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Auto-Charge Vendor List

A few months ago my bank informed me that they detected “fraudulent activity” on my credit card, and therefore issued me a new card. They reminded me to inform the vendors with whom I have an “auto-charge” arrangement. I thought I remembered them all.

About a month later, I got mail from a collection agency regarding a particular vendor.

Huh?

Seems I missed one: I bought something online that billed me in three payments. Apparently my credit card number was changed between the second and third payment. Oops. I cleared it up. (In retrospect, I realized that I had received a few voice mails and emails from this agency, but had dismissed them as scams.)

This story serves as a reminder to keep track of all of your auto-charge arrangements, even the short term ones. I suggest keeping the vendor and contact information in a list on a mobile device that travels with you. If your bank suddenly changes your card number — or your credit card is stolen and you need to cancel the card — you can make a complete transition easily and without interruption.

Here’s hoping you never need to do it though!

Inbox Cleanup

Most of us have too many old emails in our inboxes and vow that someday we’ll clean them out. Perhaps that day never comes because the task seems so daunting, especially if we want to review each email first.

Here is a strategy for quickly reviewing/deleting numerous old emails: temporarily sort the emails by the sender — rather than by date sent — and delete whole groups from the same sender at once.

Here is how it works:

  • Your email is usually sorted by the date sent: the newest emails are on the top (or the bottom) of the list, regardless of who sent the email.
  • While this is the way you want your email sorted most of the time, many email programs offer other options: date, from, unread, subject, etc.
  • When you are ready to tackle your inbox cleanup, choose to sort your inbox by “from” (or “sender”). This will put all of your emails from the same sender together: all of the emails from “Apple” all the way down to (or up to) all of the emails from “Zappos.”
  • To delete everything from certain senders all at once: click the first email, hold down the “shift” key, and then click the last email from that sender. Those emails — and all of the ones in between —  will be selected. Delete them all.
  • Now, you can review the few remaining senders you may have skipped, and hand pick the emails you wish to delete: hold down the Control key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) to select individual emails to delete.

When you are finished, set your sort preference back to “sort by date” so that your inbox looks like it always did … just much cleaner!

NOTE: this “sort by” (or “view by”) feature is not available from every email company or on every device. If you are not sure if yours offers it, do an internet search for your email service or device and the words “sort by sender.”. If your service does not offer the sorting feature, you can still search in your email inbox for a certain sender and all emails from that sender will appear.

Customer Service

None of us looks forward to calling large companies – Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Direct TV, etc. – because the wait time can be long, the phone tree confusing, and outcome unsatisfying.

I make a lot of these calls, some for myself, but many on behalf of others. Here are three pieces of advice I can offer you for a more successful outcome, or at least a more enjoyable experience:

1) Use the name of the customer service representative

Customer service reps always identify themselves; acknowledge the first name and write it down. These reps introduce themselves hundreds of times a day and most callers, in a hurry to finally explain why they are calling, fail to acknowledge it. Once I start referring to the rep by his name, I immediately notice a change in his attitude toward my issue and the more helpful he becomes. Try it.

2) If asked, agree to do a follow-up survey

Some companies ask you before you get any help if you will agree to complete a one question survey after the call. While it seems maddening to be asked, say “yes.” I don’t know if there is any merit to this theory, but I feel as though if there is any chance that the service rep knows that you agreed to complete a survey, she will treat you better than she might otherwise. When you get the follow-up survey call, you can choose to answer or not.

3) Be nice

This is the hardest part! We often call these companies because we are dissatisfied with our service, and we are in no mood to be nice. I find that the nicer I am to the service reps, the nicer – and more helpful – they are to me. These reps get rebuked all day long and, in fact, are not responsible for the issue about which we are calling. I just imagine how relieved they must be to hear a voice that isn’t ready to reprimand them. Don’t confuse nice with firm, however. It’s a challenge to express dissatisfaction and be nice at the same time.

One reminder: this advice applies to the calls that you make to a company’s official customer service number that you can find on your monthly statement. This does not apply to unsolicited callers that call you offering help for a fee. As I have written before, hang up on these callers!

Your Facebook Vacation

I am often amazed by what people post on Facebook, especially when it comes to vacation plans. The following piece by Amy Feldman, a business commentator for CBS News in Philadelphia, sums it up:

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You know the old song, some kind of friends are the kinds of friends we all could do without? That song could have been written for Candace and Robert Landreth, who were arrested in South Carolina, after allegedly breaking into the homes of Facebook friends who posted their vacation plans.

So, this is a reminder to all those people who are in the midst of their Facebook vacation countdown: “only ten more days until we leave for Paradise. Only nine more days…” Not only are you annoying those of us without vacation plans, you are reminding all of those “friends” oh yeah, and all of their friends and all of their friends who can see your status update that it’s only ten more days, now nine more days, until you will have an empty house.

Instead, wait until you are back from your trip to annoy us with your pictures – of yourself, fully clad of course and without the alcohol in your hand – of what a great time you just HAD on your vacation now that you have returned to your fully occupied home.

Even if you don’t post anything on Facebook but just sign in to see what your kids, grandkids, and friends are up to, you may know people who could benefit from this good vacation advice. Pass it on!

To see the article on the CBS Philly website, click here: Don’t Share Vacation Plans.