Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Don't Mess With Me: I Have Stamps and I'm Not Afraid to Use Them

A couple of years ago, we had our mortgage refinanced. The mortgage company set up our account to hold funds in escrow for our home owner's insurance and our taxes.

A year later, a representative from my insurance company called and politely requested that we remit the $441.00 we owed for our policy.

"Oh," I said, "Our mortgage company is responsible for that payment."

"Oh," she said, "They said they weren't and that we should call you."

"Oh," I said, "Let me call them and get this straightened out."

I called my mortgage company and the customer service representative was unhelpful, but did notice that they failed to withhold the funds. Oops, they said. Sorry. We'll fix that and you'll have to pay the insurance company yourself.

We live on a very tight budget and at the time, I did not have an extra $441.00 lurking in my bank account or my pockets or even under the couch cushions. I can't remember how I managed to scrape together the cash, but I was irked at having to do so.

I used to work in customer service in the correspondence department, and I know a thing or two about writing a compelling letter to a company. I whipped up a complaint letter. I asked that they "make me happy." I demanded an apology and a refund of my $441.00. I did this all in a tone so sweet it could give you a cavity.

Some numbskull called a month or so later. As I recall, I was holding my infant daughter while she cried and he explained to me that there was nothing he could do for me. I said, "Well, let me talk to your supervisor." He left me dangling on hold for a while, then returned and said, "My supervisor says this is our regular procedure and there's nothing we can do."

"Then send my letter to your supervisor and tell her that I want a written response that makes me happy."

I never heard back.

About six months later, I sent a second polite letter, decrying the insurance company's lack of responsiveness, describing my unhappiness. I asked again for $441.00 and an apology. In writing. I am unable to accept phone calls during the day as I am busy taking care of two babies, I wrote.

Soon after, I received a phone call. My annoyance abated when the customer service representative asked for a copy of the $441.00 bill. I mailed it in. And never heard back from them.

Six months later, give or take, I sent another letter, still polite, more insistent, suggesting that I would never be able to refer anyone to this particular insurance company if they did not make me happy. I received a generic response telling me they were researching my issue and that they'd respond within three weeks.

Another six months passed. I wrote yet another letter, attaching my previous letters. This time, I researched the name of the company's president and including a notation at the bottom "cc: President's Name." (I didn't actually send a carbon copy, though--I figured just the idea of him getting a copy would motivate them.)

Yesterday, I received a phone call from the office of the company's president. She explained my problem (as if I were clueless) and said, "So, we could reimburse you the $441.00 from your escrow account, but then you'd have a negative balance in that account."

I said, "NO! I don't want the money to come from MY account. I want the money to come from the company's account to compensate me for my inconvenience. This was not my mistake. This was your mistake."

So, she offered to reimburse half the amount to me.

I agreed. (Now, I think I should have held out for the whole amount.)

Don't mess with this housewife. I have a computer, a printer and a supply of postage stamps and I'm not afraid to use them. If you are a company who crosses me, I will prevail or bug you until I die trying because at some point, composing demand letters highlighting your incompetence and demanding satisfaction becomes a hobby to me. Your "no" only means I need to talk to someone higher in the food chain at your company.

Persistence pays. And so does my mortgage company. Ha.


Blogger Donna said...

Woooowoooowoooo! (ala Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Way to go, Mel! Remind me to never dis you out of any money :)

11:05 AM  
Blogger Darla said...


11:40 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

Wow, you got them to admit a mistake. YOu are Supermom!!!!!

12:04 PM  
Blogger -epm said...

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

-William Congreve

12:30 PM  
Blogger tab said...

hey I have a few issues that you could handle for me!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

You're an inspiration, girl!! That was fantastic. I would have given up somewhere around the second letter. You hung in there and it paid off!

4:06 PM  
Blogger M3 (Mary-Mia) said...

Allright! You rock! A quote for you:

"Victory--a matter of staying power."
~Elbert Hubbard

I also like this Japanese proverb:
"Fall seven times. Stand up eight."

Victory is sweet, isn't it? :-)

4:39 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

The title, alone, cracked me up! Don't mess with the stamp lady, just make her happy. That is some serious perseverance.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Crankenpants said...

Are you going to let us in on the company? I'm dying of curiosity.

This is another reason I hate talking on the phone.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Christi said...

That really irks me that companies can make mistakes, and it's "Oh, deal with it." Now, when you make a mistake, they are all up on your butt every waking minute until they get their money! I'll never understand that! I've had to have that fight, and it is invigorating when you finally get it resolved in your benefit. Go you!

8:47 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

I am so with you in the complaint-letter writing department. I have gotten free dinners, free hotel rooms, you name it.

Good for you for sticking with it, your letters were much nicer than mine. I tend to just go for the polite and nasty from the beginning.

Glad you got at least some of your money back!

10:38 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

*groan* This gave me a post-traumatic flashback to the problems with our own bank/mortgage. Our insurance and property taxes were to be held in escrow, too. The tricky part (for the bank) was that our property consisted of two separate parcels of land, each taxed separately. There was the 1 acre section and the .32 acre section. The property taxes for the .32 section were about $16/a year since there were no structures on that section. Yet twice a year for two years I received a threatening letter from the county offices for non payment of taxes for the smaller parcel. Each time I had to contact the bank, explain the situation, give them the property ID number and then they finally paid it. I finally got fed up and contacted the county to have them combine the parcels into one and we haven't had this problem happen again.

Then one year we were suddenly a month ahead in our mortgage payment. I got confused and thought I'd paid so early that we were a month ahead. I called the bank to make sure - is it true our mortgage really isn't due for another two months? Yes, they said. So we skipped that month's payment. It was Christmas - gifts to buy, and our furnace broke down and had to be replaced. A few months later the bank sent us a notice - we were a month behind in our mortgage! I called and found out that apparently 8 months previously someone had applied SOMEONE ELSES mortgage payment to OURS. No one caught it until a few months after we'd decided to skip a month in payment (thinking that instead of being ahead a month, we'd be right on time each month.)

It took us another four months to come up with enough money to afford two mortgage payments in one month to catch us back up. During those four months we received several threatening letters from the bank. AND IT WAS ALL THEIR FAULT IN THE FIRST PLACE!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Eyes said...

Way to go, Melodee! You did fabulous. I'm damn good at getting things when I deserve it, but I know you beat me here!!

We bought well known named windows and they all came defective. They were installed improperly too!

I fought with them for three years -- and finally won -- out of court -- on my own --without an attorney.

I got our windows for the entire house FOR FREE -- and $$$ for the pain they caused me. It was divine! And now the windows don't even look half bad --- since I didn't pay a penny for them -- and they paid me to install them :)

1:24 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

To satisfy the curiosity, but thwart the search engines . . . the mortgage company was C o u n t r y * w i d e .

Thanks for all the comments!

2:52 PM  
Blogger Catharine said...

Do I really want to own my own home? Hmmmm....

I wonder....


3:58 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

Good for you!!!! What persistence and dilligence! Love the tip to cc:President!

7:33 PM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

You are definately an INTJ... ;-)

10:38 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

Some small part of me had been thinking that you may actually be an INFJ not an INTJ, but this post has completely obliterated any such thoughts.

11:32 PM  

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