Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Progress Isn't Progress

You lucky readers have caught me in a ranting mood today. As in smoke-coming-out-of-my-ears ranting mood. All over eight dollars and five cents.

When Fish Tales came out, I purchased a box of them to re-sell. You see, the royalties for the sale of the book go to cancer research, so none of us authors made any money on it. However, by purchasing some books at discount through our wonderful local indy bookseller, Mystery Lovers Bookshop, I had the opportunity to sell a few copies, make a couple of bucks (to please my accountant), AND cancer research still gets the royalties.

All well and good. Except that I had to apply for a sales tax license.

No problem. I had a sales tax license years ago when Hubby and I ran a photography studio. I don’t remember any problems with the filing and payment procedure. Fill in the sales numbers, write a check, stick a stamp on the envelope, and mail it in.

Ha. Those were the good old days.

My license was denied. It seems I have to pay the money I’ve collected before I can get a license. Okay. The nasty letter I received said I could do this easily online or by phone. The problem is that they want my license number. The license I don’t have because I have to pay first. But I can’t pay without a number.

You see the conundrum?

I finally managed to file a return online, but the electronic payment refused to go through. I spent hours…literally HOURS…on the phone, being directed from one non-toll-free number to another. Each time I’d get a human, they’d say, “Oh, you have to call this other number.” I believe the process is known as PASSING THE BUCK.

My head was ready to explode. All because I owed eight dollars and five cents.

Did I mention the nasty letter? The one that stated tax liabilities may result in a criminal citation being issued against you???? WTF? For eight dollars and five cents???

Relax. I don’t need anyone to bail me out of jail. On day two of this saga, I finally (only two phone calls later—YAY!) was able to speak to a real person who seemed genuinely interested in resolving my problem and who didn’t treat me like I had the black plague. I wish I’d have caught his name. I’d send him a bottle of wine. Or a chocolate cake. Or both. He looked up my case, told me in very simple terms what the problem was and how to fix it. AND he gave me an address to use to send in my payment. Write a check. Stick a stamp on the envelope. Mail it in.

THIS I can do.

Sometimes progress just isn’t.


Joyce Tremel said...

The next time any state-related problem like that happens, call or visit your state representatives office. Their office staff is trained to cut through the BS and get the problem solved. I usually just waylay my rep in Giant Eagle. I'm surprised he doesn't run the other way.

Jenna said...

Congrats on figuring out a solution. My husband has the same complaint frequently. He so much prefers just to call and talk to a real live human. I prefer not to deal with people, so I'm perfectly happy with online interaction - or non-interaction.

You know, I sell my books all the time without a license. Guess maybe I should stop doing that.

Annette said...

Jenna, we won't tell.

Joyce, the state rep suggestion is a great one. I should have done that. I remember all the headaches we had trying to file Hubby's first unemployment claim. This was the same only worse. Whoever designed their website wasn't overly concerned with it being user-friendly.

Liz Milliron said...

Nothing about a stage agency is "user friendly," especially when it comes to money. Although I have found the online vehicle registration renewal pretty easy to use.

Gina said...

Annette -

Joyce has the right idea. It can also help cut through federal problems to call your congressional rep or senator's office.

It isn't just government that creates insurmountable barriers to communication, though. This morning I spent 6 minutes (I timed it) caught in the automated voice system of a local bank, attempting to respond to a letter I received - and, yes, it did say to call that number. It just didn't have a choosable option for "in re: your letter." Instead it wanted to tell me account balances, addresses, etc. that I didn't need or want, interspersed with demands for numbers. By the time I got a live person, I was furious and had to make a real effort not to blame her for somebody else's bad choices. I guess those systems save them money - instead of paying an employee to talk on the phone for one minute, they force their customers to spend 10 minutes of their time trying to wade through the morass. And those systems can handle more calls than live operators. They have to, since we have to call back several times to get anything resolved.

BTW, is anybody else getting frustrated by Pennwriters' access issues? I've tried to pay my current membership a few times and given up. Even by snail mail, they make you have to access an inaccessible form.

Sorry for the rant. 'Nuff said. I'll shut up now.

Joyce Tremel said...

One trick I've learned with those automated phone menus is to hit "0" and most times it'll take you to a live person.

Gina, as much as I like the Pennwriters organization, I agree their website is horrible. I'm due to renew my membership soon so hopefully they'll do something about it before then.

Annette said...

Gina, I didn't realize that hadn't been fixed. I just fired off a note to the Pennwriters board about it. In the meantime, I'm going to email you with the easy way around it. No website needed. Just a mailing address.

Pennwriters Vice President