Sadly, what you are about to read is a true story. But it keeps Antique Daddy employed and Antique Mommy in new shoes.
The other day as I was paying bills, I noticed that I had a late fee of $15 on one of my credit card statements. $15. That presented a dilemma: Is it better to pay the $15 and go on my merry way figuring I’d blow $15 somewhere along the way sooner or later? Or should I stand on principal and sacrifice what little sanity and free time I had on that particular day to a Visa call center?
I was in kind of an ornery mood and I figured it was worth $15 just to mess with some call center agent. So I called those people who are everywhere you want to be, except perhaps where accounting logic resides.
After spending 20 minutes keying in my credit card number, being transferred, telling some stranger what my mother’s name was before she married my father, being transferred, telling another stranger what the last thing I purchased was, verifying my credit card number that I had already keyed in at least twice before and then getting cut off, calling back in and starting over, I was connected with Jason whom I imagined was a scrubby clean boy with freckles and right out of college with a degree in communications and a minor in philosophy. And it went like this:
Thank you for calling Visa. This is Jason. How may I help you?
Hi Jason. This is Antique Mommy and I’m looking at my credit card statement and I notice I have a late fee of $15.
Yes, ma’am you do.
Well, I didn’t pay late. I always pay the amount due in full and never late. I never pay anything late. Ever Jason. All the labels on the cans in my pantry face forward, and the spoons never mingle with the forks in the silverware drawer. I don’t pay late Jason. Ever.
Well. Um. Okay, well, just a minute. Let me get back to another screen. Okay, I see. Okay, yes, here it is. Yes, you have a $15 late fee.
Yes, Jason, I know I have a late fee, that’s why I’m calling. My question to you is how is it that I have a late fee? I didn’t pay this bill late. In fact I paid it two weeks before it was due.
Um let’s see ma’am. Yes, you paid in January. I see that. And then you paid in February. And then it looks like your March bill you paid two weeks before it was due.
Jason, since I paid early, don’t you think, if anything, that I should have a credit and not a late fee. I didn’t owe anything so I didn’t pay anything.
Well there you go. You didn’t pay your March bill.
Because I didn’t owe anything. You owed me. Technically you owe me $15 because you didn’t pay me on time.
Um…. (click click click…. clickityclickityclick click…) Okay ma’am? Because you are a valued customer (which we all know really means “nutcase”) as a courtesy, I’ll wave the fee this time, but in the future..
Jason, thank you so much. And next time? I promise that the next time I don’t owe anything — as a courtesy — I’ll be sure to not pay anything on time so I won’t get a late fee for not paying what I don’t (click) Jason?…Jason?
Originally published April 2006.