Friday, December 30, 2005

Jumping the Gun

It looks like someone's written a story before it actually happened. This article (courtesy of Drudge) by Michael J. Martinez trumpets the final trading day losses of the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJIA).

Here's the lead: "Wall Street started its last trading day of 2005 Friday with stocks sliding as investors gave up on the dwindling fourth-quarter rally and consolidated what profits they made this year. With little news to spur buying, the Dow Jones industrial average threatened to close the year with a loss for the first time since though other major indexes were expected to post modest gains for 2005."

Doom and gloom or simply stating the facts?

In the story, Martinez writes, "In the first hour of trading, the Dow fell 37.86, or 0.35 percent, to 10,746.96. The Dow would need to close above 10,783.01 for a positive 2005."

But look at the time the story was posted. The time stamp is 9:39AM Eastern Time. The market opens at 9:30 AM Eastern Time. In just 9 minutes of trading, Martinez assessed the situation, wrote 482 words (hastily I might add, as the lead itself is missing a date in the last sentence between "since" and "though"), submitted it for review by an editor (or maybe not considering the previously identified error), and posted it to the website. Now that is efficiency. I don't think I'll finish this blog post in 9 minutes.

I know that there are futures and that most of it was probably written prior to the open of the market and that he just waited to see if it panned out, but doesn't that seem like making a judgement on the news before it happens?

Doesn't it seem like we should wait for the close to assess the year in total? Most likely, the Dow will close with a slight loss for the year (as I write this, it is trading lower) if you measure it from the close of 2004, which was 10,783.01 and seems to be what Martinez used. However, if you use the open of 2005, the Dow would end the year lower than it started if it reaches below 10,729.43. It depends on where you start measuring, which is really pretty subjective, isn't it?

Of course, anyone with any financial knowledge will also point out that the DJIA, while widely watched and reported, is an index of only 30 stocks.

The S&P 500 ended 2004 at 1211.92 and looks like it will end 2005 above 1250. The Wilshire 5000, which provides one of the most complete looks as the total market, looks like it ended 2004 at 11,968.10 and will end 2005 around 12,600.

The bottom line: Stocks were up in 2005, even if the DJIA ends today with a loss.

What's the point? With an extra half hour of research and the help of Yahoo Finance, I believe I pointed out an incident of creating news rather than reporting it and wrote a more valid assessment of the markets performance in 2005 than Martinez. It was slightly less timely, but only by about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Update on The Airing of Grievances

I posted here about the trials and tribulations with my bank.

Later that day, my wife went in to the same branch I had been at earlier. She talked to a gentleman named Brant. This was a different person than I talked to earlier. He may have been the branch manager, but we aren't sure. He sat down and called phone numbers at Bank of America (originating bank of the check that was being held) until he found someone who could find the check. Once he found it and verified it, he lifted the hold and we got our money. This process took almost an hour and a half, during which time the line at the bank grew longer. Brant went back and forth helping other customers while he helped my wife.

Why did this one Chase employee do this, when several others had been so unhelpful. Aside from the fact that my wife turned on the waterworks and told him that her husband's Christmas would be ruined worrying about the check, I think that we found the one employee who understood his purpose at his job. Especially in banking, the routine (withdrawals, deposits, transfers) should be automated and the exceptions (holds on checks) should be humanized. Dealing with people's problems is all that bank employees in branches should concern themselves with.

By taking the time to solve our problem, Brant saved a customer for Chase. We'll stay with this bank, most likely for a long time.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Airing of Grievances

In the spirit of Festivus, I am going to air my grievances today. The particular target of my discontent is my bank, Chase.

Background: I received a large check from a brokerage account and deposited it via the drive-up ATM on Monday night. I generally use only the drive up ATM for all withdrawals and deposits because 1) the bank hours are not convenient for me to get into see a teller, and 2) because I like as little human interaction in my financial transactions as possible. It's not that I don't like tellers or bankers (I do the same for all my travel planning and anything else that can be done online), it's just that it's quicker to get in and out on my time schedule without having them ask for my ID and all the questions that go along with it. I also have found most of them to have a below average aptitude for customer service. I do as much of my banking online as I possibly can. I have never been overdrawn on my account - ever, in my life.

The next day (Tuesday), my online balance reflected the deposit, but was not yet available. No problem, I assumed that it would take a business day to clear. The next day (Wednesday) the total amount of the deposit plus the existing amount in the account showed up as available. I proceeded to pay off 2 loans, pay a large chunk of another loan balance, pay off my credit card, and open a new savings account to hold the amount of my medical deductible for next year. If you haven't yet guessed, I am overly sensitive about my finances and take all precautions to ensure their stability.

The next day (Thursday), my available balance showed negative. I thought there must be some mistake and sent an email to customer care to inquire. I also called the toll free number but was placed on hold and hung up, as I have better things to do than wait on hold.

Today (Friday), I opened my account online and saw that not only was it still showing negative, but that I now had 2 insufficient fund fees of $60 apiece. In addition, there will 3 more of these fees added as other scheduled payments will continue to bounce. I had a message in response to my email stating that the deposit had been placed on hold and wouldn't be released until 12/29/05, which means I will be overdrawn until then. I called customer care and the women, who was very helpful, tried to call the ATM division, but was placed on hold and could never get through. She advised me to go to a branch office. I did this and they could only tell me, again helpfully, that I had to go to the branch where I deposited the check because they might have a copy of the check and could get it released.

By now, I am not happy. Aren't these branches connected? Can't they communicate with each other? Why do I have to run all over town to get this resolved? Needless to say, I did go to the branch by my house. I was given a seat and a gentleman took my information. He told me, "You should assume that a large deposit will trigger a hold." I retorted, "In the future I will, but it's not my job as the customer to know this. It is your job as a provider of a service, and an expert in your industry, to tell me. I had no indication when I made the deposit that there would be a hold. I had no notification by email that there was a hold. I knew nothing of this problem, until I called you."

He slumped off to investigate and returned to inform me they had no image of the check and that they couldn't do anything for me. I would just have to wait until the hold was removed. He said they would reverse any NSF fees if it cleared. He also had the stones to give me a booklet of disclosures and informed me that if I had read it, I would have seen that deposits are subject to holds. I asked him if he had ever read it. He said yes. I asked if he had read every disclosure he had ever received on every credit card and account he had opened. He dodged it by saying that it wasn't his responsibility to make sure I read it. While that may be true in a legal sense, it's not customer-friendly. The second anyone who I am paying for a service tells me that something is not their responsibility, I am history.

I am not quibbling with the hold policy, but with the fact I had no notice of the hold and was told there was nothing they could do. As a person who works in a customer service industry, I know that you should never say no without saying yes.

Regardless of how this ends and no matter what Chase does to reverse fees, I am moving to a new bank.

Any suggestions?

Happy Festivus - Let the feats of strength commence!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Impeachment: Clinton vs. Bush

The I-word has been thrown around lately, mostly by the far-left fever swamps. Let's look at the difference between the actions that led Clinton to be impeached and the actions that have spurred the calls for Bush's impeachment:

Clinton: Committed his indiscretion, then lied to the American people and lied under oath. Pretty straight-forward. If I lied under oath, I'd be charged with a crime too.

Bush: Did something that is most likely within his powers as President, then went before the American people, told them exactly what he did, why he did it, and why it was okay. No lying, no cover-up, he just came out and said, "Thanks for leaking a classified operation, NYT, after I told you not to, but since you did, I'll tell the country about it instead of denying it ever happened or splitting hairs over the definitions."

Now, I know my lefty readers will say, "Yeah, but he didn't tell us for 4 years that he was doing this." And my response is, "Of course, you can't tell the bad guys you are listening to them and expect to get any sort of intelligence that would protect Americans."

Not surprisingly, I don't lose a lot of sleep at night worrying about the NSA monitoring me. I think I would sleep a lot less knowing that the NSA wasn't monitoring people who were talking to terrorists.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Posts I Have Read Recently

I laughed hard at this post over at GirlinRight. I could completely relate to all of the doings of a 2 year old boy.

I've also recently starting reading The Dilbert Blog. Definitely gets me through the workday (read during my lunch break, of course).

Nothing really to comment about on these posts, other than I liked them and thought I would share them.

Michael Yon - Photo of the Year

Michael Yon has been on the ground in Iraq sending back pictures and reports of the day to day struggle for democracy.

One of his photos is up for TIME Magazine's photo of the year. The photo is on his website.

This photo is truly heartbreaking, but at the same time uplifting in that it shows the compassion that our troops have for those they are trying to help. As a father, I can't help but shed tears for the child who was the victim of the suicide bomber, thinking that this girl has a father or mother who must have been overcome with grief at the loss of a daughter. At the same time, I feel tremendous pride in the actions of this soldier and the care with which he is protecting the body of the little girl. This photo is the embodiment of our noble goal in Iraq: to fight for those who can't fight for themselves and to bring light to a world of darkness.

God Bless America!

The Purple Revolution Is On!

On December 15th, ink your finger purple to show support for democracy.

Honestly, I wasn't sure this would catch on, but the blogosphere has shown its reach once again.

You Go, Betty!!!!

An Iraqi Voter named Betty voted today for her country's election. Sporting her purple finger, she told us how she felt about those who disparage our efforts in Iraq:

"Anybody who doesn’t appreciate what America has done and President Bush, let them go to hell"

Political Teen has the video.