Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Too Much Perspective

Comedy is stress with perspective.

A few weeks ago, we paid our quarterly taxes using a credit card so we could save the prerequisite amount of funds owed to Uncle Sam. Due to various fiscal issues, we found we would need a loan to cover the difference and immediately set about at that point filing the paperwork to get a loan from ourselves via our 401k. One would think that securing a secure amount of money from a secure place where the bank would be taking no risk would take almost no time. Not so. With four days left, we were feeling rather nervous about getting hit with the high interest rate for not paying our bill but the check arrived and off we went to the bank.

It was after five, so I used the ATM. No biggie right?




You see, if you deposit a check at a teller, the funds even if they are large, are available sooner. If you deposit a check via an ATM, the funds are held until the check is verified and scanned. Meaning, A deposit on Friday is not looked at until Monday and possibly not scanned until Wednesday. Bill due Monday. Check arrived Friday. We didn’t know this, but we weren’t worried as I intended just to wait for Monday and pay by phone.

Monday, I called my card billing number. I explain that I’d like to pay by phone and give the necessary information to “SET IT UP.”

Thinking about the check, I paused and said, “Wait a minute, let me call my bank on the other line to make sure the check has cleared before we authorize the full amount.” I’d already begun pushing buttons on my home phone. It was then the man said, “I’m sorry, you can’t change the amount. The charge goes through at midnight and once you gave me the information it cannot be rescinded, altered or denied.” and I began to gain perspective.

“But I didn’t say “Yes, that’s my final answer.” Shouldn’t you guys have a “Are you sure you want to do this before you give a warning shot that things can’t be changed?” “When you give the account information, that is tacit approval.” “What about explicit disapproval?” No answer.

“So basically, I’m going to get popped for the overdraft I didn’t yet authorize by you on money I do have which the bank doesn’t want to acknowledge, which will also get me popped by the bank.”

“Yes. But we're not unsympathetic, we’ll wave the late fee.”

After an hour of going round and round including an unpleasant point when I lost it completely and then wondered if the call being recorded would be broadcast on the news. "Woman sobs insanely on the phone for hours..." I finally persuaded him say he'd send an email to the banking department requesting a change. He suggested I call my bank to see if they would release the funds so all would be well. Not seeing an alternative solution, I hung up and called the bank.

Two years ago, I could have gotten a 100K home equity loan from a five minute phone call. Today, I cannot get the bank to link my credit card which THEY issued me to my account without a five day waiting period. It takes longer to get a loan than to gain approval to buy a gun. Meaning if I held them up, I’d get access to my money faster. I also decided spending too much time on hold is not healthy for one's moral compass.

The absurdity of not having access to actual money I had loaned myself so I could pay a bill which as a result would have me overdraft at midnight on funds the bank refused to acknowledge but which I actually had was making my head spin. I finally asked over the phone if the woman could see the absurdity of the situation. Instead of answering, she suggested I call back the credit card place.

Calling the credit card place again, the woman immediately said she’d file a report with the banking department for review. I decided not to complicate matters by saying that had already been done. Instead I asked to speak to the banking department. She said there wasn’t an actual banking department but that my request would be reviewed. I asked who would be the reviewer. She said she didn’t know but she’d filed a report. I asked who got the report she filed. She said she didn’t know but they’d look at it within 48 hours. I said could I talk to one of the people who looks at the reports but isn’t part of the banking department because it doesn’t exist but does the reviewing of the email reports for review because I only had 8 hours with which to work. She said no again. I asked for the supervisor. She said there wasn’t any but I could call back in a few hours to see if my request had been reviewed.

At this point I needed perspective. I called Mom.

She suggested going to the bank where I had a friend. Lugging three children into a place that likes business attire did not sound like fun but it was now 2 o’clock, I’d been at this since 10 and wouldn’t sleep that night if this wasn’t resolved in a way where I felt our assets were secure. The bank has all these signs that say “We’re here to help. To solve problems. Money at the touch of a button, at the end of a phone line.” I signed in to talk to the bank representative.

Clearly shaken by the pre-school set in his office, the man listened to my story and suggested I take my credit card to the teller, take out a cash loan from my card and use that to secure the necessary funds to prevent an overdraft that evening if the credit card made good on its promise. The interest would be 19.9% with a 4% transaction fee on top of that, meaning I could take out another loan on myself for a usury agreement to cover money I actually had until the bank agreed to let it go. “You don’t use a gun but…” I thought to myself and the tiny vindictive part of me was glad that my two girls had gone through three lollipops each and left the wrappers on their carpet. I privately hoped one of the suckers would get stuck to a wall or something. I left the bank and decided to call back the credit card company again.

This time, I got another woman and she said, “There have been several reports about your account. The change was put through.” And just like that, tragedy became comedy. Getting to the school for pick up, I visited with another mother telling her the whole story. She said, “You know, you made my day.” She’d in a hurry to get to her daughter’s pre-school because they charge 5 dollars a minute after the first ten minutes for pick up time and took a corner too quickly. My guess is they’re frustrated bankers. She showed me the side of her mini-van.

“I was worried about 25$.” She said.

The side of her door was crushed in at the bottom and unable to open. “Now, I have about a $2000.00 repair.”

“Did the pre-school still hit you with the fee?”

“No. And so I don’t mind the door as much.”

And I thought about all of it and how laughter is a state of profound grace that allows us to tolerate the intollerable, to endure suffering and struggling, minutia and big things with a poise that otherwise would not be possible.

Next time I'm going to laugh first. It's cheaper and way less stress.


JimmyV said...

Wow! That was awesome, and exactly what I needed with the stress of a new home coming to bear. Have you tried starting your own home business? That's how I deal with stress, adding more and more to the plate.

MightyMom said...

"spending too much time on hold is not healthy for one's moral compass."

ain't that the truth!!!

depending on the music and it's volume that's playing I can become downright homicidal from sitting on hold!!

Anonymous said...

I am laughing, but I am also remembering phone calls to a certain health insurance company about a check that I accidently sent to them, that was not made out to them, that they cashed anyway. When I tried to get it back, they stalled, and stalled. I finally went to the bank, and said someone at this company had fraudently cashed my check. Somehow this did speed up the refund process and the money was returned to us after a two month waiting period. Texas Mom

Rose said...

Our family business got a check from the state of California.....which bounced. No kidding. and our bank charged us $30 to add insult to injury. Amazing.

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