Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I abhor debt....and I've got a collection agency on my tail!

For the last several weeks I've been playing chase-down-the-invoice with several collection agencies.  It appears that there is an upaid balance on my Sears card and nobody has been able to tell me what the balance is despite the fact that I acknowledge making a purchase last summer on the card.

Ironically it was my screamin' deal purchase I blogged about in July.  Read about my Sears purchase here.

To get this screaming deal I had to use my Sears card.  I have to stop right here and digress.  Chris and I only use one credit card regularly.  We have a joint VISA that collects points and that we pay $150 to renew each year.  When we used to put $100,000 a year on it for the business this made a lot of sense. In three years we've recouped about $2500 of merchandise and accommodations.  We always paid the credit card off each month.  Now that we don't run much through the business and we live more frugally we have decided not to renew this card in a few months.

We apply for an receive department store cards only when doing so nets us a discount.  Usually this happens when you first use the card or on special in store days.  I've probably used my Bay card four times in the last decade, each time getting me 15-20 percent off my purchase.

We used the Sears card many years ago when we bought a side table on clearance.  It took another 50 per cent off the price when we received it.

On my screaming deal day last July I was very excited to get almost 50 per cent of my purchase, even though I had to use my Sears card.  NO PROBLEM!  Except when they looked me up (I didn't have it on me, of course). they said it had expired.  They renewed it for me, issued a temporary card (expiry at the end of August 09) gave me my screamin' deal and sent me on my merry kayaking way (we were headed out on our Bowron Lakes trip shortly following my shopping spree).

In October we started getting calls from Chase bank asking me to call them (no message was left saying why I should call them).  I'd never had calls from them before so I googled them and sure enough, they sell Mastercard.  I got call display for this very reason:  to stop telemarketers from selling me credit cards.  So ,I ignored them, despite the fact they called ALL month.  I was quite gleeful actually.  Serves them right, I thought, to try to bother me in my precious evenings.

In early December I had a very strange message from a woman named Jennifer from a company called A.R.O.  She said she was a bit confused as she thought she was getting Sandra Burkholder's phone number and that she'd even called my father, Gary, to get it.  Was Sandra at this number or was she unrelated to the Newtons?  Our message simply identifies us as Newtons, so occasionally people do get a tad confused when they don't know me.

I figured if she went to that effort, I'd better find out what was going on.

Turns out A.R.O. is a pre-collection company (?) and that my Sears card was in arrears.  It still wasn't making much sense to me so she started rhyming dates off to me.  I finally clued in that she was talking about my July purchase.  And, I realized at the same time, that I had not paid it.

As the little lights were going on in my head I started to shine them on Jennifer.  I never received a replacement card when my temporary card expired.  I also never received a statement from Sears (Chase..ah ha!), and nobody who was leaving messages left any indication that it was my Sears card that was the issue.

I acknowledged that I hadn't paid it and asked her to tell me or send me a statement.  She said she's have the company send another statement and that I should receive it in a week.

In a week's time Jennifer called and left a message saying she hoped I'd paid it because if not the file would be turned over to the "collection" agency (I began to wonder exactly what happens at "post collection"...)

I was started to get a tad irritated and told her that it had not arrived and perhaps somebody could just give me the amount and an address and I would just pay it to get it over with.  But, apparently with privacy laws, this cannot be done!  I told her I was going into Sears Kamloops to pay it there.

On the Tuesday after Christmas I went to Sears Kamloops and asked for Customer Service.  It no longer exists. I tracked down a harried manager, who, because of the holidays, was working on the floor.  The woman offere to call Sears headquarters the next morning and see what she could do.

The next morning she called me and told me because of privacy laws, they wouldn't give her the information.  But she did give me another 1-800 #.  Which I called.  Five times.  Leaving a message with each option's answering machine. The last message wasn't altogether calm and ended with a rather terse, "JUST CALL ME!"  I left several messages with Jennifer telling her what I had done and asked her to call me to suggest what I should do next.

I finally heard from Jennifer (message) on December 30th telling me that if I didn't pay it by December 31st it would not only go to collections but my credit rating would be affected.  In desperation I called Chase and spoke to a lovely woman named Lauren.  In this whole mess she was the first person who admitted it may have been an error in the mailing (even though when the mailing address and phone number were read to me, they were correct).  She put me on hold for some time and came back to tell me that when files get turned over from Chase to a collections company, the file is locked and they can't access it anymore, so SHE couldn't tell me the amount either.  She did try to call the collections company and returned to say that the company was closed from Christmas to January 2nd.  Bleh!

On January 2nd I called the collections company and Jennifer.  Many times.  The last few times were a simple (but not so calm) request to JUST CALL ME!  Finally I googled Sears Canada headquarters and found a press release with Vincent Powers, Corporate Communication along the bottom.  Along with a phone number!  I called Vincent and left a message -- he was on holidays until the 6th but was checking voice messages periodically.

On January 4th I called Jennifer again and actually spoke to her.  I asked if she'd received my six messages and her reply...  Yes she did, she asked the collections company to send me another statement!  I'm very sorry to have to admit that I lost it.  Or in my sister-in-law, Tracey's words, popped my whistle.  I gave her a piece of my mind and demanded to speak to her supervisor.  I'm also sorry to say I rattled her and it probably wasn't fair.  But you know, as I told Jennifer, if she can't help me her job is to get somebody who can and if she's not trained to deal with irate people in her business, then she needs to ask for more authority and more advice on how to resolve issues.  I don't think she cared.  She gave me the number of her supervisor because he was on holiday until the 6th.  (Of course he was).

Miraculously, yesterday Vincent called me and listened to my tale very quietly. He was a textbook example of how I was trained in the PR world to deal with a rattled person.  He said all the right things, asked me to email him the details and promised to get it going.

He did. Today I spoke to Eddie, in the executive office of JPMorgan-Chase and he apologized for the whole mess. He told me to go into Sears Kamloops and ask to use their phones to call him. He would then verify my account with me and with the Sears associates.  He would give me the outstanding amount (no interest or penalties) and I could pay right there.  He even promised to remove anything from my credit rating with the major credit bureaus.  When I told him I couldn't be in Kamloops until Tuesday of next week, he said that he would notify the collections agencies to stop calling me and that paying it next Tuesday would be fine.

I love Eddie.

1 comment:

James H. said...

Ahhh yes... the irony of customer service... for the uninvolved observer it is... quite amusing... happy birthday!