bunt sign

Monday, November 19, 2001

Today's mail brought one of the more interesting financial come-ons I've seen lately. It was addressed to the Boss, marked "personal and confidential," so of course I opened it. If someone really wanted to send something for his eyes only, they should know his address. He definitely doesn't live at my house (although since the Company pays half the rent, I could hardly turn him away if he asked.) (Shudder.)

It was (big surprise) a guaranteed pre-authorized credit card application. So far, so good. I shred a dozen of those every week. I know how much "guaranteed" and "pre-authorized" mean when a bank finds out how many other revolving credit lines he has, and how high the balances are. If he gets his hands on one of these come-ons, I have to fill out the application for him, even though I know he'll be rejected. So I'm glad most of the banks don't know how to find him.

This one was a little different. After a cursory glance, I realized that I couldn't find the name of the bank. I'm sure it was hidden in the fine print somewhere. There must be a law about that. But even the return envelope was addressed simply to "Approval Department," with a post office box number. I don't know what they're hiding, but their piddly little $3,000 credit line wouldn't have helped us out much anyway unless it was free.

Last month when the bank bounced several of our checks, even though the balance never actually got into the red, they transferred the money in our savings account to cover part of the shortage. "Overdraft protection," it's called. You keep a small balance in savings, and you get a little interest. If the balance gets below a certain minimum level (and "zero" is definitely below that level), you pay a monthly service charge.

So now I have the latest statement for the savings account, showing a negative balance. All the money was transferred to the checking account, leaving nothing to cover the service charge. I don't know if they really expect me to pay the ten dollars, but the interest the account pays isn't enough to make it worth keeping. So I closed the account and asked the bank to reverse the service charge.

I'm also trying to get them to reverse the other overdraft fees that their accounting error caused them to charge us, but so far that hasn't shown up on a statement. The person who promised that he would take care of it is the manager of the local branch. We'll have to see how effective he is in representing us against the mighty power of the Bank that Eats Everything in its Path. I don't think he'll risk getting chewed up himself, just to save a few bucks for one of his customers.

We inherited this bank when it devoured one of the many small local banks that used to stand for service. Now, with this new bigger bank, service means "anything we can charge the customer for."

looking west

Looking past my house at the western sky on a late autumn afternoon.

The new phone bill came today, too. Pacific Bell is now "SBC Pacific Bell Telephone Co." Well, now, that simplifies things, doesn't it? I think they'll still accept a check made out to "Pacific Bell," though.

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