The more things change...

Nothing's different

Ever since moving to Palm Springs, I've had Palm Springs Disposal Services bill my check/debit card. This has always worked flawlessly.

However, I noticed recently that the payment that should have been deducted in early January had apparently never been taken. I called to see what was up.

PSDS: This is Carla, can you hold please?

Me: Sure.

PSDS: How can I help you?

Me: My payment for the first three months of the year seems not to have been taken from my account yet...

PSDS: We no longer debit the cards. We sent out a notice about that last October.

Me: My statement says "Do not pay - Paid by credit card."

PSDS: I know, they forgot to take that off the bills. You can pay your bill online.


pay online

I go to the website, and sure enough there's a button to pay online. I click it, sign-up, and find that the site offers me a choice of signing up for one-time payments or automatic recurring payments.

How is this different? I opt to sign up for automatic payments, fill in all the required information, and click Submit.

PSDS: We're sorry, you must be signed up for online payments to make automatic payments.

Isn't that just what I was trying to do!

Fine. I'll pay my unpaid bill with a one-time payment and worry about the automatic payments later. I click on one-time payment by credit card, fill in exactly the same information, and click Submit.

PSDS: Your payment was accepted.

Now I'm curious. It's always interesting to check out the understanding that system designers have of the world. I go back to automatic payments by credit card, fill in exactly the same information for the third time, and click Submit.

PSDS: Congratulations! You're signed up for automatic payments.


"We no longer debit the cards" turns out to be a complete falsehood. They do debit the cards, exactly the same as before. They were just too lazy to migrate the existing automatic payments to the new system. I guess they prefer telling a falsehood than revealing incompetence or laziness by saying "We do still debit the cards, but our new system makes you sign up for automatic payments all over again."

Being "signed up for online payments" turns out to mean "Before we will let you sign up for automatic payments, you must make a successful one-time payment online." You can't just go directly from not being signed up to being signed up for automatic payments. What that is all about completely escapes me.