Thursday, May 31, 2007

Consumer Choices: What I learned today about CapitalOne Visa

Based on what I know to date, the credit cards issued by CapitalOne are among the few left that do not charge fees for foreign currency transactions. That's something worth considering among Go players since most of our high-end goods (like Mr. Kuroki's wares) are likely to be purchased from Japan. Foreign currency fees are typically assessed at 3% of your transaction amount.

I got a chance to deal with CapitalOne's customer service and their transaction-dispute departments yesterday and today. I was having trouble getting a timely refund for a guitar that I had returned to an eBay merchant. My experience shed some light on CapitalOne's operations and how they're able to reduce their costs (thereby reducing the fees charged to the customer).

Outsourced Call Center
Both of the service reps, Richard and Steve, had heavy Indian accents and the lines had a slight level of static. Both reps spoke clearly but in slow and halting English. These would seem to suggest that the main call center is located in India. I spoke to both during the mid-morning, Pacific Coast time.

The line to the transaction-dispute department was clear and the representative, Dee, had an East Coast accent which suggested that this department was located in the US. I expected that any "escalations" would still be handled locally.

30 Days
I was told that CapitalOne does not open a dispute until 30 days after the transaction has closed or 30 days after the date that the merchant claims to have issued a refund; whichever is later. Until the dispute is resolved, the transaction stays on the card owner's account and he/she is still obligated to pay it. Otherwise, normal credit card interest will be applied on any unpaid balance.

Comparison to CitiCard
To the best of my knowledge, Citbank's call centers are all still located nationally and I haven't yet seen any indication of an overseas operation when calling late in the evening.

With regards to contested transactions, Citibank assumes that the customer is right and immediately issues a credit for the disputed amount so that the card owner is not obligated to pay for it. If there is a difference between the claimed amount and the settled amount, the balance is debited/credited to the account on the date of settlement. The final settlement usually takes about two months to complete.

Overall, this was a good learning experience and it will help me decide when to use my CapitalOne credit card. It's best suited for transactions with trusted merchants (, UPS, your grocery store) and, obviously, with trusted merchants dealing in foreign currency (like Mr. Kuroki).

For yet-untested merchants, it's probably best to handle the transaction with a more service-oriented credit card issuer like Citibank. I've been their cardholder since my first year of college and they haven't yet disappointed me. I still remember the time that they upped my credit limit so that I could buy a gift for ChiyoMama when we were in Hawaii.

Monday, May 28, 2007

chid0ri's hilarious take on KGS

If you haven't been frequenting, then you might not have already heard of chid0ri's Go-related art blog, The Empty Triangle. Trust me, it's worth your time to visit her site and browse through her (to-date) seventeen works. You can find the navigation buttons below the main image.

You probably should bookmark it because she updates it in a rather regular fashion. If you prefer, an RSS feed is available on the home page. Don't forget to sign her guestbook.

Her latest work depicts KGS. Solomon Choe started a topic thread to discuss the many amusing references in her collage.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The old neighborhood

I recently revisited using Google Groups. Not having the benefits of a usenet killfile application, I was quickly reminded of what inspired Don to create

Usenet groups certainly have their advantages. Posts are automatically replicated and archived on several servers. Usenet posts are, in an internet sense, "immortal". They are also searchable, although it may take a little skill to find the specific posts that one is looking for.

In my first months of playing Go (mid-2005), I frequented RGG and sometimes received good advice and occasional encouragement. I seldom go there now as has created a more welcoming atmosphere for discourse, general communications and socialization.

At some point, Google will probably build a killfile tool into its Groups interface and that may give RGG a bit of a facelift for those of us who have grown accustomed to using only browsers to read Usenet posts. Of course, it would only serve its purpose for as long as visitors to the group don't feed the trolls.

Sabbatical. Concerned and unconcerned.

Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.
- Zen saying

I'm still on a Go sabbatical. For a while yesterday, I was briefly disturbed by the thought that I might return a weaker player than when I left. Then I remembered a few Zen teachings about how much more important it was to be focused on the here-and-now and how impatience was a not a virtue.

The thought went away.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sabbatical ... seriously

I haven't played a single game in fourteen days. For me, that's a rather long time.

Part of it was due to increased activities at the office but there was something else; something worth noting.

My desire to improve in skill and in KGS rank was making Go feel more like work rather than a leisurely challenge. It was taking a bit of the fun out of the game and probably wouldn't be helpful if I allowed it to continue. Quite naturally, I gradually stepped away and indulged in other pursuits.

I imagine that some other amateur players may have experienced a point of overload at one time or another. I'm thinking of allowing this sabbatical to continue for a couple more weeks.

Who knows? It might actually be good for my game.