29 December 2008

What's a Doctor's Appointment Without Abject Terror?

Today marked my most recent biannual check-up. A fun time was had by all. Oh wait, that's completely wrong. It all started when the doctor said:

"I found a polyp."

"A what?"

"Nurse, hand me the long evil metal thing."

"What's a polyp?"


"WHAT'S A POLYP?!?! Oh my god you just yanked that giant wad of puss off?"



"It's benign, but I'll send it to the lab anyway."



Tra la la, time to leave. To the receptionists' desk, where I get to bask in the glory of a $0 copay!

"Am I free to go?"

"Well, the charge is going to be a bit more than you probably were expecting."

"How big a bit?"

"You can pay half now, half later. Or we can work something out."

"You're kidding, right? Are you unable to grasp what half of zero is?"

Oh fine. I said something slightly more reasonable.

"Uh, how much?"

"Your total is six hundred."

"What! For what!"

*reading noises*


"SIX HUNDRED dollars for what took about twenty seconds?"

"Actually, it comes out to six hundred ten."

"Oh, well that's much better. Sigh. I'll just pay the whole thing now. At least I'll get $6.10 back from Citi."

*credit card processing noises*

"Oh, I almost forgot! Do you validate?"

"Sorry, no."

Heathens! They charge $10,800 per hour, then make me pay for my own damn parking? That's when I gained a few hundred pounds of green muscle and started throwing pregnant women around the reception area. Or I calmly walked to the elevator. I can't exactly remember, but I'm sure it was epic.

15 December 2008

Fluffier Than Gerbils

In honor of our shiny, new master bathroom (which damn well better be done when I get home, or doom will ensue), new towels were deemed necessary. I'll just ignore that new towels would have been acquired regardless since these stupid ones from Bed Bath & Beyond are decaying. But anyway...

With 27 coupons and a Macy*s card in hand, it was off to Century City Mall with us. And then to The Grove after we discovered that Century City Macy*s doesn't have a home department. After much ado, we agreed on sage Hotel Collection Microfiber Cotton (or some other equally marketing-induced style name). Two bath sheets, two bath towels, two hand towels, we're good!

At the counter, I tormented the cashier by breaking up the towels into three separate purchases for coupon maximization. Aren't you proud Mom? Everything was okay, on a relative scale, until we reached the car. According to the receipt, we had paid for seven towels. Odd, considering we had very carefully checked the towels brought to the register twice. Digging through the shopping bags revealed that we had indeed bought seven. Well, an extra bath towel is probably a good thing to have on hand, so we should just keep it. You'll note that it was a highly rational decision having nothing to do with puking at the thought of having to spend one more second in the 3rd floor Cellar.

What do new towels do? Lint! Into the washer they went, so we'd have nice and reasonably lint-free towels for the master bathroom grand opening. That's when I noticed I had cut off eight tags. That's interesting. A second recount revealed that there were, in fact, four bath towels. The only logical conclusion? The cashier was a former election official from Miami-Dade.

08 December 2008

With Regards to Lippert

Mom: I originally used the aol "you got mail" wav for my work email. Unfortunately, my boss thought I was looking at personal stuff .. the only way I could prove it was to receive mail in her presence ... Then I changed the wav ... to george carlin. that lasted about 10 minutes ... even I was annoyed by his voice. settled on rosie o'donnell
me: so george carlin annoyed you in 10 minutes, but rosie is fine?
Mom: his wav is VERY LOUD!!!!

01 December 2008

And We'll Need Your Entire Medical History Too

With nightly news reports on identity theft and stolen credit cards, people are understandably paranoid about it happening to them. Consumers are buying commercial grade shredders, checking their monthly statements with a new-found rigor, and paying attention to their credit reports and scores. But some are taking it too far when it comes to IDs and credit cards.

Many stores routinely ask for government issued ID from customers paying by credit card. Unfortunately, they are not only putting their customers at a greater risk, but they are opening themselves up fines from the credit card companies. According to the Visa Merchant Agreement (page 34) and the MasterCard Merchant Agreement (page 48), retailers are not allowed to make identification a requirement for paying by credit card. Exceptions are made for specific situations where required by law, namely age-restricted purchases. So, while state and federal laws may not prohibit requiring identification, the merchants signed contracts in which they agreed to not require it. (Note: There is a difference between asking for and requiring). And like all good contracts, there are repercussions for violations. In this case, they are fines in the range of thousands of dollars.

You'd think that the imminent threat of a $3000 fine would be enough, but most merchants never have had the pleasure of experiencing one. On the other hand, they've had the experience of chargebacks due to both fraud and unsatisfied customers. And that's where this whole ID required fiasco came from - thieves won't have ID that matches the credit cards they stole, so there won't be any more fraudulent card usage. Wouldn't that be a nice world to live in.

Credit card thieves can be split into two groups. This first consists of pickpockets and other criminals steal physical cards, where the goal is to use the card as fast as possible before it is reported stolen. Those credit cards typically come from a wallet, right next to government issued ID! But the picture won't match, you say. Well, yeah, a teenage girl isn't going to get away with using a 60 year old man's license. But what if people who look similar to the thief are targeted? Oops.

The second group houses the organized crime rings that buy lists of credit card numbers or acquire them on their own. Fake credit cards are made with the real numbers and names for use in retail stores. Guess what? They can also make driver's licenses! For the extra super bonus, the real user still has his card, so the number is yet to be reported stolen. More oops.

Moving right along, retailers like to claim that it protects card holders since they won't have to deal with the fraudulent charges if their credit card gets stolen. If it doesn't protect merchants, then it certainly doesn't protect the customers. In fact, it actually opens customers to a world of new problems.

If you search for cases of store clerks stealing credit card info, usually by skimming, you'll find more than enough cases to prove to yourself that it is real. If someone was stealing your credit card number, would you want to offer them more information? Or what if they just wanted to know where you were taking that shiny new 978" LCD television? I sincerely hope not. Yet people willingly hand over their driver's license.

As consumers, every one of us has a tangible investment in limiting our individual exposures to credit card fraud and other evils of the modern world. Keeping our addresses and driver's license numbers out of the prying eyes of unscrupulous sales clerks is just one of many measures everyone should take to protect themselves.