pergamond: ([Utena] Nanami // pout)

May I just say, I kinda hate PayPal.

Until today, I did in fact hate them. With a fiery passionate all consuming burning-in-all-seven-circles-of-hell-simulataneously kind of hatred. So great was my rage that I was contemplating tracking down the director of PayPal Japan and walking through his house in the dead of night with filthy shoes.

It was that bad.

The bud of my irritation birthed with a tea towel. I wanted to send this particular drying item to my Dad in the UK because … well, who doesn't like tea towels? PayPal allowed me to make the purchase but insisted on the delivery address being either my home in Japan or --rather randomly-- an address I could specify in the USA. Neither choice really hit the mark; in fact they were off by thousands of miles. I contacted PayPal and confirmed this was a "feature" of their service, not an error and proceeded to resolve the matter with the online shop directly. (Who were lovely; go and buy a tea towel. Don't use PayPal). 

A few weeks later, I was in the situation of two people owing me money and being entirely ready to pay. Normally, this would be clarified as a GOOD SITUATION. Since neither of them lived in Japan, we agreed PayPal would be the easiest choice all around.

One of these people paid me successfully. Hooray! I'm off to buy a giant pikachu. 

The second person tried and was told: "This recipient is currently unable to receive money."

I can assure you, this recipient was TOTALLY ABLE to receive money. PLENTY OF SPACE in that bank account. 

It turned out I'd hit secret limit (and by 'secret' I mean probably in the terms and conditions I've never once read) that stops you using PayPal until you get 'verified'. This verification requires PayPal users to confirm their identity and home address.

It was a nuisance but according to the first PayPal representative I spoke to (are you getting a flavour of where this is going?), the process was very simple. As a foreigner living in Japan, all I had to do was scan and upload a copy of my alien registration card. 

And done.

I waited.

One week later I receive an email saying they could not complete the verification process since neither my name nor address agreed with those on my identity card. 

Not the same…. yet, all transactions with my bank account have mysteriously always gone through. 

I examined my PayPal account details and my identity card carefully. There were two differences:

(1) In the address field for PayPal, I'd included the name of my building. Since my registration card had been updated by hand, only the street name, apartment number and postal code had been included.

(2) My PayPal account did not include my middle name.

Now WHY does either of those cause ANY SENSIBLE PERSON to believe there is a REAL INCONSISTENCY? The middle name problem I had hit before; it is rare in Japan to have a middle name and there is frequently confusion surrounding how to deal with them on official paperwork. Nevertheless, PayPal is an INTERNATIONAL COMPANY. Seriously, how hard can this be?

I wrote a blunt email and then realised this was pointless. Instead, I went to the PayPal website and deleted my building name from the address field. Then I tried to update my name. To update your name with PayPal, you need to provide them with proof of identity. Naturally, there was no way of specifying you have previously provided identification, so I uploaded my registration card for the second time.

They updated my name.

And put my middle name in capitals.

Hello everyone. My name is Elizabeth JANE. 

I emailed customer support and pointed this out. Nothing changed. Nor did my verification process status get updated. A week later, I emailed yet again. This time, I got a reply saying I needed to upload my identification to get verified. 

It was an online version of Groundhog Day

I emailed them yet again, detailing the dates of all our previous communications, the steps I had taken and how I had every intention of leaving PayPal.

This was an empty threat. I'd already trawled the web for different options but for international transactions, there isn't an alternative. If I quit astrophysics, I'm setting up an alternative.

I uploaded my registration card for the third time. 

Finally, I get an email back saying my verification pin number is being mailed to me.

This would be to the address for which you didn't allow me to include my building name?! 

Miraculously, Japan Post sorted it out and the slip of paper came through. My account is now verified. The sum of money I am owed from this second friend will be spent on analgesics.

PayPal, you and me have a lot of rebuilding to do. 

Call me

Oct. 16th, 2011 07:17 pm
pergamond: (Default)
However hard you think buying a phone is in Japan:

You're wrong.

It's harder than that. It's so hard it makes hard things look easy. Really hard things, like painting an elephant's toe nails or trying to reattach a wing of an aeroplane mid-flight.

The first problem is choice.

There are three major mobile phone companies in Japan; docomo, softbank and au. Docomo offers the best nation-wide signal, softbank offers the iPhone and au offers an android phone that runs on wimax (4G), rather than 3G. Each of these companies have a wide range of plans for their phones, depending on the handset you get and your usage. Amusingly, while all the smart phone plans have a sliding scale that caps out at a reasonable sum for unlimited data, you always pay for calls. In Japan, talking on your phone in many public places is considered rude, so email services run on even the most basic handsets.

Then there was the fact that Japan just doesn't do wifi hotspots. Not in stations, not in restaurants, not even in Starbucks. Nothing. Nowt. Yadda. Instead, people carry little pocket wifi routers that take a 3G signal and broadcast their own wireless hotspot that allows you to link up your laptop, tablet or any other device that has a hungering for internet anywhere where you are. These routers have similar contracts to mobile phones, although softbank were offering their own router in a special deal with their smart phones. On the other hand, an android phone from au would allow tethering to the wimax network which was a potentially faster connection with a single device. Tethering does wear down a battery though, so perhaps it would be better to have two devices and ...

It was hard, ok?

Add to that the iPhone 4S was due out in a week and would be offered by both softbank and au and I had a headache.

The second problem was all these options were in Japanese.

This meant that I had to glean what I could from the websites and then try and corner an assistant in one of the big electrical stores. In a large enough shop, there was a fighting chance that someone somewhere would speak some English. Sometimes my chosen captive had to be encouraged to go and find such an individual and sometimes they failed. Really, however it went down it was painful and I had to go back several times since it wasn't possible to answer all my questions in one go without putting the shop assistant in danger of cardiac arrest.

Ultimately though, I needed a phone. It was difficult to receive deliveries on the weekend, hard to catch up with what my friends were doing and the credit card company had point blank refused to issue a card to anyone who was too ridiculous to not own a mobile. I had to get this sorted and fast.

But I wanted to select the right option. The phone I would delight in using every day. A contract which would allow me to drink 101 pumpkin lattes in Starbucks while hooking up my laptop in a pretence of work. A miricle handset that would...

"Just get a god damn phone!"

That was a [personal profile] lunaluna's comment on facebook after my 800th post on the subject.

... oh right. Bought the iPhone 4. Am delighted with it.

Street wise

Oct. 4th, 2011 10:20 am
pergamond: ([PoT] Kaidoh // not listening)
The street naming system in Sapporo is confusing.

The most confusing thing about it is that is it on a grid and therefore should not be confusing.

Yet it is.

It is confusing and makes you feel like an idiot for being confused. See, just like that it gets you twice.

Contrary to popular opinion, just because I am British does not mean I can't handle a grid system. I did well in New York until I hit Broadway and I was fine in Florida until I found that 38th Street was followed by 38th Terrance followed by 38th Drive. America tried to confuse me. She failed. I just had to do a bunch of U-turns. Japan, however, saw me standing on a street corner utterly flummoxed.

On paper, Sapporo's street system looks amazingly ordered for a Japanese city. It is a strictly adhered to grid divided into quadrants by the long Odori Park which runs east-west through the city and the river which runs north-south. Addresses then have the format 'North X West Y'. Easy, no?

So how was it I was standing on the street corner of a road labelled '5-South, 12-West' which was being intersected at right angles by another road also declaring itself to be '5-South, 12-West'? What was more, the previous road that had intersected '5-South, 12-West' a block back was ALSO called '5-South, 12-West'.

My new apartment, incidentally, was at '5-South, 12-West'. I had previously visited the building by car (driven by the real estate broker) back in July, but now I had signed the contract and picked up my keys and I was excited to see my new home. Or at least, I had been until about twenty minutes ago. Now I just wanted to kick something.

Since I seemed to be in some kind of crazy magic mirror maze, I decided to scrap actual addresses and go for deduction. I had to be close and my apartment was on the ninth floor. That ruled out all the buildings in my immediate vicinity apart from four apartment blocks.

The first one of these was pink. I would not have picked a pink apartment. I dismissed it.

The second building had the wrong name. My building's name is "Classé", written "クラッセ" in Japanese, and this one was called 'Helio'.

The third building had the name "グラッセ" which is frankly just being mean.

Finally, I went to the forth building. This high-rise was one street over and as I walked, I realised what the street numbering system meant. '5-South, 12-West' wasn't a road or an intersection, it was a block. The roads on three of the block's four sides have the same name. This means that the street address actually marks out a region, not an individual road, and sometimes quite a large region since blocks can be big. It also explained why the taxi driver turned down a street too early when driving me from Sapporo station. I had just thought he was incompetent.

At this stage, I probably would have just broken in but fortunately my key fit the forth building's lobby lock. I walked into the bare apartment and went to sleep on the floor. Directions are too hard; I need a smart phone again.

Catch 22

Oct. 3rd, 2011 09:59 am
pergamond: ([Bleach] Ichigo // -.-)
"Your credit card application has ... this time ... been refused."

Our head of group was scanning the letter I had been sent from the credit card company which was all written in Japanese. I tried to rearrange my face into an expression of polite confusion as opposed to indignant fury. I had filled in that application at the end of July. It has come back to me once with queries about my contact details and now they had gone and rejected me point blank. What was more, it was the university's own credit card system for its staff and students, so credit history (or lack thereof) was specifically supposed to be not an issue. What was their beef?

"I will call them," our head of group promised. He returned a short while later saying that they were due to call him back with an English-speaking representative who could talk directly to me. Security considerations meant that they could not pass on details of my account to a third party. It made sense. I followed him into his office and waited for the phone to ring.

"Is this ... Tasker Elizabeth?"

That'd be me. In a backwards sort of way.

"Can you confirm your identity with your date of birth and office phone number?"

"Erm... could you please hold for two minutes?"

I hasten to add it was the phone number that I had no clue about. I never touch the handset on my desk since (a) fundamentally, I hate talking on the phone and (b) the fact it is likely to be in Japanese does not endear the situation to me. I dig out the phone number from a list of documents on my desk.

"Unfortunately, your application for a credit card has been refused this time."

"Why?"

"We cannot give details of our process."

Well, that clears everything up! I looked around for something to bang my head against.

"What confuses me," I tried again politely. "Is that I know you offer the credit card to foreign students. I am a foreign professor. How can I not qualify if the students do?"

The woman hesitated. "Well...," she said carefully. "It is hard to fill your details into the system when they are not complete. You have no number for a home or cell phone..."

"I don't have either."

"Yes, but that section is blank..."

I got what she was trying to tell me. My credit card application had been rejected because I didn't have a cell phone. That was all well and good except I needed a credit card to get a cell phone.

There was really nothing suitably hard enough to smack my head against in this room.

To be fair, once I'd recovered from my mild concussion, there were solutions to this problem. A credit card was not needed for a prepaid phone, I was just loathed to get one just so I could replace it with a smart phone once I got my credit card. However, I had only asked one company about contract deals and it would later turn out that other providers would accept a bank debit card instead of a credit card. Now the decision became: do I wait for the iPhone 5 later this month or get an android? Then if I went for the latter, there was a shiny new Fujitsu handset due out in November and ...

.... basically, I'm never getting that credit card. Or a cell phone. If you want to contact me, I hear messenger pigeons are great.

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