Don’t think you’re safe

I’ve posted this before, but now that spring is upon us and we shed our bulky winter clothes, I think it needs repeating.

As I have written previously I’m transgendered, which for the most part is a non-issue.  It does however play a role in the piece which follows.  What I didn’t mention, and also has a bearing on this essay, is that I’m in my late ‘60s.

If you have access to Facebook, you can look at my photos and judge my appearance for yourself.  Just  search for the email address “gcathoward@gmail.com”.  And, if you send me a friend request and mention WordPress, I’ll accept.  Now that I have that out of the way, I’ll continue.

About five years ago I had to deal with a stalker.  Yeah – late sixties, trans, 5 foot 11 and (at the time) about 180 lbs and being stalked by some wacko.  If any of my readers have had the experience of being stalked, you understand the terror at knowing someone out there considers you prey and is actively hunting you.  In my case, this sense of panic was heightened by the fact my stalker was an Emergency Services Supervisor and he would frequently use his supervisor’s vehicle.  As it was painted with the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, every time I saw a vehicle in those colours, I’d look for a place to hide, in case it was him and not an ambulance.  For all those years I was his target, I prayed I wouldn’t need EMS services, knowing he’d probably show up.  Fortunately I’m reasonably healthy for 60 something; not prone to falling down and am careful when crossing streets.

Being trans, when I reported this to the police, they were less than sympathetic; in fact they did nothing.  I suspect part of the reason no action was taken is because they saw the EMS supervisor as being “one of their own” and part was the discrimination I face daily.  My problem was eventually solved by a friend.  She contacted some of her former classmates who ride motorcycles and are considered anti-social by most people and these friends had a “chat” with this stalker.  Interesting thing: these men had seen me about town and told my friend that while they didn’t really understand, they did admire my courage.

So, dear readers, just because you may not be a doppelganger for Angelina Jolie or any other male epitome of female beauty, don’t think it can’t happen to you.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  My advice is simple: If the same person shows up wherever you happen to be twice, it could be coincidence, if they show up three times or more, this person may have targeted you.  Tell someone, preferably someone you trust, as soon as you can.  And always be aware of your surroundings – not just the physical surroundings, but the people as well.  Just an idea, but I got into digital photography after these incidents, so usually have a camera with me and am always looking around for things to photograph.  If I see someone suspicious, or who just makes me nervous, I take their  photo and record date, time and location.  If they keep appearing, I take more photos, but I’ve found that usually one photo is enough because I make no effort to conceal the fact I am photographing them. You don’t have to be a photographer and carry a camera, for  most cell phones these days have cameras.  Don’t be afraid to use it for things like this.  And if the person persists, go to the police with those photos and, if possible, a written report.

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.  And always be aware of what’s happening around you.  It could save you a lot of stress or worse.

Cat.

Updates and a new grumble

1 – On January 11, I wrote “I didn’t ask for it” which talked about the fact a company called U-file had sent me the CD containing the 2012 Canadian tax return.  As I had used U-file the past couple of years they apparently assumed I’d want to use it again for this year’s return.  My marital status had changed on the 2011 return, and when I clicked on the new status, I was greeted with a screen that asked all kinds of intrusive questions that, as I later learned, Canada Revenue Agency didn’t need the answers to.  That CD has since found its way into my trash can and I purchased a different programme which worked quite well and was nowhere near as nosy.

2 – February 12 brought a rant called “Customer service, what’s that?” about the response I received from Virgin Mobile when I mentioned I was being actively wooed by another cell phone company.  After posting that blog, I decided to contact customer service at Virgin by email.  Being somewhat lazy on occasion, rather than write a whole new piece, I sent them the blog – minus some of the snark of course.  About three days later I received a telephone call from a nice gentleman at Virgin who first apologized for the apparent lack of interest shown by the people who had spoken with me.  I explained that I had much customer service experience and suggested that the negative replies I had received did not reflect well on Virgin, then offered a couple of possible responses.  He told me they were valid ideas and he’d bring them up with the supervisor.  He then explained that Rogers Communications, the firm who had contacted me, (more on Rogers in #3 below) had an advantage over Virgin since Rogers could offer package deals on cell service, internet, cable and landlines, whereas Virgin only offered the cell service. The result was that he smoothed my ruffled fur (I’m Cat – I have fur, not feathers ☺) and I renewed my phone contract two days later.  No, I didn’t go for the BlackBerry Z10.  It might be good, but how many times over the past year or so have we heard of the Eastern Seaboard losing email and messaging capabilities because BlackBerry’s server went down.  Instead I went for the Apple 4s.  One advantage to that was that since Apple brought out the 5, the phone I chose was no cost.

3 – The new grumble.  Since April 2011, Rogers Communications have supplied my internet, cable and landline.  I was able to get some “incentives” on all three services when I signed up – two of them for a one year period and 24 months on the cable.  I’m on a pension, so these discounts play a great part in being able to afford the services I enjoy.  Last Saturday I called Rogers’s customer service to see if it would be possible to extend these incentives, or failing that, if there was something else I could take advantage of to keep my bills at a reasonable level.  I was told flat out that I’d have to wait at least 60 days then see if they had anything.  The girl did point out that I would still be getting an 8% discount on my cable bundle.  Big deal.  I’m looking at my bill increasing by about $30 a month and she’s telling me I still get a $2.76 discount on cable.

Tuesday I called Rogers again, but this time I spoke with a gentleman in sales.  I should have called sales the first time.  He couldn’t extend the current incentives, but between us (him offering and me accepting) we came up with new plans that increase my cost by $4 a month, but give me more features on the telephone service.  So I would have to score the interaction between Rogers and me as “Sales 1; Customer Service 0″.

Why does it seem that companies put people in customer service for whom the entire idea of customer service is a foreign concept?  Is it possible these people are chosen because they show an aptitude for being unhelpful?  In the case of Rogers especially, while they may be the largest company offering these services in Eastern Canada (east of the Manitoba/Ontario border), they are not the only one.  I am constantly pulling adverts from my mailbox for Bell, who offer the same services as does Rogers and at competitive prices.  You might think then than Rogers would be interested in retaining me as a customer rather than have customer service trying to drive me away.

Oh well, I’m guaranteed reasonable prices for all my services for at least the next year, so I’ll stop complaining.  And I’ve got a new cell phone and still have the same plan, so I’m happy.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Customer Service – what’s that?

About five days ago I received a telephone call from Virgin Mobile, my cellphone service provider.  I don’t usually answer calls from unknown numbers, but this was the third call from that number in two days. I’ll admit answering the phone “this is the third time you’ve called me in two days.  What do you want?” was perhaps a little rude, but so be it.

The person on the other end of the phone had such a poor command of English – and didn’t speak clearly – that I had to ask three times why they were calling me before I could decipher the words “your account”. Now, all my account payments are up to date, so I asked the obvious question: “what account?”, thinking this might be some form of telephone scam (about which I would have written, naturally).  In response, I was told he was from Virgin Mobile Customer Service asking whether I was happy with the service I was receiving from Virgin. (Up until I got this call, I was.)

I told him my contract was due to expire in a couple of months and that I was considering switching my cellphone over to Rogers, from whom I get my internet, cable and home phone.  Upon learning that Virgin might lose a customer of three years, this man responded “sorry to hear that”.  On that note, the conversation ended.

Now surely, if you’re in customer service, and a three year customer tells you they are thinking seriously of changing their provider you’re going to have a more positive response than “sorry to hear that”.  Perhaps you might offer a better plan than they currently enjoy, or try to sweeten the pot in some other way.  Nope, just “sorry to hear that”. Wouldn’t you at least try to sound as if you cared?

But wait – there’s more!  (Sounds like a late night infomercial, doesn’t it?)  Today I telephoned Virgin Customer Service to see whether there would be any advantage to changing my plan now rather than wait until the expiry date.  Seemed like a logical question to me.  The man didn’t seem to understand my question, instead telling me  my choice of phones should I choose to upgrade.  That wasn’t what I asked.  I asked “Is there any advantage to me waiting until my current contract expires?”  I already know what phone I want – and no, it isn’t the BlackBerry Z10.  I once again mentioned that Rogers was interested in getting my cell business along with the house line, cable and internet.  This time I was greeted by silence.  I told him I’d talk with Rogers and other providers before I decided and that was the end of the call.

Am I wrong to think that Customer Service might be the department concerned with keeping a loyal customer happy and a customer?  After all, they called me to see if I was happy with the service.  Or should I instead have talked with someone in Sales?  In any event, in the next couple of days I’ll visit the Pickering Town Centre and talk with representatives from the various cellular service providers.  Virgin may yet lose a customer purely through their own indifference.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and straight answers) too.

Cat.

**Addenda: 1 – I checked and I’ve actually been with Virgin since 2007.

2 – I have sent a copy of this (minus most of the snark) to Virgin **