Lots of Snow, No Power

It’s funny how excited I still get about snow.  This winter has been a dream come true.  I have always loved going out into the snow.  When I was a kid in the late 70’s and we had a couple of big storms (okay, big then, but not 2010 standards,) I’d have to shovel the driveway and some of the grass so our schnauzer named Schnappes could go out to play and do his business.

I would often shovel our elderly neighbor’s driveway first because of the “payment” I would receive.  Fresh-baked, homemade gingerbread men.  Wow were they good.  They were usually done by the time I finished shoveling our driveway.  One time, my dad came home early and noticed I had done the neighbor’s driveway first and asked why.  I told him because he couldn’t bake.

This last week has been great.  Two huge storms with plenty of snow.  Jake, Jane, and I started shoveling Saturday around noon (I had shoveled once on Friday night while Eliz was picking up Jake from school after he attended the school play Little Shop of Horrors.)  The three of us shoveled for about an hour and then Jane had to go inside to get ready for a Bar Mitzvah which she was attending at 5:00pm.  Jake and I continued shoveling so Eliz could get out and get Jane to her friends house to carpool to the service (thankfully the party was postponed until noon the next day.)  Jake and I cleared enough snow so Eliz and Jane could get out and had the whole driveway clean by the time Eliz was ready to pull in after returning from dropping Jane off and looking for a new shovel.

With yesterday’s storm, Jane and I went out to shovel.  I did most of the shoveling while Jane did some, but concentrated on building a snowman.  We were outside for a little more than an hour and had cleared a good portion of the area of the driveway by the garage doors and a path to the street.  I intended to go back out, but our power had gone out.  After resting for 10 minutes or so, Eliz said we should play a game.  The choices were Life, Monopoly, and Risk.  I am not a fan of Life and we thought Risk would’ve been too hard without power and little outside light due to the dark gray clouds and heavy snow coming down.  Monopoly it was!

We had fun playing for over an hour.  We stopped for a tea and hot chocolate break and as we started to play again, the power came back on.  We took a few minutes to power up the computers in the office and check for any sales on ForYourSalon.com (we had some!)  We resumed playing around 4:00ish.  After another hour, Jake was broke.  He went and watched Ghostbusters that was playing on cable.  Eliz, Jane, and I played on.  Jane was just about broke, but then she landed on Free Parking, where we start off with $500 and then add all the fines and taxes to the pot.  She scored nearly $3000!  She was down to one monopoly, but now had cash.

At around 6:00pm, the power went out again.  We continued to play with flashlights and a candle providing us light.  Eliz took too many rides on the railroads (all owned by me) and was living it up in hotels on Boardwalk, Park Place, Oriental Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue (also owned by me,) so she went broke.  With Jane only having one monopoly, she wasn’t bringing in enough cash.  I believe a stop at my hotel on Boardwalk finished her off.  It was the longest I’ve ever played.  It was probably three to four hours long, not including breaks.  It was awesome.  Had the power not gone out, we probably wouldn’t have played (and even if we did, we definitely wouldn’t have played that long.)

Today we all went outside around 10:45am to clear the driveway.  The area we shoveled yesterday had about eight or nine inches on it and was much easier to shovel today since it was lighter.  The rest of the driveway, included the path to the street which was covered over and as high as the non-shoveled areas, wasn’t as easy.  Snow had drifted in some areas and yesterday’s snow was still heavy and much icier.  It was so tiring mainly because of piles of snow along the driveway that we had to throw the shovel-full of snow over were so tall.

While we shoveled, we joked around with one another and talked at times.  We finished off the driveway and the area in front of the mailbox (in time to get one check and a blizzard of bills today.)  We went inside to rest for a few minutes and decide on lunch.  We ended up at Five Guys in Lawrence Park.  Even the ride there was nice in the heated car.  The restaurant had the heat cranked and it felt great there too.

The power had come back on just before we left for lunch at 2:00pm (I had to open the garage door manually, but by the time Eliz backed out and I came in to close the door manually the power was on,) so when we returned, it was back to work.  It was nice to see we had a few more sales to acknowledge since the power had gone out.

All in all, it was a fantastic 24 hours.  Without the power, we spent more time together as a family.  We worked together to clear the driveway (even though Eliz shouldn’t have shoveled since she is still getting therapy for her arm.)  It felt good to be with the kids without them wanting to bolt for their computers or a video game and me not taking another call or updating the website.  I guess we probably wanted to do that, but we couldn’t.  No matter, I still enjoyed the time together.  I can’t wait for the next snow.

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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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Could it be?!?

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve last posted.  It’s not that I haven’t needed some bitching & moaning therapy, I’ve been really busy at the biz.  We are having a Warehouse Sale on Saturday, 13 June AND we are launching (finally) our ecommerce site (www.ForYourSalon.com.)  By the way, Eliz and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary on Wednesday, 10 June.  Wow that’s a long time…

For the last week or so, I’ve wanted to rant about my frustrations regarding our mobile phones.  Our contract is up, so we are “free agents” looking for the best phone with service we’ll actually receive inside our business.  I’ve been told by Verizon Wireless that we don’t receive all our calls because our equipment is older.  Okay, it is nearly two and a half years old, which, in tech terms, borders on relic.  I’m not so sure that is the correct answer, but who knows.  All this is frustrating, but isn’t the main issue.

My main problem, of course, is that I can’t see the @$#%!! screen on my phone and most other phones that I’ve looked at over the years.  For the love of God, I have a big problem seeing the damn numbers to dial!  Fortunately, my current phone does have a great voice command setup, but it doesn’t work if I have to retrieve my voicemail, enter an account number, or other non-phone tasks.  I would also love to be able to text message.  I feel like I am being left behind by not being able to communicate via text.  I also think it would be cool to combine a mobile phone with one of those video magnifiers like these.

I’ve read a bit about the Palm Pre and would like to have a look.  The big drawback there is that it is currently available on Sprint only.  When we first purchase Salon Supplies + Interiors, they had a Sprint plan and it was bad.  Very bad.  Customer service was incredibly worse.  So we haven’t rushed out for a peek.  I also read rumors of a new iPhone.  I get excited whenever I hear that Apple is coming out with something new.  Primarily because there is a way for me to see it, but also because of my geeky side.

I’ve played with the iPhone 3G at the Apple store a couple of times.  I’ve wanted one since they came out just after we got our current phones, even though I haven’t figured out how to see it.  I’m so dorky, I watch the iPhone commercials even when I have recorded the show that they run in and could fast-forward past them.  For the past week I’ve been down about not being able to get a cool phone with lots of bells and whistles.

That is until today.  I received an email from Apple with all the cool new features on the iPhone 3G S!  Here is an excerpt of a press release from their website:

iPhone 3G S provides new accessibility features including VoiceOver, a screen reader that speaks what appears on the iPhone 3G S display, enabling visually impaired users to make calls, read email, browse web pages, play music and run applications. The new universal Zoom function magnifies the entire screen, and the White on Black feature reverses the colors on screen to provide higher contrast for people with low vision.

Want to buy me one?  It’s okay if you don’t, but you can help me save up for one by clicking one of the ads on the right when you want to make a purchase.

Tonight, I will go to sleep with a smile on my face.

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