Friday, September 28, 2012

Logical Bureaucracy

anyone want to buy a house?
I love The New York Times. I've subscribed digitally ever since digital subscriptions were offered. When the Times first began the paid subscription option, with a dozen or so free for non-paid subscribers, I thought I didn't read that many articles a month. But I did. And so I took advantage of the bargain enrollment without reading the fine print. The first thing I know, the trial period has ended, and I'm paying $20 a month to read the Times. 

I love the Times, but I'm not sure I love it $20 a month worth, and so I attempted to cancel the subscription. I enrolled at the site, but it seems you cannot cancel at the site. It requires a personal telephone call, and by "personal," I mean you talk to a real-live-person instead of a "Press 1 to unsubscribe." 

The result? I get the Times for another three months at $10 a month. As I told the very nice customer service representative, "I'll take it indefinitely at that price. I think that's fair, but $20 is more than I can justify."

"Well, I can only offer you the $10-a-month package for three months, but I suspect if you call in three months, there'll be another offer."

Now that's what I call logical bureaucracy: make a customer's problem resolution just hard enough not to frustrate but not so hard, or so unresponsive, as to alienate the customer.

On the other hand, there is Bank of America. Granted, when there is a $24,000 loss on property they've valued at $285,000, it makes sense to tie up the funds in a way that forces repair rather than having the property owner/loan owner pocket the $24,000 and let the property deteriorate. That's why mortgage companies have lobbied state law so that any casualty check is written payable to the property owner and the mortgage holder.

I knew that. I didn't argue with the insurance claims representative. I expected to take the check to a branch office and perhaps have the funds put into an account for me to pay the contractor.

No. Such. Luck.
  1. I must mail the check to Simi Valley, California.
  2. I must include a copy of the claims estimate.
  3. I must send a copy of a contract for repair.
  4. I must send a completed IRS W-9 form for the contractor.
  5. I will then await a release of a portion of the funds.
  6. When the repairs at 95% complete, I must contact the bank again and arrange inspection of the work.
  7. When the inspector verifies the work is completed, the remainder of the funds will be released.
That protects the bank. That does not protect our home, which is missing one-half of its roof, and thus is in need of immediate repairs.

In this economy, any intelligent contractor will require a down-payment and moneys payable as work is completed. That means I am "borrowing" money already given to me by the insurance company in response to my claim. That in turn means I'm out my $1,000 deductible, and I'm racking up interest with dribble notes of borrowed money as the work is being completed. 

At this point, I've borrowed nearly $17,000 (the work will be done by Monday), and I have yet to receive the initial release of a portion of the funds* (telephone representative says $15,000; the paperwork received says $10,000) promised in step five (above). 

That is not logical bureaucracy.

*funds: defined as my money kidnapped by the bank
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