I think I need to call Oprah, Suze Orman, and HGTV.
October 2, 2009 | By: Liz
Last night, after days of trying to unravel what appeared to be a case of identity fraud (one of the things that I think must truly be horrific to live through, putting your life back together after someone has stolen your credit-UGH) I discovered that a person at Citi Cards had made my pay-by-phone payment twice. This was not a small payment. I was paying the card balance off in full. This was a day of celebration. This was a day when my husband and I were to begin life anew. We were finally digging out from years of debt related to our infertility, adoptions, unemployment, and me putting every penny my business earned back into my business. Finally we were going to be on better financial ground and the world was rosy. Along with the payment to Citi Cards were payments to other cards and a lot of very nice people who had extended us credit or been very lenient with billing policies to my family. I have been very grateful to those people and they are the ones who had inspired me to give away free contracts to clients who can’t afford legal services, to discount all of my services etc. This was a good day. It was September 24th. Lots and lots of checks were written, lots and lots of bills were paid.
Unebownst to me, however, a woman at Citi Cards processed my payment twice. Now really, when you’re paying that much money to a credit card company there should be mechanisms in place to prevent errors (hey, honey, maybe you should pitch this as a business process idea to your current employer?). A way to make sure that the payment is made once and only once. But, sad for me there is no such mechanism in place currently at Citi Cards and she processed it twice, and that was on top of the payment I had made six days earlier so that my bill wouldn’t be late. For personal reasons I don’t feel comfortable sharing with you how much money was deducted from our bank account but suffice it to say that it covered all of those other checks and was an amount more than alot of people (including me) make in a year. I had a lovely credit on this Citi Card but I didn’t need it. And ironically, this was a card I had been arguing with DH over closing. The interest rate on the card is astronomical (as are all credit card interest rates these days), enough really to make it impossible to use the card without paying it off in full every month. I didn’t want to close the card because I read in one of Suze Orman’s (sp?) books that you shouldn’t close cards, especially cards that you’ve had for years and years (this one dates back to 1990) because it could negatively impact your credit score. So, instead, DH and I agreed that we would put the card away and leave the line open.
Imagine the scene now. A call from the American Bar Association alerted me to the fact that my business credit card was being declined when I was trying to pay for a conference I am speaking at next week. I am booking air travel for four upcoming business trips, and we’ve paid off people who have put our trust in us. I called my business banker who was unable to figure out what was going on. I started making calls to Citi Cards asking what was going on. It took them two days to tell me that a wire transfer to my business card had been rejected. Long story short, two days later, last night after a very LONG day at work, I went online to this particular Citi Card and discovered that it showed I had made this enormous payment. here is the following chain of events: Pause. refresh page. refresh page again. Get Twizzlers, Oreos, Diet Coke. refresh page again. Go online with all other credit cards we had paid on 9/24. Every single one is showing rejected payments or multiple attempts at submitting the payment. Check bank balances in our checking accounts. All were negative balances. Call banks for status check. Eat twizzlers, Oreos, Gulp Diet Coke, and take two Xanax. OMG. I knew this could be resolved. I knew this would be resolved. But seriously. OMG.
I called the Citi Card 800 number on the back of the card that had the multiple payments processed. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I speak with a lovely young woman named “C” who seemed very calm about this (she must have taken more Xanax than I had). I am thinking about potential causes of action I have against Citibank but I too stay calm (years of training as a litigator. The US Atty I worked for doesn’t call me Mighty Mouse without reason!). C seems to think that everything will be okay and they will put the money back into my account and credit me all the late charges and overdraft fees, penalties etc. I have incurred with other lenders and people. I ask how quickly the money will be returned to my account and she tells me 2-4 business days. And that my friends is when I lost it. There were not enough Twizzlers, Oreos, Diet Coke, or Xanax in the Universe to calm me down in that moment. I was not angry. I don’t know what I was.
I asked to speak with a supervisor. I still get 2-4 days. I ask to speak to another supervisor. And another. Finally, I get a very capable, professional, sympathetic vice president on the phone who immediately realizes that her bank made a gigantic mistake for which they could be facing some serious issues. We shall call her Angel (somewhat of an overstatement but it will do. Angel was human enough to tell me exactly what a big F-up this was and that the young woman who had processed the transaction had to be terminated because she was a “threat to the bank.” She told me a lot of other things too but somewhere during this call with Angel — who even gave me her internal Citibank identification number, her personal fax number, a direct dial phone number, spelled her first and last name, and the name of her boss (who is the head of card services — I started to cry. And cry. And cry. This didn’t seem to phase her one bit (I guess a lot of people must be crying on the phone with Angel these days) but more importantly, she heard every reason I was crying and she realized, one human being to another, what this transaction error had done to my life. I will see if the money is truly back in our account TODAY as she promised, but this one person restored my faith in Citibank (at least for a little while) and I am sure in a few days I will have everything corrected and the result we had intended to create on 9/24 will be our reality. And maybe I will even feel good again. Right now I am just horrified with the number of phone calls I have to make today and the number of phone calls I imagine Angel will be receiving from people who need her confirmation that this really happened and I am not making up an excuse like the dog ate my bank card.
I slept fitfully, and awoke to the usual morning chaos of getting little people off to school. My coffee was too strong, my back was killing me, and I realized that something in me had shifted last night. Why had it taken so much effort to correct this problem? Why had getting help from Angel made such a difference for me? Why had I lost it like that?
I looked around my house and realized what a disaster it is. There is clutter everywhere, our furniture doesn’t match, we can never find anything when we are looking for it. The only place in my life that is organized is my office and my knitting. I love both of those things so I pay attention to them. My business coach has helped me tremendously and my office is starting to run smoothly despite the fact that my right arm, Danielle, has taken a leave of absence. But my personal life needs a makeover. I am sad that I have neglected that which meant so much to me a few years ago. The balance has totally shifted and I realize perhaps it has shifted in the wrong direction. I have spent the last 5 years helping other people to the detriment of my family and my home. I know there is a way to find better balance. I know that I don’t have to live with cast off furniture from other people that clash. I can love my home as much as I love my office.
My children don’t lack for attention or love, of that I am sure. But in the process of becoming the Stork Lawyer, I lost ME. My marriage, my home, my financial life, they need a makeover. Do you think Oprah, Suze Orman and HGTV could help? Because as much as I want to restore the balance, I still have to help other people make their family. I am serious, I was watching HGTV a few years ago when I was nursing my daughter, HGTV has a ton of makeover shows right? Oprah may be a stretch but Suze Orman, doesn’t she have clients?? I need help to do this. This is more than I can do alone.
I want my life back. And I want that money back in our bank account today!!!!!!!
p.s. this was not proofed or edited due to time constraints. What was I saying about balance?
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