The Grind Keeps Starting Younger And Younger

, , , , , | Working | February 17, 2021

My daughter has special needs and receives SSI — Supplemental Security Income — which is a federal supplemental program, funded by tax revenues for the disabled and seniors with little or no income. I do work and make wages but my daughter still qualifies because I am within the federal poverty level. Before the sixth of every month, I have to go to the office to submit proof of my wages — paystubs. Since the start of the health crisis, the office is closed to the public, but I am still required to submit my wages.

I am what is called a “Representative Payee” on behalf of my daughter and can’t use the wage reporting app because it clearly states that the SSI recipient is the only one that can report with the app. After several months, I finally receive word that I can report my wages by faxing; I just have to include all information on the fax cover sheet. After a few months of reporting, I receive a letter saying that they’re canceling my daughter’s SSI because of “changes in the household that show there is no need for the benefit.”

Under the suggestion of my mom, I call the general SSA number instead of calling the local office; it is after 4:00 pm on a Friday. I wait on hold for close to an hour before finding an agent who looks up my daughter’s account and instantly realizes what happened.

Agent: “It seems whoever input your wages also input the same wages for your daughter. But how is your daughter making a wage when she’s only six?” *After some typing* “I put a note to your local SSA office to correct the mistake.”

Here is the problem I have with my local SSA office: every time I go there, different workers have told me to do a certain action or sign some paperwork, and either the paperwork gets lost or is incorrect, or I wasn’t supposed to do the action they told me to do in the first place. As a consequence, I have to pay back an overpayment because of their misinformation. (I do not object to paying back what doesn’t belong to my daughter.) They sometimes send me paperwork that belongs to other people and even put another child’s name on a letter instead of my daughter’s. Because of all these problems, I try to deal with the SSA office as minimally as possible.

A few days later, I receive a letter from the local office with the same date as the first letter, saying my daughter’s wages and my wages are too high to receive benefits. I decide to call the local office to see if they made the changes to my daughter’s account. When I finally get through to a live person, I explain to her the situation. At first, she doesn’t see anything wrong. This goes on for a few minutes, until I finally get her to understand the problem.

Me: “My daughter is six and doesn’t make wages, but you have listed that she makes the same wages I make.”

Worker: “Ma’am, you need to understand how the letter is read. We break down your income and show you that you make too much for your daughter to receive SSI. We know your daughter doesn’t make wages. You need to read the letter carefully.”

Me: “Your letter says my daughter’s wages are [amount] for the month and my wages are [same amount]. Look. I already called the main SSA number and the agent already found the problem and wrote a note for your office to correct it. Where is the note?”

The worker became quiet, except for the sound of typing, and asked if I could be put on a brief hold. After a few minutes, the worker returned and informed me that whoever had input the wages thought that they had to input the wage information under both my daughter and me, being that we are a part of the same household. The worker informed me they had fixed the mistake and my daughter would continue to receive her benefits. When we did receive the benefits, it was only half of what was expected, so I had to call the local office again. I did receive the second half a few days later. I never did find out why the note that was sent to them from the SSA was never abided.

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This Is A Lying-Doesn’t-Fly Zone

, , , , , , | Working | December 31, 2020

I work in a department that creates graphics and presentations for the rest of the firm. We have regulars that routinely use our services, but we’re available to anyone in the company.

I’m alone in the center overnight two days before Christmas when I get a call from an unfamiliar employee asking if we can edit a PDF. It’s not an uncommon request; sometimes documents are converted to PDF for sharing or printing, only for a typo or alignment problem to be discovered at the last minute.

Me: “Sure, that’s most likely not a problem.”

Employee: “Great!” 

The employee emails me the file.

I open the file and stare at it, aghast. It’s a note from this employee’s doctor. Evidently, a long-scheduled plane trip over the holidays had been imperiled by a serious injury a few weeks back; the note states that the employee is cleared to fly.

The instructions are to add the word “not” into the note so that it would appear to read that the employee was not cleared to fly.

I’m ready to refuse this outright when I hear the internalized voice of my boss. Like most “cost centers,” our department doesn’t have a lot of cachet within the company, and recent complaints involving a few of us trying to enforce certain standards that not all of the senior officers care about have led to firm instructions from our boss not to refuse anything our requesters ask for.

Basically, our option to say, “No, we don’t do that,” has been taken away, leaving me wondering how best to handle this employee’s request to help them scam their airline without violating departmental directive.

I call the employee back.

Me: *Politely* “I’m sorry, but I do not feel I can ethically handle your request.”

The employee persists.

Employee: “It’s just inserting a word! I simply want to get my plane tickets refunded now that I’ve decided not to take the trip.”

After going back and forth a while, I finally have to say outright that I’m not comfortable falsifying medical documents on the employee’s behalf.

The employee tells me they understand and hangs up, only to call back to say they’re going to try to do it themselves, and asking if I can tell them how to do that.

I’m thinking about PDF-tampering permutations of the old “feed someone a fish” adage as I take another look at the document. It’s an image, not a text-based PDF, so modifying it isn’t as simple as clicking “Edit” and typing in “not.” I tell the employee that the change is not something they can do themselves; they accept this and hang up. I then document everything for my boss, wondering what the response will be.

After the holidays, I hear back from my boss. My refusal to do the job was supported, not because the request was unethical but because it was personal and not business-related.

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The Nightmare Before X. M. A. S.

, , , , , , | Right | December 21, 2020

I’m working holiday retail in a fancy-shmancy accessory and “lifestyle” store in lower Manhattan. 

One of our services is that if you buy a journal, we will imprint three — and no more! — characters on it for free, using an old-fashioned, hand-operated imprinting press. Once a journal has been imprinted, it cannot be changed, and if the customer rejects it, we have to mark it as “damaged” and make them a new one. The imprint doesn’t take very long to do, but given that there are six journal covers, two font sizes, and eight color options, and the imprint can be made anywhere on the cover, it’s one of those things that are best done in person.

The following call happens thirty minutes before we close.

Customer: “Hello? I’d like to purchase three journals and have them imprinted. I’ll come by at 6:45 and pick them up.”

Me: “All right, ma’am, but I should inform you that we close at seven, and the journals are best selected in person to be sure that you get exactly what you want.”

Customer: “I don’t care about that. Get me three journals.”

Me: “Do you want regular or large, and grid paper, plain paper, or ruled?”

Customer: “Regular and ruled.”

Me: “All right.”

I rattle off the color options for the journals.

Customer: “Just… black! Make them black!”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. Now, about the color of the imprint—”

I list the colors we have available, none of which are true white.

Customer: “White. I want true white.”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we don’t carry true white. The closest we have is a cream color.”

Customer: “What color is that?”

Me: *Pause* “Like an off-white, or an ivory.”

Customer: “Ugh, fine.”

Me: “Now, what letters do you want on the journals? We only take three characters, including punctuation and spacing.”

Customer: “I want ‘ABC,’ ‘A.B,’ and ‘X.Y’. Do the first two in gold and the last one in white.”

Me: “I’ve written it down. Now, where would you like the imprints to be made?”

Customer: “Why so many questions? Can’t you just do it?”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m just trying to make sure you get what you want. If it helps, most people put the imprint on the bottom right corner or in the dead center of the journal.”

Customer: “Put the first two in the bottom right corner and the last one in the center.”

Me: “The dead center?”

Customer: “Yes, the dead center.”

Me: “Thank you for your patience, ma’am; that’s all I need.”

I ring her up via the phone and then take my written notes on the items she wants over to the imprinting machine, and I quickly make sure all of the imprints are completed. Then, at 6:50, she comes bustling in and demands to see the journals, which I take out of their decorative bag to show her.

Customer: “These two are okay, but this last one is all wrong. I said I wanted true white!”

Me: “We don’t carry true white, I’m afraid. We carry cream, which is what I put, because it’s the closest to white.”

Customer: “I also told you I wanted it to say, ‘X.Y.’!”

Me: “Ma’am, we don’t typically go beyond three characters for our imprinting because we’ve found it damages the journals, but I’ll make an exception just this once.”

I redo the impression, which requires a whole new journal and for me to reload the press. Around me, my colleagues are sweeping up and closing the shop for the night. I finish and hand over the completed journal.

Customer: “No, this is still wrong! People like you are why Christmas is always a nightmare. I’m trying to get gifts for everyone at my office, and this one is supposed to be for the head creative director! I had all of them done at [Other Location] except these three, and this one is the most important! I just forgot about it until now!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but what’s wrong with this one?”

Customer: “I said I wanted this in the center! You put it here in the middle!”

I have put the initialing exactly where we agreed, in the dead center of the journal. She indignantly jabs her finger into the center… at the bottom of the cover.

During this time, my colleagues are walking out the door for the night, which has already locked because it’s past seven. My manager turns out the lights in the back and closes down the registers, leaving just me and this customer and the imprinting machine, which I will have to clean and turn off by myself. She seems to notice absolutely none of this and continues to rant.

Me: “Let me get another one, and I’ll redo it.”

Customer: *Sniffy voice* “I don’t know what’s so hard about three letters.”

At this point, this was technically four characters, but I bit my tongue.

I grabbed another journal from the dark back area, came back, unwrapped it, and re-pressed it to her satisfaction. Rather than letting me put these journals back in their decorative bag with a bow, she shoved them all into her purse and stormed out… or would have, if I hadn’t had to go and unlock the door for her.

Despite the fact that I had told her this was best done in person, had worked after closing for her, had to go through three separate journals because of her miscommunication, and was ultimately making up for her forgetfulness and saving her face to her boss, she never once said thanks. Lady, people like you are why Christmas is a nightmare.

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Gotta Love Helicopter Managers

, , , , , | Working | October 27, 2020

I am only a month into a new job in a small but high-pressure company. My boss is proving to be someone who not only can’t maintain a professional appearance under stress but bullies me to get a little sense of power satisfaction. I’m tired of it and am joyful when my cubicle is moved to the other end of the building.

We communicate by chat and most of my work is independent, and I send files, emails, and updates to my boss for review. However, any time I make even a tiny, easy-to-remedy mistake, the following happens.

Me: “I sent that email with the design and production notes to you. Please let me know if they are approved so I can move onto the next set.”

Boss: “Why did you send me this like this?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

My boss goes idle.

Five minutes later, she appears at my cubicle, adopting a frustrated and patronizing tone of voice. It would have taken her nearly five minutes to walk all the way to my station.

Boss: “Open the email you just sent me.”

I do.

Boss: “Open the files.”

I do that.

Boss: “See anything wrong?”

I scan all eleven files.

Me: “Oh, it looks like this one image got cropped a bit somehow when exporting to PDF.”

Boss: “Exactly. I can’t believe you sent me this like this. Did you even look at them before you sent them? You have to, have to, have to double-check everything. I can’t send this to my boss like this. It’s a mess! What happened?!”

Me: “Uh… it just looks like something glitched in exporting. I’ll re-export that page and—”

Boss: “You can’t keep making these mistakes. You have to double-check everything!”

Me: “Right. So I’ll just—”

Boss: “Please redo it and send me a new email so I can finally send this off. This is taking way too long.”

Me: *Deep breath* “Sure.”

It took me literally thirty seconds to re-export that page, check it for errors, and resend the email. 

The whole ordeal lasted about ten minutes and it happens too often. She could have just said, “There’s an error on page eight; please resend,” and it would have taken one minute. How are these people even allowed to be managers?!

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Two’s Company, The Whole Family Tree’s A Crowd

, , , , , , | Romantic | September 8, 2020

Shortly after finishing college, a boy I am dating invites me to spend a week in New York City with his family. It falls over our three-year anniversary, so he promises to take me out for a fancy dinner.

I am so excited! I pack a suitcase and drive to his house, expecting to see their minivan packed with bags and everyone getting ready to go. What I see, instead, is a bunch of vehicles parked in the yard and a bunch of people going back and forth between the house and the largest vehicles — mostly two fifteen-passenger vans.

My boyfriend comes out to greet me. 

Boyfriend: *Sheepishly* “Hey. Uh, so, you can say you don’t want to go if you don’t. I totally get it.”

Me: “What is… I thought this was a family thing?”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, but then [One Of His Brothers] found out you were going, so he wanted to take his girlfriend. And [Aunt] and [Uncle] wanted to come, but they have to bring their kids. It kind of… blew up?”

I nod, slowly taking it all in.

Me: “Uh-huh. So, how does this change things up there? Our reservations are for your immediate family and me.”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, well, we’ll have our own room, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

It is, but I don’t want to say so because it seems shallow to not want to share a hotel room when I’m invited on a trip.

Me: “Okay, well, I already took off work, so I might as well go, right?”

The trip was an absolute disaster. We did not get our own room — even though we paid for it by ourselves — because the hotel was completely booked and the added family members didn’t want to stay elsewhere; we ended up sharing our room with his aunt and uncle and their three children. I’m pretty sure it was against policy to have seven people in a room that sleeps four but they never got caught and never offered to split the cost of the room, either.

We also never got our anniversary dinner date because his brother and girlfriend wanted to do a double date and wouldn’t take no for an answer; it later came out that they wanted to get away from their annoying, clingy family members. The irony escaped them.

My boyfriend was truly sorry and did his best to make it up to me when we got back. We dated for a while after that, but when the next family trip came around, I made my own bookings in my own name and put my foot down on sharing.

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