Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Good Ole Days

Yesterday, someone on Twitter asked what we'd do if the Internet suddenly went away. My immediate response was "I'd be out of a job", but after what I just went through trying to pay a bill online, I'm not so sure the lack of Internet would be so awful.

Caveat: I have never, ever, had a problem paying any bills, nor had a credit card declined, so this was all foreign territory for me. Being anal-retentive has its benefits.

Let's review the events of the past 2 hours:

I go online to get my invoice for the Water Club I manage for the department (in my spare time) and I see that my bill is past due. Crap, I forgot to pay it the end of last month. Now I owe for 2 months. No problem, we collect in advance, so we're covered.

Coworker: You might want to consider keeping all our money in checking and setting up auto-payments so you don't forget again.
Me: But we earn interest on Savings.
Coworker: Is it worth the $1 we earn to go through all this?
Me: I'll check on the interest and get back with you.

I go to transfer money from my Credit Union (CU) savings account into checking so my debit card (my ONLY debit card) will be funded. I forgot half the secret codes to get logged in to my CU. Third try I got in and did the transfer. Sigh.

I go back to the bill I need to pay, fill in the form with all the appropriate secret passwords and codes, and hit Submit.

"There was a problem processing your payment. Please try again later."

About 20 minutes later, I tried again with the same result. Sigh.

I called the company to see if they could tell me what was wrong. No problems with the payment service, so it must be my card. She checked and payment was declined.

Me: Okay, can you tell me why?
Her: No, I'll need to process it again to get the error code.
We do this, and she tells me my card was declined. [pregnant pause]
Me: Um, do you know why?
Her: No, you'll have to call your bank.

I go downstairs to the CU to see if they can tell me why my card was declined. Apparently there's a daily limit to a debit card transaction, and since I was trying to pay for 2 months, I'd exceeded it. She offered to bump my limit temporarily so I could run back to my desk and pay the bill.

She also noted that there was a $1 hold on my account by the other company. Apparently they do that to verify the validity of the card, and when mine failed, they put a lock on that $1, so I had to pay $1 less than the amount of the bill. Grumble.

Back to my desk. I log in to pay the bill and there is no credit card listed any more. Sigh.

I call the company back.
Me: Where did my credit card information go?
Them: Oh, we automatically wipe it out when a card is declined for any reason.
Me: But the card wasn't bad. There was a limit by my CU I'd exceeded.
Them: No matter - we treat them all the same for security reasons.
Me: Can you put it back?
Them: I can key it in for you, or you can key it yourself (read: start over).

I go back to the payment site and key it back in, setting myself up for automatic payments.

"There was a problem processing your request. Please try again later."

At this point, I was ready to scream. Yeah, it took me that long.

I unchecked "automatic payments" and it let me add the credit card back in.
I paid the bill minus the $1.
The remaining $1will be paid to them on the 15th of the month. Good.

Tomorrow I'll look into setting up automatic payments. My coworker is correct - this is not worth the $1 we earn each month on our Savings balance. Totally not.

So here I sit, 2 hours later, and I've just managed to pay a bill. I don't get paid to do this. I do this "in my spare time" as a service to my entire department. No one else wants the job, and they will pay me extra if I stop asking them to take it.

If we didn't have the Internet, I would have written a check to the water company, put it in an envelope, added a $.44 stamp, and stuck it in the mail box in our mail room. It would have taken about 5 minutes. This is a perfect example of why I still have a check book, and why some days I wish it was 1965 again. Okay, maybe 1977. My "good old days".