Kelly In Catty

This blog is Kell's attempt to keep in touch with friends far away who complain that I don't e-mail nearly enough.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

UnPeeling my Stupidity

My husband is a sweet soul... and amongst all his great qualities are kindness, humor, and the ability to overlook faults in those he loves. These are great things... However, the same set of qualities can lead to overlooking faults in many things - say TV infomercials. Dave will see something - like a cordless vac - or clothes steamer - or dog wee wee pad - and say "LET'S ORDER THAT!!!!" I've told him in no uncertain terms that the products you order on TV are rarely as good as the informercial suggests... I"ll then look up a review of the product online - and show it to Dave... His eyes will widen - then sadden - and we'll move on with our lives.

This really isn't a story about him. It's a story about how careful I am when ordering any products - and how stupid I was when, in a moment of weakness, I ordered tea from a company called TEA FRANCAIS. (I'll post the link later, but for the moment, I need you to pay attention to me... Not to the link.

The promise was that I would get 4 packages of the most delectable tea, and would be billed on a subscription basis. Once/month, I would receive another package, and be billed something like forty bucks. My plan was to get the tea and then cancel the subscription because it would take me a long time to go through four packages of tea. I've done this successfully with companies like Gevalia. I was able to change my order to a package every three months... I could cancel at any time - which eventually I did - but always liked their product.

So here's what happened... Here's how I was duped, and here's what I did (that I should have done in the first place...)

I got the four packages of tea. Then, a week later, I got another four packages of tea. I was happy to pay the 40 bucks for it - but called to cancel the subscription immediately. It worked... However, in a few months, I started getting abbreviated packages of tea - all of which I refused. After each one, I customer support line to cancel. If I could GET customer support, they said they would refund my money immediately upon receiving the shipment back. If you're curious about what was in the package, here goes: I received one bag of tea and a cheap tin car cup... What was withdrawn from my subscription bank account was $80.00. EIGHTY DOLLARS!

Let me repeat that: EIGHTY DOLLARS! FOR ONE STUPID CUP AND ONE BAG OF TEA (that wasn't delicious at all) THAT I'D CANCELLED MONTHS AGO! And, oddly enough, the charges on my bank statement were coming from some poster company - not a tea company... This freaked me out.

Well, when the second package arrived, I was assured of an inter-company computer glitch, and that it was cancelled, and I would get my money back.

A few days later, a third package arrived.

That was it. I finally did what I should have done months ago. I decided customer service wasn't cutting it - and that I needed to call the main company. I looked up their website. Nothing there regarding any main company - just a customer service phone number. I called it thinking I could ask for the main company office number... No answer.

Then, I looked them up on the Better Business Bureau. I typed "Tea Francais" into the query line -and kept coming up with a company named "Peel, Inc." The website didn't even mention "TEA FRANCAIS," - but it did mention it's generic product line of gourmet coffee, gourmet tea, POSTERS and jewelry. Maybe I found the right thing after all. Then I read the report. To summarize, "Chicago, IL-December 16, 2009 – Peel Inc., an internet distribution company selling a variety of products ranging from coffee to posters, under multiple names and Web site addresses, has received more than 1,360 Better Business Bureau complaints in the past year from 49 states; currently, the company has 897 pending complaints with the Better Business Bureau. These complaints have earned the company an F rating from the BBB.

Consumer complaints to the Better Business Bureau allege undisclosed or unauthorized charges, lack of clearly disclosed shipping and/or membership fees, and deceptive advertising. Consumers further allege receiving multiple orders of merchandise that have not been ordered and/or authorized, and subsequent difficulties obtaining refunds. "

In addition, it detailed all the ways Peel, Inc. steals money - including a list of these "DBA" websites:

I"m listing these so you don't do the same thing I did... All of this info is found verbatim at the Better Business Bureau Chicago website.

A wave of "I'm an idiot who doesn't practice what she preaches" washed over me. I called my husband, I changed my bank account number, and then I did a quick search for Peel, Inc. in Evanston Illinois. I knew the president of the company's name (again thanks to the BBB) was Brian Dale. Incidentally, his phone number is (847) 424-0954.

So I called him - and of course, got his voice mail. I gave a two-sentence summary of what happened, how I reported my experience to the Better Business Bureau, and this was not the last time he'd be hearing from me, so it would behoove him to return my phone call... and wished him a Merry Christmas.

Within the hour, a representative of the company called, and did her best to get off the phone as quickly as possible. She did cancel my account. To Peel's credit, she did refund the three payments of EIGHTY DOLLARS to me. To Peel's discredit, she was quite rude and unwilling to listen to anything I had to say.

There was no real satisfaction - because outside of their "F" rating (that probably already existed before I called the BBB to complain), I assume that Peel, Inc. will still be allowed to do business... They'll still be allowed to steal from people - and behave in a cowardly, dishonest manner. I'll never be able to get back the time it took to get to the bottom of this, and will have a few hours of updating my account info... In short, this has been nothing but a pain...

... And it's my fault. I didn't do what I told Dave to do from the start. If I had looked up a review before I ordered TEA FRANCAIS (AKA Seattle Coffee, Especially Posters, Vermont Roasting Co, Haute Jewelry, etc...), I would have prevented all this. I would have seen the numbers of complaints - the resolution rate, etc...

I need to publicly apologize to Dave - for not doing what I've asked him to do... I've apologized profusely to him on the phone - and in true form, he was more than understanding - and very forgiving about the whole thing. In fact, he was pretty proud of me for getting our money back...

What a nice guy... to help me unPEEL my stupidity.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tattoo Me Baby

My husband has this thing about tattoos: "Why is it you would put something on your body that you wouldn't frame and hang in your bathroom?"

This strikes me funny in several ways... For one, WHY the BATHROOM? Second? Who's to say that someone wouldn't hang their tattoo in their John? (I'm giggling right now - I can't help it.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I support the energy behind my husband's sentiment... I mean, I don't HAVE a tattoo, and even after giving it some serious thought, I don't think I would get one... I mean, my tastes change every day it seems... so what would I get? I mean, I collect armadillos - I even found a cool armadillo tattoo Von Glitschka designed... (see above image)... but I doubt I'd ever actually GET one...

Now I've spent time with tattoo'd people - all of them have impressed me with their commitment to their images... Military eagles, fave musicians, 9/11 remembrances, spiritual icons, and of course the skulls... They each have stories. I actually like those who tattoo their necks, heads and faces. I think they're letting us know they'd like to talk about their stories... You can't fault a guy for that.

For me though? What is it I'd want to advertise? Maybe I could slap the face of Bruce Cockburn on my shoulder... my Gibson on my thigh... a portraits of my husband and dog on my belly... maybe a banjo on my heart (HI DAVE!)... the original 1857 deed to my house on my back... a little ring neck snake around my ankle... an Oscar award on my toe... A C.S. Lewis quote on my lower back...

Wait... Maybe I DO want one - or a dozen.

Just kidding. I'll just frame all these images and hang 'em in the bathroom.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why Photographing Babies Is So Difficult

I was trying to take Christmas Photos of my niece this evening - and where fun, I can only tell you that it's a lot of work! Even with my sister and husband helping, it's difficult to hold the attention of an infant for more than a split second... To boot, every now and then, my husband would chime in, "Kelly, you missed that - you need to be ready!"

First off, Let me tell you, I may not have been ready, but he kept getting into the shot!

All kidding aside, he was very helpful (way to go honey!), but you can't always make babies do what you need them to. Check out these facial expressions and tell me honestly if you would want your Christmas cards to look like this:

Or this:

Maybe certain Christmas Greetings warrant that kind of expression - like this little "If Looks Could Kill" number - shouldn't every bad babysitter, doc who gives bad diagnoses, or pain-inducing dentist receive this card?

Then, my niece started to wiggle - a lot... She'd get distracted, and begin to slink away...

Going, going GONE!

What was interesting was my dog, Eb. Whenever my niece got close, he hightailed it out of her way... If you're humming the Beatles "I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello" right now, you aren't the only one!

Incidentally, here's another shot of Eb walking around the corner - looking very cautious to say the least!

Sometimes, the problem was depth perception...

And the wiggling... The child is a bowl of potential and kinetic energy all rolled into one cute - but fast package!

Sometimes, she just got distracted...

For this shoot, we purchased two feather boas we wanted to return (Come on - you'd do it too!) so there was the ever-present danger of the tag getting in the shot:

Then she'd blink:

Or get sleepy:

To make the baby sit in one spot, I had my sister lie on the floor. We covered her up with a Christmas tablecloth... But she kept making cameos in the shots!

Sometimes, the baby would just do an about face:

Eventually, I shot a few that I think could actually make a cool Christmas Card - Which one would you use?

I'm Back - Trying, at Least

I thought it might be fun to return to blogging - now that I've likely lost all my readership (all four of you). Maybe it's time to tell my family I've been doing this since 2004, huh?

Well, the newly minted Kelly, woman of leisure, has been doing a lot lately - One, I've already decorated my house for Christmas. All the needles are falling off my tree, Dave and I have broken a TON of glass ornaments (you know - the ones that I can't help buying because they're glass and sooooo pretty) - and I've already baked cookies that I fear will go stale before Christmas (so we're eating them). Besides, as you can see from the photo, my cookies - made solely by Dave and me - look like they were made by my infant niece.


Also, Lately, I've discovered where socks go to die... I didn't figure this out until I cleaned my sock drawer - and threw about six dozen unmatched socks away. As soon as the trash went out, I discovered about 7 socks behind the dryer, three in my closet, under shoes, one firmly lodged in a boot I hadn't worn for a year, another dozen behind a chair, several static-clinging to clothes I hadn't worn in awhile, and three on that chair in my bedroom... The one we never sit on... because we keep clothes there...

Oh how I wish I was one of those "CLEAN" people. Think of all the money I'd save...

To catch you all up on the rest of my life... My nephew is returning today from Basic Training. He's spent the fall and early winter at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, learning to be an MP. I'm so proud of him - I can't even tell you. For those of you who remember, he's had a tough time - offspring of a ridiculous former brother-in-law, brother of Jason... and the list goes on. He's made me downright teary lately. For instance, he enlisted in this time of war because he wanted to pay for college on his own terms. He wants to be a cop - so he can help children who had the misforune of growing up with people like my ridiculous former brother-in-law.

A couple of years ago, he discovered martial arts - and I think it's saved his life. It was the first time I've ever seen him be passionate about anything (save making his brother, TJ's life miserable). After a belt test, we stood in the parking lot, discussing how cool the belt test was, and the sensei walked out of the building... "Hey, Ian! You did great tonight! I'm really proud of you!"

I can't describe what changed about Ian's face - but it sort of widened and melted at the same time. He looked right at the sensei's eyes and said, "Thank you sir!"

I'm sure I hadn't seen him look another male right in the eye - EVER. He was so shy... Anyway, I don't know if I'm communicating properly, but it made me downright weepy. Perhaps you just had to be there.

Anyway, he's now forging his life on his own terms. He's the apple of my father's veteran eye (go Air Force!) - and is coming home today for Christmas... I can't wait.

He's not the only arrival from the Midwest... Other friends are coming to hang out - Their parents live close to me, so they're crashing at my place (I'll let you draw your own conclusions there)... So we're throwing some parties with old friends - and current family. More on that later.

SO - Merry Christmas to you - Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, whatever it is you celebrate (Sorry - I'm just not into wishing you a generic Happy Holiday - it's so gauche...)