Friday, January 29, 2010

Banks of America

I have an accounting book that is published in the UK and I get a royalty check from them at least once a year. This last one has been a curious exchange.
First, the publisher notified me they had sent me a check many months before and they assumed I had never gotten it (I hadn’t) since it was never cashed. So, they sent me a replacement check. After about a month, I told them I had not gotten that check either. They next sent the check via FedEx or the like. It got here.
Second. the check was from the Royal Bank of Scotland and was in US dollars. Given when the original check was supposed to be issued (months ago) and when I got the check, the value of the dollar had fallen. Thus there were fewer dollars in the current check given the royalties are actually owed in pounds.
Third, when I took the check to Bank of America to deposit it, I was told that the routing number on the check was not for a US bank. Thus, the BofA cashier would have to fill out a form and send it for collection. I was used to this since the last few royalty checks I had received. This happened in mid December. Time passed. No deposit appeared in my account.
Fourth, a day ago (six weeks after giving the check to BofA) when I downloaded my latest transactions, I saw the royalty check had been deposited. However, it was for $56.42 less than the check I had given BofA. In talking to the cashier who had helped me with the collection, she looked online and told me that the Royal Bank of Scotland had charged me $16.42 to cash their own check and put it into my account and BofA had charged me another $40.00 as well.
Remember that the check was in USD. There was no currency exchange. The Royal Bank of Scotland has a New York office even if they don’t have a US bank routing number on checks sent from the UK. We won’t count the loss of dollars given the errant first checks that were sent since that wasn’t a fault of the banking system.
Fifth, BofA has centralized its “preferred” customer service at an office in Nevada. For the past 15 years or more, I’ve had a banker in Chesterfield where I was one of her accounts and could call her with questions and to straighten out problems. No more. People like my previous contact are now only dealing with financial services clients. Now I have an 888 number to call and unknown people to talk with. And I got this information not in a return phone call from my ex-personal banker, but from someone in the centralized services. So, movement from personal to impersonal via an impersonal message bearer. We had visited over the years. I saw pictures of her children as they were born, were growing up. She knows my children. And she didn’t call.
So I dialed the 888 number. After a nice conversation with a service representative who looked at my account and the transactions, she told me she could see the charge from BofA, but had no idea what it was for. She then transferred me to another department that deals with foreign transactions. The man I talked to there had the personality of a cardboard box, and that might be insulting the box. He told me the story of a man who had been depositing checks from a foreign bank for 15 years and then incurred a charge. Seemed as if the man had overdrafted his account one time and, therefore, the bank assessed fees on his next transaction. I explained I had never had an overdraft on my account (which is true). “Only an example,” I was told. How does that apply to me? What about my transaction? Seems that even though I have never been charged in all the years I’ve been getting these royalty checks, it was “always” the rule to put in a fee and he wondered why I’d never gotten one in the past. Hadn’t I been told of the $40 fee when I submitted my check to my local branch? No, and I was dealing with the same cashier who had helped me last year when I deposited a similar check. Well, he said he has no authority to waive the charge unless it was his department’s fault. I was told to call my local branch and talk to the manager there.
Dutifully, I called the branch, talked to the cashier who had handled the transaction, who talked to her manager, who authorized a refund of the $40. It’s taken several days and perseverance, but at least I got some of the money back.
Oh. I have switched how I get my royalties. They are to be wire transferred. I have been told the BofA fee will be $15. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Be Patient

I got a letter from my urologist’s office that says, in part: “In order to expedite and shorten your office stay, please visit our office website and download the patient information forms. Please complete and bring all forms with you on the day of your appointment; this will avoid the need for forms to be completed at your appointment.” It’s about time for my annual post-cancer checkup, so I need to fill out their form.

Dutifully, I went to their website and saw an option to do the whole thing online. Besides the normal stuff of name, address, insurance information, and to whom they can disclose my medical information, there were pages and pages of other stuff including:

·      Listing of surgeries (and there was room for me to put in up to eight!)
·      Listing of diseases (e.g., asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes)
·      Listing of symptoms (a full page of them)
·      Listing of family history of illnesses including details on cancer
·      Listing of all medicines and supplements and their dosage. Well, good thing I am doing this at home. I had to go into my bathroom and get over a dozen bottles of the stuff I take each day (all but one are supplements/vitamins). If I had done this at their office, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the form.

Even doing this online took me over 20 minutes. So, I’m glad I did this before my appointment, glad I did this at home, and glad they had the online form instead of my having to fill all this out by hand.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Testing, Testing ... 1, 2, 3 ... Testing

At Walgreens today to pick up some prescriptions, as I was waiting, I noticed a set of home tests on the top shelf next to the pharmacy window. There was one for marijuana use, one for cocaine, each about $15. For $30, you could get one to test for amphetamines, methamphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, and opiates. Of course, there was the $80 test for steroids of any type plus things like testosterone enhancement.

Then there was the DNA paternity test collection kit for $30 with a note that there would be another $120 in lab fees when submitted.

Worried about your children? You can find out about drug abuse and who’s their daddy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Would You Like Cream with Your Coffee?

At one of my usual restaurants, the waitperson (we shall call her Shirley) asked what I wanted to drink.

Bud: “Coffee.”

Shirley: “Would you like cream with that?”

Bud: No, may I please have some skim milk or two-percent to put in it?”

Shirley: “All we have is whole milk. Will that do?”

Bud: “No, thank you. I’ll drink it black.”

Shirley: “I could bring you some half-and-half.”

Bud: “Wait a minute. That’s part cream, has higher butter fat than whole milk. I was looking for low or no fat.”

Shirley: “Well, some people like half-and-half with their coffee. And I’m a trained food professional and know about butter fat.”

I present this as a somewhat typical conversation with wait staff regarding my request for skim milk or two-percent, if they don’t have skim. Most don’t profess to be trained food professionals, though. Let’s see, my Google search shows half-and-half to be 10.5-18% fat as compared to 3.25% for whole milk. And if I ask for skim milk (zero fat), why would you ask me if I want half-and-half? Well, it is lower than 18-30% fat in light coffee cream.

Friday, January 01, 2010

For Believers of 1/1/2000 Starting the 21st Century

From Wikipedia: "Anno Domini (abbreviated as AD or A.D., sometimes found in the irregular form Anno Domine) and Before Christ (abbreviated as BC or B.C.) are designations used to number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The calendar era to which they refer is based on the traditionally reckoned year of the conception or birth of Jesus, with AD denoting years after the start of this epoch, and BC denoting years before the start of this epoch. There is no year zero in this scheme, so the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC."

Hey, what starts with one, ends with 100 for a full century. 101 is first year of next century. Are you listening? Can you follow this through the END of the 20th century, which happened on 12/31/2000? Still batting my head against a masonry partition?