I recently switched from Verizon to AT&T. I wanted a phone that AT&T has. Mariya has AT&T. I have a brother that has AT&T. So, I switched.

I’ve been with Verizon since 1999. I’ve been pleased with the coverage. The phone selection stinks. Verizon is very annoying with locking their phones down, and I got my most recent phone on November 5, 2005, with a two year contract. In early October I was billed for the October 6 through November 5 billing period and the bill was paid.

I got my new phone on October 26th and ported my number to AT&T. Earlier today, I got a verizon bill in my email for $191.49. This was strangely high, since I am on a $32.80 a month plan.

My suspicion was that I had been hit with an early termination fee (ETF). So, I called up Verizon customer support and talked with Deandre (pronounced Dee Andre). I explained the situation to Deandre and what I suspected had happened. He confirmed that I had been hit with the ETF. I explained to him that this didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I had already been billed for the total of my contract period. His stance was that I had technically terminated service before my anniversary date of November 5, so it didn’t matter what I had been billed for. My only option (let’s call this option #1), according to Deandre, was to port my number back to Verizon, leave it there until November 5 and then cancel. I could “get away with this” because Verizon has a 30 day guarantee where things can be “undone”. I explained that this is something that would just cause a lot more work for their system and for me, for not positive gain at all. Why do it? Why just just get rid of my ETF and we could call it good. He said he couldn’t do that. The system had it in there. So, he put me on hold for a few minutes.

So, he presented another option. He said that the best he could do was to credit me half of the ETF in liu of porting my number back and forth. So, it was now a $87.50 charge. So I said that I was basically going to have to pay $90ish to cause more trouble for both Verizon’s system and for myself. I tried to emphasize that this just didn’t make any sense to me.

He put me on hold again for a while. Came back. $50 fee. To get this, he had looked over my account details and had put me on a “variable” ETF schedule, where you get $5 of credit (towards an ETF) for each month you have your account in good standing past 6 months. I told him that I had been with Verizon for 6 or 7 years, so I shouldn’t have any ETF at all, based on that. He said that there was a $60 minimum ETF normally, and he was waiving that. Additionally, he said that the “variable ETF” schedule normally didn’t apply at all if you were porting your number to another carrier.

I told him that the purpose of an ETF was obviously to make sure that Verizon got its money. I had completed the terms of my contract, monetarily speaking. I had paid all of my monthly bills. I didn’t expect to get any proration of the last month’s bill. I had paid up to November 5, and I was totally happy with that. The ETF just didn’t make any sense to me.

So, we started looking at my bill. He said that it was $191.xx. I asked where the extra $16 had come from. I suspected taxes. He said there were something like $22 in taxes. I did the math in my head, and that meant $169 or so. So, I said that didn’t make sense with a $175 ETF. So, he looked farther, and saw that my account had been prorated to the tune of an eleven dollar credit for October 26 through November 5. At that point I said, why not just charge me the $11 and we can call it all good?! I said I couldn’t fathom what the difficulty could be with that. I had expected to pay the bill through November 5 all along.

He said that he’d put in to get it waived, since I was only a week away from having my contract completed. I told him that I’d like to fill out a survey or something telling that he had been willing to work with me on this. He said they didn’t have that, but he put me through to the voicemail of his supervisor. I then left a message on her (Marilyn Vinson) voicemail, saying that Deandre had done a pretty good job of helping me.

Satisfied? Well, I guess so. Bummer that I had to stay on line for 30 minutes to get this done. If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have been out the $175. So, internet readers.. pay attention. Put in your time, and you, too, can have proper outcomes to your difficulties.

Conserve Electrons.

Use Paper!

(dozens of comments and growing) I’ve been thinking about starting a business recently.
I’ve also been asked for a business card, so I figured it was time to actually take the plunge and buy some of the things.

I did a little bit of shopping around. The company that I use to print my photographs actually makes business cards. You mail them an image, and they put it on a card. Quite simple, once you have the image designed. But, from looking at the price, I thought that I might be able to do better if I looked around more. I had heard about Vistaprint from various places. They supposedly had free business cards except for the price of shipping. So, I wandered over to their website (use your imagination to guess what it is) and, sure enough, they offer 250 business cards for the low, low firesale price of $5.25 to cover the shipping and handling. You don’t get to design your own image for that price. You pick from a selection of predesigned cards. Also, they mention that there will be a logo on the back of the card for Vistaprint. If you want to get rid of the logo, you have to pay more. If you don’t want the default card stock, you have to pay more. And so on.

But, all I really needed was the basic card, so I went ahead and designed myself the “free” version of the card. At each step of the ordering process, you are asked if you want to add this feature or that (like the things I mentioned above that add onto the cost). At each step, I carefully made sure to choose the option that kept things “Free”. Shipping times? want it this week? That costs more. Free gets it to you in about 3 weeks.

But, I wasn’t in any big hurry, so I went with the cheapest options all the way. Once you get to the end and have entered your shipping and payment information, you are offered the chance to continue clicking on things to “take surveys and win cash”, “get $10 off your next order”, etc etc.. Things of that nature. Needless to say, I didn’t bother clicking on any of the stuff.

So, the order was in. I got an email saying that I’d get another email when it shipped. I carefully watched my credit card transactions via the credit card’s website. Sure enough, $5.25 showed up from Vistaprint, just like it should have. All was well with the world.

The Vistaprint transaction posted on the 7th of the month, and the transaction was complete on the 9th.

Act 2, Scene 2 (AKA: where things seem to go downhill)

On the 9th, a new charge showed up on the credit card. It completed on the 11th. It looked like the following:

04/11/06 	247CS.NET(Services and Merchandise) 	-$33.36 

I didn’t have a clue what this was. I thought long and hard about what I might have ordered, and absolutely nothing came to mind. With a name of 247cs.net, it sounded an awful lot like a website to me. So, I typed that into the location bar of everyone’s favorite non Microsoft browser, and was presented with a page that basically said: “You’re here because you noticed a charge on your credit card for 247cs.net. This is for a music download service. If you think this charge is in error, click here. If you think this is fraud, click here.” etc etc. [The website appears to be down now. Go figure] Well, I didn’t have any desire to give them any information about me. So, I made a mental note of the website, and prepared to call my credit card company.

Upon calling my credit card company, I told them that I had an unknown charge. They found it, said that it was an internet charge, and that I could file a claim against it. It was some company out of New York, and the category was listed as Computer Software. They also called the 1-800 number for the 247cs.net company and connected me through to them. I spoke to a girl named Anyae, and she started looking up my information. I gave her my name. She couldn’t find it. I spelled everything out. I gave my address. She still couldn’t find any indication of the charge. She asked for my credit card number. I was leery of doing this, but the credit card company themselves had connected me through and were listening in on the conversation, so I gave the credit card number, and, finally, she was able to find the charge. Apparently (and this is the interesting part) in their records my middle initial had gotten included in the last name, so the last name that I was giving here wasn’t coming up on her computer. But, she found the charge, and said that she’d file a charge-back against it. I asked her how this could have happened, and she didn’t have any good answers. The call ended, and I started obsessing over my credit card company’s website to see if the charge would actually be taken care of. And, I started thinking about how annoying it would have to be get a new credit card number. But, if I had been a victim of identity fraud or something, I needed to get it taken care of.

Sure enough, a couple of days later, a negative charge came through for $33.36. A day or two later, I got a fraud complaint form from my credit card company asking me to fill out the forms and mail them back. But, they didn’t give me an envelope to mail anything in, nor did they even bother giving me the address of where I should mail to. So, that didn’t really go anywhere.

So, if it was actually identity fraud, it was, so far, a pretty mild case. I kept (and still am) watching the credit card transactions very closely to see any unexpected charges. But, nothing new showed up. About this time, I noticed that the timing of the Vistaprint charge and the 247cs.net charge were… interesting.. So, I started doing some web searching. Apparently Vistaprint has had a history of some bad practices in this area. I couldn’t find anything about Vistaprint and 247cs.net, but they have had some cases in the past where people have gotten signed up for subscriptions that they didn’t want, and have had a pretty rough time getting everything taken care of. Guess you live and learn, huh? So, I’m going to keep watching things closely and see what happens.

Oh, you’re wondering about the business cards? I actually got them quicker than they had predicted by a few days. The extremely poor quality picture I’ve included lets you see what they look like. More than anything else, the picture is useful so that you can get a feel for how big the logo is that they put on the back of each and every card. It says “Business Cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com!”. I think I can live with that for now. My needs for the business cards are pretty minimal at this point, so I don’t really want to spend a lot of money on them. For me, the cards are acceptable. I would, however, caution everyone to be very careful about credit card usage with Vistaprint. I still can’t say that Vistaprint is actually responsible for the charge that I got from 247cs.net, but they are who I’m currently currently blaming.

So, I’ve been thinking for some time now that I needed to get a new pair of “tennis shoes”. The term “tennis shoe” is one that my family has been using for decades, and it refers to all non work, dress, hiking shoes that are typically designed for some of track and field type sport. Growing up, I always seemed to end up with Nike shoes. They were definitely in style, and mom and dad somehow managed to wheel and deal the shoe dealer into getting us Nikes each time we needed shoes.

During high school, I went through a phase where I owned a pair of LA Gear shoes, and a few pair of Reebok here and there. And, I went through a no-name phase, where I got shoes real cheap and watched the soles fall off of them in the first few months of ownership, etc. etc.

Anyway, that’s a little background. To catch everyone up to where things are currently at, a few years ago (probably 3-4, let’s say) I went to the local Shoe Carnival store and purchased a pair of New Balance shoes. The “model” number on the shoes was 804. I tried on pair after pair, and the 804 was the shoe that really felt good in the store. And, the shoe felt good as I wore it. I’m not really a grey-colored shoe guy. I prefer standard white shoes, but this shoe did feel good. I was mostly sedentary during the time I owned this shoe.

A couple of years back I decided it was time for a new pair of shoes, so I went back to Shoe Carnival. Needless to say, it is one of the corrolaries to Murphy’s law that you’ll never find the same shoe twice, and this time was no exception. You walk into the Shoe Carnival, they are playing the peppy musack, and every 3 minutes they tell you to come spin the wheel to get 10% off of a pair of socks if you buy 3 pair of shoes, and they have aisles and aisles of shoes. They have an aisle for Cross Training, an aisle for Basketball, etc. So, I went to where the shoes were at that were similar to the 804s that I was wearing, and didn’t find any 804s. I ended up leaving, only to come back a few weeks later and purchase a pair of 480s. The 480s weren’t a bad shoe. They didn’t hurt me or anything. I was sedentary during most of the time I wore these shoes. During the tail end of the 480 Reign I started working out more. For the past four months or so, I’ve been trying to kick the sedentary habit and have been walking, jogging, and running a fair amount. I’ve been thinking about getting new shoes for some time now… Probably the last 10 months or so.

But, I don’t get in a hurry about doing these things, and just ended up back in the Shoe Carnival in the past month or so. I figured that my exercise regime called for some new leather. Needless to say, they didn’t have any New Balance 805s, or 480s. And, there isn’t any way to really reference a current model shoe with what might have been in the past. There isn’t any obvious rhyme or reason to the numbering scheme (obviously they don’t just go in increasing order) so the hundreds place probably means something.. Who knows? Anyway, I ended up getting a pair of 504s. Perhaps these are related, in some small way, to the pair of 804s that I started out with. One of life’s little conundrums. The 504s don’t look too bad. I like a shoe that looks somewhat like a running shoe. I don’t care for the flat-footed looking walking shoes. So, the 504 passed the look test. It felt OK in the store. Was it a good shoe? Well, it’s hard to tell based on the shoe box. But, I had had good luck with New Balance in the past.

Shoe Carnival was running a special that night (No, that’s not the unique part.. they are always running a special) where you could get a second pair of shoes for half price. So, I ended up finding a pair of Nike shoes that looked like good running shoes and purchased them. Let me get the Nikes out of the way first. They are good shoes. They are light, and I can run in them for miles without any noticeable ill effects.

The New Balance shoes, on the other hand, are simply inadequate for my current lifestyle. They are fine for walking around work. But, any time I do any serious walking (4mph for > 2 miles, let’s say) I start seeing problems. And, I see these problems within a few minutes if I try to use them for jogging. When I start the exercise, everything is fine. But within a short amount of time I start noticing that my lower legs are hurting. Around the area where the calf is at, but the pain is on the front side of the leg. So it isn’t like a muscle that is hurting. It’s just a pain. And, I start noticing that, when walking, my feet start falling flat on the pavement. It’s as though the shoes aren’t giving me any “roll” as I move down the street. I just fall flat on my feet with each step, which is also uncomfortable. With the Nikes, I can run for miles without noticing problems.

Bottom line, I’m most likely not going to be purchasing any more New Balance shoes. I’m quite pleased with the Nikes, and my brother has recommended Asics as a good brand as well. I have also heard that you are supposed to wear a running show for 100 miles. After that time it has lost its cushioning and should be replaced. Well, I doubt that I’ll be quite that strict, but I definitely anticipate that I’ll be updating the shoes more often now that I’m exercising more. Hope this helps someone out there.

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