You know how sometimes you feel like you’re the only one around you with any sort of competency? I’ve been having that feeling lately as I have been trying to deal with two totally different businesses. The first, Altrec, is a company I’d never heard of, which appears to be headquartered in Redmond, Oregon. The second, the collosal BMO Harris, is the Canadian bank that bought out M&I and that now holds the smaller of our two mortgages.
Let’s talk Altrec. My mom, sweetly, decided Bear needed a snowsuit. I disagreed, but grandma insisted and who am I to stand in the way? My mom bought one from Amazon, but sent it back because it did not come with the foldover sleeves and legs that would have kept Bear’s hands and feet toasty warm. In fact, I think she had to send two snowsuits back. So, for the third time, she turned to Altrec and ordered up a cute green North Face number (way too expensive) in size 12-18 months to be delivered to our door step in two days’ time. Well, it not only was not delivered in two days’ time, it came in size 6-12 months. Now, while the snowsuit probably would have fit Bear, it probably wouldn’t fit for long and I thought the larger size was the right way to go. So, I called the company and spoke with a lovely woman who apologized frequently, sent me a UPS label to return the snowsuit, ordered another one up (though they had only red left) and refunded the extra money my mom had paid for the not-so-quick shipping as soon as I asked her to do so. Ok, no big deal. AO went to the UPS store last week, paid $1 for a bag to ship the green snowsuit in and we were on our way. Last night we come home to a package from Altrec. I open it up and find a red North Face snowsuit size 6-12 months. Egads. Someone in the shipping department is messing with me. I call Atrec, speak with a much less lovely man who needs to speak with someone before he can process the necessary return, but takes my number and tells me he’ll call me back in a few minutes. He does. He emails me a UPS return label and that is that. We will go to the UPS store, pay another $1, and send back the snowsuit. In all, we will be $2 lighter, days older and have no snowsuits for baby bear. Sigh.
Now, as for BMO Harris, the level of incompetence is at a much higher level. Where to begin with this snoozefest of a story? In late 2007, I had to refinance my mortgages due to the pumpkin. M&I, my mortgage bank at the time, refinanced the mortgages for me, sold the larger one to Bank of America and held onto the smaller one. Last year, AO & I refinanced the larger one to get it out from the hands of BoA and into the gentle snuggle of UW Credit Union. When BMO Harris bought out M&I, our smaller mortgage went with them. The smaller mortgage was a five-year adjustable rate loan with a whopper of an interest rate around 6.5%. The bank withdrew about $281 automatically on the seventh of every month. At the end of 2012, I called BMO Harris to ask what was going to happen at the end of the year because the 5-year period was coming to an end. I asked about refinancing options. After spending what felt like hours on the phone, the woman with whom I spoke finally concluded that nothing was going to change because it was a home equity loan and HEL’s don’t have adjustable rates. Hmm. I thought this was a strange explanation, but it was the only one I was offered, the woman seemed so self-assured, I’d already spent too long on the phone and I was not sure how else to explore the issue. So, that was the end of that. Except it wasn’t. On January 2 of this year, I checked our checking account from my sick bed to discover BMO Harris had withdrawn about $192 from our account. Uh, hmm. I called the bank and, after being placed on hold multiple times so the man with whom I was speaking could consult with multiple people, was told that what had happened was this: when I had my loan with M&I, I had been paying more than I needed to in an effort to put more money towards the principal and now that BMO Harris was completely in charge, I was paying just the right amount. What? I was almost positive there was no way this could be right, but I didn’t know how to argue about it because, again, I had been on the phone forever, the guy seemed so sure of himself and why would I argue about paying less money? I hung up, baffled but worn down. A few days later, I checked the new statement for the mortgage on BMO Harris’s website and was not exactly startled to see that my interest rate had gone down from 6.5% to 2.8%. This was actually what I thought may have happened. Because interest rates are lower now, I thought perhaps my adjustable rate loan had been adjusted lower. Of course, this did not square with (1) the woman telling me my loan would not change and (2) the guy telling me the only reason for the change was I wasn’t making overpayments now. I noticed, though, that my loan amount for next month is slightly different than this month. It seems the interest rate must adjust every month, something I thought I had read in the fine print did not happen. So, I sent an email to the bank — hoping that maybe seeing something in writing would give them the chance to respond more thoughtfully and, gasp, accurately — detailing all that had happened and asking for an explanation. Last night I received a call from an 800 number, which I normally wouldn’t answer. I was feeling responsible, though, so I picked up. It was a guy from BMO Harris! I was so excited. He was calling to tell me that I would be receiving a letter soon that would explain what he was going to tell me, and I shouldn’t throw it out even though it may look like junk mail. Yay! This was getting good. I was going to get an oral explanation and something in writing. I. Was. Thrilled. He said, “Katherine, coming soon your automatic payments will have to come out on the 1st of the month. M&I had allowed you to pick a day in between the 1st of the month and the end of your grace period, but we can’t have that.” Wait, what? I said, my payment already came out on the 1st. Well, the 2nd I suppose, but it already came out early. “No, no,” he said. “Don’t worry. It’s not late this month, this is for next month.” Dude. I said, “I get that, but it’s already happened.” Pause. “Oh. I can’t see that here. I’m just calling to tell you about this letter.” Collosal sigh. My shoulders sink. “So, if you can’t see my loan, I suppose you also can’t answer all of the questions I’ve been asking about the issues I’ve been having with it?” “No,” he says. “But you can call our 800 number.” Yeah, thanks.