Category Archives: finances

Only Child asks: Is this good customer service? Part 1

Your customer service rep today

Customer service is becoming non-existent in my life if the past two weeks are any indication. Here is one of those real stories.

The Bank and the Safety Deposit Box

For 19 years I have had a safety deposit box at the same bank branch. The box’s location? Floor level. Not great for a senior with bad knees and bad feet and a bad temper when the first two act up.

So, I decided I would get the box changed to one higher up. Might as well get up in the world.

Well, pardon my knees – maybe I should have gotten down on them and screamed bloody murder.

No one at the bank branch seemed to know what the procedure was. First time near the end of the rental year for the floor box, when I went in about it, a teller told me to come in a few days before the actual fiscal year end. So I did and those who should know better were running around like the proverbial chicken with no head – except the chicken would score higher on the intelligence level.

The teller didn’t know but at least had the sense to check with Debbie, the Customer Service Manager. Debbie didn’t know how to close it either. Isn’t it her job to know the ins and outs of customer service? I was told that only the teller named Tina knew what to do and to come back the day it closes and she could do it all then.

It was beginning to sound like some secret ritual.

So I showed up the last day of the rental contract, the last day I could pay. Tina was there and transferred my payment from my chequing account. Tina tried to close the account and open a new one so the box could be moved.

The computer couldn’t do it. Tina said it would have had to be done a few days before and I said I did come in then but nobody knew what to do. She figured it would work on the Monday so said to come in then. Monday arrived and I was too busy with writing work (and dealing with other snafus – for another post), so decided to be courteous and call the branch and leave a message for Tina.

And ran into recorded voice mail hell. You can no longer just leave a voice mail message for someone at the bank branch. You get this female robot voice asking what you want – of course their less than pea-sized robotic brain has a limited number of what they will recognize. So the voice asked for my bank card number. Which I gave her. She said it wasn’t recognized and I immediately got back to square one when you call in.

I ended up calling the main line, complaining, and a very nice and smart representative named Dennis got me transferred to the branch…to Debbie, the customer service manager – oh excuse me, her voice mail. So I just left a message to pass along to Tina that I couldn’t come in today and was just calling as a courtesy. Tina called back shortly and I said I couldn’t come in before Friday but she wasn’t going to be in Friday. Friday is the only way this damn bank branch is open to 6 p.m. and I couldn’t see why I should steal from my work time to waste time at a bank because they don’t know what they are doing.

So I went in around 3 p.m. Thursday and got into the line. The manager, Vince, was walking by and I told him loudly all about my problem and that only Tina knew what to do to change safety deposit boxes, etc. etc. And that the others, particularly Debbie,  the customer service manager needed some retraining. He apologized – but I wasn’t impressed. He always comes across as an unintelligent jerk – a yes man who doesn’t listen. The previous bank manager, a woman, was so much smarter and helpful. She was quick to straighten out a mess one of her tellers made including writing the utility companies involved to tell them it was a teller’s error and I always pay my bills on time. But she’s not there and we are stuck with Vince and Debbie.

Tina did straighten everything out and I got my new safety deposit box at eye level. Tina also got my up-to-date email where  she said I would receive a survey. and I could tell what happened.

I expected the survey, but not a place to put everything.

The survey, not only had a place for comments about what happened, but asked the question “What would correct this situation?”

My answer? Get rid of Vince; retrain Debbie and train the rest of the staff.

Then I rated them: Tina A+, everyone else at the bank involved F-

Now when I go into the bank branch I’ll be looking to see if Vince is Gone Boy.

There are many more customer service snafu stories in the city of Toronto. Hang on – I’ll be writing more in upcoming posts. No one will be spared and sometimes I will name full names.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Actions Consequences, Banking, finances, Problems

CRA gives seniors short shrift

It used to be important to get your annual tax returns in on time. Then it could take up to six weeks to get your Notice of Assessment – to find out if you did your returns correctly and if you owed more or less or were getting a return. Not anymore. Now the CRA is saying to wait eight weeks.

But that’s not correct. A friend of mine who is a senior filed a few days before deadline and she just got her Notice the first week in July – that is one week later than eight weeks.

But my situation is worse. I had to phone the CRA customer service line and did so July 11. Here is my story.

I mailed my tax returns for 2016 on April 28 (our deadline was May 1, 2017 because April 30 was on a weekend). I sent the returns Priority Post with a signature required. They arrived on time and there was a signature. Because I tracked it online I was able to print out the signature before it disappeared at the site a few weeks later. I also had my mailing receipt from the sub-post office. So I had proof of filing on time,

Nothing had arrived in my mailbox and so July 11 I made my phone call. The customer service person was good. She checked and found that the last entry they had for my tax returns was that it had been inventoried as received the third week in May (three weeks after they received it). She suggested she do a Status Enquiry which is basically what it says  and is a reminder that the clerks who are checking the returns better get off their asses and go through the return. She said it could take up to four weeks and then I should get my N. of A. So I authorized her to do so.

Nothing happened for weeks. As the one month deadline approached, I again called the CRA customer service and the fellow there checked the status. My return and notice of assessment would be completed August 11 and then mailed to me.

August 11 is exactly one month after the Status Enquiry went in.

I received my N of A Tuesday, August 15. As I had figured out I owed no money and was getting nothing back – everything in that area is a big fat zero. I was a few dollars out in my calculations. But I am still living below the poverty line.

But the kicker is a lot of the extra seniors’ funds I get from both the federal and provincial government depends on this Notice of Assessment. No Notice of Assessment by mid-July and I don’t receive (if only temporarily): my Ontario Government Energy and property tax monthly grant payment, and from the Federals the quarterly HST/GST tax rebate, my Ontario Government Seniors Grant – a lump sum of $500. you can get once a year if you apply for it, which I did. I also lost the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) which with my low income I had become entitled to. And my Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors (provincial) ran out the end of July and I got notice I would have to re-apply because they hadn’t received my Notice of Assessment from the CRA. That was the same reason for the GIS stopping and I have to re-apply. I have re-applied for the drug plan – at least the application time deadline is the end of September. The rest I am supposed to get at some point in time. I still have my meagre Canada Pension Plan money and the actual Old Age Security payments coming in.

In the meantime, excluding the lump sum for seniors and the quarterly GST rebate, since July I have been receiving $500 less a month. Fortunately in July, two editing clients paid me installments for work I am doing so that has carried me over to mid-August. But the bills keep coming in including the big quarterly water and waste utility bill. I am not taking holidays this year – I can’t afford to travel.

Now, I’m living on a few hundred dollars until the next CPP/OAS payment the end of this month – plus all the other money I’m waiting for.

But I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m going to exhale all the way down to my federal MP’s office to complain. Clearly the timeline for CRA vis-a-vis seniors payments has to be extended if they can’t get the tax returns processed even within their own timelines.

So, I ask you: is the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) short changing seniors?

What do you think? Please comment.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 2016 and 2017, finances, Old Age pensions, Only child, Seniors

The beat goes on for Only Child’s problems

How Only Child feels about the latest problems.

If I thought all the excess happenings in my life I posted about last week were more than enough, I have now reached higher or lower (depending on how you see it) limits.

AND I DON’T LIKE IT:

Why? Because they steal from my time, cause much frustration and pain, an make me very angry.

Here are two to add to the long list.

Health – now it’s my feet causing me grief. True I have a common problem – hammer toes and bunions – partly inherited from my late mother and partly caused by a life-time foot situation-i.e. flat feet. But there is more to it than just that. I’ve had various degrees of this problem for years but the pain in the right foot is recent. It travels from toe to foot bottom to another toe and sometimes there is no pain. From yesterday the pain seemed to go down or be gone. But I’m not trusting that to be the end of it as there are still a few pain quirks.

Living on low income for years also contributed to it. Podiatrists’ services and their products are not covered by OHIP – the dwindling Ontario health insurance plan. Anyone who thinks Canada’ health insurance is great and universal, can think again. You have to have secondary health insurance for all the “extras” (which are really part of your overall health) and if like me you can’t afford the health insurance you are out of luck.

The other one is computer-related – sort of. It is okay to be learning as you go with a new Mac laptop (and my son got it for me – I’m paying him back) -that’s expected. I’m using the MacBook for Dummies 2016 version.

It’s when one of your social media accounts and some of the basics just won’t work. I’m referring to bloody Facebook where I have an author page. Suddenly I can’t post anything or create an event. Well I can type the info into the box but when I hit “post” nothing happens. Yet, so far my two blogs’ weekly posts are still streamlined automatically to my Facebook page from WordPress. But that’s WordPress, not Facebook. And trying to find someone in Customer Service to fill in a form for help to solve the problem, well good luck. I did post a question to the Facebook Help Centre – at least I think I did. Who knows if it actually got posted.

With WordPress, if I can’t find a solution in their Help Centre I fill out their help support form. And I get an answer within a few days. And the answers are  usually helpful.

These are just two of the never-ending problems I’m faced with (pun intended). In line with that and my cutting what I do actions I might just not make it to an event I was going to this evening. It is free but it starts at 6 p.m., and no it’s not dinner. I have client work to do today and after all this social media nonsense (to promote an event I’m involved in as an author), I need to spend some time after lunch doing this client’s work. The client has been so patient so far with all my health issues since the beginning of 2017 and also having to take time to do several rewrites of my new Beyond mystery novel Beyond Faith coming out this fall (Plug here). I do not mind doing the rewrites at the publisher’s suggestion. That is par for the course.

It’s all this health stuff and social media snafus I don’t like or accept.

I definitely don’t follow the old serenity prayer. I believe that if problems are shoved at you, you do two things: solve the problem and if the problem is caused by someone else, get after them. But I also believe we all get too many problems to deal with in life.

Which throws out another belief, i.e., God gives us only the number of crosses we can bear. Or something like that.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Facebook, finances, Health, Healthcare coverage, Life demands, mystery novels, Only child, Pain, Problems

Only Child – my health continues to eat my life

Saturdays are supposed to be days to relax – well maybe catch up on some errands and/or housework. But not for dealing with health issues. That is how I seem to spend most of my Saturdays and I end up cancelling right and left what I plan to do – including social comittments. At least my friend and I had decided (at the last minute) to go to Canada Blooms the other week on a Sunday.

Saturdays I drag myself around the house, trying to get some chores done, but lying down part of the time. If the weather is bad, I wouldn’t be doing errands anyway. But if I am to relax, to read, I want to feel good when I do. Not have aches and pains, etc. I do not want to be like my late mother in this way – constantly having lots of health problems and going to multiple doctors’ appointments simultaneously. At least my weight is now back up to normal – it went down on my abbreviated liquid and semi-liquid diets for a few days or so after both dental surgeries.

Except for the daily eyedrop dose for my glaucoma, and constantly dealing with IBS symptoms, I try to focus on one health issue at a time. This week it is my eyes – two appointments, the regular annual eye examination, one and half months late thanks to the dental issues. And the quarterly appointment with the eye specialist on Thursday.

I’m hoping both give me good reports, new glasses not needed this year (I can’t afford new ones anyway  – I’m still paying off dental bills and there are things that have to be repaired and replaced in and around the house this spring, which are not optional. Then there are the dreaded income taxes. Even living below or around the poverty level the government stills comes at you to pay taxes.) And also hoping the double-prescription eyedrops the specialist prescribed from a year ago, are still doing the job. That is one thing I make sure I do daily – squirt the eyedrops in my left eye.

But experience has taught me the hard way to not expect the best. When I do; when I take it for granted that things will be okay; when I go merrily along as if they will – SNAP – I GET A RUDE AWAKENING. Better to follow the Brownie motto – be prepared.

And shake my fist up at the sky.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, finances, God, Health, Health Seniors, Income Taxes, Life demands, Mother

Only Child on gratitude – for a change

Sometimes we get into overdrive in complaining about what’s wrong in our lives and the world – mea culpa here. But a few recent events and also some info learned have made me stop and think – hey, I do have some things to be grateful for. Below are a few.

One with a problem that could have escalated into a big roadblock. For a change I’ve started early doing my year end business accounting – all the adjustments and then seguing to tax returns. But one, the info sheet for tax credits hadn’t arrived – credits for travelling on public Toronto transit with my pass. Usually the info sheet arrives mid February – this year it hadn’t arrived by early March, so I called. The customer service lady said that they had just sent them out the previous Friday (which was March 3) so to give it a week. I gave it to yesterday afternoon so I could check my mailbox. Only a magazine and junk mail, so I called – it was five minutes after they closed for the day. For some reason I looked in the mailbox again a bit later – another magazine and the TTC tax credit list. But the envelope was date stamped February 27. Post office or pre-stamped at the TTC. Go figure. Just thankful it is here and I have all my tax slips.

I now have a new guy shovelling my snow when we get a lot – which we are now although a temporary lull right now. Also I have lots of people who for a reasonable price, will do repairs, etc. around the house. No one to clean the house – can’t afford that although with my dust allergy it would be a good idea to have someone to clean the house weekly.

The two tooth extractions (although not welcome or wanted) were successful. Now it is on to the next medical issue – annual eye testing and wondering what that will reveal.

My son’s US tour with his band Beams went very well on all counts. They had a work visa, so no border problems. They had great gigs, met a lot of interesting people and the weather, unlike now, was good all over – and they travelled through New York state, did gigs in Chicago, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Austen and Dallas. And their new van didn’t break down, although Martin flew home from Dallas because of work (his day job) commitments.

And after hearing stories from friends about their house and finance problems (sorry, what they are and who they are is confidential. Not my place to spread it around), I guess I’m somewhat lucky. Sure I still live below the poverty level (although that may show otherwise when I do my taxes), but I seem to know how to manage my money to suit my situation (so far; toes crossed).

Despite much juggling and bellyaching, I do like the life I have and what I like least I am endeavouring to cut back and/or eliminate doing. And I prioritize. That includes setting a timer every morning when I do email.

What are you grateful for?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Balance, Family and Friends, finances, Gratitude, Help and Support, Life Balance, Life demands, Life learning, Only child, Prioritizing

Only Child says: Run my life? Then live it

Only child stews about people's interferance

Only child stews about people’s interference

Lately so-called well-meaning friends and family have been telling me how to run my life. They have been using various tactics. Which got me thinking about the psychology of telling people what to do.

For one thing, the methods used make a big difference. And whether they are listening to what I am saying, or not saying. Many times I am just telling about the difficult times I have in my life. But I’m not asking for their advice – if I want their advice, I will ask for it. I think they are forgetting the prime “rule” for when someone confides in you. Listen emphatically; don’t give orders.

I think my son has it down pat what to do and what not to do. Certainly if I have a problem with computers and ask him, he will give advice and try to fix the problem. But otherwise…let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I was complaining about all the Toronto public transit subway closures on weekends and despite shuttle buses (which never can hold the high number of subway passengers), it can mess up you getting to where you need to go. All he said was “the TTC have to do the maintenance or they will have to shut down the whole system.”

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first how other family members have reacted.

This is the one that always gets my goat and I think I stumbled on a way to handle it.

I am talking about needing someone to do the weekly housecleaning and the like – not because I can’t physically do it, but because of my time (a lot of the housecleaning never gets done) and I just don’t like doing it and don’t do a good job. I add in I can’t get anyone to do it because I live below the poverty level for a single person living on my own. So the interference goes something like this:

Why don’t you move into a condo?

Me: Not enough space to garden and I don’t want someone living right on the other side of my walls. (And do they consider that no matter where you live, the place will need cleaning?)

Why don’t you sell the house (no reasoning about where I would move as the condo and the like has already been covered). You would get lots of money to live on for other things.

Then I throw out the kicker.

My ex-husband is half owner of the house.

The silence is palpable.

Back to my son. If you compare his answer to the house ones (and he has never said I should move out of my house), the difference is he offers a logical explanation for the problem but no advice. He doesn’t say something like  “deal with it” or “you should…”

So, I will step into the shoes of my so-called advisors with a word of advice.

When a friend or relative confides in you about a problem, unless they ask for your advice, don’t barge in with it.

Just listen emphatically. The person confiding may just need a listening ear at this point in time. In my case, as mentioned before, I do ask for advice and help – but I go to the people who can and/or should help – such as my handyman for house repairs and utility companies and governments  who caused the problem in the first place.

If you want to run my life, then you can live it – and that means doing all the things for me that you are suggesting including supplying the funds for them.

And do I really want that?

No. (The extra money needed from somewhere would be helpful, though).

How do you handle unwelcome advice from others? Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family and Friends, finances, Life demands, Living alone, Only child, Problems, The Art of Listening

Only Child says it’s back to school and business

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

The summer holidays are over and that makes me feel sad. Yes, I know there will be summer weather for at least another month, month and a half, but with school and work, there is a shift in the day. When I took a walk earlier this morning, the park I passed by was completely empty of people. Then from the school next to the park came a loudspeaker telling teachers and students to meet in the cafetorium – probably for classroom orientation.

I remember those days – the excitement and trepidation of returning to school – grade school it was internally smelling the pencils and books (I know back in the grey ages when we were spared all this digital business) and in high school some trepidation about new classes and new teachers. The latter with good reason. In the auditorium for grade 10 I found out that the typing classes I and many others had signed up for as an option were cancelled for us and we were stuck with cooking and sewing. Most of us didn’t like the cooking teacher and the sewing teacher was well, okay. But I needed to learn to type and I could learn cooking and sewing from my mother.

Fast forward to way too many years and I am being crowded by the “to-do” list – both mental and written. The writing, editing, writing instruction, book promo and the like do create some problems and it can get hectic, but this is what I love to do. Extra house repairs, including getting an eavestrough (yes, one eavestrough) repaired or replaced is now back on the agenda. In early spring I started getting quotes but became discouraged when one of the contractors came to my door to take a looksee and give a quote and the first thing he said was “I’m 72 and I don’t climb up on roofs.” Well, send somebody who does. His quote was way up there for just one eavestrough replacement. I was also discouraged by some eavestrough contractors who won’t replace just one eavestrough. I also had to get some trees hanging over my roof pruned way back as well as the recovering juniper trimmed back so I was also getting quotes from arborists.

Overkill in work to be done. And as my limited finances wouldn’t handle both, it was the trees that won out.  Now I’m focusing on the eavestrough with the hopes that it will get done by mid-October and I can afford it. Yes, I know, should have had quotes during the summer, but I was busy with the garden (by choice – something I love), editing and writing clients (ditto), getting other stuff outside and inside fixed, and dealing with trying to get the money I was owed. One client, in particular screwed up with half of the payment and the other was the government payments to us seniors that start up again after we file our taxes. Well the Notice of Assessment came back in pretty good time but the other – let’s just say the government took a month to get back into the swing of paying. Which was about a month better than that one errant client.

So, it’s back to the eavestrough business and other fall stuff like checking my heating protection plan renewal and booking a furnace cleaning. But also my garden – lots of vegetables and herbs to bring in and eat and process – just started collecting some of the oregano and drying it in the dehydrator. And of course my writing and editing and the writing groups I belong to starting up again.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Sharon wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

Only Child wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

 

Onl

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, finances, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Only child, September, to do list