Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kafka and the Existentialism of the Financial World

I tend to be somewhat cavalier about checking bank balances, on line accounts and so on. In God some of us trust, me, I'm a sucker for believing in the innate orderliness of "the system". My faith was dented this week when I discovered that my mortgage company (don't ask which's been sold so many times I'm dizzy) has snuck in yet another charge. Due on the 1st. and up until this month, no penalty as long as you pay by the 16th. Not so anymore. Now, if you pay between the 12th. and 16th. you get zapped a $12.50 fee. With that warning shot over the bows I checked on a couple of my on-line automatic bank withdrawal payments...and guess what? two of them are now imposing a $5.00 transaction fee. I guess the ease with which money flows directly from my account into their account on a given day, come hell or high water, warrants a surcharge. Beats me how they justify it but I'm mad . A phone call produced a Kafka like exchange.
Me: can you explain the reason for this additional charge.
Unknown employee with a name that sounded like Marie Antionette and who declined to spell said name for me: it's because we give you the convenience of paying automatically.
Me: But that benefits the company. It's an automatic deposit.
Madame Defarge: we have to make money someway and because you're never going to be late we can't do late fees. (I swear this is true)
Me: so I'm being charged for paying on time.
Madame Defarge: you can look at it that way if you want to, that's not why we have the program. We consider it a service to the customer.
Me: may I please speak to a supervisor.
Madame Defarge: why, they'll only tell you what I've told you.
Me: (mistakenly thinking a little levity was in order: is this call being recorded for training "porpoises"?
Madame Defarge: I'm putting you on hold....
and I think had I not hung up, I'd still be suspended in that state between the real world and the banking world....that dark, deep outer space where you are constantly lulled into feeling safe.
The moral being is take nothing as given. Check everything. Close friends of mine were the victims of a credit card number stealing scam last week. Some business' they had visited in the past few days obviously copied the card number and all information; info was sent to an outfit in Nevada which makes cards and in a 24 hour time frame, someone had a spending spree that involved one charge of $700 to Victoria's Secrets. Their credit union, sensing something was wrong with the spending pattern, called to verify the final charge. With original card still in his wallet, my friend had no reason to believe anything was wrong. For the foreseeable future, I'm logging into my accounts on a daily basis.
Bemoaning the lack of anything even close to personal banking these days I was reminded of an incident from my wicked youth. First year up at university my parents opened a checking account for me at a local branch in our home town. They promptly left the country for a three year assignment. I received a letter from the branch manager, gently chastising me for over-drawing in a sterling amount equal to about $5.00. He told me that he had personally covered the over-draft but advised me to "remember, as you grow up (I was 19!) that banking is a privilege and good habits are the mark of a successful person; your over-draft, should you continue in this mode, will prove contrary to sound banking practices." Wow, was I told off and he also informed my parents who were mortified.
My partner in Connections For Women, Genny, posted earlier about civic responsibility and jury duty. For the third time I have been told my group is not needed and I have yet to have the chance of serving. I was looking forward to the opportunity. So with an open day ahead of me and the rain falling in buckets, perhaps I should take this opportunity to reconcile bank balances and start looking forward to tax time!

1 comment:

  1. Just learned that one the hard way myself. Got nailed $25 for an online wire transfer after the bank promised there were absolutely no transfer fees to a secondary bank. Only learned about the $25 AFTER I hit the submit button.


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