Thursday, March 06, 2014

Old Dad Was No Dummy

My father's formal education ended after the fourth grade, yet he had plenty of smarts. He was fluent in two languages, was capable of running a small business well, served his community in many ways, and presided over a successful family (men were in fact the authority figures in most American families in his day).

Dad didn't spout a whole lot of advice about how other people, including his children, should live their lives. I've only carried a handful of his thoughts on my journey. One guideline goes like this, "In any business deal, make sure you hold the money if you can."

That wisdom about putting yourself in the power position has worked for me for a long time. This morning, it came to mind once again.

A computer message advised that the local electric company was about to make its routine monthly charge to my credit card---for $631. My typical bill in winter months is $80 to $90. Yikes! I was on the phone in a hurry. The message said the charge would be made in two days.

Some 15 minutes on hold while various irrelevant recorded messages played gave me time to calm down and assess the situation. Because I had agreed to an automatic credit charge, the company in effect would be holding my money until the situation was resolved. By automating a monthly task to avoid paying a bill with an envelope and postage stamp and to collect a one percent cash-back bonus, I had put the wrong party in control.

When I finally got through to a service rep, I was assured that someone would be out today to reread my meter. "Then what?" I asked.

"The charge to your account probably will be adjusted in about a week."

I asked the rep to cancel my automatic payment authorization and have the corrected bill mailed to me. She reluctantly agreed.

Now I'm in the power position. It will be a cold day in you know where before that company gets a $631 payment from me. Dad would be proud.

5 comments: said...

Good luck. We went through this hassle recently with no good outcome.

Kay said...

This sounds so aggravating. It hasn't happened to us yet, but who knows? I've heard complaints here in Hawaii too. We do pay a lot of our bills electronically. Now you've got me thinking.

Alan G said...

Well thanks for the heads-up!

I am pretty frugal and cautious when it comes to my finances, or so I thought, but admittedly I have never thought about an issue such as you have mentioned. I have all my bills on auto-pay and am so use to seeing the expected charge each month that I have to admit when I get the paper copy in the mail I often don’t even look at it. I just file it and never give it another thought. Not a good idea huh?

Dick Klade said...

I like the convenience of the auto payments. In this case, the good action was to cancel the auto pay before this month's charge went through--as soon as the notice told me something was amiss.

I'll keep a close eye on electric company billings for a couple of months. If things look OK, I'll reinstitute auto pay.

PiedType said...

A fair number of my bills are on autopay, but I can stop the payments at any time. I flatly refuse to authorize automatic withdrawal by any creditor; that's giving up my control and giving it (and my account information) to them. The only exception is my Medicare payment; the company wouldn't accept anything else.