More ranting and raving

Yesterday I ranted about the challenge posed to me attempting to do something as simple as having my name added to our household electricity bill since I desperately need some proofs of address.  I won’t rehash the details because it’s all here in this blog entry:

https://pictinpa.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/lost-hyphen/

Having explicitly asked yesterday’s call centre person what I had to do in order to have my identity verified by the electricity company, I verily sent my husband off into the city this morning with my SSN, my passport and my UK driving licence.  The electricity company’s office is on the same street my husband works on so we deemed this to be the most efficient approach.  Mr Pict arrived there bright and early and explained the scenario.  The member of staff there looked up our account information and found there was no record of yesterday’s phone conversation or request so Mr Pict was informed that they could not comply with the request to verify my ID since there was no record of the first stage of verification, namely his authorisation of me to be added to the account and my providing permission to be added to the account plus all of my basic details.  Great.  So he was told to get me to phone the customer services line again and ask for the note to be placed on the account.

So I phoned up and explained the situation and was immediately put on hold.  And I was on hold for a while.  Long enough to multi-task getting my youngest ready for nursery, emptying and loading the dishwasher, clearing the breakfast table and putting our outdoor coats and shoes on all while having the phone gripped between my neck and shoulder so I could hear when the call centre person came back on the line.  Also long enough to hear everything I ever wanted to know about the electricity company several times over.  Finally she came back on the line.  This is how the conversation proceeded:

Her: There is now a note on your account stating that your husband made a request to amend the billing details this morning.

Me: OK but is there also a note stating that you have spoken to me and have gained my permission to be added to the bill?

Her: I will do that for you now, ma’am.  However, I cannot include a note making reference to verification of your identity at this time.

Me: Even though I went through all of that with the man I spoke to yesterday and it appears he just failed to enter a note about it on the system?

Her: Did you provide your social security number when you spoke to my colleague yesterday?

Me: Yes.

Her: And your driver’s licence was verified also?

Me: No.  I don’t yet have a US driver’s licence.  I arrived in the country in October.  I was told yesterday that I could submit my passport and UK driving licence, which is also a photo ID, in order to have my identity confirmed.  So can you make a note of this conversation now in the account records?

Her:  Let me just go speak to my colleague, ma’am.

And then I was back on hold for a while longer.  Meanwhile, of course, Mr Pict is still in the company’s branch in Philly as they await the note from customer services appearing on the account details.  Also meanwhile ensuring that my youngest child is definitely going to be late for preschool.

Her: It seems you were given some incorrect advice yesterday.  Both your husband and yourself would have to be there in person to have your identification verified.  Is it possible for you to do that?

Me: Only with great difficulty and inconvenience.  The staff in the branch in Philadelphia that my husband just spoke to seem to think they can verify my ID as soon as the note appears on the system so can you just ensure that note is present, please?

Her: I have entered a note as requested.  Is there anything else I can do for you today, ma’am?

Me: Nope.  Thank you.  (Through gritted teeth.)

So I then quickly phoned Mr Pict and explained the whole mess to him while dragging our youngest son along the street at full tilt to ensure he actually made it to preschool before the session ended.  He then had some to and fro and a lot more queuing to do while the people in the city branch waited for the note to appear.  And waited.  It never did appear.  Again.  Mercifully, however, because my husband is super-likeable, someone there took pity on him and decided to override their pitifully stupid system and verify my identification documents.  Job done – in as half-arsed manner as possible.

That was this morning’s stress.  This afternoon’s stress was communication from my husband regarding our bank card.  Our bank had been in touch with him to inform him that our card was one of those caught up in Target’s security breach so they were having to void our debit cards and issue new ones.  Thankfully there had been no fraudulent spending on our card so we don’t have to deal with any of that but it still means up to five days without any means of paying for anything or withdrawing cash.  Great.

And now I get to fill out an insurance claim for all the broken and missing items from our shipping consignment.

What a great day this is turning out to be.  I need a do-over.

 

Lost Hyphen

Now that my green card has arrived, there are certain things I can progress.  Among the most urgent is obtaining a US driver’s licence.  The combination of my UK licence and an international licence permits me to drive in the US for up to a year from my arrival as a legal permanent resident.  Theoretically, therefore, I have ample time to obtain my licence.  However, even getting to the point of a test takes several steps and I also need to allow some time for possible fails and retakes.  I passed my UK driving test first time after just ten lessons but that was in the days before driving theory tests.  I’m not so confident this time around, especially since my brain is addled with knowledge of another country’s rules and regulations.

The first stage in this particular process is obtaining a learner’s permit and in order to get my mitts on one of those there are several things I need to do.  One of those was undergoing a medical, which I did a couple of weeks ago; the other thing I have to do is present a whole series of documents that prove my identity and status.  The green card was one such piece of documentation but I also need proofs of address.  Since my husband moved out to the US in advance of the rest of us, obviously everything is in his name.  I am only named on the lease.  So this morning we decided to get my name added to the electricity bill, since a utility bill is a recognised proof of address for the purpose of obtaining a learner’s permit.

My husband spoke on the phone first and explained that he wanted my name added to the account and that he was authorising such a change.  The phone then had to be handed to me, which is reasonable enough.  I provided my information.  It was all going swimmingly and smoothly.  Then I had to give my social security number.  I have only had an SSN for a few weeks and do not have a memory for numbers so I had not committed it to memory but I found it within a matter of minutes so we could proceed.  I was then asked to clarify how my name was recorded on the SSN.  We have a double-barreled surname.  We use a hyphen; my surname on the SSN card was hyphenless.  Instead of a hyphen there was a space.  This was not good enough verification apparently.  Our surname is unusual.  In fact it is so rare that only the six members of the Pict family have this surname.  But the fact that the hyphen was missing from my SSN registration meant the electricity company wanted additional evidence of my identity.  Labyrinthine bureaucracy again.

I was asked for the details of my driver’s licence.  I tried not to utter an irked guffaw down the phone as I patiently explained that I had only been in the US for two and a half months and had not yet obtained a US driver’s license.  So now, in order to be added to the bill, I have to present two forms of photo identification at their offices in Philadelphia.  Thankfully they will accept my UK driver’s licence as one of these, the other being my passport.  Jumping through stupid hoops again.  What was the point in my husband authorising my name being added to the bill if his authority meant nothing in the absence of a hyphen?  And why did the Social Security Department take it upon themselves to drop the hyphen from our surname?  My husband’s SSN has the surname with the hyphen so it’s not that the printing machine cannot produce them.  Someone has apparently taken it upon themselves to abduct the hyphen for no particular reason.  Just a whim.  And it doesn’t bother me at all on a personal level except that now I am going to have this mismatch between how my surname appears on everything else and how it appears on the ruddy SSN and the Green Card.  Of course there is also the serpent eating its own tail hassle of always being asked for the driver’s licence as my photo ID every single time I try to progress a step further in my quest to obtain said US driving licence.

Company checklists don’t allow for exceptions, divergence from the norm or apparently lost hyphens.  That’s today’s vent.

Paypal makes me a non-person once more

Today I embarked on removing myself from various now irrelevant mailing lists, electronic and postal, and updating my details with websites I intend to continue to use.  Two of these were Ebay and Paypal.  Ebay was a breeze.  I changed my address from the UK to the US and they automatically switched all of my details to Ebay.com so I have been able to transfer my buying and selling ratings across the Atlantic.  However, given that I had changed my details with Ebay, I was then prompted to change my details with Paypal.  That’s when the hijinks started.

Paypal is doing its level best to remind me that I am a non-person.  Unlike with Ebay, I cannot simply transfer my account across the Atlantic.  It’s financial and the movement of money across borders is strictly controlled so it is logical and I accepted that.  A lot of searching the help section enabled me to uncover the jiggery-pokery required to do what I needed to do: I had to close my UK account and then open a new US account.  Simple.  Except I have a not insubstantial balance on my UK Paypal account since I was paid for various personal possessions we sold in the UK using Paypal.  If I closed my account prior to opening the US one then all that virtual money would disappear.  I, therefore, contacted Paypal to learn specifically what someone in my circumstances should do.  They permitted me to briefly have two accounts in my name so long as they were linked to different email addresses so that I could transfer the balance.  So I changed the email address of the UK account and registered a new US account.  Which is when the whole plan ran aground.

As per my blog entry of a few days ago, I have no independent access to our joint finances courtesy of my present status as an SSNless immigrant.  Yes, I do repeat myself when I’m in soap box rant mode.  So, of course, Paypal required me to enter a linked credit or debit card to the account.  I have neither.  Actually I do have a debit card for my joint bank account but I have not been able to register it because I do not, as yet, have an SSN.  So I could not link a debit card to the account – at least not one with a US billing address since I do still have a UK bank account at present.  Nor could I add a credit card because my lack of SSN (and, let’s face it, non-existent credit score for the US despite a stonking credit score in the UK) means I am not eligible to apply for one.  So the process stalled.

Of course, my incomplete new Paypal account can still accept balance transfers so I duly shifted the balance from the old to the new accounts … whereupon it disappeared into the electronic ether.  I now have zero balance on either account, though it is very possible I am just being impatient and it will appear.  Meanwhile every time I log on to check said balance transfer,  Paypal prompts me to add not just a credit or debit card but also my social security number.  Keep on rubbing the salt in, Paypal.  E-commerce a la Kafka.

Some friends have advised me that it is possible for me to obtain a pre-paid credit card.  In effect I shove some money on to a swipe card which I can then use as if it was a regular debit card.  I think I am going to take the plunge and get one in the hope that I can add it to my Paypal and other online retail sites and it might just make my life that bit easier and time-efficient too.  I will still be a non-person but at least I will be a functioning non-person.