monetary misery

Last week I knew I was running my bank account close to empty. So on Tuesday or Wednesday I took the first step towards balancing my checkbook–I checked my balance. It was good! Like 300-some dollars good! So I didn’t need to balance it, the last time I wrote a check more than $100 was ages ago, right?

Well, three weeks. That’s how long it took the car place to cash the $310.82 check for Laura’s new carburetor. So on Wednesday I bounced 2 checks, each less than $30, and on Thursday… guess what!? Another two! These were each less than $10! And how much does my bank charge me for each one? $31 each! Yes sir, that’s a nice big $124 that I guess I didn’t need.

The sad sad part of this is that I’ve been carrying around a check for $110 to deposit. I could have done it last Monday or Tuesday and spared myself all this frustration. (Not to mention $124.)

After getting paid on Friday, (and getting Nate’s third of the mortgage) I had just enough to cover the mortgage and two other bills that I put in the mail on Thursday.

No money for me for at least two weeks. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No spending cash, no gas money, no lunch at the Ritz.

OK, so on Saturday, I had an appointment to talk with a financial advisor. Just for fun, but I wanted to look into 1) debt consolidation (can we please have 1 credit card payment instead of 4 please?) and 2) a possible refinance of the mortgage, which would probably go toward the new roof we so desperately need. Turns out I only qualify for option 3) none of the above. But my larger financial picture is actually quite good. I’m putting away lots of money into my 401K, (probably too much), and will actually be looking at lessening that amount to free up some more cash for emergencies and the like. Possibly to be put into some kind of money market fund or just a simple savings account.

Anyway, in two weeks, I get my next fatty paycheck, but what, you ask — aside from the bills I didn’t pay this week because I was so poor — will that go towards? Oh yes, the door. I have been meaning to mention this now for awhile. (Particularly this last week.) As it’s a long story, I’ll put it in the “extended entry”. You know what to do.

EXTENDED ENTRY:

I wrote this “little” piece with my complaint to the BBB in mind… but towards the end it turned into more of a blog entry. I wanted Nate and Laura to look over it before I posted it, but I emailed it to them both last week, and so far not a peep. You can find Terry’s full name (and the full name of the company in question — don’t want any googlers finding this, really) on the BBB link, if you really care. I’m not advocating anyone take the guy out for me, but damn if that isn’t a fun fantasy! Anyway, here goes:

On Feb. 1st, we (myself and my roommate, Nate) had a meeting with a sales representative for BE. We agreed to and signed a contract with the sales rep for installation of a new exterior steel door for the flat price of $1000, $100 of which we paid up front, with the expectation that we would pay the other $900 on completion of the project.

We were told by the sales rep that we should expect to hear from someone to schedule the installation in “a week or two”. I believe we waited a month before calling and asking about our door.

I know that between Nate and I, we called BE several times in the next month, and if we got through at all, we received conflicting or unsatisfactory explanations as to what was happening with our door. We did not even know if the door had ever been ordered. Finally, I don’t know the date exactly, (but Terry S. claims it was around the beginning of April,) Nate called to basically try and cancel the order for the door. From what I understand, he talked with a secretary who thought that
wouldn’t be a problem, but who said he would have to call back and talk with someone else about the issue.

Within the next two days, Nate got a call from someone at BE saying the door had been delayed from the manufacturer, and that it was now in their offices, ready to install.

Needless to say, we had mixed feelings about the whole deal at this point, and felt rather frustrated about the situation. We wanted a new door for a reason… the old one leaks cold air into the house. As a result we had to stuff bed sheets in between the door and hinges, rendering the exit unusable during the cold months of the year. Nobody expected the new door in a week or two weeks, but we certainly didn’t expect it in two months either! Keeping us in the dark about the status of the door and/or the
installation didn’t make us happy either. For whatever reason, at this point, Nate and I decided that we had to wait for the installation, they could also wait.

This decision was more Nate’s than mine. Nate had offered to pay for the door to begin with, and we were going to pay him back. I think Nate may have spent some of the money earmarked for the door, I don’t know, but at that point, I decided to let Nate handle all the dealings with BE. But every time they called him, they also called me. I’m not sure why, because every time, I told them they’d have to talk with him about the deal.

July 8th, Terry S. called me and threatened to send our account to a collections agency if I wouldn’t schedule an appointment to install the door THAT DAY. Actually, he didn’t seem to care if it was me or my roommate, but since I knew my roommate was in a movie, and probably would not be available until after BE’s business hours, this forced me to make a decision right then and there.

In the beginning of the conversation I told him that Nate would have to make the decision, and that it was him he should try and talk to. Let me stress that Terry S. was quite belligerent on the phone. He seemed to think that it was his duty to convince me how irresponsible and stupid Nate and I have been about the transaction, and that we were somehow just going back and forth telling him to talk to the other person, despite the fact that Nate had handled every conversation on the phone with him since the beginning.

He told me that Nate had already lied to him on the phone about calling him back. (This made me a little angry at Nate, because I know it is not unlike him to just forget something like that, and even though budget exteriors took days to call us back, if ever, in those first two months, we should still be professional about the whole situation.) I listened to Mr. S. yell at me for at least twenty minutes–I nearly hung up on him several times–before telling him as calmly as possible (again) that I would try and have Nate call him back before the end of the day.

Needless to say, I couldn’t get ahold of Nate. But I knew that if at all possible, we both wanted to get out of the transaction. To be honest, I was fuming at that point, my stomach all knotted up with anger.

I was at work, and didn’t have the contract we’d signed with BE on hand, so I called back and asked to speak with the sales rep who had sold us the door in the first place (I obviously didn’t want to keep talking with Mr S., who had done nothing but yell and threaten the whole time I talked with him,) to ask if he could send me a copy of the contract.

The secretary put me on hold, and a few minutes later, Mr. S. got on the phone and told me that the sales rep no longer worked at the company, and what did I want. I told him I’d like to see a copy of the contract, and he refused. He said if we weren’t responsible enough to keep a copy of the contract, we didn’t deserve to see it. Those were his words exactly. I didn’t bother telling him the contract was at home, as I didn’t want to continue my contact with Mr. S. any longer than absolutely necessary.

At this point, I called the Better Business Bureau to find out if I had any options other than installing the door. Obviously, Nate and I don’t care about the money. It is a matter of principal. They have been total and complete assholes from day two, and frankly, I don’t want to give them any more money than I absolutely have to.

I got through to a representative at the BBB who told me that if they had a contract that I’d signed saying I’d pay for the door and installation, I was going to have to pay it, no matter how horrible they were. She said just about the only other option I had was to pay them without having the work done. (Which is obviously not very satisfying.) We could, of course, still file a complaint.

I thanked her and hung up. Resigned myself to the inevitable, and called back Budget Exteriors. I scheduled an appointment for that Saturday, July 12th.

When, later that evening, I finally talked with Nate about the whole issue, he had some interesting things to say. First of all, he claims that he’d talked with Mr. S. the week before, and said that he would talk to me, but he thought we could set up something for the end of this month. Well, he obviously hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to me about it, which was why he hadn’t called them back yet. (Anger at Nate abated.) Why hadn’t Mr. S., in the 20 minutes he was screaming his head off at me, mentioned that he’d talked with Nate about doing the install at the end of this month?

Second interesting point. There is a clause at the end of the contract about breaking the contract. If we do so, we owe BE 25 percent of the total cost of the contract, plus a re-stock fee. Woah! Suddenly someone else has been lying. Mr. S. told me specifically on the phone that if he sent this thing to a claims agency, that we’d have to pay the full $900, despite the fact that IN THE CONTRACT there’s a part about canceling the order.

Well, I called and rescheduled the install for the end of the month, and managed to do so without talking to Mr. S.. Nate wants to call and ask about the re-stock fee, and if it’s less than a few hundred dollars, just pay it and install another door ourselves. Part of me agrees with him, but I have such a huge pit in my stomach about the whole thing that I want to just have the door installed and pay them and be done with it. Part of me feels that I am just “giving in” under the circumstances.

When I think about Mr. S.’s behavior, I feel beguiled and bullied. I do not feel that someone with his inflammatory nature should ever be in a position of authority, and I would NEVER recommend that anyone work with BE because of his presence in the company.

5 Responses to “monetary misery”


  1. 1 mopsa

    I hate these sorts of stories. It really illustrates how powerless we as consumers are. . .BBB or not. I once put a 300 dollar deposit down on a fence with a company whose references I checked and whose record I checked at the BBB — I never got my fence. I took them to small claims and I won — but I never got my money. Had the situation been reversed you can bet I’d have had to pay and my credit would have been seriously bruised. There really needs to be more comsumer right orgs advocating for everyman — we always get screwed and we’ve got zero protections. I’m sorry you guys had to go through this. I would get the door — if you give them any money at all you might as well have something to show for it. Otherwise you’re just paying them to be assholes and you’re still doorless. Just my $.02.

  2. 2 grid

    That was ultimately my rationale as well. Wow, that really sucks that you never even got your money… Way to go system!

  3. 3 ScottMcG

    I found that earning more money was the cure for my bouncing checks…also, using Quicken and PocketQuicken to keep track of my expenses helps.

  4. 4 grid

    You know, it’s funny that you say that, because I make substantially more than I did, say… last year, and well, I still have the same “living paycheck to paycheck” problems.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. If I made enough, I’m sure I wouldn’t even notice $120 in bank fees, but it’s funny how my spending habbits expand to fill my paycheck stubs.

  5. 5 ScottMcG

    I have heard many people give voice to the expression “expenses grow to meet income.” However, I found that my expense have not grown to keep pace with income. Of course, I will soon have to replace the roof on my house, so maybe my expenses will so exceed my income. :(

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