Archive for October, 2009

Rambling about money and the assholes at Freakonomics

October 20th, 2009 No comments

A long time ago on an email list I rarely visit any more someone I didn’t like said because he was stupid said something unusually profound. This was one of those dipshits that put “school of hard knocks” in places that asked him where he went to college, but he did pull this out of somewhere.

Money is energy.

Think about that for a second in relation to all the things people say money is. It’s not power, it’s not happiness, it’s just energy. Along with oxygen, calories and electricity it’s one of the things we need to run our lives. It’s a good way to keep money in perspective. How much energy do I need? How much surplus could I use? Too many calories and you get fat, too much electricity and you’re probably starting a fire. Even oxygen is poisonous in some circumstances, admittedly ones only a few people will ever experience. But some people just don’t think that way.

I learned at my last office job, people who are about money are bad people. Not “tend to be”, not “are likely to be” but “are”, bad people. This was brought home to me, well, first a little background. At this point I was a data entry clerk at a company that did yada yada yada with securities and blah blah blah with lawsuits. At the time I was one of the faster typers and there was a case this would be useful in.

In California somewhere there was a Mexican immigrant who was a janitor. He moved to America and got a job and if the Mexicans I’ve worked with are any indication he worked his fucking ass off. He saved his money and he invested his money. This janitor had a stock broker and that stock broker, probably thinking he was dealing with some stupid brown person, began writing himself checks off his customer’s account. I don’t know all the details but I was told to put aside whatever I was working on and enter this data because that particular individual was in the custody of the FBI and would be trading his suspenders for orange coveralls and the sodomy-victim-to-be’s employer needed to know how much they were going to have to return to the janitor. Hopefully it didn’t end there. That was only the most egregious instance I saw at that job, where dealing with the aftermath of retirees’ life savings having been dropped into dotcoms was a regular occasion.

All this lead me to decide money people are bad people. I’ve yet for this to be disproven, and people trying to buy their way into heaven via charity don’t count (*cough*Bill Gates*cough).

That’s the prologue, here’s the text.

When going back to school to learn a trade I had for some God damned reason to take Psych 101, which I quickly named Shite 101. The instructor was a big fan of a book called Freakonomics, which applied economic principles to just about everything. I wasn’t really listening to him, Psych 101 at that point had yet to do anything of value (and wouldn’t) but he kept talking about this book so it stuck.

I still haven’t read the book, but I do subscribe to the NY Times RSS feed of the Freakonomics blog. I’ve never put much stock into economics as its own discipline. When trying to explain stock prices to someone I came up with “consensual mass hallucination” and at the point decided that economics is properly regarded as a subset of psychology, probably mob psychology. But I didn’t think much about that again until a Freakonomics blog entry (or maybe a quote in their Wikipedia page) said that economics is “the study of incentives”. Yeah, that made sense. That fit both everything economists said about themselves and everything I’d seen their work actually. Maybe, I thought, just maybe there was something to this economics stuff after all. Maybe these guys are okay. Ah, to be innocent again.

Not too long ago the blog started talking about bribery as a legitimate tool in various things (NBA players bribing referees to resolve their labor dispute was one example I remember). If you have to explain to someone why bribery is bad, there’s just no saving that person. Better to abandon them in the woods when wolves are hungry or bear cubs are leaving their dens.

Then I saw this article on The AV Club. The gist is that the new Freakonomics book, Super Freakonomics, well, I’ll relay the quote from The AV Club.

So the real puzzle isn’t why someone like Allie becomes a prostitute, but rather why more women don’t choose this career.


No, let me spell that out.

Oh my fucking God.

So, Stephen and Steven, what’s IN that part of you where empathy used to live? Is part of getting an economics degree installing a door so you can just put that inconvenient bit of yourself in a drawer or does that piece of paper just rip your fucking soul out? Is there a genetic component to this, because let’s start selecting against it. Or is this just part of the evil inherent in humanity? This isn’t an idle, philosophical question. People educated in ways functionally identical (debates over freshwater vs. saltwater economics are like picking between being stabbed or shot) to these worthless bastards are the ones really making decisions in America today.

True, the writers of Super Freakonomics are guys and the writer of that AV Club article is a woman, but this isn’t a battle of the sexes topic. I’m entirely with Amelie Gillette on this one. Economics isn’t the study of incentives, it’s the study of how far people will debase themselves. If you need that explained to you, well, go play with that cute baby bear. His mom will be along shortly and the world will be a better place soon.


Financial update (or, fuck you, #chasebank, part 2)

October 19th, 2009 1 comment

I closed my Chase savings account and joined a credit union with it. I’m in the process of ridding my life of Chase, the next step is closing my primary checking account. I’m gonna make sure my unemployment insurance is all switched over before I do that. I learned the hard way that when you change your deposit info with the Employment Department they put direct deposit on hold and send you a paper check while they make sure all the new info is kosher. It took me a few days to determine that. Silly me.

Next step is closing my bills checking account, but I gotta make sure my krav maga direct payments are sorted, so that might take a month.

I also have to transfer my IRA to the credit union. I’ll start that when I go in next time, for whatever that is. I need to start an interest bearing savings account and decide if I’m going to do the two checking accounts thing or not. I got checks on my interest bearing, ATM fee refunding checking account, which was a silly thing to do if I’m gonna run a second checking account for bills. I’ll probably try to keep everything straight in one checking account, which would have prevented this whole mess. Still it’s a good thing to not have a fucking commercial bank looking to screw you every chance it gets in your life.

So, fuck you, Chase. :-)

Other news, my permanent license came already (wtg, DMV) and I’m working on getting my EPA certification to buy refrigerants. With that I can get a refrigeration repair gig. I’d rather babysit (building maintenance) but there’s more money in service.

Okay, go outside and play now. It’s raining. :-)


Well, that was weird….

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

I got a response to a resume on Monday. It was a hotel maintenance job which I’m not really enthusiastic about because hotels typically don’t pay for shit. Which kinda sucks because hotels (you’ll note I didn’t say “hospitality”) is probably the industry I have the most experience in and the environment I’m one I’m generally interested in because, y’know, the asshole customers leave.

So the response was an email asking me to call the guy, the head tech or chief engineer or whatever, on his cell. I complied but the message said he was on vacation and didn’t give me the option of leaving a voice mail. Not a great sign. So I reply to the email, blah blah blah.

He calls this morning, wants to know where I’m at, what I’m looking for, all that jazz. At some point, in the midst of complaining that people in the NW are too laid back and more interested in the not working parts of their lives than in the working parts (more on that later) he mentions they want someone who can move up. Which causes alarm on my end because, well, I think most of you know me, or have met me, do I seem like management material to you?

So I work in to my end that I’m not interested in climbing the corporate ladder. That catches his attention and he asks me to expand on the theme. Well, sir (I didn’t say that, of course), all I want from a job is 40 hours a week (although if you want to give me some time and half I’ll take it), regular paychecks (hopefully every other week) and for it to leave me the fuck alone. Admittedly maintenance was kind of a bad choice for that last as someone’s usually on call.

But what I don’t want from a job is to deal with other people’s bullshit. Including the HR department, performance reviews, discipline and budgets and whiners. And meetings. Oh, shit do I ever want to minimize meetings. So, no promotions for me, thank you. I work, you pay me, the end.

I paraphrase that to him, of course. He then says they’re looking for someone who wants all that, so thanks for your interest blahblahblah, see ya later.

WTF? What was all that about? Were they really hiring for an assistant manager?? What bullshit. The pay was merely bad, not insulting like some (I was once offered the grand sum of nine dollars an hour for a hotel gig), but the line earlier about people in the northwest being too laid back is what really makes me think I wouldn’t have been about working for this guy/company. Why wouldn’t I be more interested in the leisure part of my life than the working part? An employer is someone who pays you because they have to, if they could find a way to do away with a body they will. So fuck them. The gold watch and pension mentality has left their end so the work ’til you drop mentality has sure as fuck left mine.




October 10th, 2009 No comments

Heed!, originally uploaded by JW Doom.

The sign lays it out, homes.


Trials and tribulations with #chase #bank

October 7th, 2009 4 comments

Yesterday I get an email that my account is overdrawn. I look online and see that I wrote a check for rent and forgot to transfer in the money to cover it. My bad. I freely admit my error and was fully expecting to be hit with a fee.

This morning I get an email that my account is overdrawn. I’d covered the transfer and I had about $13 left in my account, of which I spent about $10 last night but my unemployment insurance direct deposit should have hit. Confused, I go to the website. My balance is around $200, about half what it should be on dole day. I click to see account activity.

$136 overdraft fee.

One hundred thirty six dollar overdraft fee.

After I get over staring at my iPhone in shock I of course get angry. By the time I get home to my iMac where I can click the link (there’s a digression there about the Chase website, I’ll put it at the end) I’ve got a pretty good head of steam built up. Then I see that it’s rather four overdraft fees for four overdrawn transactions. Each one helpfully listed.

Three of these were not overdrawn yesterday. Because I looked. I monitor my bank activity pretty closely via the Chase website and these three transactions were already on my account when the rent check was processed (the rent check itself is the fourth overdrawn transaction). Today when I look, sure enough, every transaction within a day is now sorted in descending order by amount.

Which comes to one of the big screws of commercial banking. Chase, at least, processes big transactions first. Which they say is because big transactions are more likely to be important, car payments, rent, etc and it’s more important those go through. Baloney! When have bankers ever really cared about their customers’ convenience? Where did the term “banker’s hours” come from, because banks fall over themselves to help us out? Horse puckey! It’s so they can ding you for fees by overdrawing the account with big transactions first, then hitting you every time you get coffee or a beer or a taco. They know a lot of people lead cash-free lives and they work it for their bonuses and stock price. They also know this is b.s., because they’re stopping it. Some time next year.

So Chase is keeping $136. As I indicated above, I’m unemployed. Unemployment insurance has an expiration date and the job market in Portland is famously bad. I can’t just cover things out of savings when some day those savings might be all that’s keeping me from homelessness, or living with Mom again. All of this was caused in large part by Washington Mutual, now a part of Chase Bank! The screw has now come full circle.

Now another corporate screw, which goes beyond banks. The only way I’m going to get any satisfaction is to yell at some CSR. I hate yelling at front line employees. Give me a manager or partner, someone with authority and I’ll vocally add proverbial orifices to their body and smile afterward. But of course they hide behind their probably literally poor, overworked, overstressed pawns.

But they’re not keeping over a quarter of my weekly income. So I formulate a plan. First, I’d been a customer of WaMu for a long time, and I’ve stuck with Chase. I deserve better treatment than this. Second, three of these fees were because of your accounting shenanigans. The damage is far beyond my fault. Now, I want some of the fees refunded or I’m gone. I’m not going to argue, I’m not going to debate. Fix it, or you’ve got one less customer maintaining a decent balance. If you can’t do that, give me to someone who can.

It turns out Chase has a “goodwill” fee refund policy. What. The. (expletive deleted)? They know they’re screwing us, so they’ve come up with a policy to throw us a bone! But no more than once every twelve months. This “goodwill” refund is up to $70. I’d set my price at $100, but like I said I hate yelling at CSRs so I waffled and took it. I wonder now if that was planned, if they hired some shrink to ask how to defuse people like me.

But there’s more. Because of their fee I was overdrawn again, even with my UI direct deposit (I can’t see on their site what times those transactions came in but who wants to guess they process fees before deposits?). So there are more fees coming. The CSR couldn’t reverse a fee that hadn’t been assessed yet, so I have to call back tomorrow to take care of that. When I do I must talk to a supervisor because I’ve already used my goodwill refund and the CSR admitted whoever I get tomorrow will go to some lengths to avoid escalating my call.

I hate banks. I hate corporations. I hate corporate banks.

Okay, the website digression. Chase’s website sucks. There’s no way to get additional information about particular transactions from the site. WaMu’s website (which was also bad) had it, the description of each line item was a hyperlink. It didn’t give a lot of information, but you could get some. Chase, nothing. Except for on checks and overdraft fees.

This might not be specific to the website, but I hate the way Chase does transactions, particularly ones with tips. WaMu would list such transactions as pending until they’d been finally processed by the merchant with the tips included. With some merchants this could take over a week, but WaMu showed it as incomplete until the merchant said, okay, I’m done.

Chase shows them as finalized, then goes back to adjust the amount when the tip comes through. Which, okay, who thought that was a good idea? You can’t monkey with transaction balances after they’ve been posted!!! What kind of audit trail is that? You fail bookkeeping forever! Good bye.


Nice try, dick target

October 3rd, 2009 4 comments

Warning: pictures of my lop sided face with attempts at facial hair behind this link.
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