I don’t have anything against computers, really. And I don’t have anything against a certain amount of automation in service industries like banking or credit.
But at some point, there has to be a human being in the mix somewhere, or else you wind up with the kind of stupidity I had to deal with Wednesday afternoon.
I placed a call to GE Money, with whom I have had a low-interest line of credit to help pay off a credit card bill sooner than later. I’ve not had any major problems with this company, until I paid off the balance.
When you pay off such an account, it says right on the statement that the “new balance amount does not reflect your payoff amount.” This is because interest will continue to build on until the payment is actually received. In my case, the interest was being billed at just 5.5%, so we’re not talking about a lot of money. But still, from the time I sent them my payment until the time it posted, I had accumulated 32¢ worth of interest.
I really, really like seeing a zero balance. So I went online to pay that remaining 32¢. But there was a problem: the computer system wouldn’t let me pay an amount less than a dollar.
Okay, I’ll pay a dollar and they can owe me the difference. Dumb, but if that’s what they want, that’s what I’ll do. It will also make sure that the 32¢ can’t accumulate into, say, 33¢ and leave me with another penny left due.
This was another problem: the computer system wouldn’t let me pay an amount greater than the current balance.
This means, of course, that there is literally nothing I can do online to pay the balance of the account. No payments under a buck, and in this case, no payments above a buck.
The thought of paying 44¢ to mail a check for 32¢ seemed ridiculous to me. So I called. It took five calls, in fact, because every time I called, I wound up with a different department and someone who explained that I’d need to call this number or that number instead. When I finally got the right department, the operator said that she would just delete the 32¢ from my account so that it would reflect the zero balance that it should have reflected from the start.
Left unchecked, the next due date would have come and gone, and without a payment being received, I’d have likely been build some ridiculous late fee. So that 32¢ would have turned into $39.32.
A computer is only as brilliant as its programming. If humans aren’t going to program them any better than that, then they have no business allowing the computers to do all their thinking for them.