First, a confession. Since WTF, I have been late more than once on paying bills. I’ve even picked up our phone to discover it was dead. So I called Ver!zon on my cell phone and did an electronic check, and they turned it back on. I know it’s not good, but it’s not high on my list of bad things these days, either. Between the days when my hands don’t write well, and the days when my voice doesn’t work, these things happen.
Just before we went on vacation, I called the company with which we have a small home equity loan, because I can never figure out their bills
::tangent:: if I, who am reasonably intelligent and well-educated, can’t figure out their bills and so have been hit with penalties for paying less than the required amount, imagine what is happening to those less intelligent, less educated, less English-speaking customers of that particular major bank::end tangent::
and I didn’t want to be hit with unexpected charges. So I say to the guy, “Just tell me absolutely everything I have to pay, up to and including the current bill, so that we are entirely squared away and I will not see another late charge on this account.” He told me an amount. I asked again (I believe 3 more times) if this would totally get us up to date. I then asked for the next amount coming due, because I was going on vacation and didn’t want to miss a bill, with stopping the mail, etc. He told me. I added that to what I was paying. Done. Paid up to date, plus a month in advance.
When we arrived home from vacation, that bank was calling us about our late bill. I will spare you the excruciating details, and try to give you the short version. In about 8 phone calls, we have been told that the man I spoke to gave me the wrong amount to pay. We have also been told 8 different amounts that we must pay, by those 8 different people. I am refusing to pay any late charges. They are accruing penalties on the penalties because I am stubborn. I told them that this appears to me suspisciously like they are in the practice of keeping people confused about the amount owed, so that they can continue to make money by penalizing people.
The drama continues. We decided to pay the principal and interest charges, as we would, of course, expect to, but to continue to withhold penalty fees, even if this has to get “legal.” Today I took a call from another person at the bank. Rude doesn’t begin to cover it. Usually, when someone in a quick phone call mispronounces my last name, I let it go. Today, I didn’t.
“Mrs. Fair-KILD?” she says.
“It’s FairCHILD,” I offer, pleasantly enough.
“OK, well, Mrs. Fairkild…”
I interrupt, “Fairchild.”
“Fairchild. CH. C-H sound. Not K sound. Fairchild.”
“Yes, well, you pronounce it your way, I’ll pronounce it mine.”
“WHAT did you say?”
“Different people have different ways of pronouncing different words. I pronounce your name FAIRKILD.”
“Then you pronounce it WRONG.” At this point, I started to laugh, very close to hysterically. I could not believe the conversation I was having. “Yes, people do have different ways of pronouncing words, but are you seriously telling me that you will not pronounce my name the way I say it’s pronounced?”
“Different people pronounce MY name in different ways,” she says.
I’m still laughing. “I’m sure that’s true, but, um, the way YOU pronounce it is the CORRECT way . . . Hey, are you recording this?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Thank God. No one would believe me . . .”
We go on. We finally get to the amount she’s telling me to pay, let’s say $250. And I tell her that since that includes $100 in late charges that I am disputing, I will pay $150, but will withhold the other $100 until we resolve the matter with higher-ups.
And then I say to her something similar to what I said to the man on the phone back in July, “Now, I want to make sure I am paying the amount that gets the account up to date. If I pay $150, that gets my account completely up to date, except for the $100 late fees, is that right?”
“No,” she says. “You owe the $150 current charge, plus you owe $100 in late fees.”
Am I on candid freakin’ cameraphone?
“Yes, as I said, $150 gets me up to date, EXCEPT for the $100, that you will still say I owe — I understand that — but $150 gets us up to date EXCEPT for the $100 late charge that we are disputing? Have I understood you correctly?”
“No. You owe $150, PLUS $100 in late fees. You will not be up to date unless you pay $250.”
“Yes, but I’m asking you, because we’ve had so much trouble getting clear answers, and I understand that we’re being recorded, I just want this recorded clearly. I’m telling you that I will pay $150, now due, and that I understand that that gets us up to date EXCEPT for the $100 late charges. I understand that will still show on the account, while we continue to get this worked out . . . ”
“No, that’s not right. You’ll still owe $100.”
Now I’m not quite as sweet as I normally am, “Yea, that’s what EXCEPT means . . . ”
“I won’t let you put words in my mouth!”
Long pause while I consider what Jesus would do. (Not really, but I did decide, after considerable internal struggle, not to verbally disembowel her.) “No. I wouldn’t want to do that. May I please speak to someone else there?”
“Gladly!” And then she puts me on hold for way too long, and I hang up and call back and get a reasonably reasonable person and pay the $150.
Like I need this crap.
Pay your bills. Don’t let this happen to you.