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Sep 24, 2011

The Box of Chocolates

I co-coined a phrase many years ago during an online discussion/debate when I thought most people would agree with my opinion to discover not only did they not but were more interested in talking about the tangent-topic brought up in the rebuttal. I closed my part of the topic with "discussions here are always interesting but not always what I expect." Then a good friend broadened the scope by stating this observation could be generally applied to life itself.
I remind myself of this all the time - usually when I'm frustrated or angry because I didn't get what I wanted, believed I deserved, or hoped I would. I suppose my phrase is similar to that witty cliche: Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
I now remind myself again as I'm only a few days away from being cut open for my hernia-repair surgery. I had scheduled another procedure at the same time, but it seems destiny has chosen that one won't happen at this time. While I'm pleased that the proper decisions are being made because with each choice one's course in life alters - some choices have greater navigational impact than others - it is still strange when my head gets set on a particular course that either won't be or is at least on a far different schedule than I believed only hours before. My apologies if that is cryptic, but sharing private matters while holding back details can do that.
At this time, there is nothing significant to explain, but still a great many solid ideas of my future have recently come into question - not just in the past few days, but also over this past year. With respect to my career, to my role as a parent, to my love-life, to my health, so many things have changed - and changed quickly and with very little warning.
It is good to remember that life is precious and can change in the blink of an eye. I need to remember to count my blessings and be thankful for the great things in my life - for life is but a vapor. But even as ephemeral as it is, while it subsists, that mist billows in continued variance - sometimes resulting in serious upheaval.
We believe, often tricking ourselves, that we have a set path of destiny and that we know the course before us. Career, love, companionship, legacy - for these things we plan; upon these things we count; these things we expect.
But it is not always so. And we are angry! Often not because we didn't get what we wanted but rather because we didn't see it coming. Of course, then we curse God or fate or the universe. But in reality, sometimes happenstance occurs - and it's not always serendipitous. This is an important fact to remember; one that helps me move forward in times of difficulty. And I hope sharing this thought helps another when a future oppugnant moment occurs.
So, in closing, let me say: Life is always interesting, but not always what I expect.

Sep 15, 2011

Dear PayPal...

Here is the next chapter in my BestBuy/Paypal story. My previous post explains this in full. However, I receive nothing from BestBuy this week after explaining the circumstance to them. Well, nothing other than an automated response claiming someone would contact me within 48 hours. Of course, this has not happened. After being ignored by the giant reseller and now receiving the second NSF charge on my transaction to PayPal, I have decided anonymity of these entities is no longer warranted. Further, since everything I am stating is factual and documented by a third party, I am committing no libel by identifying my offenders.
At any rate, here is my latest correspondence; this time I have written PayPal, as they are the ones with the fiduciary responsibility to protect my money:

I have been receiving NSF charges from my bank on ACH charges to Paypal that should have been cleared and effectively zeroed out at this time. I tried to enter this in the dispute system; however, the site told me the issue had been resolved for the transactions and I could not dispute them. While culling through the details of the Paypal history, I have found the following three unique transaction ID linked to this issue: #[XXXX], #[YYYY], and #[ZZZZ].
I placed an order to BestBuy for a laptop in the amount of $•••.•• and secured the funds via Paypal. An immediate request to my bank was made to transfer the funds which were readily available at the time. When arriving at BestBuy they said the item was not available and the order would automatically cancel. Further they promised my funds would either not be drawn upon or returned at the time of cancellation.
I checked my bank account online to assure that no funds had been taken, which they had not. However, seven days later, after those funds were no longer available nor a hold remaining on them, I received a $20 NSF charge for the ACH transaction to Paypal which never took place. I noticed the order was still "In Process." I went to the BestBuy site, where the order had still not canceled, despite BestBuy's assurance I needed to take no action. I have several emails from them telling me to do nothing and stating I would not be charged.
The day after receiving the notice of the NSF, I went to the BestBuy website and manually canceled the still outstanding order, which had claimed the merchandise had now become available and wanted me to pick it up; this is where I believe the problem occurred and BestBuy may have requested a second securing of those funds.
There are now six separate line items to this transaction: three debits and three credits, all balancing to zero. However, yesterday, I received ANOTHER $20 NSF charge from my bank on this ACH transfer - for a product I never received and for a canceled transaction that nets zero dollars.
I am out $40 for using "the safe way" to make purchases on the internet, and the original order status with Paypal is still "In Progress" with a "Temporary Hold" still in place as I write this correspondence.
Please tell me how to finalize what should be an inert money transaction which has now cost me $40 for trusting the third party to protect me and a seller who continued to draw on funds for an item they could not deliver. I also believe that either BestBuy or Paypal should refund my NSF fees.
I respectfully make this demand because the legal agreement for commerce effectively ended 15 days ago when BestBuy acknowledged they could not fulfill my purchase request, despite my having to manually cancel it 10 days later, despite BestBuy telling me in writing no action was required at their original failure to deliver.

Dj Hackney

Sep 9, 2011

Fancy Schmancy Internet

Fancy Schmancy Internet

The other day, I labeled myself as one of those old people who complain about all this new-fangled technology. The irony, of course, (at least for those who know me) is I am an I.T. professional with multiple credentials: Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, State-Certified microcomputer repair technician, certified database administrator, certified network engineer, blah, blah, blah... Of course this sounds like a bit of bragging, but I simply want to illustrate I have a multi-disciplined technology skill set beyond the customer support phone guy in India. (No insult to Hindu-technologists.)
The greater irony is I am starting to lose a little faith in my profession. This is not about me, or even something where I suggest I know things more acutely than any other I.T. person, but rather about where technology has taken us and the trade off it presents. Let me also state this is not a doom-speak rant about how the machines will turn against us or our dependency on them will turn us into a society of Idiocracy.
However, the dependency does create problems. I love find-and-replace as well as spell-check, but there is some truth about this dependency. I have allowed my spelling to become lax because I know F7 will fix it for me. Thus, when I'm writing with a pen, I struggle with proper spelling (making it more difficult to OCR my notes later).
All kidding aside, the dependency is only part of the issue. The larger point is trust. We trust technology because of its higher degree of accuracy (or so perceived) than that of human beings. That - and the lack of emotionality to our responses. If I click "transfer to Store #123" in a browser, I trust the machines to do what I ask even if I've been bitching about the transaction, while the clerk behind the counter I trust to hang up the phone once I'm out of sight.
So, this week I have had several major issues with technological reliance, specifically in commerce. Of course, the fiasco I mentioned in my last post about filling a prescription (or inability to do so because a printer didn't work). Then there is the inventory control issue I explained in that same post. However, these are mainly inconveniences and things that probably breakdown on the human-side anyway. The clerk at the pharmacy is an idiot; that's not the computer's fault. Some stock boy probably didn't put the items on the shelf in the other incident; again, not something to blame the e-commerce website.
However, I just got charged a bank fee for an automated system's process failure and inability to deviate from the expected after it created the problem. And I'm sure this is more a human-flaw in the process than the math-machine's blame. But allow me to explain. Last weekend, I shopped online to purchase Kristina a new laptop. The "Electronics Marketplace" allowed me to do an in-store pickup and routed the order to a store where there was that particular model in stock. I selected a store I don't usually frequent because "my store" didn't have any available. I clicked the "Place Order" button, gave my Paypal details and received a confirmation receipt. Moments later I got a notice from Paypal stating the funds had been transferred from my bank and were in route to said store.
When arriving at the store, I was told that the item was not in inventory and they haven't had that model for a while. I then spoke with a salesperson back in the actual store area (not the store pickup center), who checked his computer to notice there was one available at...wait for it..."my store." You've got to be kidding I thought to myself and tried to explain my woes to the unsympathetic clerk.
Anyway, I went to the other store, checking my email on the way. I did indeed receive an email saying the original store reported an inventory problem and that the order could not be filled at this time. Further, if I wanted to cancel the order, I had to do nothing as it would expire automatically in a few days and my method of payment would not be charged. When arriving at "my store," I discovered they had the item and were happy to sell it to me; however, it could not be processed as a completion of the original online purchase; I would have to buy it from the store directly, as it was not possible to transfer the item from "store inventory" to "online-purchase inventory."
What? How does that explanation work again? I asked if I bought it online originally as a store-pickup from this store, from whose inventory would it be taken from? The answer, of course, was "store inventory." But you guys can't take it from "store inventory" now? They explained they could not because it was tied to the other store's inventory, not theirs. Despite the fact that I can select any store's available inventory for store pickup at the time of the sale, apparently there is no way to edit this, even though the email I received stated I could have the order re-routed to another store for pickup....blah, blah, blah...
I decided for convenience and ran my bank card for the few hundred dollars again. After all, the original order will automatically be canceled and money restored in a matter of days. I could float that; acting as the financial clearing house for a billion-dollar company who clearly couldn't afford to extend the credit was not something that excited me, but it put the laptop in my hands that day and no harm should have come from it.
Like a sit-com script, everyone can now guess what happened. That's right; the order didn't expire. However, the terms of timely payment did, and my bank had released the hold on the funds due to those terms. However, with the merchant not releasing the order, Paypal tried to pay on those funds anyway and requested the funds again. Of course, by this time, I didn't have the extra few hundred dollars accessible, the transfer failed, and my bank charged me a fee from "bouncing" a transaction.
I am now preparing a letter to send to what I'm sure will be a deaf customer support center to try and resolve this. I will claim they owe me the money for the fee as it is their failure which caused it. However, I am quite certain the bureaucracy will point the finger everywhere else, delay and deny, all in hopes that I won't pursue for such a small amount. I will most likely actually have to send a demand letter with a threat of litigation to actually receive any compensation, which won't arrive until weeks of threats and negotiations and of course the added duration of a full accounts-payable cycle.
None of those last items, the delay and deny part, are actually technology's fault either. These human flaws have been around since before the abacus. Yet, the catalyst of all my frustrations and now a bank charge is the trust and dependency on technology, promoting a foolish complacency on my part and on the part of the part of the store and its employees. What happened to the days where someone went into a store and knew something was available to buy or not? Or even call the store and talk to a person who could tell you if they have the item? Now we trust the e-commerce site to know the inventory is accurate because it's more reliable than those people. Ah, the irony.
Final note: spell-check corrected 11 words in this document.

Sep 8, 2011

Life Is A Horizontal Fall

My Wednesday was a Monday...and a Monday from Hell to boot. But bear with the story - it ends well.
It began with an early morning call from my hernia waking me in pain. I got up around 2AM and took some pain killers, at which time the effective insomnia kicked in. I resolved this by remoting-in to work until about 5:15. Then I crawled back in bed, hoping not to wake Kristina as her alarm was set for less than 45 minutes from that time. Of course, I disturbed her prior to the alarm. No major incident, but it disappointed me that my early-morning struggle had become an irritant to her as well.
The day continued with a sluggish morning ritual, resulting in leaving later and getting Rachel to school later than normal. Traffic was heavier due to our delayed schedule. We finally dropped Kara off at day-care, but as we left I turned the wrong way. I shrugged this off and drove a different route. However, being unfamiliar with the route and still in a hurry to make up time, I zoomed right into a speed trap.
The officer was nicer than I attributed at the time. However, I discovered it is a misdemeanor to fail to notify the Department of Public Safety within 10 days of an address change. This was in addition to the speeding ticket which I knew was inevitable from the moment I popped over the hill to recognize the municipal ambush of this suburban village.
Work was stressful with new processes being put in place for which I am responsible for enforcing, even though I have no authority to do so. Basically, part of my new job duties is to be a nag to my peers. There are a few who are not very pleased about the structure; of course, I might be one of them. While I won't bore anyone with the details, let's just say we have painted a barn to call it a factory, and my job is to continue to tell everyone, "No, it's not a barn; it's an industrial factory." Anyway, long story short - yesterday, I discovered I had failed to follow the new factory rules and introduced a semi-serious bug because of it. So, the company-nag exposed himself to be as mule-headed as those from whom he should be demanding conformity.
By the end of the day, when I picked up Rachel from her mother's house, I found out that in our hurry that morning, I rushed her off without her phone or keys. This, of course, meant she was locked out of her mom's house after school and had no way of calling anyone to help. Again, no major incident, but it set the tone for the evening of what had been a "lovely" day already. It was at this time she reminded me she needed that calculator for her advanced algebra class. I knew I had to go buy it. So, I shopped online to find who had it in stock. Also, Kara had a prescription to be picked up; so, I could accomplish multiple things after dinner.
However, I soon discovered I had become one of those old people who curse the technological paradox of progress, as [the unnamed pharmacy chain] could not fill the prescription claimed to be ready because their printer broke. I'm not sure how we put pills in a bottle before the invention of laser-writing devices, but I don't really believe they could not have handled this problem. Nonetheless, I went to a different store four miles away to be told the order had not been transferred, and it would be a half-an-hour before they could put pills in a bottle.
No problem, I thought. Rachel and I could go get that calculator. It was promised to be in stock by that new-fangled internet-based shopping and inventory control method. Of course, by the end of that trip and being told to "stay here" for a extended amount of time by the stocking clerk - you guessed it, no calculator. "We don't even carry that model at this store."
Furious, thoughts of smashing items in the electronics section racing through my head. Rachel and I leave to return nine miles back in the other direction to [the unnamed pharmacy chain] store. I'm spewing rage at this point; the day had finally overfilled my tolerance line, and Rachel began to get nervous by my driving.
It was at this moment that the wisdom of a twelve-year old set Dad back. Rachel told me, "You know, Dad; I know you're mad, but at least we are well-fed, driving a nice car, listening to music while traveling, and have a beautiful house where we live with a loving family. And you are on your way to pick up some medicine that will help improve the quality of life for Kara. The frustration of getting all these things tonight are not even possible to have in some places of the world."
I was just mad enough not to respond, but I knew her words were correct. A funny song later and my bad mood was gone. I calmed down enough to realize the truth of how fortunate I was - despite a difficult day. It's hard to remember how great we have things sometimes, especially in our spoiled society and habits of leisure.
I returned home with Kara's medicine, relayed to Kristina my Oddessy adventure to get it and gazed at the wonders and loved ones that make my life truly amazing - even if I don't appreciate it all the time.