Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Final Payment in Kafka's World: My Story

I sleepily answer the telephone on my nightstand at
8:30 am Friday, September 25 – my day off.

Bank: Hallo. Is this Hessy Rye-no?
Me: That’s Jessie Ray-nor. Just like it’s spelled.
Bank: Yes. Yes. Mrs. Rye-no. This is Its-urg Bank calling.
Can you verify your home address?
Me: Who did you say you are?
Bank: Its-urg Bank. Please verify your place of employment.
Me: Are you saying Pittsburg Bank?
Bank: Yes. Yes. Please verify your home address, place of employment and telephone number.
Me: I don’t have an account with Pittsburg Bank.
Bank: Are you sure, Mrs. Rye-no? What about a car loan?
Me: I sent my final car payment to Fifth Third Bank in July. Oh,
is that what you’re saying – Fifth Third Bank?
Bank: Yes. Yes. Its-urg Bank car loan. You still owe $250.85,
and it’s now past due.
Me: Hold on a minute. I already sent my final payment in July.
It wasn’t even due until August. I’ve been waiting to get my car title from you guys.
Bank: Yes. Yes. Your balance of $250.85 is past due and
there’s a $35 penalty charge.
Me: You’ve got to be joking! I’ve been making my payments
a month in advance for four years. I used the last coupon in the payment booklet.
Bank: Didn’t you get a balance letter?
Me: Obviously not.
Bank: Didn’t you call the bank?
Me: Why would I? I’ve been expecting the bank to send my
title. And I’m not paying any $35 penalty.
Bank: You’ll have to take that up with the Dispute Department,
Mrs. Rye-no.

I dial the number for the Dispute Department.

Me: There seems to be a misunderstanding about my
final payment…
Bank: Did you receive a letter?
Me: Obviously not. Look at my credit history. I’m an
excellent customer. I’ve been making payments a month in advance for four years. Hey, is this going to affect my credit record?
Bank: Not as long as we receive the final payment by
September 25th.
Me: But that’s TODAY! How was I supposed to pay a bill I
didn’t know I owed? And I’m not paying any penalty!
Bank: You’ll have to take that up with the Customer
Service Department, Mrs. Raynor. Call this number and ignore the automated questions. Just push zero twice and you’ll be speaking to a representative.

I follow the directions and nothing "please hold for the next available representative," no music, no nothing. I hang up and try again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again. Again. Again. Ten minutes pass, so I try answering the automated questions.

Bank: Yellow. Tits-ferg Bank
Me: Is this the Collections Department?
Bank: Yes. Yes.
Me: I’ve been trying to reach your Customer Service Department for ten minutes and nothing happens.
Bank: Just call the number and hit zero twice.
Me: I’ve done that and nothing happens.
Bank: You’ll have to take that up with the Dispute Department.

I dial the Dispute Department…again…and explain the situation.

Bank: It sounds like you’re having a bad morning, Mrs. Raynor.
Let me try to dial that number for you.

Minutes pass…

Bank: It’s not working for me either, Mrs. Raynor. Please hang on and I’ll keep trying.

MORE minutes pass…

Bank: Mrs. Raynor, I’m going to try to set up a conference call
with you, me and Customer Service. Maybe we can get through that way. Keep holding please.

MORE and MORE minutes pass…

Bank: I’ve got Joe from Customer Service on the line. Joe, this
is Mrs.Raynor and she needs your help.
Bank: Hello, Mrs. Raynor.
Me: Hello, Joe. I have some questions about my final payment.
Bank: OK – I’m going to hang up in the Dispute Department
now that you and Joe are talking. Have a good day.


Me: Joe? Joe, are you still there? Joe?

I dial the Dispute Department…AGAIN…and explain the situation. I've now spent well over an hour of my life on this.

Bank: It sounds like you’re having a bad morning, Mrs.
Raynor. We’re so sorry. I’ll try to patch you through to Customer Service again
Me: No! Just give them my phone number and have them
call right away. I’ll be sitting here waiting.

Ten more minutes pass…
Ring. Ring.

Bank: This is Customer Service. I hear you’ve been having a
bad morning. Now what’s your problem?
Me: My problem? I think the problem is yours. I never received
a final payment letter about a balance on a car loan that I thought I’d paid off back in July. You’re penalizing me $35. Your Customer Service number doesn’t work. And your collections people can’t pronounce Fifth Third.

It took over two hours before the bank and I came to a resolution. The bank would FAX me the final payment letter, which required a trip to my office (on my day off) to pick up. They promised to waive the penalty and said nothing would happen to my credit record if I got the check in the mail. I did.

I sleepily answer the telephone on my nightstand at
8:00 am Sunday, September 27.

Bank: Rellow. Is this Ressy Reen-rear?
Me: That’s Jessie Ray-nor. Just like it’s spelled. Hey, wait
a minute is this Fifth Third Bank about my car loan? I sent the check.
Bank: Yes. Yes. This is Rits-rurg Bank. Do you have that
check number?
Me: Not right here! I’m in bed! It’s 8 o’clock Sunday morning!
Bank: You don’t have to raise your voice, Mrs. Reen-rear.
Bank: You don’t need to speak to me like that, Mrs. Reen-rear.
Me: That’s right! I don’t need to speak to you at all.


A month later I received a $34.85 check for overpayment of my loan and was told to go to the county government building to get my car title. Franz Kafka himself couldn’t have written a more nightmarish ending.