I'm used to bureaucracy. I'm used to the slow moving wheels of robotic, undertalented staff on all levels. I'm used to getting those "little surprises" in the mail every so often from the government agencies and companies with whom I do business...you know the ones.... the ones that tell you they have suddenly discovered something. In my case, the first of these little surprises (well the first for this series) came from the Gloucester County Virginia Building Permit Office....
It seems that, in late 2011 they suddenly discovered they had no record of a final inspection on a pier I'd had built on my lake property in 2007. Hmmm.... there was only one inspection and it occurred on the day the pier was built, but for reasons unknown to me, they did not manage to record it. In 2011, they issued a notice to me that challenged me to get it inspected and to cease and desist construction on it... my building permit was canceled. OK, whatever. I contacted the appropriate office, using the number provided, assured them it HAD been inspected in 2007 and welcomed them back to reinspect, if that made them happy. A week later they performed the inspection and it passed.... YEAH ME!
A month or so later, the Gloucester County Property Tax folks dropped me a little surprise indicating that my property was now appraised at $2,000 more than they'd had on the books in 2010, due to this unappraised pier. I was, therefore, to pay an additional $11.60 in property taxes for the 2010 tax year...no late fees would be charged and I should make this payment by February 2012.... which I did. I actually went IN PERSON to pay the "supplemental" tax bill. While there, I asked whether I should expect another, similar one for 2011, since it made sense to me that I would owe if for 2011, if I owed it for 2010. They looked at their records and assured me I had paid all taxes they had on their books for me.
A month later, I received another little surprise from the Gloucester County Property Tax folks, this time for the same amount, but for the 2011 tax year.... well, I DID expect that one, even IF I was told differently from the fine folks at the tax office. The new notice indicated I should pay this $11.60 by 7/1/12.
On 6/26/12, I made my way to the tax office to pay the requested amount. Once there, I was informed that I did not actually owe anything... all taxes were up to date. They explained the notice I carried in my hand as, "probably crossed in the mail...." UH HUH.... OK, I left without paying any more and headed home.
On July 11, I received my monthly statement from my mortgager... CAPITAL ONE. Oh, I've heard horror stories about these folks, but I have always imagined that at least PART of the problem was on the consumer's side. Maybe it is. But in my case, Capital One's little surprise was reflected on my mortgage statement. It seems that on 6/13/12 they made a property tax payment to Gloucester County, VA in the amount of $1193.40. OK, fine, we get billed twice a year for property tax and that amount is exactly what I was expecting. However, on 6/19/12, Capital One made a SECOND payment to Gloucester County, VA from my escrow account, in the amount of $1205.00. WHAT? WHY? Now my escrow account showed a negative balance and I KNEW Capitol One would not let me slide with a negative escrow balance.
I immediately called to inquire. I got the famous phone-tree-answering-waste-of-time-press-this-number-if-you-want-to know-something-and-that-number -if-you-want-to-know-something-else.... I played along and was treated to a young man who identified himself as "Collins." Collins, though very polite, was sadly, unable to help me. Rather, he provided me with inaccurate information. According to Collins, the two bills were paid, 6 days apart, because the county website indicated they were both due. He recommended I call the county tax office and assured me they would clear it up. If they'd billed the mortgagor in error, they'd refund the monies overpaid.
Now, I KNEW Collins was wrong, because I get notified on every bill sent to my mortgagor to be paid from my escrow. And I already suspected what had happened. My call to the county tax office confirmed my suspicions.... Capital One had paid the "regular" tax bill, of $1193.40, and then paid the "regular" tax bill, along with the "supplemental" tax bill ($1193.40 + $11.60) six days later. No, the county would not refund the money. Instead, they had simply applied it to the taxes for which I WOULD have been billed in December 2012. Hmmmm... OK.... County Tax folks ASSURED me that neither I, nor my mortgager will receive a tax bill in December. I am paid up until June 2013, when my tax bill will be $1205.00.
Again I called back to Capital One, this time getting a woman who identified herself as Andrea. I explained the situation. I explained my early contact with Collins. I explained my subsequent contact with the county tax office. I expressed my concern over my suspicion that Capital One would reanalyze my escrow account and jack up my payment. Andrea spent a good deal of time working with me on the phone and contacting her supervisor to ensure that the matter would be reanalyzed with the CORRECT information...ie, that there would be NO tax bill due in December, and the June 2013 tax bill would be $1205. Not to worry....I should hear from them in 3-5 business days to assure me the matter was resolved.
Did I hear? Well, no. Not until today, July 30, 2012. I received the next "little surprise" from Capital One. My escrow analysis....AND.... a $200.00 per month payment hike to cover the escrow shortage and the anticipated escrow shortage..... UGH. When I reviewed their analysis, I could see that they got PART of it right. Andrea DID manage to convey to them that there will be no December tax bill. However, they used the total they paid THIS JUNE as the projected payment for the JUNE 2013 tax bill. They analyzed my escrow using $2398.40 as my June 2013 tax payment.
Again I called Capital One. This time the young man identified himself as Joseph. I explained my situation. I asked that he review the notes taken by the customer service folks in my previous calls. I impressed upon him that I need Capital One to fix THEIR error and to get it right BEFORE my next payment is due. I am NOT interested in paying $200 per month more for their error. Yes, I realize that NEXT year, when they do their analysis, they would determine I was way OVER paying and refund me and drop my payment, but that's a year away and I'm not inclined to trust them with any more of my funds than I NEED to. So, after Joseph took all his notes he said he'd send it to the escrow department for reanalysis....ARGHHH.... how about you put me through to someone who can look at this thing right now? Or at least let me speak with a supervisor who could give me SOME assurance that I am not working with "just the latest college intern" on the phone. I mean, these folks are very polite and pleasant and all, but don't they understand that this is THEIR error? Don't they understand THEY should be jumping through hoops to correct it? Don't they understand I AM the customer and they are costing me both TIME and MONEY (not to mention aggravation!)?
So the robotic Joseph asked me, per his script, if there was anything else he could help me with today, and I replied, yes, I needed him to let me speak with his supervisor.....he responded with, "my supervisor is not on the floor (thank goodness! Someone, please help Joseph's supervisor up off the floor!) and that he could give me her voice mail.... well, OK, but how about giving me her CONTACT number so I don't need to go through this very enjoyable (NOT) but time consuming process yet another time (this will make four times calling on this matter.)
Armed with the contact number, I dialed again...but the voice on the recording did not match the name Joseph provided me as his supervisor's....no big deal....the recorded voice assured me that she (not Joseph's supervisor) was on maternity leave and would be able to answer neither calls nor emails.... however, the recorded voice provided yet ANOTHER contact name and number for customer service. So, I gave that a try....SURPRISE, SURPRISE...another voice mail, for another manager. UGH. I left my message and THEN decided to try ONCE more to contact the person who'd at least managed to help me partially -- Andrea.
I dialed the customer service number for the fifth time and, after supplying again ALL of my credentialing information, spoke to yet another representative....I have already forgotten her name...I asked that she put me through to Andrea.... after a few minutes wait, I was informed that Andrea is out of the office today... Oh well.... MAYBE the manager for whom I left voice mail WILL actually call me back in 24-48 hours. Am I holding my breath? Are you kidding? Not a chance.
The "funny" thing is that I'll bet you a dollar, that if I DON'T send the extra $200 in my next mortgage payment, they will be contacting me DAILY!!
Let's just say that Capital One is giving me a CAPITAL HEADACHE!