Tuesday, September 21, 2010

bad form

It was a mixed bag at Quiz Night: Our overall score wasn’t as strong as we’d like but we had fun and won a prize round when we aced all ten answers to “Famous People and Their Famous Mothers”. That’s a pretty embarrassing category to dominate considering we later answered “22” when asked how many claws a cat has. How a human (or group of humans) could talk themselves into 22 claws on four paws is completely beyond me. Are there any animals/mammals/walkie things that have more than five claws/toes on this earth? 22? “Yeah, great answer!” We were like really bad Family Feud contestants.

My school has a never-ending run of administration issues. The one that most affects me is the quarterly certification sent to the VA in order to keep my flow of money in place. What they were allegedly doing up until now was submitting our paperwork at the end of the third week every quarter (after the add/drop date). Depending on the break between quarters, this caused serious issues if you didn’t see a check for 50+ days. Of course, what they don’t understand is that if the government gives you too much money (or if you drop a class) they’d get their money back, one way or t’other. They had at least three or four critical points of failure in this certification chain with the most common being inept people. Late last week they sent out an e-mail introducing all the VA / GI Bill students to a great new process that will ensure there’s no gap in payment or certification. My first thought was: How nice. My second? They’ll fuck this up. The outcome from my first response didn’t come true; from my second? Well, here’s the story.

In order to expedite the process we will be delivering the required paperwork for the next quarter to the Registrar by the end of the current quarter. (We got the e-mail last Friday and the quarter officially ends this Friday.) Great, methinks, I have class on Saturday so I’ll just print out this “certification form”, fill it out, stop by the student financial aid section (required by the notice) and pick-up my financial plan (what was outlined) and have them sign, and then drop it off at the registrar – task done. Man, that was easy! Unfortunately, the registrar isn’t open on Saturday so I was left with two forms in hand and plan to call on Monday to see if I could e-mail my scanned (.pdf) forms or fax them the paperwork. What follows is a rudimentary transcript of the 9am phone call on Monday morning (the registrar being open at 7:45am):

Me: [dial and ringing].

Them: Hello? Doc.

Me: Is this the Registrar’s office?

Doc (apparently): Yes, why?

Me: Doc, how about you answer the phone with something akin to “AiW Registar, how may I help you?”

Doc: Oh. This isn’t my phone.

Me: I guess that’s a good excuse then.

Doc: I can help you with anything. What do you need?

Me: I have a GI Bill certification form and my student financial plan that needs to be delivered to your office. Since I’m in class at night I was wondering if I can either e-mail a .pdf file with the signed forms, or send them via fax.

Doc: Wait. What do you need?

(Writer’s embellishment: “Hey, wedge, what is your problem? Trust me when I say that my phone skills are impeccable. I speak slowly, I listen to you, I describe what you need, and you’ve got nothing to say but ‘Oops, I was lost after my last breath. I’m a dumbass.’”)

Me: I need to send some VA forms to your office.

Doc: That would be Vanessa who would help you.

Me: Okay. Great. Can I fax them down there for her or can I send them via e-mail?

Doc: See doesn’t come in until 10am.

Me: So? Why do I care about that? Do you have a fax? Can I e-mail them? Does your office accept forms via those methods?

Doc: Well, she handles all of that.

Me: Great. Can you give me her e-mail address?

Doc: Didn’t she send you an e-mail.

Me: Yes, she did. But I’m asking for her e-mail address because I don’t have it here.

Doc: It should be in the e-mail she sent.

Me: What is Vanessa’s e-mail address?

That went swimmingly. I typed Vanessa’s hard-won e-mail address into my correspondence and attached both required documents along with a brief background while making reference to her widely distributed, and well considered, e-mail. What I get back about an hour later is an e-mail from Vanessa letting me know that the included certification form was actually just a sample and not the actual letter that will be signed. Those letters are in her office. Second, the Financial Services section gave me the wrong data sheet and that I’ll need to stop back down there and get a different fuckity-fuckity form. See how this works? My response is a bit curt and includes three questions and a small diatribe: I have to come down to your office to pick up another form, go down to financial services and tell them I need a fuckity-fuckity form, and then walk back to your office with paper in hand. Those are the questions. The itsy-bitsy diatribe is this: have you spoken with financial planning to make sure they know what form it is that you want? That might have been something you could have coordinated before your first, and somewhat urgent, e-mail was sent to a bunch of people, who after all, have been in the military and who might expect checklist-like directions to actually work. She sent back that ‘yes’ was the answer to my questions and this little nugget of wisdom:

“…but as with anything new there can be kinks in the system.”

Listen, you ARE the system. There’s something wrong with you. How about you say this:

“I made a mistake in not ensuring the financial services office was up-to-speed on the new process. I’m going to head down there now, get the form I need for your certification, and take care of it from here. I’ll let you know when it’s done. We won’t have this issue in the future. Thanks for taking care of your paperwork so quickly.”

Why? Because that’s how you do it. Do I need her to stroke my ego? Nope. Do I need her to be competent? Yes. That’s what it boils down to in the end: know your job, understand your process, or don’t participate. Gumming up the system because you’re inept doesn’t actually help anyone.

I rest.


(If you're wondering about the picture, find the famous mother of a famous child.)

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