24 March 2007

Paypal Update

Got this e-mail yesterday:

Our review is complete and we have restored your account.

We appreciate your patience and thank you for your help in making PayPal the safest and most trusted online payment solution.


I never did fax or mail anything to them. I never added a credit card and an address.

All I did was bitch & moan 3 or 4 times to customer service and they caved in.

Doesn't really say much about their security policy, if one can get around it with a few whiney emails.

I canceled my account.


21 March 2007

How Annoying Can PayPal Be?

I have used paypal for years for the occasional internet transaction where using a credit card was not possible or practical.
Things like paying for server upkeep to my brother when he was in charge of hise.org. It was a decent service, and as long as you never click on a paypal link in and email (because they are always phishing attempts) and be careful about clicking on paypal links in web sites (many are legit, others are also phishing), it seems to be pretty secure.

Since I rarely used it for things like ebay auctions or similar things, I have never run into the most common complaint I heard: they don't do anything to protect the customer if there are scam ebayers.

Well, recently I got a legit email from paypal. The important part said:

As part of our security measures, we regularly screen activity in the PayPal system. ...

We have reason to believe that your account was accessed by a third party. Because protecting the security of your account is our primary concern, we have limited access to sensitive PayPal account features. We understand that this may be an inconvenience but please understand that this temporary limitation is for your protection.

So I tried to "unlimit" my account, and jumped through the reasonable security hoops they have in place for the first two steps.

The last step of the "unlimitation" process is to confirm my location. OK, great. Their method of confirming location is by entering credit card information. But I was stopped cold on this step, because it won't let me use a credit card with a foreign billing address.

At this point, the line We have reason to believe that your account was accessed by a third party. is setting off the BS detector. They don't care about me and my account security, they know that no "third party" has accessed my account. All they care about making sure I have a credit card on file. Why tell me one thing when you really mean something else, paypal?

OK, so I checked their FAQs and tried to figure out how to wrangle the system into letting me use a foreign address. As it turns out, one must cancel a paypal account in the original country and open a new one in the foreign paypal site. OK, great, let's cancel this account then.

Oh wait, I can't cancel my account, because it is limited! A limited account can't be canceled. That is limiting!

So I fire off an email to customer service inquiring about the Catch-22 I am in:
I can't cancel the account because I am limited and I can't "unlimit" the account because I need to have a US address, which I don't have.

Their response:

If you want to close down a PayPal account but have forgotten your password, no longer have the email address registered to your account,

Did you read my friggin question. The password is not the problem. Why mention it? Neither is the email address.

and do not live at the residence registered on the account

That was an AND right. Logically, all conditions of the AND must be true for the outcome to be true. They weren't, so why should I bother reading on. After all, you didn't even read my email. But I'm a big boy. I'll keep slogging on.

you will need to fax the following:

FAX? OK. From Germany? That is gonna be spendy... I will not spend money to close this account. Bastards. But it gets better.

A copy of your current valid Driver's License. The license must list your current address.

OK. But wait, German driver's licenses don't have addresses on them!

A copy of a proof of address such as a utility bill, financial account statement or check stub that lists your previous address.

How do they know that I received utility bills in my name at my previous address? And my wife has a different last name. Hell, so does my mom. There are tons of ways that I can live someplace and not have a utility bill with my name and address on it. But I probably have something. It will take a boatload of digging, but I can probably find something acceptable. Like my mortgage papers. That might be good enough for them. Not sure really what that proves, however.

The email address registered on both PayPal accounts, if funds are to be transferred.

What the heck does that even mean. I am not trying to transfer funds. Oh wait! You didn't even read my inquiry! I hate customer service people that don't even try. What a joke.

So I fired off a response to customer "service" and basically told them that their response didn't help. I wasn't that nice, but not exactly mean, either. I inquired about why faxing was required and what we should do about the fact that German licenses don't have addresses. I expected a very long delay, but to their credit, they managed a response in about 24 hours.

Of course the response was totally unhelpful:

I am sorry, due to virus concerns we are unable to open file attachments.

Hint to Paypal: Ditch windows. Get a Linux system or OS X or something. Hell, I would send you a TIFF, I think you could even grab a SGI Indy at Goodwill in Colorado Springs. That will open a TIFF. Or just be smart about handling that attachment. What a BS excuse.

Kim then proceeded to tell me again where to fax the information or, if I wanted, where to mail the info.

OK great. They still want me to pay to close an account. Bzzzt. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Kim also didn't respond to the more important point: what to do about the fact that my license doesn't have my address on it. What will they accept? Nobody can tell me. I especially won't fax or mail something, and then have them tell me it isn't good enough.

I am sure we'll go around several times. Eventually I'll just say forget it and let the account rot, and filter all paypal emails to my junk bin.

Why is it that customer service people, and not just paypal's, can't ever answer the question asked in email enquiries? Is it really that hard?

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11 March 2007

Wow! What a Show!

As I mentioned recently, we went to Achern last weekend to see Dan Bern perform.

We were quite happy to find the venue small and intimate, seating only about 50 people. We not only held ticket numbers 1 and 2, but we got seats in the front row and center, since we were the first to arrive.

The venue was a small former chapel, and the acoustics were great.

It was an incredible show. He played several new songs (at least one he wrote just that morning thanks to jet lag) and he even spoke to the audience in decent German. He was very entertaining, and even told a couple jokes. (Humor in a foreign language can be difficult!)

We really liked his short explanations of several of the songs. Of course, if you listen to the lyrics and think about it, everything he said in his explanations was already there - but it was interesting to hear his thought process when it came to the words he chose.

At the end of the night, we were quite happy. After the encore, he had retreated to the upper floor of the chapel, but the crowd still wanted more. He popped his head over the balcony railing and sang us one more song, unpluggd and a cappella, that he said was too complicated to play on the guitar. It was a wonderful new song about how he saw Branford Marsalis in a small club in Prague.

We wanted to talk to him after the show, but it was obvious he was tired, so we left, content with the show. Of course we wanted more, but in the end, it was excellent and well worth the mere 8 Euro ticket price, rental car fee and fuel cost.

So, if you see a poster like this one, check the date and get thee to the stated venue. You won't be disappointed.

And, to paraphrase his final song:

I did not see the Romans in the coliseum
I did not see Lenny Bruce in Paris
I did not see Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium
But I saw Dan Bern at a chapel in Achern
At a chapel in Achern I saw Dan Bern

02 March 2007

Hee Hee

There is this tree outside our window between the bike path and the river that we call the peeing tree. Because people (men, usually) often decide that this particular tree, for some reason, is a handy public toilet. There are other trees nearby, but they get nowhere near the attention that this tree gets. At least from humans. I haven't noticed any trends in dogs or other animals.

Right now, As I am typing this, a soon-to-be-married couple is getting their wedding photos taken. It is a nice location by the river. But they are using the peeing tree to lean on. Maybe they should go to the other side of the river and take pictures on the Giant Wooden Penis next.

Dan Bern vs. Fahrverbot Sonntag

Ever since I got an email from the Dan Bern HQ several weeks ago, informing me that Dan Bern would be performing several shows in Germany in march, we have been planning to go. In fact, the closest show is actually on a weekend, and we nailed the date into our calendar. There is no question whether or not we are going. We are. End of story.

Well, not quite the end... We weighed the options of getting there. The train goes to the town we need to go to, but won't be able to bring us back due to the estimated ending time of the show. So we would need a hotel. When we calculated the price of round trip tickets (the price advantage of the Baden-Württemberg ticket evaporates, since the trip spans 2 days) and a hotel and decided that renting a car and paying for gas would be cheaper. Plus it lets us visit a few people in the area of the show, but don't have such great rail access.

So everything is set, and were psyched. Then I hear on the radio that Sunday is this "live without a car day" and everybody is supposed to not drive on Sunday. I didn't get whether or not we're sending a message by not driving or just learning to live without the shackles of oil-based fuels or what.

What irks me is that I will be driving a car that day. And people will probably look at me with that same kind of "how could you be doing that" look that I get when I cross the street against the light to catch the bus. The look of disapproval is common in Germany, especially from the older crowd. Sometimes it even comes with the voice of disapproval.

What those people that will be giving me the look on Sunday don't know is that I live every ordinary day of my life without a car. Without the weekly stop to the gas station. Without spewing Feinstaub all over Ilsfeld or Stuttgart. (Confused: see this or this.)

I'm all for trying to be less dependant on cars. I don't have the knowlege and/or equipment to measure how much wear and tear on the world we have avoided by not having cars for the last two+ years, but I know that we have saved a lot of money, I am probably getting more exercise, and I don't have that stressful drive home like I used to (a traffic jam after a crap day at work - used to get me really annoyed, but now is a thing of the past). The only thing I really miss is being able to listen to NPR on the way to & from work. That's how I heard about Dan Bern in the first place.