Thursday, January 28, 2010

Credit Card Conundrum

Here's a story about a credit card. Not my credit card, but I was, sort of, drug into the situation.

My mom was paying her bills online and came across a problem. She could not remember how she'd paid her Victoria's Secret (VS) bill online. So she called me in to help her figure it out.

We went to the VS Web site and sought out information on paying the bill. Not easy to find, but it's there at the bottom of the page listed as 'Angel Card'. Still, paying online was not easy enough. We decided to call in the payment. Problem was, it was Sunday and that department is not open on Sunday. I was give a number to call back on Monday. My mom put me in charge of making the payment on Monday and she gave me her bank card to make the payment.

On Monday, I called the number that I was given. Of course I get a menu. I start to push through the prompts only to get stuck at 'enter the last 4 digits of your social security number'. Well, since it was not my account, I did not have that information. I waited for the system to default back to the previous menu. That did not happen. The system continued to ask for the SSN. I hung up and called back. I tried to 'zero' out to get a person only to get returned to the same prompt for the SSN. This went on for some time.

Finally, I decided to call another number on the bill that my mom had left with me. After a few prompts, I did get a human being on the phone and explained the situation: I'm paying the bill for my mom, I do not have her SSN. I just want to make a payment. She assures me that she will connect me to another human being and ... she does.

Here's where it gets tricky. They don't accept bank cards for payment. You can only use a checking account. What? Who does that? Is it still 1990 and not 2010? I am peeved. I do not have my mother's bank account info, just the bank card. I decide, what the heck, I'll just pay using my personal bank account. I proceed to provide the cs rep w/the necessary info: bank routing number and checking account number. After he takes the info, he goes into what sounded like a pre-recorded message, but apparently it is him doing the reading. I hear something about a $10 processing fee ... blah, blah ... do you agree? I don't respond because I don't believe I heard what I just heard. So instead, I say "hello" ... because again, I thought that it might be a recording. The cs rep says, yes and I say "did you just say there would be a $10 processing fee?" He says, "yes". I ask why. He says the payment is late.

Okay, here's a part of the story that I left out. We tried to make the payment when it was due on Friday, but got frustrated. The next business day is Monday. Wow, it's been complicated trying to get them their money, right?

The cs rep also makes a comment about the $10 processing fee being less than a $25 late fee. Well, damn. How about no fee at all? After all of the inconveniences, still the bill has not been paid. I tell him to cancel the checking account payment. My only other option is to physically go to a VS store to make the payment. Really? Really. And so, I throw on the snow gear because of course, the snow machine is on ... but no matter, I am going to get this bill done ... and I trounce out to the mall.

At the counter in VS, I present the VS billing statement and my bank card to make the payment. The young lady informs me that they only take cash or a check. What? Who does that? Is it still 1990 and not 2010? Although the payment was only $30, I don't carry much cash. I almost did not take my check book either. I tried not to glare at her (it's not her fault), but what is w/all this ridiculousness already.

Victoria's Secret, where is the convenience for the customer in this process?
  • the phone number and Web site info is not easy to find on the VS billing statement
  • it was difficult to get through the VS menu and get a human being
  • it was difficult to make a payment on the Web site
  • it was difficult to make a payment over the phone
  • it was difficult to make a payment in store
So the easiest way to pay this bill is in store w/cash or a check or in the mail via check? If they are going to do business like it's 1990, then I'd like their products to be priced at 1990 prices.

Also, to be fair, VS outsources their credit card and billing to another company. Still, who does this? You shouldn't be nickle and diming people. Period. It's wrong and should be outlawed.

VS has just taken a dive in my book. I won't be shopping there anytime soon. But now that my mom's VS credit card has been paid, I'm sure that she will be shopping there enough for the both of us.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

PODCAST: Music Monday 46 :: Oddisee

For this Music Monday post, I am doing a podcast. Me and my podcast partner, Darryl Atwell, talk about Oddisee. Oddisee is a hip hop emcee from D.C.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Camera Aperture

For some time, I've been trying to upgrade my photog skills. I know some of the basics, but then I fail to use them during crunch time.

Trying a 12 week free course over at Two Peas in a Bucket. It's called "12 Weeks to Better Photos". Easy enough.

First lesson is about aperture. I took three different pics using different apertures: 2.6, 5.6 and 8. I want the look that is best seen here in the 2.6 image. I like the foreground in focus and the background fuzzy. Gonna work on that more.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Ohio License Plates

I did not get this memo. The state of Ohio is issuing newly designed license plates (as of November 2009).

I first saw this plate on a car parked in my grandmother's driveway. I was picking up my brother and did not have time to go inside, but I asked my brother who's car it was and he said that it belonged to my uncle. I said, well, that's interesting because it has out of state plates on it. We just shrugged it off and went on our way.

But in the course of us running errands, I spotted the plates again on the road. I pointed them out to my brother and we tried to figure out what state the plates represented. Finally, we pulled into a parking lot and saw someone sitting in their car who had the new plate on their car and asked them about it. The driver explained that they were the new Ohio state license plates. After a closer look, we could see the big 'O'. But we thought that the plates might have been Florida or California with the bright yellow and blue sky.

The new plates just don't do much for me. It's hard to tell that they are Ohio plates. Most of the details are on the perimeter. If motorists have a license plate cover or border, then those details are not visible.

Oh, well. I guess some folks are happy. I was never a big fan of the red, white and blue plates. And I wish Ohio officials would get of the need to taut the Wright Brothers as all things Ohio. That ongoing battle between North Carolina and Ohio of claiming the Wright Brothers is so old. I mean, who truly cares about where the actual birthplace of aviation is ... ? And why does it need to be paraded on the state license plate?

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter in Ohio: January 2010

Pictures from my parents neighborhood in Akron, Ohio. That's my Jeep.

I am not enjoying the snow in Ohio. It's just so blah. I guess I could change my attitude. Embrace it.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

VIDEO: Random Images from Egypt

Since moving to Egypt, there is rarely a moment when I don't have my camera. It's nothing fancy a Canon A570IS, but it's compact enough to fit in my purse and relatively quick to start up.

Though I've taken lots of photos while in Egypt, there are times when taking images is inappropriate. For example, I really want a pic of Muslims during prayer, but it just seems invasive. Also, in some of the more conservative parts of Cairo, sometimes they are not comfortable w/people taking pics and so I honor that.

Often when I am out and about, something weird and/or random happens. Nice to have a camera for those times.

Some of the images in this slide show are random images from Egypt. Most of the images were taken in Cairo, but some were taken in Alexandria as well as the White Desert. And there is one image that I did not actually take - it's the one of a group jumping in the sand. That was taken by Yehya Hafez. Thanks for looking.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: "What Doesn't Kill You" by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant

BOOK REVIEW: "What Doesn't Kill You" by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant (2009)

"What Doesn't Kill You" was my reading group's last reading selection for 2009. I've been trying to keep up w/the readings though I'm currently living in Cairo. Reading this book was a welcome break from the last few weeks of teaching during the hectic Fall semester.

It was an easy and quick read. The book was written in first person. The main character, Tee, was witty and I liked her thinking which was often hilarious. Based on the title, you can ascertain that someone is going to experience a lot of drama. So much drama that it can only make you stronger. That character is Tee. Well, according to one of my reading group members, Tee doesn't really go through anything really difficult. It's a good point though I won't elaborate for fear of giving away too many details of the book.

We concluded that Tee did put herself in some situations that could have been avoided - easily. Still in the end, I enjoyed the book. Though it did wrap up nicely and neatly with a big red bow. There were a lot of issues, yet Tee ends up with a happy ending. Did I want her to suffer more? No, but all of her problems did not have to be solved. It makes the book more realistic.

I've read most of DeBerry and Grant's books, and they are good writers. I like the characters that they introduce because they are real. One thing that continues to baffle me is how they manage to co-author the books. What's the writing process like when there are two writers? Well, my reading group and I had a conference call w/the authors and that question was asked. They say that they definitely don't split up the writing based on characters. They say they were so in tuned to Tee's character in "What Doesn't Kill You" that the writing just flowed for them.

What's interesting for my reading group is that this was the second time that we had a conference call w/them about one of their books. We also talked to them about "Better Than I Know Myself". And my reading groups history w/DeBerry and Grant goes back to the group's inception. The first book that we read was "Trying to Sleep in the Bed You Made". That was well over ten years ago. Love that.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

PODCAST: President Obama's Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Darryl Atwell and I often times have some fruitful discussions on politics, pop culture and entertainment.

Today's discussion is a reflection of one of the most discussed events in 2009: President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shopping for Beads in Egypt

In December, I went on a shopping trip for beads at the Khan el Kalili Bazaar in Cairo. My mom makes jewelry and I thought that it would be a nice gift if I got her some beads from Egypt.

I'd recently been to a jewelry store and purchased a necklace and I asked if there was a place to buy beads in Cairo. After some phone calls, they gave me the name of a place in the Khan. I was a bit reluctant to take the trip alone, but I took the address w/the hope going before I departed for the States for the holidays. Eventually, one of the young ladies from the jewelry store offered to be my guide on the trip.

Good thing that she came along too. She's Egyptian. The store owners pounced on me like I was a fresh tourist from the airport. But my newfound friend refused to let them overcharge me. She negotiated for me in Arabic and insisted that they charge me the same price that they would charge her.

I came away with lots of beads for my mom and the price was decent. I gave the beads to my mom for her birthday and she was ecstatic. She's already made several necklaces and earrings. I'm hoping that she gives (or sales) me at least two of the necklaces. They all look so nice. Pics of my Mom's jewelry are forthcoming.

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