02 July 2011

Oven-Free till October

It all started innocently enough, with the idea that grilled pizza would entertain our nieces on their most recent overnight visit. It was such a success we started to think what else we might cook on the grill. We had some grilled vegetables left over from the pizza, a pie crust in the freezer... Why not?

It turns out that there is a dearth of recipes for grilled quiche on the Internet. I did find a couple of sources, none of them starting with a frozen crust. I decided to take my chances anyway. For those of you who want to try this at home, I didn't bake the crust first, just put some fork holes in the bottom and put everything together: grilled mushrooms, squash, onions, and sweet peppers; four medium eggs, beaten; a generous amount of grated cheese.

We heated the grill to 350 and cooked for maybe 30 or 40 minutes. It does help to have a grill with a temperature gauge. We turned the temperature down at the end, and it probably would have stayed fluffier if we had taken it off then. But it tasted fabulous.

Having mastered that challenge, we've now set a lofty goal for ourselves: not to use the oven all summer. We've done pizza again, and our second attempt was even better than the first. I'm not sure that we will ever want pizza in an oven again. I am now mentally sifting through my culinary repertoire in search of the near impossible. A co-worker bet me that I couldn't bake bread. We'll just see about that.

06 February 2011

Bank of America Update

The saga continues...

(For an account more detailed than you may want of my three-month-long attempts to pay my Bank of America credit cards online, see the previous post.)

A friend advised that I direct a tweet to BofA_Help, which, with some technical assistance, I must confess, I managed to do. A day or two and a few tweets back and forth later, I received a phone call from a customer service rep who expressed great concern for my concern, but who could offer me no further information on the problem. I made my displeasure known. I was then contacted by a senior customer service representative, the first time by voicemail, where she left her direct line.

When I was able to call her back, she immediately disarmed me by telling me that Bank of America would be sending me a $50 Exxon Mobile gift card for my trouble. She further informed me that the log-on issue I'd been having was projected to be fixed by February 12th. I was so stunned by getting a direct answer that some of the obvious questions did not occur to me.

Why should it have taken me so many phone calls and so much vitriol to get what really should have been a simple answer? Though I still have questions about the competence of a bank that takes this long to get their database to operate properly, would it have been so hard to make sure that all of their customer service representatives knew definitively that the problem was being worked on and that there was a target date to fix it? Or at least that they all understood that there was a problem? Has no one considered a notification on the web site, for crying out loud, if nothing more than for the sake of the sanity of the poor customer service representatives who had to listen to my tirades?

Of course, it is possible that their faith in that target date is so shaky that they would prefer it not be made public unless they absolutely can't avoid it. It's also possible that the problem was NOT being addressed until they faced the peril of being called out on Twitter.

Either way, I now have an answer that is at least semi-satisfying, and a gas card to boot. But I can't help feeling sorry for those other customers in the same boat who are still in the dark because they aren't as stubborn and argumentative as I am.

If I'm sounding a little high-maintenance here, rest assured that this is not truly the case. Had I been a little more self-serving, at least one question would have occurred to me when the senior rep asked me if there was anything else she could do for me today: Could we see about lowering this interest rate?

23 January 2011

Dear Bank of America,

Thank you for carefully training your customer service representatives to tell me how much you appreciate my business at the end of every call. Otherwise, I would never know.

In spite of your campaigns promoting paperless transactions and easy online access, you have completely denied online access to a portion of your profit base for the last three months. This does not inspire confidence as a customer or as a (former) potential investor.

Early in November, I lost online access to my accounts. Your web site’s first message read that this service was currently unavailable and instructed me to try again later. I did. Several times. On different machines with different browsers.

My first call about the problem took nearly an hour, where one of your employees walked me through the steps of clearing my cache and deleting my cookies, with many erroneous directions for the browser and operating system I use. Fortunately I am fairly well versed in those operations and could manage despite the misdirection.

That didn’t work. She referred me to technical support, who told me this was a known issue and assigned me a ticket number. They assured me that they were working on it and would contact me. They did indeed contact me, to tell me they were still working on it.

Over a month later, the problem still had not been resolved and I had received no further communication from your IT department. The message on your web site now told me there were no open accounts associated with this user ID. I called again. During this call, I was told you had migrated your payment service from myezpay, which I’d never heard of. I can only guess that you believed your own programmers could manage your database adequately and with less expense to you.

You were wrong.

The result was that customers with closed accounts could no longer access bill pay online.

I was assured the problem had been recently resolved, even told that representatives knew in advance certain customers might have issues, and that I should have access soon.

I also asked why I hadn’t received paper statements in the meantime and was initially told I had requested to stop paper statements. On further inquiry, your representative revealed that your new terms and conditions agreement, issued at the same time as the migration from myezpay, included an automatic opt in for paperless statements, which would have included a pop-up allowing me to opt out.

In case you are not aware, there is a tool called a pop-up blocker that many of us engage to avoid the barrage of advertisements that assault us when visiting a commercial site such as yours. Since I have neither the need nor the time to read terms and conditions to which I must submit regardless of whether I like them, I was entirely ignorant that I had “requested” to stop my paper statements at the very same time my online access was blocked.

I don’t believe I need to point out the genius of automatically opting in your customers for paperless statements at the same time you’re performing a service migration you know will create issues. It’s almost as if you want your customers to overlook their payments due so you can charge them late fees.

Another month later, on January 22, I called yet again to see if my account access could be restored. I was on hold for more than 70 minutes. When I reached a representative, he assured me he could find someone who could fix the account and put me on hold several times. When he reached a representative whom he said could help me, she told me she could not, as my accounts were “blocked” and not currently accessible through the web site, but that she could take my payment over the phone. I do not want to make my payment over the phone. But it seems that other than snail mail, I have no choice. She apologized and said you were working on it.

Are you?

I then contacted a representative through the chat function on the web site. After wasting her time for about 4 minutes (I must say, they are far better trained at sloughing people off than your phone reps) I was told I needed to call the customer service line and that someone there would most certainly be able to help me.


I told her to have a fabulous day. And I meant it, because, after all, it’s not her fault your database is broken. I can draw one of several possible conclusions from this:

1. Your database programmers are incompetent and do not know how to fix the problem.
2. You do not care and have not instructed your database programmers to fix the problem.
3. You are taking payoffs from the U.S. Postal Service to encourage people to use stamps again.

I understand that since my accounts are not active and that I will not be a new source of revolving debt for you, my concerns are less important to you than those of an active customer. Though you’ve seen fit to ignore my existence, I am certain you would take issue if I ignored the existence of my debt to you. I’m sure it’s not the largest owed to you, but your business relies on increments, and I can’t be your only customer with closed accounts still owing you money. Your own representative acknowledged this was not the first call she’d taken on this issue.

Of course, I am probably in the minority of those with closed accounts still paying. And I pay on time.

Maybe that’s the problem. Since I’m only paying down my debt instead of accruing more or racking up late payment fees, I’m not a valuable customer anymore. I am grateful that you at least send me cheerful emails three times a month telling me that my online statement is available, even though I have no access to it. I will continue to respond so that your customer service representatives have something to do.

You are a full-service bank offering everything from credit and checking to insurance and retirement services. Based on my recent experience, I do not see your institution as competent enough to be trusted with my money.

Though I have accrued more debt than I like to admit because of past circumstances, I’m now financially stable and can foresee a time in the near future when my revolving debt will disappear. Under certain circumstances, I may one day even use a credit card again.

When I do, it will not be a Bank of America card.