Jim Hoffman

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November 15, 2012
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HOFFMAN: Record deficit resolved in one afternoon

You might as well sit down and relax a spell; this story is gonna be a mite long.

This past Saturday while sitting in the Sam's Club parking lot I checked my email. The smart phone said there were 186 new messages. I was smart enough not to bother to check them and just went into Sam's to do a little shopping. Those 186 new messages should have been recognized as an omen of some interesting stuff about to come.

Picking up the few items on my list I proceeded to the self check-out. Swiped the club card, scanned everything in the cart and began the process. Swiped the ATM card entered the PIN and was told to select an alternate pay type. Tried again to complete the transaction and once again. Failed and failed.

The helpful clerk, assuming I was not an experienced and competent self-checker-outer, voided the entire transaction. She again scanned each item, swiped my ATM correctly (doubting I could) and instructed me to enter my PIN. I (we) failed again. Helpful clerk now takes my card and leaves the area (beginning to feel a little violated here) and speaks to a supervisor in a voice loud enough to be heard over a good area: "What's a code 51?"

Returning, she declares: "Sir, you don't have any money. Do you want to try another form of payment?"

You certainly could color me red. Good move, helpful clerk. Any more personal stuff you wanna share with my fellow shoppers?

Another form of payment did work; made a mental note to check that account when home.

That excursion was followed by a jaunt to City Market to get those items not available in warehouse sizes or available in warehouse sizes that far exceeded need. Rush by the pharmacy to pick up some meds, check the items off the list and head for check out. No problem here, but, here a different card is used than at Sam's.

Nothing in this scene would trigger any harbinger that those 186 messages foretold a dark and stormy cloud on the very near horizon.

Arrived home, and, coincidentally, there literally were dark and stormy clouds on the very near horizon.

Parked the car, unloaded groceries, put 'em away and then sat down at the computer to check out that bank balance. The 186 emails seemed pale in comparison to, in the words of helpful clerk, having no money.

Accessed my bank account and discovered to my surprise that an overdraft in the amount of $105,592.78 existed. Wow!

Now we need to depend on the phone to call friendly customer service who assures me repeatedly that I did indeed complete a transaction at a branch location which resulted in the overdraft. They cannot explain the incompetence of an in-branch teller who would allow me to complete a transaction of that size without inadequate funds. They can assure me that since I did do the deed they cannot do anything about it, and since they are closed on Monday to thank me for my service, and that they will have an analyst call me on Tuesday.

In the meantime it is up to me to figure out how to spend all that money I did not get 'cause I really need it as they have emptied my checking and saving accounts and left me without access to other funds until Tuesday.

You know those conversations are recorded for "training purposes" so you can rest assured that my most diplomatic and tactful skills were used as I admittedly raged regarding the inadequacy of their solution. Speaking to the "supervisor" led to a similar result, but he was able to locate a local branch manager to research the issue. OK, now there is some hope of having some cash available for the Saturday-Monday period beyond the $17 in my pocket.

Doug, who identifies himself as the manager of the downtown branch, says he will look into it and give me a call back. So after a couple of hours, the bank reverses an inaccurate entry and returns money to my account. Now it is again possible to fill up my tank and buy a few groceries using my ATM card. Thanks, Doug. However, we still need to chat about how such an error could have occurred.

As for all those emails, somehow it seems they duplicated themselves times six. There is nothing worse than a junk mail replication program. Four hours of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon were gone. They could have been used for watching college football, napping, or anything other than resolving other's mistakes and deleting more than a gross of junk mail messages.

P.S. Next week we will return to politics after a one-week hiatus from parsing, conjecturing and redundant analyzing.

Jim Hoffman is a local real estate broker and investor who is trying to move from semi-retired to retired. He needs to retire to devote more time to unpaid interests such as skiing, camping and fishing.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 15, 2012 03:11PM Published Nov 15, 2012 02:33PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.