Thursday, December 28, 2006

A To Do List Before 2007

This is my personal to-do-list before 2007 comes around the corner. Most of them applies to the general public so I am posting them here hoping that you can adopt some of them.

1. Gather bills, receipts, bank statements etc. This will help you with the upcoming tax season. It is more than 3 months before deadline, why should I bother? First reason, it is not as easy task as you think it is. Second reason, your accountant would love you for doing this as early as January. You don't want to compete with your accountant's other clients come tax season rush, right?

2. Clean-up, organize, back-up, run anti-virus and defrag your computer. After all the hard work you have put your computer this year (may it be all the work you have done or the web junks your have downloaded online) your computer needs a little bit of "spring cleaning" if you must. By the way, you follow step two in that order: clean-up (includes deleting / uninstalling program and files), organize (create folders by topic/date or whatever system as long as you don't put all your files into the endless pit of MyDocuments), back-up (either on a separate hard drive or cds/dvds), run anti-virus (of course, update them with the latest version) and defrag your computer (this will take a very long time, but the rewards after is very noticeable).

3. Create a 2007 Goal List. This will be further discussed on my first entry for 2007. For now, list down ten things that you want to have or achieve, regardless of money and time.

4. Get a Credit Report. I personally do this around my birthday time, but moving this to the end/start of the year provides you with peace of mind for both identity theft and FICO score. Also, Federal Law states that you are entitled to one free report every 12 months from either the three reporting agencies. Check out for more information. You may need to pay to see your actual FICO score, but all other information that would pertain to accounts and credit cards are for free.

Tip: You could get all three reports one time, or stagger one report from one agency every 4 months.

5. Update records, journals, address books. This includes analog devices (paper and pen based address books / records) and digital devices (PDA, phones, Outlook etc). You will be could be surprised that a contact who used to live in Chicago might be living in New York or Aunt Rose changed her mobile phone number so she can be part of your network (nobody informed her of number portability since she can't be reached!). Also update your business cards and email signatures, you would not want to miss that opportunity when somebody gets hold of an incorrect number.

6. Create Your 2007 Calendar. Mark off birthdays, holidays, vacations and other planned dates for the year including dates for quarterly tax returns, doctor visits etc. This will make perfect sense when you start working on projects for work that could cause conflict with that HS reunion that you have been preparing for in the gym for months.

7. Clean-up and purge your email and files. I would confess that I have emails from 2002 on my personal email account, I save them since I don't know where to file them, but now that I have this list, I would personally get to them. For everybody else, let’s keep the Outlook Exchange server running smoothly by deleting emails from 1997. Thank you.

By the way, check with your state's statute of limitations on debt collection etc. The IRS has 3 years to audit you, 3 years to claim a tax refund and 10 years to collect tax liabilities. But a good rule of thumb is to keep files within the 7 year period.

8. Start Your New Year with a Financial Checkup and Review. Aside from preparing for your tax returns (where we hope to get a pot full of gold in refunds), assess and review your financial standing. Review credit card debts, outstanding purchases, cash flow, budget etc. You don't want to be living a hermit life nor a life drowning in debt. Be realistic and start saving. A $100 per pay that goes automatically to a savings funds is $2400.00 a year. You may ask about investments and stocks, yes it is a good idea but you should have liquid money first.

Check out and see if their savings solution works for you.

9. Schedule the following important appointments: Physical Check-up, Dental Check-up, Accountant Meeting, Spiritual Retreat and Blood Donation.

There has always been a shortage of good blood.

10. Get up and print this list. It may sound absurd, but by seeing this list on paper (if you want a stronger commitment, write these down on paper!) you are likely to do the things listed rather than procrastinate. Post them around or carry the list with you, I know I would.

Jonathan Louie Ong writes from New York. You may reach him at Expect the weblogs to receive weekly updates in 2007. Cheers to your professional and personal growth in 2007!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Customer Service

I never intend to use this blog to bash people. I have always intended this blog for the advancement of people for personal and work growth.

However, today, I was a victim of bad (worst in my life) customer service. The culprit, Pauline of HSBC's Check Fraud Department. She was rude and very demeaning. She acted as if she's at the zenith of the banking institution. Her first words for me: "You are a security threat to the bank, we are closing your account for depositing a fraudulent check."

I was stunned. Why in the world would you deposit a fraudulent check into your personal account? Even stupid criminals would go the long mile of cashing a fraudulent check in a different state under a different name.

The call came in at 10:25AM. She was rude and adamant about giving any details or explanation. She kept on reiterating that my account would be closed since I am a security threat. I went on posing questions to draw out the bottom line issues to the problem. Before the call ended, I had to stop her and tell her that she crossed the boundary of just being rude and her customer service is all out of place. I even mentioned that the someone in the branch could vouch for my character since they know how I handle my business with the bank.

Apparently she called the bank after that first call. At 10:41AM, she calls me and tells me that she would be giving me a week to talk with whomever to ratify the situation. She hangs up, with no remorse for her earlier attitude with me.

At 10:52AM, she calls back to tell me that everything has been resolved that she called up the issuer of the check to verify its validity that everything will be reinstated in five minutes. Again, with no apologies.

My question is: could you have called the issuer before you called me at 10:25AM and ruined my entire day?

So Pauline from HSBC's Check Fraud Department who could be reached at (716) 841-1184, brush up on your customer service skills. You may be a supervisor for a big department, but that doesn't give you the right to talk rude to your customers.

By the way, the branch that I deal with, HSBC's Chelsea Branch is the total opposite of Pauline. The people at the branch are very courteous. I even see managers get out of their cubicles to help out with deposits when lines starts to get long. Kudos to the branch. A big thumbs down to corporate.