Posted by: Don Bemis | February 10, 2017

A True Tale

I write fiction for fun.  Profit would be nice, too, but no dice.  Fiction involves something that seems like it could be true, but isn’t.  A phone company did the opposite to me this week.

I received a “large withdrawal” alert from our credit union two days ago, so I asked Lois that evening if she had spent $336.21.  No.  When I called the next morning, they found that the transfer was to a large communications company with whom we have never done business.  I’ll use a fictional name referring to imaginary call centers in Albania, Trinidad, and Tobago.

The credit union asked me to contact the company to see if the problem could be resolved from that end.  Thus began two hours of frustration.

I finally managed to get through the “please press or say” maze, which is harder if you can’t punch in an account number.  The representative was nice, but apologetic.  They couldn’t investigate my case because I didn’t have an account with them.  If I would go to the local Albania Trinidad & Tobago store and open an account, then they could investigate.  And they have some really good offers right now.  Thank you, said I, but no.

I told this to the credit union representative, who asked if there was an e-mail or other address so they could send a report.

Back through the maze, more hold time with bad music, and finally a real person.  You would think I had asked for the CEO’s Social Security number.  “I’m not authorized to give out that information!”  She wouldn’t even take down my routing information so they could track down the problem.  “We can’t give out people’s account information!  We value our customers’ privacy.”

“I don’t WANT anybody’s account information!  I want to give information to track a problem!”

“But you said you wanted information.”

“I want an address that my credit union can contact, not somebody’s account information!”

“So you do want information.  I can’t give information.  It’s your bank’s responsibility to correct the problem, not ours.”

“You are taking money that I have not authorized you to take!  Connect me with the fraud department!”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

She finally relented enough to give the main Albania Trinidad & Tobago number, and I fought my way through another maze and more wretched music.  (Side note:  Is there a science to making music so bad people will hang up?)

“Fraud,” said a detective-sounding voice.

“I want to report an unauthorized transfer of my money to your company.”

“You have the wrong department.”  Before I could argue, he switched me to Accounts Receivable.

So I got to tell the umpteenth person that I didn’t have an account number and never had an account with  Albania Trinidad & Tobago, and …



“Not ever?”


“A landline?”


“Cell phone?”




“Cable TV?”

“I don’t HAVE a TV!”

That stopped her.  What sort of weirdo was I?  Finally she suggested, “We have a good cable offer going on right now.”

She really said that.

That’s when I said a few things about interstate commerce and federal regulators, and hung up.  Then I called the credit union again.  The lady asked, “Can you hold for a couple of minutes?”  A little later, she returned and said they had confirmed the phone company had the  wrong tracking number.  They credited my account and cancelled the transaction.

Yesterday evening, I got another $336.21 alert, but the money stayed put.  The credit union told me this morning that they had put a stop payment order on our friends.  They cautioned me, though, that if our friends changed the transaction number by even a little bit (and some do this), the stop payment wouldn’t notice it.  They recommended closing that checking account, and we have done so.

Full disclosure statement:  Some of the quotes may be off by a few words, but they are otherwise 100% accurate.  After all, this involved close to ten people (I never got the same one twice), it went on over two hours, and I wasn’t recording.  They said they might record, for training purposes.  Maybe I should ask them for copies.



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