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.
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?
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.