Saturday, March 9, 2013

We Need To Hear From You

Trey Smith

Expecting a call from Della, I innocently answered the telephone this morning. It turned out not to be Della; it was a representative from USDA. The pleasant sounding woman noted that I was behind on my mortgage payments and quoted the exact amount.
USDA: Will you bring the account up to date today?
Me: No.
USDA: You know this will have an adverse impact on your credit rating.
Me: Yes, I am aware of that.
USDA: So, why won't you make a payment today?
Me: You should know the answer to that question.
USDA: Excuse me?
Me: I'm assuming you are looking at my account on your computer screen.
USDA: Yes, I am.
Me: Well, there should be information from the conversation I had with the last representative of your agency who contacted me that explains our financial situation.
USDA: You've been contacted before about this matter?
Me: Yes.
USDA: I see no indication of this in your record.
At this juncture, I had to lay out all the sordid details again. What is so frustrating is that this represents the 7th time in the last 6 weeks that I have had to do this. Though each USDA rep tells me that the details I share will be noted in my record, the next one I speak with tells me that no such notes are recorded.

For all you anti-government types out there, you will say, "Hah! You see how inefficient government is? This is why we need to shrink it!" But this isn't a "government" problem -- it's a problem of bureaucracy. I have gone through this same scenario countless times with a variety of non-governmental corporate entities.

I realize that there are times when, for whatever reason, information is misplaced or accidentally deleted. Heck, I've written a blog post or two that magically disappeared into the ether. When dealing with computers, these sorts of things will happen from time to time. But it shouldn't happen ALL the time.

When Della and I purchased our first house in Salem, Oregon, we went through this same sort of thing with the mortgage company. Six times they requested the same information and six times we provided it (at about $20 a pop). Each time they demanded this same batch of documents, we would tell them that we either had faxed, mailed or hand-delivered the information to them and each time they swore they had received nothing. On the day after we supposedly had closed on the house and were in the process of moving into, we received an angry communique from them that the whole deal would be off...unless they received the same damn information that we had provided to them 6 TIMES BEFORE.

Even though we had the office manager of their company sign a statement that she had received all of the requested documentation the sixth time we provided it, they still maintained that no such information had ever been received and we had only 4 hours to provide it (yet again). They only stopped this harassment when we threatened legal action.

Why is it that bureaucrats -- both governmental and private sector -- pull these same kinds of shenanigans again and again? The only answer I can figure out is: Because they can. Whether it is a government agency, insurance company or a mortgage broker, they realize that the consumer is their hostage and so a bit of torture makes their boring jobs a lot more fun!

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