Happy Holidays to all 308 million people in America except for Laurinda Swank

Laurinda Swank is the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of my former bank, First Internet Bank, aka First Internet Bank of Indiana. FIB served me well for seven years, until their customer service took an acute turn south in the past year or so. I was already going to dump my account with them. At one point, through one of my own frequent accounting errors, I was left with a -$15 balance.

I had decided to set up direct-transfer capabilities from my credit union account. In hindsight, this was not necessary because I had this link established going out of FIB. But I set this up anyway, unaware that, in addition to the customary test deposit, a test withdrawal would be made. So, my FIB account received a 27-cent deposit, as well as a 22-cent withdrawal. I was charged the usual $30 NSF fee for the withdrawal. And now my FIB balance was -$45.

I had had way too many of these $30 NSF fees over the years. Occasionally, FIB customer support would refund one when the random transaction processing order or their lack of an immediate deposit method as an online bank was to blame, but this was probably around 10% of the time. FIB still made a killing from these NSF fees from me over the years. I was leaving them, in part, because of a last-straw with increasing poor service.

This $30 fee for a 22-cent test ACH withdrawal was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen. Independent of any other activity, surely a reasonable agent of FIB would recognize this absurdity and give me a refund of the fee. No dice. Twice.

I submitted a complaint via the Better Business Bureau of Indianapolis. That went to one Laurinda Swank. Ms. Swank icily stated that I had received fee reversals in the past, and I would not receive one in this case.

I think I could have responded, but I wanted to focus on getting my numerous bill-payments and automatic withdrawals out of FIB. This is an arduous task that I would only recommend doing roughly once a decade.

So, back to Ms. Laurinda Swank. I will not judge this creature of the universe. But I take her decision against my interests personally, and I would like to go on record in wishing her a mildly unpleasant holiday season. Maybe a flat-tire in the driveway before she’s supposed to be somewhere, like a nephew’s piano recital.

In addition to Ms. Swank, I would also like to wish a mildly unpleasant holiday to Nancy Grace. She’s on the television set above me, and Swift Justice deserves swift cancellation.

On a related note, Maury Christmas, everybody!

A very Maury Christmas

Ambien Symphony

Pawn Stars….decent entertainment….plays off that American ideal that I have…to find something odd you think you can make money off of and go for it…it almost always flops. All of my eBay lists of 10 years ago average about +2.00 at best. I never a found a rhythm.

So many people were doing this, trying to make a second-living through eBay. They made tens-of-thousands a month. Selling stuff on eBay could have been a full-time job.

When I was jobless or underemployed, I aspired to find a niche that could bring a few hundred dollars a month. It never happened. Lots of trips to the post offices. Lots of Excel spreadsheets that showed that a purchase and sale yielded a profit of $0.71 or a loss of $1.94. For the month of June 2001, I’ve made $38.19!!!  And twenty different transactions may have contributed to that windfall.

I always hoped to find the item I could buy for $10 and sell for $20. Profit of $7. Sell 600. That’s $4,200 a month! Cash free! I can live on that.  Except after I buy the first two, I see that they’re only selling for $14. The profit becomes $1.82. Maybe I can still make $1,000. But then I see they’re only selling for $12. Profit is a wash. The rest of the selling is just for break-even. I wouldn’t sell 600. I’d sell 50. Make $7 each on 8 of them. Make $4 each on 10 of them. Break-even on 10 of them. Sell the remaining 572 for a $20 shipping loss.  Total profit/loss: $76 profit for 600 transactions. 8 cents per transaction. Totally worth it.

How to make an extra $300 a month…a question that a smart person should be able to figure out. I think major caveat is that the work cannot be for someone else. Not 32 hours a month a Borders. All hours spent on my own project. I’m my own boss. As my own boss, I should be able to figure out something.

But I don’t know howto do anything. Way, way, wav behind the curve on web programming. Remedy programming for a micro-enterprise does not make much sense even though I would like it to.

I don’t want to get something for nothing in the world. I want my brainpower to yield some fortune.

It’s very disappointing. It makes me feel very little of myself.  Very frequently.

Not drunk. It’s ambien. Wonder drug ambien. Ambien. to exhaust yourself by exhausting all thoughts. Dump ’em all out there. You won’t remember most of them in the morning, and that is a little freaky.

I have to censor, such as if I mention looking up the Flickr pics of a girl I liked a few years ago. Apparently, best friend figured out I had been browsing the wedding and honeymoon pics. It was just a mental exercise…no stalking mitochondria were activated. Don’t care so much about what is/was happening with “M” but it does a number to see her blissfully happy just a couple of years after she implied the problem wasn’t me, but her. “M” herself was a minor detail in the story. Just another chance to stare at myself in the mirror and think and think and think what could I possibly have done at point X in time so that history would be altered and maybe, just maybe, I could have made that miraculous connection.

Old friend of “M”s discovers the Flickr picture browsing, and she denounces me as a stalker in some comments. Given my sincere lack of interest in the new life of “M” and limited nature of my searching to easy query on M’s non-standard name, I think the “stalker” label was highly insidious.

In any event, I censored. That post is gone. I hate dong that.

What’s the point of this entry?  I am just adrift. Nothing coming up. No course of action to create anything coming up. Work. Dialysis. Holy shit, my house is a horrible disaster zone. I am hungry and tired. I’d rather commune with the internet than try to figure out what cleaning agent will succeed in getting rid of #*$(*$ from the wall and *#$*9 from the floor. The amount of progress I can make is too minuscule to care.

Any visitor to my home will be disgusted and uncomfortable whether I put in X hours, X^2 hours, or X^3 hours. It will never be enough.

I do not want to go to sleep tonight. I don’t want to give up on today. The odds of success for tomorrow are bleak. I cannot admit defeat for today. What there’s nothing…nothing I can do.

38 versus 7500

That’s my federal refund for 2008 after an initial run-through with TaxACT, which I’m new to after many years of TaxCut and Turbo Tax. TaxAct is either free or very cheap if you want the Deluxe version, and, for my purposes, seems to have all the functionality of the mainstays.

$38. I suppose I should pat myself on the back for doing well in 2008 at the game called “Mess With Your Payroll Deductions”. To come out basically even means I got to keep the money that I’d otherwise get back in a hefty refund. With that money I got to do things like go to one-and-a-half Journey concerts and purchase orthotics.

I did pretend, briefly, that I did actually qualify for the very generous first-time homebuyer tax credit that Congress passed last fall in response to the housing crisis. It gives new homeowners up to a very nice $7,500 as a credit. Unfortunately, you had to have purchased your home after April 7, 2008 (and you have all of 2009 to take advantage of it, I believe). I bought my house in September 2007.

So many credits and deductions in the tax code have graduated phase-outs. This credit has an income phase-out but no phase-out with regard to the date of your home purchase. If you had closed on a home on April 8, 2008, you may get $7,500 back from Uncle Sam. If you closed on April 7, 2008, you will get $0.

(I didn’t mean to get too technical, but if anyone is really interested in this credit, note that it is technically a 15-year zero-percent interest loan. You are supposed to pay the government back through your federal withholding over the next 15 years–$500/year if you’re getting the whole $7500).

On the bright-side for me, getting $38 back from the government is a heckuva lot better than owing money.

JP Morgan Chase Hates Pets

Dear Valued PetSmart PetPerks Visa Cardholder,

As you may know, certain assets held by Washington Mutual, our partner for the PetSmart® PetPerks® Visa®, were purchased by JP Morgan Chase. This transaction included all of the credit card accounts that were part of the PetSmart PetPerks Visa program. Chase has decided not to support the PetSmart PetPerks credit card.

That means no more credit card with a a picture of Aremid. Well, it might be the one expired credit card I keep around as a souvenir.

Dear Knoxville, I still hate you, too…

I just saw my credit scores plunge, thanks to St. Mary’s Medical Center of Knoxville, Tennessee. While I worked in Tennessee back in 2003, my Year of Bliss, I wound up in the hospital for a couple of days due to a pesky kidney infection. Being an hourly contractor with a crappy health plan will make one reluctant to take sick days and see the doctor. I know I didn’t pay them whatever I owed them right away. I know I made a bunch of payments to St. Mary’s a few years back; I thought I had paid off whatever I owed. I never received any collections notices.

But suddenly I find that, not only does St. Mary’s think I owe them $360, but this is being recorded as a delinquency in two of three major credit bureau reports. Oddly enough, the account is listed as having been opened in November 2007.

Now, when a bill collector wants to come after you for a payment, they need to send you some official letter, in which they tell you that you’ve got 30 days to dispute the balance. By virtue of the fact that St. Mary’s could submit this debt to the credit bureaus, they must be able to obtain my current address. But I’ve received nothing from them.

I guess I’ll try to call them tomorrow and ready dispute letters for the credit bureaus. It was something like this that probably wrecked my construction loan plans a year ago. One mis-reported item, and your FICO score is 20-50 points lower than what it should be, and you don’t get approved for something that your loan officer tells you not to worry about. And you’re left with something that Tom Hanks and Shelley Long wouldn’t touch (or Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, if you prefer).

While you’re at it, freeze drug and gasoline prices

White House nears plan to freeze subprime rates – Dec. 5, 2007

Similar to my last post, I’m looking at the headline, not thinking about an individual family who may have been hoodwinked into taking out a mortgage they couldn’t afford…

My gut reaction to this “bailout” is WTF? Americans are acutely sick with financial irresponsibility, spending way beyond their means on cars, clothes, iPods, and homes. Now the government is going to say, “Don’t worry; we’ll bail you out!” This Republican administration that decries government intervention in the regulation of commerce is going to do this? I realize the true motivation is to help the financial institutions who don’t benefit at all from a deluge of foreclosures. In either case, the administration’s deal-brokering leaves me with a few questions:

– Why not freeze drug prices for everyone who can’t afford their necessary medications?
– Why not freeze gas prices?
– Why not freeze college tuition rates?

NOBODY needs to OWN a home. It would be nice if the government would help bail out those whose basic needs aren’t being met instead of Mr. and Mrs. Our-FICO-is-520-but-we-own-a-Chevy-Tahoe-and-a-McMansion.

Friday night fun with Capital One

I have a Capital One credit card with a low limit, a high interest rate, and an annual fee. It’s a small annual fee, but considering there are no special benefits or rewards with this card, there’s no reason I need to tolerate this fee. I recently had a fee removed from another card, so I didn’t think this would be a big deal.

After several minutes of going through menus looking for one to let me speak to someone, I finally get connected to someone by simplying ignoring the prompts for about 20 seconds.

Overly-happy Capital One Offshore Rep: Hello! How are you today?!

T: Fine

OHCOOR: That’s great to hear! How may I help you today!

T: I’d like the annual fee removed from my account

OHCOOR: Uh, let me see, uh…yes, I am unable to do that for you.

T: I’d like to close my account then.

OHCOOR: Is there anything I can do to change your mind about closing your account?

T: Credit me the $29 annual fee. It’s pretty simple.

OHCOOR: I cannot do that. I am sorry.

T: Then please proceed to close my account.

OHCOOR: Let me see what I can do. I can transfer you to an account specialist.

(I’m on hold for 8 minutes with some jarring instrumental; why any customer service thinks that music over the phone sounds remotely soothing, I’ll never know).

(I get impatient and hang up, deciding I’ll call back and select the option to close my account).

(I go through three levels of menu options to get to the option to close my account).

Capital One Automated Voice: Continuing may result in the closing of your account!

(Great! I continue, back on hold, but the music is a little better, some sort of light pop…9 minutes on hold…)

Perky Canadian Capital One Account Supervisor: Hi, how are you today?

T: (I explain how I don’t enjoy being on the phone for a half-hour to get a simple request taken care of).

PCCOAS: Call volume, we’re busy, I’m sorry, blah blah blah…(60 seconds later, I have to interrupt)

T: Ok, so here’s the deal…(I explain why I called)…and it’s very simple now…cancel my account or refund me my $29 annual fee.

PCCOAS: I can give you that refund right now. No problem! You will see your credit within 3 business days!

Dear Household Bank

One day I will no longer need your lousy, predatory credit cards. Your customer service sucks.

Hypothetic email to HSBC customer support:

Can you please look into this charge from styrofoamsquirrels.com? I didn’t actually have a completed transaction with them, but they still authorized a charge of $843. Now I can’t use my card until that authorization is removed. That really sucks, because I have to buy four new tires for my car as soon as possible. If I use other means to buy the tires, I will have trouble paying my bills.

Hypothetical response from HSBC customer support:

We are sorry to hear that you are having trouble paying your bills. Did you know that HSBC provides insurance to help you when you are having trouble paying your bills? It’s as easy as logging on to hsbc.com and following these instructions!

We hope we answered your questions, and have a pleasant holiday weekend!

(Maybe you give people AA credit ratings credit as well and actually provide those customers with useful customer service. One way or another, I’ll never know…)

A note to the Googlesphere: If your choice is credit card providers is between Household Bank and some other blood-sucking enterprise, go with the latter.