Thursday, February 09, 2006

Life after death, maybe, but credit cards are forever

This from an e-mail I received earlier today:

A lady died this past January, and her bank billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been $0.00, but now is somewhere around $60.00. A family member placed a call to the bank, eventually reaching someone who denied being a machine:

Family Member: "I am calling to tell you that she died in January."

Bank: "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

Family Member: "Maybe you should turn it over to collections."

Bank: "Since it is two months past due, it already has been."

Family Member: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?"

Bank: "Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!"

Family Member: "Do you think God will be mad at her?"

Bank: "Excuse me?"

Family Member: "Did you just get what I was telling you -- the part about her being dead?"

Bank: "Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor."

So the supervisor gets on the phone.

Family Member: "I'm calling to tell you, she died in January."

Supervisor: "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

Family Member: "You mean you want to collect from her estate?"

Supervisor (stammering now): "Are you her lawyer?"

Family Member: "No, I'm her great nephew. But I'm also a lawyer." (He proceeds to give his professional information.)

Supervisor: "Could you fax us a certificate of death?"

Family Member: "Sure."

The fax number was provided and a death certificate followed in due course. After the death certificate was sent the colloquy resumed:

Supervisor: "Our system just isn't set-up for death. I don't know what more I can do to help."

Family Member: "Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don't think she will care."

Supervisor: "Well, the late fees and charges do still apply."

Family Member: "Would you like her new billing address?"

Supervisor: "That might help."

Family Member: "Village Memorial Cemetery, Highway 119, Plot Number 75." [Name and address changed from original e-mail just in case it might have been an actual address.]

Supervisor: "Sir, that's a cemetery!"

Family Member: "What do you do with dead people on your planet?"

I don't vouch for the verbatim accuracy of this exchange and I've admitted to a couple of edits. But the dialog rings true to me because of my own experience: Even though she passed away nearly six years ago, my late mother still receives new credit cards in the mail. One arrived just a few months back. Last year she received a $20 credit from one card issuer because it noticed that there'd been a lack of activity on her card. The card company was hoping that this little credit would supply an incentive for her to resume shopping.

It didn't work.

My late mother has even had her credit limits increased on a couple of cards (presumably, again, to spur her to greater shopping heights). Now you know that if a dog bites you for no good reason, it's the dog's fault. On the other hand, if you stick your hand in the dog's mouth, or pull the dog's tail, and then the dog bites you, it's your fault, not the dog's. You provoked it.

If I steal a credit card, and use it, surely that would be my fault. But if idiot computers keep sending me credit cards in my late mother's name, at some point, when I go off on a spree, can I claim that I was provoked? I leave you to chew on that one.

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