Friday, September 24th, 2010


image of credit cards

The answering machine greeted us with a Bleep! when we finally made it home from the evening commute yesterday. Playing the message, it was a voice we’d never heard before and the guy never identified himself or gave a number to call back. Our mystery caller said he found Tim’s debit card in an ATM and he canceled it, which was a pretty nice thing to do, as opposed to taking it home, logging on to Amazon Dot Com and using it to order one of everything.

That was nice of him was actually the second thought that occurred to me, though. The first was, Any random guy can call a credit card company and cancel a card that’s not theirs? And the answer turns out to be: Yes. Anybody can call the customer service number on the back of a credit card and ask them to cancel it, even if it’s not theirs. We know this with one-hundred percent certainty because we did it, too. Or, to be totally accurate, My Darling B did it, but she’s not above using an angle to implicate me.

After I called Tim to relay the message to him, B called the credit card company’s 1-800 customer service number (we have an account at the same bank) to find out if it was possible for somebody else to cancel a card, because that didn’t make a lot of sense to us. And it still doesn’t. But you can, if you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to smack down somebody who really pisses you off. Just call customer service and tell them you’re what’s his name’s mother and feed them a story about how you got a phone call from a stranger who found your son’s card, then ask if it’s been deactivated and, when they tell you no, it hasn’t been, express grave concern and ask if they’ll deactivate it for you. They’ll do it.

Or maybe just the customer service trainees will. B thought the customer service rep she spoke to sounded as if she hadn’t been on the job too long, and wasn’t sure what she should and shouldn’t do. She accepted B’s story without any evidence and offered to cancel Tim’s card without asking B for any identifying information, or indeed without asking for any information that would positively identify Tim. Is there only one Tim-O out there with a Visa card? It seems as likely there’s some other guy with the same name who couldn’t pay for his coffee and bagel at Starbuck’s this morning, called customer service to find out why and was told his mom canceled his card. I’ll bet the conversation got really weird after that.

Back to our Tim: B canceled his card, then called Tim at home to tell him the stranger who called us didn’t really cancel his card after all, and urged him to call his bank as soon as possible to make sure his account was okay. While they were talking about lost cards and banks and stuff like that, B became a teensy bit confused about his finances. “This is for your account at [NAME REDACTED] bank, right?” she asked him.

“No, it was my [OTHER BANK] debit card,” he answered.

“[EXPLETIVE DELETED],” B gasped. She canceled the wrong card. And the angle she’s going to use to make me an accessory to her mix-up is that I told her Tim closed his deposit accounts at one bank. Where I got that information, I couldn’t tell you. I’m going to blame it on a randomly firing brain cell damaged by sitting in front of the television for six hours every day when I was a kid.

B apologized to Tim, who now has no active bank cards because everyone in Monona except him is calling customer service to cancel them. She offered to front him any amount of cash he needed while he tried to straighten out this mess. Moral of the story: Don’t tell your parents, or anybody else, for that matter, where your money’s on deposit.

How To Cancel Anybody’s Visa Card | 9:34 am CST
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Thursday, April 8th, 2010

This would probably fall under the heading of stuff I shouldn’t write about, but the longer I thought it over the more important I believed it was to share this: Before you call up your banker to bitch him out because you suspect last month’s interest payment on your loan was calculated wrong, get out a pencil and paper and work out what you think the interest due ought to be, because I can guarantee that, whether or not you do, the first question he’s going to ask you is, What amount did you come up with?

“It doesn’t look right” doesn’t amount to much of a complaint. The interest you owe is very quantifiable. They don’t pick a number that looks right. If you think an error has been made, work it out to the last decimal place so you can say exactly what you think it should be, then bring it to someone’s attention.

If you can’t work it out, then you should say so. There’s no shame in that. You should still give them a call, but instead of saying that you think the bank calculated the interest wrong, ask them how they calculated the interest. They’ll be happy to tell you, and once you know how you can check their work.

If you just plain don’t want to figure it out then, believe me, you’re better off not mentioning it to anybody because, if you do, your banker is going to be forced to do the math right before your eyes, and won’t that make you feel like a horse stamping out the answer to the question “What’s two plus two?” He won’t necessarily mean to make you feel that way, but what else is he going to do? You backed him into a corner, pretty much accusing him of mismanaging your money, and he’s going to do everything in his power to show you that he’s not.

looks are deceiving | 8:38 am CST
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