Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Society of the Inept

I sit in my chair this morning, snuggled in my warm robe and a warm shawl, holding my coffee mug in my hands for warmth.  I am cold, and I also have a cold which is in its earliest stages of sneezing, teary eyes, and achy sinuses.  Not an auspicious beginning to this Sunday.  My cozy old house is freezing; the only heat source today is an electric radiator.  I have not had a working furnace since August.  At the end of July, our antique furnace finally "cracked", seeping natural gas, so we discovered a new furnace was necessary.  This was not unexpected -- and part of me was glad that we would replace it with a more energy-efficient product, so my astronomical natural gas bill would be lower.  However, on our limited income, the cost of a new furnace would be prohibitive, so I applied for a NYSERDA program which provides subsidies to help finance the cost of energy-efficient improvements.

This process has been a long one -- begun in early August, and due to either ineptitude or negligence on the part of the contractor, has delayed the installation of my furnace until now.  I won't go into the particulars, but in order to participate in the NYSERDA program, you must use one of their specified contractors, and apparently I chose the wrong one.  The process requires an energy audit, a proposal from the contractor, and approval from NYSERDA.  I first spoke with our contractor in mid-August; he never performed the audit until early September, then delayed submitting the proposal so long that it wasn't approved until mid-October.  Finally, last Thursday they arrived with my new furnace, BUT, the estimator had provided scant information, so a great deal of time was lost in the installation, and consequently, on this coldest weekend of October, our house is still stone cold. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have also been frustrated by the customer service at insurance companies.  My husband's Medicare Advantage policy is not covering his MS medication next year; I talked to a representative from the company.  She said we could apply for an exception, which may or may not be granted.  The doctor's office tells me they cannot apply for the exception until after January 1, when the medication is no longer covered, but the deadline to change Medicare policies is mid-December.  So, I am still not certain where we stand on this -- and can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone.

I have also been comparing the policies on the NY Health Exchange, with frustrating calls to the two insurance companies I prefer.  One of the companies told me my doctor was participating; my doctor's office said they were not.  I also had a question about the deductible on one policy -- the representative gave me conflicting information on whether an expensive procedure I need is subject to the deductible.  I called my doctor's office and received rude treatment from the billing office when I asked them to clarify this for me.  I finally made my decision and submitted my application, but still with lingering questions.

These are only the two most recent examples of ineptitude that have disturbed me.  In the last few years we ran our business, and through the process of closing the business down, I was met with constant frustration as I dealt with phone menus that never allowed you to speak with a human, or customer service reps who contradicted themselves, or did not follow through on issues.  Through this process, I also lost all respect for the attorneys I dealt with.

Even on a more minor scale, when ordering fast-food at the counter or the drive-thru, mistakes are made more than half the time. 

What is the problem?  I think it is two-fold.  I believe people are placed in positions for which they lack the intelligence and motivation to perform adequately.  I believe training is substandard in many businesses.  And, sadly, I think our world has become too complicated and too regimented.  Thirty years ago, I could walk into my bank, speak to the manager (who was not moved from branch to branch every few weeks), and resolve any issue quickly.  Now, this personal service does not exist, for the most part.

So, my rant ends here.  My coffee cup is empty, the day ahead is busy, and once again tonight I will sleep in my cold bed, wrapped in a soft throw and snuggled under a sheet, a light blanket, two quilts, and a lovely old afghan I made years ago and threw on top of the bed last night for one extra layer of warmth.  Hopefully tomorrow they will finish my furnace!!!

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