Our Sweet Sarah Beth


Darling Little Debbie


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The expensivest show on earth!

The traveling circus recently made a stop in our small town. SB was so pumped, mostly about seeing elephants. The tickets for kids were free, so I figured, why not? Off we went with our free kids tickets. SB and I went with two friends and met my brother, father, niece and nephew there. We got inside without a hitch. Even got a discount on the grown up tickets. A clever trick indeed. As soon as we walked inside, we were accosted by a carney selling VIP seats. Only $10 each to sit on the floor right next to the action. You could smell the elephants.

See the front row seats?

We passed on the premium seating; I was sure SB would be too scared to sit that close anyway. Soon the begging went from wanting to sit closer to wanting something to eat. I went for the popcorn; my brother went for cotton candy. SB also needed a sprite or her world just might come crashing down. I waited patiently in the concession line.

Me: "I'd like one popcorn, please."
Concession man: "That'll be $8."
Me: "I'm sorry. I said one bag of popcorn."
CM: "Right. That'll be $8 for one bag of popcorn."
Me: "I'm afraid to ask for a sprite."
CM: "Those are only $3."
Me: "How big?"

He held up a warm 12 oz can. I ponied up the $11 because I had no other choice. I met my brother back in our seats and the sickened look on his face told me he had met a similar fate at the cotton candy stand. $10 for the cotton candy. Plus three drinks. The kids were thrilled and already planning what else they wanted. You can only imagine the trinkets and prizes they were hawking in every aisle. I began to reminisce the free chicken incident, which ironically had taken place in that very same arena the year before.

We shook it off and settled in to enjoy the show. It was actually a pretty good performance. The kids were a little young to appreciate all of it, but they loved seeing the animals. SB kept asking when will we see the elephants do tricks? Intermission came and the ring master invited all the children to the bottom of the arena to ride ponies and elephants, slide down the inflatables and feed / photograph the animals. Our kids were out of their seats in an instant. Ride an elephant?? Yes, please. I tried to guess how much it would cost to ride an elephant and multiplied it by three.

In the end, they each rode the elephant, then split decisions between the slide and pony rides. I realized we were actually saving $5 per kid on paper cups of llama food when I noticed the kids scooping fallen food pellets off of the floor and feeding them to the llamas and goats. Good thinking, kids. Please go use some hanitizer.

It was all worth it in the end, although my brother and I figured intermission alone cost us about $60. And we didn't even attempt the animal photography. Thankfully our kids were content to recycle rejected llama food from the floor and shove it back at the llamas. What a relief. Well, maybe not for the llamas.

As the show neared completion, SB could not hold it any longer, so we made for the nearest potty. After the hand washing and drying (SB is obsessed with push button hand dryers), we headed back out to our seats. SB and I simultaneously realized with dismay that we were missing the grand finale. The elephants. As we returned to our seats, the elephants were performing their final trick. I was just relieved that we got to see a small part of the elephant show, and SB was pretty easily convinced that we had not missed most of it.

I certainly learned some valuable lessons at the greatest show on earth. Next time when the circus comes to town, I'll bring my own sprite. And plan the bathroom break for intermission.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mommy, why did you say you were going to kill somebody?

**UPDATED TO ADD: No children were harmed during the course of this incident.**

I was never really going to kill anybody, but the thought of strangling a 12 year old did cross my mind and lingered there longer than I'd like to admit. Let me explain. I was in our cell phone store, which should shed quite a bit of light on my mental state at the time. It was my third trip in about a month. Let's go back to last month and start with my first trip in this sequence to Verizon. To be fair, I'll have to start with the day before the trip when I got an unexpected email...

Our account balance had exceeded our monthly allowance, and Verizon thought that since we owed them over $700 ( a bit over our average $200 / month bill), they would shoot me a courtesy email to let me know about some unusual activity on one of our phones. Also to let me know that if we didn't go ahead and make a payment, they would go ahead and shut down all of our phones.

Our bill is pretty stable each month. Jack and I both have unlimited services on our phones, so we are never in danger of any overage charges. The other phone on our account, which is used by one of Jack's employees, doesn't have any kind of data capabilities, and this guy has never abused his allotted minutes. So I was pretty sure that Verizon had made a huge mistake. I assured Jack that I would take care of it and went into the store the next day to confirm.

As it turned out, the tertiary phone on our account did indeed have some data capabilities, in that it was possible for a person to download games onto that phone. 91 games to be exact. At an average of $4.00 / pop, that's about $364.00 in backgammon fees. Plus a few other fun applications that brought our total to just over $700. Awesome. Since the games and applications had been downloaded from a third party and not Verizon, the salesmen were not confident that they could help me out.

Jack confirmed with his employee that there were quite a few "extras" on his phone, and the employee admitted that he had let his girlfriend's kid play with his phone a few times recently. Other people's kids. Wouldn't you just love to strangle them sometimes? Me too.

I spent a great deal of time on the phone with customer service, and they were kind enough to listen to my sob story. Then they said they were really sorry and would cover 25% of those premium services fees.

The next day after the initial shock had worn off, I made my second trip to Verizon to cancel all access to third party services on that phone. Something we would have done a long time ago had we known it was even possible. We paid the bill and thanked God we had the funds to cover it. We also rested in the fact that it wouldn't happen again.

Fast forward to this month. Another email from Verizon. Another $267.00 in "premium services" fees on our employee's phone. I thought I was mad until Jack found out. His face turned so red I thought he might explode. I ran back to Verizon before Jack had the chance to go kung fu all over this guy's face.

Hmmmm, it was so confusing. The premium services had all been blocked the month before. Where were these fees coming from? The salesmen just didn't know. One guy suggested, "maybe he signed up for some monthly subscriptions?" I called customer service again. Before I could even begin my "I'm not going to pay for this" shpill, I was placed on hold. I suppose the lady could feel my anger through the phone line, because she put on some very soothing music while she looked for a supervisor.

I tried to calm myself by imagining myself in different scenarios: on a beach somewhere, soothing music playing, waves washing over my feet, on the banks of a river, babbling brook, mountaintop resort. But I just ended up strangling this kid over and over again in my mind alongside the ocean, river, mountain, whatever. The soothing music wasn't working.

Once the customer service lady confirmed that we had canceled all premium service access, she also confirmed that many of the games and applications this kid had already downloaded came with a monthly subscription service. We had only just begun with the overage fees. You can't just download one solitaire game for $4 and play it forever. You have to pay each month. We had blocked all access to MORE games, but the ones that had already been purchased would continue to bill each month. Brilliant! Very Tapfish like.

The good news is that the customer service lady was able to cancel the subscriptions, so this SHOULD be the last time we have to deal with this. She also said to call back after the next billing cycle and they would issue a credit to our account for the subscriptions. Strange that she couldn't do it right then, but if she thought I was going to forget about it by the time the next bill comes, she was wrong. I already have the date circled on my calendar.

On a related note, my phone stopped reading my SD card last night. I was back at Verizon today. I'm pretty much on a first name basis with all those guys now.