Friday, September 25, 2009 - a Really Nice Site for Weddings

In my past few blogs you might have noticed a little bit negative tone. I know, it's just me. I like complaining. This time however, I am going to write about a website that is actually quite cool. I was looking for a free online wedding RSVP service and I could not find a good one that would be free. And then bang - - this is what I was looking for. Not any $20 registration fee, not any $15 a month fee or other nonsense charges... it's absolutely free.

This is not a random event RSVP service - it is specifically designed for weddings. For example, two people can log in to the same account: the bride and the groom using their own names. The RSVP page itself shows a RSVP card with a bride and a groom "engraved" in it. Also, there is a field for a "Menu choice" and "Guest notes" so that people can tell what they are going to eat and request a song for example. That is pretty cool and not all RSVP services have these things.

Some of the other RSVP services want you to create an account in order for you to be able to RSVP, but not here. Guests just enter their names and there it is. Or they can have their own private response URL address so they don't even have to enter their names at all... just the response itself. Also, it is possible to lock the guest list so that random people can't add themselves to the list and only the existing people from the guest list can respond, which I found very useful. They have few more options, like uploading pictures or changing the colors, which is cool too.

I think I have exhausted my level of positiveness already. Gah, I was never so positive before but this website made my day. Time for some negativity finally! Sometimes I was a little bit annoyed how slow my guest list was loading. I don't know if it's just my internet connection or theirs but the problem is not the waiting time for anything to show up on the screen - it's how slow the screen was loading with text, line by line.

The ads are fine with me - that's how they make money I guess - but I would appreciate an option for disabling the ads... maybe for a small fee, like $5.00. I would be fine with that and with a thought that my guests will see nice and clean response page without any "Sponsored links" or "Google Ads". Also, they have a community site but it seems like nobody visits it... the latest post I found was from a month ago. I guess not too many people are using that service and I don't know why... it's so good.

Even though they are not perfect, I am quite happy they provide service like that and I believe it is the best free wedding RSVP service on the net. I sincerely spent quite a while searching. If you are getting married, you should certainly consider using them.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chase Bank - Worst Bank Ever

I want to start with saying that I have never applied for a credit card with Chase. My parents had Chase credit card and they had some problems so even though I was getting a lot of mailed advertisements, I never applied. However, I had a Washington Mutual card that was bought by Chase and I unwillingly became a Chase customer. Not for long though.

When my credit card was still Washington Mutual, I was able to check my credit score every month. Before, only Providian cards had it and then Washington Mutual bought Providian, so only Washingotn Mutual had that option. The credit score was provided for free on the website right where you log in to check your balance. After Chase bought Washington Mutual, they removed that functionality. I couldn't check my credit score anymore for free. They had an advertisement that was allowing me to sing up for credit report for a monthly fee though. I was a little bit pissed. Why are they taking away what I already had and telling me to pay for it? Maybe they should come to my home and take my TV and tell me to pay for it as well?

Anyways, I was still ok. Pissed but ok. Few months after I got a mail from Chase. The letter stated that my credit line was decreased from over $8,000 to only $3,000 for the following two reasons:
  • I opened too many credit card accounts recently.
  • I had too few credit cards that were 3 years old or older.
I could not believe what that letter said. First of all, I did not open any credit card accounts recently. I already have 8 credit cards (from my college times) and that is more than enough for me. I did not even open any store credit card like Macy's or JC Penny's either. Also, the most of the 8 credit cards I have were form college times which is more than 3 years ago. So the truth was different from what the letter stated.

However, they wrote that the source of their information is Experian. Therefore, I was thinking that I can't blame Chase for what garbage information Experian is feeding them with. I logged into Experian and I requested a credit report. And here we go:
  • My credit score: 764
  • The last opened credit card: one March 2008, before that: one in December 2007.
  • The number of active credit card accounts 3 or more years old: 5
  • The number of inactive credit card accounts 3 or more years old: 5 (making total of 10)
This is the information provided by Experian. So let's go ahead and see how Chase is interpreting this information. "I opened too many credit card accounts recently" - yes March 2008 is a very recent time for them. And "1" is definitely too many. "I had too few credit cards that were 3 years old or older"- suddenly "5" or "10" became too little number for them. What were they expecting, 100?

Clearly they decreased my credit line for some other reasons than my credit information so I called them. When I explained to them what I explained to you a while ago, the lady said that they are experiencing economical problems and I should send them my latest credit report. Whoaaa... So they don't have my latest credit report? What the heck? They just wrote to me that I recently opened too many credit card accounts and now they are saying that they don't have recent information? Are they mad or what?

I will meet a guy on the street and say "Hey, Mr. Smith, you know what - humans landed on Mars recently". He will say "No, they didn't". And I will answer: "Oh, sorry, I don't have recent information". This is what Chase did in here. First gave me news that I opened too many credit card accounts recently, and then they said that they don't have most recent information.

Anyways, I told the lady on the phone that I do not need to send my recent credit report because the credit report states that I did not open any account for 1.5 years. This means that my report did not change much within last 1.5 years. So it doesn't matter if they have recent report or not. The lady responded that I should contact Experian and tell them that the report is incorrect. Whoaaa... What the heck? I know I didn't open any credit card accounts, Experian is saying I didn't, credit report says I didn't, Chase says that I did (even though they say they got the information from Experian), and I should believe Chase and tell Experian that they are wrong? What is going on? Is the lady mad or what?

I didn't want to embarrass her or say anything stupid so I just answered that my credit report is fine. Then she responded that I should send them the most recent credit report. For the moment I thought I was talking to a robot. I thought we finished talking about sending the most recent credit report which hasn't changed for 1.5 years.

I just asked her to close the account. I never intended to deal with Chase and thank God I will never have to deal with them anymore. They are experiencing economical problems and because of that they try to blame their own clients for something they didn't do. It's as if a student got F in class and was blamed for something he didn't do simply because the teacher has family problems. Or maybe it is as if my mechanic wanted more money so he would charge me more and say that it is because I didn't drive the car gently enough (assuming I drove it gently). Or maybe it is as if my wife told me that I am a bad husband because she had a bad day at work. Whichever way, you don't blame people for something they didn't do especially because you are having some problems. That's what Chase did. I'm happy they won't do this to me anymore. Good bye stupid Chase. See you never.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Northside Hospital, Walmart and AT&T

Today I wanted to tell you about some of my experiences with these big corporations whose names you see in the title.

Northside Hospital - I have been treated like a king. I must admit that I am a complaining type of person but at that hospital there was simply nothing to complain about. Well, I could always say that there was no jacuzzi or sauna but I was sick, so I wouldn't be able to use them anyways. I was in a room with a 37" plasma TV, comfortable bed with 6 different buttons for adjustments of height and angles, a "nurse" button, which calls a nurse who responds within 5 seconds, I had my own private bathroom with shower, a wardrobe and chester drawer, hot meals were brought straight to my bed, I had wireless Internet and many more. I simply felt like in a 5 star hotel. They even gave me a bunch of supplies to take home. Simply perfect. I am still thinking if I could complain about something but I can't figure anything out. Even the nurses were young and pretty.

Walmart - Everybody knows what is Walmart and how it looks and how it is there so I am not going to write about this. I am just going to write about the incident at Walmart pharmacy recently. I am married for over a year. My wife sent me to the Walmart pharmacy to pick up medications for her. When I went there and asked for the medications by providing my last name, the pharmacist (who was 10 feet away from me and was looking at me) told the cashier "Please tell him that the medication was not called in yet, I will call the doctor". Then, the cashier, who was 6 feet away from me told me "The pharmacist said that the pharmacist will call the doctor. Please wait". This was completely awkward. The pharmacist could simply tell me that directly. I was right there. Anyways, after waiting for over 30 minutes and not being called, I went back to the window and I asked for the medications again, but this time by providing my wife's maiden name. And here it was - they had it, without having to call the doctor or anything. I told the pharmacist that they need to update their system because we are already married for over a year and the pharmacist told me (yes, this time he was talking to me directly): "I apologize for the problem. Next time please remember to provide your wife's maiden name". I was surprised... I said: "But your system has incorrect name, please update it". Then the pharmacist repeated same thing he said a while ago and continued his work. This was so weird... Based on what he was saying, I must remember to provide incorrect name for the rest of my life and in case I forget, I must wait another 30 minutes and wonder what's happening. They rather that than them spending 2 minutes and updating my wife's last name in their system. I finally asked another pharmacist to update the system and she agreed. Alternatively, I could just start using another pharmacy... they would have correct name from day one. Just a weird situation I wanted to share.

AT&T - Everybody knows AT&T also and their pluses and minuses but I have another weird situation to share. My cell phone broke. I bought it new 11 months ago. Therefore I was still on a warranty. I went to AT&T for a replacement phone. When I went inside of the customer service area, I saw no customers and three clerks doing something on their computers (probably chatting with friends or shopping on eBay). I was welcomed nicely, I told about my broken phone and one of the clerks said that the system shows that my phone is refurbished and refurbished phones have only 3 months of warranty. I was surprised because I bought it at Best Buy and I was sure I bought it new. He also said that I need to call the place where I bought the phone, that I have no warranty and that there is nothing he can do about it. I thought Best Buy and AT&T were able to communicate with each other. There were three men doing nothing and I was told that I am the one who needs to call Best Buy. I felt like they just wanted to get rid of me. I did call Best Buy right there while all three of them went to the back of the store (probably to smoke a cigarette). The Best Buy people told me that they never sold this type of phone refurbished so it must be new. When I finished talking to Best Buy, I told about it to one of the clerks and he shouted to the other two men who were still in the back of the store "Hey guys, this guy is still here... he says the phone is new". I felt a little bit intimidated by being called a "guy" and that I am still here. They surely expected me to leave. However, an amazing thing happened... the two clerks came and processed the warranty exchange without any problem. Apparently "there is nothing I can do about it" was a straight lie. First of all, he could call Best Buy instead of telling me to do it and expecting me to leave, and secondly, he apparently could still process the exchange even though the system was saying that the phone is refurbished. Or there was another lie - the system wasn't saying anything, but they simply wanted to get rid of me and continue doing stuff on their computers. One thing or another, they lied to me and they were not trying to help me at all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Religion - Good or Bad?

Some people believe in God, some people don't. Some people are more religious, some less. In every culture, in every part of the earth people believed in something greater and more powerful than themselves, something they never saw or heard but believed it is there. What does the belief do to us? Is it good or bad?

Religion is not necessarily all about believing or not believing in God or more gods. It is an ideology that basically affects your entire life - daily prayers, things you should and should not do, weekly or daily services, holidays, people you should and people you should not marry etc. Why do people allow religion to take over their entire lives? Some people do it because others do it, some people do it because it makes them feel better, some are simply scared.

Some religions say that God or gods will punish them in life, some say that God or gods will punish them in after life. It is unbelievable how all these religions contradict one another yet still each individual believes only what their own religion says. And all other religions are wrong. It is unbelievable but it makes sense. Yes, it does. What does not make sense though is people being part of some religion while they do not really believe in everything what that religion says.

So why does it make sense to believe in something while most of other people on this planet do not believe in it? Simply, because it is your own personal belief. What do we believe in? We usually believe in something that cannot be proven. If something is proven, it would be stupid to believe that it is not true. Once we prove that 3 x 4 = 12 because 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12, it would be stupid to believe that 3 x 4 is something different than 12. Therefore, we believe in things that cannot be proven, like "does God exist?" for example. And since it cannot be proven, let all people in the world believe in X and I will believe that they are wrong and I will believe in Y instead and nothing will change it. And also it makes complete sense - nobody can prove X and nobody can prove Y.

What does not make sense though is being part of a religion and not believing or not agreeing in what that religion says. I could be a Christian but Christians believe that Jesus (Jesus is one important guy in that religion - don't screw with him) was Jewish and I for example wouldn't believe that he was Jewish. Does it make sense for me to still be a Christian? It doesn't. Religions usually want to have many members - more members they have, better it is. So if it is some small difference in your belief, it will be fine with them. But in reality if your religion is X, it means that you believe in everything what that religion X says - not half of what it says, not three quarters of what it says, but everything.

What also does not make sense it telling yourself you believe in something while you do not. Some predefined Christian prayers start with "We believe in...", which tell you what you believe. But can you really tell yourself what you believe and then really start believing in it? Sure not. Go ahead and tell yourself that there is a pink elephant flying above your head. After you say that, maybe you will look up to make sure the elephant isn't there, but it doesn't mean that you believed in it. Taking into consideration how detailed beliefs some religions have and also taking into consideration what different people believe, there is no way that 20% of people in the world would believe in the same thousands of things that the particular religion proclaims. This simply means that the most popular religions in the world are made of members who really do not believe in what these religions proclaim.

Now let us go to the last and most important question: are religions good or bad? Religions are good in one sense and bad in the other and it only depends on the amount of the good and the amount of the bad it causes. Being a Crusader and killing people in the name of God is not a good thing. Being a terrorist and killing in the name of Allah isn't either. Letting people find their way in life after relative's death, divorce, depression etc through "connecting with Jesus" (I suggest looking it up, but it simply means by having an imaginary friend) is actually a good thing. When something bad happens to people they tend to go towards religion and many times that helps. Many religions (but not all of them) teach people what is good and what is bad better than the law or parents for example. Are religions good or bad? I would say both - it just depends what religion and at what time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prices - What do They Mean?

As everybody knows, the price you see when you buy things is not what you will pay at the register. When buying online you will need to pay extra for shipping. When buying in store you will need to pay extra for sales tax. When reserving a room in a hotel, you will need to pay additional taxes and fees. When renting a car you will need to pay for the insurance and some extra hard to understand fees. When ordering game or concert tickets online you will need to pay some other fees.

Therefore, what does the price you see actually mean? What is it actually for? Is it simply the "minimum" amount you will pay? Sometimes when I go to the mall, I actually pay less than the price shown because of some sale that was not being advertised yet. So it does not necessarily mean a "minimum" amount you will pay. The price you see seems to be some "guess" number and you will pay somewhere around that - usually more, sometimes less.

My question here is, why do we see this "guess" number instead of the actual amount we will pay? It completely makes no sense. Let's say I have $10 in my pocket. I go to a store and I see a t-shirt for $10. Can I buy it? No. I cannot buy a $10 t-shirt when I have $10, because $10 is not enough for a $10 t-shirt. To buy a $10 t-shirt in a store, I need $10.70 (that's in my county). If you read this sentence to anyone who does not know how the system works, he or she will say that these sentences do not make sense. They do not make sense to me either... but they are true.

This is all because of a 7% sales tax that the county has established. Different counties have different amounts, which makes things even more complicated. I might leave in a county where sales tax is 6%. Then I will go shop at a store that is in another county. I will see a $10 t-shirt and I will have $10.60 in my pocket. I will think, "hey, I have enough to buy a t-shirt". And then the cashier will give me the final price - $10.70, because the store is in a county with 7% tax.

Do I really need to do a research on the tax amounts in different counties before I go shopping? Apparently not - you will get messed up anyways. There are stores, like Food Depot, where the taxes are even different. For some reason instead of 7% sales tax, I see some types of food with 10% sales tax. Then I will go to a thrift store nearby and I will pay 1% sales tax. And these taxes are not even depending on stores only. Even in a single store I am being charged different % for different types of items I buy. Because of that, there is no way for me to predict how much money I will pay at the end.

One time I went to a dealer. I liked one car for $11,000 and I test drove it. I was used to buying cars from private sellers and I was used to negotiate the price. After I test drove it, I offered $10,000 for the car in cash. Apparently the sales people were stopping themselves from laughing at me. I could not understand why, what was so funny. The funny part was not that I wanted to pay $1,000 less than the advertised price. The funny part was that I actually, unknowingly wanted to pay $3,000 less than the amount I would have to pay. The $11,000 was the regular, advertised price, add to that 7% sales tax, plus dealer's fees - $700, plus tag and title fees, plus God knows what was and this made the price ending up somewhere around $13,000. Thinking I would buy a car for $10,000 or $11,000 in worst case scenario, I was actually targeting for a car for $13,000 - the real worst case scenario with horns and coming from hell.

When I rented a car for $24.99 a day for 3 days, somehow I ended up paying almost $200. When ordering game tickets online, I ended up paying over 30% more than advertised price. When buying airplane tickets to Hawaii through Orbitz, I ended up paying $150 extra for some "traveler's insurance" I never agreed to pay - this one was added to the total amount after I entered the credit card information and pressed the "Submit" button - a super stupid way to make people run overdrafts on their checking accounts.

Go ahead and share your "surprise" stories with prices and the actual amounts you had to pay.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Law - Impossible to Obey

As a common person, I try to obey the law as much as I can. Now, please stop for a moment and read that sentence again: As a common person, I try to obey the law as much as I can. Why not "I do obey the law fully"? The answer is simply because it is impossible.

"How is it impossible?" you might ask, "Of course it is possible, you just don't do anything wrong" you could say. Well, it is impossible. And the reason for that is not because society has its own laws that not always go along with the public law. For example, looking at a woman's boobs at a swimming pool from a distance is completely ok with the public law, but unacceptable in a society (yes, there are groups of people who completely believe it is ok, but I am talking about a general public here). And at the same time, speeding on a highways is completely acceptable by a society while not acceptable by the public law. However, this is not the reason it is impossible to follow the law. You could still forget about what society teaches you and follow the rules. You could, but you can't.

The real answer to that question is simply because no human brain is able to memorize and put in motion all the laws that were made and at the same time to work every day, buy groceries, cook, take care of kids etc. and follow all the changes in the law. Newspapers, magazines and journals will publish only these changes in law that affect many people. Possibly only lawyers could do it but they also make mistakes.

You might argue and disagree with me at this moment but one day I went directly to a police officer with this question: "How can I be 100% sure that what I am doing is right according to the law?" and she answered: "You can't, just try not to get into trouble". Public court takes police officers as a reliable source of information. Police officer can tell to the court that he or she saw you roll on stop sign and that is enough evidence for your conviction.

However, personally I do not take police officers as a reliable source of information in all cases. If that was true, I would contradict myself, because if police officers were reliable source of information in all cases, then they would be able to inform me on what is lawful and what isn't on a daily basis. Although normal person probably wouldn't do that, my sentence says "impossible", meaning no matter what you do, you still can't be sure you are not breaking the public law. Therefore, even if you ask a police officer every 5 minutes if what you are doing and what you are about to do is lawful, you still will not be 100% sure that you are following the law. Are you disagreeing?

Several years ago, I got blue undercar neon lights as a birthday gift. Before I installed them, I asked a police officer through an email if it is ok to have blue neon lights installed on a car and drive with them turned on. The police officer said that it is ok as long as they are not flashing so people will not mistaken you with a cop. I went ahead and installed the lights. The same day I got a ticket for having blue lights installed on my car.

I explained everything to the police officer who gave me the ticket and he said that a new law came to life several months ago that says that you cannot have blue lights on your vehicle at all, no matter if they flash or not. This simply means that the other police officer who told me that it is ok to have blue lights as long as they don't flash, did not know the latest law. This proves that asking a police officer if what you are doing and what you are about to do is lawful does not guarantee that everything you do in life is indeed lawful - police officers are not lawyers.

You might ask "what about the lawyers?". Well, lawyers are supposed to be on top of the law because that is their job. But you will not tell me that a lawyer is a common person. Common people do not live in one or three million dollar homes for example. Let us exclude lawyers, lawyers' wifes and friends from that set of "common" people. I am talking here about a common Mr. Smith who works somewhere at some store or factory either as a clerk or some manager, or maybe some office worker and is required to follow the law even though the law is not his profession. When you go to a court for doing something unlawful, your excuse cannot be "I didn't know I couldn't do that".

Going back to my situation with the blue neon lights, you are probably asking "why didn't you go to a court and tell them that a police officer told you it is ok to have blue neon lights?". Yes, I went to a court. First, I went to the local court. I had to take few hours off from work. I was getting paid hourly so I lost about $50 on that trip. When I went there, after waiting for about 3 hours I was told that I need to come another day. When I came another day, losing another $50, I was told that with this type of case I need to go to a county court. In my third trip, to a county court this time, and third $50 lost, I was told again that I need to come another day. At that time $150 was already more than the ticket I got which was $100 and it did not make sense for me to continue. Therefore, I gave up and agreed to pay $75 for the cost of the court and have my ticket canceled. I still ended up loosing $225 total instead of simply paying $100 for the ticket. I ended up exchanging the lights to purple.

I could have continued... maybe at the county court they would tell me to go to a state court. If I won the case, maybe I could have sued them for the money lost on not going to work. If I lost a job, I could even sue them for loosing the job, maybe. But this is all "maybe" and all of that does not change the fact that I really did not follow the law, period.

Therefore it has been stated - a common person cannot be sure that he or she is doing everything according to the law. A common person can only try to obey the law as mush as it is possible for him or her.