Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day

Well, what do you know, First Financial Bank finally got it right.  Or at least, so it seems for now.  I had to call their toll-free customer service line, where I spoke with the delightful Debbie Raynor.  I started the conversation by saying "I believe that you are the one who has the skill and the authority to correct the mistakes that all the others have made previously."  I like to express my frustration with a positive twist!  I told her the story of trying to close Derek's accounts, the fraudulent charges, the overdraft fees, the non-response of local managers who I had emailed.  She listened carefully, viewed the transaction trail, and understood completely.  I told her "If you can make all the fees disappear and close the account then Marcy and I would remain customers with our checking account."  "Bless you," she replied.  She had to put me on hold to OK the fee waiver with her manager but came back in a minute with the good word.  She asked if she could call me shortly when it was all wrapped up but I said I really would like a letter to verify it.  She agreed.  I checked the account online the next day and it said "closed" with a zero balance, as it should.  A few days later, the letter was delivered just as I requested.  Debbie Raynor of First Financial Bank, kudos to you for your good customer service!

Today we received a form letter from First Financial Bank's local manager, the one I went to high school with, one of the two I emailed about the problem.  The letter was to announce the closing of her branch, the one up by the old Walmart on the north part of Colerain.  Corporations are so stupid - merge to grow, disrupt service, disrupt employees' lives, realize the have too many branches and redundant employees, close branches and screw up employees's live by eliminating jobs.

Join a local credit union.  That way you are a member, not a pesky customer, and you get to vote on management.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Do They Call Them "Banks"?

In his book Inferno, Dante places bankers in the inner ring of the seventh circle of hell, along with blasphemers and sodomites.  They sit in flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky.  And these are your standard bankers, mind you - those who commit outright fraud are relegated to the eighth circle.  Not judging, just saying.  I'm not making this stuff up.

Oh yeah, why do they call them banks?  Because they put you on the verge of jumping in the river?  (Too cold for that today.)  After yesterday's post, Fifth Third called again as if on cue.  Wonder if they read this blog?  The call always begins with a disclaimer that it may be recorded so I asked if it was OK if I recorded too, and they said that was OK.  But I didn't actually record it - this is typed from my memory.

5/3:  Is the address of the property xxxxxxxx?
ME:  Yes.
5/3:  Is that the mailing address?
ME:  Yes.
5/3:  And do you live there?
ME:  For now.
5/3:  Do you have a cell phone number?
ME:  No.
5/3:  Work number or other alternate number?
ME:  I'm lucky to be able to talk to you on this one.
5/3:  Why's that?
ME:  Because I'm broke.
5/3:  Oh, I know how that is.
ME:  Someday you may know.
5/3:  No, really, I was unemployed for six months one time, it was terrible.  What's your occupation?
ME:  Unemployed.
5/3:  Oh, I'm sorry.  For how long?
ME:  Three years plus.
5:/3  And why haven't you been able to pay your mortgage?
ME:  Because my wife had a stroke and my job was eliminated and my unemployment benefits ran out and our business collapsed and without health insurance her health declined and we went bankrupt and now we're on welfare and I take care of her.
5/3:  What kind of work did you do?
ME:  Computer support, electronics repair.
5/3:  OH, you should go see my friend Richard, he runs The Computer Factory up by LaRosa's, you know where it is?  He said he was looking for somebody, maybe part time.  You could earn a little money for some pop or juice, maybe get your wife something she likes.
ME:  Or pay my phone bill so you can keep calling me......but thanks....Thank you for trying to help.
5/3:  Now Let's see, your file says you are on our forebearance plan and you missed your first payment which was scheduled for December 5th.  But it says, the amount was supposed to be zero.  I don't understand.
ME:  Then you can imagine how I must feel.
5/3:  Uh, yeah.  Uh, I'll put a hold on this so nobody calls you for like a week, OK?  And we'll look into this and try to get it sorted out, OK?
ME:  OK, and again, thanks for that information.
5/3:  You're welcome, I hope you find something soon and I hope your wife gets better.

It's so strange to encounter humans who are in the grip of the machine.  They offer cheerfulness and positive thinking as they tell you your job has been eliminated or that you are on the verge of being kicked out of your home.  I feel sorry for people who have to do that, far more sorry for them than for myself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day For Banks!

Like a plague of locusts, banks are eating our wealth.  Excessive fees for bad service.  Why do we put up with banks?  Here is one of our recent beefs with banks:

11/26/2010 Pre auth DIS*DISNEY MOVIE CLUB LOC: 800-362-4587 CA -1.00 -36.00

11/29/2010 Overdraft Fee -34.00 -35.00

11/29/2010 DBT CRD 0449 11/30/10 22000660 MVQ*CREDSCORECOMPLETE 800-316-8750 CT Card# **0847 -1.00 -1.00

Dear Ms. Phoebe and Ms. Aleda - Please help me clear up problems with my son Derek's account (Ckg 3958) with First Financial. The first difficulty began when he turned 18 in September and we wanted to change him from minor account under our name to his own adult account. A manager at the Mt. Healthy branch, a nice shaven-headed gentleman, tried to make the changes for Derek, but all it seemed to do was disable his ATM access. He became frustrated and made his own adult decision to open an account at another bank. I went with him on Nov. 1 to the Springdale Road branch and he withdrew the remaining $1.51 from his account and we requested that all his accounts with First Financial be closed. He cut up his debit card.

Derek recently tried to purchase a book from and it slipped his mind that he had changed banks until Amazon (which stores the most recently used bank information) told him the purchase was declined. He corrected his bank info and completed his book purchase. Later we got a phone alert from Visa fraud protection services alerting us to the declined purchase, and that is proper. However, they also said there was an attempted purchase of some "GLP Acai Nutrition" product which Derek had never heard of. Then I went to look at our account online and saw that Derek's account was still listed and had been debited for Disney Movie Club and also Credit Score Complete, resulting in an overdraft and the ensuing overdraft fee. You may recall Derek's "metal" fashion style - he is not the "Disney" type at all, and we have no knowledge of the Credit Score charge either.

Can you please investigate possible fraudulent activity or "hacking" of Derek's account? We would like your assurance that his accounts are truly closed and the overdraft fee waived. Thanks so much for your attention to this issue.

I actually went to high school with one of the managers that the above email was addressed to.  No reply yet.  And to continue the irritation, Derek found that his new bank - US Bank - charged him about $78 for doing too many funds transfers within an arbitrary time period.

What can we do about banks?  Vote with your money.  Take your business to a credit union, where you are not just a customer, you're a member, and you get to vote on management!

If life gives you locusts, make locust-ade?  They aren't bad roasted.  Crunchy, high protein.  Come on, you probably eat crab, basically an undersea spider, or shrimp, which the Old Testament calls an abomination, same as homosexuality.  I'm not judging, just saying.

But those banks...I was helping Marcy get in the shower when the phone rang, and caller ID said Fifth Third Bank.  Better grab it, could be progress in preventing foreclosure via one of those Making Home Affordable / Save The Dream / Restoring Stability We'll Take Anything We Can Get programs that we've been working through since we haven't had the money to make mortgage payments.  We didn't qualify for refinancing because our bankruptcy earlier this year wrecked our credit score (or as I fondly call it, our cancer score) which means they would give us a higher interest rate, not lower.  After that, they turned us down for a mortgage modification, basically for the lame excuse that I've been unemployed for three years and have no income.  So picky!  So after the disclaimer that the call may be recorded, here is the gist of the conversation:

5/3:  "You've been put on the forebearance plan, how's that working out for you?"
ME:  "I saw you sent us a letter about that a couple of days ago but I haven't had a chance to analyze it or run it past a lawyer or even a realtor, so I don't know how I should respond."
5/3:  "There's no need for that, it's simply that since you are in breach, the bank is giving you some time to come up with the money."
ME:  "Breach, that's a new term for me.  Lawyers and bankers often use special words that have different meanings from the way normal people would use them in everyday conversation."
5/3:  "Breach simply means you have not paid your mortgage like you agreed to.  So how's that forebearance working out for you?"
ME:  "You keep asking me how the forebearance is working out for me.  Is that just part of your script or is there some legal consequence to my response?"
5/3:  "It doesn't make any legal difference, it's just that you now have about three months to come up with the money and we want to make sure you use your time wisely."
ME:  "!!!!!!...What do you mean use my time wisely?!  Do you think I've been playing tiddlywinks or having picnics?!  I've been looking for a job for three years now while wrapping up a collapsed business and trying to make sure my disabled wife and our son get the care they need!  How do you think I could use my time any more wisely/"
5/3:  "Sorry about your difficulties"..."didn't mean to imply"..."hope something comes up so that you can make your payment before time runs out."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beautiful Decay

So, with Alzheimer's on the increase, scientists are studying what gives us our sense of self.  Contrary to the typically American attitude that our work defines us, it looks more like an idle brain is the self's workshop.  Gotta fill people's time with jobs, volunteer work, school, or extracurricular activities, otherwise folks might have a chance to figure out who they really are.  Might be dangerous, might not blend in with the herd.

I suppose that the photos I take show my appreciation for the beauty that sometimes results from decay.  Humans tend to muck things up or create clutter, overcomplexificating the world.  I really enjoyed a show on the History Channel titled Life After People.  Check it out, because things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

The city of Detroit is blighted and rusted out like an old Ford so they're gonna bulldoze about a quarter of the town and turn it back into farmland.  They're even planning to raze Mitt Romney's boyhood home because it's an eyesore and a money pit.  There's a magazine for everything - Urban Farm Magazine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tickled Pink at Ted & Katrina's Pool Party

Ladies and gentlemen, Tickled Pink.

Homegrown's allright with me too, Ted.

Thanks to Ted & Katrina for a great time with super entertainment from Tickled Pink!