Hanging Out in Rockford: It’s all about money

By Mike Leifheit

I am sitting listening to bad elevator music on my cell phone. I have it on speaker. It’s been on speaker for about 40 minutes. I discovered a $58.43 charge on a credit card I am paying off. (They gave me a whole year of free interest to get me to switch some balances over. Now, suddenly, they are charging 23 percent. I guess there is no free lunch. Luckily, I have a drawer full of offers from other companies, so I’ll get even.) The only indicator of what the charge is for is that it is in a purchase classification under the activity section. I have to call Citi to find out what it really is. If I had not noticed, I would have gotten stuck with the charge.

The people at Citi do absolutely nothing for me. The woman on the phone tells me it is an automatic renewal for Norton, the computer solution company I used to use on my laptop. I haven’t used Norton in two or three years. Through a computer nerd friend of mine, I found a service called AVG, which works perfectly and is totally free other than the somewhat irritating windows that pop up every so often offering their more sophisticated services. I haven’t discovered anything the free service doesn’t fix, so I haven’t bothered to take them up on it.

I protest to the Citi person that this isn’t something I ordered, and she says that because they subscribe to the Visa/MasterCard service, they have to follow the rules and do the automatic renewal. I say that in my opinion, it is no different than if someone walked into a computer store and bought a new video camera with my card number. That’s theft, and so is this. They have obviously had this problem with Norton before because the Citi representative dials Norton directly and, from time to time while listening to me complain, she shifts over to Norton’s answering service, and we hear the aforementioned elevator music. She says it usually takes them 20 minutes or more to answer their phone. I reply that that is one of the reasons I left them.

I ask what agency regulates credit card companies, and the representative of Citi gives me no answer. The representative says that I have to call the company to get the charge removed. I reply that I don’t feel that I should have to waste my time calling Norton when I never authorized any renewal in the first place. I have never authorized any kind of automatic renewal on anything in my life. I think it is simply bad business. Then, the woman from Citi suggests I put it on speaker phone and wait for the company to answer, and I do. I still don’t understand why I should have to waste my time, sitting here listening to the bad elevator music coming out of my cell phone, not to mention the waste of phone minutes, now approaching 50.

Finally, someone from Norton answers. He has an Indian accent. I am familiar with the accent, as I have several close Indian friends. I can even tell the difference between Indian and Pakistani. His name is Anot (pronounced like a-noot). He is a perfectly charming man. He asks me a few questions, finds my account and reverses the charges. All in all, he is very professional. I cannot help but ask where he is, and he is in India. Yes, he is in India.

I chat with him a little before I get off the phone. I tell him I have Indian friends here in the States and ask if he has ever visited the United States. He says it is one thing he wants to do, visit the United States in his lifetime. I tell him I would like to visit India, too, before I die. I hang up the phone. The call is about 70 minutes, including the shooting of the bull.

I cannot help but wonder where our legislators are. What the hell are they doing? They are obviously more interested in the well-being of the corporations than they are in the well-being of the people. A foreign corporation now has more rights than you do. They have more rights because they have more money. And they, unlike us, don’t even have to be born here. Yes, Kia (or Sony or Mitsubishi) can contribute unlimited amounts to an American election. They don’t even have to be U.S. corporations. The Supreme Court granted them “personhood.” We are becoming a fascist nation. When will we wake up?

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 3, 2010 issue

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