What a Difference a Bank Makes

Service I can count on.

After too many years banking with Bank of America and, before that, Wells Fargo, I finally moved my personal and business banking to a small, local bank in the small city near where I live. The difference is amazing.

I should start off by saying that when I opened my bank accounts at Bank of America in Wickenburg, Arizona, I got incredible personalized service from one of the bank officers, Mary. I’m not sure if it’s because of the number of accounts my wasband and I opened or some of the balances I maintained, but I like to think it was just the local branch’s way of doing business. Whenever I went into the bank — which wasn’t very often — I was greeted by name by the banker I worked with most often. If she wasn’t busy, we often chatted. When I needed something — for example, an increase on my home-equity line of credit —  she handled it immediately at her desk with a minimum amount of effort on my part. Banking was easy and that’s why I stuck with Bank of America for as long as I did.

But things change. 

When the economy tanked in 2008, banking with Bank of America changed too. The first thing they did was try to recall the home-equity line of credit that my wasband and I often depended on to meet shortfalls in income — me, because of the nature of my quarterly royalty payments (my only source of income at the time), and him, because of his periodic inability to hold down a job. I went to the bank to talk to my usual banker and she told me that her hands were tied. Instead of working with her, I was forced to work with the loan department people in the corporate office, providing them with documents to prove the amount of equity we had in our almost paid-for house. It was extremely stressful, although it did work out satisfactorily, with a reduction in the credit line that still met our needs. At least they hadn’t closed the account. 

After that, banking at Bank of America seem to have all kinds of additional fees and requirements and the friendly atmosphere that I had enjoyed for so many years was gone. Mary left and I felt as if I no longer had a banker. The only thing that kept me banking there was the convenience of their free online banking services and iPhone app. But later, when I moved to Washington state and they closed down all of the Washington branches in my area, it became a real ordeal to make deposits during my busy summer months when I often exceeded the total amount I could deposit using the bank’s iPhone app.

Bank of America wasn’t changing so I’d have to.

I found Peoples Bank when I was out in Wenatchee searching for a specialized signature confirmation document I needed for some divorce-related paperwork. With the local Bank of America branches closed, I found myself at a loss for getting these papers signed and sent out. I had a nice conversation with the bank manager at Peoples and was impressed by the friendly atmosphere that was so similar to what I’d experienced at my local Bank of America branch in Wickenburg all those years before. 

A few months later, when I was ready to move to a new bank, I went back to Peoples. Although the bank manager I’d spoken to was gone, a customer service representative, Selene, stepped right up to help me. She’s been my banker ever since. She’s friendly and enthusiastic and although I’m not in the bank very often — I use the ATM to make deposits — she always greets me by name when I come in. I opened four accounts (two business and two personal) and love how easy it is to move money between them and pay all my bills online. Their banking app isn’t quite as good as Bank of America’s, but it’s good enough.

And now comes the reason why I’m writing this blog post today. 

Helicopter in Overhaul
After three months in the shop, Zero-Mike-Lima’s overhaul was nearly done when I visited it two weeks ago. I pick it up on Monday.

I’m in California preparing for my seasonal frost control job in the Sacramento area. I moved my truck and camper to the airport where I’ll be based for the next two months. On Monday, I fly back to Phoenix to pick up my helicopter, which is just coming out of its 12 year overhaul. To pick up the helicopter, I needed to make a final payment to the maintenance shop and they wanted that payment sent to them by wire transfer.

There are no Peoples Bank branches here in California and I couldn’t imagine, at first, how I could make a wire transfer — for a significant amount of money — without filling out forms at my bank. But I called Selene and after a quick hello-how-are-you conversation, told her what I needed. She told me that because I was a good customer and that she knew me and my voice, she could handle the wire transfer for me. She would just need to do a few security checks that could be handled over the phone. She asked me to send her an email message with the information for the wire transfer, including the recipient, wire instructions, and amount. Since I had a copy of the form for the last wire transfer I had done with her to the same maintenance shop, I sent that along as well. She called me back a while later, we did the security stuff, and she did the transfer for me. The whole process took less than an hour.

Needless to say, I was very pleased.

In my opinion, there’s no substitute for banking with people that you know. For a very long time, I kept my personal savings in an online bank — ING Direct, which became Capital One 360 — account, mostly because I was able to earn very good interest there. (For a while, it was 8%!) It was always a hassle to move my money from one bank to another and that didn’t get any easier when my local bank branches simply weren’t available anymore. The days of high interest on savings are long gone, so it makes sense to keep my money together in one bank. The added benefit is having multiple accounts that help establish me as a good bank customer that, in turn, helps me get the service I need when I need it.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all this is that there’s nothing quite as pleasant or convenient as having a personal banker in a small, local bank that meets your needs.

DJI Sales Support Experience

When sales support is solely by chat with a support team based in China.

I ordered my DJI Mavic Pro drone on January 3, 2017. At the time, the DJI website said it would take 4 to 6 weeks to ship. I was traveling and set up delivery to my friend Jim’s house in Wickenburg, AZ.

I should mention here that the first time I tried placing the order, my credit card company declined it and immediately texted me about possible fraud. I responded to the prompts via text messaging to assure the company I had authorized the order. Then I resubmitted payment and it appeared to go through. I even got a confirmation message about it from DJI.

I ordered the drone using an email address I reserve for shopping. That address is not set up on my iPhone or iPad, the two devices I use most when I’m on the road. It was set up on my MacBook Air, but I seldom fired that up. So it was a full week before I learned that there was a problem with my order. By that time, I was camped out along the Colorado River in a campsite with spotty cell phone coverage. I fired up my MacBook, fetched email, and got the following message from DJI Sales:

A message from DJI

Have you ever heard anything so absurd?

Of course, I was not going to scan my credit card or driver’s license and send it to some anonymous person in China or anywhere else. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

I was also not prepared to call China from my cell phone or any other phone.

I attempted to get them to call me and got an email message saying they tried but couldn’t get through. I had absolutely no indication on my phone of a missed call from China or anywhere else. They suggested I try online chat.

DJI’s chat sucks, pure and simple. You go to their online store’s home page and click a button. A window opens with a boilerplate message with tempting links:

Chat System:

Dear customers, thank you for choosing DJI. The system is transferring the chat to operator service. Please wait.

Order before JAN 5th and your Mavic Pro will ship before JAN 18th. Orders placed prior to this annoucement will still be prioritized. Learn more
For a small additional charge, DJI Care Refresh offers up to two replacement units. Water damage is also covered! Purchase now

Of course, by this point it was January 11. My order had gotten in on time. Or had it?

The system then tells you that there are 36 people in front of you on chat. So you wait. The number counts down. Then goes up. Then goes down again. Back and forth, slowly making its way down.

When it hits about 4 or 7 or 3, someone finally answers the chat.


Hello, my name is Wilmar.Thank you for contacting DJI customer support. How can I help you today?



What is the status of my order?


Order number?



Seems to be an issue with credit card payment?


I am in a remote location with spotty internet coverage. Please let’s resolve any issues now while I can.

Are you still there?


Let me check



Thank you.



The sttaus of your order is still on payment review.


Let’s fix this now.



Did you have any contact with your bank?



Yes, I can. But I’ve already told them the charge is valid.

They rejected first time and texted me about possible fraud.


Oh ok. Can you contact them?


I returned text to say charge was good.

I can try now, but not sure what kind of menu they will put me in.



But it states here, Review status


What do you need me to do?

I am calling them now.


At this point, I called my credit card company on the phone and began navigating a telephone menu.


In a call menu with my bank now.


Alright. Willing to wait.



When I get a person, I’ll ask if the charge went through.


Waiting for person now.

Hold music.


Its fine.

I talked to a credit card company person. I had to go through the usual identification thing. He looked up the charges and saw both the rejected charge and the one that had been approved.



Bank says charge went through.

Says two tries and they accepted one and declined other.

You have my money.



Please hold, let me check it again


Bank says it is approved but pending. You have to accept.

He can provide authorization code.

Do you want that.







Did you get that?


Thank you



Can you charge it now, please? The bank is waiting.


I’ll do my best

I chatted on the phone with the banking person. He was very pleasant and didn’t mind chatting. Nothing from Wilmar.



I’m still waiting with the bank.


You are still on the line with them?



I’m waiting to make sure the charge goes through.


You can disconnect now from them please.




I said goodbye to the bank person and hung up.


What I am doing right now is sending an email follow up directly to headquarters about this status of your order number.





Still there?





Thank you for the patience MAria

Chat System

Without any further response, the chat has been closed automatically. 

Yep. It hung up on me. I clicked buttons to reconnect and waited behind who knows how many people.

Chat System

The chat is connected again

Dear customers, thank you for choosing DJI. The system is transferring the chat to operator service. Please wait.

Order before JAN 5th and your Mavic Pro will ship before JAN 18th. Orders placed prior to this annoucement will still be prioritized. Learn more
For a small additional charge, DJI Care Refresh offers up to two replacement units. Water damage is also covered! Purchase now



Hello, my name is Melou.How can I help you today?



I just want this resolved. I am traveling and I need to know when the drone will arrive so I can coordinate pickup.

Was chatting with Wilmar.

What is the current status of my order?


I ordered on Jan 3. My order should go out before Jan 18.

Order 001602399####




ok let me check that


upon checking here regarding the status of your order its still in review


What else do I need to give you?



There could be a payment risk with the order, which our risk control team will manually assess before accepting the payment.


I provided an approval code from the bank.

Do you also want it?

I ordered this on January 3. I did not know about an order problem until this week

I am traveling and have limited access to email.


I would like it shipped on time — before January 18 like all other early orders.


If your payment cannot go through, Customer have 2 options…First we suggest to contact the issuing bank for help. If they cannot identify the problem, or try another method of payment.


I don’t see why there is a delay when my credit card bank approved it on January 3

I did this.

The credit card bank approved it.


It shows up as pending on my account. The bank says all you need to do is accept the charge.

I provided Wilmar with the bank’s approval code from January 3.

What is the problem? Why is this still being delayed?


Do you want the bank’s phone number?


if there is no issue with the card or the bank it will be a smooth transaction…our system will detect if theres an issue for the payment and automatic it will not go through…we suggest to customer to try again and if you still getting same issue…you need to use another mode of payment



That’s not what the email I got from your payment people said.


There is NO PROBLEM with it.


I have no way of contacting you by phone and I can’t get any help from Chat. What am I supposed to do?

Is this how all of your support works?

What will happen if I have a problem with my drone? Will I get the same bad “support” I’m getting now?


There’s noting “smooth” about this.


you need to use another mode of payment




I don’t have another method of payment.

This charge was approved by my bank.


Please have someone call me. My phone number is 509-699-####. US.


That’s when I started losing my patience. I resorted to copy and paste.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.



We accept the following forms of payment:

1) Credit Cards

– MasterCard

– Visa


– American Express (Europe Only)

– Diners (Europe Only)

2) Debit Cards

– Visa Debit

– MasterCard Debit

3) Paypal

4) Paypal Credit (US and UK only)

5) Paypal Express

6) Bank Transfer


I paid with a visa.

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.





I spent 15 minutes on the phone today with my bank while chatting with Wilmar.


I got the approval code.

The bank has accepted the charge.

Why won’t you take my money?

Why can’t someone call me to resolve this?


I am spending more than $1,300. Why can’t I get a little customer service?

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


so our finacial department will double check on that



I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


all you need to do is to wait..since the status is Review

I’ve been waiting more than a week.

I’m tired of waiting.

You are delaying my order.

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.



you have an option to purchase in retailers

This really pissed me off. The Mavic Pro wasn’t available anywhere yet. Amazon said it wouldn’t get them until mid-February — which is why I hadn’t ordered from Amazon.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.

Why can’t I talk to someone who can help me????


Why are you refusing to take my money?

I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


Wilmar did not tell me that I needed another method of payment. Why are you telling me this?


for now we only have chat support


Chat support is not support.

You are not supporting me.


yes i need to inform you that because you are having issue with the payment..


You are not helping me.


I want to TALK to someone there who can resolve this. Call me at 509-699-####. US.


i provide you all the options regarding your concenr



No. Wilmar did. You are just sending me scripted responses.

Chat System

Without any further response, the chat has been closed automatically. 

Yep. She hung up on me. Okay, so I was being a bitch, but I’d been at it for over an hour, including wait time, and still had no idea if my order had been processed. So I got back on chat again.

Amazingly, I got Wilmar again. I guess there are only two of them in the call center. When he realized it was me, he disconnected me.

At that point, I was pretty pissed off and didn’t care if my order went through or not. I could easily call the credit card company and stop the charge. But instead of doing anything, I went for a walk with Penny to cool down. And when I got back to my computer and looked at my order status on DJI’s website, it saw that it had been approved for January 3.

My friend Jim, who has ordered two drones from them, says that their technical support department is much better. That’s all handled in the U.S. — at least for U.S. customers. There’s a phone number you can call and actually speak to a person. While that’s reassuring, I still worry. And I wonder why their sales support is so bad after all, they should be much better at taking customer’s money, no? Would it kill them to set up a call center somewhere in the U.S? Aren’t they making enough money to do that? These things aren’t cheap.

My drone arrived in Wickenburg on January 19 and some friends of mine rendezvoused with me in Quartzsite to drop it off on Monday, January 23. I’ve been playing with it — teaching myself how to fly it — ever since.

I just hope I never need to deal with DJI sales again.

Snowbirding 2017: Fossil Shopping at Desert Gardens

Too beautiful to pass up.

I’m camped out in the desert south of Ehrenberg, AZ these days with friends. On Friday, I went into nearby Quartzsite with my friend Rebecca. She wanted to meet up with her friend John, a jewelry maker who sells raw rocks, gems, cabs, and jewelry at the Desert Gardens rock show in the southwest corner of town.

I’d only been to Desert Gardens a few times and every time there had been just a handful of scattered vendors on the dusty flat show grounds. Nothing to impress me. But Friday was different. The official show had begun and all vendors were present and accounted for. It was a rockhound’s paradise, with all kinds of rocks, gems, and minerals on display and for sale.

John’s booth had a nice mixture of things. His jewelry is exquisite. He has a real eye for design and there were more than a few pieces I would have bought if I had the money — they were not cheap — and someplace to wear them.

While he and Rebecca chatted, I wandered through the show with Penny, stopping here and there to look at things that interested me. While I do think a lot of the raw, unprocessed rocks are interesting, they don’t interest me nearly as much as pieces that have been cut and polished. There was plenty of that to see, too.

But what really interested me were the fossils. My wasband had collected two that we displayed in our old living room. I’d left them behind — after all, he’d bought them, not me — and I can’t say I really missed them. They were interesting, but not worth lugging up to Washington. One was a flat rock with the skeletal remains of a fossilized fish. Someone had “enhanced” the fossil, making it easier to see. The other was a large ammonite — a nautilus-shaped creature — that stood upright like a carved rock paperweight. I always worried that it would fall over and break the glass-topped coffee table.

I need to stress here that although I think fossils are interesting, I’d don’t have any overwhelming desires to own them. At least I didn’t. Until Friday.

That’s when I saw fossils presented in a new way in a shed turned into a fossil shop at Desert Gardens.

First was the ammonite. Each one had been cleanly cut in half vertically to show the inside, which had been polished. The colors and textures and patterns were amazing. And I found it incredibly appealing to have both halves of the fossil — not just one. There were dozens of them at the shop in a wide range of sizes and prices, ranging from $5 all the way up to more than $100. I wanted one that would fit inside my little curio cabinet at home. Here’s the one I wound up buying later in the day.

Here’s the inside of the ammonite fossil I bought.

And here’s the outside of the same fossil, which was also polished.

Next were the fossilized leaves. There were a handful that caught my eye and were within my price range for what was, effectively, a rock. As the guy who owned the booth told me, the rocks are nodules that they heat and then thrown in a freezer. The sudden change of temperature causes them to split, revealing any fossils inside. He saw the ones I was looking at and then said, “Did you see these over here?” I hadn’t. They were magnificent, but also a bit more money than I wanted to spend on a rock. Still one of them, an annularia, was just too beautiful to pass up. I asked him for his best price and he knocked $10 off. I bought it.

Annularia Fossil
The annularia fossil I bought. It’s about seven hinches long.

They wrapped everything up in paper and even put the annularia in a box. I took them out when I got back to my camper just to photograph them. Then I stowed them away in the wine box I’ve been using to store acquisitions during my travels. I’m looking forward to unpacking that box and putting my finds on display at home.

If you’re in Arizona or southern California, I highly recommend Desert Gardens from now until about mid-January as a place to find rocks, minerals, and fossils. Later in the month, half the vendors go south to Tucson, leaving the show in Quartzsite a bit sparse. They return in February for a while, but I really think the best time to shop for rocks in Quartzsite is now. Get on over there and see what treasures you can find.