Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

SFWA Authors and Booksellers Event

20 September 2004

Warning, this is a long one.

On the east coast, there’s the annual SFWA “Mill and Swill” where writers and editors get together and gab. For the west coast, they tried an “Authors and Booksellers” event for the first time. It was held aboard the Queen Mary. Now, while she’s been in Long Beach for many years, I’d never been to see her. Given my fascination with cruise ships, I found that rather odd.

My usual practice for an early evening event is to fly down early in the morning, then fly back early the next morning. My thinking was this: that way, I could go out to dinner and not worry about hurrying back.

What I didn’t realize until I was actually there was that Sheila Finch, the SFWA Western Regional Director, had managed to get a hotel block for the Queen Mary. Had I known that, I probably would have stayed there. It may have been a bit more expensive than where I stayed, but it would have been way cooler.

But I didn’t.

Rented a car for the day, tried to go down to see Jeanne (because I knew she was ill), managed to get a long-needed errand done: retrieving my aunt’s remains from the house I moved out of in 1998 and forgot to pack. Yeah, that’s as bad as it sounds.

So, when I’m driving back north to the QM, I realize that I’ve not packed anything other than one small suitcase. How the heck am I going to pack in a box of remains about the size of my CPAP when the CPAP itself takes up almost 1/3 of the suitcase?

I figured I’d buy a tote or something, though normally I pack one just for such emergencies.

Anyhow, I get back to my hotel, change into my nicer clothing and head off for the QM. Naturally, I park too far away (it looked close).

Sheila did a really great job putting on a stellar event. Dinner afterward was even better.

Then, dawn came way too early and, alas, I had to pack. I discovered that I did pack a wet bag (meaning a bag for wet items, even though I had nothing wet at the time), so I put my CPAP and scarf in that and packed everything else into the suitcase.

“Please,” I implored the universe, “don’t embarrass me by having them search my bags.” I had visions of trying to explain my aunt’s remains, of them wanting to open the box, of them commenting on the too-long-ago postmark, of the guilt related to all of the above.

Naturally, my bags were searched. Fortunately, the TSA agent didn’t emit so much as a peep about them.

Tired and weary, I got to work just in time.

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Stuck in SJC

19 September 2004

Well, isn’t that special? I arrived (early) for an 8:48 a.m. flight to LAX and the flight is delayed until 10:00 a.m.

Remind me, why did I hurry this morning?

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Feeling pissy

16 September 2004

Yes, I thought you, gentle reader, should know this.

I’ll spare you the angst of the details, though.

Let’s just say that I’m not a happy Klingon today.

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FACT Act Comments Due 9-17

15 September 2004

If you want to comment on it, here’s the link.

Here’s my comments:

There are some definite issues not addressed in the Fair Credit Reporting Act or the FACT Act.

1) Hard vs. Soft Credit Pulls

There is no distinction made in law between a “hard” credit pull and a “soft” credit pull. The former are customarily used when applying for new credit; the latter are customarily used when reviewing accounts, promotional inquiries (including pre-approved credit card offers), or the consumer’s own inquiries.

Some banks, such as MBNA, pull two (or more) hard pulls per credit application. Since each hard pull can affect one’s FICO score, and since inquiries make up 10% of one’s FICO score, that second inquiry can make thousands of dollars of difference on a mortgage.

As consumers, we need protection from this practice.

a) Places we apply to should be permitted only one hard pull per application for credit, even if the consumer requests a re-consideration for a decline

b) Collection agencies should never be permitted hard pulls

2) Penalization for Payment of Debts

Under the current system, consumers are penalized for paying off old past-due accounts, and not just for statute of limitation re-setting reasons. Paying the debt re-sets the date of last activity and therefore is counted just the same, FICO-score-wise, as if the debt had just gone delinquent. Risk-wise, is the person who just paid a 3-year-old utility bill gone astray the same risk as the person who just defaulted on a credit card? No.

Additionally, since the contracts with credit reporting agencies do not permit collection agencies to make pay-for-delete arrangements, paying a collection agency is, score-wise, always a bad move.

Needless to say, this has unfortunate consequences for debt collection, especially debt that is outside the statute of limitations for filing suit, but within the statute of limitations for credit reporting.

3) Accurate reporting of credit limits and the counting thereof

Suppose you have three credit cards, two of which have $10,000 limits and one of which is an American Express card. You have $3,000 on one, $2,000 on another, and $5,000 on your American Express green card, which you pay off each month. By FICO rules, your utilization isn’t the 25% you’d expect (the national average), but 50% because no limit is reported for the American Express Green, but the balance is counted against your total balances. 50% puts you in a higher risk category (with the 16% of the riskiest debtors) and costs boatloads of FICO points.

4) Misreporting that’s not currently expressly prohibited by law

Some Junk Debt Buyers (JDBs), so called because they purchase debt that’s outside the statute of limitations for lawsuit, but not outside the statute of limitations for reporting, like to report their accounts as revolving accounts.

Why? Because the balance is always higher than the credit limit, thus tanking the consumer’s credit utilization.

Also, once a debt is charged off, it should be reported with a zero balance. It’s also not expressly written in the law that an item discharged in bankruptcy must be reported as a zero balance, thus various creditors and collection agencies get cagey on the issue. The credit reporting agencies wash their hands of the matter, claiming any dispute of an item already (allegedly) “investigated,” leaving the previous debtor with a lawsuit as their only means of recourse. And lawsuits are not known for being quick resolution.

5) Non-investigation

Others have reported problems with getting credit reporting agencies to investigate disputes. In my case, they claimed to have verified an item with a bank seized by the FDIC two years ago. My question is: is a seance a legally permissible investigation technique?

6) The Zombie debt

Despite the practice having been made illegal, some junk debt buyers do re-age debt. The investigative practices for same aren’t even up to the seance level. I’ve been fighting the result of a misunderstanding (after returning a cell phone at the end of a lease, the return paperwork wasn’t processed properly by the lessor) for 17 years. It is, once again, after fighting it two years ago, again on my credit report — from two different collection agencies.

7) Phantom names and addresses

One of my credit reports has 23 variants of my name and more than 20 variants of addresses. Six of them are for a single location! While these don’t directly affect my FICO score, they do make me look like a flake just because some data entry clerks cannot spell. Yet it has been hell getting these off my report because the credit reporting agencies won’t delete something that’s associated with an inquiry or trade line. In order to find out which alias is associated with whom, you need to reach a human, which takes time out of one’s work day.

Off the top of my head, those are my concerns, written between 2:41 a.m. and 3:01 a.m.

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Dooney

15 September 2004

An exchange with Dooney customer service.

RE: PLANETFEEDBACK REFERENCE NUMBER 2199820
Dear Mr. Dooney,
I have a complaint that I want to bring to your attention. It concerns the quality at Dooney & Bourke, Inc., and I hope someone can resolve this.
Here’s the problem: It used to be that Dooney & Bourke proudly listed the country of manufacture — because your goods were made solely in the USA. So core was this concept that Dooney adopted the red, white, and blue label that is used to this day — with one important difference from today’s labels: Made in USA.
Then, other lines were added made in other countries.
Now, however, it seems that most, if not all, of Dooney’s products are made in Asia, making it impossible to tell a counterfeit from the genuine article.
It doesn’t help that I also don’t care for the smaller bags that seem impractical. Personally, I’d prefer to be able to purchase a briefcase from you in an interesting color again, provided it was made in the USA.
Last, when I emailed, more than once, to Dooney customer service to inquire about the country of manufacture of various product lines and which I could order that were made in the USA, I’ve only received stone silence.
I should add that I have 18 pieces by Dooney — all of them made in the USA. I have also bought and resold several other pieces. It seems I’m going to have to be hanging on to my pieces, since I won’t be able to buy new products from you that fit my ethical obligations to American jobs.
In the future, I probably won’t do business with your company. Also, I likely won’t recommend your company to others.
Here’s how you can help me: Please, put the information in your catalog, on your web site, and more prominently in your products. When I went to inspect one at Nordstrom, I was only able to determine it was made overseas by the inspection paper written in Chinese.
Please respect those of us who have been tired of having our and our loved one’s jobs shipped overseas by callous profiteers.
Which, alas, it seems Dooney & Bourke has become.
Thanks for listening to my complaint. I hope it is addressed.

Dooney customer service responded:

We are producing select products in other countries. Because of the high demand for our product that is in excess of our manufacturing capability in the U.S., we are relying on select high quality manufacturers with specialized skills in various countries to produce products to our specifications and satisfy the high level of demand. These countries include Italy, England and China and Costa Rica among others.
Wherever our products are produced, we are directly supplying each manufacturing facility with D&B’s finest quality leather, hardware and other materials that are used consistently around the world.

I replied again:

But which of your lines are specifically made in the US? My question still hasn’t been answered. At the moment, there’s nothing I can order from you without talking to a human or trying to find the item in a store — and you don’t have Dooney stores in California.
Not only have the items I preferred typically not been in stores [such as Nordstrom and Macy’s], they are almost never made in the USA.
So, how can I find out which items are made in the USA prior to ordering without having to call customer service? Your web site no longer says. Your catalog no longer says.
I’m still very, very miffed.

In an amazing non-answer:

If you need to ask where they are made the only way to do that is to pick a style and call our cust.svc.line . I’m sorry you feel the way you do but we do not concider ourselves callous profiteers.

Note, however, that they wanted production quantity, thus shipped the projects overseas. How is that not callous profiteering?

And in the “If three people do it….” category of responses:

You’ve made it incredibly difficult to be patriotic and do business with you.
I have been buying Dooneys ONLY for years, but there are other lines that make it easier for me to shop with them.
I feel very strongly that, for items available from a manufacturer’s web site, the country of origin should be a part of the product listing. I’ll be writing to the FTC and to my legislators to encourage that to happen. Should that pass, perhaps we’ll do business again.
Until then, I’m not going to pick up a phone and call a human every time I want to buy a purse. Though, if a whole lot of us who felt that way did so, perhaps you’d manage to get the info up on your web site without a law being passed.

So, if you’re considering buying a Dooney, I highly recommend chewing up some of their 800 number minutes and some of their human time.

Frankly, I feel betrayed by what used to be an American icon.

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You Might Be a Writer if ….

13 September 2004

… you include an SASE with all correspondence — even letters to your mother.

… you can’t resist pointing out grammatical errors in restaurant menus.

… your wife says she’ll kill you if you whisper, “That was the end of the first act” during a movie one more time.

… you can recite return postage rates for London, New York, Los Angeles and Guam.

… in a house fire, you’d save your copy of Writer’s Market, then your grandmother’s jewelry.

… during church sermons, you find yourself thinking, This could be tighter.

… you couldn’t balance a checkbook if your life depended on it, but your submission log is cross-referenced three different ways and goes back to 1986.

… you decide four sentences into any novel that the author is inept.

… you fall in love based on proper use of syntax.

… when your family suggests a Disney World vacation, you say, “How about stopping on the way to see the farmhouse where Walt Whitman was born?”

… you feel sex ranks a distant second to the sensation of holding a felt-tip pen in your hand.

… your answering machine says, “Hi, I’m not here right now. Please leave a query and the synopsis of your proposed message, and I’ll let you know whether to call back.”

… when you nail a sentence, you’re pretty sure you know how Moses felt parting the Red Sea.

— I.J. SCHECTER

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Chris Moriarty's Spin State

12 September 2004

I thought we had a copy of Chris Moriarty’s novel [popup_product]Spin State[/popup_product] around the house, but apparently we don’t.
I trundled over to Chris’s web site to read the first chapter. I love the opening:

They cold-shipped her out, flash-frozen, body still bruised from last minute upgrades.
Later she remembered only pieces of the raid. The touch of a hand. The crack of rifle fire. A face flashing bright as a fish’s rise in dark water. And what she did remember she couldn’t talk about, or the psychtechs would know she’d been hacking her own memory.

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A Comment from Debra Winger

11 September 2004

I was watching her on Inside the Actor’s Studio and she stated that her muses were Fear and Desperation. I think I know how she feels.

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Yay, Brutarian

10 September 2004

In the last couple of days, there have been rumors that Brutarian would be vanishing as one of the best science fiction markets. I’m happy to say that those rumors weren’t true.

I do hope Mr. Stewart is not spreading the rumor that we are defunct as we are not. Gene and I had creative differences that could not be resolved and so we had a parting of the ways. Brutarian will continue to publish until I am dead or in a permanent coma so not to worry.
In the interim, I hope that you will let everyone know that we are more than alive and kicking and still paying the highest rates in the biz aside from majors like Time, and Playboy and well, you know those publications with mega circulations.
If you get the chance could you get the message out to all these sites you frequent and let them know the situation. Or let me know where to go – no puns here, not now – and post the announcement.
Cheers,
Dominick

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