Thursday, February 28, 2008

Playing the game

In my research on life in Taiwan I've learned that, to deal successfully with various legal and governmental institutions, one must know how to "play the game." Yet, it's not all that different here in the US.

Take, for instance, my experience dealing with the Unemployment Department (EDD). First, there are no more brick-and-mortar offices; everything is handled over the phone at their call centers. This equates to sometimes hours of trying to get through, because most of the time you'll receive the message, "We are currently receiving more call than we can process. Please call back at another time." I guess they figure, since we're unemployed, we have all the time in the world. Time, perhaps, but patience, well....

I discovered a way to get through, though. When that irritating phone menu starts playing, do not press the "Problems with your claim" or "Haven't received my check" options, because you'll never get through. Instead, try all the other options, even if they don't apply to you. After trying for and hour and a half this morning, I wised up and pressed the "Need to reschedule a telephone interview" option. Didn't apply to me, but I got to speak to a human—a sweet girl named Tiffany—after only a 5 minute hold. Score!

My problem with EDD (this time) was that I hadn't received my payment, now a week overdue. Frankly, when I filled out the last claim form, I predicted that there would be a problem, because I recently completed my Job Retraining and therefore had to check one box differently on the claim form. It was this tiny deviation from the norm—that one box—that threw my claim into limbo. The frustrating part is that, if you don't contact EDD, your claim will sit in limbo indefinitely, because they certainly won't contact you.

This has happened to me before, on more than one occasion. Last time I didn't receive a check I called them up (it took two days of trying to get through) and got a "Gosh, I don't know why it didn't process" explanation from the rep. He then simply pressed a button on his terminal, and voilà, my check was issued, with no further explanation. If I hadn't called, it would still be there.

I've dealt with bureaucratic craziness all my life, so I'm not frightened by the horror stories coming from expats in Taiwan. Just to be safe, though, I may look into learning some Buddhist relaxation techniques once I'm there. Much better than hurling the phone out the window.

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