Reader response to yesterday's entry

"Hey Car*n,

I don't know if you remember, but back in the days of complain-o-blog I had issues with Verizon.

I think the flaw in your assessment is your assumption that they don't do this by design.


They always 'accidently' overcharge. I got a $600 phone bill because they signed me up for a phone plan that didn't include free weekends - such plans don't exist. Complete bullshit. I had a threefor plan (internet, homeline and cell) and there was no central authority to discuss the discount. Each had it's individual bill and couldn't account for the discount. They said I had to pay and get a refund. I paid what I owed instead, and when a few months later, I couldn't switch plans (or something) because I hadn't paid the money I didn't owe - they hadn't processed that I didn't owe the money.

I'm not claiming to be that needy, but I was dependant on freelance - and hustling to get freelance - to make enough to pay basic costs. Hours upon hours of problems was a major barrier to my working. Also, the extra $550 charge was way beyond my ability to pay.

You got off easy if it was only an hour and a half!

I'm fairly certian that people who don't have to pinch pennies let this stuff slip often enough for Verizon to make a couple bucks off of people who can't be bothered with the hassle.

In defense of the government, I believe it's sincere incompetence. "

From my friend at this blog. (By the way, check out his beautiful photos!)


Dumb things Verizon did

A few months ago, I got phone service for my mom.  

She hardly makes long distance calls, but the charge for the first month was more than $65. 

I was outraged.  When I'd signed up, I had asked Verizon for the cheapest service.  Was this really it?

I called them.  First off, they said that it was $2.50 each for certain directory assistance calls.  Any calls to 411 over the first four calls cost money.  I asked where that was written.  It was in some small print somewhere.  She'd made four of them, so I figured I'd tell her to be more careful.

But the bigger issue was the calling plan.  I said my mom doesn't really use caller ID, voicemail, etc.  She doesn't like complicated mechanical things.  They told me they had a cheaper plan for all that stuff, $36.99 per month.  They should have told me that when I signed up, but whatever...so I asked them to change to the cheaper plan.

The biggest issue

I kept talking to the guy, and we had a long, amiable conversation about how to remove other charges.  It ended with the plan being changes and some things being removed.

...or so I thought!

I got his name.  ALWAYS get people's names.  Even for the simplest things, it always gets lost in the system.

How it ended:  We ended our half-hour conversation, and I thought that was the end of it, and that I'd see the changes on the next bill.

The next bill

The next bill was exactly the same.  The new, cheaper plan was not on there.  There was no evidence of my half-hour conversation with the man.

I called Verizon.  I hate those calls.  With Verizon, which is supposed to be a phone company, they put you through about five different voicemail options before you get to a person.  If you are calling about cell phones or adding internet, you get through faster.

I got a woman and explained my situation.  She looked it up in her system and found no evidence of my half-hour conversation the month before.

I gave her the name of the man we talked to, the time and date I called, and what we talked about.

She didn't take any of it down.  I had proof of the conversation, and it was as if she didn't care!

She said she could start those services from right now.  I said I wanted a refund back to when I called a month ago.  She said she couldn't do that because she had no evidence of the conversation.

I again gave her the name of the man, etc., and she ignored it.  

Instead, she asked if I had an order number.  I said that the man never gave me one, and I didn't even know I was supposed to ask for one.  She said, "You're right; if he didn't give you one, there'd be no reason you'd know to ask for one."

Suggestion to Verizon #1:  Please tell your customers, when they change something, that they are supposed to ask for an order number!!  (And if you forget to give it to your customers, guess what, you have their phone numbers.)

I told this woman I wanted to talk to her supervisor (always what you should do).

She said she'd get the supervisor.  I was on hold for a minute.  She got back on and said that she was holding, but it might take a while.  I said I was willing to wait.

I also asked her to please not hang up on me (yes, it happens all the time even after you've spent a half hour going through things with someone, and then when you call back and give the name of the person you've been talking to, they say you can't talk to that person - so you have to start all over.  There is one company I've dealt with who takes your name and number right away when you call customer service, in case you get cut off.  I forget who it is now, but all companies should do this - especially the phone company, since they should know how not to hang up!!!)

The woman asked if I wanted to give my number so a supervisor could call me back later, or if I should continue to hold.  I said I would continue to hold, but I gave her my number anyway in case we got cut off. 

I held for a minute, and then I heard that familiar sound - I'd been cut off, of course!  Nice that the phone company doesn't know how to handle phones.

Part II:  My second call after I'd been hung up on

Instead of waiting for a supervisor to call me back, which I wasn't sure would happen soon if at all, I just called Verizon again and got through to a different woman and asked for her name.

I told her that I'd changed some services on the bill, and it didn't show up.

She said, "Yes, you changed from such and such to such and such...." and read my notes of the conversation from last month, the conversation the other woman said didn't exist!!

"I don't know why it wasn't ever put in," she said, confused.  

I asked that if she hung up on me by accident, if she would call me back.  "I won't hang up on you," she said kindly.

Anyway, she put the services back on and also authorized a refund for the extra charges from the past month.


But she (of course) didn't give me an order number, so I asked her for one, and she gave it to me, and I wrote it down.

So this month, I got the refund and things are fine.  But it took an hour and a half of calls to straighten out something simple!

I am going to probably go to Verizon's website (since they actually prefer these days that you not talk on the phone to them - ironically) and paste this in, and make two suggestions:

1.  SUGGESTION ONE: Please take the person's name and number right away in case you 'accidentally' hang up on them when putting them on hold or transferring a call, so they won't have to call back and go through everything with a different person.  It's good customer service.  Especially with a phone company.
2.  SUGGESTION TWO:  Please give someone an order number when you change something, rather than waiting for them to ask, since they don't know they have to. 

While I'm here, here's a third suggestion:

3.  SUGGESTION THREE:  Put in bigger print what directory assistance will cost, since it used to be free.  Especially since you have senior citizens using it who don't use the internet.

By the way, to all of you reading this:  Get a person's name ANY time you talk to someone on the phone.  It's the only evidence you have of the conversation.

Second beef with Verizon

I switched to a different provider for my own phone a month ago....and...

A week later, I got a note stuck to my front door saying I had a package.  Often, UPS can't deliver packages to my building because the doors are locked.  So I have to go downtown to the van at a certain time to get them.

I did this the next night.  Turns out the "Package" was one sheet of glossy paper in a special mailer, from Verizon, asking me to come back to them...and they could offer me a really cheap rate!

Verizon should not be spending money on sending one-page letters special delivery.  That's part of what drove their costs up and probably drove me away from their services in the first place.

Third dumb thing Verizon does

Another complaint:  Even when I DID have their services, I used to get notices in the mail that said that "new customers" could get cheap rates. 

I called one time, and they confirmed that it didn't apply to me, but that it was sent out as a marketing thing even to existing customers who didn't quality.

It is so frustrating to write all these complaints that already wasted an hour and a half of my life.  But if I don't, it will happen to other people.

What I fear is that so many companies -- not to mention government agencies -- screw things up like this, and people who have less resources than I do, and are more needy, often end up not getting the help they need because they don't know how to push through the walls and get the right service.  

Can you imagine how people who are poor or sick get their right government help and medical help, if people like me have to struggle with customer service and can't get the phone company to do something right?  (Yes, it is a true analogy since the govt is even harder to deal with than private companies...trust me, I've given them information lots of times that disappeared from their systems and warranted other calls.)

Well, I don't know who read this, but at least I've gotten this down.  Whoo.  On the positive side, I should say that Verizon's technicians are good and have checked my lines before without charging me (well, one time, after a storm).  But their customer service should be improved.  They are, after all, a phone company.

And please stop sending out notices via UPS and driving up your fees.  Thank you.

By the way, here's my friend Jodi's long account of her struggles with Verizon for 10 months...

I posted this not to make fun of Verizon.  I even said something good about them a few months back.  

I posted this so that my readers can learn from it, AND because if I paste it into Verizon's website, where they have a place for you to put complaints, hopefully they'll change things, too.  Hopefully!

How it relates to your taxes and gov't

Also, I wanted to show how hard it is for a normal person to get customer service to do something simple, because if you can imagine how disabled and disadvantaged people deal with customer service for companies AND for the government (which has even more red tape), you can see how sometimes they don't get the right kind of help (health insurance, etc.) which costs us more in the long run.  These people end up going to emergency rooms because they don't have insurance to see doctors.

Social workers, whose job it is to help them, should get paid a lot more than they do.

Live longer

AOL news has a list of things to do to live longer.  It says to floss, because that reduces plaque and bacteria buildup and reduces the work your immune system has to do.  It said the same about antibiotics - take fewer of them because they cause your immune system to work harder.  
It also said that you should have more sex, and love - your body feels good when you're feeling loved.

Then I got to this:

"Healthy, balanced meals emphasizing plant-based foods are important to your immune system, giving you all the requisite vitamins and minerals. One of these minerals, selenium, helps prevent autoimmune diseases. And one of the best sources of selenium is the Brazil nut, although you shouldn't eat more than six a day."

You should eat them, but not more than six a day?  Where do they come up with this stuff?

Anyway, I want to add one:  Stay away from roller coasters.


Let's try this again

My eighth grade graduation, 1985
(hopefully won't mess up the formatting this time.  If it does, I'll keep it up for a day or two, then remove.  Also, I apologize about the lack of indents...)

“Oh my God!” my mother said to me. “The other girls are wearing $300 dresses! Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
It was June of 1985, and my family was sitting in our tan Chevy Citation outside of my junior high gymnasium, the car idling and facing a brick wall. I was there for my eighth grade graduation.
We had moved at the beginning of the school year to a wealthy central New Jersey town: farmy Holmdel, home to CEOs and actors’ offspring. We were already planning to move away, because we just didn’t fit in. One year in Holmdel was enough. We lived in the only “poor” development in the town. It wasn’t actually that poor, but it was old and it was across the street from dumpy Hazlet.
In Holmdel, the biggest insult occurred when a boy accused a teacher of buying his ties at K-Mart. Your parents had to own a new Porsche or comparable vehicle if you wanted to fit in. You were uncool unless you wore Guess jeans, Madonna bracelets and oversized fluorescent “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” shirts that said “Frankie Say: Relax! Don’t Do It!”

My mom watched the girls enter the gymnasium doors. “Maybe we should skip this,” my mother said. “I’ve never heard of someone wearing a $300 dress to a junior high graduation.”
I was shocked. My mother was letting me skip a school event because it might make me uncomfortable. When had that ever happened?
And why didn’t it apply to anything religious?
But I was resolved to go through with it. I was tired of not standing up for myself. At school, I was teased for being shy, and I never knew what to say in response when kids picked on me. I mostly turned away and looked at the ground, instead of coming back with an acceptable comeback, and that got me picked on worse.
But now, I was going to go in there and stand with the others, no matter what.

Holmdel, New Jersey is 56 minutes southwest of Manhattan. It’s a place of horse farms and six-bedroom homes. The median household income is $112,879. My parents had moved there because the schools were good. The only place we could afford to move into was the one middle-class development with 100-year-old homes that were close together. We paid $800 a month to rent a three-bedroom house.
At school, I frequently heard kids discussing which company their parents owned, and the fact that some of them were related to movie stars. (One day, our health teacher was lecturing about cocaine addiction, and she asked, “Has anyone heard of the actress Lauren Tewes from Love Boat?” A girl raised her hand and said, “She's married to my uncle.”)

One day, our eighth grade English teacher was discussing stereotypes. “Let’s face it, we live in Holmdel,” she said sarcastically, walking across the room. “We are rich snobs!”

I didn’t laugh.


I made my way into the auditorium for graduation, in my simple light blue dress. It had cost thirty-nine dollars at Bamberger’s.
All of us girls clustered backstage, around a giant cardboard box of corsages for us to choose from.
Most of the popular colors were gone. But I noticed one blue corsage near the bottom. It was exactly the color of my dress! I snagged it.
When I looked up, Stacie Sasser was staring at me. Stacie had thick wavy black hair and freckles, as well as a giant gold STACIE necklace.
She turned to her friend Alyssa and asked very loudly, “Are there any blue corsages in there?”
Alyssa looked at me pointedly and then peered into the box. “No,” she said. “I don’t see any blue ones left.”
“Blue is really the only color I can wear with this dress,” Stacie said.
“You’re right,” Alyssa said to her. “Blue is the only color you can wear with that dress.”
They both stared at me.
I waited limply with my blue corsage in my hand. “You can have mine,” I said
“Oh, thank you!” Stacie said, snatching it. “That is soooo nice of you! Alyssa, isn’t that soooo nice of her?”
“That is soooo nice of her,” Alyssa concurred.

We wandered around the heavy black curtains to the stage. The boys stood on one side, the girls on the other.
I remembered some of the things that had happened that year.
I remembered that several of the boys told a fat kid in our class that he “reeked.”
I remembered a blonde skater-boy who wore an Ocean Pacific hooded sweatshirt that said “No Fat Chicks” and featured a photo of a pig in a dress.
I remembered a popular girl stealing a box of M&Ms that an unpopular girl was selling for band, and no one saying anything.
I remembered a girl looking at me in art class and saying, “Ooooh, I looooove your shoes,” just to mock me and amuse her friends.
I remembered our social studies teacher catching two girls passing a note ridiculing his pants.

On the stage for graduation, we launched into our chosen graduation song.
“We aaaaaaare the wooooorld!”
“We aaaaare the chiiiiiiiildren!”
“We are the ones who make a briiiighter day, so let’s start giiiiiiiving!”
“There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives.”
“It’s you who make a better day … just yoooooooou and meeeeee!”
After we angels finished up, I scooted off the stage and went home to finish packing to move.



Welcome, summer!!!!!

It starts today.


Gas prices too high? Got rich neighbors? Problem solved!

You can't afford to let their fancy cars just perch in the driveway like sitting ducks. Here's some useful info. Don't say I never helped you out!



Today's post messed up the formatting of the whole blog, so I'll have to figure out how to fix it later and re-post it. So solly!


The Mets game that wasn't*
*(title generously contributed by The Hubby)

But we did get that night's giveaway, a replica of Shea Stadium, out of our trip.  So that was nice.

Shopping tips

1.  Many Sharper Image stores are going out of business and are taking percentages off.  But you might not be able to return what you buy.  Also, the website is down indefinitely.

2.  Bed Bath and Beyond accepts coupons that have expired, and sometimes uses all the coupons you give them even if it's more than one per item.  The coupon where you get $5 off any $15 purchase is a good one.  Today I used one from April.  I also had several 20 percent off coupons, which took additional money off my items.   Also, their coupons apparently can be used at Linens and Things, and vice versa.


E-mail of the day

A reader writes:

When is your next novel coming out? Also when is Carrie Pilby going to be made into a movie starring Ellen Page? The character of Carrie practically has Ellen's name written all over it. I love your first two novels and the short story in the christmas collection when are you gonna write me another one.
Your Fan,

Thanks, Fan! (And no, I didn't write this myself!)

This reminds me that it was five years ago this month that my first novel came out. It was a very hectic month because I knew I had to put in 20 hours a day trying to get publicity for the book while I had the chance. I had one month to really get it out there - and I couldn't waste any time.

I'd be up each night alone, lonely, on my computer until 3 a.m. trying to figure out how to get it out there.

I was very lucky for something: the timing of my book coming out was amazing. June was right at the beginning of summer, when people have time to read. Better yet, June of 2003 was a summer when chick-lit absolutely exploded. It had been percolating before, but there was suddenly so much of it that a lot of newspaper and magazine articles were devoted to the subject, not to mention special sections in book stores, including Barnes & Noble.

When those articles came out, a lot of them mentioned my book, since it was a bit different than the usual chick lit. This was great publicity. Plus, Red Dress Ink was still publishing only one book a month, and they printed more than 50,000 copies of mine. After that, they went to two books a month, then three. There became such a glut that eventually, chick-lit publishers had to scale down. But people are still reading women's fiction.

Thank you to everyone who read my books, especially those who still write and ask about them. I appreciate it! (And thanks to the Hub for marrying me even after seeing how weird my character was in my goofy first novel.)


Sorta-combonym (but not really)

Contaminato - n. A contaminated tomato.


How hot is it here in the Northeast?

From the Burlington Free Press:

The National Weather Service late Tuesday morning issued a rare tornado watch for Vermont. The watch remains in effect until 6 p.m.

As of 4 p.m., no tornadoes had been reported in Vermont. Hot, humid weather combined with a weather disturbance passing overhead fueled the storms.

In Burlington, the temperature reached a record-tying 93 degrees just before the thunderstorms moved in. Forecasters said western Vermont would likely get a sunny interlude late this afternoon and early this evening. But they said the trouble might not be over. A cold front in western New York was approaching, and thunderstorms were developing along it.

Forecasters said some of the storms could be severe as they arrive after 6 p.m. Cooler, drier air is due Wednesday.


Lakewood Blue Claws

We went to see a minor league team this past weekend, the Lakewood Blue Claws in central Jersey.  There were no crab claws to eat, but I had a nice salad, plus too many Cracker Jacks.  
Anyway, with a last-inning run, the Blue Claws won 5-4.

Poor guy...his hair just clashes with the uniform...
View from the parking lot when we left.  That's the moon up in the sky.  It's so nice to get into green country once in a while and see some hopeful major leaguers strut their stuff!


Pointless dream files

I've said it before:  Often, my dreams have no significance whatsoever.  Usually they stem from something, but not necessarily anything important in my life.

Last night I got some confirmation of the silliness of the majority of my dreams.  I had a dream that I was in a clothing store and I wanted to buy some pants, shoes, and another item I don't remember.  When I went to buy the shoes, I couldn't find them.  So I got the pants and the other item.  (Maybe it was a blouse.  I remembered what it was this morning, but by now I don't.)

So in the next part of the dream, when I got home, there was a girl by the door.  I instantly recognized her as someone who had been shopping right next to me, and knew she was going to accuse me of accidentally taking something of hers while she had been trying on clothes.  (It made sense in the dream, it really did).

Finally I went inside and couldn't avoid her.  She told me that her shoes were missing, and she wanted to know if she had accidentally taken them.  I told her that it was odd, because I couldn't even find the shoes I wanted when it was time to check out!  I told her that maybe the cashier swiped her shoes.  She was satisfied with this.

But later I checked in my room, and I had indeed accidentally taken her shoes.  And I realized why she would have been so upset - they were Vera Wang shoes!  They were green, incidentally.

I must pause here to say that I NEVER DREAM ABOUT FASHION and when I woke up from this dream, I thought that Vera Wang probably doesn't even make shoes.  I know why I had this dream, though - because of Sex and the City.  The Vera Wang scene and the episode on TV where Carrie's shoes get stolen at a baby shower obviously both were flitting about my subconscious for no particular reason (that TV episode is a great one, btw).

Anyway, I Googled to see if Vera Wang makes shoes, and she does.  Even some green ones.  

So yes, that movie has had an effect - but in real life, I still don't care about fashion.

Attention men:  Aren't you sorry you read this?

In other news...it's supposed to be like 90 degrees here this weekend.  Ooh!

UPDATE:  I just reread this entry and thought my hubby might react by saying, 'Um, sweetie, is this some kind of hint.'?  Answer:  NOOOOO!!!!  I would trip in those things, and any similar shoes, inside of two minutes.  There's a reason I wear Rockport sneakers every day (besides "because I can," which is a good one).  And no thanks on the $349 price (even on sale).  
Eek, now I'm a girl who had a dream about shoes.  I guess Sex and the City DOES have a terrible effect on the women of New York.  I'm going to go get some sushi and imitate Samantha now.  (If you haven't seen the film, boys, you miss the joke, ha ha ha!)


Scrumptious summer meal

Peas are actually very tasty - not canned peas, or a boring old box of peas-n-carrots that are overcooked, but fresh peas or frozen peas that you cook.

Here's a delicious summer treat:

Cook some peas.  Boil some rotini (or similar spiral pasta), then rinse it in cold water to cool it off (or refrigerate for a few hours if you have the time).  Mix the peas and pasta with tuna fish and mayo.  Add some seasoning if you want, like bacon chips or soup/dip mix, but you don't have to.  

Pea/pasta/tuna salad is delicious.  If you use low-fat mayo, it's also relatively low in satch fats.

Things in the pipeline

I have to write my negative Verizon experience, which won't be as long and detailed as poor Jodi's, eventually.  So, add that to my "I have to write eventually" list.

Random poem I thought of

Pious Jews/
Don't get tattoos


If you say "God bless you" to someone who sneezes, what about someone who coughs?  Don't you want to bless them?  Is it rude to ignore them?

(Actually, you can always say, "cover your ^&*^ mouth.")

The end

I think that's enough nonsense for today, don't you?



I looooooved the "Sex and the City" movie!  It was extremely funny (which is why I always liked the show), and there were a lot of twists I wasn't expecting.  I read a review saying it was predictable, but I didn't find the film predictable at all.  And they started off with a little background for those of you who hadn't seen all the shows.  Thank you VERY much to my sweet hubby for taking me and staying for all 2.5 hours -- that's right -- 2.5.  It was actually longer with previews.  

Movie II:  My mom and I watched "Atonement" on DVD.  Even though this was an Oscar nominee, I found that a lot of things about it fell short.  It took a while to figure out the plot, and once I figured it out, it should have been done much better.  For one thing, I'm tired of movies where we're supposed to believe two characters are in some great romance when they show us very little of them together - don't just tell us two movie characters are in love, and then expect us to be saddened when they're torn apart - show us first, so we actually believe it.

Of course, maybe I'd like it better on second viewing.  We were watching on a tiny TV in the middle of the day.  That takes away some of the ambiance.