Thursday, November 29, 2012

3674 TMI

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two can live as cheaply as one, for half as long.


 A few years ago I bought a $90 item at a Staples in Ulster, NY.  I asked if I could write a check, and the cashier said yes, with a photo id.  I handed her my driver's license and a check.

My checking accounts were at a credit union.  I had several thousand in the account I wrote the check on.  I had free transfer coverage on that account - if I ever wrote a check for more than was in the account, they would transfer the required amount from my savings account.  If there wasn't enough in the savings, then they would go to the other accounts in my name.  If that failed, I had a backup signature loan instantly available for up to five thousand.  So it was impossible for me to write a check for less than $5,000 and have it bounce.  Impossible.

The Staples cashier took my check, fed it into her cash register, and it was rejected.  "We can't take a check from you."

I asked why not, and, in front of other people in line, she said, loudly, rather nastily, and I quote,

"You must have bounced too many checks."

I freaked.  I informed her I had never bounced a check!  I asked for a manager, and informed the folks behind me that they may as well go to another register, "...because this might take a while."

The manager explained that they have a check verification system, and I'm not in their system, so they can't take the check.  I asked him to please educate the cashier.  I did not appreciate being embarrassed like that. 

He gave me some forms to fill out and mail to some service so I could get into their system.  I paid cash for my item and left.

At home that evening I looked at the forms.  The several pages of forms.

I have check cards for lots of places, and none of them ever required much more than my driver's license number, address, and phone number.  This form looked more like a mortgage application.  In addition to the the usual, it wanted my social security number, birth date, information on ALL my bank accounts (whether I intended to write checks on them or not) including location, account number and balance, all my investment accounts, balance and number, employment information, appraised value of my house, age and make of my vehicles and the VINs, whether I or my spouse had ever declared bankruptcy, and on and on.

Um, ok, all that would be handy if I really ripped you off and you want to sue me to recover your money, but hey, that's a pain to pull together and there's no way I'm going to give you all of that anyway.

BUT, this is the part that really worried me:  They also wanted to know what pets I had, by type of beasty and name, my mother's maiden name, where I was born, my children's names and ages, my education level, graduation dates, and what schools I went to.  They wanted my freakin' passport number!

WHAT?!  You have GOT to be kidding!

Needless to say, I tore it up and never got myself into Staples' system.  I also never again bought anything beyond paper clips from that store.  The Office Max was just down the road.

I don't know what the heck that was about.  I hesitated to use the name "Staples" because I don't know if this was unique to this particular store, I don't know if they're still using that system, I don't know if this was a "special" form reserved for discouraging people they don't want as customers anyway, I don't know if maybe the forms were going to go directly to the manager's cousin who had a side business selling identities. 

All I know is that the form was handed to me in a Staples store in Ulster, NY. 

And it was scary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3673 I can't seem to get anything done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anyone who says they’re good at communicating
but “people are bad at listening”
is confused about how communication works.


I need to go to the Social Security office.  I have some questions, and options I might be able to exercise, but I can't get any information online because I haven't worked in ten years (actually more, but 10 is their cutoff).  Duh?

I am currently drawing benefits on Jay's SS account as his widow.  I'm wondering if my own SS account might pay me more.  And can I draw on Ex#2's account instead?  I know I can if he's dead, but what if he's not dead, just looks that way?  (Ex#1 is dead, but we weren't married long enough for me to qualify.) And if either of those, mine or Ex#2's, will pay more, how do I switch, and how do we make sure Medicare switches, too?

Anyway, the online site said I have to go to the local office if I want details about my account(s).  No appointment necessary.

So on Monday I went to the SS office in Iselin.  I got there about 2:45, met a maintenance guy in the lobby who told me that there was no point in going upstairs, because the SS office closed at 3.  Open 9 to 3.   (Hmmmm.  Good hours, good pay, good benefits - I think I made the wrong choice all those years ago.  Well, maybe they have 2 hours of paperwork after 3.)

So yesterday I tried again.  I got there about mid-morning.  Got off the elevator and found people sitting on the floor in the hall.  Bad sign.  I went to the doors at the end of the hall and found a waiting room about the size of my house footprint, and that room was packed solid.  There was a machine where you put in your info and I guess it issues you a number.  There was a security guy standing a few feet away, so I asked him if it was possible to make an appointment, and he said I should call the 800 number to make an appointment, and he gave me a card with the number on it.  "The card is all in Spanish, but the number is the same."  I said, "Yeah, in numbers we all speak Arabic."  He blinked twice, then laughed.

All those people in the waiting room, by the way, were Hispanic.

I'd been to a Social Security office only twice before, both times the office nearest to the country house, and back then there were only one or two people before me in line.  When I mentioned that to Daughter, and that the people at Iselin all seemed to be Hispanic, she rolled her eyes and said, "Welcome to New Jersey."

So, two half-days wasted.  Sigh.

I have a lot of things I have to do this week, and none of it is getting done.  A lot of it is online stuff, bills to pay, letters to write and get printed, and something has been screwy with my laptop - seems to involve java scripts and/or the Adobe flash player that don't complete and don't clean up after themselves.   My browser gets slower and slower and slower then finally hangs.  I have to run CCleaner to get rid of a lot of orphan files and unconnected stuff in the registry (CCleaner is terrific, and it's free!), then it's briefly fine, and then it slows down again.  I've been freaking out over it.  I've been reIPLing and starting over like every three hours.

What's REALLY weird is that it seems to happen only during "working" hours.  After 6 pm the browser seems to straighten up and fly right.  I did check, I timed it, and it's not my internet connection slowing down, and it's unlikely to be a virus - I've got protection on here like you wouldn't believe.  The protection itself slows things down, but I'm willing to accept that.

I've also noticed that it seems to have some kind of cycle.  It'll be fine for a few weeks, then I'll have a week or two of pain, then it's fine again.  I suspect it may be that I have auto-updating for the operating system and all the other stuff, so components go in and out of phase compatibility-wise.

But mostly, I don't understand.


I just had a thought.  Maybe today there were only three people ahead of me at the Social Security office - maybe all those other people were just family members and friends who came along for moral support.