It’s been quite a run of financial snafus recently. We’ve had issues with:
  • Cable bill
  • Car rental
  • Mortgage payment
  • Insurance refunds

As well as a vending machine that took my dollar bill and delivered a package of Starbursts that had decomposed into a gooey slime.

Cable: I’ve already documented the earlier stages of the cable bill fiasco. The latest updates to that tale are:
  • Third and fourth contacts (the last being “executive escalation”) required to resolve issue.
  • Was charged penalty fees for late payments (when money was in their clutches the whole time), service disconnects (that were promised not to happen) and service reconnects (to re-establish the services that weren’t supposed to be disconnected in the first place).
  • All payments to the old account were transferred to the new account – including the one for the closing balance on the old account, which required me to offer up even more $$$ while waiting for confirmation of the extreme ($600+) credit balance on the new account.

I ended up using a profane expression (“This is bullshit”) out of frustration in one of my chat sessions with a cable rep. As soon as I hit “send” I typed my apology and told her she could go ahead and disconnect my chat session since I’d used a profanity. Sure enough, she launched a template response admonishing me for my use of such language and asking me to keep a civil tone. I typed back saying I’d already authorized the disconnect so why threaten me with that action? It’s like saying, “You can’t quit — I’m firing you!” She disconnected the chat session.

Car: I won’t mention the name of the car rental company since technically I’m one of their employees, albeit in another division. The rental car was A VISion of sleek styling and ran well during a weekend trip. I returned it early Monday morning and, after many keystrokes and mouse clicks, the desk clerk was able to print out a receipt with a final balance due of $79 and change. So imagine my surprise when I logged into my bank account and saw a pending authorization for $3,948.28 (actual figure). That generated a hold against my available credit that was more than the average annual income in some countries. I called the rental company and asked their help in getting the pending auth removed from my card. The agent apologized, recognizing it was a massive error, and offered to set up a three-way call with the bank right on the spot. She put me on hold while dialing the bank and navigating through its phone system to reach customer service. She brought me on the line after confirming my account information, when the call suddenly disconnected. I wasn’t on with either the rental company or the bank – just dead air. I expected the rental agent to call back. I waited… and waited… No return call, no email notification, no follow-up – nuttin’. Why is it in situations like this you don’t get the option of submitting a satisfaction survey?
Mortgage: The mortgage payment is auto-debited from our checking account the first of each month. It was time for the October payment, and the mortgage company is very good about sending out an email a few days in advance to remind you to check your available balance. We were all set – until I saw that there were TWO mortgage payments being processed at the same time. I went to the mortgage company’s website and was greeted with a message – “We are currently experiencing technical issues with loan payments. We appreciate your patience while we are working to resolve these issues.” Why do I have this sickening feeling that an excessive sum is going to be removed “accidentally” from my checking account and it will take 3 – 7 business days to replace it? Just long enough for our rent check to bounce in the interim?
  • [Since I first wrote the above paragraph, here’s what’s happened: the double-payment resulted in an overdraft fee with our bank. The overdraft was charged when our balance dropped below $0 due to the duplicate mortgage payment being processed. The bank immediately refunded that fee upon my request, due to the circumstances. The mortgage company then returned the funds for BOTH mortgage payments to our account balance and has yet to again withdraw for the current month’s payment. I’m waiting to see if I’m now dinged for “missing” a payment or have been given a gift.]

Insurance: On the day we moved this summer, I realized I’d never contacted the insurance company to have our renters’ policy transferred to the new address. Since I was already in a sitting position due to heat stroke (you may recall it was 99 degrees on the day we moved), I called and got a very nice young man who would handle the transfer. He noticed we also had auto insurance with the company and mentioned there might be a “slight” increase in the premium based on our new address. That “slight” increase turned out to be in excess of $500. After emailing our agent to ask for his suggestions to reduce the premium — and not getting a response after three days – I decided “Flo” of TV fame might be able to help. I got a much better quote from the new insurance company and submitted all the required documentation to get the renters’ and auto policies moved over immediately. The new company said they would contact the old company about the pro-rated refund of our cancelled policy’s premium. Three weeks later I got a check with a sizable portion of the anticipated amount deducted for the “increase” due to the move to the higher-risk zipcode. For a car that had been covered by them in that new, more-dangerous neighborhood… for three days. Lesson learned – when the insurance company gives you lemons, reject their offer of lemonade because they’ll just continue to put the squeeze on you.

Please don’t think we’re crying poverty or hard times here — we’re quite fortunate to be solidly middle-class, generally prudent with our money. We drive a ten-year-old car, shop at discount clothing stores, wait for sales for most big-ticket purchases, and limit our indulgences to extra pizza toppings. Compared to all the folks who are currently trying to make it through the government shutdown with no pay at all and must be truly worried about making ends meet, our complaints are transitory and ephemeral and will soon melt away — just as my package of Starbursts did, so let me get started on my letter of outrage to the president of the vending machine company about that bullshit.