Coffee heat rising

Networking: Time Is Money?

So…yesterday I schlepped out to Tolleson, a far-flung suburb of shiny new elbow-to-elbow styrofoam-and-stucco housing tracts, to attend a meeting of the West Valley Writer’s Workshop.

This is a pretty good group, as hobbyist groups go, because its members are not all rank amateurs: Gale Leach, Ellen Buikema, Dharma Kelleher, Laura Kirwan, and this amazing guy whose name I don’t recall but who made himself a national name with his personal narrative/science book on the heart-lung transplant he managed to survive — all of these redoutable people and then some are very bright and competent writers with skills at a professional level.

This makes for an unusual writer’s group; normally these little clubs are full of people who have no clue what they’re doing, telling other people who do not know what they’re doing what they should do.

I haven’t attended for several months, because — truth to tell — I’ve developed such an aversion to driving in the Valley’s homicidal traffic that I haven’t been able to force myself to make the traipse. It’s an hour’s drive each way, unless you’re willing to drive on the freeway, in which case the drive (one-way) is 40 minutes. But I will no longer drive on the I-10, period: it’s just too damn dangerous. That highway is utterly unpatrolled. The only time you see a cop down there is when he’s cleaning up a wreck. Of which there are a-plenty. I’ve been cruising across that freeway at 80 mph and had people pass me like I was going 45. And half the drivers around here are either yapping on the phone or intoxicated on booze or drugs. Or stupidity: one could come to believe stupidity is itself an intoxicant.

The surface streets aren’t much better: on the way out there yesterday, I missed a wreck by about eight feet. But a crash at 40 miles an hour is a helluva lot more survivable than a crash at 80 miles an hour.

BUT…. But one of my current clients was a direct referral from Gale. This is a guy who did not even blink at my present per-word rate…something for which I was exceptionally grateful when the China Trade collapsed around my ears. I now have two book authors as clients, each of whom is paying enough to keep baby in shoes for awhile. So I figure I should trick out a flyer (done!), print out about 40 of  ’em (done!), staple my business cards to the things (done!), and schlep them over there today to hand out to the eager wannabe writer masses.

Bob, the passionately dedicated guy who runs the thing, has no objection to shameless marketing, so when I arrive, I put a flyer at each seat along the assembled desks. This is good. I guess. Maybe.

But…except…but

Yeah, but none of the usual suspects are there! Well, except for Bob, who emcees. Not only are none of the named talents present, neither are any of the other budding but highly creditable lights!

In their absence, this get-together devolves into a meeting of a more typical wannabe writer’s club: a lot of folks who have no idea what they’re doing advising other people who have no idea about what to do.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m too cynical? Okay, get this: one guy wanted to know how he could copyright his name, lest someone steal his by-line!

No. I kid you not. That was not a joke.

These meetings go on for three hours: noon to 3:00 p.m. Along about 1:30, I begin to wonder if there’s some way I can slip out unnoticed. Not a chance, of course. There’s not even a bathroom break that I could use to claim I have appendicitis and must away to the emergency room.

Finally, a little early (ten minutes to three), the meeting breaks up, and I fly out the door. Speaking of the which, it takes a full hour door-to-door to get back to the Funny Farm.

Was traipsing across the city to hand out 15 or 20 flyers worth the time and effort? Highly dubious. If you figure my hourly rate at right around $60 — which I think is about right — schlepping out there, sitting around, and schlepping back home cost me three hundred dollars! While it was indeed lovely to meet new people and excellent to see the redoubtable Bob in action again, I very much doubt that the five hours sunk into this effort will return that much in earnings.

Wiring Payment from China: Another Fine Idea Kicks the Bucket

LOL! This saga gets better and better.

So about 80% of The Copyeditor’s Desk’s customers are in China. One of the things we do well is to polish the grammar and style for research articles on arcane topics in mathematics, science, and economics for Chinese academics, who must publish in English-language journals to advance their careers. The more of these we do, the more Chinese academics appear at the virtual door. After Paypal decided to do a number on me, I looked for alternatives and finally decided the simplest and cheapest strategy would be to have clients wire payment to me.

But since I bank in a credit union that’s too small to have a SWIFT number (required for wire transactions), this meant I would have to open a checking account in a major international bank. Hence, it was off to Bank of America. It looked like this ought to work. Now I had two business checking accounts, one at the credit union and one at the venerable BofA, which wished me to transfer $3,000 from the CU into the new account — or else. Fortunately, they gave me three months to get around to this.

So now I have a fancy new bank account in a shiny new high-rise tower and boyoboy. It has two SWIFT numbers, one for transfers in dollars and one for transfer in yuan. Hot diggety.

Kewl, huh?

Okay, so the client’s university goes to wire a small payment into this elegant new bank account.

Shortly, the client emits a squawk:

From: Dr. Big MucketyMuck, Associate Professor, Master Supervisor, Director of International Center for Cooperation and Exchange, Director of the Mogul Center College of Business Administration, Erewhon University of Economics and Business

To: Funny, The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.

Hi Funny,

Could you please give me another bank account? There is a sign (‘) in the name of the last one, and my university told me because of it, they can not succeed in wiring the money. Thanks a lot.

Chortle! Got that? They would not accept a wire transaction to a bank account whose name contains an apostrophe. Proposed solution? I should go and open ANOTHER bank account, this one with no punctuation in the business’s name. 😀

How wondrous is that?

Quite wondrous enough to elicit the “enough-is-enough” reaction, that’s for sure. At this point I decide to throw in the towel and just stop doing business with overseas clients. After this, if you can’t pay me by check, I ain’t a-workin’ for you.

This presents a problem: four out every five of our client projects come from Chinese scientists. But what the hell. It’s past time for me to retire, anyway. This, after days of crazy-making hoop-jumping to create that new bidness checking account at BofA.

Closing the fancy-Dan checking account takes two trips down to the bank, one of which consumes an hour of jawing and driving time. As I drive home, I’m feeling frustrated, annoyed as hell, and depressed to lose 80% of my business to Paypal’s crooked greed (yes, I did send a complaint to the AZ Department of Financial Institutions, which licenses PP to do business here).

But…guess what? MIRACLES DO HAPPEN!

Stumble in the door, finish cleaning the kitchen (a job interrupted by the junkets to the bank), then click on the ole computer.

And what should be lurking in the email but a query from a think tank at the Great Desert University: can I, will I, would I puhleeeeze index not one but two volumes in their forthcoming series in Latino studies?

Hot. Diggety. Damn.

I guess it’s God trying to say “there, there, little girl…” 😀

Time passes. Late last night I get curious and ask the Internet an idle question: is it really true you can’t wire money to a credit union?

Sez the Internet: “Well, yes and no”:

From UW Credit Union: https://www.uwcu.org/checking/personal-accounts/wire-transfers/

Wire Transfers

Moving money almost anywhere in the world is fast, easy, safe and convenient with wire transfers. Please note: domestic wire transfers usually occur within 24 hours, while international transfers vary, typically reaching the destination within 7 business days. To complete a wire transfer, log in to Web Branch and select Wire Transfers under the services or visit our nearest branch. Be sure to gather the following information prior to beginning your wire transfer to streamline the process.

Wiring Funds to Your UW Credit Union Account

The sending institution will need the following information:

    1. ABA Number: 2759-7907-6
    2. Our Name: University of Wisconsin Credit Union
    3. Our Address: 3500 University Avenue | Madison, WI 53705
    4. Your full name, address (as it appears on your account), UW Credit Union account number

 Note: UW Credit Union does not have a Swift Code, IBAN or other international routing code, nor do we have a correspondent bank. You are able to wire funds to your UW Credit Union Account without this information. Your international financial institution will have a corresponding bank in the U.S. they can wire to, which will forward the funds to UW Credit Union using our ABA routing number: 2759-7907-6.

Uh HUH!

So, we’ll be taking that over to our honored CU branch manager and asking him, if the UW credit union can do this, why can’t we? I think we can: I think by “send it to an international bank,” this may have been what he meant to say…not “you have to have an account at an international bank.” At any rate, I’ll see if he can manage this. If so, maybe, just maybe I can manage to get paid for the work I’ve done over the past couple of weeks, rather than having to comp three clients.

Paypal: STAY AWAY from Paypal!

Wow, what a freaking nightmare with PayPal! Naturally they choose to dump on me while I’m sick as a dog with the flu and can barely find my way to the bathroom, much less figure out how to deal with the mess they’ve created. Truly, I thought for awhile I was going to have to close The Copyeditor’s Desk down, because Paypal seems to have effectively made it impossible for my clients in China to pay. And…around 85% to 90% of my editorial work comes from Chinese academics and scientists.

Look: there are alternatives to Paypal. I’ll explain what they are in a minute. But first, get a load of this tale…

So the Kid and I had a Paypal account that originally had both our credit union accounts linked to it. Because she’s techie and is married to a tech professional, she set it up. So, the admin on account showed as her. This was fine. When I signed in they thought I was her, and…so it goes.

Then one day she got a phishing email that looked alarmingly persuasive. Fortunately, before acting on it, she contacted me and asked if I thought it was real. I said I thought it was a scam. Couple hours later her husband (then fiancé) sees the thing and has a shit-fit. He believes it’s an aggressive attempt to hack in and tells her to remove her bank account from PayPal. This, she does forthwith.

So, now when her clients pay her, I have to download their payment into my checking account and then snail-mail her a check in the correct amount. This is a mild nuisance, but not that big a deal. I keep the PayPal account open because I don’t know of any other way for my Chinese (and Indian, and German, and Japanese…) customers to remit payment to me. In the civilized world, they don’t have backward instruments like checking accounts.

Welp, a few months ago, the Kid had an idea I wish I’d had when I was her age…or maybe half her age. She decided that instead of getting the PhD one of these days, she should go back and get a second master’s degree: a professional degree in a field capable of providing her a decently paying job. The university where she works offers free graduate-school tuition as a perk for full-time faculty, which she happens to be.

Well of course it’s a brilliant idea. She is now fully engaged in this project — she wants to become a psychological counselor, which is perfect for her given her experience, personality, and interests.

Meanwhile, a couple weeks ago, Paypal sends us a notice to the effect that we must jump through a new set of hoops, and if we don’t they will discontinue our account. She suggests — exactly what I was thinking myself — that we should close down that account and then open a new one with only my name on it, thereby getting the thing and whatever hacking risks appertain thereunto out of her hair.

So that is what we do.

I set up a new account, and it looks like it’s going to work. Forthwith I bill a client, who forthwith sends money. And….I am told I cannot have the money.

WTF? Upon inquiry, I am told the customer must state that they’ve received the product to release the payment to me.

Huh? This is a new one on me. No such rule applied to the other account.

Okay…. I contact the client and tell her she needs to go back in to PayPal and acknowledge she received the job and accepts it. She attempts to do this, but it doesn’t work. We cannot dislodge her payment. The option to state that you received the thing you’re buying disappears.

Back to PayPal: The customer disservice rep is amazingly unhelpful, even hostile. I say I sell a service, not a product, and so there’s no way the client can prove she or he has received an object. Well, I’m told, then the person has to testify that they received a service. Ms. Disservice pastes some boilerplate instructions, copied from PP’s website, into the chat window, screwyouverymuch.

At this point I begin to realize that if PayPal will not forward payment from this client, it won’t forward payment from any of my clients. This means fuckin’ Paypal is about to put me out of business!

By now, I’m good and sick with the cold or flu or whatever it is and am in no condition to tear my hair.

That notwithstanding, I look into things and find there are several alternatives.

Probably the best short-term solution — and the easiest for me — is to have the client in China wire payment direct from their bank account to mine.

Except I don’t have a bank account. I have a credit union account. And my credit union is too small to qualify for a SWIFT number. You have to have a SWIFT number to receive money by wire from overseas.

Ducky.

So I traipse down to the midtown Bank of America and open a new business account. This of course requires hoop-jump after hoop-jump after hoop-jump. It’s quite a time-consuming exercise, made all the more difficult by the facts that my ears are so stuffed up I can’t hear and my nose is so stuffed up I can’t breathe and not being able to breathe means I can barely think. But finally all this gets done and I come away with fistfuls of paperwork and…and…

Yes…and now I have to explain to a passel of rocket-powered Chinese scientists that they must physically go to their local bank in China and, following a complicated set of steps replete with a complicated wad of numbers, wire the money to my bank account here. Charming. Won’t they just love that!

First off, I describe to the client whose payment I’ve just made Paypal return how to go about wiring the money to me. She becomes confused and, not understanding what on earth all this could possibly be about, simply re-sends payment through fuckin’ Paypal.

Ohhkay. Now I have to refund her payment a second time. When all I want to do is be sure they actually have sent her money back to her so I can CLOSE the damn Paypal account. Then I have to re-issue — again — a statement with the complicated instructions for how to remit payment by wire.

Will I get paid by the four clients who owe me money? I do not know. The Chinese government, in response to our asinine President’s stupid trade policies, has slapped a limit of $500/month on the amount its citizens can wire to the U.S. So if a client has a kid in college here in the U.S. to whom she’s sending money regularly — which is very likely with high-voltage academics — then she probably won’t be able to wire money to me. In any event, it will create a hassle for them: instead of clicking a few buttons on a computer, they will have to traipse to their bank and jump through a set of hoops there.

Will it put me out of business? Remains to be seen. So far no one has said they won’t do this. But…heh…I haven’t asked everyone.

Y’know, I’ve seen the endless litany of consumer complaints about Paypal. So can’t say I didn’t know they could turn on you. But up until now, all my experiences have been simple, straightforward, and clean. There’s a number you can call and reach a human being, which I did. She seemed to understand the issue, and she agreed to fix the problem. And then she did…nothing. No action was forthcoming from PayPal. Chatline people hang up on you when you repeat, for the 87 gerjillionth time, that you do not sell a product, you sell a service and your client has already certified that she received the service.

Clearly, Paypal is in business to hold onto people’s money. The longer they can keep a payment due to a customer in their coffers, the longer they can collect interest on those funds. Consider: if ten customers each have $100 in their various little accounts, that’s a thousand dollars. A hundred customers with $100 embargoed for whatever half-assed excuse Paypal can imagine would give them $10,000 with which to crank interest. A thousand such customers would provide $100,000, which would generate a substantial amount of interest. In Q4 2018, Paypal had 267 million accounts. So you can see the potential.

Paypal has persuaded US regulators and legislators that it’s not a bank, allowing it to get away with a whole slew of questionable shenanigans like this. And therein lies the reason you should NEVER do business with PayPal. PayPal is not your friend.

So how do you get your microbusiness or small business paid?

There are several alternatives. One is Stripe, a platform that allows you to accept a wide variety of credit cards at a very reasonable price. It’s active in Asia, Europe, and other venues. Stripe is extremely cool: it will issue an invoice to your client containing a link they can click on to charge up payment, easy as breathing. This would be my choice. Problem is, getting it up and running requires some very serious programming skills. They will advise, when you speak to a rep, that you should hire a developer. Okay. First, good luck finding such a person. Second, to hire someone to set this up would cost approximately the full amount of money that resides in The Copyeditor’s Desk’s checking account.

Another is Square, the one that allows a seller to swipe your card on a cute little doodad attached to a cell phone or an iPad. I do have a friend who knows how to work Square and probably can be bamboozled into helping install it. And I do have an iPad. But…oh, there’s always that damn but, isn’t there? But my iPad is very old and I very much doubt that current hardware and software will work with it. And once again: we’re looking at another wheelbarrow-load of techno-hassle that I do not especially welcome. Especially not when my head already hurts.

Transferwise allows you to make international money transfers for a reasonable fee, cheaper than Paypal. You do have to make a money transfer, which can be problematic in some circumstances.

If you don’t mind paying $25 a month, Authorize.net is said to be an effective platform for small businesses. It allows you to make transactions over a variety platforms, including ApplePay, PayPal, and several credit cards.

Intuit has a tool that integrates with Quickbooks and lets you accept ACH transfers. It also provides invoices and a Pay Now button for your website.

Western Union operates in most countries worldwide.

And you can arrange an international bank-to-bank wire transfer. To accomplish this, your client will need to have access to a bank that does wire transfers, and will need your name and address, your bank’s name, your bank account number, and your bank’s SWIFT number.

So, we’re going to try the wire transfer method. It remains to be seen whether this will work. If it doesn’t, two options remain: one is to try Square. The other is to close the business down.

Things You Can Learn From International Business

Embarking on an international business endeavor can be an exciting new adventure. Whether you are an independent investor or joining colleagues for an international trip, there are a number of things you will likely learn from the experience, and it is sure to be both professionally and personally enriching. You can get the most out of it if you make it your mission to learn. Rather than simply focusing on your business prospects, consider what knowledge can be gained from your time spent abroad. This can make the trip an even more meaningful experience

The following are six examples of what you can learn when you go abroad on business. You might be surprised by just how much there is to take in, and when you shift your focus beyond the professional, you are likely to see things differently. Focus on these potential sources of knowledge when you are conducting business internationally.

A New Language

Depending on how long you will be in another country, it is unlikely that you will achieve fluency in the span of your trip. It is very likely, however, that you will be able to pick up certain aspects of a new language when you are abroad. Being multilingual—or even just bilingual—can be an invaluable asset to any businessperson looking to boost their profile. Take an interest in the language being spoken, and make every effort to learn as much as you can. You will rarely have the opportunity to be so immersed in another language

Cultural Knowledge

In addition to the potential of learning a new language, you should focus on learning as much as possible about the culture of the country you are visiting. This is not just for your own personal enrichment—it is a responsible move for any entrepreneur who wants to avoid cultural faux-pas when they are abroad. Understanding the culture you are doing business in is an absolute must for any responsible businessperson. Entrepreneurs such as Timur Tillyaev can confirm this. Do a little bit of research before you touch down, and continue paying attention to customs once you have arrived.

Interpersonal Skills

Doing business abroad can do wonders for your interpersonal skills. Whether you are a social butterfly or feel awkward in crowds, you can learn some fantastic new social skills simply by going abroad with your business. International business gives you the opportunity to talk to new people, experience new things and learn in new settings. All of this makes it a great experience for people looking to improve their interpersonal skills. In addition to boosting your confidence in your own interpersonal skills, international business trips can help you learn interpersonal skills that are intercultural, and this is a true asset

Laws and Customs

You might not think that going abroad for business would help you learn about laws and customs, but in many cases, this is a valuable set of knowledge that comes with the territory. If you are doing business that involves any kind of retail or trading, you are likely to learn all about the laws governing such transactions. This is valuable knowledge for any entrepreneur who is interested in doing business abroad consistently. Timur Tillyaev, for example, found success in international business after years of traveling and investing. This experience can build the knowledge you need to eventually branch out.

Economic Knowledge

In addition to understanding the laws and customs that govern the country you are doing business in, you should make efforts to learn about the local economy, too. Understand the international economy is essential for any entrepreneur who aspires to succeed in global business. Make note of what kind of businesses succeed, who their target demographic is, how they attract clients and what portion of the market they dominate. All of these factors can provide meaningful information and help you understand the economy on a global scale. Going abroad is the most effective way to understand these factors.

Global Perspectives

One of the greatest things you can take away from an international business trip is the ability to think on a global scale. Too often, we get stuck thinking about everything in our immediate surroundings, and it is difficult to realize that there is a bigger world surrounding us. Going abroad makes it impossible to forget this, though, and make the context of the world much more real. Take the time to build your perspective as you are abroad and learn about everything new around you. This is important both for your personal betterment and your professional enrichment.

Doing business abroad should never just be a transaction. It should be an experience, a lesson and an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Take these tips if you want to get the most out of your trip and learn while you are abroad. You will likely enjoy the trip more when you focus on learning.

Today’s banner image:
Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Samarkand. April 2013
By Bobyrr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35322840

New Marketing Strategy Kicks In

Okay, so having been ejected outrageously from Facebook, I’m moving my marketing efforts to saner climes: to wit, LinkedIn, Twaddle, and Pinterest.

A-a-a-n-d the first effort is an article at LinkedIn on the degree to which decent customer service works as a marketing tool for any business. Check it out. In case you can’t see that live link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/customer-service-marketing-strategy-victoria-hay/

Been awhile since I’ve written quite that formally. The kind of self-indulgent diary writing that characterizes most blogs (not excluding this one…) obviously isn’t going to fly at LinkedIn, home of the tailored suit and the expensive professional mug shot. Now I think I’ll need to put up at least one post a week there — ideas are welcome, dear readers!

And speaking of you, dear readers, if you would please post said LinkedIn article at Facebook and also at your other favorite social media sites, angels will sing for you and I will be forever in your debt.

And by the way, as long as we’re speaking of things Internetish: I intend to send out a kind of newsletter that is not exactly a newsletter but more like a piece of friendly personal, non-spammy correspondence about this, that, & the other to regular readers of Funny about Money. This will NOT emanate from MailChimp but rather will be sent from one of my gmail accounts. Readers who are personal face-to-face friends may receive it from my Mac account.

If you would like not to hear from me outside of Funny about Money posts, please let me know and I’ll take your name off the proposed mailing list. You’ll also be able to let me know by replying to an email.

And so, onward…

Customer service is all!

 

Getting Paid Across the Ocean

Take a fan and blow it across the Pacific???

A client and I are having a dickens of a time getting money — not much of it, we might add — transferred from the People’s Republic of China to the U.S. of A.

Her university’s accounts payable folks decided they would transfer the $300 owing to me for editing a fairly abstruse article direct from their coffers in Beijing to my coffers in lovely uptown Phoenix. Accordingly, a factotum in their business office asked for my credit union’s ABA SWIFT number.

I call the credit union and ask our factotum, “What is your SWIFT number?”

She says, “It’s the same as the routing number.”

I copy and paste the credit union’s routing number into my statement. Send it off.

Week or so later, client says the university is unable to make the transfer: the SWIFT number is wrong.

Copy, paste, send again.

Now along comes another squawk, this one from an admin from the university’s business office. SWIFT number is wrong. They have one more chance to deposit; if that doesn’t work, they can’t pay.

Lovely. I try to email a query to the credit union, but it won’t go through.

So I abdicate this morning’s networking meeting and drive to the credit union. Explain this to the teller. She hasn’t a clue.

It takes the manager to figure out the problem: the credit union doesn’t have a SWIFT number. A SWIFT number is not the same as a routing number. I point out that his employer’s phone rep said otherwise. He said “we try to train them not to say that.” I said they should try again. 😀

He says the sender needs to use a facilitating bank, which is a large multinational bank such as Wells Fargo, to get the transfer into a smaller financial institution such as a credit union. I say it’s a university in China! He says he’s pretty sure they’ll be doing business with a multinational bank.

So traipsed home after a visit to the Costco in those parts and the Walmart Neighborhood grocery store in my parts, sat down, and sent off an email explaining this. Suggested if they found this impossible, they could just send the money by PayPal.

So far, nothing back from China…but it’s probably been night-time all day here. By tomorrow, I expect, we’ll hear the next act in that drama.