Jun. 16th, 2014 11:17 pm
hudebnik: (rant)

I just spent an hour and a half talking to phone-company representatives.

Several years ago we agreed to a "triple play" bundle: satellite TV through DIRECTV (but billed on the Verizon bill), land-line service through Verizon, and DSL internet through the land-line.  Ever since, I've been waiting for fiber optic to be run in our neighborhood, and this spring it finally was.  So in May, we agreed to switch to fiber for phone, internet, and TV.  On May 28 (or was it 29?) a Verizon repairman came to the house, installed the fiber-optic cable and associated hardware (e.g. set-top box), took away the DIRECTV set-top box, and congratulated me on my new service.  We were told to expect a first-month bill of $143 (including some installation charges and pro-rata charges for the previous month), second and third months of $110, and subsequently $90/month.

The first phone bill after the switchover came to $289, more than twice the estimate.  I looked through the itemization and didn't see anything especially weird, except the full month of DIRECTV service, three weeks of which were after we were disconnected from DIRECTV.  So I visited Verizon's web site and live-chatted with a call-center representative, who told me this was a DIRECTV charge so I would need to talk to DIRECTV at such-and-such number.  I called that number and got a DIRECTV call-center representative who said she would connect me to a "second-level specialist in our joint billing with Verizon".  I called that number and got a Verizon employee who said I would need to talk to a "disconnect specialist" at DIRECTV, but he would get one on the line as a conference call with both of us.  After a few lost connections and call-backs, we got the conference call working.

The guy from DIRECTV said that since we hadn't called DIRECTV to cancel our service in May, we would be billed for it through today.  I pointed out that Verizon had initially signed me up with DIRECTV, so I thought they would also UN-sign me up, and in any case I couldn't possibly be watching DIRECTV since I had no set-top box.  So I said I wouldn't pay that part of the bill; they could charge it to Verizon.  The guy from Verizon cut in to say that they have no way to refund us that money because it's a DIRECTV charge, not a Verizon charge.  The guy from DIRECTV asked why I was discontinuing service, and tried to persuade me to continue it: "we can get you a $20/month discount."
"How about you discount me $20 for the month just past, when I didn't have any service?"
"No, we can't do that; we can only give you a discount on future service, if you decide not to switch services."
"Too late: I switched services three weeks ago."
Then he explained that DIRECTV would automatically send out a shipping container in which I could return the set-top box.
"What set-top box?  The guy from Verizon took it away when he installed the FiOS box."
"If you don't have the set-top box, you'll be charged $45 for not returning it."
"No, I won't; you can charge that to Verizon, since they have the box."
"Sir, the bill will be charged to your account.  If you didn't want to pay it, you shouldn't have let the Verizon repairman take away your DIRECTV box."

It's late.  I'll try dealing with this closer to business hours tomorrow.

EDIT The next day... I called a little earlier in the day this time, and got two (2) very helpful Verizon customer-service people.  They still can't do anything about DIRECTV charging me for three weeks of service I didn't get (aside from saying "that's not a good way for them to do business"), but progress is underway on several other issues, including trying to track down the DIRECTV set-top box so I don't get charged for it.

hudebnik: (Default)
Should I be concerned that the New York City Department of Finance is headquartered in Newark, NJ?
hudebnik: (rant)

Roughly six months out of the year, I use public transit heavily, so I find it cost-effective to buy a monthly pass. The other six months of the year, it makes more sense to buy a ten-trip ticket or a couple of single-ride tickets that I can use over as long as it takes. Well, up to a year, because they expire after a year.

Sometime in the past year or so, they changed the rule so these ten-trip tickets expire after six months rather than a year, which is apparently just short enough that I've had several tickets expire while I was in monthly-pass mode. (Single-ride tickets now have an even shorter expiration.) The last time this happened, I had to go to the customer service desk and fill out a form to get a refund on my unused punches, minus five or ten dollars "service charge" which is apparently necessary to cover their two minutes' labor to process the form (which wouldn't be necessary if the tickets didn't expire, but never mind that.)

Yesterday I took the train to and from campus, and on the way home the conductor noticed that both of the ten-trips in my wallet had expired, so they were no good and I had to but a ticket onboard for over twice the usual price. So today I went to the customer service desk to get my pitiful partial refund, and was told "these tickets are more than thirty days past expiration; you can't get a refund on them." A rule I had never heard of, and $30-40 worth of tickets have just become scrap paper.

This no longer has any remote connection to the railroad's expenses: it would cost them no more trouble to refund a two-month-expired ticket than a two-week-expired ticket (and even less to just not have the tickets expire at all); it can only be justified as a revenue stream.

Grumble, grumble.

I guess the lesson is that the next time I get a monthly pass, I need to sell or give away any non-monthly tickets I still have; they're unlikely to still be valid the next time I try to use them.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

IRC 132(f)

Nov. 8th, 2007 07:41 pm
hudebnik: (rant)
A few years ago Congress passed a law allowing employers to provide tax-free fringe benefits to their employees for parking and public-transit expenses involved in commuting to work. They started with a limit of $100/month for public transit and $200 or so for parking, both to be indexed automatically to inflation; for 2007, it's up to $110/month for public transit.

Of bureaucracies and laws )


Jul. 5th, 2007 08:17 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
Two places in front of me in the line at the Post Office today was a woman who's going abroad in five days, applied for passports for her children three months ago, and hasn't gotten them yet. (From what I hear on the news, delays of three to six months are common. When the Feds started imposing passport control on travel to Canada and Mexico, they hired "dozens of new workers to handle the added load." That's right, dozens; they needed hundreds.) She was given a form to fill out and a telephone number to call, from which she'll allegedly get a number certifying that she has applied for said passports, which will allegedly do for now (at least as far as the U.S. is concerned).

One place in front of me in the line at the Post Office today was a couple who are going to Canada soon, and wanted to know whether their three-month-old infant needs a passport. The answer was "Yes, even a one-day-old baby needs a passport to go abroad."

The moral of the story is: if you're considering getting pregnant, apply for your child's passport now. If you're already pregnant (hi, [ profile] woodwindy!) and haven't applied yet, don't plan on going abroad this year.
hudebnik: (teacher-mode)
Much of today was given over to a department retreat: the other three computer science faculty in my department came over to my house and we spent six hours discussing various courses, what they're supposed to achieve, and "learning outcomes assessment", i.e. how we're going to tell whether the students have actually learned what we said we wanted them to learn. This is not quite the same thing as grading. First, grades in one course are affected not only by learning in that course but by learning in other courses. Second, a student who has achieved B-level command of all the topics in a course gets the same letter grade as one who has achieved A-level mastery in some topics and C-level competence in others. Third, in learning outcomes assessment we usually don't care what individual students have achieved (to draw conclusions about the student), but rather what the mean or median student has achieved (to draw conclusions about the curriculum and the teaching). A letter grade is too specific in the temporal and student dimensions and too broad in the subject dimension.

Anyway, assessment (particularly of student work this year) was the top item on the agenda for today. We didn't actually get to any of it, as we spent the entire six hours coming up with general goals, a few words each, for each course, goals that in many cases could have been found in the existing course descriptions. What a waste of time. Not that the outcomes-assessment was likely to be any more pleasant or productive, but we're supposed to produce a report about it in the next month.

On the bright side, [ profile] shalmestere and I got the house cleaner than it's been in months, in preparation for my colleagues coming over. So at least the living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and upstairs hallway are more pleasant places to be.


Dec. 22nd, 2001 07:29 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Major life stress #4: we bought a house yesterday.  We spent two hours signing and initialing papers without reading them, which is scary, but if we had stopped to read them all and have our lawyer explain them, we'd still be there.  There was only one hitch: the mortgage company wanted proof of our liquid assets, e.g. a bank statement, which we hadn't provided earlier because our bank, headquartered two blocks from the World Trade Center, hadn't sent out its September statements until November.  I offered to drive home and retrieve the latest bank statement, but that would have added an hour, and the various lawyeres had other closings scheduled later in the day.  So I called the bank, was told "all customer service representatives are currently busy," and left a message asking them urgently to fax a copy of our statements to the mortgage company's lawyers.  Their voicemail system refused to take my message because it was too long, so I tried again, speaking faster.  On the third try I succeeded in leaving a message, only to be told "Thank you.  Your message will be responded to on the next business day."

I went on signing for a while, called back twenty minutes later, and was put on hold for an estimated ten minutes (progress over simply leaving a message).  While I waited, our lawyer called the mortgage company and was put on hold himself.  Twenty minutes later I got through to a human and was told I could only do this transaction in person at a branch, not over the phone.  Meanwhile, our lawyer got through to a human and successfully convinced the loan manager to drop the requirement for verification.  So then things went through fairly smoothly.

We didn't actually go to the house until after dinner.  The first priority was finding out how difficult it would be to strip wallpaper, as we wanted to do that and paint the walls before pulling up the wall-to-wall carpeting, before moving furniture in.  We were pleasantly surprised: the wallpaper came off easily, in large pieces, and we had removed all but a few tiny patches from living room, dining room, stairwell, hallway, and master bedroom in about an hour.

So we're going to Home Depot this morning to buy paint and painting supplies, then to the house to smooth, prime, and paint the walls.

Except that I still have two sets of final exams and 2-1/2 sets of homeworks to grade, so I can turn in letter grades, which are theoretically due today.

Odo has been standing with his head in my lap, whistling and whimpering, for half an hour, so I'd better get dressed and walk the dogs.


hudebnik: (Default)

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