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Exit ArchiveArchive for December, 2007

I was looking at the card of an acquaintance today, where her contact info was set in a font called Trajan. I thought to myself, “My God. There it is again. Trajan.” It is, literally, everywhere. It’s even used on our new logo at work:

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

And I thought Neutraface was overused! Trajan has it beat, for sure. I love Neutraface. Love it. And yet, now that every ad agency and design studio is using it for just about everything, I’m getting tired of it. Trajan, which is a caps-only font, is elegant in its own way, but it has been overused for years. Yet no one’s picking up on how overused it is. Oh, except this guy:

I think I can blame a few things for this kind of font overuse. One is designers who don’t know what they are doing. These are the people who use the fonts that come with Windows, don’t know that “The 90’s” is wrong (it should be “The ’90s”), and can’t kern to save the planet. Another is designers who do know what they’re doing, but have to design for people who are blind to anything new or creative. “I love that new font Wendy’s is using! Can we use that?” Worse of all is a combination of the two: clueless designer and clueless client.

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I got to stop by Trader Joe’s yesterday on the way back from getting my hair cut. (It’s short. I should post a picture!) On the way in, I was stopped by these cute little trees outside the store.

I love trees. I have a ficus in my office that has flourished since I bought it at Ikea years ago. I wish I could have one in my apartment, but it’s too dark. These little Trader Joe’s pine trees were so cute, and I wanted to have some kind of Christmas cheer in my office, and I knew what was going to happen later that night, so I bought one to brighten my pre-Christmas days. Today, I bought little glass ornaments and decorated the tree.

A Little Christmas Tree

How Charlie Brown Christmas is that? It’s so cute. I makes me smile. And since it’s alive, I can keep it in my office year-round. I lived in Boston last time I bought a tiny live pine tree like this, also around Christmas time. I had it for a quite a while. Sadly, it died when I took a trip. Must have been a long trip. This tree, I feel, will be my little Christmas tree for years to come. When it’s the off-season, I won’t even have to disguise the pot; I’ll tell everyone it’s my barber tree.

Wow. From this to this: Fuz and I are no more.

I was going to type, “How does this happen?” But I know all too well how it happens. I’m part of the process when it does happen, and so I have a very keen insight—an insider’s point of view, you might say—into how this happens.

Fuz has been maintaining for months that we have nothing in common. I have maintained that that’s true in certain aspects, but not in others, and that we can end up finding our very own “in common” things. Somehow, this lack of things in common became a seed.

The core issue for me was communication. We didn’t have communication in common. That includes talking about our relationship and our problems, as well as how we act in social situations. On the relationship side of that, I thought he was terrible at communication, he thought I was terrible at communication, both while we each thought of ourselves as being good at communication. We could not even communicate about our communication without messing up the communication.

I’m tired of that word. After this post, I’m retiring it for a year.

And so now, right before the holidays, another relationship ends. I was so excited for this season. Fuz was flying to Denver after Christmas to meet up with me. He was going to spend New Year’s Eve with me. He was going to be part of one of my favorite things to do ever, stay at the house at Grand Lake. He was going to meet my Colorado friends and hopefully find out why they are some of the most important people in my life. And then he was going to drive back with me to L.A., stopping in Grand Junction for the night and meeting my parents. Was. Was, was, was.

I did a quick tally, and Fuz was my 9th relationship. That includes people I dated seriously for any length of time. Some of those relationships were immediately doomed, and I knew from the start. Some of them became doomed over time. Bryon (here and here) didn’t work as a matter of geography. From each relationship, I’ve learned something and I’ve grown. I think I’m better at relationships now than ever. (Fuz would politely disagree.)

Now here was someone smart, funny, cute, sexy, sociable, free of the usual vices (drugs and overdrinking), and I loved him. Somehow, still, despite even wanting it to work, it did not. You’ll have to forgive me if I spend a few weeks pondering the possibility that I’ll never find someone. That’s normal behavior. What does it take? Why hasn’t it worked yet? Is it L.A.? Gay guys in L.A.? It must be L.A. And so on.

One unfortunate side effect of having had “so many” relationships is that, as time goes on, I grow more wary of the “publication” of that new relationship. Though he and I hit it off so quickly, Fuz was someone I didn’t announce to everyone with grand fanfare. News of him trickled out. You see, I have this idea—all in my head, I’m sure—that when I say, “Oh, I’m dating someone and he’s great!” my friends all go, “Uh, right. Okay. You mean, like the last half-dozen times. Call us when it works out.” My friends aren’t so callous. In fact, they loved Fuz. As I said, this is all in my head. I simply don’t want to come off as the blonde bimbo who is in love every fourth week and who falls for everyone she (she???) meets. I know I take every relationship I have very seriously, but, come on, #10? Who is that gonna be? Another mad crush? Another deep love? Another person to ease into my world? Why am I up to #10 in the first place?

I have learned from all of my relationships that staying together out of convenience is the worst thing to do. So is staying together out of embarrassment, or because of travel plans, or out of habit. Fuz’s issues with us are valid, and I hope he thinks mine are, too. When I take into account what we’ve talked about and argued about and gotten moody about, this is the best choice.

I have also learned across the years that making the best choice doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Fuz and Map

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A great talk by Barry Schwartz.

The secret to happiness is low expectations. His example of jeans buying is perfect. When I have to get new jeans, I dread it. I spend a lot of time in various stores looking for what I know I want. If I finally find something I truly like, I may buy a couple pair. But by the time those jeans wear out, the styles have all changed. Then the process starts all over again.

I am in this stage right now. I need some new jeans, but Abercrombie no longer makes the ones I liked. I’ve spent a lot of time in their store trying on new kinds, and don’t like any of them enough. Now I have to try multiple new stores and… and it’s too daunting.

I both love choice and hate it all at the same time.

Yeah, I love the fact that I know I can get the kind of jeans I want since there is a wide variety of choices, but knowing that I can’t fail to get something I love wearing means I put off buying new jeans because I’ll have to waste hours in various shops trying on all kinds of different styles.

I should go back to my junior high days, when I hated jeans and would only wear cords. Cords are back, you know. I’m sure they are only available in one style, too, so I’m safe. I’m sure of it.

My mom is wonderful. She sends me cards on every holiday, and though I don’t return the favor, I always love getting them. I’m not much of a card person. I never have the right kind on hand, and it’s not convenient to go find one when you need to. Cards are all candle and fart jokes now, anyway. Who has an hour to sift through that?

Back when I first moved out to L.A., I was a lowly temp at Disney and I actually had an agent. I actually went out on auditions and even booked a couple of ads… despite my agent, in fact. Then I went through the coming-out process, and I put all that on hold to figure out this big part of myself that had been pretty blank for so long.

Today, I noticed in my bag that I had some old business cards in the card slot, and I pulled them out to replace them. Along with the cards was the following:

Believe in Yourself

I had not forgotten this was there, really, but it was a joy to see it today. A mini-surprise. I have transferred it from bag-to-bag since 1995, which I think is when my mom sent this to me. I have always kept it so that I can look at it and feel that I am not foolish for believing in myself and what I want to do.

I never did get fully back into acting, which is not something I’ve been too terribly happy about. But I’ve eased back in, and I fully intend to keep at it on some level or another. The sitcom is the best thing to happen to me, creatively, in years, and I plan on doing my best with that, put my heart into it.

I put my new business cards in the card slot, and this right behind, to pull out another day.

My mom will be reading this, so I might as well thank her for her little cards and notes and mailings. I may not keep them with me like I’ve kept this one, but I love them all. Thank you, mom!

Thanks to a new round of fee nonsense with my Wells Fargo account, I’m done. I’m through. I have already signed up for a Washington Mutual account and plan to ditch Wells Fargo as soon as the WaMu account is all set up.

To try to make a long story short, here’s what happened this time.

I use ING Direct for most of my banking. I love them, but I still need a way to easily deposit checks without having to mail them in. I also like the ability to be able to go into a bank if I need to. So most of my paycheck goes to ING, with a tiny bit each week going to Wells Fargo to keep it active.

A couple months ago, a cute little $8 began to appear on my Wells Fargo statement. When I called Wells Fargo and asked why, the customer service gal said that my account needed a direct deposit of $100 a month to waive the fee. I asked her if me just upping the weekly deposit amount would work, as long as it gets to $100. She said yes. She refunded the fee.

The next month, my new direct deposit amount hadn’t taken fully, so I was under $100. I let the $8 fee go.

This month, the fee is back, and I had $100 of direct deposit. I call. The lady says, oh, no, you need at least one direct deposit of $100 for the fee to be waived. She apologized for my having been misinformed, the refunded both this month and last month’s fees.

Immediately last night, I researched other banks. All I need is a barely active account! Who could help me without being a complete dick about it? WaMu it is. So this morning, I set up a new account.

The rest of my day (between work chores, of course!) has been spent crafting a letter to Wells Fargo, which is reprinted below. At first, it was to be an e-mail, but all they have on their site is a limited e-mail form to fill in. I called to tell them I was as good as gone and could I please have an e-mail and a physical address so I could send a letter telling them how horrible they are? The woman was nice, and asked if there was anything she could do to help or to keep me as a customer. I said no. After me telling her that the fee thing is terrible at Wells Fargo, she asked if it would help for her to explain the fees. I said,

“You can ‘explain’ the fees all you want, but they are still horrible and suck.”

The nice woman fetched me a mailing address but said there was no e-mail address. She offered to transfer me to the corporate offices line. Wow. Okay.

I spoke with Kathy. She had raspy voice that could easily play the line between friendly or bitch-o-rama, whichever she might need. She was very friendly to me. I explained why I was leaving and she listened attentively. The only thing that got me was when I was detailing to her the silliness of charging me a fee to transfer money from one Wells Fargo account to another, both mine.

“You can transfer the money yourself online for free.” She had a slight hint of “so there” about her, but she was not rude.

“Well, of course, if I know I’m going to overdraft my account, I’d go immediately and transfer the money myself. But life isn’t so predictable. If I forget to enter something into Quicken and then I overdraft, I have no idea it’s about to happen. If I could catch it every time, I wouldn’t need something called ‘overdraft protection.'” That was the gist of my argument.

I realize that overdraft protection is a service, and no matter what happens, it is my fault if I overdraft my account. Well, mostly. Wells Fargo can charge whatever they want. That doesn’t mean they should. And the method of their fee madness is what’s so vexing. The fees are horrible and outrageous, yes, but to try to sell them as some kind of service is ludicrous.

Anyway, here’s the letter. Enjoy it. It felt very good to write and send!

December 5, 2007
Wells Fargo Bank
P.O. Box 6995
Portland, OR 97228-6995

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to tell you that I will soon be closing my Wells Fargo accounts. In fact, by the time this letter arrives, it may have already happened; my new Washington Mutual account will be set up and my remaining funds from Wells Fargo will be transfered either there or to my current ING Direct accounts. I am not what you’d call a “big” customer, since my accounts are never flush with cash. But I am a customer nonetheless, and one who is fed-up with how banks like yours work.

About nine months ago, I started using ING Direct as my main bank. I’d already had a great savings account with them (where I earned actual interest!), and their Orange Checking sounded useful. I moved most of my money and banking activity from Wells Fargo to them. ING has no stultifying fees or Byzantine requirements for minimum balances, minimum monthly direct deposits, minimum blah blah blah. They don’t pile on the fees for overdraft situations; in fact, their overdraft fee structure is sane and logical. Everything about them, so far that I’ve experienced, is good for me, the customer, for whom they are in business in the first place.

Wells Fargo, with whom I’ve banked since 1994, is a mess. For all appearances, you are in business for yourselves, not to help or serve people like me. I am more a minor, annoying necessity in your running a profitable business. A few times a year, for 13 years, I’ve had to call you about weird, unexplained fees or altered account requirements, and though everyone is very friendly on the phone, that mask can not hide your greediness. That your entire system is set up to collect fees from people like myself is infuriating.

I’ll delve into one example, for which I imagine you receive complaints often: your overdraft and transfer fees. They are the worst, jaw-dropping and preposterous. Having to pay an overdraft transfer fee of $10 to protect me from an overdraft charge of $33–$66 per transaction is insane. (Does it not sound a bit Mafia-esque for me to pay you $10 for doing no work to “protect” me from exorbitant fees you yourself charge? Hmm…) Worse, alerting me to the overdraft via snail mail and not having an option to do so via e-mail, in this day and age, can only be your way of assuring I rack up more fees in the days it takes to get that letter.

There is no better way to get your customers to hate you than to punish them for any out-of-the-ordinary banking situation.

Thanks to this and other frustrations, I use ING Direct for 99% my banking. However, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there are some limits to online banking; I still need to have access to a brick-and-mortar institution. I’ve chosen to move to WaMu to fill that role for many reasons. They may not have as many offices and ATMs as you do, and it may be a bit inconvenient for me to switch to a new bank, but Washington Mutual has no fees whatsoever, for any normal banking activity. I can have any minuscule amount in my account there without being punished. They don’t charge that ludicrous “this is not your bank’s ATM and so you will suffer” fee that most of you banks have discovered as a source of ill-gotten income. WaMu has no direct deposit minimum to waive some random fee. And on and on.

I wish I could say I will regret leaving Wells Fargo, but I won’t. I’ve wanted to do so for years, but had little choice, since banks operate in similar ways. It is only now, with some newer sane, logical, customer-friendly banks coming onto the scene, that I can pull this stage coach out of town and give Wells Fargo the lack of my business it so richly deserves.

With pleasure,

Steve Lekowicz

P.S.: I have just called your customer service center to get a mailing address so I can send this letter directly, and I was forwarded to your executive offices line. I spoke with Kathy there and was able to express my above concerns to her. She was friendly and listened to what I had to say (though she did try to use some marketing-speak on me, to which I am impervious). So again, I want you to know that the people I have typically had to deal with at Wells Fargo have been helpful and friendly.

In the end, your product and practices speak louder than your customer service reps.

Finally, here’s a letter I got from Wells Fargo back in 2004. Has nothing to do with this situation, but it makes for a nice funny ending.