call center in China. I'm guessing, Shanghai. The Wells Fargo representative obviously didn't get his English training in Oxford or anywhere that people actually speak English. I eventually figured out that he was calling about a late payment of $12. OK, I said, I'll pay it online as soon as I hang up.

This is where it got strange and annoying.

He protested that if I paid online it wouldn't be processed until Monday (not true). He wanted me to pay him or, allow him to draft my checking account (unfortunately also with Wells Fargo). I guess this process generates income for the call center. Anyway, this is where I lost my signature cool. I said I would pay online, told him not to call me again and slammed the phone down.

I went to the Well Fargo site, paid off the credit card entirely and fired off a angry message to Customer Service. Later in the day I got a friendly " we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you." message from someone code named Jessica M.

Being still pissed off I wrote back that in future instances when they needed to get in touch with me I preferred email and that I NEVER wanted to get a call from one of their "offshore call centers" again.

I must have pissed them off because the message I got in reply said
"If a cease and desist calls is placed on your account it will automatically be closed. Is that still your request?"

So this was how it was going to be. They would be nice to you--until they weren't. Oh, and this message was not from little Jessica M, it was from Wells Fargo Card Services.

I wrote back accusing them of intentionally misconstruing my message. The tone of their next message softened somewhat and I decided not to push my luck by replying further. My finances are so intimately entwined with Wells Fargo that pissing them off is not smart no matter how angry I am.

So what have we learned:

1) Big banks don't take shit

2) The miracle of fiber optics allows big banks to find the cheapest call center labor on Earth

3) English is optional

4) Don't answer your phone, ever

5) Never use that VISA card again


Monday, May 09, 2011

Avian Neighbors from Hell

We had a new family move in with us last month. Right from the start we knew they were going to be trouble--they are European after all. They were up at the crack of dawn making all sorts of noise. We'd bang on the wall to get them to shut up and they'd stay quiet for maybe 15 minutes and then they'd start in again. They'd carry on late at night too.

Things have gotten a lot worse now that they've had kids. Their kids are always hungry and seem to be crying to eat every 15 minutes or so. I know they're running their parents ragged which would suit me just fine (they deserve it) but they're annoying the heck out of us too. Maybe if they were better looking I'd have a little more sympathy for them but they're not. The mom and dad look freakishly alike and to be honest, from a distance I can't tell them apart. I'm guessing their kids are ugly too but I've never seen, only heard them.

My wife encourages me to have patience with them but I know they're bugging her as much as me. She thinks they'll be moving on pretty soon but I don't know. Those kids can't even walk yet, let alone fly.

I'm not sure if this is the same family of starlings that bored a hole in my siding last year (the hole which cost us $$ to have repaired) but the hole they bored this year put them inside the wall just above our bed and for a while we worried that they would come through the drywall. Happily they didn't.

I probably should have called Terminex as soon as I heard them--I'm sure they would have taken care of the situation. But these were birds, not bats or mice. I like birds and feed them. Had I known they were starlings, however, I might have felt differently. Everything I've read online tells me that starlings are a nuisance bird that will keep coming back and are not easily discouraged. As kind-hearted as I normally am toward animals (despite what my wife may tell you), the first sign of bird re-occupation next year and I'm calling an exterminator.

In the meantime, until the babies leave home we'll be learning more about the lifecycle of the European Staring.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cult of the Record Bar 5 years hence

Five years ago I wrote a blog "Cult of the Record Bar." It's still there if you'd care to read it. It was a piece about remembering a time of relative innocence when I was younger, listened to a lot of music and managed a record store--a job envied by countless thousands. This was also the time I got the 1500+ vinyl records that I dutifully pack and take with me when I move. These LPs represent pretty much the only interesting inheritance I will leave to my children to fight over.

Anyway, the Blog somehow shows up on the first page of Google when people search for "the Record Bar." I started getting comments--just a few at first but then lots of them as people with Record Bar connections told their friends about it. A few years later when I was getting interested in Facebook, I created a Cult of the Record Bar Group Page in Facebook. As of today there are 674 members of the group. OK, that's not a big number but I fully expect it to grow since everything I read tells me that the fastest growing group of new Facebook users are old-timers like me.

The other day the Cult page was honored when the Record Bar's former owners Barrie and Arlene Bergman joined the group and posted greetings on the wall. I have to admit I got a little giddy. I've been validated!

Many thanks to all the RB formers who wrote on the wall and posted pictures from days-gone-by. There will never again be such a thing as a record store and pretty soon video stores and maybe even book stores will go the way of the dodo as the world moves online. Look us up someday, we're in the Book ;-)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

La pizza della Morte

Like most people, I keep a frozen pizza or two in the freezer for occasions like last night when I want to eat something but don't feel like actually cooking. It was pretty late when I got home from rehearsing Mozart's Requiem with the Greensboro Symphony so I grabbed a Freschetta Simply Inspired pizza out of the freezer, preheated the oven to 425 and 14 minutes later I was enjoying a hot pizza. The wife came home from work about that time and she ate a couple pieces too. This pizza was pretty heavy on the garlic so what she didn't eat, we put out in the garbage to keep the garlic smell down.

After watching the Daily Show I headed for bed. The wife wanted to stay up to do some things but said she'd be coming to bed shortly. I woke up at 2 AM and heard her climbing into bed. Two hours later, I wake up and realize that she's not in bed but I hear water running so I guessed she was in the bathroom and would be coming back to bed in a minute--but she didn't, she went downstairs. Now she's ruining my beauty sleep and I have to investigate why.

Turns out she's been sick for 4 hours with vomiting and diarrhea. I realize that I'm not feeling too good either and I spend the next hour in the bathroom (reading a Reader's Digest story about some guy who writes papers for students and makes a nice living doing it.) I have to get up in an hour and a half so I find an ancient Imodium tablet in the bottom of my travel kit and take it. The wife had already taken a fresher one she found in the medicine cabinet and was almost asleep when I came back to bed. It took the Imodium a little while to work but I finally went back to sleep.

The alarm went off at 6:30 and for a minute I considered turning it off and going back to sleep but, unfortunately, the Imodium was wearing off or something--I barely made it to the bathroom. Since I was up, I stayed up, drank some coffee, ate a yogurt and swallowed another ancient Imodium tablet and came to work...where I've been completely useless (for evidence, I offer this blog.)

Tonight is another rehearsal but you can bet that when I come home and if I'm hungry, I won't be cooking another frozen pizza. In fact, I may never eat another frozen pizza again.