Friday, February 11, 2005

Welcome to Tax Season AKA Hell

Okay, I had to share this with you all. Today was somewhat busy, not too major. Friday's are usually a little bit slower than the rest of the week. Mondays are hell. Everyone is cranky because they've been holding forever (well, they think it's forever. It's more like 20 minutes or so) and dammit, why can't we give them their cost basis?

I've mentioned this before - I work for NABABNA's Stock Transfer Department. It's a nice job and I enjoy it but I have finally realized that there is something out there that may be just as horrible as overdraft calls. I couldn't believe it but it's true. No, seriously.

Imagine, if you will, that you hold stock with a company. We'll say it's Big Business. Well, Big Business doesn't want to keep track of all the people that hold stock so they hire a company to take care of it for them. A transfer agent, if you will. So you have stock and occasionally, you'll get a statement whenever a transaction takes place. Here is an example of what the statement might say.


John F and Mary J Doe JT TEN
111 Don't Have A Clue Drive
Idiotsville, CA 11111

Company of Stock - Big Business

12/11/04 - Purchase of Stock - $500.00 - Number of shares - 5.25

Okay, it's rough but you get the idea, right?

So what do you do if you are John and Mary Doe? You've been getting these statements since 1953, when you first started investing in Teeny Tiny Business which merged with Small Business and changed their name to Somewhat Larger Business and then had a reverse split and spun off Miniscule Business and then took over Little Business and changed their name to Big Business. Well, you throw them away, of course! Why would you keep those statements?

A smart investor knows why you keep these statements. That is because they read the information on the top of the statement in the bold letters that said:


So stock holders go to their tax consultant or try to file their taxes at home and they've been calling us. Calling us until we want to just cry when the battle cry sounds "What's my cost basis?" Because we know we're in for a fight when we explain that a) we're a transfer agent and as a transfer agent we are responsible for providing records and not tax advice and b) hey, guess what, there's going to be a charge for those statements you blithely threw away, 10 or 15 dollars a year. People don't like that. So most of my calls have been people screaming at me. Nothing really exciting. Just "why can't you give me this information?" and "I think the company is responsible for figuring this information out (because yeah, it's in the prospectus that we're going to do your taxes for you. What universe are you living in? I know it's not the one I'm the Queen of)."

But today, I got a call that made me laugh. And I told Keem, who was also having a crappy day and she laughed. So I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy. As always, my comments are in italics.

DM (Me): Thank you for calling Stock Transfer Services. This is Dana. How may I help you?
Little Old Lady (LOL): This is Blahdey Blah Blah (She says this very fast. I can't understand her name at all). Do you need my Social Security Number?
DM: That would be great.

The next thing I hear is, you guessed it, beeps. You may remember the post I did about when old people and automated systems meet.

LOL: Beep boop beep (as she keys in her social security number).
DM: Ma'am. Ma'am, if you enter...
LOL: Bahp beep boap (keeps going. Can't hear me).
DM: (Sighs deeply)
LOL: Beepbeeeeeeep Beep.
DM: Ma'am? I'm sorry but if you enter your Social Security Number into the phone when you're talking to me, I won't receive the information. Would you please provide me with the number?
LOL: Okay.

There is a slight pause. I hear some rustling.

LOL: 4.

I wait for her to continue. There is more rustling. As Keem said, when I was telling her in the car, "Wait! She just entered it into the phone! Did she lose it that quickly?"

There is a long pause. Did she die? What happened to her?

DM: Ma'am?
LOL: Yes?
DM: You were going to give me your Social Security Number.
LOL (indignant): I DID give it to you.
DM: Nooooo, you gave me the number 4.
LOL: Fine. 123-45-6789.

You can see that 4 and her SSN had nothing in common. Oh, except for that one number!

Just a normal day in Hell. Hope you enjoyed your visit.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I might be getting a little jaded...

The lack of customer service stories on this site (at least from me) has to do with the fact that most of my calls are starting to all sound the same. I'm starting to wish for calls from customers with crazy situations.

Believe me, when you tell me that you can't afford to buy diapers for your two-year old and I can see that you're overdrawn because of ATM withdrawals at casinos, strip clubs, and liquor stores, I don't have any sympathy left. I'd be much more sympathetic if you told me the aliens landed and you had to show them a good time or they would abduct your two-year old and that's why you're overdrawn (again). Be creative! If you make us laugh, we might give you a fee or two back. At least it makes it more interesting. If you're going to lie, don't tell the same lie everyone tells ("It's not my fault I spent money I didn't have because your bank is just evil.")

We're not evil. Get a life. We're a bank. We manage accounts for customers. If you want the accessibility of using a debit card to make purchases and withdraw funds and you want to write checks, pay attention to how much money you have. It's not rocket science. It's simple math. There's not even long-division involved!

So tonight I spoke to Mr. Trying-to-Beat-the-Bank (TBB). Here's the highlights of the call:

B (that's me!): Thanks for holding Mr. TBB. My name is Beth and I understand you want to discuss your overdraft fee.
TBB: I can't be overdrawn! I deposited money.
B: I'd be happy to look into this. I see a deposit for today for $100. Is that what you're referring to?
TBB: Yes. I had the money in there.
B: But you made the purchase three days ago.
TBB: But the deposit was a money order.
B: Okay. The negotiability of the item does not change the fact the purchase cleared your account before you put the money in there.
TBB: I've never had this problem before.
B: Mr. TBB, you've been overdrawn 55 times in the last year.
TBB: So?
B: What happened in those situations?
TBB: YOUR bank decided to charge me when I made a deposit.
B: After the purchases?
TBB: That's not the point! The point is that I shouldn't be charged.
B: Mr. TBB, the idea of a deposit account is to have the funds in an account to cover your outstanding items so that when they clear, there's money for them.
TBB: I don't think that's right.
B: If you want an account that you can make the purchases and then pay for them later, that would be a credit account.
TBB: It's a bank error that I got charged. I put the money in there today! You shouldn't charge me.
B: Oh, good Lord. Do you agree with the whole concept of time moving in a forward direction?
TBB: Yes.
B: And you agree that Thursday, February 3 is BEFORE Tuesday, February 8?
TBB: Yes.
B: So it would stand to reason that if you made a purchase on last Thursday and didn't deposit the funds to cover it until today, the money was not in the account when you spent the funds?
TBB: Yes, but you need to reverse my fee.
B: No.
TBB: Why not?
B: You spent money before you had it. That's not our error.

This continues for awhile and he gets really mad. I may have been called some colorful names. Oh, the joys of customer service. He eventually realized I wasn't going to reverse his fee and hung up on me.