Friday, October 01, 2004

Bombs Away

I never do it, but today I did. I dropped the media bomb.

It's tempting for me when dealing with obstinate folks on personal matters, especially financial matters, to casually mention that I'm a member of the media. I don't do it though.

Well, let's say I've almost never done it. I have shown up at the door when some repairman had been called to the house wearing a shirt which happened to have a radio station call letters on it. Once or twice I've left my business card out conspicuously when I've dropped my car off for repairs at an auto mechanic I didn't really trust, but if I'm in a dispute with someone over a bill I have a rule not to mention I'm a broadcaster or make implied threats that I could use my position to damage their reputation.

There are two reasons for, I have a smattering of ethics and secondly, I'm not really that powerful of a guy. I believe if you're going to threaten someone you better be able to back it up. It's not like I'm Mike Wallace, who cares what I think?

Today though, I made a small exception for the folks at Citi Card. I never do it, but today I did. I dropped the media bomb.

These are the people who were charging us 28.7% interest on a credit card until I moved every dime of it off. These are the folks who when I took over the family finances I called first since I had been a customer for 20 or more years and I thought they'd listen to me. These are the heartless money grubbers who wouldn't budge an inch. They didn't care at all about my circumstances, had no plans to change the interest rate, and in fact actually tried to sell me some type of insurance instead. I didn't have a lot of love for them, let's put it that way.

I paid them off, cancelled the account and that was that....until today.

Today I got a bill from Citi Card for 47 bucks which said it was some type of finance charge for the previous balance prior to my paying off the entire balance. It didn't make sense, so I called them. I asked how it was possible that I could be required to pay a finance charge on a card that I had paid off in full weeks ago. The guy I spoke with gave me the same line about it being a finance charge that wasn't included in my final payout total. Maybe I'm dim (no affirmation needed, please) but I still didn't get it.

That's when I dropped the bomb. I said I was a broadcaster and this had sparked my interest enough that I was considering a story on credit card fees and how they worked. I asked if he could send me their policy in writing, along with a written guarantee that my account had been closed and that I also wanted something in writing stating that if I paid the 47 dollars I would not accrue additional finance charges ever again.

I think I only mentioned broadcaster once. I know I never mentioned any radio station or my company. I may have mentioned the words "consumer finance story" but I'm certain that was it.


The next thing I knew I was talking to a very pleasant woman who worked in Public Relations. I was a little startled, but I explained the whole thing again to her. She was extremely polite and seemed genuinely distressed about my 47 dollars. She then promised "a President" would call me back.

I wasn't sure what that meant, but I waited by the phone. No President ever called...not President Bush, not Bill Clinton, not Jimmy Carter, not even Gerald Ford, and I've actually met Gerald Ford...we'd at least have something to talk about although I tend to doubt he'd be interested in my 47 dollars. Then again, he's not exactly in high demand these days.

After a few hours, most of which I spent firing off emails to members of Congress, the FTC, banking commissioners and the like, I decided to start the entire process over again this time vowing not to mention broadcasting at all.

I spoke with another very courteous woman; explained the entire story and began to repeat my request for written confirmation, etc when she stopped me mid-sentence. She said, "Mr. Main didn't anyone call you to tell you they were refunding the 47 dollars?"


She assured me that was the case and I would be receiving written confirmation that the account had been paid in full and closed permanently.

I'm pleased of course, but I'm also a little disturbed by it all.

It seemed too easy.

I suppose dropping bombs probably always seems too easy in retrospect…at least I sort of hope so.