When I moved to Memphis in 1993, one of the first things I did was to take my modest financial business to a local bank. Let's call this institution "First Biggie Bank." I opened checking, savings, and VISA accounts at FBB. Through the years, I took out a couple of mortgage loans and a home-improvement loan. I run a few thousand dollars through my VISA card every year, paying it down monthly. My checking account is never overdrawn.
Last week, I got a letter from First Biggie informing me that I was three years overdue in paying off a $3,000 home-improvement loan and that I was being turned over to a collection agency. Since I'd paid off that loan long ago, I was puzzled. I called the 800 number in the letter and got a woman in a call center somewhere. She finally figured out that the letter was a mistake and that I didn't have an outstanding loan debt. No apologies were offered. Then she said, "I notice you have a minimum $65 payment that's 15 days overdue on your credit card."
"Wait," I said. "You people screw up and threaten to send me to a collection agency for a nonexistent loan, and now you're hassling me for a $65 credit-card payment?"
"It's overdue, sir."
"Fine," I huffed. "I'll put a check in the mail today." The woman said thank you and assured me that I would have no further problems.
The next day, I needed to rent a car. When I tried to pay, my VISA card was turned down. Now, I was ticked. I tried to call the First Biggie office downtown, where I bank. Then I noticed all the numbers in the phone book were the same for every FBB branch, meaning all calls went to one call center. Sigh. The call-center woman (a different one, of course) said that since I had an overdue payment, my card wouldn't be honored. Simple as that.
"But, but, but," I sputtered. "The lady I talked to yesterday said everything was taken care of. This is ridiculous. I've used this card for years and never had a problem. I'm a good customer. Check my payment records."
"Sorry sir, there's nothing I can do."
There's a small bank near my home in Midtown. They don't have a million branches -- or a call center. They do have a new customer.
Which leads me to put on my Dr. Phil face and say what has to be said: It's time for Memphis and Shelby County to start seeing other people. We've tried for years to patch things up, to come to some sort of mutual understanding, but we need to admit that we have irreconcilable differences. We don't even know each other any more ...