Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Post in Which Eduardo Confirms That the Government Is Going to Take All My Money

So last night I endured every freelancer's greatest sorrow: filing my taxes. Let me state first that I think, if anything, we should actually be paying HIGHER taxes if we want all the programs we say we want the government to provide, and want to send our troops overseas to kill people in Iraq (not that that's what *I* want), so I'm not against taxes per se.

But, last year, more than half of my income was classified as miscellaneous. It's true -- I did all kinds of miscellaneous things last year. I wrote about the bastard children of rock stars for Maxim, I wrote about insurance for Consumer Reports, I wrote about bajillionaire Wilbur Ross for the Post and I wrote about drinking ice wine in Niagara Falls for Modern Bride, just to name a few. (At least I think all those things were last year; it's become such a blur.) If that's not miscellaneous, I don't know what is.

The problem with miscellaneous income is that it's not immediately taxed. I knew I was about to pay, and pay big as I stared down at a five-inch-thick pile of 1099 forms, a lump growing in my throat. I recently completed a huge job for my former employer that paid in the high four figures, but I knew I would have to fork over most -- if not all -- of that to the IRS. Certainly there are many other ways I would have liked to have spent my money than to help fund a war I don't believe in and pay into a social security system that will fail by the time I'm eligible to collect. I could have cut my limp locks, which have gone untouched and unloved for five months. I could have bought some clothes to replace the ones that literally have holes in them. I could have donated more money to my church, or bought a bunch of kegs of beer and thrown a party on my roof. But, it was not to be. Indeed, nearly every cent of my last windfall is going to Sam.

This realization was only made more depressing by the "exchange" I had with H&R Block "customer service" when I ran into some problems with their online filing program (which, to be fair, I've used for several years and have had few problems with). This year they have a new "talk to a customer service agent -- LIVE!" IM feature that I was happy to try out, though I was quickly -- and sorely -- disappointed by what followed. Although, it did add a certain amount of levity to the tax-filing situation, which is something you normally can't say about any sort of interaction with the IRS.

Here's is my exchange with an H&R Block "agent" named "Eduardo E."

You have been connected to Eduardo E.
Eduardo E: Hello Erin, welcome to H & R Block's Live Technical Support
Chat! How can we assist you today?
ERIN: hi. i can't fix my errors. it keeps bringing me back to
marital status page.
ERIN: and those are correct. I can't click the "next error" button.
Eduardo E: I understand that you are getting an error that needs to be fixed.
ERIN: yeah, and obviously you are not a real person.
Eduardo E: I can help you with that, Erin.
ERIN: You can help me with you not being a real person?
Eduardo E: Erin, may I place you on hold while I research some information here?
ERIN: sure, taxbot.
ERIN: they need to imbue taxbots with a sense of humor if
they're going to make us believe we're IMing with an actual service
agent. just a suggestion.
Eduardo E: We appreciate your comment here!
ERIN: You're welcome, eduardo! Make sure you pass that along to your "supervisor!"
Eduardo E: Thanks, Erin.
ERIN: Uh, sure.
Eduardo E: Thank you Erin, for holding.
ERIN: When you use my first name over and over like that, it makes my thighs warm, Eduardo.
Eduardo E: When you fix your errors, sometimes you may not be taken to
the exact page where the error or missing entry occurs. Most often
this happens when you're taken to a page with the Edit and Delete
buttons.......

And so on and so forth. No amount of needling would bring a real person on the line. It feels extremely futile to make fun of a computer, I learned. So, I'm not really sure why I'm telling YOU about it, but whatever.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

Never thought I'd be nostalgic for the "press 1 for customer service" era, but...

1:06 AM  

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