Thrice Screwed (AKA The joys of moving)

I am recovering from moving to a new house, and I hate moving. I doubt many people actually enjoy it, but I've done enough moving in the past 18 months to make me truly loathe the process. I like knowing where my things are, being able to find them when I'm looking for them, feeling a sense of comfort where I'm working and not having a long list of things to do that extends beyond the normal things I already have to do. And then there are the other things about moving - the expenses, the running around, the changing of addresses, switching services over. Moving is, in many respects, a short-term full-time job.

Moving is bad enough on its own, but it came at the end of the school year, and in the midst of three family birthdays. That means not only moving, which is bad enough on its own, but hiding presents and planning a double birthday party to be held at the new house less than two weeks after we moved in.

And you've wondered why I haven't been posting here or anywhere.

So, with all the usual hassles of moving to contend with, plus the expenses and the expenses of a double birthday bash, I thought I'd take advantage of one of my own birthday presents: a gift certificate for a fast food restaurant we all like. A $15 gift card could cover lunch for myself and the kids easily, with some left over, and it meant I didn't have to try to unpack enough in the kitchen to be able to cook something, and then clean up afterwards. I could just unpack and move on to the next set of things to unpack, with a small break in between.

The problem? My brand-new gift card, that came complete with the receipt for purchase indicating how much was put on it, only gave me credit for $5.35. Yes, somehow, $15 became $5.35, apparently. My "free" lunch suddenly wasn't.

I've had this happen before. Unless a gift card is preset, with the amount on it, sometimes you really have to watch those cashiers because if they key in the wrong amount, you're simply screwed and the business pockets the difference. A few years ago I had the experience of only receiving $5 of credit on a $50 gift card I was given by family for Christmas at Sears.

To this day I don't want anyone to spend money on a Sears gift card for me. I think it was the brazen way they refused to check on the card - after all, you can track the purchase of the card and subsequent uses, so they should have been able to figure out that whoever activated the card missed hitting a zero. Nope. Sears was happy to pocket that $45, and the time I spent picking out something to buy with my card resulted in a forced expenditure from my own pocket.

So, anyway, the food establishment in question took my number and was supposed to track down the issue, but they haven't gotten back to me. Mind you, my cell phone has been dying quickly (T-Mobile p.o.c. that it is) and messages have been garbled, but they haven't called back.

We'll chalk that up as a minor irritation in the grand scheme of things, although bad for business. I guess I have to go in there and ask about my card, which is a colossal waste of my time tracking down something because of a mistake someone else made. Meanwhile, they've made me sour, and annoyed the person who gave me the gift card as well. Somehow, I doubt I'll get a gift card for their business next year. I haven't named them because they may yet redeem themselves, although it's been more than 10 days and as mentioned, my phone hasn't rang...

Moving on to more annoying things, let me rail against cable. Now, when town water had to do maintenance and needed to schedule a time, they had the incredibly inconvenient options that either overlapped with when I had to drop the kids off for school, or when I had to pick them up. However, upon explaining this, they had no trouble making a notation to come after 8:30 am. And it's not like you have a choice when it comes to water services in town. They have a cornered market. They don't have to be nice because I have to do business with them.

Cable, on the other hand, has to fight for my business. Or so I'd like to think. I can have satellite, I can watch TV over the internet, and there are at least 3 different operators in the area I can consider for TV and internet services. So, why do I have to take my business to Comcast? Hmmmm, let me see.... Oh, that's right. I don't.

However, installation hours fell much like the town water maintenance hours, but Comcast wasn't prepared to say, "Oh, 8 to noon doesn't quite work, but after 8:30 until noon is good? Sure, we'll make a note and come after 8:30." No. That would have been too convenient.

And so it was that we had a full week without internet because of that half hour.

Annoying, but not the end of the world... except that I had to pay $56.50 for the installation charge. Grumble grumble (and if I'd gotten Direct TV installation would have been free...) but I hand over the check. And then discover that not everything has been fully set up so we have to make phone calls that evening and mess around until we finally get the internet working.

And then we get our bill, and they joyously charged us again, another $56.50, for the installation. And yes, the bill was issued after they'd already cashed the check I wrote them.

Now, I'm sure that Brian will make a phone call, be left on hold for an extended period of time, get passed through three different customer service reps and eventually they'll remove the double charge. The thing is, doing it right after all the other extra things we've had to do while moving compounds the annoyance factor.

And Comcast really kicked themselves in the pants, because when I opened the bill to see a charge of over $150 staring back at me, I took a good, hard look at the bill. We've been paying $60 for cable, and we cut back our cable options 8 months ago because we weren't using the special channels. In fact, other than the morning when the kids are waking up, I don't remember the last time we watched programmed TV. The kids watch cartoons, but they can just as easily watch DVDs. Yes, you guessed it: Comcast annoyed me at a time of great stress, and they didn't just annoy me once. They annoyed me three times, and then when I did the math I decided that $720 would go a long way towards a family vacation instead of throwing it into the wind for cable we don't watch anyway.

Bye bye cable. If the door hits you on the way out, well, I won't lose any sleep.

Of course, the post is titled 'Thrice Screwed', so I'm sure you're waiting for my final complaint about the moving process. It's a complaint about my former landlords. Nice enough people in their own right, but as landlords these are statements about them as a business, not about them as people. And how you do business matters.

When I moved into that townhouse it was not cleaned from top to bottom. I shampooed carpets myself because of multiple stains. I swept up the cigarette butts the former tenant left lying around the laundry room floor. And washed walls to try to get the cigarette stench out of the basement.

I also remember last summer, paying the town water bill, and only a few weeks later getting a bill with a warning that service was going to be terminated if I didn't pay the overdue charges. What overdue charges? I make a call and discover that the water bill, fully in the previous tenant's name, was left unpaid from much earlier in the year. Now I've just paid a water bill, and have another one that's three figures in amount, and I'm wondering why it's being sent to me.

"Water bills follow the property," the lady on the phone explains. "Not the tenant."

Joyous. So I'm on the hook for it. (And I told this for a reason - just wait for it.)

Now, the landlords were hands off to the extreme. When we discovered rust on Patrick's bike at the end of summer, we wondered how that was happening because we stored the bike inside, in the laundry room. That's when we discovered that every time someone flushed the downstairs toilet, it leaked. The landlords were called. And called. And messages were left. All of September went by, and we kept a bucket under the leaking pipes because, let's face it, a family of four needs a second bathroom, especially with kids, and we rented a two-bathroom place because we needed.

It was mid-October before a phone call was returned and someone came out to fix it. I still remember the request: "Try not to use that bathroom unless you have to." Uh, yeah, because we're paying $1300 in rent to not use our second bathroom. Nice.

And then, in April, the heat wouldn't come on. The system just kicked the bucket, and (of course) this development coincided with a cold snap. It took 8 days for our landlords to respond to phone calls and have it fixed. 8 days of using a small space heater and happily baking away with the oven to keep the house a reasonable temperature.

You know, when you rent, the landlord is obligated to provide certain things. I strongly considered not sending a rent check until, you know, we had heat. After the plumbing fiasco I was just glad it happened in April and not January.

Whatever. You haven't seen me on my blog, grumbling about the landlord for the past year, have you? Nope. But the final kick in the head comes when moving out. We did our inspection and everything was fine. No complaints whatsoever. I shampooed carpets, Brian scrubbed cupboards, we mopped floors and mowed lawns and wiped down the blinds. The landlords came, gave the thumbs up, and said they'd mail our damage deposit back to us.

That week, my final bill for the water at that house arrived. Just over $30 owing. Great - as soon as I get my damage deposit back I'll pay it.

Only for some reason, this time the landlord was right on top of it and called the town and paid the water bill, which was deducted from my damage deposit. Okay. Fine. One less thing I have to do, but it leaves me wondering why they never did that when I moved in.

Let's set that aside. Somehow, since the walk through, they claim there was a broken light fixture and some things weren't cleaned. They deducted almost $40, in addition to the water bill amount, off my damage deposit.

Now, the whole reason people do things like this is because nobody is going to waste their time arguing over $40. If it was $400 we'd be in small claims court, but $40? Hardly worth the time.

But what really pisses me off about it is that we did a walk through. I'd like to know where the hell the broken light fixture was, because it most certainly didn't break while I was living there. The light fixture was billed at less than $6 though, so the bulk of what they deducted was "cleaning" costs. And that's $40 that pays a lot of groceries for the kids, or could have covered most of their back-to-school supplies. These people had an opportunity to say they didn't think things were cleaned as well as they needed to be, so that we could do it. They didn't. They alleged this a full ten days after the walk through, ten days after we'd handed back keys.

They stole that money from our family, just because they could.

Truth is, I'm most annoyed about the old landlords, because I got screwed moving in by being stuck with someone else's water bill, and screwed moving out as well, and there's no way to warn a prospective tenant who might move in.

I hope they get someone who's far more high maintenance than we were. After all, we put up with a bucket in our basement, under our pipes collecting pee for more than 6 weeks. We also put up with a dishwasher that didn't work properly, and yes, phoned about it, but they felt it was fine. Amazingly, at our new house, we can actually see through the glasses. And there was the heating issue... and everything else is water under the bridge.

Sadly, I'm all-too aware of the fact that rentals are in high demand right now, and a lot of shady landlords are taking advantage of people. Since we got screwed it seems likely whoever moves in will have their own story to tell, about a year from now.

Anyway, I'm not sure there's a moral to the story, but now that we've survived the birthday parties and are about 72% unpacked normal service should resume shortly. That's the goal, anyway...

(Oh, and thanks to all who've plugged the new issue of Spinetingler. I love the cover.)

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Comment by Sandra Ruttan on July 7, 2009 at 11:19am
Pepper, I think we're going to increase our Netflix to four cd's at a time and just forego tv. After all, you can see most of the essential stuff via online sources anyway.

Ah, landlords. What can you do? You're right about that - not much, but it still doesn't make it nice. That's why you get everything in writing, up front, whenever possible. Sometimes, some people really suck.
Comment by Pepper Smith on July 7, 2009 at 5:13am
Ugh. You had the receipt for the gift card and they still didn't give you the full amount? Someone needs a little educating on public relations and customer service, I suspect.

We've done without cable for years. You won't miss it. Very overpriced. Don't know what the other service providers charge, but hopefully it's much less.

During one of our moves, we had to leave behind a refrigerator which our former landlords said they would buy from us. Didn't hear anything for a long time. Finally checked back, and was told they weren't paying us because the refrigerator stopped working right after we left. Hmmm. Don't know that I believe that, but what can you do?
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on July 7, 2009 at 5:05am
LOL Jack! I hear you. If I can stay here forever, that sounds good to me!
Comment by Jack Getze on July 7, 2009 at 2:59am
I haven't moved in 26 years. They're taking me out of this place feet first.
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on July 7, 2009 at 2:49am
Me too! And IJ, if you move, I hope it goes well. I could tell a whole other story about the moving company, but it was one of those things that went bad, bad, bad, but in the end was wonderful. Just a series of things that were frustrating (delays with the movers coming because someone was sick) but when they came they brought extra people and did it in half the time and those guys worked hard.
Comment by John McFetridge on July 7, 2009 at 1:28am
Yeah Sandra, I hope you can settle in now and not have to move for a long time.
Comment by I. J. Parker on July 7, 2009 at 1:14am
Oh, that sounds nasty. I'm thinking of selling my house and moving, but . . .
I do hope your life will improve by leaps and bounds now.

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