Learning to live and let live

Wok & Roll by Peter Kwong, (Frederic) Inter-County Leader
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A few weeks ago, I got a “collection notice” in my mail. I was a little shocked, as I’ve always tried to pay my bills on time.

As a matter of fact, when we bought my wife a new a car couple of years ago, the salesman came back with our credit report and the loan application form, and exclaimed that we have the highest credit ratings he has ever encountered.

Peter Kwong
Peter Kwong

That sure was a reassuring comfort indeed, as for many years, when I was struggling with my business, my credit rating was like a yo-yo. Never knew when it would be up or down.

So, I was kind of shocked when I got this collection notice. This was the message:

“Your account has been referred to Afni, Inc. for collection. Please take this opportunity to pay your account balance in full. 

Balance due: $41.53.

We are committed to helping you resolve your debt. If you cannot pay the full balance, we have many payment options that may meet your individual needs. Please contact us immediately. We are here to help.

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification.

If you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.”

The letter was sent to me from a collection agency, not from the company that I owed money. A thousand questions came to mind.

“Why,” “who,” “when,” and “how?”

I asked my wife what this was about, as she does all the wheeling and dealing with all these companies. My job is just to pay the monthly bills. Then she noticed the account was from a local phone company.

She tried to set up a landline when we first moved to the Northwoods, thinking that it would be helpful to establish a better connection with the local community. It was painful listening to her conversations on the phone, as the company would ask for deposits for this and deposits for that.

Goodness, just to get a phone hookup? My wife and I both have cell phones already and they both work fine. But since that was her idea to start with, I dared not question the reasons why.

After a couple of months of having a phone in our house and paying a hefty monthly fee, I started to question her decision.

“Was it worth it, my dear? We already have our cellphones that our friends would use to call us. Now this new landline, all we get are calls soliciting business. I spend more time retrieving useless messages than from folks who were actually trying to reach us.”

That was a short discussion, and she called the company the next day to discontinue the service. To hear her telling me what the company said it would cost to discontinue the service gave me a headache. But my job is just to pay the monthly bills, I never question what all the arrangements are.

For some reason, marriage lasts longer that way. True?

Anyway, after we had to pay for the installation fee, the disconnection fee and whatever fees that they required, I wrote them a check and thought it was the end of it. Now, this collection notice.

So, I called this Afni Collection Agency, just to find out that all they do is collect the money as stated in the statement, and they would send the report to the credit bureau if the money is not collected in time. The amount in dispute was $41.53. I can imagine the need for collections if I am behind paying $4,000 or more. But why $41.53?

So I called the phone company and asked for a reason. After many transfers, a lady finally said that it was the bill from March, two years ago, that we neglected to pay and that we’ll have to settle it now before any legal actions would take place. I was a bit puzzled: the billing was from March, and our service was discontinued in December, just how could it be?

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s what it shows in my computer. Would you like me to send you the statement of your billing?”

“No,” I tried to remain calm, “How can you send me a March statement when as of December I no longer used your service?”

“Sorry sir, that’s what it shows in my computer, that you owe $41.53 on your billings. My job is to send that to the collection agency if it is not paid in full.”

“Excuse me,” I tried to hide my anger and frustration, “I never got a bill for two years about what this billing is about and now this harassing collection notice? What is this about?”

“Sorry sir, I’m just doing my job. My computer does show that you didn’t pay your March billing, which is $41.53. Do you want to take care of it now?”

“Anyone I can talk to about this situation?”

“Yes, you can talk to my supervisor. Please hold.”

While waiting for the transfer, I was smart enough to get my wife on the phone and she spent forever talking to this supervisor who finally understood that it was a mistake and apologized for the mishap.

“A mishap,” I screamed. “Those guys threatened us and they didn’t even say sorry. What in the world?”

“Honey, my dearest. Learn to live and let live. That’s what life is all about.”

Ahhh, so much to learn living here in the Northwoods. While I strive for customer service and building a relationship with the community, all these big companies don’t give a hoot. Oh well, I’ll stick with my wife’s advice:

“Learn to live and let live, that’s what life is all about.”