Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Read The Mail Today, Oh Boy...

Sometimes you get a piece of mail that just makes you laugh out loud while shaking your head. Last night, we received such a piece. But in order to fully appreciate it, we must harken back to the year 2009, otherwise known as The Year We'd All Like To Pretty Much Forget Ever Existed.

In those dark days, the economy was in ruins. Well, it still is, but it at least seems to be trending better. Anyways, in those dark days, layoffs were rampant. New hires, promotions, bonuses and raises were suspended all over the country. People had to get creative when it came to finances, and staying afloat well enough to ride out the current crisis.

That's when, early last year, I launched Operation: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too. In this operation, the goal was to slash $500 out of our normal monthly operating budget, but without giving up anything.

When the operation was over, I managed to cut a little over $400 from our month;y operating budget. The only thing we gave up was our premium cable channels (HBO, Skinemax, Showtime, etc, but we never watched them anyway, except Dexter on Showtime). In fact, we even managed to increase John-John's auto insurance coverage (thanks, Geico!).

The overall savings would've been a little over $500, but for the following incident.

With the Prime down at zero, the easiest way to save money was to refinance our mortgage. We actually had a bidding war between our current mortgage holder and another of the big banks, and I kept playing both sides off the other, until finally our current holder gave us an offer we couldn't refuse. I supplied them with the 8 billion metric tons of paperwork and documentation, swearing we were who we were, and that we made such-and-such a year, and we had the following assets. When it was all over, they quoted a nifty monthly figure, and we met for the closing.

So there we were, Carol and me on one side of the table, the loan officer and her assistant on the other side. They slid over the reams of papers you need to sign and/or initial. One of the more important documents caught me eye...the one that gives you the monthly figure we 'd be paying. And...the last two numbers were transposed. So by way of hypothetical excample, if the figure quoted to us was, say, $1219 a month, the figure on the form said $1291.

Call us thrifty, but that's a significant difference. That's almost $100 a month.

I called it to the pair's attention. They looked at it. Their eyes widened slightly. They took out calculators and began adding numbers. One or the other would leave the conference room, checking on something else or talking to someone else, then return, looking puzzled and slightly embarrassed.

When the checking, rechecking, crunching of numbers, whispered conferences, and furrowed brows were finally over, the bottom line came out: they had screwed up the numbers from the get-go. The figure on the form was the correct one, not the one initially quoted to us. All of the people who had gone over the figures had missed it. All of them. No one double-checked.

Now, some of you may ask why we didn't notice it. But that's not what we're paying these people for. We're paying them to do the work, crunch the numbers, and tell us what we're supposed to pay. That's their job. They know the ins and outs, the costs, the rates, the additions, etc. This is what they do for a living.

I was furious, but I kept it clamped down. I was actually shaking in my chair, with the effort not to explode, then I had to exert a further effort not to visibly shake so much. The loan officer said, in an ostensibly helpful and compromising tone, "You don't have to sign can just withdraw right now, if you want to."

Oh yeah, that'd work. Here we are, weeks of preparation, all the searching for paperwork, the faxing, all of that, plus getting time off from work to do the closing. We're all seated here, the documents are in my hand, we've already paid the appraiser. Yeah. Sure. We're just going to stop right now. No, we were already committed. The die was cast, we crossed the Rubicon, Hannibal crossed the Alps, Stimpy pressed the Big Red Button, choose your metaphor.

"You can yell at me if you want to...", the load officer meekly said, while Carol looked at me with that mixture of compassionate concern ("Are you going to be ok?") and the dread that one gets when one realizes a nuclear bomb is about to explode in their proximity.

I took a deep breath, and let out a shuddering exhale. I was still livid. "No," I said. "Let's just do this. Let's get it over with. We've come too far and done too much to turn back now." And so, accompanied by a chorus of embarrassed profuse apologies from the loan people, we signed.

Here's a handy clue as to when I'm truly angry: I stop talking. Or if I have to talk, it's in clipped, monosyllabic responses. This is for face to face conversations, mind you, not texting/IMs or the like..those latter media by their very nature require brief answers a lot of the time.

We wrapped up the business, got a free pen, they shook our hands, we gave them brief, curt good-byes, they apologized some more, we left the building, got into the car, and there, I exploded with a torrent of curses and invectives that would've made a trucker proud.

So, what does this all have to do with getting the mail yesterday and laughing?

The loan officer and her assistant have quite the company and...they're going into business for themselves! That's right. Lucy and Ethel walked away from the chocolate conveyer belt and decided to open their own business. And the kicker is, it's a company that does what they were doing at the big financial firm! I could see if they had decided to go into business for themselves doing something like opening up a restaurant, or a courier service, or a meth lab, but...this?

So yeah. I had to laugh. Carol did too.

Furthermore, Carol noted that the other ludicrous thing about getting this announcement in the mail was that they sent it to us in the first place. I can guarantee you that the loan officer has not forgotten us or her screw-up. So now, less than a year later, she's sending us this announcement about going into business for herself, oh, and that we should recommend her fledgling business to any real estate people we know? Because that's what her letter told us.


So yeah. I guess this is one of those "Some day you'll look back at this and laugh" moments, and we're laughing now. Although I don't wish ill upon Lucy and Ethel, all I can say is, if our experience is the norm, they won't be in business long.


  1. great story, John. don't you just HATE it when you pay people to do something and they can't even get it right!!!!

  2. Yeah, especially something that important!