Monday, August 11, 2008

Oh The Irony

When I got home from California after an unfortunately now-typical hellish time getting home, I looked through my mail, hoping to see my $600 stimulus check, given that I received a letter on June 23rd saying I would receive it within a week, and I hadn't received it before leaving for Cali on July 23rd. I should have known better than to hope it would be there. Said June 23rd letter told me that if I hadn't received my check within 6 weeks (they love their 6 week buffers, gosh it must be nice to have such soft deadlines) I could call the 1800 number listed.

So today I called the IRS. Yes, I had to wait several days to motivate myself for that one. And I wasn't disappointed, because the stellar incompetence of the federal government lived up to its reputation. For starters I was on hold for 31 minutes. I feel there is almost no better way to ensure that your "customers" are ticked off at you even before you have uttered the words "Hello, how may I assist you today?" than to make them listen to Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite in July. 9 times. Just doesn't bode so well for the course of that conversation. I can consider that it may be worse if they were playing death metal at me for 31 minutes, but if the IRS were playing death metal on their hold service, I think we would have other issues to talk about.

When at long last I was connected to a person I was greeted with "Good morning Internal Revenue Service, this is , identifier number , how many I help you?" Fabulous. Then, in order to "find" my account (i.e., ME) I had to answer no less than 13 questions about myself. One would think that your social security number, a number which you and you alone possess and uniquely identifies you, would be enough to find out the status of your account. Or even your name, birthday, and address, in case they're really concerned about making sure YOU ARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE. But the questions they asked me were so absurd- my employer, my filing status for 2007, how many exemptions I have, how many children I have, whether I'm an organ donor, you know perfectly reasonable questions just to FIND MY RECORD. With all this information at her fingertips, multi-syllabic ethnic-lady could have stolen my identity and I wouldn't even know HER 10 digit number to track her down. Tricky little buggers.

With all this information she then put me back on hold to go track ME down. What was she possibly doing for those 10 minutes? Gathering 4 other customer's life histories and putting THEM on hold to give us all the illusion of being "helped?" Taking a cigarette break? Learning how to use a keyboard so she could enter my information into the system? She would probably have had time for all of the above.

When multi-syllabic ethnic-lady came back to me, interrupting my twelfth hearing of the waltzing flowers, she informed me my check was mailed on June 27th. Well whoopty friggin doo. "Well ma'am what we can do is put a tracker out for that check and see if it has been cashed or what has happened, and then if necessary we can send you a new check. This may take up to 6 weeks." There we go with the 6 weeks thing again. Do you think that if you were a private sector institution, like say, a company that is run by shareholders, and an individual wanted to cash out in their stock, you could say, "Oh sorry ma'am this may take up to 6 weeks." No. Because in the REAL WORLD people expect that the organizations to which they ascribe and invest money are timely in their business dealings. It's amazing to me that the federal government, essentially a "business" in which I hold share and invest money can be so incomparably incompetent. Or maybe I'm just being demanding to want my stimulus check in a timely manner. It's the New Yorker in me.

I told her I had moved June 1st and all my mail was being forwarded (and arriving in a timely manner, thank you very much), and that I was moving again in a week, so my mail would be forwarded yet again, so did she need any additional information or a new address to send a new check? To which she responded, "Oh... well, the postal service doesn't forward mail from the government, including checks." *pause to digest the implication of this sentence* So you're telling me that the United States Postal Service, a entity funded by the federal government doesn't forward GOVERNMENT MAIL? True story. I can just picture my check lying in the back of some non-forwardable-mail storeroom deep in Brooklyn, collecting dust and moth balls, right next to someone's marriage license.

Just to be sure, I looked up the Wikipedia page for the USPS and found out that "The USPS is often mistaken for a government-owned corporation (e.g., Amtrak), but... is legally defined as an "independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States," as it is wholly owned by the government and controlled by the Presidential appointees and the Postmaster General." Yea, I still kind of feel like it's a farce. In any event, now I know. Not that I can do anything with that knowledge, so the old "knowledge is power" idiom that was instilled into me by each and every middle school teacher doesn't really come into play. Oh the lies. So perhaps I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs for 6 weeks, and maybe then I'll have my economic stimulus check. Just in time to go spend it in Romania. Holla.

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