We get this letter from our insurance company. They say they haven’t received payment for this year’s premium, and our policy is going to be cancelled in a couple of weeks.
Only our insurance company is paid by our mortgage company, which holds funds for such in escrow. So I try calling up our mortgage company to ask them why they haven’t made a payment.
It takes some time to get through to an operator, since none of the menu selections have anything to do with escrow or insurance payments. But hitting zero enough times finally gets me a live one, who offers to transfer me. Only he comes back on the line after five minutes of hold time to say that the escrow department is backed up right now, so why doesn’t he give me their phone number so I can call them later directly?
Reasonable enough. Instead of being put on hold, I’m prompted for my account number. I have a mortgage statement in front of me, so I punch it in.
Only the system won’t accept my number. “This number cannot be verified. Please try again.” So I do.
This turns out to be a very tight, closed loop. There are no options, except for entering the account number again. But even though I’m looking at the account number on my statement, apparently I don’t have an account. At one point, a voice suggests I make sure to enter all leading zeros, but I’ve been doing that all along.
Pressing zero doesn’t work, and neither does speaking the word “operator.” I’m not sure why it would, since there have been no suggestions that this is a voice-activated system. Regardless, I’m so frustrated at this point that I swear, at the top of my lungs, into the cell phone. And I’m in the middle of a rather long string of uncharacteristically vile words (many of which I haven’t used since my sheet-rocking days) when an operator comes on the line.
I had read that some telephone systems had been programmed to register stress and anger in a caller’s voice, but I’ve never encountered it before. And I actually felt a little embarrassed. The operator has a hard to understand Indian accent, but however I feel about outsourcing, she doesn’t deserve to listen to that. She seems very eager to help, though, and apologizes multiple times when it takes her a few seconds to locate my information.
She authorizes a payment to my insurance company and confirms they have the correct account number. “Just give it a few days for the payment to go through,” she says.
Only today we have another letter saying the insurance is being terminated—today—because they still haven’t received the payment. So I try calling the mortgage company again, and get in the same account number loop. This time I only try twice before launching into my vulgar tirade.
Magic! It works.
And the woman says, “If you have to call again, don’t enter the final digit of your account number. Skip anything after the dash.”
“It’s not zeros,” I say. “It’s a four.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “Just skip the final number and press pound.”
Anyway, it’s all straightened out. Probably. The check cleared after the final warning letter was sent.
But what really gets me here are three things. First of all, how is your average caller supposed to know not to punch in part of his account number?
Second, When we were approved for this mortgage, it was about eight years ago. We used a local bank, who actually did the full-on credit check, employment verification, etc. We had a local mortgage officer we’d dealt with on two previous deals, and we frequently called her up with questions and received excellent service. Then, as the world proceeded to go crazy, our mortgage was sold four times before landing with Citi Mortgage, a corporation we would never have borrowed from. Each time our note was sold, we went through a nightmare trying to get the escrow department of each new bank to connect with our insurance companies and our municipal tax collectors. It was demeaning and unnecessary.
Finally, and most importantly, what does it mean that the only way to receive service from a massive corporation (and one which holds a great deal of power over you) is to scream profanities into a telephone? It just seems like another failure of decency in culture, when the system demands you act like an asshole in order to be treated like a human being.