Memories with Richard Bleil
This has been an annoying day. I have two cards that are no longer valid, both of them having expired, and neither of which I’ve received a replacement. Okay, the main one is probably my own fault. I have a habit of not reading my mail as I should, so they may have sent it and it ended up getting lost in the shuffle. None the less, I called them, and their automated system to “help” was just awful. It was convoluted, slow, and ended up bringing me around to half a dozen places and two live operators until I finally got to the right place. It took at least five times longer than it should have. But the second was worse.
The second is actually a gift card that I received for participating in the Covid vaccine study. Yes, a gift card that I received for putting my own life in jeopardy to protect others. I didn’t do it for the gift card, and I rarely use it, so I have well over a thousand dollars that I’ve accumulated thirty dollars at a time. They told me that they didn’t send me a new card because they didn’t have my updated address information, despite the fact that I had to give them my address to verify my identity. Yeah, read that again. I’ll wait. But apparently there was a process, so I couldn’t give them the updated information over the phone. Yeah, I’ll wait again. Instead, I have to go back to the clinic, ask THEM to issue me a new card (although I already have spoken with them about this outdated card and they told me to call the card company), and then call the card company back and have the transfer the outstanding balance to the new card that will take about a week to do.
I’m beginning to think that financial institutions put roadblocks in our way just so they can keep our money even if only a little bit longer. It’s not the first time policies like this have conspired against me. Some years ago, I was in Indiana with a post-doctoral student, which is basically like a paid research internship. It’s very low paying, so every month, I paid my bills all at once when I received my paycheck, not when the bills were actually due. Some six or seven months into the position, I started getting phone calls about not making this month’s pay. Of course, I had, but then it occurred to me.
As it turns out, the post office lost my entire batch of checks. That means I had to go to the bank, and cancel them, which cost a fee for each and every check. Then I had to re-issue the checks, and pay, of course, the corresponding late fees. All coming out of my own pocket.
Some months later, I left that position for my first actual teaching gig in Ohio. I closed out my lease, paid the final balance on all of my utilities and moved. The bank was just a small local Savings and Loan, and I only had maybe thirty or forty dollars in it, so I didn’t even bother closing it out. I had done it before and had this romantic notion of having little piles of money left behind me everywhere that I had lived.
Roughly thirteen months after the post office lost my checks, I started getting calls from credit companies regarding my returned checks. As it turns out, the post office found those checks, and delivered them. Now I was having returned check fees to deal with, when I hadn’t even mailed out any recent checks.
My bank had two policies that ganged up on me. First, many banks won’t honor checks that are over twelve months old. This one did, so when they started paying them, of course there wasn’t enough money to cover them all. What’s more, by policy, check cancellations, at that bank, were only valid for twelve months. If I wanted them to remain canceled, I had to go and re-cancel them, paying, of course, additional cancellation fees.
Here’s the kicker though, and this still blows my mind. One of the first checks to reach its destination was to my power company. You know, the power company where I had closed my account and paid off the final balance. On receiving the check, they re-opened my account, just so they could deposit the check for money that I did not owe them. As it turns out, there was enough money left in the account to cover that check, so a few weeks later, I received a “bill” from the utilities company in another state on an account that I had close delivered to my new address in my new state. The “bill” had a negative amount due, saying I owed negative twenty some odd dollars to them.
I’d seen something like this in overpaid credit bills. I figured the same thing would happen. I’d get a few bills, every month, with this negative balance until finally somebody manages to pull their head out for some air and send me a refund check. Nope. Not this time. A month after getting the bill with a negative balance, I received a new bill that said, since I missed the previous payment, I now owe them fifty some odd dollars. They flipped the sign and added a penalty fee.
To this day, there’s a utility company in Indiana that believes that I still owe them money.