Ineptitude and Fees

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When I took Bill to the VA hospital, after he crashed during the last criterium during the Tour of Kansas City, what surprised me the most was how reasonable they were with just about everything.  They had a lot of rules in place, mainly because they had an emergency room that didn’t accept ambulances or trauma patients.  Bill wasn’t in the VA system at that point, but everyone there understood the situation and bent the rules enough to do what was right.  It was refreshing that people can be self-thinking and do what is right.

When I crashed in Asheville, I went to a walk-in orthopedic place.  For some reason, I didn’t have my insurance card on me and they said they couldn’t see me without a picture of the front and back of my insurance card.  I called Trudi to look in my wallet at the hotel, called my insurance agent, even called the insurance company itself, but no luck.  I finally asked them if I could just pay for the visit and they said sure.  Seems like they would have suggested that initially.

Anyway, the help was super, the doctor and x-ray technicians first-rate.  My credit card was charge $300 to go in and they said they would add or refund the difference after I was done.  I came out with the coded paper and told them I thought I owed them some money.  The receptionist added it up and said that it was $250.60, so she was going to refund $49.40 to my credit card.  I thought that was a deal.

Yesterday I got a bill in the mail for an extra $125.  It looks like it was for the removable cast I have.  That was the only thing that added up to $125.  Anyway, I didn’t feel that was fair.  I paid the full bill at the clinic and didn’t expect another bill, so I called them.

There are a ton of people there that deal with the billing.  My last name begins with a T, so I had to push #7 on my phone.  The lady I talked to say that they must have not added the cast to the billing until after I left and that I owed the money.  I told her that I can’t think of another part of society where you can leave a business after paying in full, then get a bill for more and be expected to pay it.  She agreed that she couldn’t either, but that is how the medical system works.  I disagreed.

I realized that we weren’t going to get anywhere, so I asked her if she had a supervisor and she said she would transfer me.  I had to explain the whole scenario again.  She seemed mixed up whether I had received the cast.  I told her it was on my arm.  So, she asked, what is the problem.

I told her the problem was rebilling me after I’d paid in full.  I used an example if I went in and bought a new car for $20K, paid for it and then three weeks later got a bill for another $10K saying they forgot to add-on the price of engine or something.  And that was the right percentage.  They had billed me another 50% of the amount I paid.  I told her the billing error was their issue and not mine.

Eventually she asked me what I wanted.  I told he I didn’t think I owed the money and that I wanted the bill to disappear.  She abruptly said yes and asked me if I “needed” anything else.  I thanked her and hung up.

I was super surprised that it was resolved so quickly.  It had seemed like it was going the wrong way most of the conversation.

Switch situations, Trudi noticed that she had a $3 charge on her bank statement for statement costs.  I wrote a post about bank charges back in October, about them planning to charge $15 a month for less than 5K in my account.  Anyway, I went to the bank and switched my account to a no fee checking account.

So, I go and look at my statement and there are two $3 charges for December and January.  So, Trudi calls the bank and the woman there explains it is not a fee, but a charge for the printed statement and envelope.  Trudi isn’t too confrontational, so she hung up and then ranted.

The weird thing is right on my statement, the bank uses the wording of fee.   Check out the picture below.  Printed statement fee.  It seems like when I signed up for a no fee checking account that there wouldn’t be any fees.  I guess there is something in the small print that says if you want to actually receive a statement from them about your transactions, that is going to cost you money.

I don’t know how they picked  $3.  Maybe it was the number they thought that people would just accept it and they could reap the profit.  Multiple that $3 by the 100’s of thousand of customers they have and it adds up to a nice tidy sum.  That is every month.   The woman told Trudi that all the banks are doing this, so good luck on finding one that doesn’t.   I’m wondering if eventually they are going to add-on an electricity usage fee or maybe a bought a new copy machine fee, etc.

I’m sick of this nickel and diming always.  It seems devious.  And one of the last things you want from the place you keep your money is dishonesty.  I guess banks don’t really care whether you like them or not anymore.  We used to be able to shop with our feet, but after we tie our bank accounts to auto-pay for so many other bills, it becomes a real ordeal trying to switch banks. And they know that.

I’m wondering when real service is going to return to society.  I’ve never had a bank charge removed from my account.  Vincent banks at the same bank had he said they do it all the time for him.  The only explanation can be whether they want his business more than mine.  I think they do.  I’m going to try to get my $6 back, plus Trudi’s, but realize it is a waste of time, but it is the principal.

This is happening to all of us from all sides.  Our cell phone bills getting small charges continually added, our cable bills, every bill seems socomplicated, thus easier to hide these charges that even the employees of the businesses think are ridiculous and dishonest.

I think that eventually this has to swing back to when I was young and people prided themselves by providing great service.  That people will be reasonable when there are “rules” in place, but know that they are unreasonable.   What happened to the saying, “The customer is always right”?  I’m not saying that should always be the case, but if that is the starting point of the relationship, then I believe that both the customer and businesses will be happier with each other.



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14 thoughts on “Ineptitude and Fees

  1. momm77

    I actually had a surprisingly good experience with a credit card company this week. My credit card was used at a WalMart in Sacramento, California, Tuesday night. (I live in Missouri.) The credit card company immediately began texting and emailing me to get me to contact them. I contacted them Wednesday morning, my card was immediately cancelled and they sent me another, which I received by noon Thursday. Today they sent me an e-mail to remind me to add my new card to all automatic charges I have and even listed the vendors. It’s like having a mom to look after me. 🙂

    1. Todd

      The other night I was buying a pair of shoes on and my CC was declined. A few seconds later I received a text from Citi Bank asking if I was trying to make a purchase. All I had to do was reply with “Yes” for the all-clear and re submit the order.

      Apparently ordering a shoes at 2am set off a red flag.

  2. Ted

    Steve, I know what your point is about the doctor’s visit – but if you have insurance all you have to do is mail the bill to the insurance company and explain that you did not have your insurance card on you and the medical facility would not accept any other form of id – the insurance company will reimburse you for what you paid. As far as the banking industry I just keep a checking account with really no-fees just to transfer money to Paypal – they are the only people that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee when I use the debit card overseas or even mail order from a foreign company – in 15 years never had a problem and all my transactions are emailed to me – can’t say enough of good things about them.

  3. Shawn

    With banks, often times you will get better service from banks that you have built a relationship with. What I mean by that is a relationship built from actual face to face interactions. Even within the same bank I get better service from the people who see me regularly. This is probably what Vincent has experienced.

  4. rob walker

    I would be careful about contacting your insurance company for reimbursement. Sometimes it works out (for the small stuff) that your bill can be MORE if you use your insurance.

    A friend of mine paid cash for services and his $350 bill was reduced to $185 on the spot (for paying directly). He then contacted his insurance company for reimbursement, and was then presented a bill for an additional $35, because the discount negotiated by the insurance company was not as large as the discount for direct payment by the individual.

    Same with dental. Another friend was presented two options for an emergency root canal. It was out of pocket $1,900 if he used his insurance or $650 if he did not.

  5. devin

    Steve, you just need to be proactive and educated with everyone today, banks, credit cards, insurers, hospitals and not assume they care about you. They don’t, so don’t be offended.

    If you need care and you have a monster deductible like I do, you should know that Section 501(r) of the ACA requires Non-profit hospitals to charge uninsured and underinsured patients the same rate that they charged private insurers or Medicare (rates that are often much lower than the “chargemaster” rates hospitals set as the starting point for negotiating with insurers about how much they will actually accept). Few Non-profit hospitals will offer this to their uninsured and underinsured unsolicited, even though its the law, so you will likely need to educate them.

    With new absurd annual deductibles that we could only use in a catastrophe, we are insured only by definition. Make sure you know where Non-profit hospitals are in your area.

  6. Lionel

    I closed my bank account in November and opened a checking account with a Credit Union. My no fee checking account had morphed over the last 6 years to no longer be free. Now I’m back to free. I keep a spreadsheet that tracks where my auto-payments are and how they’re handled so that I can just go down the list and update everything online, so the move was pretty painless.

  7. Long Shadow Of History

    “I think that eventually this has to swing back to when I was young and people will prided themselves by providing great service.”

    Yah, first we’d have to get rid of all the MBAs….

  8. Krakatoa East of Java

    In “the industry” those who holdout and refuse to go strictly online are called “deadbeats”. I kid you not. Same goes for people who pay their credit card balances in-full each month. Forget the fact that they take your money and lend it to other people (at a profit). These marketers don’t see that. They see your requiring of “actual human service” to be costly to them. Once the technology bar raises and achieves cost savings for them, they see the holdouts as annoying obstacles. Serendipity is not in their vocabulary.

  9. olmowebb

    Steve, I had the same thing happen to me years ago. I had what I thought was a herniated disc in my back. The physician said I should get an MRI to be sure. I went to the MRI location, and discussed the fee, paid it, and had the MRI done. About a month later, I get another bill from the MRI place for an addition $165. No explanation as to why. I called about it, and they gave a runaround reason, and said I had to pay it or it would go to collections. The thing is, if I had know ahead that the cost was so high, I might have declined and gone somewhere else. But once the MRI was done, I can’t return it. Unlike your car example, you can at least return the car if they want to charge more after the fact. It’s more like eating a meal, paying the bill, then going home only to have the restaurant call you to get more money. What are you going to do, throw up and give it back? It’s unethical at least, and fraudulent at worst. Sickening.

  10. VC Slim

    I crashed in a San Antonio crit and was cleaning up in the parking lot when two EMS guys walked by and offered up some bandaging assistance. I was never informed there would be a fee for their service. A couple of weeks later a $75 arrived which I refused to pay.

  11. Peter W. Polack

    The banks, credit card companies, etc. are like drug dealers.

    First, they get you hooked on their drug which in this case is the convenience of electronic banking. Fewer paper statements means increased profit for them, NOT offset expenses; see the difference?

    So they force you into electronic banking and for the poor who perhaps can’t afford that convenience because they don’t carry sufficient minimum balances, they get “fee-d” out of their money.

    It’s not like the banks NEED your deposits. From what I understand, post-recession, the banks are sitting on excess piles of cash they refuse to lend out for banking reasons I don’t understand.

    The consumer is left with a system deliberately designed to make it difficult to get your money back (they hope you give up from frustration). This must be what they teach MBA’s…


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