I am home with four kids - two girls, two boys - ages 14, 6, 5 and 3 (and when I started this blog, just a little over two years ago, I had an infant, a 2yr old, 3yr old and 12yr old - feels like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't ;-). Until about four or five years ago, I worked in marketing. I have been and done many things - dancer, magazine "multi-tasker", advertising copywriter, gymnastics coach, resort town waitress, grad student, etc. Now my areas of expertise are different and diverse. I am savvy, efficient, patient and earthy (like it or not). I am a better cook, an Ok herb gardener, an impressive artist to my kids, an active and prolific photographer, a childrens' clothing stylist (in my head), a manager of all things "household" and a news enthusiast (from politics to celebrity). I am more cynical though less of a worrier / hypochondriac than I used to be. I am increasingly proud of what I do with kids, family and home, but I do still present myself as a "freelance writer".
OK - so.... long story semi-short - a few years ago, one of my retail credit cards was used by someone I did not know. It was used the same day I used it - not for an excessive amount (in fact, I did not get a call about strange activity because the cost was within my spending pattern) - and it was used in the same store within a short time of my own legitimate purchase. Now.... I usually do not use my credit cards - I pay cash or use my debit card, BUT... this was one of those "save 20% if you use it today" deals, so... I did it - spent more than I wanted to - intended to pay it off right away. I also always keep my credit limit low on these cards (not the big cards -but... these little retail cards), so... I got a letter from the company a few weeks later, saying I had exceeded my spending limit and was charged X amt. of fees. I panicked (because I'm always conscientious about these things), checked my statement, and... discovered charges and purchases that were not ours (the company's solution was to raise my credit limit - are you kidding me?). When the item numbers, etc. were eventually checked, these were items I would have never purchased - did not fit or suit anyone in our family. So..... the attorney general's office of PA gets involved - we talk to the retailer - fax proof again and again - seem to be close to resolving it, and... my account "disappears" along with the payments we had been making monthly (conservative payments to avoid being duped into paying the charges that were not ours - though, since we were making payments, we had no idea we would be sent to collections due to their mistake and lack of attention to detail - after all, I had never had a problem before). Suddenly, no one can help us (and all along, the theory was that someone in the store had used the card that day - as in an employee of this establishment - at one point, we were told that it had happened before there - around the same time period - so... to be responsible, I should say it was the Gap at the Waterfront here in Pitt - so beware). So ... after some inquiries, we are given another number to call. When we do, we discover that we have been handed off to some credit services area of this corporation. Upon further investigation by the attorney general's office, we find we have been reported to a credit agency and handed off to these awful people, commissioned to get the money from us any way they could - so began the series of strange, nasty phone calls in which the people would call me a "loser" and swear at me. The attorney general's office came up with a cease and desist letter for them, and the calls stopped, but.... our account disappeared entirely - for two years.
I got a call yesterday from an organization who said they received my "case" and would "give me a deal". This woman listened to my story, appeared to understand, knew I had to talk to my husband today (because, by the time we were run around for months, the account accrued so many fees and charges that I owed 4X what my initial bill would have been - TOTAL scam - in hindsight, I should have just paid it and closed the account) and seemed to understand, too, that I needed to consult my old file, etc. I told her I would call her late afternoon today after doing all this. So.... this morning - at 8 am - in the midst of swim team forms, finding out I will not have a car again today and that I am low on laundry detergent and groceries (early am, I asked hubby to work from home for an hour while I used his car - he complied but now tells me he was half asleep when he agreed to that - yeah, right), fighting little boys, crying two year old who was up all night coughing, toast so burned it was in danger of setting off the smoke alarm (and, in racing for it, somehow some plastic kids' dishes from high atop a shelf fell one by one and smacked me in the forehead - and, yes, it left a mark :-) and piles of dishes from the night before in my sink - she calls me and, this time, her tone is aggressive - she is talking over me - she is reminding me again and again that I told her I would get back to her, so..... I literally screamed at her - said mean things - told her I was sick of scams - and... hung up. Needless to say, she has not called back (and my boys looked at me, wide-eyed and asked, "WHO was THAT?"). I do want to resolve this. I don't think she deserved my wrath. But... I am sick of it - dishonest people, no customer service, awful treatment for victims of fraud - like it was our fault or that we should be liable for it. I mean - now I'm wondering if this woman yesterday really believed my ordeal - if the story she told me about her parents (that they had something similar happen to them at a hotel in Florida) is actually true or just a ploy to gain her trust.... Now - I will definitely be investigating her company's reputation before I do anything. Really - tone of voice, unprofessional harassing, etc. - really sets a bad precedent and becomes suspect behavior. Again, maybe I'm just feeling burned from past experience or maybe the pattern is beginning to repeat. Who knows...
Truthfully, I have such brain fry most days that it is hard to think straight, let alone drop everything on a dime to handle a situation out of the blue. Yesterday found me organizing my closet and armoire, gathering boxes of photos and packing bags for Good Will. In the middle of feeding my kids an early dinner and scooping ice cream for all the wee ones AND making sure Olivia had clean clothes, money and a ride for her evening plans, I got this call. I was literally elbow deep in ice cream - kid movie blaring in the background - Olivia up and down the basement stairs looking for the appropriate shirt, and... I still had piles of clothes all over my bedroom - had not eaten myself since early morning, and... well - give me a break, right? Respect me to do what I say I will do. Again - precendents set and trust ruined for many, I'm sure.
Anyway.... my wee Lil just came downstairs and told me about the rainbow she saw through the stained glass window on the stairs - my boys are happily playing in their room - Olivia has a ride home from swim team, so... I am calm now - relishing the hum of our morning routine. I feel bad, though. I don't like to yell. I think I just expect the same respect from others that I give them, and... well... half the time, that is not the case. Also, I'm tired and frustrated regarding this whole situation. Oh well. Remind me sometime to tell you the story of the arrest warrant taped to my door for a $10 parking ticket that I didn't know I had (the constable didn't have a copy and neither did Edgewood Borough - yet I was, apparently, a fugitive). Good times.
Photo: Reminder of the actual good times I experience daily - one of my Lil with her Mother's Day gift for me this year :-) - and another of her finding her zen with Barbies on a cool, spring morning on the deck.