Coffee heat rising

DONE with Macy’s! Why…?

Lemme tellya why…

So having decided the thing to do with an unexpected free day was to schlep across the city to the Macy’s at Arrowhead Mall — which, unlike their store within reasonable driving distance of my house, carries furniture — and buy a mattress on sale such as this one (sale price $249) or this one, ($349; either of them available with so-called “white glove delivery”), I get in my car, drive until I’m blue in the face, park, and make my way through the hectic, noisy shopping center to said department store.

Easily navigating to the furniture department, I find a saleslady who’s chatting casually with a woman who may or may not be a potential customer. They don’t seem to be talking business. At any rate, she pauses long enough to ask if she can help me.

I say, “I’m looking for an inexpensive twin-size mattress set for a guest bedroom.”

She gestures vaguely in the direction of the mattress section and says, “They’re down there against the far wall.”

Uhm…Lady, I reflect, I don’t need you to point in the direction of a roomful of mattresses and tell me that’s where the mattresses are. Why did you bother to ask if you could help me?

She her companion resume their chat.

I explore the far end of the mattress room. The best price available is “on sale” for $699.

Ohhhkay, I figure…next stop: Penney’s.

As I walk out, disgusted, she pauses the chatfest again to ask if I saw what I wanted. When I say no, she says, well, they’re back there! And gestures again to the far end of the room.

Maybe I missed something, I think. So I go back and look at all the mattresses on the floor, in the area where she was pointing me. The cheapest model was $699, on sale.

The two women don’t even bother to quit yakking as I walk out of the department.

Penney’s and Sears are all the way at the other end of this huge shopping mall. That’s good though: since I’m wasting my time with this trip instead of walking the dogs, at least I’m getting some exercise.

Sears has a saleslady who wants to sell me something, but unfortunately they have no twin-size mattresses that fill the bill. The only ones that come as a mattress/box spring set are kid-size.

Penney’s? Just effin’ hopeless. There is NO sales help on the floor, and it’s impossible to tell where the mattress department is, or even if they have one.

Well, I had no high hopes for Penney’s or Sears, both of which are pretty marginal as department stores go.

But you’d expect better of Macy’s, wouldn’t you?

Or not.

This is not the first time I’ve been unable to persuade a Macy’s sales rep to sell me something when I came in ready to buy, credit card gripped in my sweaty little paw.

Last time, I still had boobs. Indeed, I wanted to buy a brassiere. I wanted one that was not underwired and not made with a pair of styrofoam Dixie cups and not a sports bra. Just an ordinary goddamn bra, like…oh, you remember, Wacoal? Maybe Bali? I’d even have taken a Maidenform, if they had one that fit. And if it didn’t have underwires or Dixie cups.

In the lingerie department, I found another customer, similarly befuddled: we both searched through rack on rack on rack of lookalike junk Dixie-cup brassieres, all pretty much identical except for their prices. There was ONE saleslady in this department.

She was a young thing: maybe just post-high school, or a college undergrad. She was surrounded by a gaggle of young things who were obviously her friends. They chattered and laughed and fiddled with their phones together, while she paid exactly ZERO attention to her department. She clearly did not give one thin damn whether any customers ever bought anything from Macy’s — except perhaps to the extent that she evidently wished we would not, because that would interrupt her socializing.

Neither the other prospective buyer nor I could get this kid’s attention.

I walked out, disgusted. As I walked out today, disgusted.

Two’s a charm: I will never go back to Macy’s again. Period.

Went by the mattress store that used to reside in the Sprouts shopping center down the road: closed.

So that’s it, I guess. It looks like I’ll have to figure out something else to do with the spare room. A guest bedroom, it ain’t a-gonna be.

And what exactly I’m going to do when I need a new mattress & box springs for myself, I can’t imagine. Whatever it is, it won’t come from Macy’s.

Image: DepositPhotos: © Vadimphoto

Costco Day!

So this morning the plan is to make a very fast, very low-end Costco run: the first trip to Costco in a month!

The $50 cash card I bought to pay for gas fueled the car for a month and a half (!!). And I still have enough pork in the freezer to feed Cassie and Ruby almost to the end of the month. The visit from Borderlands — the outfit that hands out 60 pounds of produce for $10, grâce á local grocery stores donating fruits and veggies that come to the end of their shelf life — has stocked the freezer generously, meaning the only food I’ll need to buy between now and the end of the month will be incidentals like salad greens and the like.

Today Costco is going to sell me another cash card so I can refill the Dog Chariot, and while there I figure to pick up a package of paper towels and a bag of mixed veggies for the dog food. That’s it.

The difference this is making in the budget has been a life-saver. The utility bills, which the bastards have been slowly hiking up a little at a time, are more astronomical than I realized, having stopped keeping track of every penny over the past couple of years. This month’s water bill is $218 and the power bill is $248. They’ve jacked up the gas bill, too: $19, a little much when you consider that in the summertime I hardly use the hot water at all.

But the big budget-busters this month have been a $250 bill from the flicking dentist, who inflicted that gouge just to clean my teeth, and the $293 for the countertop oven.

Every time I go in for a routine cleaning, the dentist’s assistant wants to X-ray my jaws. I’ve been able to put her off for quite a while, claiming (truthfully) that I’ve been exposed to more than enough radiation thanks to the Adventures in Medical Science and do not want any further exposure. This time, though, I have a sore tooth — an old, failed root canal that has been neglected since I gave up on the former dentist after three root canals in the same goddamn tooth — and thought it had better be looked at. But nay: nothing shows up on the X-ray. The pain is prob’ly caused by my tooth-clenching habit.

So that was about $100 for naught.

I probably should have bought the $99 Kitchenaid toaster oven that JestJack found at Macy’s. The prospect of dealing with Macy’s, though…ugh! I dislike shopping there so much, it was worth paying twice as much at Williams-Sonoma to get a comparable item, just to not have to deal with the place. It’s no wonder they’re having to close 100 stores. Their customer service sucks.

Anyway, $486 in utility bills plus another $541 in surprise! bills has done in this month’s budget. I have $163 to live on for the next two weeks. The $25 needed to partly refill the gas tank will cut that to $138.

So I’m going to end up in the red again.

I wonder why it is that every freaking time the utility bills are through the roof, there’s some outrageous extraordinary bill? It never, ever fails.

Looks like I’m going to have to budget $500 for the summertime utilities. I wish I dared get one of those solar rooftop plans. But the utility companies here are trying to drive the solar companies out of business, and they’re about to succeed. The Corporation Commission, which regulates power rates (heh! after a fashion) is in the utility companies’ pocket — that’s not an exaggeration. Arizona Public Service, the most rapacious of our suppliers, buys these guys by underwriting their election campaigns, so anyone who’s likely to resist the endless demands for higher rates hasn’t got a chance.

So I’m afraid that doing one of those leases will be too risky. Some people are already complaining that because of APS’s machinations, their solar systems will not pay for themselves over the lifetime of the house. And in Las Vegas, the companies that were selling those installations just gave up and left town, thanks to the machinations of the local power companies and corrupt officials. So…forget that.

If it’s going to cost me $500 just to air condition the house at 82 degrees & water the plants, we’re reaching the point where it may be worth renting someplace where it’s cooler. I could go up to the Flagstaff area and rent a condo or a cabin. The smoke from the forest fires isn’t very pleasant, but most of the time the weather is a great deal more tolerable. I’d have to shut down this house, though…and am not sure what to do about the pool. You can’t drain it in the summer, because the plaster won’t hold up if it’s allowed to dry out in the heat. Plus of course if the irrigation system goes on the fritz unnoticed, half the landscape plants will shrivel up and die within a week. Not even “xeriscapic” plants can survive 115 degrees without water.

Well, onward. Want to get to Costco before it gets crowded. Have an economically cool day, wherever you are!

Macy’s to Funny: Life Is Good

Well. The Macy’s misadventure turned out better than I imagined possible.

First crack out of the box this morning, I presented myself at the business office in the nearest Macy’s, which happens to inhabit the snooty Biltmore Fashion Square. I will say, I was primed for battle. But through a great effort of will, I determined that I would be…well, at least polite. After a brief search, I found a tall, silver-haired fellow secreted away in a windowless, crowded office way in the back of the third floor.

I explained the circumstances: Charge forgotten after no statements had arrived; bill sent to a collection agency with a Better Business Bureau grade of “F” because of its disastrous complaint record.

To my surprise, this gentleman turned out to be a mellow sort of a guy, the type who probably never gets visibly frustrated or annoyed, even when confronted by an eccentric old bat the first thing Monday morning. Better, as it developed, he was a man with a Rolodex full of direct lines to human beings. And, best of all, he was an area supervisor.

As he’s punching buttons to make his way through a phone-tree maze, he says, “You know, they’ll want a photo ID.” No problem: I produce my driver’s license, which gets added to the mound of paper now littering his desk—including the correspondence from the collection bureau. He gets someone on the phone; then proceeds to call someone else.

“What’s your address?” he asks.

“Nine ninety-nine Erewhon Road,” I say.

“Hm,” he says.

He gets off the phone from another factotum. Then he says, “Here’s what’s happened. They’ve been sending your statements to the wrong address.”

“What?”

“Yes. Look: the address this credit bureau has, which is the same address our credit department has, is on Erewhon Street, not Erewhon Road. Your driver’s license says you live on Erewhon Road.”

Oh. Em. Gee. My strange neighbor Manny lives at 999 Erewhon Street, two houses away from me. He’s been peeved at me ever since the roofers parked a load of asphalt shingles meant for my house on top of his roof.

It turns out that Manny and his wife have been marking misdelivered correspondence “refused” and returning it to the senders. Cute, huh? Considering that they walk their two dogs past my house to let them shit all over the yard about every third day, you’d think they could bestir themselves to carry a piece of first-class mail over and drop it in the mailbox.

Mr. Supervisor speculates that the reason the physical plastic credit card got delivered is that the post office will not return credit cards, so they probably took the time to look up my real address. As for the dunning letter from the collection bureau: that was raw luck. He thinks probably it fell into the hands of a postal carrier who happened to know the customers on his route, and who also could tell the difference between a road and a street.

Marshaling his vast collection of direct lines to actual human beings, Mr. Supervisor made a couple of calls and within five or ten minutes he had erased the black blot on my records and arranged for me to pay the bill right then and there, in person. Not only that, but he came up with a charge of $23, not $28.

Impressive, eh?

The take-away message here is to resolve issues in the corporate bureaucracy, avoid the punch-a-button maze whenever possible and seek a face-to-face meeting with a live human being.

What a relief! It felt a lot like the way you feel when you finally manage to dig a mean splinter out of your foot.

Much cheered, I decided to take a tour of the Biltmore shopping center, where I used to hang out pretty regularly, back in the palmy days when I could afford to shop in places like Ralph Lauren. Coveted a few iPhones and iPads and drooled on an iMac with a gigantic screen (actually, it’s almost affordable).

The new accountant says the S-corporation can and should be spending a few bucks on business-related items for its proprietor. No question it can afford a new iMac. She even thinks it should be paying for a cell phone (!!). I wonder if it could afford an iPhone.

Over to Williams-Sonoma, purveyor of so many of the now aging accouterments of my nifty little gourmet kitchen. Did I mention that during the past Week in Hell, I destroyed my favorite 8-inch sautée pan? Yesh. It’s pretty much wrecked.

Williams-Sonoma has one just like it, only in All-Clad instead of Cuisinart, the maker of the deceased gem of a fry-pan. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it…that one plus another All-Clad the size of the nonstick 10-inch Calphalon number that’s about worn out would come to around $225. Plus 9.3% tax. For a mere $90 (not counting almost ten bucks in tax), I could get two non-stick Calphalons in exactly the sizes I want. But they have that annoying brushed slate-colored stuff on the outside, which over time collects a patina of grease that will not come off. Oh, covet those shiny All-Clad things!

Frugal Scholar also covets All-Clad and, like me, picks them up at thrift stores and estate sales. And, she notes, at interesting cut-rate sites like this one. Yea, verily: there’s the beloved little pan! As an irregular, forty-two dollah! This outfit has more 10-inch pans than you can shake a stick at, but Williams-Sonoma’s, at $120, comes with a lid, which none of the online models do.

Moving on, I visited a few more of my old haunts and realized the place has changed hugely since the last time I idled away an hour or two there. I have got to get out of my garrett. The world is starting to pass me by.

That notwithstanding, I believe I’m going to permit a little passing by this afternoon. I’ve lost count of the number of evenings in a row when I’ve sat down to dinner at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., after having parked myself in front of the computer somewhere between four and six in the morning. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well last night, with thoughts of some shady collection bureau haunting the night. The day is too beautiful to kill in the office.

The journalism students’ papers (both sets of them) are read, and a start has been made on the freshmen’s papers. The little McBoingers don’t have a major paper due for another two or three weeks, and so they can wait a few days to get their present magnum opus. So, I am knocking off the work for the rest of the day.

That decision having been taken on the way home, the minute I walked in the house the phone rang, and lo! There was a prospective client calling from Virginia, seeking a project manager. A project manager for big projects. Technical projects. That would be the sort done by professionals, not self-published tracts by some wretch who thinks the hoodoos in Sedona were put there by space aliens. Did I add paying projects to that?

So between now and tomorrow Tina (who when last heard from was talking about waiting table again) and I will need to organize something persuasive about ourselves and line up some live references. This is the sort of client that, if we can manage to do a decent job, could keep us in beer and skittles for quite a while.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona
Space alien artifacts

Images:

Macy’s in New York City. Mike Strand. Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 Unported
license.
All-Clad 8-inch frying pan. Shamelessly ripped off the Internet
Cathedral Rock, Sedona. Tomas Castelazo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Zapped by Macy’s!

Lenten thanks, Day 23

Well. At least it’s nice and quiet at four in the morning. Except for Sheriff Joe’s ubiquitous helicopters, which use the skies over our neighborhood as an aerial freeway.

Update: This all turned out for the best. A Macy’s supervisor took charge, figured out why their statements had never reached my house, untangled the mess, and accepted payment for the original bill. It remains to be seen whether the collection bureau, which has an unsavory reputation, will actually be called off. But for the nonce, things look brighter.

§§§

Yesterday I pick up the mail and open what looks like some official correspondence or possibly a long-awaited check from Google Adsense, which sends payment in envelopes like the one in hand, with no clear return address. And what should I find but a threat from a collection agency!

Say what?

They claim I owe Macy’s $91.

I have no clue what this is about, since I don’t ordinarily shop in Macy’s, because it’s too far away, it’s an unpleasant store to navigate, and it’s generally overpriced. I call Macy’s and spend a good hour wending my way through punch-a-button mazes. Finally one factotum claims I made a purchase last September for $28. I point out that’s a far cry from $91, and if I made any such purchase, why does the account number on the bill collector’s statement not jibe with the account number on the credit card they sent me, which was never activated? She has no clue, either.

Finally, while I’m listening to obnoxious sounds and waiting for yet another clueless soul with a Bangladeshi accent to come on the phone, I sift through several months’ worth of Excel entries and discover that indeed, in September I bought a bargain purse for $28. Now I remember! It was one of those girls-on-the-town shopping adventures. Among several strategies that La Maya and I used to drive the price down from about $90 was to agree to open a Macy’s charge account for 10 percent off—hence the presence, in my file drawer, of the unactivated card.

Macy’s never sent a statement. I recall noticing that the bill hadn’t cleared after the first month, but then as my Excel spreadsheet turned into an endless roll of toilet paper, the uncleared line fell out of sight and it simply slipped my mind.

Not one statement is in the file, and I am quite certain no statement ever landed in my mailbox.

M’hijito suggested that I probably didn’t recognize their bills and tossed them in the recycling bin with the flood of unwelcome junkmail that the USPS dumps into my mailbox. That certainly is a possibility. But I doubt it: I’ve been around for more than a day or two, and I do know what first-class mail looks like. Unless Macy’s sends its bills at bulk-mail rates, it’s highly unlikely I would have missed six statements.

No. The only explanation is that they didn’t send a statement and so, since my bill-paying is triggered by the arrival of statements, I failed to notice the outstanding charge.

Hmmm….  Interestingly, I don’t seem to have been the only one to experience what appears to be a Macy’s scam to extract interest and late fees from unsuspecting customers. We have this endless Facebook exchange, in which a woman describes exactly the same experience and one commenter remarks,

For anyone claiming that this is not a scam, they’re out of their mind. This is absolutely a scam to create late payment fees on behalf of Macy’s. Yes, as an employee you can explain it well and yes, as a credit card user, you can eliminate the problem by being aware of what the account is and how it works, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a scam. Macy’s purposely makes it very easy to lose track of a small balance that is due in order to tack on a large fee. It’s a classic shady business technique/scam. Just like when a company asks you to sign up for a “FREE” rewards service or some other set-up that is free for a month, but then requires you to cancel the $9.99 or $19.99 that starts billing every month. Sure, you can cancel it, but most companies who operate this type of shady practice make it difficult to find a phone number to cancel, or they bill it under a name that doesn’t look familiar to you and if you’re not paying close attention to your credit card bills each month, you can end up getting billed several months for something you never intended to sign up for in the first place.

Other people have described similar behavior and said it damaged their credit rating. Macy’s also has another scam, whereby when they issue you a credit card through one of their 10% off schemes, they’re actually issuing you two credit cards, one of which you don’t know about. One is a regular store account and one is an AMEX account. Since they no more bother to tell you this than they bother to send you statements, if you go to your online site to check your balance, you will think it’s zero, because the real balance appears in an account about which you are kept in the dark.

Well, I guess I’m going to have to pay the bastards. But you can be sure I’ll never buy another piece of junk at a Macy’s store again.