Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who's who now?

The following statements were made by 10-year-old Pixie Niece during a game of Cranium (which Muffet Niece and I won, by the way). It’s a good thing I don’t think 30 is old.

“Who’s Aerosmith?”
“Who’s Led Zepplin?”
“I guess he’s an astronaut but I never heard of him,” referring to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. (They visited the Kennedy Space Center last year.)
“Who’s Bob Dylan?”

She did, however, know Jimmy Buffett and Charlie Chaplin. But she probably does not know The New Kids on the Block.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Evil mega-banks have some advantages

While in undergrad, my bank had gone through a few takeovers, and the summer after I graduated someone at the new super-mega-we-don’t-want-your-lousy-$800-account bank finally noticed that my account was a special, no-fee student account that, technically, the bank no longer offered. So in order to keep the no-fee situation, I had to change my account to one where I could use the ATM all I wanted, but I was charged money if I dared speak to a real live person. I thought this was horribly impersonal, and vowed to switch banks as soon as I moved.

So when I got to grad school, I was pleased to find that the campus had a student-run credit union. I love credit unions. They are so small and friendly, and this one was conveniently located right across the street from my lab. So I signed up, and kissed the big, evil mega-bank goodbye.

Everything hummed along swimmingly until Christmas break in my second or third year. Since the credit union was student-run, they were closed during breaks, so the only way I could get money was from an ATM. The credit union owned one ATM, ironically located in the financial-aid building, and I went there one afternoon to withdraw money. I asked for $95, because this ATM was one of the magical few that offer denominations in fives, and I wanted to make sure I got one.

Imagine my surprise when the machine spit out not four twenties, a ten and a five, but rather, nineteen fives. Except it didn’t actually give me nineteen fives. The bills were sort of all stuck together, and got jammed, so instead of my $95 I only got about $60. Unfortunately, the receipt showed that I had received all of my money, and had deducted my account accordingly.

Did I mention that the credit union was closed over break? Because I was pretty much out of luck in terms of getting my money back that day, or even that week. In order to have a record of the incident, I called the credit union and left a voice mail explaining what had happened, and told them I would come by as soon as they opened.

Which I did. And I talked to someone who had no idea what I was talking about when I said I left a voicemail, but who said she would investigate the records and credit my account if a discrepancy was found. Great! And I left, reasonably satisfied that I would get my money back.

Well, weeks went by, and there was no sign of a credit on my bank statements. So I went back to the credit union, waited my turn to talk to one of the students who worked there, and started to tell him what my problem was. In the middle of my explanation, his phone rang.

Now, I understand that it can be difficult to ignore a ringing phone. We are trained from birth to leap to the phone the very instant it starts jangling and answer it. I can also understand that the student who was assisting me thought that the person on the phone had a really easy question that he could answer quickly and get back to me. I can further understand that this 20-year-old kid felt trapped by the phone conversation when it turned out that the caller actually had a complex problem that needed 5-10 minutes of his attention.


It was pretty frustrating that, after having taken the trouble to go to the credit union in person, I was interrupted and then ignored while someone who had merely phoned the credit union got priority service. All service people should learn the phrase, “I’m sorry, I’m with a customer right now. Can I get your number and call you back?”

Eventually, the kid solved the highly important problem of the phone caller and sheepishly turned his attention back to me and my problem of my missing $35. I finished explaining the situation, said that “Jane” had told me she would investigate the matter, but I hadn’t heard anything. The kid said he would get right on it. I left again, but I was far less satisfied this time.

Time went by, and every month I checked my statements for the credit. And then one day it struck me that I hadn’t actually seen a statement in quite some time. I went back to check my old statements and saw that the last statement I received was five months previous. I suppose I should take some responsibility for not noticing sooner that my bank statements had stopped arriving, but it’s not like I rushed home on the 15th of every month breathless with anticipation because it was Bank Statement Day. When the came, I checked them.

Back to the credit union I went. This time, they claimed that it was my fault, because students move a lot and they often forget to tell the bank their new addresses. So the credit union had a policy that if they got two statements returned, they stopped mailing them out. This was all well and good, but I hadn’t moved. I pointed this out to the person lucky enough to assist me this time. He repeated his explanation of the policy, and I said again, “I haven’t moved.” Skeptical, he looked up my address in the computer.

“Do you still live at blah blah St.?” he asked me.

“Yup, that’s my address,” I said.

He was still pretty sure the statement stoppage was my fault. “Well, did you switch to electronic statements? Because a lot of people…” he said.

“No, I didn’t. And I’m not getting them over email anyway.”

That stumped him, and he said he’d look into the situation. In the meantime, he printed out a record of the last several months of activity in my account. Guess what? No $35 credit.

So, to sum up, I had been robbed of $35, ignored for months, and stopped receiving bank statements for no reason at all. As soon as I got my $35 back (because don’t think I let them weasel out of that), I switched banks.

My new policy: Always bank with an organization run by actual grown-ups.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Venus and Mars

Last night, The Husband and I were watching Scrubs, and Turk said he was going to give J.D. a “pink belly.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but The Husband started laughing immediately, because he knew what was coming. Then Turk slapped J.D.’s stomach until it turned pink.

Boys and girls are different.

Friday, April 07, 2006

So... they’re different then?

The Doktah and I were talking, and I was explaining that it didn’t really matter which method we used to solve something, because the answer would come out the same either way. “It’s six of one, a dozen of the other,” I said.