• 13Feb

    About a year ago, we got an AmEx card only because we got a Costco membership. At least one of these is getting out of our life this week. In a hasty moment of anger, I Tweeted we’d be quitting Costco too, over this AmEx fubar. And we might. It’s their fault we even had the card(s).

    • In October, AmEx “gave” us a “blue” card to go with the Costco one. Except we never got the card. Or a statement. Or a letter or anything. (And since we have a PO Box, we know it didn’t get stolen from our mail box or any other excuse.)
    • Also in October, AmEx moved money owed (or allowed a charge) to the blue card that we do not have possession of.
    • In January, we got a letter saying our AmEx was overdue. huh? How? We pay it every month.
    • When Emil called to get it resolved, he paid the bill. He also asked why they moved us to blue; they couldn’t identify a reason.
    • A week later, we got a letter saying our blue card–again, one we don’t have physical possession of–was being cancelled. Yay, cancel the thing we aren’t using.
    • I call to make sure they haven’t dinged our credit. She says they did because the bill was 90 days past due. Cue fire shooting from my eyeballs.
    • I hear from Seth via Twitter; he says AmEx and Costco are parting ways. Oh! So this is the reason it’s all messed up! AmEx is trying to “encourage” us to stay with them eventhough the only reason we had them at all was for Costco. And, so that we wouldn’t bail immediately, they hid it?
    • I finally get to talk to someone from AmEx who can do something. He’s nice, but creepy (over Americanized foreign dude I could barely understand). He updates the credit report, gives me his name/number, and is sending us an additional set of statement so we can see what the hell happened.
    • To be clear that it’s all fine, I also call Costco. Of course, I get re-routed back to AmEx. I guess they are going to break up but haven’t yet.
    • Costco guy tells me that the AmEx partnership runs out April 1, 2016. Until then, you can use AmEx (or cash/debit/check) at Costco for shopping. After that, they may or may not have a Costco card that can be used. I explain to him that we might quit Costco over this. Their only saving grace is that if AmEx did this to us, we can only imagine what they did to Costco and maybe they are victims, too.

    Ain’t nobody got time for dis.

    GTFO, AmEx. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

    Update: We got the statements. Every charge is legitimate and paid for. There are no fees (Emil took care of that when he called them). I’ve since checked my credit and there is no report on it from Costco or Amex. We just need to check Emil’s credit for the same.

  • 17Apr

    It’s day 54 since the fleas in our apartment were treated Today, I caught ten in the homemade flea trap.

    I’ve grown weary of taking the vacuum canister to the trash dumpster on a daily basis. Today, after several days of similar, seeing that all the vacuumed fleas were dead–I dropped the minimal dust (when you vacuum daily, the dust is minimal) over the railing to the ground below. Don’t worry, I looked, first. Also, if our apartment management needs to learn to treat the grounds (which I have learned they are not doing), then so be their consequences. It’s far from a first resort, but they told us 14 days…. and it’s been more than 3 times that, by now!

    At least we had a kick ass Austin No Kidding! Games Night in our new game room, sans fleas.

    In the words of Bill Cosby’s routine, “I’m just sick….[and tired!]”

  • 05Apr

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  • 23Mar

    We “inherited” some “roommates” with our move. Fleas. Yes, The Bitch (not her real name) who lived here before us had a flea infestation she didn’t report. So, instead of treating the concrete the minute she moved out, they were only able to treat the new carpet that would become ours.

    I’ve researched far more than I ever wanted to about fleas. I even talked to the County Entomologist. Almost everyone told me 10-14 days. The third guy from our pest control place was the only one who said 14-21 days. The vet tech said they could live as long as 8 months in a dormant state. (And that’s why sometimes people move into a house that’s been vacant and find fleas. They “woke” them from a type of hibernation.)

    This is day 28 and we are just now seeing the effects of all our hard work (vacuuming every day, emptying/cleaning the vacuum every day, one full can of spray, two treatments of diatomaceous earth, & a homemade trap of a light hanging over a plate of water) and three professional treatments. At least they have mostly stayed in my office (knock-on-wood). The cats have Revolution, so every flea we’ve found on them has been dead. I don’t understand why we can’t just put Revolution on the carpet?

    Anyway Flea Fest 2012 has kept us from unpacking my office as well as setting up a few other things around the apartment. It’s also keeping me from get much work done, never mind having anyone over.

    At the moment, there is one flea in the trap I cleaned at ~4pm yesterday and two are biting me….that’s my signal to vacuum again. Have a happy flea-free weekend.

  • 07Feb

    We have auto-draft for our rent. It’s convenient and saves us a bunch of hassle like remember which day is the 1st or which holiday impacts rent’s due date.


    [Stories that start like this are getting old.] Back in college, I bought some cute socks. My less-that-$10 check was returned by my bank for “account closed”. After many frustrating dealings with TeleCheck and the “collections” people (who called multiple times of day at all hours, were rude/condescending even though I was returning their calls, etc.) I loudly demanded–in a busy lobby, no less–that the bank fix the problem. They did; moments later, I closed the account. I also vowed to never-again shop at a store that “proudly uses” TeleCheck. If I know they use it, I don’t spend money there. I have plenty of other options. [TeleCheck® MISTAKE #1: Believing it is always the customer and it could “never” be the bank’s error. TeleCheck® MISTAKE #2 Not recognizing that if a customer returns calls, she is trying to fix the problem; A hateful tone is not appropriate and will not be tolerated. TeleCheck® MISTAKE #3: Going “Special Forces” on me for a less-than-$10 transaction. Hedge your bets wisely, people.]


    Why do checks even exist, still? Besides thieves, whom are they serving by providing the option to pay by check? I know some people pay bills via check and never changed that habit. My grandparents have never used the Internet and don’t own a computer, but they could Check By Phone to pay bills. We all cringe and moan collectively when we’re in line behind a check writer. Finally, most stores prefer debit/credit cards or cash, and many have eliminated checks altogether.

    All These Years Later, TeleCheck Still Sucks

    With our new apartment, we wanted the same auto-draft. They offer it, but we were told we’d have to pay in “certified funds” instead. What? I call the “credit” company that the apartment people use, Lexis Nexis. They say I have a history of writing bad checks…as reported by none other than TeleCheck.

    I fired off an angry Tweet at BBVA Compass because they used to bounce my good checks all the time. I get an immediate response from Compass and find out that they did no such thing in my closed-for-over-a-year account. The woman who helped me was quite nice and patient and understanding. I thanked her and updated my Twitter feed with the resolution. I wish she’d been available when I needed help before! [TeleCheck® COST ME: a quick Tweet/response, a 30-minute email to explain the problem, and a 30-minute phone call to further clarify and ensure BBVA Compass was not the cause. ]

    I contact TeleCheck who tells me that Walmart in McAlester, Oklahoma (pretty sure I’ve never been there) put me down for a hot check. I call and talk to them. $280+ dollars worth was stolen via a bad check. The “perp” used my TX drivers license number as ID for the check. Walmart tells me I can only dispute this with TeleCheck. [TeleCheck® MISTAKE #4: Telling me to contact the Walmart store.]


    I check the website, but TeleCheck doesn’t have a form for my particular type of fraud. It wasn’t my checking account, and it wasn’t a typical forgery. I call TeleCheck again. I’m already weary of the scripted “calming phrases” and “robot” accent their customer service reps have. [TeleCheck® MISTAKE #5: I’m certain they are hiring only foreign nationals and/or outsourcing their customer service to another country. Through the whole process, I only talked to one guy who could pronounce English.] Anyway he tells me which form to use. [TeleCheck® COST ME: 1 hour of “research” time.]

    I fill it out, drive to my credit union, stand in line, get it notarized, and drive to the post office to mail it to Houston. Next door to my post office, I notice offices for First Data. They own TeleCheck. Ironic, huh? [TeleCheck® MISTAKE #6: Why does this form have to be notarized? Emil just had a similar fraud problem over Xmas and his form didn’t have to be notarized. Why do you impose another errand on me?] [TeleCheck® COST ME: 1 hour of time, 7 miles of driving, one envelope, and one stamp.]

    I’m supposed to hear back within ten business days, but I never do, so, on the 12th business day, I call TeleCheck again. Little did I know that I’d spend my entire morning on this mess.

    • No one with a robot accent understands the one most basic and simple fact: I did not write a check. I haven’t written checks in years. I don’t own checks. It’s physically impossible for me to write a check.
    • Robot female Customer Service Rep (CSR) can not explain why I never heard from TeleCheck, but after a verifying every bit of data three times and asking for my first born, claims “it’s updated”. Updated to what? (Updated could just mean she logged my call!) “It’s been updated?” Yes, but what does that mean? “You can write a check.” arrrrrrgggggh After three laps around this conversation, I finally get her to tell me that it’s been “cleared”–or some similar language–from my record at TeleCheck.  Then, I ask her how long it will take to update the credit agencies. She doesn’t understand the question and keeps telling me I can write a check. So, I demand a supervisor. Three times. Apparently, they can’t transfer you until you ask three times.
    • Supervisor Robot Eric #3641 assures me the update is instant and that Lexis Nexis can look at TeleCheck’s records. Now, I’ve worked in enough IT to know that can’t possibly be true for about a million security reasons. Turns out, LN can issue a request and get an almost-instant answer, but they can not access TeleCheck’s records or see their screens or any such nonsense.
    • I call Lexis-Nexis and get the same report. The blip still shows. I tell him, “Y’all need to use someone else. TeleCheck doesn’t know what they are doing.” The LN rep scoffs at my comment. Whatever, Dude. I’m allowed to have an opinion. If one of my vendors treated any of my clients like this, I’d drop them like a hot potato!
    • I call TeleCheck and get stuck in Call Processing Hell. Again, there is no real option for me. I Google for new numbers and try one. I’m told she can’t help me and that I have to call their “only” number. She gives me a number different than the one I called, and I get the same call processing menu. By this point, I’m convinced that they hide company information so customers can’t reach them, only publish “one” number so they can change it in an attempt to hide from the vast array of bad Internet reviews, and finally, (paranoia sets in) that their system flags my number as one that called previously to stick me in a bigger runaround on subsequent calls.
    • When I get through, Male Robot CSR can not help me, either. He tells me the check was from wEEEnoose State Bank and asks if I have an account there. “What did you say? Where? No, it doesn’t matter, I’ve never heard of that bank and have never had an account there.” After some more conversation circling, it occurs to me I need to make sure someone didn’t open an account in my name and ask him to spell the bank. Ennis. Of course. Male Robot CSR insists that it’s “updated”. I explain, “clearly, it isn’t or LN would be able to see the update.” I’m told that Lexis Nexis will need to call TeleCheck to verify the new status. What? And, I’m given the 1-800-366-2425 number.
    • I ask what call processing option they will need to select and I’m told there won’t be one. Sure. I call the number and get the same menu I’ve heard over and over. Lying bastard.
    • I call Ennis State Bank (which does not rhyme with Penoose Fake Lake), where I’m quickly transferred, talked to a very sweet woman who confirms that they have no accounts with either my SSN or DL number. Whew! And, score +1 for small business.
    • I call LN one more time and tell another rep that TeleCheck wants her to call them. Of course, she says they can’t…and even if they could call, they can’t rely on a verbal assurance; they can only rely on what they see on their screens. She pulls it up and sure enough, it’s not updated.
    • I break down in tears. I begin to understand why people are sometimes violent toward businesses. I also tell her, “Y’all have got to find someone else to do business with. They are making you look bad.” I remember that First Data, TeleCheck’s parent company, is right around the corner. She’s kind and listens to me vent and rant while I get dressed for my search for a live human. I thank her for her patience and hang up.
    • Once less angry (but still upset), I drive over there. Gates. Of course. I was about to give up when it opened. The locked door says the receptionist is out today. I am part way through dialing the number for access when someone comes to let me in. I ask to speak to “someone who works with TeleCheck and the way they report to Lexis Nexis.” No one in Austin. Of course. Two women were very nice, but zero help. I explain that the CSRs and Supervisors aren’t trained for my situation and are no help; I ask, “Do you have any contact information for anyone in that department?” Nope. Of course. According to her, all their Customer Service is in Denver. I ask about the Houston office and she says she doesn’t know what they do there. Whatever. I leave in tears. On the way out I notice the parking lot is full of a lot of very nice cars. I don’t know what the Austin office does, but it pays quite well….and that just makes me hate them even more. [TeleCheck® COST ME: 3.5 miles of driving.]
    • I refuse to be beaten by this thievery, so I start over. I figure I’ll just keep calling and pretending it’s a whole new story until I get someone who isn’t a Robot and/or who can understand the problem enough to help. I get Mike #5672 who, at first, I think is going to be the same, but turns out to understand the problem fully, removes the flag from my file, says it’s fixed, and tells me to wait 72 hours. Um. What? Is it fixed or will it be fixed in 72 hours? Clearly, this part of his training was a bit vague, because he can’t clarify. So, I ask for a reference number and get one!
    • One final call to LN….and after sitting on hold again for a very long time, I get the same CSR I had the second time. Before I could even get the beginning of my story out, she cut me off to ask, “What did you say your name was?”…and tells me she’s the same one from before. She types in the application number. Clickity-click-click…and then sweetness pours from her mouth to my ears, “Well all your persistence paid off, my Dear, it’s cleared from your record. Congratulations!” I verify that our new apartment complex won’t have to pay to have it re-run. She says nope.
    • I fire off an email to our Leasing Agent who re-runs her end. All flags cleared! We can now pay our rent like normal people….and not like those stuck in the previous millennium.
    • [TeleCheck® COST ME: 3 hours of time.]

    The Invoice

    Another Backstory

    In ~1999 I was getting far too many phone calls from AT&T asking me to be their long distance carrier. We both had mobile numbers by then and didn’t need long distance, but I couldn’t get them to take my name/number off their list. The “really cool” part was that every caller was someone famous: LaToya, Janet, and Michael (Jackson, I assume) all called multiple times a night and past 9pm. I tried being nice. I resorted to being hateful so they wouldn’t want to call. Nothing worked, and I had had enough.

    I called 1-800-555-1212 and asked for the a number for AT&T Accounts Payable. Bingo. I called for their fax number. I invoiced them about $100. I included a log of days/times they called. The invoice was an MS Office template, but I poured on the details (like “services are billed in 15-minute increments”). I never got paid, but I also never got another call from AT&T Long Distance.


    So, I’m making an invoice. TeleCheck® cost me:

    • 6 hours of time @$55/hr = $330
    • 10.5 miles of driving @$0.555/mile (2012 IRS rate) = $5.83
    • 1 envelope @$1.49 plus tax = $1.61
    • 1 stamp @$0.45
    • Admin fee (for invoicing paperwork) = $55

    Total: $392.89

    I certainly don’t expect that TeleCheck will pay this invoice, but if they do, I’ll update this blog and online reviews that they made good on their mistake.

    Contact TeleCheck

    If you are forced to call their toll free number (1-888-288-0131 or 1-800-366-2425), ask for Mike #5672.

    No matter who tells you what, ask for a Reference Number at the end of the call.

    If you have to report fraud, the forms are on their site, you’ll have to get them notarized and either fax them or mail them to a PO Box in Houston.

    And since I have this information but couldn’t find it anywhere online, if you have a TeleCheck complaint, address it to their office in Houston:

    Consumer Resolution
    Office of the President
    6th floor
    PO Box 4514
    Houston, TX 77210-4514

    (yeah, sure, the company President cares about complaints;
    and, if this is a Texas-owned company, why aren’t they nicer?;
    I didn’t know you could get multiple-story PO Boxes!)


    In posting my complaint on PlanetFeedback.com, I found the “home office” for TeleCheck.

    5660 New Northside Drive
    Atlanta, Georgia

  • 17Nov

    So, Emil (as primary on the insurance) gets a bill this week that the dentist wants the rest of the money for the bridge replacement. Insurance didn’t pay their part due to “a pre-existing condition….missing tooth”.

    I know this is a big “shock” to you all, but I’m seething. I know “receptionist” (in quotes and lowercase because she can’t actually do that job in a dental office) could see the anger steaming from my ears and darting from my eyes hours later when I marched into the office and demanded an appointment for a Sit Down with the DDS.

    1. Before Emil changed jobs we got an estimate for my medically-necessary bridge replacement. It was confusing, so I called for more info. “receptionist” couldn’t help, but after I insisted, she gave me to someone who could print up another copy, look at it with me, and figure it out; even she was confused, at first. It wouldn’t be confusing if insurance wasn’t paying less than the 50%, but because we hit the total annual cap before the third item, it was a clusterfuck of expensive information…for a whopping three line items!
    2. Then, Emil changed jobs and had a different open enrollment month, so I requested another estimate. When it was exactly the same as the previous one, I called. “Um, we have new insurance, which is why I needed a second estimate. This seems to be another printout from the insurance we had.” I was told that they all pay 50% so that it would be the same. Really? So then why didn’t you tell me that when I called to request it? Right: “receptionist”. gah!
      [Side note, I picked up both one of these. Apparently, they’ve never heard of email!]
    3. Procedure done. My senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch were stuck in Hell during the procedures. Lots of money paid out of pocket. Lots of bitching and ranting on ye olde blog.
    4. Bill for more money….due to the “pre-existing condition” and a claim that they didn’t pull the tooth. Oh, let us flash back to my Senior year of high school when the dental insurance company used that same bullshit on my parents.

    Now, unless they are going to call conception a pre-existing condition, their excuse doesn’t hold water. I never had the tooth. It’s hereditary. “Missing Tooth Clause,” my ass.

    So, after a meeting, I marched my pissed-off self into the dentist office, fully prepared to make a scene, if necessary. I tell “receptionist” I need a meeting-not-exam with DDS. I told her to be sure he was prepared with all my insurance information and that he needed to be ready to make a decision about how he was going to handle what they messed up. True to her form, she asks, “so you’re already a patient, then?” #facepalm

    I get home and call the dental insurance. It’s been one of “those” weeks, so they got my full wrath.

    1. After call-processing hell that thinks X and N are the same sound (and after I’m sure my call was flagged for “stressed” by my resounding “NOOOOOO!” when it asked if it “understood [me] correctly”), I started the conversation with, “I need to talk to someone who can make decisions.”
    2. I jump through all her hoops; she puts me on hold.
    3. 30 minutes later I get a supervisor who makes me start over. [Really, why do they make the first person collect information?]
      1. Never had the tooth; hereditary thing
      2. Got an estimate in June to pre-tax the money to pay our >50% part of the bill
      3. They weren’t replacing a tooth; see point #1; they were replacing the previous bridge
    4. He then says he can’t do anything and tries to explain the contract they have with the University of Texas–Like.I.Care! I ask for someone who can do something and am told there is no one. I LOL in his ear. Of course there isn’t. But, I give him a full ass-chewing where I repeatedly explain how “no one” can “do anything” and how the process is set up that way just to keep customers from getting what they paid for. I also explain that my DDS is not going to be happy and he might drop the very coverage due to a lack of communication/payment. Then-and-only-then, the insurance guy explains there is an appeal process [really? we’ve been on the phone for nearly an hour before you mention this little nugget of info?]. It goes through a fax [a facsimile? Really? In 2011?] to him and about three steps up the chain. I get the number and, while fuming, explain that there will be no money paid on this. We didn’t get two estimates for “fun”. If they lied to the DDS, that’s between them and the DDS. We did due diligence on our part and then some. I practically dare him to use the “damage your good credit” line with me in this state.
    5. At this point, some of the stuff I said at the beginning of our conversation leaks into his gray matter, “Now, if you were getting a bridge replaced, that would be different.” ACK!

    So, he gets the DDS office on the phone. I give him “receptionist”‘s name and tell him to ask for someone else if she answers. Guess what? “receptionist” did the paperwork wrong. Check box #45 is the one she missed. That little box means insurance treated the whole process as if this was a brand new, first-ever bridge that was needed to replace a–[drum roll]–missing tooth. And, we’ve come full circle. I never had that tooth! Furthermore, the paperwork made it seem that the DDS pulled teeth 9 and 11, which isn’t the case. Though they are filed down to the nubs and capped, I still have those teeth.

    To be fair to the insurance supervisor, he took all my yelling and ranting–only some of which was because he didn’t listen the first time–in great stride. By the end of the hour-long call, I had what I needed/expected/wanted and was apologizing for feeling the need to be nasty. I explained to him that I’ve had this same fight over every bridge and that I think the entire industry is a racket. Clearly, if I’m still fighting the same battle some 20+ years after my first bridge, the industry still has a lot to learn. [No email? Are you stuck in the stone ages? What the hell?]

    During the drama, I Tweeted a lot of frustrations. I was sad-yet-comforted to know that one friend had the exact same problem. Her dental insurance told her that hereditary missing teeth are a pre-existing condition unless they are diagnosed before 18 months of age? WTF? Why would an 18-month old have dental xrays? Besides, are permanent “buds” even visible yet at that age????

    Friday mid-day, I get a call from “insurance” gal at the DDS. She’s just as ignorant as “receptionist”. She said the insurance company called and that they were doing new paper work and wanted to know if I still planned to come in for the Sit  Down with the DDS. I told her that if they know what they are doing to get it corrected and she is confident it will all go through without any further billing to us that I don’t need the Sit Down. She balked immediately and *I* had to explain to *her* that she missed “Checkbox #45” on the form…and that without that box, insurance thought it was pulled teeth and a new bridge. She’s confused and bewildered and says she can look at it next week when the paperwork arrives. “Yes, you need to look for Checkbox #45 on the form if you want to get paid.” #moron

    I know this has consumed a lot of our blog this year, but I go through this whole thing every time this bridge needs to be replaced. Every damn time. Health care is a racket…the whole industry. Dental is among the worst.

    To the DDS who tried to convince me that getting all my teeth pulled in favor of dentures was a bad idea,
    Can you hear me, now???!!!?!?!?!

  • 16Nov

    It’s a bit early, I know. But, this year, more than ever, I noticed Christmas (decor, music, sales, advertisements, and more) showing up mid-October with greater force than ever before. As you all know, I’d like to get through Hallowe’en before I see any of that. Thanksgiving, too. I can’t enjoy Christmas when it’s been shoved down my throat for weeks on end. By the time it gets here, I’m sick of it, sometimes literally.

    I’ve been deleting emails and unsubscribing from catalogs (print and electronic) for weeks, already. I can find better places to spend my money than with companies who act like too many whores on a street corner.

    So, I was relieved to find this in my email this morning.

    “…I’m moving slow and mindfully—particularly knowing what the next sixty days hold.

    Before you find yourself feeling overscheduled, overextended and overworked during the holiday season, I invite you to slow down and PAUSE.

    While this is a favorite time of year for some, this upcoming stretch can also be incredibly stressful, emotionally-taxing and just plain exhausting for many of us. (There is a reason therapists offices are packed in January.)”

    Read the rest by Renée Trudeau in her newsletter.

    Given the difficulties we’ve had this year, her words are especially poignant. Just yesterday, I learned that Grandaddy is not making any improvement since his last fall. Mama Bee is now getting ready to move him into a V.A. home. Because she’s not a Vet, too, she can’t stay there with him. They will be apart for the first time since 1947; she will live alone for the first time in her life. Oh, and just so you all know what’s ahead for your own families’ future, even the crappy nursing homes are $6,000 a month in rural NE Texas. And don’t save your money, if you have even slightly significant savings, you won’t qualify for any other kinds of benefits. Sell the house, and you might make two years.

    I have bigger things to worry about than stupid gifts and stressful travels that are only for others.

    Thank you, Renée. I’ll heed the advice, but for different reasons.

  • 26Sep

    With the support of another member (and some help from Emil), I volunteered to upgrade a website that was at least a decade old. Generally, pictures from 5 years ago were the most recent additions. (There are a couple of isolated exceptions.) The site can’t grow for the membership of the group in the HTML format that was being used. Plus, I know for a fact that the archaic design was keeping us from gaining members. I have heard this from several friends in the area who would otherwise participate in this as fully as they do a lot of other community groups.

    Anyway, I put together a sample and “they” all fought about what they liked/didn’t. I got feedback and went the opposite direction from before to show them we can do anything. We let them mull it over for a year.

    We tried again, they loved the new look. Compliments abound.

    The calendar aspect is a clusterfuck. It’s a home-grown app written by a former member of the group, “Bob”[1], with the help of a current member, “Joe”. There is no documentation or support. If “Joe” gets his by the proverbial beer truck, we are all screwed. This logic evades him.

    “Joe” is holding onto that decade-old code as if a first-edition novel. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, and it’s making me insane.

    • I know it’s old
    • It still works
    • It’s time to change it
    • I can’t give time to that effort
    • I don’t understand why it needs to change
    • etc., ad nauseam, in the form of pages-long emails

    I already quit one group this year over the pages long emails of instructions/demands. This guy is not a group leader in the loosely-defined structure. And, he both wants to keep it, but won’t be the person responsible for it.

    Put Up or Shut Up[2].


    [1] “Bob” isn’t even eligible to be a membmer any longer.
    [2] As far as I’m concerned he did one of the two. His emails are now filtered into my trash.
  • 16Sep

    While the entire healthcare industry is a racket full of it’s own bullshit, I’m going to rant blog [1] today about the dental niche.

    The Dental Probrem[2]

    We pay for dental “insurance”. Apparently, the morons who designed this system don’t understand how insurance is supposed to work. Insurance is supposed to go like this: everyone pays a little money into a pool. When something goes wrong, the pool pays that person’s bill. It’s not really more complicated than that unless you want to factor in every case detailed in the industry regulations. Rates are figured based on the likelihood of something going wrong. If you live in a Hurricane town, you pay more insurance on your house. If you live in a place with a lot of bad drivers, you pay more insurance on your car. If you smoke, you might find it difficult to get health insurance at all. We all pay a little, some a little more, so there is money to use when bad stuff happens.

    When Bad Stuff Happens

    Dental insurance, however, just barely covers the cleanings and xrays needed per year. It’s a wash. Fine. But the kicker is when you need work done…and they only cover %50…aaaaannnnnnnd, they cap that! So, someone has to shell out a bunch of c-notes ($1200-1500) when my bridge needs replacing.

    Bridge #1) My parents paid for the whole thing. Dental insurance wouldn’t cover it. They claimed my missing tooth was a pre-existing condition. Um, yeah, if you count my great aunt and skip a generation all the way back to Eve. Their “logic” was that they didn’t pull the baby tooth, therefore, they didn’t start the work. Um. I was like 9 when they pulled that tooth. Was that insurance company even in business, then? Maybe. Was my mom a potential customer? Probably not. Dental insurance for teachers in rural Texas would be a luxury back then, I’m sure! WTF?
    At the next open enrollment, Mom ripped the insurance rep a new one, dropped all her coverage, and went on Daddy’s insurance with his school district. You see, when she signed up for dental with that dolt, she asked the very question: missing tooth, braces, bridge, etc. And, they paid for the braces including that fancy spring, and the retainer with that fancy fake tooth…so why not the final step? I think it was ~$4000. That’s more than my flute cost….and it’s good for way more than ten years! It’s a bridge, not computer!

    Bridge #2) Insurance covered half. I paid $1200 for a beautiful bridge that was improperly installed.

    Bridge #3) Insurance covers half up to the cap. Emil paid $1500.

    Furthermore, both DDS’s for Bridges #1 and #2 wanted to do implants, instead. Yes, I love the idea of you tying a tooth to my jaw with a wire. And repeating that process every ten years, too! Fortunately/unfortunately insurance didn’t cover that extra expense. So, my first bridge was a pair of veneers along the front of my two good teeth to hold the one false tooth. By Bridge #2, we had to move to caps, so my original (healthy!) teeth had to be ground down even further. Remember, kids, this was all in an effort to keep as many of my own teeth in my head as possible. #fsckrs.


    You see, here is what adult-Lori would have insisted upon: pull the baby tooth #10 and it’s matching “friend” #7. File down the canines (#6 and #11) so they look like incisors. Pull the additional teeth necessary (if it was seven their way, this way needs four more or six total) to fit my mouth. Use braces to shift the canines and remaining teeth into place. All real teeth…which is what they said they wanted for me. None of the mess or expense. I wasn’t mature enough at nine years old to devise this plan or insist upon it. Or, if the baby tooth was going to be a problem, cap just that tooth. It was nicer than the little subs I have, now!

    This—the decision to force me into the pain and expense of a new bridge every decade for the rest of my life…when that could have very well been avoided—is what has me so pissed off!

    What We Can Predict

    They expect bridges to last about a decade. This is predictable information about my dental future.

    Another thing that’s predictable: I’m a 5-month patient. I really need my teeth cleaned every 5 months. Insurance won’t cover you if you schedule a cleaning early. Even if it’s the holidays, they expect you to wait until January instead of sneaking in in November.

    Also predictable: a cavity every couple of years. I think I was a real grown-up before my first cavity. I attribute the rise in frequency to two things: new-Army dentist philosophy is “fix it fast” (old-school philosophy was “watch” to see if it will develop into a cavity) and money. They make more money when you are in the chair than when it’s empty!

    And a known fact: I take good care of my teeth. I’m not perfect, but I usually get compliments from the hygienist.

    Emil gets cavities a little more often (once a year, maybe) and doesn’t floss often, but his teeth aren’t falling out of his head or anything. And, he doesn’t have any “appliances”. I think he might even still have his wisdom teeth.

    If we know all these things, can’t the “big insurance computer in the sky” predict what we should pay to cover this and cushion for emergencies, too?

    How I Think It Should Work

    Granted, this scenario has me (and Emil) paying a little more per month, but it’s what I’d prefer over $1500 “surprises”.

    • Cleanings/Xrays: $175 each, every six months for him & every five for me: $770 annually
    • Fillings: $140 each, 3 every two years: $210 annually
    • Bridge: $3000 each, 1 every ten years: $300 annually
    • Emergency: In ~70 years of adult life, let’s just say everyone has one dental emergency that is $1000 (this is where the “insurance computer” could nail this. The industry is about nothing if not averages and predictions.): $2 annually
    • Dentures: Again, assuming we live long enough to need them, $3000 each: $7 annually
    • TOTAL: $1290 per year, $107 monthly

    Now, I take good care of my teeth. Let’s compare that with the “good driver” discounts and say *I* save 10%. $102.09 monthly.

    Normal. So, if you’re a “good” dental patient, it might look like this:

    • Cleanings/Xrays: $175 each, every six months: $350 annually
    • Fillings: $140 each, 1 every three years: $47 annually
    • Emergency:  $2 annually
    • Dentures: $3000 each: $7 annually
    • TOTAL: $406 per year, $34 monthly

    Isn’t that a lot easier? On everyone except me/Emil? If I can do this in a blog post, why can’t that part of the Dental Industry get their shit together? Oh, because it’s a racket, that’s why.

    Finally, let’s assume that we all pay the number in the middle: Averaging what Emil should pay, what I should pay, and what a good person pays, ~$45 monthly. Hey, now wait a minute…that’s even a little less than what we pay!

    See? Racket. #fsckrs.


    [1] To me, a rant doesn’t have to have a solution. When there is a solution to the rant-worthy problem, it’s no longer a “rant” by my definition.

    [2] http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s12e08-the-china-probrem

  • 16Sep

    I have a bridge. It’s in the front of my mouth. It’s the nemesis to my smile….and a large reason why anyone rarely finds me on “that end” of a lens.

    This is the hell I’ve been through…through visit 1 of 2 for my 3rd bridge.

    • As a kid, I went to an old-school dentist. He was mean; he did that jerk/pinch thing to my cheek during Novocaine shots. He believed in hiding stuff from his patients. I’m a question-asker; I’m far more comfortable with answers than with mysteries. However, his hygienist, Denise, was really nice and gentle. For for the first few years of my life, I actually liked going to the dentist.
    • Denise taught me well, and I took good care of my teeth. They gave me those red pills to chew to show you where you missed when brushing. I flossed most of the time. I did that nasty dental rinse stuff. It was a big waste of time.
    • After I lost most of my baby teeth, they did some xrays and found that one of my upper, next-to-front teeth (tooth number 10) didn’t have a permanent “bud” behind it. It’s my dad’s fault. His aunt has the same missing tooth on the other side. Since I’m the collective worst of my parents, it’s no surprise that I got his teeth.
    • I had too many teeth in my head, so they were crooked. They decided to pull seven teeth, several of them were permanent teeth. They pulled the baby tooth without the permanent. Remember, he’s old-school?!? He wanted to keep “as many of my real teeth as possible”. WTF? I had several excruciating dental visits where they painfully numbed up an entire side of my jaw and pulled several teeth at once. I bled like a sieve, usually through two batches of cotton packing and down the front of my shirt. #classy
    • I had my first braces-spring at ~12 years old. It interfered with my ability to play the flute. Since my mom expected me to be a prodigy, this was a problem. To say it interfered with my social life in the hell known as middle school would be a gross understatement. Since there are no pictures–not that I would post one, anyway–I’ll try to describe this “appliance”. I had braces. Not the cute ones that everyone else had. Yes, every other braces-wearing teen I knew went to the other Orthodontist in Paris.) No. I had the big/ugly braces that my old-school orthodontist (recommended by my old-school dentist) liked. Add to that, a hole in my mouth where a tooth used to be. And not a hole “back there” where someone could only see it if I laughed really hard. No, right up in front and almost-center. Furthermore, to keep my teeth from shifting into the hole they made, I had a spring. Not where the tooth should have been. No. That would be too simple. I had a spring on the wire of the braces. It stuck way out in front. It took me weeks to learn to put my lip back down over it without the use of my hand. I even wore rubber bands when I didn’t have to just to cover up the spring/hole. Did I mention this was middle school? It was terrible.
    • Finally, at some point in high school, long after everyone else got the same right of passage, it was time to take the braces off. They left them on me for as long as possible to “train” my teeth into place. I learned to eat ice and chew gum and all the things you aren’t supposed to do with braces. I learned to do this because they were in my mouth for so frackin’ long. Anyway, I got to graduate to a retainer. Joy. At least the spring would be gone. The retainer came with it’s own drama. Of course. Because I had a missing tooth, they put a fake tooth on my retainer. Remember when everyone would put their retainers in the cute little boxes as they sat down to lunch. I couldn’t do that. Nor, could I talk, laugh, or smile at lunch. Because there was a big hole in the front of my teeth. Same story, second verse: I learned how to eat with it in. I only took it out twice a day…to brush it and my teeth. At least, after another learning curve of “now my mouth doesn’t have braces”, I could play the flute better.
    • Finally, my Senior year, I whined hard enough (like I had to get my tonsils removed after my Freshman year because my old-school pediatrician decided I would “grow out” of the ear aches and tonsillitis) and they were willing to consider the bridge that had been promised when I was ~9 years old. Mean, old-school dentist was afraid I was not finished growing. At that point, I hadn’t gained any height in years. I was doing growing “up”. Even if I gained an inch or two during college, which is highly unlikely for a girl, how much of that would affect my mouth? Dumbass. He finally gave in and made me a bridge.
    • I’m 5’3″ and was a skinny-mini back then. He made a bridge that could have fit Warren Sapp (#theU). It was ridiculous. And the wrong color, too. I had to re-learn how to put my lip back down without my hand…..all over again. I hated it for the whole time I had it. The installation was traumatic. Dr. Old School gave me Novocaine, but nothing else. The sounds, sights, and smells are still haunting.
    • Somewhere in between, Daddy got all his teeth pulled. He even apologized to me for not being as sympathetic as he should have been when they took my seven. He was miserable. But, after it all healed, he got a great set of dentures that he loved. His teeth were terrible and our old-school dentist had a new/mean hygienist. Daddy saw her one time and never went back. Thanks to him, I didn’t have to go back to her, either. Mom was unrelenting until Daddy agreed with me. He asked around and found a new dentist in Deport, Texas. He was great. In college, and for the first few years I lived in Bryan, I scheduled my cleanings in July and December so I could go to him. I was his longest-distance patient from both cities.
    • [Sidenote: every dentist I had, every time, every first visit, carefully asked: “Who did your bridge?” I would always say, “…a po-dunk Paris, Texas dentist, and I hate it.” Then, they would sigh agreement. It was that bad.]
    • The good/bad news is that the damn bridge I hated lasted for 15 18 years, about 5 years past it’s expected life. So, one day when I flossed “through” it, it was both elated and pissed off.
    • I visited “the” dentist in Bryan because he’s “new-Army”[1].  I knew I was in trouble when they offered me a glass of champagne in the waiting room. His plan was a bridge for the entire upper front, so both sides would match. Oh, and he doesn’t take any insurance. Yeah. Right. I laughed my ass out the door.
    • Old-school DDS #2 (in Bryan) was a nice man with a lovely staff, at first. He came highly recommended from someone who isn’t supposed to recommend DDS’s, but violated the professional ethics for my unusual case. Turns out, s/he was wrong. OMFG! He was a great guy for cleanings, exams, and x-rays. He was too old-school to give me more than Novocaine [ha! it only took me this far into the story to spell that word correctly!] and Nitrous Oxide, which didn’t do a damn thing for me. At least his dental assistant, a friend of our niece, was there. She is a very nice person and is good a her job. So, two fights[2], more haunting sounds, sights, and smells, and a debit card FUBAR (BBVA Compass Bank) [3], and I was done. And, I loved my new bridge. The Dental Artist in Bryan did a superb job and it was perfect. Turns out, it was installed incorrectly.
    • .
      Oh and I totally forgot this part first go round: I had an abscess (a cavity on the root of the tooth) and had to have a root canal. Abscesses can be caused by decay (nope) or trauma. The only trauma to the tooth was the installation of the bridge! The Endodontist had to drill through my bridge to repair the abscess. There was a significant risk that he could break the bridge and I’d have had to start all over. Thanks to all the gods and goddesses of every faith ever that didn’t happen! Valium is a fun drug.
    • Furthermore, the DDS took his Porche-choo-choo train to crazy town, his staff left en mass, and his new hygienist was reincarnated as the bitch from my very first dentist. She was so rough on me in my only cleaning with her that I was sore for several days. And, she yelled at me the whole time about what a bad job I was doing of taking care of my teeth. Bullshit. She did such a bang up job that I didn’t see a dentist again for ~2 years.
      UPDATE:I saw our niece’s friend at a wedding a few months later and asked her what happened. She filled me in and confirmed to me that all the hygienists think his new girl is mean.
      So, when my current DDS carefully asked, “Who did your bridge?” I defended it, “A Dentist in Bryan and I love it.” The xray showed a cavity forming under it. It was installed incorrectly letting little mouth germies get in there. Damn. Fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck. It’s only been ~4 years since I went through bridge hell!!!
    • I had decay under the caps. And, Dr. Old School #2 used so much “glue” that my current DDS had to grind most of off instead of scoring it, removing it, and grinding the residual adhesive. Nice. I guess Dr. Old School #2 wanted it to stay there for 15 18 years, too. #fsckr.
    • So, Wednesday night, I took some good drugs and drifted off into la la land where my dreams resembled either Disney’s Fantasia or an acid trip (so I’ve heard) or both. Micky wasn’t there, but everything came in bright colors and repeating patterns. And, I can’t remember any more than that. No wonder so many visual artists take drugs. I could be famous if could replicate that shit.
    • Thursday, I took the other pill and Emil drove me to new-Army dentist. First, he filled a molar where an old filling had come out. Then, after, a full hour of grinding on my #9 and #11 teeth, the bridge finally came off. Then, came more grinding for the rest of the adhesive and cleaning for the decay that was forming underneath. Ew. Yes, I made them let me look again. I guess they made a mold for the bridge, but I don’t remember that part.
    • Then, my two-hour time slot was up, so my DDS had to leave his assistant to do the temporary bridge. Had it not been temporary, I’d have asked for a discount! j.k. She’s super nice and really good at her job. During the terrible locations for the Novocaine (all the way in the back and up front under my sinus cavities), she patted and stroked my hand and coached me to breathe while tears ran down my temples. Damn that hurt….but she made it hurt just a little less. She should moonlight as a labor coach. I hear that hurts like a bitch! :) Anyway, she worked and worked on the first bridge, but then gave up and made a new mold. The second one was just about perfect right away. I asked how durable they are. They aren’t good for more than a couple of weeks. And, now, I can tell. It’s “plastic” feeling and catches food easily…and I’m being really careful.
    • Emil brought me home. I watched the entire first season of Weeds while he napped. We were both fully alert just in time to watch Mississippi State give LSU a run for their money
      …and I gave a small running commentary on the game.
      Lori on Twitter
    • I go back in a couple of weeks for the “permanent” bridge. I have more drugs, but that installation should be a breeze, by comparison. Hell, even I could probably take this temporary bridge off and clean/prep the stubs.
    • Here’s hoping for three things:
      • It’s as beautiful as the one they had to grind out,
      • they install it correctly, and
      • that it lasts as long as the first one did.

    I still don’t smile, much. I guess I never had the chance to learn how.


    [1] Aggies say old-army for old-school. It harkens back to their all-military days. So, they say new-Army, too. I don’t think anyone says “new-school”.

    [2] “If you aren’t going to give me more than just Novocaine, I’ll find a dentist who will.” and “Yes, dammit, I’m over a grand out of pocket, I am too sure I want to see the hole and the tooth ‘stubs’!”

    [3] I lived with the cracked bridge for a while, and we pre-taxed the money during open enrollment. So, I was sitting pretty on an extra ~$1200 in my checking account. They swipe the card. It’s declined. I panic. I call in to check the balance. It’s there (and “accessible”). They try again. Declined. WTF? I call BBVA Compass Bank and learn that their “courtesy” policy is to limit daily spending/cash to $1,000. WTF? Well, I was at the dentist, had the money I owed them, and needed them to authorize the payment. Guess what they can’t do? My DDS had to charge $900 that day and the other $300 the next day. And, I had purchased something that morning, so I couldn’t get cash or pay for dinner that evening, either. #fsckrs. Who the hell are they to tell me how much I can spend in one day? It’s not like it was being spent in Bolivia. No one steals a credit/debit card to spend $1200 at a dentist!