The Red Zone

I was going along through life on auto-pilot — grandchild cared for in Atlanta, bills paid, travel plans for the summer lined out, grass mowed, weeds pulled, prayers said — when my husband called with this:

“Diane, what’s going on?  We’re overdrawn at the bank!”

“Impossible,” said I with the confidence of a veteran user of spreadsheets and budgeting.

“Better check because our balance is deep in the red zone.”

Indeed, we were overdrawn and incurring daily penalties, $25 a whack for each insufficient fund guaranteed payment. I had no idea why until I returned home and saw that Lowes had double posted a hefty April credit card payment, twice debited from our checking account and eighteen days later credited back.  The overdraft penalties had happened within the eighteen day lapse.

To add to the drama, on the day I discovered the cause of “We are WHAT?!” We had our puppy to deliver for boarding before 2pm and a plane to catch at 4:15.

I dropped in at the bank to solve the problem.  In my mind, all the bank needed to do was return the $295 in penalties to us since Lowes was responsible, not us.  Seemed like arriving at 11AM would be plenty of time to fix all this.

EXCEPT as Tina, an assistant manager of the Campbell Lane branch, explained, “Lowes made the mistake so they need to make this right with you.”

Thinking:  Hmmm, I’m gonna walk into the customer service desk at Lowes and ask for $295….

“Tina, I’m not so sure this is going to work, my walking into Lowes from the street.  Might work if you go with me and explain all this to them.”

Tina grinned. “Let me check with my manager.  Give me a minute.”

I called my husband to alert him. “This may take awhile.”

…….

While the managers at the bank rightly concluded the $295 would be Lowes’ responsibility, I insisted upon my utter ineptitude and incompetency, not to mention my emotional instability, to the extent that I needed to remain glued to the bank’s customer service chair in Tina’s office while Tina called the manager at Lowes.

Chad, manager of Lowes, referred Tina to Byron of the credit card service company, who could not  see double postings. (We couldn’t see them either since they weren’t listed on our Lowes credit card statement.) Byron told us to call Chad back and have Chad confer with his local IT department.  Only now Chad was unavailable according to J.R.

“J.R., I really need to talk with Chad.”  A masterful communicator, the even tempered Tina, who had accepted her task with friendly vengeance, finally secured Chad’s undivided attention.

The clock had been ticking away during phone calls, audio menu options to match our needs, negotiations around assistant managers, and research about when the two debits occurred, exactly what time (4:46p on May 2) and when the credit was posted (May 20).

I studied my watch and hoped my husband would remember to pack the phone chargers.

Chad wanted us to have the $295, and he would get to bottom of this, but first he had to figure out why a clerk managed to debit our account twice without my knowledge and exactly where did the money go, and why 18 days later the error was credited back to us without the credit card processing company ever being involved.

Tina said she would personally go to Lowes to pick up the money and deposit it once Chad concluded his investigations.

“Go, catch your plane.  And have a wonderful time at your grand-daughter’s graduation.”  I felt like Tina was my new BFF and wanted to hug her.

Happily, we made our flight since Denver storms had delayed flights to the Midwest, although we regret the eight planes damaged by hail and the inconvenience to other travelers making connections through Denver.

The next morning Tina called with good news:  Jennifer, the Lowes accountant, had called, Could Tina come by for the money?

Thanks to Tina, Chad, and Jennifer, the $295 is now safely in our account and available for spending.

Money does strange things to folks.  If it’s ours, we want contrarily to keep it and spend it.  Money is never ours, although we act as if it is, and we certainly resent and perhaps feel victimized when someone else has the unauthorized use if it.

We say money isn’t everything but then act as if it’s right up there next to oxygen.

Which reminds me of how airplanes have pressurized cabins and in the case of … well, the unthinkable, an oxygen mask drops down and you must first attach it to your face before you assist someone else.

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