Sunday, August 31, 2014

AT&T Alert

If you have combined billing from AT&T for your cell phone and house phone, internet, or U-Verse, this post is for you.

Back in July, AT&T in Connecticut separated its billing departments for cell phones, internet, or whatever. As a consequence, all hell has broken loose with their billing.

The first hint of the problem came this morning, when I received an email from AT&T, asking me to call them regarding my wireless account. Odd. They've never done that before.

When I called the number in the email, I wound up in the regular AT&T menu. In a surprisingly short amount of time, I was able to reach a live person. The live person proceeded to inform me that I was delinquent on my bill. I immediately pulled up my account to confirm that I had, in fact, paid my bill in full on August 10, as I do every month. The live person insisted that I had not paid my bill since July 3. Considering that I had paid my bill on time since that date, on July 9 and August 10, this made me a little cranky.

The live person then explained that the billing has been separated, and that I would have to call a different AT&T number to find out where my money went, that he couldn't help me any further, but if I wanted to pay the money that the computer said I owe, I could do that now. I declared somewhat loudly that I had already paid the bill, that AT&T was double-billing me, and that I absolutely would not pay the bill twice. The live person again stated that I would have to talk to someone else. When I asked if he could possibly give me the number of that someone else, he asked me to wait a few minutes while he looked up the number.

After hanging up the phone, I spent a few minutes downloading and examining my new separated bills. Sure enough, the bill I paid on August 10 included the amount I owed for cell phone service from July 2 to August 1. The new wireless bill on which I am supposedly delinquent is for cell phone service from July 2 to August 1.

Here's the billing cycle information from my new, separated wireless bill, which was due August 28 (for which I never received any notification).

And here's the wireless service dates for the combined bill I paid on August 10.

Next I calmed myself down and called the number the extraordinarily unhelpful live person had given me. I eventually was patched through to a new live person. The new live person was much more helpful than the old one. New Live Person informed me that I'm not the first person to call with this problem, and that I would have to call the Combined Billing Department when they open on Tuesday. In the meantime, he would do something or other to my account, presumably so I won't have my service disconnected.

New Live Person also assured me that I shouldn't worry about my ebill having my old address, from eight years ago, as my billing address. He said their computers have my current address, and it's just a little weird thing I could ignore.

So, if you're like me, and you're being double-billed by AT&T in the wake of their billing separation, call the Combined Billing Department during their regular office hours. I've been told they can help.

Combined Billing Department: 888-757-6500
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Update (9/2/14, 3:15 p.m.): It took fifteen minutes, but I finally got through to someone who could figure out what was going on. It turns out I'm not being double-billed, it's just that they decided to change when I pay the bill. Instead of paying for a month of service after that month is done, I now have to pay for a month of service while it's still happening. In other words, the bill for wireless service from July 2 to August 1 was due on August 10; the bill for wireless service from August 2 to September 1 was due on August 28.

This is a real pain in the rear for anyone on a tight budget. While AT&T is not double billing, they are requiring everyone to pay their bill twice in August, or suffer a late fee. As with most things in U.S. life, the poor get penalized for being poor.

In my case, I can afford to pay the extra bill for August, but because AT&T's computer screwed up and sent the notice about the bill to an address I haven't used in seven years, I got hit with a late fee. When I explained the situation, they agreed to remove the fee, so at least there's that.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Harmon Estate Sale, Part 2

Because my life wasn't busy enough already.... I am currently immersed in preparing for the second round of my father's estate sale. This time, we're tackling the trailers. What trailers, you ask? Funny story: my grandparents loaded up two trailers and a moving van full of antiques and personal possessions back in 1984. They parked the trailers and van behind my dad's shop, planning to retrieve them once they had found a new place to live. For various reasons, the trailers were never retrieved. They sat for 30 years as a small forest grew up around them, and as they sank into the ground up to their axles.

This past winter, we unloaded the trailers and relocated the contents to the Old Pin Shop in Oakville. The contents of the trailers, as well as the contents of my dad's house, comprise the next round of the Harmon Estate Sale, starting Saturday, August 9.

The sale includes something for everyone, at reasonable prices. There is a TON of stuff, taking up 7,000 square feet of storage space. Because there is so much stuff, the sale will be ongoing through the month of August, from August 9 to Labor Day. We'll be open every weekend, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and every Wednesday and Thursday, 12 to 6 p.m.

Directional signs will be posted outside the Pin Shop on the days we are open. I'll add the specific address to this post on Friday, August 8 (no early birds!).

For more on the saga of the trailers, and photos from when we were unloading them, visit my other blog, The Horologist's Daughter.

Here are some sample photos of what we are selling:

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Neighborhood Housing Services

Full disclosure: I am Secretary of the Board of Directors for Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury, so you could argue that I'm biased about the organization. However, serving on their board has made me aware of and appreciative of the good work they do. Here's an overview.

Homebuyer Education and Counseling

For most people, it's not easy to transition from being a renter to being a buyer. It took me a couple of tries before I finally landed a mortgage. I understood the basic concept of home ownership, partly because my parents went from renting to owning when I was a kid, and partly because some of my friends had become homeowners, but the hard logistics of what you have to do to qualify for a mortgage and how to make sure you don't lose your home to foreclosure are things I learned as I went through the process. I can't imagine what it must be like for someone whose parents and grandparents and friends are all renters, who have no frame of reference at all for what is involved with a mortgage.

Neighborhood Housing Services, 161 North Main Street, Waterbury.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Because property values in Waterbury are so low right now, it's a very affordable time to buy a house, perfect for first-time home buyers. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) offers programs to help renters become buyers. The classes they offer teach would-be buyers about how the mortgage process works, how to qualify for a mortgage, and how to manage your finances after you become a homeowner. The class is offered in English and in Spanish.

NHS marching in The Gathering parade, May 2014.

Landlord Education

I've noticed that a lot of people become landlords because they think that it's an easy way to make money. Buy a house, rent it out, and watch the money flow in! The reality is a lot more complicated. Anyone who is thinking of becoming a landlord, or is a new landlord, or is finding the business to be a lot harder than they expected, should enroll in the landlord class offered by NHS.

One of several different types of classes offered by NHS.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Foreclosure Assistance

Foreclosure Assistance, fortunately, is less in demand than it was a couple of years ago, but it is still a vital service offered by NHS. If you're having trouble making your mortgage payments, NHS can help.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Financial Literacy

This is another important life skill that most people learn the hard way--or never learn at all. If your credit rating has been wrecked, or if you're just starting out and want to know how to build a good credit score, NHS can help. If you need help figuring out how to save up for a home or other major expense, NHS can help.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Affordable Housing

NHS has recently ramped up its activities with developing affordable housing. Their new Executive Director, Kevin Taylor, is an architect who previously worked at Waterbury Development Corporation (WDC) overseeing various construction and rehab projects. Taylor is one of those Waterburians who loves this city and is dedicated to making it a great place to live. He is also a firm believer that everyone, no matter what their income level, deserves good housing.

Last month, NHS completed a new ten-unit affordable housing project (Mascoli Manor) on North Main Street, near Reed School. The apartments are attractive townhouses with ample off-street parking and a small field for gardens or for kids to play.

Mascoli Manor during the final stages of construction.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

NHS is preparing for its next development project, which will be even more impressive and beneficial to Waterbury. I can't tell you anything more right now, but I am very excited about it. Good things are happening!

Community Building and Engagement

This is a new activity for NHS, focused on building healthier and stronger communities by increasing resident engagement, developing resident leaders, strengthening resident-led associations, and sponsoring community activities. As part of this activity, NHS hosted a neighborhood block party after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Mascoli Manor and is hosting an outdoor movie night at Reed School this Friday.

Booths at the Mascoli Manor block party.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Industrial Estate Sale, Day One

9 Town Line Road, Wolcott, CT

 The estate sale has begun! Buyers from Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, and, of course, Connecticut, made the first purchases this morning. Someone in Switzerland sent me an email last night letting me know he wanted to come, but can't make it, and inquired about a few machines.

The sale runs daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Sunday.

Publicity for the sale has been great. The Rep-Am ran a really nice article in Sunday's paper, and Radiolab has just now done a blog post, with photos, on their website.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Industrial Estate Sale

My father passed away last year. The sale of the contents of his business, on Town Line Road in Wolcott, is being held next week, June 11 - 15. For full details regarding the sale, visit

Here are some sample photographs of the variety of items being sold. See something you like? Come buy it!

Antique surveyor's tool

Raw sapphires

Vintage cameras

Fully equipped darkroom installed during the mid-1980s

Antique and vintage electronics

Waltham Watch Company shares from the 1940s and '50s


Machinery for metal working

Metal working tools

Forge and soldering supplies

Soldering supplies

Chemistry supplies

Antique clock dials

Shellac sticks


Glass domes

Antique cameras

Woodworking tools

Woodworking tools (there's some lumber too, including mahogany)


Nuts and bolts, including hard-to-find sizes

8-track cassettes and players


Delta-Milwaukee scroll saw

Oil cans

Ferrogel crucibles

Saws, signs, and clocks

Vintage paints, cement, velocite oil

Antique Raytheon light bulb

Engraving tools


Scovill Bank Pins

Vintage copper

Watches and other small items

Optical equipment, machinery, books

Vintage military: Air Corps, U.S. Army

Hewlett-Packard Electron Tubes

GE and Amperex tubes