Bad customer service? Talk to the CEO
This month, I started getting collection calls. Apparently my Internet provider wanted $61 for a modem that I returned last May. I'd been trying to resolve the problem for months, but nothing seemed to work. No matter how many times I asked to speak with a supervisor and was promised that the matter would be taken care of, that "I'll be the last person you'll have to talk to," I was getting nowhere.
During the umpteenth call, I began to wonder if I was in the first circle of my very own inferno. Maybe I'd been damned to an eternity of crappy, staticky on-hold music, interrupted only by the assurance that my call was very important. Damned to repeat my story over and over to people whom I began to suspect were dwelling somewhere in the eighth circle.
Eventually, I hit a wall. The last supervisor I spoke to said that since I couldn't prove that I returned the modem, I had to pay for it. So now what?
How I’m changing my relationship with money
As a teenager, I had a part-time job that was already mundane and dreadful enough, but then Kelly P. was hired. For whatever reason, Kelly and I were instantly repelled by each other. She thought I was too dorky to bear; I found her voice impossibly grating. She over-pronounced her esses.
All it took was one shift. One evening, Kelly and I were stuck together. Alone. For five hours. An entire shift of her whistling the letter "S." But by the end of that shift, we could somehow tolerate each other. Eventually, we liked each other. After a while, we even started going to lunch together.
My relationship with money is blossoming in the same way.
Do you read the fine print?
We've all heard the advice to "read the fine print" before we sign anything, but does anyone actually do it?
I recently spoke with a man we'll call Randy. Six months ago, Randy went to a state fair, the kind that vendors of all kinds descend upon to hawk their wares.
One of those vendors was a hot tub company with a very recognizable name. They've been in business for decades. Randy stopped by their booth. "They had a specific color of cabinetry and material that was a perfect match for our deck, so I decided to order it," he says.
What your loose change is really worth
"You've got to look for the date," my grandfather reminded me as we sorted through the loose change in my piggy bank.
I was five years old, and to me, the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters spread out on the floor in front of me amounted to a pirate's ransom, representing a lifetime of stooping down to the ground to pick up every dirty, forgotten coin I could get my equally dirty little hands on.
It was 1987, and while I loved to find the shiny, newly-minted coins imprinted with the same year, what I was really looking for were 1982 pennies. I loved that the penny was different from all the other coins; I preferred its tawny color to the lustrous gleam of the silver. And since I was born in 1982, the pennies minted in my birth year were the perfect fit for a precocious child who didn't quite fit in with the other kids in her neighborhood.
What to do with all that clutter: sell it, swap it, give it away
This Saturday (May 14th) is Give Your Stuff Away Day, a worldwide celebration of getting rid of clutter. People all over the world will be gathering up their unwanted possessions and taking them to the curb, where they hope neighbors and passersby will adopt their stuff.
As the event organizers say:
Because of all the shopping we've done, many of us now own lots of great stuff we never use anymore. And for some reason, we don't sell or give it away. Lots of valuable stuff — just wasting away. Let's take all this stuff and over one weekend, make it available to others for free. Continue reading...
Developing systems that workContinue reading...
In my fantasy life, I'm an organized guy. In the real world, that's just not the case. I do my best to stay on top of things — I make lists, use a calendar, ask Kris for help — but there always seems to be something slipping through the cracks.
Before we left for Africa, for example, I hid my wallet. I always do this when we go on a long trip. (I don't use my wallet when I travel.) And every time, I have trouble finding it when I get home. You'd think I'd develop a system — but no.
I'm not the only one with problems like this. Sure, there are folks out there like Kris and her sister — people who never let anything fall through the cracks — but they're few and far between. Most of us need to develop systems to help our lives run smoothly.
How to replace six vital documents
Could you produce your birth certificate, car title, or an old tax return at a moment's notice?
You're supposed to store vital documents in a fireproof box or keep them in a safe-deposit box, but how many of us actually do that? We may not need these papers often, but when we do need them, we really need them. You need vital documents to sell your car, travel overseas, apply for a job, get through an audit, refinance your house, and more.
The good news is that if you've lost important pieces of paper, you can replace them — and it might be easier than you think. Here's how to replace six of the most important documents in your life. Continue reading...
How to safeguard your social security numberContinue reading...
In articles about how to prevent identity theft, I've often read that one should never give out his or her social security number (SSN) unless absolutely necessary. That sounds like good common sense. But I recently found myself asking, in what situations is it actually necessary?
I've mentioned that my husband and I own land on which we are starting to build a home. The land is owner-financed, and we've had a great relationship with the sellers (who are also our future neighbors) for the past three years. Last week I received a message that they needed our SSNs. The full story wasn't clear, but it seemed they had a new CPA who said she needed our numbers to complete their taxes. This immediately set off red flags for me. This isn't to say I distrust the sellers. They are a lovely retired couple — the kind of people that invite you in for coffee when you drop off the monthly payment. But I didn't know this CPA, why she needed our SSNs when they've never been needed before, and what precautions she would take to safeguard them. So I decided to dig a little deeper. Do you have to provide your SSN because it's requested, and if not, how do you know which situations are optional?
If you’re going to buy a warranty, shop aroundContinue reading...
I'm writing this post on my brand new MacBook, which I just purchased yesterday. I can honestly say I've never been less excited to buy a computer.
The reason for my ambivalence is that I already bought this laptop four months ago, replacing a seven-year-old "little iBook that could." But two weeks ago a water bottle (that I thought was closed) toppled over, splashing water on the MacBook. At first, it seemed like I was in the clear. All systems were go. Later that day, however, the MacBook started randomly "typing" characters on its own, and after two failed reboots, it died. Rest in peace, MacBook. You were too young.
The get rich slowly philosophy
There's been an influx of new readers at Get Rich Slowly lately. To serve as an intro the new folks (and to celebrate the site's fourth anniversary, and in honor of Financial Literacy Month), today I'm going to review my financial philosophy. Although we covered each of these points in turn last autumn, it's been a while since I collected these core values in one location.
Based on my research — and my experience with what does and doesn't work — I've compiled a list of fourteen guidelines that form the basis of everything I write. Some of these tenets draw on age-old wisdom: "Saving must be a priority" is just the ancient truth that you've got to "pay yourself first", for example. But other rules — such as "do what works for you" — I came up with based on my own struggles.
Here, then, are the fourteen tenets of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy: