Life As Damage Control, or, Why I'm A Grumpy SOB

There are times when it seems like life is 90% cleaning up other people's messes.

As mentioned downblog, we ended up having to replace our air conditioner. Since we have a fairly large house, and I didn't want a unit that would start needing repairs within just a few years, or one that would make our electric bill creep up, we got a top-of-the-line double-compressor 5-ton Trane. About $10,000.

Ouch. Should pay for itself eventually, but still....

I put $2,500 from savings down as a deposit. For the rest, I initially thought of using the home equity credit line from our credit union, but some number crunching revealed that using our Mastercard (which I got a few years ago, when they were still offering very low fixed rates) for the remainder would actually save about $400 in interest (based on a three-year payoff plan). And still leave a couple thousand available for other purchases.

So, when the new a/c was installed, I gave the company the credit card info. Checking online a few days later, though, there was no sign of the charge to the credit card. After a week (!), still no charge.

I call the company. The lady responsible for running the credit card charges had been on vacation. But she was back, and she told me she'd run the charge right away.

Problem solved? Uhhh... no. Checked again yesterday, four days after the phone conversation, and still no charge to the card. Called the lady at the a/c company again.

When she'd submitted the charge, she'd forgotten to deduct the $2500 deposit I'd already paid. Which meant the submitted charge had been for the full $10,000+.

Which was more than the credit limit on that card. Which meant:

1) The charge was not approved.

2) But it wasn't disapproved, either. What the attempted over-limit charge did was kick the transaction over to the "Authorization" division of the credit card company, where an "authorization representative" would determine whether the credit limit should be increased and the charge approved... in about a week.

3) If it had been simply disapproved, the a/c lady (who realized her error after getting the bounceback from the credit card company) could have resubmitted the charge with the correct amount. Which she tried to do. Except...

4) The other automatic result of the over-limit attempt was to place a "Hold" on any further transactions to the account until the "authorization representative" made his decision on whether to allow the incorrect charge to be processed.

5) This also meant that the a/c lady couldn't even cancel the over-limit charge. Which she also tried to do.

6) And this ALSO meant that I couldn't make any OTHER charges to the credit card until the "authorization" guy makes a decision on Monday or Tuesday. Charges for things like... oh, refills for some of Hilde's medications.

I spent about half an hour on the phone with the credit card company yesterday. I must have heard the words "we can't do anything for you" seven or eight times in that half hour.

Apparently, having a transaction sent to the authorization division puts the charge inside of Schrodinger's Box: neither alive or dead, until the authorization rep issues his decision. It can be neither processed, or cancelled. The customer service rep I spoke with couldn't even transfer my call to anyone in the authorization division.

I was not impressed.

Fortunately, the medications I tried to refill aren't any of the absolutely essential ones, and Hilde probably won't run out before I (hopefully) get this mess straightened out next week. (And I could, if absolutely necessary, activate a couple of other cards I've only previously used for their 0% introductory rate to save interest on paying off some earlier debt.)

But still... lots of people order meds online these days. And the customer service rep said I was not, by any means, the only person who's found their credit account frozen by situations like this, or even the only one unable to order urgently needed goods. Which means that eventually, some customer will end up in a world of hurt, in the hospital or worse, because the credit card company's policies don't allow for an error to be corrected in a swift manner. Which means the credit card company will eventually find itself facing a wrongful-harm-or-death lawsuit.

And that's why I'm a grumpy son-of-a-bitch today.

("Idiots!" -- Napoleon Dynamite)

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