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Blog » 2009 » July

20 Jul 2009

Bureaucracy: some good and bad

Filed under: Personal — paulcook @ 7:52 pm

I’ve had some excellent examples of how completely differently bureaucracy can be managed by different organisations. Be warned: rants below. And raves.

Cellphones 1: Vodacom
I wanted to change my Vodacom account from a contract “Top-up 315s” package (which costs R315 a month (around $38), but rolls-over whatever you don’t use in airtime), to a prepaid account, which costs nothing a month, but has slightly higher call costs. I’m doing this because I’m not spending anywhere near the R315 a month, and will spend less now I have a company phone, so it was a waste.

So I called, with not much hope — I mean, I was asking for a contract to be cancelled, but to keep my number AND my chunk of unused airtime. But within minutes it was all done, and I received confirmation SMSs from the system while I was still talking to the representative. Congrats Vodacom!

Cellphones 2: Verizon
Got another Verizon bill today. This is from the 11 days or so of cellphone service I used from them back in June. Every bill I get tells a completely different story, that bears little relation to reality or the previous bill. This one was no exception: a bill for $174ish (or around $16 a day of use), due largely to an early termination fee. Now, I cancelled within 30 days, so there should be no termination fee — but more importantly, I didn’t even sign up for a contract that had a term that could be early terminated!! Fools!! Oh joy, another night on Skype to look forward to, fighting with their “customer service” reps.

Tax 1: South African Revenue Service
Unbelievable. The new filing system is fantastic. A simple website, where most of your return is already completed based on the data they have from employer, and you just have to confirm or add in any additional deductions (I’ve been paying my own health insurance). Not only that, from clicking the “submit” button, my refund was in my bank account within two days. Nice one, SARS!

Tax 2: Internal Revenue Service (USA) and Fulbright/Grantax
After spending the customary full day of finding forms, filling them in, attaching copies, etc., and finally posting them (snail mail), since that’s for some bizarre reason cheaper than e-filing, I’ve just been informed that my return was wrong. Yes, despite not receiving any income from Fulbright for years now, apparently an airplane ticket they bought me last year, to return to South Africa, should have counted as income, and so my return should have been routed through Fulbright’s tax services (Grantax). Nevermind that the cost of the ticket never went through me, or indeed that I didn’t ever know how much it even cost. This also means that I’m supposed to pay tax on a supposedly “free” ticket. And, of course, deduce these facts through the power of mind-reading.

This all arose because the IRS sent my refund check to Grantax instead of into my bank account, like my return requested. I haven’t used Grantax in years, and spent literally DAYS last year trying to find out from IRS how to somehow remove the Grantax power of attorney from my tax account. Wasted days, as I was never able to find a single human from IRS anywhere to talk to — or anything relevant online.

Bonus rant: Telkom
I had DSL Internet from Telkom for two days, on and off, as they kept cancelling it for reasons known best (if at all) to them. Still trying to sort out ludicrous billing. Top tip for Telkom: speak to Vodacom or SARS.


Phew! I feel better after that rant. Back to work — starting the new job at the end of the week, and there’s lots to get done before then. But I’m off to Austria for some training on Saturday, which should be great!