Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Black and White

Might sound like I'm about to go off on race, but no, this concerns the people who deal with black text on white paper on a daily basis, the immutable laws of "it is written."

When I moved to New York, I had to use a credit card for many of the larger purchases during my move, and absorb some other debts as well. I've made good on my payment plans every month, even throwing in some extra payments when there weren't any due. I've tried diligently to whittle the total debt down with what some might consider meager wages every month.

My credit card's due date this month was on the 17th. A Sunday. Normally, I pay off more than the minimum amount due well before the due day. But, things happen, sometimes you forget, and well...this is where black and white destroys you.

I was online on my computer on the 17th, making good on my payment. I figure, there has to be a timestamp or something that says, "Made payment on 17th," even though it won't be processed until the next day. Today, I noticed a $39 late fee. Now, let me go off on a tangent here and say that $39 isn't anything compared to the sizable remaining amount left on the card. $39 won't be hurting me very much at all. But it really nagged on me that I got the fee in the first place. I mean...I attempted to make the payment on the due date, and to me, that should count for something.

Now, I call the Bank of America automated service which is a pain in the ass. It seems like the automated service never has what you want and it makes you jump through hoops to talk to a person. I feel this is by design. There is, I feel, a purposely misleading set of steps at one point: It says, press 1 for this, press 2 for that, all the way to 4 and then it says, "To end this call, press pound or hang up." It sounds like you've been given all of your options, and it waits an unmerciful amount of time to continue, "Press 5 if you have a disputed charge."

I end up talking to a representative. I know exactly what he's going to say before he even says it. I know that it's impossible for him to realize that I'm not stupid, because he probably deals with stupid people all the time. After this call, I'm pretty sure he feels like he talked to another "stupid customer" because when you deal with black and white, the gray-area circumstances you offer up sound like piffle. Anyway, I tell him I tried to pay the money on the 17th, online, and that I shouldn't be charged. Obvious response: Well, Sunday's not a business day, so when your payment came in on the 18th it was considered late.

Yes, but why is my due date on a Sunday, then? If I can't make the payment somehow on a Sunday, then why is that the due date? I'm told that the due date is the day by when the money should be received, that I should have paid it earlier. I am basically scolded for not paying it earlier.

But this is because he lives in the black and white world. Yes, I admit, I probably should have paid it earlier. But things happen, which isn't computed in the black and white view. Hey, I forgot to pay it earlier. But you know what, black and white should count for this much: I tried to pay it on Sunday, the due date. If a professor tells you the due date for a paper is Friday at such and such a time, you don't think..."Man, I should turn that paper in on Thursday, because by Friday he may not be able to process that I tried to turn in the paper."

Early in the call, I got the late fee cut in half, viewed as "fair" by BOA. But I could not convince the rep that being online on my computer on the 17th trying to make the payment could count for something. I mean, even one day late I'm getting hit with $39. There should be some sort of common sense in the form of intent. I have a good record. I'm not trying to pull wool over anyone's eyes. Had I tried to make the payment on the following Monday and got a late fee, I would have understood. Yep, I was late.

What bothered me most about the call was all the shoulda-coulda-wouldas. I told him I understood all of his scenarios, but my point is, I have a date, I tried to pay it on that date, and because you don't process anything on Sunday, I'm getting penalized. And I was told there once was a grace period, but people took advantage of it. Yeah, OK...but we're talking 1 day here even if I paid the bill on Monday (according to their view, that's exactly what I did. According to my view, I paid the thing on Sunday). 1 freaking day. I'm sure I inconvenienced Bank of America a great deal by my payment coming in 1 day late. I'm not asking for even 2 days of grace period here. If the due date falls on a Sunday, I should have 1 day grace period.

It all sounds really insignificant, a call over $39, and it is in the grand scope of things. But there's right and wrong, and I feel like I was wronged here, whether the black text on white paper disagrees or not.


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