A Thoroughly Unreasonable Request

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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27 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    I’d go with the pay ahead option.
    If they screw it up, it’s their fault,
    and you get the entertainment of Small Claims Court.Report

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    If you’re paying by credit card, why do you care what day DirecTV bills you? You don’t actually have to pay until the due date of your credit card billing cycle, right?Report

    • Because the credit card in this case is actually a debit card. I tend to reserve my credit card use for actual emergencies.

      So your next question is, if I don’t mind having a debit card deduction, why do I have a reservation about a direct withdrawal from my checking account? Because going through a credit card company provides a higher amount of third-party involvement in the event of a billing dispute. Even if the actual degree of that protection is, in fact, slim, it is still psychologically important to me. I feel assured, perhaps irrationally, that Visa will protect me if I can prove there was a billing error on their part.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Then it’s your own fault.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I think his request is reasonable.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @will-truman Knowing your peculiar way of looking at the world, I will take that as a point in my favor.Report

      • Burt,

        I don’t think yours is an unreasonable request, but I think Brandon is onto something. My (admittedly unsolicited) advice is to link payments to a credit card, even if it’s a new card you get just for that purpose (with a low credit limit, say, $500). There may be, of course, the inconvenience of having to write a check (or set up an automatic deduction from your bank account), but I’ve been lucky to have a credit card attached to one of my checking accounts, and my bank lets me just transfer a payment online. In my experience, one has more peace of mind disputing an erroneous credit card charge than an erroneous debit card charge. The former you haven’t paid yet, so it’s a question of whether you’ll pay them something. The latter you already have paid, so it’s a question of whether you’ll get the money back.

        Finally, although I don’t really have evidence to support this, my sense is that for these very reasons, banks are much more diligent about protecting customers’ disputing rights when it’s a credit card purchase (because the bank is more directly on the hook) than they are when it’s a debit card purchase.Report

      • “Because going through a credit card company provides a higher amount of third-party involvement in the event of a billing dispute.”

        That’s true, although it’s usually not Visa or MC, but the bank through which it is issued that manages the disputing process. Also, you can more easily cancel a debit card number (just call and report it missing, and you’ll be issued a new one). That should stop most recurring payments. (Occasionally companies will issue more than one authorization when you sign up for automatic payments against a card. In those cases, possibly, they’d be able to charge one or more extra payment. But even then, you would have a certain amount of disputing rights.)Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Why not establish a bastion account? These days, it’s wise to establish a separate account for online payments.

        I presume your bank is sophisticated enough to allow you to pay a bill on a recurring basis. Just move the DirecTV money into that account on the 5th, when you’re paid and let the inflexible morons at DirecTV pull it on your bill date. Consider money in the bastion account already spent.

        Want to make an online purchase, anywhere you have to put in a VISA four-groups-of-four number cluster, all that vulnerability thus created? First move the money from your regular account into the bastion account, then use that bastion bank account for the purchase. Don’t be using your regular account for that sort of purchase.Report

  3. Miss Mary says:

    I never had any luck with DirecTV. When I left them, I went with a Roku and never looked back.Report

  4. Stillwater says:

    I have Comcast (grrrr) – wait! that’s wrong. I have XFinity (grrrr), and when I opened my account they essentially told me of the billing date for an auto-withdrawal from a debit card masquerading as a credit card. And at the time I signed up, I found it odd that they picked the day on which I was going to give them my money and that I didn’t get to choose it. I didn’t care all that much, tho, so… But I find it even odder now. Strange, in fact.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    This is why I am old school and do all of my bill paying myself.Report

    • That’s a good idea. I hate automatic payments, and when I must do them, I do them through a credit card, which can easily be canceled (the credit card, not the payment). I am VERY wary of doing automatic withdrawals straight from a checking account (from the checking account through a debit card is not much better, but again, the debit card number can be canceled). When I was a bank CSR, I saw many cases of people trying to cancel an automatic payment through some company and the company never processed it. As long as it was a personal (and not business) account, we (the bank) could usually ensure the money be refunded. But what a hassle!Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Who requires automatic payments? I’ve always been given it as an option but declined.Report

      • NewDealer,

        I’m not sure of any servicers that require automatic payments, although some probably do. However, a lot do give incentives (e.g., discounts) or disincentives for using online payments (convenience fees), and simply mailing a payment is less convenient (and less expeditious) than online payments.

        What I’m talking about here is not persons being required to make online payments. Rather, I’m talking about persons who once made online payments and then decide to discontinue them. It can be hard to do, especially when it’s done as an ACH/EFT and not as a debit/credit card transaction.Report

      • I used to take calls for a satellite company that required automatic payments if your credit score was below a certain amount.

        Then, of course, there’s my old power company which thought it was cool to charge me extra for making automatic payments on the basis of a convenience fee.Report

  6. When I was a bank CSR (inbound call center), and customers had a difficult to resolve problem, I would give them my full name, my extension, and, when necessary, even the hours I would be in, so that they would have a contact person. I thought I was giving good customer service, and generally, my bosses gave me good reviews and regular raises, even though I was always on what they called the “high fee refunder list” (something they used to shame employees who refunded too many overdraft fees).

    I realize now (10 years after I quit that job) that my way of doing things was not exactly what the company wanted. They wanted customers to be able to call 24 hours a day and speak to anybody, not a special contact person. Still, I like to think that customers appreciated the fact that I would take responsibility. Of course, there were always some cases where I couldn’t help customers. (For some reason, that bank did a very poor job at protecting people who, for example, lost their debit card when traveling in a state where there were no bank branches. We had few rush-order options.)Report

    • I think that a customer service representative who actually cares about the customer walking away from the transaction feeling like she’s received service is doing the job well and ought to be rewarded.Report

      • Thanks, Burt, and for what it’s worth, my immediate supervisors recognized that and rewarded my services.

        However, I will say that there plenty of times when I was the passive aggressive bureaucrat when I had a customer who I thought was rude. I still helped them (with one exception), but I played the passive aggressive thing. I realize that the problem, in retrospect, is that someone who seems “rude” is usually (with rare exceptions) not rude per se, but just very concerned (and legitimately concerned) about their money, and are frustrated or don’t know how things work.

        If I ever do bank CSR’ing again, I’ll try to keep that in mind.Report

  7. Damon says:

    I don’t care what the first or second line CR says. Ask to speak to “customer retention”. Tell them.

    Side note: My cell phone was being billed to me with a different state tax (higher) than my current state. The reason is complicated, which I’ll not go into. I called and got that fixed, finally, and then asked for a credit for the difference between what I should have been taxed vs what I was actually taxed. The response was “we can’t do that as the tax is automatically calcuated”. I told the CR guy that that was BS, that I’d done similiar things, that it was simple. Separately calcuate the correct state tax on the last 3 months billings and compare the tax amount to the amount actually billed. The delta is the credit. When he pushed back I mentioned something about my current state probably wanting THEIR tax money, audits, and such. I don’t know if they ever did what i asked, but i got a 25usd credit on the next month bill and that was close enough for me. 🙂Report

  8. Vikram Bath says:

    I have to admit that you lost me at

    I am paid by my employer on the fifth day of each month. Thus, I would like to have my auto-pay for your bill drawn on the fifth day of each month.

    I don’t really see why that would be advantageous. (Of course, I am making the assumption that you are not living paycheck to paycheck, in which case that might make more sense if this is a bill you want to make sure always gets paid even if it means some other bill doesn’t.)Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      It’s difficult to maintain that I’m living paycheck to paycheck if I have the ability to subscribe to DirecTV in the first place. If money were that tight, there’d be no premium television content in the first place.

      With that said, paying the bills as soon as the money hits the account is a way I have found effective at making sure there aren’t any slips in the fiscal discipline. I don’t trust myself to not spend the money if it’s sitting there idle waiting for a bill to come along and consume it.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        you need better double book accounting then.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I guess I’m not as perfect as you are, Kim.

        But really, why should the reason I want to pay the bill on a particular day of the month matter? Let’s stipulate that the reason I want to pay my bill to X vendor on Y day of the month is the most frivolous one imaginable. So long as I’m not using the change of payment date as a means of not actually paying, it’s a request that the vendor ought to find a way to accommodate.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

        It’s difficult to maintain that I’m living paycheck to paycheck if I have the ability to subscribe to DirecTV in the first place.

        Oh, you’d be surprised. Living paycheck to paycheck merely means that whatever plops into your account gets fully consumed about when your next paycheck arrives. It has little to do with what your actual expenses are going toward.

        Kim is technically right. Double book accounting would be a solution. Somehow, I haven’t really seen many consumer-friendly implementations of it though. Mint, Quicken, and the like do have expense planning options though.

        I have two solutions I might suggest.
        1. Use a checking account that will automatically grab money from a savings account to avoid an overdraft. Some banks offer this.
        2. Mentally reset what you consider your account’s “zero dollar” level. For example mentally map an account balance of $1000 to $0. If you have $1,342 in your account, then you think to yourself that you have $342 in your account and act accordingly. Treat anything that takes you below $1000 as if it were an overdraft. That way, if you are sloppy and spend too much in a month, it might take you below your mental zero, but not below “absolute” zero.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        if by perfect, you mean obsessive-compulsive in ways that make accountants cry, yes, you could say that.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Vikram’s defintion is reasonably close to home, as it turns out. I should have waited eighteen months before buying my house; I should have applied for more scholarships during law school; I should have done X, Y, and Z other things that would have resulted in an easing of financial pressures, and I could do A, B, or C other things that would diminish my lifestyle quality but also ease financial pressures.

        I’m not willing to diminish my lifestyle, so the solution is to increase the money such that these kinds of concerns vanish into a comfortable buffer of working cash resting below the flow. Which is, I think, what Vikram was talking about before with re-setting “mental zero” at $500 or $1,000 objective dollars.

        Apologies for being a little bit high-strung and testy just now. It’s been that kind of a week. I think I should withdraw now and confine myself to seeing if anyone answers the Monday Trivia question correctly.Report