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Aug 13 2015

Notice came on my iPhone this AM that there was a charge to one of my credit cards for a bit over $100 from “Travel Reservation USA.” Not anything I recognized. So I called the credit card company for details of the charge to see if it was legit. All they could tell me was that it was through Expedia. They had no other details, but said they’d call Expedia to find out more. Time passed and the agent told me that the wait time for their call to Expedia was over 30 minutes, so he’d call me back once he could contact them.

Later in the day, I contacted Expedia directly. I got myself in line for a call back in 30-40 minutes and indeed got one. Problem became that all the information I had was what was on my credit card site – Travel Reservation USA and the dollar amount. Of course, I had not received any confirming email from Expedia nor does the credit card site show any transaction number. The agent said she could not just look up my name without knowing was it airline, hotel, etc. Of course, I don’t know what it was since I didn’t make it. I asked for a supervisor to see if that would do any good. Had to wait on hold for over 20 minutes. Supervisor was good. He took my name and credit card information and, lo and behold, they show no such charge to my card. And he said he didn’t know who or what Travel Reservation USA was. Thus, deadend here.

So, I called credit card company again. Talked to Fraud person who told me that the transaction was through a company in Nevada and not Expedia she thought. She called the numbers they have on the charge to inquire. Of course, I had to answer the obligatory questions about whether anyone else had my card, access to it, knew my numbers, etc. Card only leaves my wallet when I take it out to charge something!

Another 20 minutes passed while I was on “hold.” So, I cruised the Internet and found Trip Advisor persons who had the same problem I have had. But a response said that Travel Reservation USA was how Expedia’s charges come through. The credit card agent came back on the line and she had gone in circles with Expedia/Travel Reservation USA and could not get an answer, just voice mail. Consequently, I had to take the “nuclear option” and cancel the card, notify those who have automatic charges to it with a new number when I get it. And wait for the fraudulent charge to be credited in a few days. 

Jun 19 2015

There was quite a bit of controversy recently when Indiana passed a law that looked as if it infringed on the rights of LGBT citizens. There was a mood to boycott Indiana. Organizations like the NCAA weighed in as did businesses. In some minds, even though the original law was amended, the fact that the Indiana legislature passed and the governor signed the original law was evidence that regardless of any backtracking, this is a state to be avoided for tourism, sports, business – boycotted.

Now we get to the Charleston massacre. It’s clear this was a domestic terrorism attack. Here is the FBI’s definition:

"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

  •                Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  •                 Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  •                 Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

So we have a domestic terrorist from South Carolina, a state that flies the Confederate Battle Flag at its statehouse. Some thoughts on the flag itself:

“The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans' groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.” Martinez, James Michael; Richardson, William Donald; McNinch-Su, Ron (2000). Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. pp. 284–285. Retrieved 2 April 2015.

“It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads.  They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty.  They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals, i.e., “that the negro is not equal to the white man.”  The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate.  But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population?” Rhea, Gordon (January 25, 2011). "Why Non-Slaveholding Southerners Fought". Civil War Trust. Civil War Trust. Retrieved March 21, 2011.

This is not just a single law as in Indiana. It’s a pervasive longstanding symbol of discrimination, as repugnant as the apartheid flag patch and the Rhodesia patch the terrorist wore on his jacket. Where is the same censoring of the State of South Carolina (long overdue) for its display of the symbol of slavery? We boycotted South Africa during its apartheid era. How about South Carolina?

Feb 17 2015

I had a question for Canon and a separate question for the New York Times. For each, I went to their websites, looked a the FAQ section, looked at chat streams all in vain. I could not find an answer to my question online. Well, each site had a way to send an email to customer service. I was very precise in the question I asked of Canon and the question I asked of the New York Times.

The question to Canon was about whether a particular lens was going to be updated and, if so, when. The response was generic boilerplate about Canon lenses and a link to their catalog. The language was such that it was clear the person who responded had not read my email question but had just seen the word “lens.” When I pointed that out in a second email, he/she responded with the answer to the question I asked.

For the NYT, I had a question about joint subscriptions (Kindle and those for online viewing). The response said that they could not find my email address in their database so I should please register or tell them an address I’d used when I subscribed. Well, I was clear in my first email that my subscription was through Amazon on my Kindle and not an online one. This time, I was a bit snarky in my email back to them:

Well, you seem to have ignored what I wrote about. I said I have a KINDLE subscription. That's through Amazon and not through you as you well know.

Let's go back to what I asked rather than the non-answer you gave me. I have a KINDLE subscription to the NYT that I read on my Kindle, obviously. I would love to have a joint subscription that I could also read either on my Kindle app on my desktop or iPhone or just on my laptop through NYT rather than through Amazon. I do not see any option that would allow that. The only options for online subscriptions (NOT ones from Amazon/Kindle) are for a combination of different computer/phone/iPad devices. Seems silly for me to pay you $19.99 a month for my KINDLE subscription and then have to pay an additional fee of about that or more to be able to read NYT on my laptop or iPhone or iPad. So, that is the basis of my question.

This time, and I'm sorry for being so direct about my disappointment in your first answer which did not address my questions at all, I hope you will respond with answers. 

Canon sent me an email survey about my experience with customer service. Had fun filling that out.

Feb 27 2015

Mom and Dad’s wedding 1933

Mom and Dad in 1982: He was 76+, she 69+, I was 41+

Bud’s “Sorry Don’t Mean a Bag of Beans”

Bud’s “Crepe Fromage”

Jeff’s Moments in Time

Oct 01 2014


We are selling our old house and the closing is scheduled for this week. We have an AT&T Uverse landline phone there and have an alarm system with a monitoring service. First thing I did was to try to login to my AT&T account on line to “manage” it. Seems as if there are different logins for AT&T, AT&T mobile, and AT&T Uverse. Stumbling along, I could not seem to login anywhere. So, started a chat with a rep.

I told him what I wanted to do was to login to my Uverse account to stop my landline at the old house but to make no other changes (our mobile phones are on that particular account as well). After going back and forth and back and forth with who I am, what my address is, what my access code is, etc. (let’s say about 15 minutes), he told me that neither he nor I could do what I wanted to do either with him or if I could login to my account. I’d have to call an 800 “retention” number. Got that … retention.

The rep told me to say “Cancel” after the machine voice answered. I called. I said “cancel.” Oh, that doesn’t work. You have to put in your phone number for the account you want to deal with. After a few more machine questions and answers, I did get a customer service rep. He said he would cancel the landline. A couple of things here: (1) we shall wait and see if something as simple as stopping that particular phone line really happens and nothing else gets screwed up (been there too many times with AT&T), and (2) the rep advised me to wait at least 30 days before combining the old account (now with just mobile phones on it) with our new account at our new house. Combining it earlier would insure a screw up in billing or worse. So, we shall see how this all pans out. I have never found dealing with AT&T simple. A first time, maybe?

Next I called our monitoring company on their 800 customer service number, a company with whom we’ve been doing business for at least 40 years in their present form and their predecessors. Had to wait 20 minutes on hold before getting a rep (loud, repetitive music). I requested that their monitoring service terminate on the date of closing since the buyer wasn’t sure what he/she wanted to do about an alarm. I was informed that (1) I’d have to mail (yes, mail) them a cancellation letter and (2) since I was cancelling and not moving the account to another address, I’d be responsible immediately to pay the monitoring fees through July, 2015. Seems as if I’d signed a contract for three years of service. What I don’t understand is that I own the alarm equipment. So why should I have to pay to cancel service? Oh, when I asked, he did tell me he could email me the cancellation letter which I can fill out, scan, and send back. And he is to send me a copy of my contract as well.

Called back on local service department number. Found out the customer service department was in St. Louis even with its toll-free number that I had called. The Service Department rep said she’d try to connect me with someone in management in Customer Service. After about 10 minutes on hold listening to their ads for their services, an operator asked how she could direct me call. Arghhh. Thought it was directed. Told her a manager in Customer Service. So, now music and another 15-minute hold. Rep answered and tried to get a manager, waited on hold again.

Rep came back on line, said manager was busy in her office, but knew about my earlier request. He told me that “all” alarm companies have long-term contracts with clients that “spell out each party’s duties and responsibilities.” He really could not tell me what I got from such a contract since I own my equipment and have always done so. It was just the way it is and he alleged it is this way with all alarm companies. I know that when we cancelled service with another company at a non-profit I am associated with, it was just cancelled. Period. No future fees to pay based on a long-term contract. So, “all” seems inaccurate given the other company is a major player in this market as well.

I played the “long-term customer” card. Back on hold as he checked with his manager. He came finally back and said given how long we had been associated with the company, his manager had agreed to waive the balance of the contract fees. Took about an hour of my time like pulling teeth, but finally got relief. Time for an evening libation … and waiting to see how this all really turns out.