Category Archives: Business

When the payments never stop….

Sometimes the strangest things happen.

While trying to get a handle on my sister’s finances, I found that her credit union has been faithfully sending a monthly automatic payment for her cable bill (I’ll leave the company unnamed, although we all know who it is). The most recent payment was just made in September.

The problem is that her service with Honolulu’s cable provider was discontinued either in December 2013 or in April 2014 (according to the company, which has provided two different answers so far). For more than two years, those monthly payments have apparently just gone into the ether, as the cable company says they have no record of receiving them.

I made several telephone calls and a personal visit to their customer service, confirmed that the service had been cut off long ago, but came up blank about where the money has gone for these past couple of years. And when I asked, they failed to provide any information on how to push the case up the chain of command so that it could be resolved.

I fumed for about ten minutes, then decided to shift the burden from my end to theirs. If information on where to go to resolve billing disputes isn’t readily available on the company website, or provided by customer service, it doesn’t seem like breaking the code should be my problem. Instead of trying more frustrating telephone calls, I put all this information into a complaint which was then filed with the Cable Television Division of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs (with copy via registered mail to the cable provider). Those went out late last week.

Last night I received a phone call from a supervisor for the provider, requesting copies of my sister’s bank statements showing the monthly payments, which will be forwarded to their accounting department.

It’s quite a lot of money (possibly more than $4,000) to have just gone walkabout.

And to boost the frustration another notch, I contacted her credit union to stop them from making the next monthly payment. The credit union says the provider is supposed to control the payment and order it stopped. If we do it from the client’s end, there’s a $25 fee, as if the payment error was our fault. If it’s not resolved by the time this month’s payment is due, I’ll order a stop and ask the cable provider to reimburse that expense as well.

Isn’t it interesting how sharing this tale of frustration has already made me feel better?

9-11 will never again be just a “normal” morning

I vividly remember getting an unusual early morning telephone call on September 11, 2001.

The call broke the stillness in our Kaaawa home in advance of our usual early wakeup. It must have been somewhere around 4 or 4:30 a.m. When the phone rings at that time, you of course are immediately wondering who in your family might have a sudden illness or accident. I answered.

It was a friend who I worked with back during my days with Common Cause, more than 15 hears earlier.

I don’t remember her exact words, but her message was to the point. Turn on your television. Now! It’s unbelievable.

She was right. It was unbelievable.

I blogged that morning.

No entry today, just a moment of silence as we watch events unfold a half world away

We went out walking early, not knowing what else to do. Another of our regular morning characters, who lives across from the beach, was sitting just feet from the water in a folding chair with fishing poles on either side of him.

He said he didn’t know what else to do either.

“I guess I should say a prayer for all those people….”, he said in a fading voice. As should we all.

This morning, 15 years later, we were back in Kaaawa. We spent the night with good friends after an afternoon and evening doing a favor of photographs at the wedding of Lilinoe Rezentes-Kaohu, whose extended family were nearby neighbors in Kaaawa. I’ve carried my camera through many of their family parties over the years which offered my wonderful photo opps! This was another in a long string.

This morning was quiet. We did our early walk along the beach, although there wasn’t much beach at the high tide. Then we sat with our coffee and a light breakfast.

With my iPad, I captured this photo with the elements of the morning. Visible out the window, the lush foliage of Kaaawa. Under the window, our friends’ surfboards, reminding you that the ocean is just a short distance down the hill. It was quite a peaceful. It seemed like a world away from that long ago morning in 2001.

In any case, I hope to be back with some of Saturday’s photos, which tell their own story of island life.

Sunday morning

Just one more thing about A&B’s Kahala Ave condos

My column this week at Civil Beat takes another look at a proposed six-home development along Kahala Avenue, on the other end of Kahala (“Ian Lind: No, These Condos Don’t Mean The End Of Old Kahala“).

The subtitle: The old Kahala is already gone.

Some Kahala residents have opposed the proposal because, they say, it would lead to increased density in the area, drive up prices, and only benefit wealthy absentee owners.

Civil Beat columnist (and veteran reporter) Denby Fawcett highlighted the proposed development in a recent column.

Denby and I both grew up in that old Kahala, the somewhat lazy beachside community before it was discovered by the ultra rich.

From my column, which appeared today:

We share a dismay at the direction the neighborhood has taken a nostalgia for the Hawaii that we glimpsed as children and young adults.

But I doubt very much that A&B’s six luxury homes are going to have any negative impact in Kahala.

The sad fact is that the elegant, low key, beachside neighborhood we grew up in is long gone.

But I did notice one small tidbit with lots of implications.

I was trying to figure out why the property was variously reported as something just over 53,000 square feet or over 58,000 feet.

I found the answer buried in a section of the the Planning Department’s report and recommendation on the project, sent to the City Council last week. The section is titled “Shoreline and Sea Level Rise”.

“The regulatory shoreline along the rear of the site is approximately 150 feet long and follows the top of the bank….”

“The makai property line,” the report states blandly, “is in the ocean.”

Yes, you read that right. The original property line is now out in the water.

Again, according to the report: “The eroded lands seaward of the certified shoreline account for approximately eight percent, or 4,675 square feet of the property.”

They’ve lost 8 percent of the land area already, and sea level rise is just getting started.

It may be that Mother Nature could rein in speculative oceanfront development sooner that any public policy changes.

Candidate disclosures offer rare glimpse at finances

Here’s a pot of data that often gets overlooked.

I’m talking about the financial disclosures filed by candidates for state offices, including House, Senate, and Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

These aren’t as useful for those incumbents running for reelection, since their regular annual disclosures include more information.

However, the candidate disclosures are very useful for learning more about the challengers, a list which usually includes at least a few people of interest because of their roles in community groups, business, or public affairs.

In many cases, the candidate disclosure provide the only public accounting of their financial interests and business ties.

Okay, that may sound a lot like snooping. But to a reporter, or a citizen activist, information can be powerful, whether immediately or sometime in the future.

The disclosure process is administered by the State Ethics Commission, which recently published a list of candidates who have filed this year. It’s a good place to start.

Browse the list, and if you see a name of interest to you, then check the candidate disclosure database, click on the link for the person’s form, and check it out. You can save the form as a pdf for future reference.

This week in journalism news

The week started with John Oliver’s riff on the status of newspapers and journalism, which became an instant favorite among those with experience in the industry.

It is definitely worth watching, all the way through the whole 20 minutes. If you haven’t seen this yet, trust me. You won’t be sorry.

About the same time, we heard about layoffs at Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Advertiser and MidWeek (as well as newspapers on Kauai and the Big Island). The reason given–the major cuts in print inserts by major retail chains like Macy’s.

And we probably haven’t seen the last of those advertising cuts, with this week’s announcement that Macy’s will be closing 100 of its stores, about 15% of the total.

And how about the longer term prospects? A recent NY Times story about Amazon’s future suggests a possible fundamental challenge to retail stores and, in turn, the newspapers that still rely on their advertising dollars.

Amazon, according to the NYT story, is farther along in its planning for use of delivery drones that has been previously assumed.

If Amazon’s drone program succeeds (and Amazon says it is well on track), it could fundamentally alter the company’s cost structure. A decade from now, drones would reduce the unit cost of each Amazon delivery by about half, analysts at Deutsche Bank projected in a recent research report. If that happens, the economic threat to competitors would be punishing — “retail stores would cease to exist,” Deutsche’s analysts suggested, and we would live in a world more like that of “The Jetsons” than our own.

Will retail stores drag the remnants of the newspaper industry down with them?

Perhaps they’ll also have to resort to Feline Friday’s to attract new readers!