Sunday, July 24, 2022

They're Really Not Sorry For Any Inconvenience

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 25, 2022] ©2022

“We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you” seems to have become the national motto.  If “packed flat for easy assembly” and “it’s a simple outpatient procedure” are the two scariest phrases in the English language, the inconvenience line is definitely the most annoying.

Of course, what the multitude of businesses and travel-related companies actually mean is “we’re well aware our service has been abysmal, but we’re planning on doing a lot more of the same. Sorry not sorry!”

Everybody I know has had a disastrous travel experience.  Flights cancelled. The rescheduled- cancelled flight cancelled.  Cruises cancelled. Cruises not cancelled but all the shore excursions cancelled and shipboard service and amenities abysmal.

Not only no refunds but massive additional expense. And a boatload of stress.

Meanwhile:  inquiring minds want to know:  where are all those people who used to work in the travel industry?  Has everyone become a TikTok influencer? Where did everybody go?

Two places they didn’t go were the California Franchise Tax Board, and the Social Security Administration. There appear to be nobody home in either place.  Got a problem?  It is never going to be fixed.

In May, I chronicled the exasperating – and still nowhere near resolved – saga of our payment to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) for our 2021 taxes.  Although we paid a month early, the check never cleared by the deadline, and telephone efforts to contact them were met with a disconnect after three-plus hours on hold. Their automated line said no payment received.

As April 18 approached, we finally cancelled payment on the check (PSA: never ever cancel a check to a government agency), and paid again with a direct transfer from our checking account. Although we subsequently learned that the FTB had received our check on March 15, they didn’t actually process it and credit it to us until 45 days later- well past the deadline.

Since there are absolutely no humans home at the FTB, their computers (presumably early Apple Macs) subsequently decided that we had paid twice, so they sent us a refund check for the second payment.  Then, however, their computers caught up with the fact that there was a stop payment on the first check. Since they’d refunded the second payment, as far as they were concerned, we hadn’t paid at all. They began piling on late fees and penalties, along with deadbeat notices.

Meanwhile, we had returned their refund check according to their specific instructions to something called the Returned Warrant Desk, which we were later informed takes three to four months to process. No way to stop penalties until then.

Meanwhile, the My FTB account that we had finally managed to set up in late April has now notified us that our password is already expiring but when we tried to change it, locked us out.

An interesting tidbit about the FTB’s customer service line:  You finally get down to “you are number 6 in line.”  Then five minutes later, it’s “you are number 7 in line.”  Wah????? Who cut in?

Apparently, once the Returned Warrants Desk gets around to recording our returned refund check, our account, that we cannot access, will hopefully show we did pay our 2021 taxes and we can try to deal with the accrued penalties and fees, never mind our status as Tax Deadbeats.  We are sure they will be sorry for any inconvenience this has caused us.

But frankly this saga is mouse nuts (Olof’s favorite phrase) compared to our friend Ingrid’s saga with Social Security, another agency whose employees all seem to have gone on to Better Things. In the ultimate nightmare, Ingrid, whose last name isn’t even common, was declared dead by Medicare. She has no idea how.  They helpfully shared the sad news with Social Security, her banks, her pension provider, and pretty much every financial agency she has ever done business with.  Her bank accounts were frozen and both her Social Security checks and pension stopped coming.

Ingrid has made a pretty much continuous loop to financial institutions and the Social Security Office, supplemented by notarized “I am not dead” letters. Every time she thought she’d rejoined the living, she was re-informed of her demise. 

Let me tell you, it is very very hard to come back from the dead in this country. 

It’s amazing the stress of this situation alone didn’t kill her.  Recently she received a missive from Social Security – curiously sent to the wrong address – that began:

We recently discovered that our records wrongly showed you as deceased.  We are very sorry for any inconvenience this situation may cause you.

Three months of being dead is not “inconvenience.” And the present tense is very alarming here.  Even they aren’t convinced this is over.

“How am I supposed to live?” Ingrid has despaired throughout this nightmare saga.

Fortunately, there seem to be plenty of openings in the cruise industry.



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