Archives for September 2009

Socks

After I posted the Glaucoma Study entry, Eliz said that I should have talked a bit more about the socks task.  At the school where Eliz used to teach and our kids went, they would call this the Socks work.  It was work for me.  Here’s how it worked…  There were seven socks pinned to a board on a wall at eye level.  There was a table that was 30 x 60 up against the same wall that you could spread the 10 socks out on.  You then had to place the sock on the table under the correct match that was on the wall.

The first time I did this task, I was given the ground rules: I couldn’t touch the socks on the wall, I could get as close as I wanted, and, there was no time limit.  Most people had to this (and all the other tasks in the study) three times.  First time with both eyes, the second time with one eye covered, and the third time with the other eye covered.  I only had to do it (and all other tasks) twice since I have only the slightest vision in my right eye.  Believe me, 2x is enough.

I verified the ground rules with Maryanne before we started.  The last time I did this task the observer seemed to have a problem with the way I did this task.  She then started the clock and I began the task with my right eye covered.  It was covered from the last task and both Maryanne and I forgot to remove it.  I spread the socks out on the table, looking for the one I knew had no match.  It was easy to spot since it had cream or gray colored stripe near the top of the sock.  Now I just had to find the correct seven of the remaining nine and match them up.  So I hopped up on the table and zeroed in on a lighter gray sock on the board.  I found two socks that were similar in color and held them up close to the one on the board.  I could feel a pattern on one of the socks and knew that wasn’t the correct one.  I placed the other on the table beneath its mate.  This went on for about 18 minutes.  I missed two or three.

Now it was time for me to do it with both eyes.  It seemed silly for me to do it with both eyes, but at one of the other tasks I had done better with both eyes than with just my left, so I was up for seeing if it made a difference with this task.  I asked Maryanne to mix the socks up so that it would be a fair comparison.  She did and then started the timer.  I found the striped sock again and discarded it.  I hopped back onto the table and began matching.  This time it only took me about 11 minutes and I got ’em all!  I think that was the first time in the study that I matched them all correctly.  I was happy until I realized it took me about a minute and a half to match a pair of socks.

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Glaucoma Study

My latest Fields

My latest Fields Test done at Wills Eye during a glaucoma study.

Over the past year, Eliz and I have taken part in a glaucoma study at Wills Eye in Philadelphia.  I was asked if I’d be willing to participate and when they realized that Eliz would be bringing to each session, she was asked to participate as part of the control group.  Fortunately, Eliz doesn’t have glaucoma!  The study included a (torturous) visual fields test, IOP and vision  check, a questionnaire on how glaucoma affects your life, an obstacle course, spotting different size boxes around a room, dialing a “telephone,” reading in varying lighting conditions, spotting objects moving on a computer screen, and, my favorite, matching socks.  It takes about three hours to complete and we had to go in four times within a year.  Last Thursday (17 Sep) was our last session.

We were compensated $20 (total) and had our parking validated at each visit.  At the end of the study, we are each to receive $160 (which is due in the mail in the next week or two.)  To get paid to get a fields test is AWESOME!  It’s like getting paid to be water boarded…  The fields test is so exhausting to me, because I have trouble just looking at the dot in the center of the machine.  I only get the test done on my left eye, as my right eye can barely tell light from dark (I can tell light is shining on it by waving my hand between my eye and the light source, about 10 inches from my eye.  If I see a shadow, I know there’s light and six more weeks of winter.  Of course, I could always just open my left eye, but I like to know what I can see with the right eye.)  For those that haven’t taken a visual fields test, as you look at the center dot, a series of lights, ranging in size and intensity, flash all around the inside of the machine, one flash at a time.  You have button in your hand that you press if you see the light.  It’s kind of like being on a game show.  I would hope that I would hit the button more if I were on a game show…  I’ve posted my my fields test from that day so you can see the results, they weren’t pretty.

One of my concerns that day was the eye chart.  I could only see the big E at the top with my left eye (the “good” eye.)  That is the 20/400 line.  I was able to see the E on the 20/200 line, but only with the pinholes.  I have noticed over the past few months that my vision seemed to be slipping (again.)  I have also noticed some double vision, especially on lighter objects with a dark background.  This is extremely frustrating, because it has really effected my reading on the computer.  I have a local ophthalmologist appointment next week, a glaucoma specialist appointment the following week, and my cornea specialist appointment in mid-October.  Hopefully, one of them will be able to find the problem and fix it (though I’ve been waiting my whole life to have my problem fixed, so I won’t hold my breath.)

I was asked at the glaucoma study if I would be interested in participating in more studies.  I told them I’d be happy to so.  It upsets me when I see a young kid at Wills Eye to see a glaucoma specialist.  I know what is ahead for them and it isn’t fun.  I also know what you are now thinking, ‘With technology and stem cell research, they’ll be able to take care of that problem…’  I hope so, but pardon me for not being as optimistic.  Those same things have been said to me over the years, from the time I was in middle school to the present day by friends, teachers, coworkers, employees, and others.  I’m still waiting.

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Crime Pays

We launched ForYourSalon.com on 15 June 2009, about nine months after I had hoped to launch it.  If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know why it took so long to get it up and running.  If you don’t know, the short answer is my vision deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t do much with the site (because of my sight.)  Once we launched, it took a week or two before we had a sale.  Then another week before the next one.  Now, we are up to a few sales per week.  Some big (24 shampoo bowls to a customer in Texas,) some small (a pint of developer to a customer in North Dakota – shipping was over four times more than the price of the product.)

On 24 August, a customer ordered four flat irons (BABNT2091 if you must know.)  We shipped them out the next day to an address in Doral, FL.  PayPal processes our transactions and everything looked good from their standpoint; even the CSC (card security code) matched.  That is important, because only the card has that on it.  On 1 September, the customer ordered four more.  It is not unusual for something like this to happen.  A couple of stylists get a new tool, the others try it out and want one for themselves.  Everything is good with PayPal.  The CSC matches, etc.  We had a problem on our end as we only had three of the four the customer wanted.  It was late in the day, so I phoned the customer to see if we could substitute a pink model that is otherwise identical.  The customer wanted the blue and asked if he could have a larger size.  We had the BABNT2094 in stock, which is a 1 3/4″ from the same line of Nano Titanium irons.  Same price, so the customer was happy.  We shipped them out that day.  Over Labor Day weekend, the customer ordered four more and added a note that said we could substitute the BABNT2094 for the BABNT2091 if the 2091’s were out of stock.  When we went to the biz on Tuesday, 8 September, I checked the PayPal info and again saw that all was good.  We shipped out the order that day.

You know what is coming…  On 13 September, I get three emails from PayPal stating that the customer is disputing the charges.  We had a chargeback of about $1235.  Ouch.  I started to look into further.  The shipping address and billing address are different, but that is not unusual for us.  We have a couple of current clients locally that have a billing address that is not local (one has a salon in Wilmington, DE, but the billing address is in North or South Carolina.)  The billing address for my online customer was in Utica, NY, while the shipping address is in Doral (Miami-Dade,) FL.  I googled the customer’s name in Miami and got nothing.  I googled him in Utica and found that he is a well-respected professional, with about twice the education I had.  Now I’m feeling even dumber…

Ken and I spoke on the phone about a few policy changes.  The biggest, of course, has to do with different billing and shipping addresses.  The security I had with PayPal and the CSC number matching pretty much meant nothing.  I am disappointed to be out over $1200, but still believe we can sell on the internet and make a living.  I fill out the information about the transactions and submit it along with the tracking numbers for the three shipments.  At about 1:00pm, I get another email from PayPal.  This email tells me of limitations place on our account.  The biggest limitation is that they will not process our transactions, essentially shutting down our site to anyone looking to make a purchase online.  They asked for a multitude of proof to back up who I am, where I live, and invoices from my vendors to show that we are, indeed, a legitimate business.  The email was curt and made me wonder who’s side they were on.  I felt like we were being victimized again.

The only human contact I have with PayPal is our “Territory” Manager, Rick Lancaster (he’s got a Nebraska phone number and Colorado fax number, and we’re in southeastern Pennsylvania – now that’s a large territory.)  I phone Rick and ask him what to do and why are they not processing our transactions.  He feels bad for me, but it isn’t really his thing, this fraud stuff.  He tells me he’ll make some calls and see what he can find out.  An hour later he calls and tells me the chargeback percentage is way too high, that is why they stopped processing for us.  He told me to get them as much info as I can and they’ll see about lifting the limitations.  I spend the next few hours looking for and scanning documents to submit to them.  By the way, no PDF files, they only take .jpg, .gif, and .png.  Now I’ve got to take time converting the PDFs into .jpgs.  UGH.

I submitted about three or four things on their checklist before leaving for the day.  By the time I get home and fire up the computer, I’ve received an email from PayPal saying that the tracking numbers for the last five transactions I’ve submitted have not all arrived at their final destination.  Really?  No kidding!  Two of our last five transactions were heading out west to Texas and Montana.  Lindsey, from PayPal, must have had trouble with geography in school.  Texas and Montana are not close to southeastern Pennsylvania.  I’m serious, they’re not.  Since they shipped on Thursday (10 Sep) and it is only Monday (14 Sep,) and they going ground (lets not forget that UPS only does special deliveries on Saturdays – while these may have been special to the customers that ordered them, they were shipped plain, old ground,) they couldn’t possibly be at the customers salon’s yet.

First thing on Tuesday (15 Sep,) I reply to Lindsey and cc Rick.  The reply to Lindsey bounces back.  There’s a shocker.  Ken and I try to figure how we could still sell stuff on the site.  Ken created an info “box” at the top of each page explaining that we have technical issues with our payment system.  Fortunately, we could keep the site up so our SEO (search engine optimization) doesn’t get hurt.  There was no further communications from PayPal.  I filled out and submitted additional info to them.

Today (16 Sep,) I filled out even more info and submitted it.  I transferred funds to cover the chargeback even though they hadn’t asked for it.  I thought it might help get us back making sales online.  Ken updates the message on the site to include a pitch for calling your order in to us.  He does the same on twitter and Facebook.  At noon, we make a phone sale (a 403 vacuum breaker from Belvedere) to a plumbing supply company in West Palm Beach, FL.  A short time later, I phone Rick at PayPal to see if he can get us up and running.  He makes some calls and gets back to me within an hour and a half.  One of the limitations has been lifted!  We can now sell online again.  We don’t have access to our money, mind you, but we can resume selling on the site.  Once the chargeback is “cleared up,” we will have full access to our account.  I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see the $1235, but if they want me to believe they are trying to help me, fine.

So what do you think happens within two hours of us being able to sell online again?  C’mon, this is an easy one!  Yes!  The same jackass placed an order for one 2091 in one transaction and six in another transaction using a different billing address (in Denver, CO) and a slightly different shipping address (same zip code, but about eight blocks away.)  How do I know it’s the same perp?  He phoned our toll-free number, which then gets forwarded to either my or Eliz’s mobile.  I was busy, so I put it through to voicemail, but, as in the past, he doesn’t leave a message.  I can’t see the display on Eliz’s mobile, so she reads me the number.  It is the same number he gave me before.  I check “his” new account.  The number is from Harris County, TX.  Did he make a mistake by calling on the same mobile as previously (which has a Fort Myers, FL number, by the way?)  I don’t know, but I want this guy caught.  I’m sure we’re not the only business he is ripping off.  And, yes, businesses are the only losers in credit card fraud.  The card holder doesn’t lose.  The issuing bank doesn’t lose.  The business’s credit card processor doesn’t lose.  Just the business comes out on the short end of the stick.

I quickly shoot an email to Rick at PayPal (who has put up with a bunch from me.)  He calls back and suggests I call the PayPal fraud department.  I do.  The call is first handled by a woman who’s native tongue is something other than english.  When I tell her the story, she immediately elevates the call.  I’m getting excited.  I’m thinking they are going to catch this guy.  Amanda takes my call.  I tell her the story.  She notes it on my account.  I ask her if I should call the police (and if so, which police,) the FBI, who?  She then tells me that while I may pursue this matter outside of PayPal, PayPal cannot offer any advice on what to do.  I ask her a few more questions and thank her.  She was pretty helpful and understanding.

So who do I call?  First, I call the Folcroft police.  Call back after 4:00pm, the detective will be in then.  Then I try the FBI.  I figure they could set up a sting.  I could UPS about eight pounds of nothing and they could stakeout the address for the UPS truck and bust the guy once he signs for the package.  Evidently, I’ve seen too many movies.  They didn’t seem too interested.  I was given a different number to call.  There was a recorded message that told me I had to go to a website and fill out a claim there.  Next, I speak to Ken.  He suggests that I call Miami police.  They could nail him.  So, I call Miami police.  I tell the lady that answers the phone after about eight rings a brief synopsis of the fraud and she says I’ll transfer you.  Click.  She disconnects me.  I find another number for Miami police.  I call it and get someone with a New York attitude.  She asks for the shipping addresses.  I give her the first.  “That’s Miami-Dade police.”  I give her the second and get the same answer.  She then gives me the number to the Miami-Dade PD.  I call there.  “Hi, this is officer so and so, can I help you?”  Finally, this lady seems like she is really going to help me.  Finally!  I explain what is and has happened.  She mumbles a bit and asks me to hold.  When she get back on, she informs me that the office I need has closed for the day.  At 4:40pm?  She then tells me they’ll be back at 8:00am.  I will phone them once I return from the glaucoma study at Wills Eye in the morning.

So, as it turns out, we are all suckers.  We abide by the laws and rules of the land and it gets us nowhere.  Our good name and our word means nothing.  In this day and age, the good guy will never win.  Thoughts?

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