Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Nightmare Afternoon

I had big plans for my Friday. After my one morning appointment, I was going to spend the rest of the day plowing through a list of vacation preparation jobs and generally getting all geeked up for my family trip to Hatteras, North Carolina. Instead, some clerk in a skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts set off a series of events that sent my financial life spiraling out of control. I will attempt to write about it here as a form of therapy, since there's nothing else I can do about it, and writing about it is probably a better idea than buying a gun and driving to Boston.

Eight months ago I began work on a sizable life insurance case. Finally, in late June, all of that work was rewarded when I closed the largest such case I had ever written in the 32 years of my business career. I will not name the company through which I placed this business for fear that the simple act of typing their name might very well send me into apoplectic spasms of violence. Suffice it to say that this company was named for a prominent signer of the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the vast majority of companies I deal with, this company does not pay me by way of electronic deposit. Consequently, on Monday the 13th of July, I received by Federal Express, the largest single check of my life and promptly deposited it into my checking account. Knowing how weird banks are about large checks, I waiting a couple days until I saw it appear on my online statement as "ready to access." Then I began writing checks, transferring money to other accounts belonging to my wife and my business, etc..etc..

Imagine my surprise, when yesterday at 12:45, after my appointment had left, I read four e-mails from my bank notifying me that I had bounced four checks and that the largest check of my career had been returned to my back as UNPAID! I made a bee line to my bank to get to the bottom of what was surely a bank error. My helpful bank officer was certain that it was not a bank error, that in fact, the insurance company bearing the name of a signer of the Declaration of Independence had refused to honor their own check. But, no worries, I had overdraft protection, which had kicked in to limit the damage. Only, my overdraft protection had limits and I had exceeded them due to the large nature of this particular deposit. Dazed and confused, I raced back to my office to demand an explanation from the hapless guy who handles the processing of life insurance. After an agonizing two hours, he informed me that a clerk at the home office had made a "clerical error during the processing of my case which had inadvertently caused the case to be backed off the system..." But, not to worry, they have taken full responsibility for their mistake and have agreed to reimburse me for any bank charges that might have resulted from said error and have vowed to overnight me a replacement check by Tuesday of next week at the latest.

I really am a reasonable guy. Yes, I can be volatile. I do have a famous temper that sometimes rears it's ugly head. But, I was so taken aback by the sheer stupidity of this particular screwup, I couldn't even conjure up appropriate rage. I stammered out something about how this was unacceptable, that I was going to be out of town next week on vacation and needed that replacement check to be in the form of an electronic deposit and I needed it to be executed TODAY, not next Tuesday. I was assured that this could be done and not to worry. I took a deep breath and for the first time in three hours felt that I was going to be alright. Little did I know that it was just starting!

Of the dozen or so things on my to do list for Friday, I now only had time to get a haircut. While in the chair at Sortsclips, I get a text from my frantic wife notifying me that while she was standing in line at Martins she had gotten a text from our bank notifying her that all of the money in her account had been liquidated and she now had a ZERO balance. Not only that, but since her name is still on my grown son's account, all of Patrick's money had been removed as well...something about "loss prevention." So now, our friendly clerk in Boston has left my "living paycheck to paycheck" 26 year old son who lives in Nashville with ZERO money in his checking account. Pam immediately launched into Momma Bear mode and heads over to the bank. It's one thing to drain her account, but when you start messing with one of her kids, well now you've got WWIII on your hands. 

I meet her at the bank, still waiting for confirmation from my life processing guy that the replacement money will in fact be electronically transferred today. As we sit across the desk from two of the most helpful bankers in history, the full impact of what has happened begins to dawn on me. For the first time, I become angry. I say nothing. If my guy comes through, all will be well. The call comes. I walk outside into the parking lot where he informs me that the earliest the transfer can be done will be mid-morning on.....Monday.

My Christian faith informs me that anger isn't a sin, but warns that in my anger I should "sin not." Well, I'm pretty sure that the conversation I had in the parking lot of my bank at 5:20 yesterday afternoon failed to meet the Biblical a long shot.

Back inside, the branch manager was scrambling to come up with a way to put a band aid on the situation that could get us through until Monday. The fact that it was a Friday and that I would be out of town next week made a bad situation even worse. Amazingly, she found a way. It involves an old credit card I had with my bank that had a zero balance but a $25000 line of credit. I hadn't used the card in over a year but hadn't cancelled it either. We will be able, over the next two days, to make cash advances to cover the shortfall in all of the accounts affected by this catastrophe. I will have to call my mortgage company to have them submit my house payment again, since it was one of the checks that had bounced. Luckily, I had cashed a couple of smaller checks before all of this barnyard manure had hit the fan, so at least I have enough walking around money to get me through the weekend.

When this is all over I intend to do two things. One, write a letter of accommodation to whoever is the boss of my bank's branch manager. She was a dynamo and worked feverishly and compassionately to fix this for me, way above the call of mere duty. She was professional and take charge and I will always be grateful for her efforts on our behalf. Once I do that, I'm going to get to the bottom of exactly who it was that plunged my Friday into such chaos. I want to know who it was who managed to transform the biggest case of my career into the biggest financial nightmare of my life. 

Then, I'm going to give him or her a call for a full explanation, and this time try harder on the "sin not" thing.