Message to Elan Financial (They Manage EmigrantDirect’s Visa)

I sent the following (in two parts) to Elan Financial. Am I being unreasonable?

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction thus far with Elan Financial services who are managing my EmigrantDirect Visa card.

1) When received my first statement in January I immediately went to the Elan Financial website and signed up to have my bill paid in full each month from my bank account. According to a recent exchange I had through this messaging system I apparently should have been aware that, even after having double checked that the payment date was showing as February 6 (two weeks in the future), Elan’s system would not actually make the withdrawal since, inexplicably, this is not enough time for a financial institution in the 21st century to set up such a connection.

I saw no indication on the website that I was to ignore the listed payment date and go ahead and send in what to me would seem to be a duplicate payment via snail mail.

I am astonished that a financial company, managing the credit card portfolio for an ONLINE ONLY Banking service, is incapable of both setting up a funds transfer in under 6 weeks and is further incapable of communicating that fact on the website through which the financial arrangements are being made.

2) A few days ago I received a letter from Elan welcoming me and letting me know that I should activate my card and that my reward rate would be at 1% – no mention of the 1 1/4% that I signed up for and am ostensibly receiving. This was a bit confusing since I have actually been using the card for a month and a half now. Has Elan reneged on the original offer? Is Elan unaware that I am using the credit card?
3) Coincident with the above welcome letter I received a notice from Elan’s collection department whining about my not having paid my first bill. This in spite of the fact that I have been in contact with Elan via this secure messaging system and had clearly set up my account to fully pay my bill fully two weeks prior to the first due date. Can it really be that Elan’s various departments have no contact with each other nor do they have access to my account records?
4) My first attempt at crafting this secure message on the Elan website was lost when the website timed out after 15 minutes of “inactivity” and did not even retain a draft of the message. I again emphasize the primitiveness of a system, in 2013, that would be so unyielding as to not allow the customer a chance to either confirm that they are still using the site or to at least provide a mechanism to retain the work in progress. The page literally vanishes and is replaced with one showing that the session has expired. Also Elan’s website limits these messages to 3500 characters but does not actually tell you this until you submit and then doesn’t tell you by how many characters you have exceeded the maximum.
5) My recent communication with Elan regarding the minimum amount of points required to obtain a statement credit resulted in the unhelpful response that I should phone the rewards department during business hours. Ignoring the fact that the reward website needs to actually say what the minimum rewards amount should be rather than simply responding “You do not have enough rewards points to purchase this item”, I emphasize again that it is no longer 1980 and that email is a common and acceptable way to communicate. One of the reasons I deal with an ONLINE BANK is so that I can communicate asynchronously and not waste my time on hold waiting for a representative to get around to working with me.
I need the following from you:
1) Acknowledgment that my bill will be paid by your online system as it currently indicates that it will on March 6
2) Acknowledgement that my rewards rate is at 1 1/4% as was agreed upon with my initial application
3) Acknowledgement that I will not be fined or assessed any fees as a result of my trusting Elan Financial’s website when it indicated it would withdraw funds through a system that I, in good faith, set up weeks ahead of the payment due date.
4) Confirmation of the number of reward points required to redeem a statement credit.
I await your reply,
Marc

Posted under Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on March 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

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Got a new Nexus 7 Tablet for work

I’m amazed that my new user experience with it has been night and day vs with my iPad or iPhone. Absolutely nowhere near as intuitive. And this after owning an HTC EVO for two years (jailbroken, using both HTC android and cyanogen mod). I’m no newbie to these things and I found the layout on the Nexus 7 gave me pause.

Maybe it’s a different paradigm? I have to imagine that the interface’s panels are meant to be somewhat Windows 8’ish and I haven’t even thought of touching that OS yet… Still learning the nuances of OS X…

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm

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Installed “The Nest” today…

I’ve named it “HAL”.

Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd Generation T200577

It can definitely beat out regular thermostats and I’m pretty sure it can outdo your programmable thermostat if you’re relatively active (in and out, temperature up and down a lot) or even if your schedule varies day by day.

Between the “airwave” technology that should maximize cooling dollars and its built in intelligence to figure out how long it takes to heat/cool your place, I’m expecting HAL will be able to cut our costs a little bit (I had my previous thermostat fully programmed) and maximize comfort by tracking our real use patterns and setting itself accordingly rather than the broad patterns that I set on the previous thermostat.

Oh, and did I mention, there’s an app for that? You can check out and control your house HVAC from your smartphone or anywhere with web access.

If you’re looking for an otherwise excellent thermostat, I’ve got an American Standard Gold XM Control 803 thermostat that  I’m willing to let go cheap…

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on December 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm

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High CPU with iTunes 10.7 – Resolved… Sort Of

** Updated 12/2/2012 **

Just upgraded to iTunes 11.0.0.163 and the issue has not improved at all. I reenabled my Wi-Fi sync and it seemed to take a while longer before the AppleMobileDeviceHelper.exe started consuming CPU like crazy (about 5-6 hours) but consume it did. Also the iPhone and iPad completely don’t see the server so Wi-Fi sync is still broken. I’ve disabled that mode of syncing again. I suppose it will have to be an iTunes 12 fix?

** End Update **

So, it turns out that disabling sync over Wi-Fi eliminates the high CPU consumption issues with both the AppleMobileDeviceHelper.exe and ATH.exe

This is relatively painless to do since the Wi-Fi sync stopped working with the 10.7 iTunes update on the Windows 7 (64 bit) release anyway.

I’ll leave this disabled until the next iTunes update. It’s a shame because the Wi-Fi sync is a pretty slick feature.

To disable, just plug your iDevice into your computer and, in iTunes on the Summary page, uncheck the “Sync with this computer over Wi-Fi” checkbox and click apply

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 19, 2012 at 9:01 am

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One Year of Credit Card Solicitations

You know how, through confirmation bias, you will believe something is true even though it objectively is not?

For myself, one of these beliefs was that I was receiving hundreds and hundreds of credit card solicitations a year. It seemed that every second day there were two or three of these pieces of junk mail plugging up my (physical) mailbox.

So, beginning October 24 of last year I started to count the number of credit card solicitations we receive in a single year. I set aside an old milk crate and took pictures as the solicitations arrived. And, even though I was slacking off a bit toward the end (the last few pictures were for multiple days worth of cards) I did manage to get through the year as of October 23 of this year. You can check it out here.

The final tally was a surprisingly small 87 solicitations to both myself and to Michelle (I found I had miscounted a piece of normal junk mail as a solicitation when I was tallying things up) . Don’t get me wrong, it is still silly to be receiving an average of over 1 1/2  of these solicitations per week. But it is what it is.

Broken down by sender the zealots are:

Solicitor Number of solicitations Percent of total
American Express 33 37.9%
Emigrant Direct 18 20.7%
SunTrust 8 9.2%
Citi 8 9.2%
Chase 7 8.0%
Capital One 5 5.7%
Discover 2 2.3%
Fifth Third Bank 2 2.3%
Barclays (Black Card) 1 1.1%
Williams Sonoma 1 1.1%
FIA 1 1.1%
Home Depot 1 1.1%
Total 87

So a little empirical evidence disabuses me of a misconception.

I actually have dealings with about a third of these institutions where they may think they have some kind of relationship with me, including American Express.

However, I think American Express deserves a sound raspberry  for their non-stop efforts in sending us an average of 1 solicitation every 11 days.

Posted under Photos, Skepticism

This post was written by Marc
on November 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

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Just got my new iPhone 5

Switching from HTC EVO to iPhone 5 on Sprint.

The phone arrived today, I must admit to being pleasantly surprised, I really didn’t expect to see it until next week some time. I had only ordered it two days ago.

I have to admit to having become somewhat of an Apple fanboy ever since I started using an iPad 2 for work.

The HTC EVO was an OK phone but suffered from a couple of issues:

1) always chronically short of internal RAM with no way to increase it

I don’t have a great number of apps on my phone and I don’t really game at all so I was annoyed that I NEVER had enough room on my HTC phone. I was always using Titanium backup to back up stuff to my SD card and then remove it from active memory. Everything that could be put on the SD card WAS on that card and still I never had more than 60 MB free in RAM which was right on the cusp where it would start complaining to me whenever it was performing updates.

2) The Android required a lot of thought just to use it sensibly:

A proper backup requires rooting the phone and then installing Titanium Backup (best solution IMHO)

No default Tasks application

I always found it challenging to set the notifications reliably <– although this is probably just me

3) The Android was sluggish… all the time.

Say what you want about Apple products, they do know how to make the user experience a pleasing one. Even brand new, with nothing on it my HTC EVO would lag – just a bit – with every swipe. The iPhone almost starts moving before your finger hits the screen. It’s just that responsive. Now my iPad has had its share of crashes and mini freezes – most notably when using the web browser, but my android seemed to spend it’s life with a page half on and half off the screen as it paused doing who knows what.

In the beginning I wanted the Android because it was infinitely customizable (see Tasker if you don’t know how to take full advantage of your android) and it integrated VERY well with Google’s tools – gmail, contacts, maps – all of which I use heavily and – I admit it – I was somewhat of an Apple bigot figuring that only uninformed n00bs would overspend on such boutique gadgets. Ah well, you change with time…

But in the end I finally decided I wanted a device that had been well thought out and could be tweaked *enough* to keep me satisfied but not so much that it would be a fight to do what I wanted with it. My phone has 32  GB available to me so it is unlikely that I’ll manage to consume all that within its lifetime. I have a 4 year old 120 GB iPod classic that serves all my remote music needs so I don’t really need to store a lot of that space consuming stuff on the iPhone – I’ve never really wanted to expend precious cell phone power on listening to music anyway.

 

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

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2012 Home Renovations – Part 33 – Landscaping

It took a while to decide what we wanted to do with our lawn after the pool / patio project. The original lawn had heave issues, scarring from a water main replacement and was generally a mish-mash of unhappy fescue, crab crass, creeping Charlie and dead spots. Having a mini mountain of earth piled on it for a few weeks did nothing to improve the situation.

We got several estimates to:
1) Put in new grass
2) install an irrigation system (was an afterthought but became important when we realized how much it would protect our investment)
3) re-countour our front lawn tree/garden area
4) come up with something attractive for the strip on the right side of our driveway
5) re-invent our front walkway garden area
6) come up with transitions for our back patio and the lawn and our house and the lawn in pretty shaded area
7) address the stepping stones that we had installed but with which we were not really happy

Mardi Grass landscaping has been doing our lawn for a little over a year now and they came in with what seems like a reasonable quote when blended with all the facets I wanted covered.

Having them performing ongoing maintenance also gives me a comfort level that they will be available to stand by their work should anything go awry.

The first step was to scrape off the remnants of the old lawn, plus remove any new growth that had accumulated after the major construction of this summer ended.

Then the lawn needed to be leveled and *some* topsoil applied. I have heard wildly varying versions of how much topsoil the Emerald Zoysia grass needs when it is installed on dirt such as mine. Mardi Grass’ take on it was somewhere in the middle. Some, but not a lot.

Above is the remains of our front entry garden area after the driveway and walkway work. Note the brownish bolder in the foreground. This was the only really big boulder that was dug up while excavating for the pool. This is to be moved into the other garden area on the front lawn. Also note “The Yucca Plant that will not die”. We have removed that plant twice. Each time it comes back.. a little closer to the walkway… presumably with malevolent intent. You can’t get anywhere near that thing without it piercing you regardless of clothing or other precautions. Maybe third time’s a charm?

This strip along the side of the driveway has always been an issue for us. There is a lot of shade from the neighbor’s tree and it’s in an awkward spot to water manually. Note the truck with our grass on pallets on the street.

The front garden area is being recontoured with a border of  monkey grass (liriope) separating it from the lawn and visually separating it from the driveway.

Most of the workers are preparing the garden area while one person begins laying the grass.

Unfortunately I had to get to work so I was not able to capture the whole process. I saw the start of the use of the ditch witch as they laid the irrigation plumbing. Here they are relocating one of the sprinkler heads at the entry way garden to better cover the area near the garage. Notice that the boulder that was in the foreground in the picture above has been removed.

The grass has been laid. The little pink flags represent locations of sprinkler heads. The strip to the right of the driveway is still outstanding at this point

Here is the back yard. One of the new catch basins shows up clearly now in contrast to the grass.  Still outstanding back  here is the replacement flagstones by the door and gravel in the “splash area” next to the enclosure (rain dripping off of the lexan roof hits the dirt and splashes mud against the lower portion of the screen) and a kind of no mans land next to the house where we decided we don’t really want grass growing.

The total for all this? About $11,200. Of that about $2,600 was for the irrigation system.

I keep trying to capture how beautiful rain looks when it’s on the screening.  This is my best attempt to date. It looks like so many sparkling facets. Especially when the sun comes out after a shower…

2012 Home Renovations – Part 32 – Usable, final punch lists outstanding

Lights installed on far side of Lanai

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on November 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm

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