I hate a thief…

Everyone has that one hot button issue that makes them grind their teeth, or at least grind them more than usual. I’ve mostly accepted that people are awful and they’re going to spend most of their time treating themselves, each other, and every creature they come into contact with awfully.

Knowing this about myself, I can say that the kind of “person” I despise more than almost any other is a thief – the kind of person who decides doing an honest day’s work is for suckers and that whatever someone else has should really be theirs, just because.

This weekend, six charges rolled into my account before I realized someone out there on the internet using my name and account number. It totals to about $320, not a huge hit in the grand scheme, although the amount doesn’t make any particular difference to me. Whether a dollar or ten thousand, it’s the simple fact that I put in the time that cash represents.

Credit card theft is nothing new. It’s been around since American Express pressed their first card, I’m sure. I talked to the bank at length this morning, filed the appropriate fraud report, and was told that they’ll get back to me once they’ve had a chance to review the situation. My assumption is that eventually the charges will be reversed and I’ll be made financially whole. It’s apparently such a common occurrence now that thy told me not to even bother filing a police report. That the bank just shrugs this sort of thing off fills me with a whole different flavor of rage.

The insult added to injury this time is that I’ve already received two of the items the thieves ordered. I’ve got shipping notifications on two of the others. So at least for the next couple of days, I’ll come home to periodic reminders on my doorstep that people are as awful as I think they are.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The “Help Desk.” I converted to Windows 10 a week ago. I immediately filed a “trouble ticket” with the great big national help desk in the sky to address issues that were obvious immediately – I can’t use two monitors, file encryption prevents me from editing and saving documents, and using my computer to project a briefing onto a screen is problematic at best. Fortunately I’m not an information sector employee who uses his computer to generate and manipulate information into a coherent format to be used by others in decision making. Thank sweet merciful Jesus that the ticket has been “assigned to a local technician.” Now if after only a week someone could actually work on fixing the damned infernal machine and make it work properly we’d be all set.

2. News cycle. We have a TV in our office that runs all day every day on one of the major news networks. Being situationally aware is all well and good, but except for a rare moment of actual breaking news, what you find very quickly is the news at 9AM sounds a lot like news at 11 AM which sound a lot like the news at 2PM… and round and round we go. I’m all for some kind of background noise, but by the time I get out of that room I don’t care how compelling a news day it has been, I’ve utterly and completely stopped caring about what’s going on in the world. It seems to me a sane person can only hear the same thing repeated three or four hundred times before it starts doing bad things to their head.

3. Paying by credit card. Every website on the planet wants you to “save your credit card on file so they can auto renew your service next year.” That makes perfect sense for services that I use on a recurring basis. It’s a good theory. In a world where credit card providers have their networks being breached on a quarterly basis, though, in some cases I have three new card numbers assigned long before the yearly subscription runs out and it’s time to auto-renew. So really what I need all these companies to do is to stop giving me the option of saving my account / automatically renewing my subscriptions because we both know I’m still going to have to come back and enter all that shit on your page again since it’s all changed anyway.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. People who can’t end a meeting on time. I’m perfectly fine admitting that in consideration for your money, I am perfectly willing to sell you eight hours of my time. It’s a done deal. However, I feel an increasing need to make it clear that level of payment does not include any extras. I know that everyone is busy – and that we’re forced to live within an artificially constrained manpower allowance. All that means is there’s likely to be more work than people available to do it in the time you have purchased from us. As this is not a circumstance I created, it’s therefore important to know that if you want more of my time over and above that agreed to in the basic service package, well, the meter is going to have to start running. Or you can just start ending meetings on time. Either way.

2. People who use my desk as a phone booth. I don’t have any earthly care if someone needs to take a personal call at the office. Life happens and often it happens during weekdays. Please, go take that call if you need to, but for the love of Christ the Almighty Redeemer, can you please take it back to your own desk, or out in the hallway, or anywhere other than hovering three feet away from me while you’re doing it? I know these calls are very important, but I don’t have any need or desire to listen in on one half of the discussion about your latest trip to the doctor, what a shit day your significant other is having, or the baby’s last bowel movement. As it turns out, the concept of privacy doesn’t just protect you, but it also protects me from thinking you’re an enormous asshat.

3. Seeing the cashier. Generally when I pull up to the gas pump it’s because I want to top off the tank and be back on the road in as expeditious a manner as possible. What I don’t want to experience is card #1 being rejected, card #2 being rejected, and then hearing a tinny voice over the intercom letting me know that I need to come inside to pay. No, I don’t. That’s especially true because we’re not living in 1985. If the 20 credit card readers you have outside aren’t working, what on earth would make me think one of the two you have inside would be up and running? Walking inside and then standing in a line fifteen people deep to find “we’re only taking cash” would pretty much just add insult to already wasted time. So no, if you’re not going to make it easy for me to give you my money, I’ll happily drive next door and give it to your competition.

Two weeks ago while I was sitting on the beach, somewhere between my credit union and Visa the auto pay that pulls my credit card payment every month got switched to the off position. This is a fact of which I was unaware until I got this month’s statement and the bill was about 2.5x what I was mentally prepared to see. After ten minutes of chasing down what happened and another 20 minutes on the line with the credit card company, I think we’ve gotten things sorted out, reversed the late charge, and paid the overdue balance.

I haven’t had something like that show up on an account since I was in broke ass college student shoveling cash out the door faster than it came in. Still, I want the record to show that I’m not blaming the credit union or the card company for this one. Sure, auto-pay is theoretically a convenience that shouldn’t just turn itself off, but my name is the one on the bill and that makes me responsible for seeing that it gets paid on time. I didn’t do that last month and wouldn’t have argued too strongly of they insisted on letting me take my lumps.

Fortunately, they were readily willing to work with me and cut me a break. I appreciate that. I guess having an account in good standing for the better part of 20 years is good for something after all.

For Official Use Only…

131186317From time to time I like to offer up helpful tips about life in the modern American workplace. I consider it kind of a public service. Hopefully it’s just one of the many topics here that people find useful or at least vaguely entertaining.

Tonight’s tip goes out to all those office drones who are walking around with a “For Official Use Only” credit card in their wallet. For most of us, you can count on one hand the number of times in a year (or in a career) when you’ll actually need to use that card. What you might not notice is how much that FOUO BigBank Mastercard looks nearly identical to the personal BigBank Mastercard that you’ve also been carrying around for years.

In fact, until you get an email from your boss wondering why there’s a $500 deposit charged on your official credit card, you probably won’t even notice that you’ve slipped the wrong one in your wallet and used it to book the hotel for your upcoming vacation. In case there’s any confusion, even I can’t manage to spin that one into the “official business” category.

I’m sure I’ll spend a big hunk of the next few days trying to get that straightened out and back onto my own card where I thought it was all along. Just when I think I’ve done every stupid thing a career bureaucrat can do, I run out and set the bar just a little bit higher for myself.

The more you know…


Here’s a breakdown of three recent charges on my debit card…

– DirecTV = $170.15
– Direct Insurance = $168.75
– AT&T prepaid cell phones (3) = $87.93.

The problem is mainly that none of those charges was actually mine. So, currently I have $1 in my wallet along with a debit card that is deactivated. I have a police report that I can pick up tomorrow afternoon, and Bank of America looking into the situation. Fortunately, they were nice enough to credit my account after I filled out an affidavit and faxed it back to them this morning.

I talked to a “fraud specialist” with AT&T this afternoon who was able to tell me that the charges were made by someone using the name “Jackie.” They declined to give me any more information about the individual until I fax them a copy of the police report. So, Jackie, hear this… I’m coming for you. And when I find you, I’m going to latch on like a bulldog and make your life absolutely miserable. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to loose months of frustration on a singularly deserving target.

Running a tab…

Our class reunion this past weekend took place in the firehall in my hometown. Conveniently enough, there is a bar attached with a little pass-through window for ordering drinks. At the beginning of the evening, during the scheduled “social hour,” drinks were easy enough to get and a domestic bottle of beer cost the whopping sum of $1.25. As the night went on, I noticed the price of the same bottle of domestic beer fluctuated between that same $1.25 and $2.00. The deciding factor, apparently, was the barmaid sticking her hand in the tip jar and deciding if it was sufficiently full. WTF? How is that any way to run a business, yo?

On a related note, at just past 11:00 that evening, I discovered I had run clean through the small bankroll I was carrying around in my wallet. To be fair, I should mention that I very rarely carry more than five or ten dollars in my wallet. Cash is just not something I really need in my every day life… The gas pump takes my debit card. Starbucks takes my debit card. Metro takes my credit card. Even the damn taxies take credit. I actually can’t remember the last time I needed real American greenbacks to make a transaction at any place of business.

Knowing that I was crippling depleted of cold, hard cash, I walked in a more or less straight line up to the little order/pass through window with my trusty debit card in hand and asked to open a tab for the remainder of the evening. The very same barmaid who determined the price of bottled beer by coping a feel in the tip jar looked me over carefully for several seconds, said no, turned on her heel, and walked away, leaving me sans beverage and with, I’m sure, a stunned look on my face. If it wasn’t for the kind generosity of a friend, I would have remained sans beverage for the balance of the evening. I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t constitute a flight risk at that point, as any attempt at absconding on my tab would have likely resulted in my falling flat on my face. Besides the point that the barmaid would have been holding my freaking ATM card. Exactly how bloody far am I going to get without that lovely little piece of magnetized plastic anyway?

I know, I know. I could have gone to an ATM and retrieved the requisite cash to pay said barmaid for my tasty beverages, but for those of you who know the no-stoplight-town of which I speak, you will recognize that the nearest ATM at 11:00 is at least five miles in either direction. Driving 5 miles on twisty country roads was, quite simply, out of the question by that point.