Tag 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

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 – that’s a wrap for 2016

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and me

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and me

2016 may go down as the year many people came to hate, or at least dislike. From friends and family, what I see and read about, and yes, my own experiences, show this to be the case. It wasn’t all bad, so 2016 can’t be completely dissed as other years have (such as 2013 with both a flooded heavy rainstorm and an ice storm in Toronto and surrounding areas. A friend of mine in Toronto had her power go out for days for both storms). But that’s the prognosis in some news reports, even this one which is on the sarcastic side.

We had the best summer this year weather-wise and otherwise. The gardens were gorgeous. And let’s not forget the winter of 2015-2016 – mostly in January to March 2016. Little snow and only a couple of days the end of March with mixed precipitation and yes, some water got in my basement one of those days. This winter it has been too much snow so far, although the rain yesterday got rid of most of it, albeit some places in Toronto were flooded and/or had sewage back up into their basement (yeck). Here, I was lucky, but then I do raise my fist up to the sky to you-know-who. We had freezing rain before that, but I’m not even sure that happened in Toronto because when I woke up it was light rain. Places like Guelph and Kitchener, Ontario did get the freezing rain (for a few hours – all melted when the temperatures rose to 10 Celsius). But kids were skating on the streets of Guelph.

Health hasn’t been good for some of us. I have the tooth problem – the extraction coming up in January. But worst is I lost a close friend, Tanya from next door, to cancer in February. Now, one of my cousins has cancer of the lungs (like Tanya) and bone cancer. And like with Tanya, the damn doctors messed up with a misdiagnos, so treatment started later rather than sooner. I’m glad I got the chance to have dinner with her (and several other cousins) in August when I visited in the area and this cousin sat beside me so we could chat. I hope it is not the last time I see her.

Besides the summer weather and gardens, there have been some good things in my life. My going blind possibility seems to have been stopped thanks to the wonderful ophthalmologist I see on a regular basis and the double-prescription drops she prescribed. I am now officially living below the poverty level, but I now qualify for 100 % coverage with the Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors. Good thing, as the drops cost $72 for a very small container. And who knows what the oral surgeon will prescribe when I get the tooth out.

And my son, Martin and his girlfriend, Juni, I am very thankful for them. We had a wonderful Christmas afternoon and evening together, exchanging presents, chatting and catching up and of course eating (not necessarily in that order), despite the two of them having colds – which Martin warned me about when we talked on the phone before they came over. They were careful when sneezing and did a lot of hand washing.

And Martin is giving me the Mac Laptop I want and need. He has ordered it, so the note with their Christmas card said. It won’t arrive until late January. I will have to pay for some of it to get it as part of my business. But we will work that one out – after the dental crap is over with.

As for 2017, I will go into more detail about that in next week’s post. With dental surgery, the guy who has been shovelling my snow going AWOL (so to speak) from it this year after eight oor nine years of service, and of course, the winter weather and finances, who knows? I will be making many changes throughout 2017 and will try to follow what Martin wrote in their Christmas card.

“Let 2017 begin with optimism and promise.”

And that’s what I wish for all of you, too.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 2016 and 2017, cancer, Christmas, Gifts, God, Health, Help and Support, Only child, Winter Weather

Only Child’s health is eating her life -literally

Only child contemplates new health issue

Only child contemplates new health issue

Again with apologizes to Elizabeth Verwey (whose book is titled “My Business Ate My Life”) for my title above. Elizabeth’s book deals with workaholic entrepreneurs. My title refers to my health or lack of good health.

I now have another big health problem, although if all goes well when it is supposed to (hah! hah!) it is temporary. This one is dental, starting with pain and pressure in a lower molar on Sunday. This is the molar the dentist just filled in with a new big filling in February of this year to replace the one he did in 1999 that was falling out.

Definitely not right or fair but not much seems to be right or fair in my life this year. I saw my dentist yesterday afternoon and yes he said I have two options, root canal or have the tooth extracted. The conversation right after went something like this.

Me: :”I would rather kill myself than have a root canal.”

Dentist:”I guess you’ve made your choice.”

Me: “Any possibility of more fillings?”

Dentist: “No because the cavity has gotten into the nerves in the root so fillings wouldn’t work.”

And in case the above conversation makes my dentist come across as mean, he is definitely not. He is very understanding and he said the above kindly and quietly. We discussed the problem further. The upshot is that they don’t do root canals or surgery and I would have to see a specialist – which I should have known as I had to see a specialist in the early 1980s to remove an abscessed wisdom tooth. This one isn’t abscessed yet and I’m pouring on Oil of Cloves as necessary.

So, I have to see a specialist – an oral surgeon. One of the ones they reference is only one short bus ride from me and my dentist says the doctor is sympathetic to those using social services. I reminded him that I am not on social services, just have limited income. He said this dentist would still be sympathetic to my situation. We agreed early January for the surgery (pending getting an appointment for it. What do you want to bet that won’t be possible?). He gave me the specialist’s business info sheet and said I was to call him to book an appointment and then he would send them the x-ray he had just taken of the offending and offensive tooth. I thought the first part odd – don’t dentists do the calling to specialists and the booking? That is what happened in the 1980s. He also waived charging me for the x-ray and for my visit yesterday. “We were just chatting.” I could have afforded the low rate he was charging me for the x-ray but was still in shock about the necessary surgery.

Anyway I said I’d call the specialist’s office this week, thanked him and wished him a merry xmas.

So, supposing I get to this specialist in early January and the surgery goes well (big assumption and big presumption), there is still the problem of travel. Getting there by bus should be okay, but these specialists (as my dentist told me and as I remember from the 1980s) want you to have someone to drive you home afterwards because it is surgery and you do get drugged and get the freezing.

That might be a problem. Back in the 1980s, a first cousin once removed took me there and back (several trips because of the abscess) and I believe she even stayed over at my place in Aurora for a day or so afterwards. This cousin, whom I loved and was close to, died 12 years ago.

I am a senior on my own and while I do have friends, most of them don’t drive. Hey, it’s Toronto and we have public transit, such as it is (and don’t get me on that for this post). Two of my friends in Toronto, both near me geographically, do drive. Both have their own lives. One looks after a grandson once a week plus does other things on other days. The other one has her own health issues – knee problems requiring physical therapy twice a week. The third friend with a car lived next door – Tanya, the friend who died from cancer in February. I still miss her and not because she used to drive me occasionally to get heavy stuff – like garden soil).

So my choice of days to make an appointment is limited. I’m presuming because this oral surgeon is a specialist, there won’t be much choice and as there are others in the practice, he may not even work every day, although I thought I heard my dentist mention that they have Saturday hours. Good luck getting an appointment for then.

My son drives but has no car – he leases occasionally. I will see if he would be available. UPDATE. MY SON JUST EMAILED ME BACK AND HE WILL GET A CAR AND PICK ME UP AFTER MY DENTAL APPOINTMENT. FAMILY IS BEST.

Otherwise, I will take public transit home, no matter what state I’m in. Cabs are out of the question – not just for costs, but I will not be in any condition to call a cab afterwards and pre- booking won’t work as there is no guarantee about how long the surgery would take. I know this from personal experience – mine and others.

I may just have to lie and say a friend will come to pick me up and then afterwards “Oops, guess she couldn’t make it.” What are they going to do about it after the fact? Drive me home?

Even though I dread it and wish it wasn’t necessary, I will get the surgery done and in early January if I have any say in the matter. But as most things in life (mine, anyway), seeing is believing. That’s something I have learned from very hard experience.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dental Surgery, Family and Friends, Health, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Life demands, Uncategorized

Only Child on seniors health and poverty living

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

It doesn’t matter where you live – if you are a senior living in poverty, you can bet your health will suffer and can be worse than if you have money. I’m not saying that being wealthy prevents cancer or heart disease. There are certainly many other factors weighing in here.  But I am saying that if you live below the poverty level, there are many age-related medical conditions that could be stopped or at least improved if you could just afford to pay for them.

So much for universal health care. That is a myth, even in Canada and Great Britain which are supposed to have health care coverage. I live in Ontario, Canada, and over the last few years, what is covered by our provincial health care plan (OHIP) has shrunk. Here is a summarized list of what is NOT covered by OHIP from the official site.

Services NOT Covered by OHIP

  • Ambulance transportation services if not deemed medically necessary (maximum cost of $240).
  • Routine eye examinations for people between the ages of 19 and 65.
  • Glasses and contact lenses.
  • Some physiotherapy may be partially covered or not at all.
  • Routine dental services such as examinations, fillings, cleanings and non-surgical extractions.
  • Podiatrists are only partially covered by OHIP.
  • Paramedicals such as chiropractors, massage therapists, naturopaths, podiatrists, acupuncturists and osteopaths.
  • Necessary emergency medical treatment obtained outside of Canada (e.g. while traveling) is only covered on a very limited basis; it is highly recommended to have travel insurance protection if traveling outside of Canada. Out of province ambulance costs are not covered.
  • Prescription drugs, although assistance MAY be available (see below).
  • Any cosmetic surgery.
  • Semi-private and private rooms in a hospital.

– See more at: https://www.healthquotes.ca/OHIP-Ontario.aspx#sthash.pbM8hhZK.dpuf

But not included in this generalized list are some blood tests, such as tests for Vitamin D deficiency and Candida (the latter was covered until the early 2000s). Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem, especially in winter, when there is less sun to be exposed to, something I found out the hard way nearly five years ago. And no, I didn’t go to a doctor’s about it or I would have been hit with the cost of a blood test. I did my research online and figured the extreme pain in my leg bones wasn’t arthritis (pain wasn’t in the joints but in the calf bones) was Vitamin D deficiency. So after a few weeks of massive daily doses of Vitamin D, the pain went away. Now, starting in November and until at least the end of April, I take very large doses of Vitamin D, daily.

Which brings me to something else not covered by healthcare – Vitamins, Minerals and other supplements that not only aid in your health, but in some cases get rid of the health problem. Most months what I spend on food is in a “race” with health supplements for highest amount spent.

And yes, there are private drug plans, but if you live below or near the poverty level, you just can’t afford them. Who says Canada doesn’t have a two-tier health plan? It is just not the usual definition of a two-tier health plan.

However, those of us who live below the poverty level in Ontario, have some government help with the Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors – you get all prescriptions free and waive any druggist fee. The down side is you have to re-apply each year based on your Net Income as filed and assessed by Canada Revenue, If you are living a bit above the poverty in Ontario, you  might get partial help, i.e. pay the first $100 for prescriptions, then after that pay a nominal druggist fee for filling the prescription. Again, it is set-up as an annual thing based on your income. So living in poverty (for the next year) guarantees me no prescription costs for my eye drops – absolutely necessary or my left eye will go blind.

And being over 65, I now don’t pay for any visits to my ophthalmologist and optometrist. But I do pay for glasses. Which is why I kicked up a big fuss when I had to have replacement sunglasses because the original ones had a broken connection to the glasses, just over a year old. Not only was this particular glasses style no longer made, the one-year warranty was up. So full price here. No wonder I complained to the store (Hudson’s Bay Optical) manager and he credited me with half the cost.

No wonder I have very bad feet problems. No wonder I am cranky a lot.

Speaking of poverty levels. There is a big gap in what is considered the poverty level for singles living alone in Ontario, Canada and the United States.

In the United States:

“Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($29,425 per year for a single person).” See Economic Security for Seniors Facts.

Compare that with Ontario’s $19,330

These are both annual incomes.

I’ll be covering more on Seniors and poverty in future posts.

Comments, please. I would also like to hear from those living outside Canada and outside the United States.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Health, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Only child, Poverty, Seniors, Vitamin D Deficiency