Monday, February 10, 2014

Half Rave, Half Rant

Rarely does one get a chance to finish a great book and then apply the lessons learned in a real-life situation.  So my one-time came in.  Well, sort of.  The book was, “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” by Kathryn Schulz, a great book on behavioral psychology; more specifically about…being wrong.  Doesn’t behavioral psych and poker go great together?  Of course they do.  Publishers Weekly said it was,” a fresh and irreverent eye upon the profound meanings behind our most ordinary behaviors…how we make mistakes, how we behave when we find we have been wrong, and how our errors change us.

One thing I remember from the book was her description of what I call the “three phases of correctness.” 
In the first, we know the answer, and we act firmly and decisively. 
  • What’s 2 plus 7?  NINE, we shout. 
The second is the direct opposite – we know we don’t know, and we’re not afraid to say so.
  • Who is the current prime minister of Denmark?  I have no clue, really.  (OK, looked it up, and it’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt).
It’s the third/middle area – where we think we might know – that’s dangerous.  We rarely come out and say we don’t know for sure.  We rarely say, “Wait, we’ll go ask so-and-so.” 

Instead, we make shit up.

About a week after I finished the book, I saw a video online from one of the late-night shows.  They asked people in the street about the President’s State of the Union speech.  Problem was, the speech hadn’t occurred yet – it was set for later THE SAME DAY THEY ASKED PEOPLE ABOUT IT.  In other words, when asked, “What did you think about the State of the Union speech last night?” the “correct” response could have been “Hey, that’s tonight” or “I didn’t see it” or “do you mean last year, because this year’s speech hasn’t happened.”  Not:
  • “I thought it was pretty good.”
  • “Well, I only saw part of it.  My wife watched most of it.  It was what I expected from Obama.”
  • “I don’t think it changed my mind, I mean, I know he wants to…uh, y’know.  He’s got that insurance thing, and other ideas.”
Even when the interviewer asked most specific questions about Biden’s tie or why Obama started out with a joke or did you see Boehner fall asleep, people went right along, flinging bullshit left and right:
  • “I didn’t like it.”
  • “Yeah, I don’t know about that.  It was pretty funny, though.”
  • “I can’t believe he did that.”
Obviously, not everyone did this.  Just the ones they choose to show.  People are pretty dumb.  But this isn’t the rant. 

This is – I got my 1099s from Amazon for my eBooks.  When I took a quick look, I noticed that the dollar amount was off a bit.  Nothing large, but it was an even amount and since I had had a couple of other issues with them previously, I sent off an email prior to re-reviewing my records, asking them to look into problem.  I got a response back the next day, and in it, the support person said that the error was…well, let me paraphrase it:  The error was because of a payment of more than twice the amount of the difference that I didn’t take into consideration for 2013 because it occurred in January, 2014.

I wrote back, informing the service rep that while the sales occurred in November 2013, I was not paid until THIS YEAR.  Accruals don’t count – the 1099 only considers payments.  Plus, the amount of the payment was more than double the difference.  Try again.

They responded, and doubled down.

First, they hauled out the old “We are meeting the IRS requirements, unadjusted gross sales” shtick. Then came a lot of boilerplate stuff about how to generate sales reports.  Then they got specific and told me how to look up payments (and described a procedure incorrectly and got dates wrong to boot).  I especially loved the “Reports can take up to 1 hour to generate. If you do not see your report in the list yet, check again later” part.  An HOUR for a report?  On a 300 baud modem, maybe.

I confess that after receiving the first email, I went through all of my records and found the error (I had one Canadian sale that I did not account for, having tagged it with the other foreign sales from UK, France, and Germany).  My bad.  Still, I wanted to make certain that whoever this rep was, that they NEVER dealt with 1099 questions again because they obviously had NO IDEA how the damn things work.  I forwarded a copy of the whole conversation to another (more specific 1099 issue) email address, along with four separate reasons why the second response was a total piece of shit (including the fact that there were other accruals that occurred in December that I have YET to be paid for that, if accruals count, are NOT part of the total, even though I was told to add the November accrual in) and hopefully, the issue can be resolved. 

Not my error – I dealt with that.  I mean the error of letting that service rep deal with these types of issues in the future.

Thank goodness they only wanted to be a service rep, and not a doctor, or firefighter, or some other position of responsibility.  Someone might wind up dead.

So endeth the rant.

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