Getting your own back

Voodoo economics – sticking a pin in it

Mrs B. and I live in Toronto – the fifth largest city in North America – with a population well in excess of 2,000,000. So it’s not exactly the outback here, but sometimes you wonder who’s running the show.

We get a letter from the City’s Supervisor of Accounting, Finance Services Division, that begins:

Dear Sir or Madam

There is a credit on your realty tax account relating to overpayments. In order to issue a refund cheque or to process a transfer of funds, we require proof of payment for the following payments:

blah blah blah

You may send in your proof of payment either by fax, etc. etc.

Now let’s think this through. Before they sent me the letter, surely they were certain that we had overpaid – or else why would they write this letter? So can I just say that the proof of payment is the fact that they sent me the letter. If they are satisfied I overpaid, I’m satisfied.

OK, I telephone them. I ask why I have to provide proof of payment when their records already show I overpaid. Don’t they trust their own records?? “Er, well, you see ….”. I point out that I hadn’t made the payment they cited on the date they cited in their letter – but I had made a payment a day later for a larger amount. “Er, well yes, that’s the payment we recorded”. Well, why did you give a different amount and date in the letter? “Er, well we wanted to be sure that we would pay the right person”.

Oh well, never mind (I decide to give up this unequal struggle with reason). What I’d like to know is why there’s an overpayment. You sent me a bill clearly identifying an amount owed. I sent you a cheque for that amount eight months ago. How much is the credit, anyway?

“It’s $955.66, Sir”. Holy Sh*t, I say. I’m not in the business of lending money to the City! You’ve had a thousand dollars of mine for eight months, and you’ve only just got around to telling me. What the %#$#$#@## are you people doing???????? “Er, well Sir, you would have to ask my supervisor about that”. OK, I’ll write him a letter straight away – and I’ll copy it to the senior management at the City as well. In the meantime, if I bring in a copy of the payment proof, can I collect the cheque at your office. “No. We’ll issue a cheque and it normally takes 4-6 weeks”.

I send the ‘proof’ by fax. I write a polite but firm letter explaining my point of view, noting my expectation for a very much faster return of my money than 4-6 weeks. I point out that before they wrote the letter, they already knew they owed me the money … so what were they going to do for six weeks???

One week later I get my cheque.

Final score
I got my money back, but I never received a reply to my complaint about the bush-league performance of the Finance Department – and I didn’t get a cheque (yet) for the interest on the money I lent to the fifth-largest city in North America. Mrs. B says she’ll just deduct it from the next realty tax payment.

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