I'm pretty sure that my aunts and uncles held a meeting once and decided that out of all of their millions of nieces and nephews, I was the biggest sucker. I can't figure out how they would have come to that conclusion, but there is no doubt in my mind that they did.
As a result of that meeting, I'm in charge of helping Grandma with her finances. I'm sure that somewhere I have at least one or two, or maybe even 30 cousins who are smarter than me, and who are more capable, but like I said...the aunts and uncles...they must have seen something special in me.
Once a month, or every other month, I make the trek to Fountain Green and I go through the stack of mail that is waiting for me on the desk. I throw 97% of it away...much to Grandma's dismay.
"Noelle, are you sure that's not important?"
I balance the checkbook and I try to pay the bills. It would be easier if Grandma just let me do my job. But she doesn't. In fact, she questions everything I do. It's okay, she's 93 and very stubborn and independent, she's entitled I guess.
Once when I wanted to pay a doctor's bill (a co-pay of $5.00) she wouldn't let me.
"That's not the way we do things in Fountain Green. We usually wait five or six months before we pay the bill."
What can you say to that?
Because I'm not a signer on any of her accounts (I should be, don't you think?) I run into trouble on occasion when I need to call about a bill or a deposit.
Last week Grandma called and told me that Dish Network was charging her for something that she was SURE she didn't owe.
I was sure she did owe it. (The credit card that they were using for her auto-payment had expired. A fact I knew but couldn't get Grandma to understand.)
I told Grandma she had to call Dish Network and authorize me to talk to someone about her account. She did.
I called Dish Network and had this conversation:
Me: "I need to find out the details of a bill you just sent to my grandma. I should be authorized to talk to someone about her account."
The Guy: "Yes, your name is on here. I'm not sure that we can help you however. We need to verify somehow that you are who you say you are."
Me: "And how are you going to do that?"
The Guy: "Well...we can call Lucy and ask her for your birthday and social security number and then if you give us the same info that she does, we'll know it's you."
Me: "That would work IF Lucy knew my birthday and soc. sec. number. She's 93. She's not going to know that information."
And then I gave him Grandma's address, phone number, maiden name, mother's maiden name, account number, etc. They finally agreed to help me.
Me: "Can you tell me what..."
The Guy: "We'll be happy to help you with that."
Me: "How do you know what I need? You wouldn't let me finish my sentence."
And then I explained to The Guy that I knew that the credit card had expired and that Grandma owed for two months of service and I would like to pay the balance.
The Guy: "Would you like to pay that with a credit card?"
Me: "Yes...I have her number right here."
The Guy: "We can't take that credit card information from you. Lucy needs to authorize it."
Me: "Well...chances are that will just confuse her. That's okay, we'll just send a check in the mail."
The Guy: "You do know that a check will take at least 7 to 10 days to get here, and in the mean time more late fees could be added."
Me: "Yes, I do know that but you won't let me pay with a credit card. We'll put a check in the mail."
The Guy: "Before you hang up I'm obligated to tell you that you do have a past due balance with us and we would appreciate that you pay that past due balance now, while we have you on the phone."
Me: "Remember, I tried that. You won't take the credit card number from me. For someone who wants money you make things rather difficult."
The Guy: "I'm not making things difficult. You can pay with a credit card. That's rather simple."
Me: "Right...until I tell you it's Lucy's card and then we'll play this game all over again."
So...I called the operator and found out how to make a conference call (I'm technologically challenged) and then I called Grandma AND Dish Network.
Me: "We'd like to pay a bill with a credit card."
Different Guy: "Great, the amount is ______. There will be a $5.00 service fee for paying with an agent."
Me: "You're telling me that you're going to charge us $5.00 just because we're talking to a live person?"
Different Guy: "Yes."
Me: "Is there a way I can pay this bill without talking to an agent?"
Different Guy: "Yes, I can transfer you over to the automated system." (Why didn't the first guy tell me this?)
Me: "Before you transfer me, can you take the new credit card information so that we can continue with the auto-pay of this bill?"
Different Guy: "No...I can't do that unless the bill is paid in full first."
Grandma says, "Oh good grief. Makes you not want to do business with them doesn't it?"
(She whispered it, I'm sure she thought he wouldn't be able to hear her.)
So I agreed to pay the silly $5.00 fee and then confirmed the auto pay.
Different Guy: "So...I'm just confirming that you would like to set this account up as an auto-pay."
Me: "Only if you can guarantee there aren't going to be any more ridiculous added charges."
Grandma says, "Good...let them have it."
Ha ha ha...you tell them Grandma.
I'm headed to Fountain Green tonight: to throw away more junk mail, to balance the checkbook, and to hear about how much yard work needs to be done. I can't wait.