“Thank you for calling **Shiny’s Homeowners’ Association’s Management Company** — this is Lauren. How many I help you?”
I gave Lauren my name and my account number from the billing statement which was sitting right in front of me. She put me on hold for the greater part of “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie before coming back. She verified who I was and the last four digits of my social security number.
“And how can I help you today, Mr. ** bungled pronunciation of my last name, the very same one I had already mentioned no fewer than three times ** ?”
I asked her to look at the account. My beef was with a late payment charge of $10 added to my statement. You see, we pay x dollars monthly to the association to maintain the general townhouse community. No problem with that; they’re usually not bad with keeping the area looking good, replacing sidewalks and brickwork, landscaping, etc. We have up to the 15th of the month to pay this. Fortunately for me, I have this set up automatically through my bank to send a check on the first of the month.
The statement shows that the March 2008 check was posted to my account on March 12.
It also shows that my February 2008 check was posted to my account on March 12. Hence the late fee. I have to admit that I’m not as anal as I should be to check when a check clears; my February check (again, issued by the bank) was processed back by the bank on March 20.
Is it possible that the checks were actually received on the same day? Perhaps. But something was a bit fishy. I asked if there was any way to tell exactly when they were received.
“If it says March 12 on your statement, that’s when we received the check. March 12. Maybe your bank didn’t send it right away.”
Maybe. But I haven’t had a problem with them in the seven years I’ve been doing this. The bank usually knows what it’s doing.
“Besides,” she adds, “If it’s an electronic payment then we receive it electronically. And since it says March 12 on your statement, that’s when we received it.” No need to check any other sources, of course. If it’s on my bill it must be true.
I thanked her and made an online inquiry with my bank. This is a rather large, national bank that has been criticized for its customer service issues recently. However, within 20 minutes I received a call from Ava, a specialist at the bank. She was already on the phone with my homeowners’ association, and they refused to talk with her without me on the line. Could I join the call?
So I did. We spoke to another rep at the Association. Ava mentioned to her that the check had been mailed — not electronically transferred, but mailed — to their office on January 28. It’s the same procedure they’ve had for the past seven years.
“Well, the check must have gotten lost in the mail…”
No, genius. Checks that get lost in the mail stay lost. They don’t magically appear on the exact same day that the next month’s check comes in.
“And besides — you’re not doing it right. Your bank shouldn’t be sending us money for an electronic payment. We need to have your bank account information so we can withdraw funds automatically…”
Oh — and then apparently the check may have been misrouted because the account number I provided to the bank was wrong. This was the same account number provided on the past 80 checks. Nice try.
“Well, I can’t waive that fee. You’ll need to send a request to the board of directors so they can discuss it at their next meeting…”
Why. Because of an error obviously made on your side?
Ava from the bank was wonderful at keeping everything on target. We discovered that the bookkeepers were the ones with the answers rather than the frontline phone answerers. When we asked to speak to one of their bookkeepers we were told to call back because it was lunchtime and none were available. Ava mentioned to me that she would call back in an hour.
She did. I received an email from her saying that she had tried calling and she couldn’t get through to anyone. She would try back in two hours.
I tried my beloved management company again. I spoke with Lauren again — and I tried to refresh her memory as to what the issue was after she took my vitals and put me on hold. This time it was “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx. And the beginning of “Suddenly I See” by K.T. Tunstall. It was as if her mind was cleansed completely of the previous exchange. I asked if I could speak to a bookkeeper to help me out.
“Oh, you don’t need to speak with a bookkeeper. I can help you.”
Um, no. You’ve helped enough, thanks. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Suddenly a bookkeeper named Teresa was looking forward to talking with me.
Teresa looked at the account quickly. Paused. Said “this isn’t right.” Waived the $10 late fee. Told me a new statement was being sent out in tomorrow’s mail. All in the span of 45 seconds.
I asked if I could call her back directly next week if I needed to follow up.
“Well, you can ask for any of the other bookkeepers. Tomorrow is my last day. I’m sick of this company.”
Yeah. I kind of knew where she was coming from…
So — I’m hoping that this issue has gone away for good. If not, I suppose I can start the whole process over again. Whee! But for now? I’ve got my $10 back. And it feels good.