Sunday, May 19, 2013
We have had our money stolen via our debit card before. The last time my husband and I took a vacation we took our kids up to my in-laws in Virginia and then drove down to Atlanta and spent a very nice week at a posh five star hotel downtown. We saved up for over a year to pay for it. A scam artist in the form of a parking lot attendant got hold of the numbers from my husband's debit card and proceeded to bleed our bank account by having the card run through a hotel in some minuscule podunk town in South Carolina. Just getting it straightened out enough so we could check out of the hotel in Atlanta took several hours of phone calls that went all the way up to a corporate manager with our bank and required the police to verify our identities over the phone twice. Once we got back into town our local bank manager did verify that we were here, had a police report from Atlanta PD, and that we probably weren't at Jebeziah's No-Tell Motel in Bums' Rush, SC racking up charges. Apparently once our accounts ran dry they forgot to turn off whatever program they were using to automatically charge our card every hour to an hour and a half and it continued charging and bouncing until the local bank manager did something to block it. There were over a thousand dollars just in fees, and we were well over ten grand in the hole. Ultimately it took weeks to get everything figured out and get our bank account back into some semblance of normalcy. Fortunately I have a checking account that is seperate from the family checking they accessed and we were able to use mine in the interim so we were able to deposit paychecks and keep the bills paid and the kids fed but it was a very stressful time. We wound up mailing a few merchants money orders to pay for legitimate charges we made while on vacation that the bank mistakenly did a charge back on. Most of them were very understanding, especially since we were contacting them rather than their having to chase us down, but one quick lunch ended up costing us an extra $150.
Having my bank turn off my card and waiting while they mail me a new one will be inconvenient but it really seems the prudent thing to do.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
This week I've been called a crook and a liar, by two different people. The liar guy tried his best to get me into trouble with my boss and the motor club, all because he was irritated that HIS car broke down and I couldn't get a driver there on HIS schedule. Unfortunately being abused by the customers is fairly common. I understand that your car breaking down/getting stuck/being in an accident throws a wrench in your day. I know you have places to go and you want to get on with your life as cheaply as possible, but we don't have drivers lined up waiting for your call. If the trucks aren't moving we aren't making money. Just because our shop is right around the corner from your break down location doesn't mean that's where the trucks are and I'm not going to tell you where my trucks are coming from because frankly it's none of your business. If you call in ahead of time to let us know that your car is going to break down, be in an accident or that you're going to do something stupid like drive to work on fumes because you're running late I will make sure to have a driver standing by to go help you.
We aren't the cheapest in town, nor are we the most expensive. Our trucks are well maintained, our drivers are experienced and trained to the best of our ability. No matter what names you call me or how loudly you rant and rave and scream in my ear I'm not going to abuse our drivers by making them skip lunch or dinner or pull them in on their time off to go haul you out of your mess so you can get on the road half an hour faster. There are other companies that don't have as many calls as we do and therefor may be able to get there faster, but you can be sure that there's a reason why the motor club/shop/police officer didn't call them in the first place.
Other people are having crappy days too, and we prioritize everyone just about the same and try to knock them out in a timely manner that makes geographical sense. The only things that get prioritized first are accident calls from the various local police departments and children and/or animals locked inside vehicles. In the case of emergency lockouts we often end up doing them for free. Even then we get burned, we've had our insurance pay out on claims against us for damage to window and lock mechanisms that was done by helpful bystanders with coat hangers and police officers with their slim jims. The boss knows he should get release forms signed before he gets to work, but when faced with a baby or an animal wilting in a locked car his only thought is to get them out as quickly and safely as possible and the forms go out the proverbial window. Usually this only causes problems when the vehicle owner is someone other than the parents. Usually.
To the man whose son got his truck stuck out at the hunt club, I realize that you didn't like that the actual price was far above what we quoted you on the phone, but you were misleading when you called. He was indeed visible from the parking lot, but he was almost 50 feet off of the dirt trail and over half a mile off of a gravel road, in the rain, and he was in the middle of a plowed field, buried up to both axles. I know you didn't like the additional wait time added to the bill either, but we had to twiddle our thumbs for over an hour before the club manager showed up with the gate key. The driver was ready to leave when he told us how long he'd have to wait, but he asked us to stay because he wanted you and your son ejected promptly. Sure we could have driven around the gate like you tried to tell my driver to do, you guys sure left a clear path when y'all did, but our equipment is bigger, heavier, and can do a lot more damage that we're responsible for. I suppose we could have tried to save you a bit of cash by driving across the field instead of sticking to the trails, but our 14,000 pound trucks don't do well with a plowed field that's planted with game crops that reach halfway up the door, especially when the ground is soggy and sticky like marginal marshland tends to get when it's raining. We could have hooked up to the hitch or the bumper like you told us to rather than taking the time to dig it out some and hook it up properly, but my driver has 20 years of experience with tow trucks and I would rather trust his judgement than have you calling and yelling about the damage to his incompetence did to your vehicle. It didn't save my ears any because you still yelled about his incompetence because he wouldn't listen to you, but at least you weren't trying to hand us a bill. Oh, and cancelling the charge on your account when you got home? That didn't work either, we would have disputed it and then you'd have been stuck with interest and fees, but the club manager took care of it. Don't be surprised to find out you owe them a boat load of money on top of not getting your dues back.
To the lady who I called to inform that we would be 20 minutes late in jumping your car: you may have been screwed, SCREWED, as you continually screamed in my ear, but I daresay it was by your car and not by me. We were late, that is true, I wasn't able to call you earlier and let you know we'd be late, and you're right, that wasn't courteous, but I was busy diverting the driver away from your call (he was already within a few miles of your location, actually) to send him on a call for the State Patrol. I sent another, less experienced driver to you as soon as I could and called you as soon as I knew we weren't going to meet the ETA. I didn't give you any reason beyond traffic and that we had an accident call because, again, that simply isn't any of your business, but a dumbass had t-boned a minivan while both vehicles were at highway speeds. The minivan bounced off of a car in the next lane, and went hurtling into some trees. The passenger side looks like an accordion, the drivers side is in pieces that my driver picked up and put inside of it, the drivers side front wheel is between the engine and the firewall, and when my driver was dragging it sideways out of the treeline they discovered that the accident was a fatality, their dog didn't survive. The cover on the passenger seat is ripped and the seat back broken from the force of the impact that tore the fathers arm in half, but what gets me are the bloody hand prints he left all over the interior while fighting his way to get to his children. He managed it with his bare hands where the rescue squad had to cut them out. On second thought, lady, your day was sunshine and roses.
To the lady from out of state who was stranded after your son's college baseball game, you're welcome. I know it is scary being stuck with a car that won't work, alone, several hours away from home. You were in one of the worst areas of a bad section of town, but I didn't think you needed to know that. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation too, and hearing the relief in your voice when our driver pulled in was all the thanks I needed. I'm glad your son's team won and that we were able to get you on your way.
To the guy who has called us several times a day, for three days in a row? Yes we can ping a cell phone to locate a vehicle and it's driver but as we have all explained to you every time you call and ask, there has to be a person at the other end of the cell phone. We use a service that texts a code to that phone and the customer must be able to give us that code so we can enter it into our software and locate them. We can't just type in a number and track the phone to wherever it is, not even the police can do that if it's not on or has lost it's charge, which I would imagine it has by now. Your story keeps changing too, first your friend had the car and left it somewhere they were too wasted to remember, then you were driving it and it broke down and you left and went out of town to your brothers house and forgot where it is, then it was back to the friend but this time it broke down on him too but you can't get hold of him because his phone is in the car and you're out of town and can't go looking for it. I don't know what you're trying to do but we want no part of it. The office staff even had a short meeting about you.
To the teenage girl who locked her keys in her car at the mall and I had to call and extend our ETA, apologizing while I did it? When you said "why are you apologizing? It's not like it's your fault I locked my keys in the car and have to wait" I could have reached through the phone and kissed you! Keep that sensible thinking up and you will go very far.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
I just finished my first week. I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. The work is a good mix of steady and slow with bursts of holy heck where did all this come from?!? My boss is good, both as an employer and as a man, and my co-workers are excellent although one has some issues and may not be there much longer. Patience with him has run thin, deservedly so.
I think the job is going to provide a lot of blog fodder, although the most common topic may be how to communicate your location effectively to the dispatch. Where are you? Across the street from the old Save-u. Okay, what road are you on? On the road that runs in front of the old Save-u, isn’t really helpful, but in the fairgrounds parking lot across the street from Walmart is. They’re the same location.
I’ll get started with the topic that the title references.
I’m not going to use a Motor Club unless I’m in absolute dire straights and have no other option. Let me step aside for a moment and explain something about motor clubs that a lot of people don’t realize. Many people have motor clubs/road side service through their insurance, groups they may be members of, their banks, credit cards, cell phone providers, I think I saw a thing for road side assistance attached to a grocery store membership card and I’m pretty sure you can get one with a cup of coffee these days. The vast majority of these services contract with one of a handful of companies to handle the calls for them. One of the major players in the field covers Progressive, USAA, Nationwide, State Farm, Travellers. and many other accounts. Geico and Allstate have their own motor clubs, Allstate also accepts some accounts (they just got GM away from the aforementioned major service provider) but Geico is pretty much just for Geico customers.
We use an app that one of the major contractors (see above) has developed that sends job orders straight to our smart phones. We can take in the job order on their app, open the app that our dispatch software comes with and dispatch to the driver on the fly. Very handy for middle of the night dispatching from home. Often the job order arrives in the app while we’re still on the phone with the company. It supports multiple logins, which is very handy since we have 9 drivers, 3 dispatchers, and a couple of other people that get pressed into service when needed. Unfortunately it doesn’t give us any information about how many people are logged in to our account. It stores all the job orders we have received, although it tends to only show fifty or so at a time. I paged back a few months and could have loaded more but my finger got tired.
The nature of the information on the job orders is quite personal but it’s necessary. Vehicle owners name, policy holders name, telephone numbers, location of the car (complete with mapping service), year/make/model/vin/plates of the car (the vin is necessary, we have to verify it against the one on the car to make sure the vehicle is the one covered by the job order otherwise we don’t get paid), nature of the problem, whether or not the car is attended, location of the key, what the policy holder is covered for, what charges the company has approved, how many passengers the tow driver will have, and the destination of the tow.
All of this is vital information for us. The app really helps us do our job more efficiently and to help make the process less stressful for the customer. However, I’m not necessarily comfortable with it. I just opened it to see if I could find an example of why. A lady is on the interstate east bound at mile marker XX with her check engine light on. One passenger for the wrecker, which means that she’s alone in the car. Anybody want a victim and a 2012 Toyota? Yesterday we had a lawyer with a flat on a $50k SUV in the parking lot at the court house. He needed it towed because the tires have locking hubcaps and he didn’t have the key with him. The app told us “Cust left keys on r front tire, do not call!” We had his key location, his vehicle location, his swanky home address, and we knew he’d be tied up and wouldn’t be answering his phone. Jackpot!
There are less than scrupulous local guys with minimally functioning equipment that want to do nothing but run motor club roadside service calls. They accept any and all jobs they’re called for, call and change their original ETA to something ridiculously long, then show up to the calls with the wrong equipment to handle the problem. If the customer is still there they’ll mess around for a few minutes, tell the customer the motor club sent the wrong information, vehicle needs a tow not a jump, some other excuse, and go home with their $15 consolation prize. I’ve met a few of them and there’s a reason why they’re known in the industry as bottom feeders. They also tend to do a lot of abandoned vehicle pick ups for businesses, booting cars in pay lots and the like. One of them lines the roads in his neighborhood with vehicles he’s “impounded.” Classy. If they have a smart phone they have access to the app. So does anyone they’ve chosen to share their login with.
My boss runs a good shop with very little employee turnover, but he had a driver who moved on to a different industry last year and his replacement is skating on thin ice. If the boss does wind up letting him go we’ll get another login, but it will mean going without motor club calls for anywhere between 1 and 24 hours while their system updates. I don’t know if many of those bottom feeders would be willing to go through the process, or even care, when their newest “business partner” flakes off with the app.
Now, the information isn’t randomly broadcast to every company in the area. It’s only sent to the company who accepts the job, but if we weren’t diligent about our login a smart criminal could watch for road side service on unattended vehicles and beat us there and we wouldn’t know. It’s pretty common to show up for a jump or a lockout to find the customer figured out a way to fix the problem and left without bothering to call. Especially if you give a ridiculously long ETA like the less reputable people do.
There are reasons to have and use a motor club, I’m sure, but if I need assistance I plan on finding my own tow service and submitting the bill for reimbursement. I really don’t want that kind of information being broadcast to anyone not of my choosing but I will freely admit that I’m paranoid.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Starting tomorrow (Monday) I will be working as a part-time dispatcher for a local wrecker service.
Poor Rhye will have to get used to spending his days in his crate. I think he’ll adjust eventually, although I do anticipate my name will be mud until the kids are out of school and can supervise him while I’m at work.
They wanted a minimum of a year of dispatching experience, which I do not have, so I asked what software they use and found a “getting started” manual and a set of training videos online and made a book length study guide for myself, adding in notes from the videos. A poor substitute for experience but the boss was impressed. He kept me in his office talking for an hour and a half during the interview on Wednesday and they called Thursday to offer me the position. The children and I did a happy dance and a celebratory Kermit flail for good measure. I went outside to clear more weed trees out of the azalea bushes and Monster Girl surprised me by making dinner. She opened a jar of my sweet and sour pork and served it over rice, for dessert she made mint chocolate chip ice cream (from a mix) and chocolate cake made from scratch. She also made a tremendous mess in the kitchen, but I didn’t mind.
This is the first paying job I’ve had outside of the home since NAFTA allowed Motorola to send my division overseas 12 years ago. I’m so excited!
Saturday, March 23, 2013
To the young man, I ask for peace, light, and freedom.
DrJim blogs at Every Blade Of Grass.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Dr Jim. I have had the jack pull off the motherboard before and it's definitely something that takes a skilled hand to repair. This time it was just the cord. I figured it was on its way out when I noticed cracks up and down its length about a month ago.
Laura, yes the dogs often do accompany my into the ladies, but our master bathroom has an attached walk-on closet that they like to lay in so they're not quite as up in the business as that sounds lol
The kids started a three day weekend today so when they got home I put them to work instead of chaining them to their books. The car was cleaned out and vacuumed, meat was thawed and browned, onions were chopped, beans were rinsed and drained, laundry was folded and dishes were washed while Silly E and I sawed some double wide pallets in half lengthwise to make a fence for my front bed. I'm planning on painting them and filling them with soil to make a vertical garden. Even in its raw state it looks better than the rolls of wire and picket fence we have had for the past few years. I took that fence apart and plan on using the pickets for a hugelkulture bed and having Cave use the wire to build a trellis for grapevines.
Rhye starts his puppy training class tomorrow and I have a full day planned around chauffeuring kids, dogs, and digging through the shed for paint for the fence. Hope you have a great weekend!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
In the meantime it's set up in a puppy/kid bump-free location that also happens to be inconvenient and as far away from daily life (and the router) as physically possible. Using it right now is about as enjoyable as listening to Feinstein speak at an Occupy gathering without the pleasure of decking myself out in all my NRA and gun positive gear.
I was able to find a blogging app for my phone that works but it's not without its own issues. Blogging will continue, and the pace may even pick up, but content will probably be light.
Speaking of blogging, Google is retiring their rss reader. I managed to export my list to the laptop, hopefully I'll be able to get it set up with a different service when I'm more reliably online. In the meantime I miss y'all.
There really hasn't been a whole lot of interest going on lately. We've been working on cleaning up the yard, weeding and pulling out saplings that have sprung up everywhere. Rhye accompanied me to a local botanical park that offers free composted wood chips and didn't get freaked out when they bellied up the front loader and filled the bed. Even at just Four months he's turning into quite the truck dog. Roxy tries but she gets freaked by the way the truck sounds and how it's old suspension jolts around so she curls up tight on the seat next to me and refuses to move. She's just too big to fit there and interferes with the shifter so she'll have to stick to car rides. Rhye lays his head on my purse, puts his back against the seat and lets those big paws dangle.
Rhye is pretty much my constant companion, meaning he is ALL up in my business just like a good doberman thinks they should be. It reminds me of having toddlers again. We planted some trees, a peach and a plum and he thought the digging was so much fun he kept on, even after we filled the hole.
This morning I futzed with a come-along and the miniature compressor to try to convince the bead to seat on the wheelbarrow tire, and he thought that was great fun too until the air shot out the side right into his nose.
With the barrow out of commission I backed the truck right up the the bed and started unloading. He cavorted around scratching, digging his snout in and flinging it everywhere. He didn't even mind when the forks full landed on him, but after a while his attention finally wandered and we were able to unload mostly in peace.
I'm doing the back to Eden deep mulching again this year so this truck load was enough to fill the bed i have earmarked doe peppers/beans to the 8 inches I wanted with just enough left over to mulch around the blueberries. I'll need another two loads to do the rest of the beds and trees that I already have, and I want another two to make a new bed or two. Hopefully they have enough compost and I have enough gas. Either way, There will be lots of busy in the next few weeks!
On the plus side I discovered that a weed I've been battling for years, Florida Betony, aka rattlesnake weed, has edible tubers and its prime harvesting time for them right now. I think I'll be slicing and frying some for lunch today.