Sometimes It’s Better to Pay Up

You’re being charged a late fee and your outstanding bill is going into collections.

Do you spend several days arguing the mistake someone in charge of your bill has made, or pay up the late fee and entire balance due?

This is the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks back.

The Situation

The Situation

Upon moving to a new town, I sent in a written request to terminate my utilities and send my last bill to my new address (policy promoted by the city).

I have sent many such mail correspondences in the past to pay my utilities, but somehow they failed to receive my request this time. I wonder how many other people have no problems sending money without being lost but receive late fees when their move-out request doesn’t “come through”.

Three months later I receive a notice that my bill has been transferred to collections department with a new fee attached.

Somehow in the process of moving I had forgotten to keep an eye out on the last bill. Despite my carelessness (the lack of which would likely prevent this situation), the last bill was never sent to my new address. I know this because the collection notice I received was forwarded to me by USPS. It was clear my address was never updated in the city’s records.

Who Is At Fault?


I’m part to blame for this, but the city should have been much nicer when I kindly asked them to remove the fee from my account. However, even after explaining nicely what happened, they rudely refused to do anything about it.

The lady on the phone was a total (pardon my language) bitch.

I explained to her that I have every intention of paying the last bill in full right now, but would have nothing to do with an unfairly assessed fee because somehow my mail didn’t make it there.

In all honesty I realize that there may have been mishandling of my letter and that the city might have had nothing to do with lost correspondence. I was even prepared to pay the late fee just to get the ordeal over with. Who can blame me for trying to talk some sense into an account representative and try to negotiate a deal?

I guess she has never heard of that word: negotiation.

Instead, she proceeded to give me an attitude when no hostility has been expressed on my part.

Normally, this sort of behavior from someone who wants my money would result in complete retaliation. I could have insulted the agent, ruin her day, refuse to pay and fight it to the end.

Lucky For Them… Or For Me?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I let the whole thing go.

In one outcome I could raise hell, not pay anything and wait for the matter to go into collections. The city threatened court appearance fees which I could stubbornly put up with. I could fight it to the very end, and stand a pretty good chance at winning.

Or… I could forfeit my stubbornness, accept the fact that it might not be anyone’s fault and let them have it their way. I could pay the bill with the fee and avoid days or weeks of stress that would certainly follow by having this stress on my mind.

I chose the second outcome. The next day everything was paid up. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with the same soul-less wraith this time.

Did I Make the Right Decision?

In retrospect, would the $30 fee be worth the stress of making things right?

Heck no.

The matter could escalate over time with growing fees. My credit score could have been harmed if an outside collections agency got involved. Who knows, there is even a possibility that I’d be forced to take out a payday loan from lenders I work with. Overall it was a clear loss-loss for me. What made it a lesser loss is my action of taking care of the matter quickly.

Sometimes it’s just better to swallow your pride no matter who is at fault, then make right by your obligations.

Have you had anything like this happen to you?



    • I’m just glad it was $30 and not something like $100 or more… Like the time my mom got a ticket even though she shouldn’t have. The cop didn’t see things straight.

    • I was definitely part to blame. I guess most of the fury came from the way the collections person was talking to me. Oh well, best to let things go. She was just probably doing her job of dealing with stressful people on the phone prior to speaking with me.

  1. Yep, I have been in situations like this. I am the type that usually doesn’t mind fighting for what I believe in and what I think is right, but I probably would pay up in this situation since it could have been fault on both sides. I would have liked to go to the place in person and then made a huge scene until I could get a manager or higher up to take care of it. Usually when you make scene, things can get resolved quickly. My mom taught me that one!
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..3 Effective Tips on Personal Financial ManagementMy Profile

    • Come to think of it, I should have done what Pauline suggested and call back another time to see if some other person picks up and has a better attitude. But ultimately, I don’t regret it.

  2. Yes sometimes it’s true just to suck it up and move on. It sounds to me that for the $30 it would have taken more time and effort on your part. When we moved here in Ontario we paid $60 for a 6 month mail re-direct meaning that anything that was addressed to our old address would redirect automatically. Some people don’t use it and decide to contact everyone and give out the new address. For us it was worth the money. Moving can be a pain in the backside behind the scenes. Sometimes just moving is the easy part…
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..A Beginners Guide to Early RetirementMy Profile

    • Hmmm, I wonder if we have that. Is that service from the post office? I should look into that – may be worth saving a headache or two.

  3. It depends on the amount. For a few bucks, I’m not going to rock any boats. But for a larger amount, I’m going to fight tooth and nail. We recently had a creditor come after us for a bill that was actually discharged in my wife’s bankruptcy. For $300, I spent an hour on the phone with 5 different people to get it straightened out.

    I’d do the same way in the other direction. I’ve been undercharged a couple times in my life for things. For $5, I’m not going to bother. But for a larger amount, I will go back and make amends.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..We Got Outta Debt: Book ReviewMy Profile

    • You’re a good guy :) I found 20$ on the ground in Laguna Beach with nobody around to claim it. Had I seen the person drop it they would have it back, but no1 around = I’m keeping it ;)

    • I tried my best to be reasonable with her and not to steam my displeasure of her tone of voice, but she made it so difficult! In hindsight, I should have asked for her supervisor or called back to see if I could get another person on the phone as some have suggested here. Thanks for your comment Jason.

    • Thanks for stopping by Barbara. I’m glad I wrote about it here, as many have made some good suggestions. Overall though, I’m not stressed about it and its Christmas time – glad I let it go.

    • Indeed Marissa. I suppose dealing with many people on a daily bases frustrates them to the point where no matter who they talk to next, some of the stress will be shown.

  4. I would have called back and hoped the same lovely lady doesn’t pick up. Then probably given up. I do that when I call to renew my internet at half price each year, sometimes it is a new guy in training and he doesn’t know that the company does that to retain customers. Talking to someone else takes half the time that fighting that first person. $30 is worth less than your sanity obviously, although it is annoying to deal with narrow minded people.
    Pauline recently posted..How much do you spend on gifts?My Profile

  5. Pingback: Frugal Friday: Posts That Ruled This Week, the Clark W. Griswold Edition - Frugal Rules

  6. Pingback: Link Love: Christmas is Almost Here Edition! « the random path

    • That’s partially why I didn’t feel like fighting it to the end. It’s quite possible the mail got lost or I wrote down the wrong address or something / forgot the stamp. It’s also my fault for not remembering to check into the matter after moving. That’s one extra thing to add to my moving checklist: don’t forget to track pending last bills to make sure they go through!

      Thanks for your comments CF.

    • You’re right, I should have done that. Thanks for your tip, I will keep it in mind for the next time! (Hopefully there is no next time lol).

  7. Pingback: Mr.CBB’s Blog Post Picks- Dec 21,2012- Christmas, Immigration and Miss Universe « Canadian Budget Binder

  8. Pingback: Yakezie Carnival | Making Sense of Cents

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge