Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Bark Bigger Than Bite

with 10 comments

Total Black: $1,066.57
Total Red: $228,896.15

Well.  I finally did it.  I answered the call.  Picked up the telephone.  Twice actually.

I’m late going in to the contract attorney job today because I had a treasurer’s conference call this morning with a few members of the board for the non-profit I’m involved with.  Once we wrapped up the hour-long call, which actually took ninety minutes, I threw some clothes on to run out for cat food and a few other sundry items.  But first I decided to raid the bank I have here with loose change and take it to TD Bank.  I curbed the urge to run out and just use my AmEx card for those sundry goods but instead thought I’d take the extra ten minutes to swap my change.  At least in Manhattan, TD Bank let’s you count your change for free and convert it to bills.  No percentage taken off the top for the service.  I love it.  And I also find it odd that their catch phrase, “America’s Most Convenient Bank,” which is true by the way, applies to a Canadian-based bank.  TD = Toronto Dominion.

At any rate, I took my fifteen dollars and walked over to Duane Reade.  The bill came to $15.82, so eighty-two cents went on the AmEx.  It’ll come off on Thursday when I send another payment in to clear up some of the debt carried there from Orlando.  As I walked back into the apartment, wet and snowy, dodging whining cats, singing for their supper—I noticed a missed call on my cellphone.  A second missed call as the first call I had diverted to voice mail because I was on the conference call.  Both were from Bank of America.  I recognize the number already.  I hadn’t even gotten the package down on the table when the home telephone rang.  See, Bank of America calls you on each number they have.  Back-to-back.  And they’ll leave the same long-winded message on both answering machines.  In a moment of frustration and anger, I grabbed the telephone and in a winded breath said, “Hello!” very loudly.  Pause.  No answer.  “Hello?”  Finally, someone who was probably as startled as I was (that someone actually picked up the telephone) spoke.

We talked for nearly forty-five minutes, despite repeatedly saying that I had to go to work, that I was late getting to work.  She wouldn’t let me off the telephone.  The irony is that she acknowledged that I’m doing well with my cards, that it’s only within the past six months that things have gone off-track (odd coincidence with coming off unemployment benefits and resuming working; I guess I was making ends meet better sitting on my ass, eh?).  I let her know that I’m not interested in any repayment plans or other sorts of debt-forgiveness “schemes” or plans.  I intend to pay these cards off on my own and in a short amount of time.  She believed me and agreed that it was possible given my circumstances.  She also noted that I’m only $225 past due on one card and $65 and $45 on two others, respectively.  Of course she tried to get me to set up a recurring payment plan.  I refused.  I’ve been burned too often by those automatic debiting systems.  I doubt Bank of America would waive insufficient funds fees for an automatic payment scheduled to pull from an account on its books to pay another account on its books.  Although it should know that it can’t pull what isn’t there, I doubt it would check first.  So I politely declined that offer.  I also informed her that I’m using cash as much as possible and that I intend to not use my credit cards again going forward.  “Once bitten; twice shy,” I told her.  That elicited a resounding “Humph” from her.  Wondered if she’d note my account as “future cash-only” and away would go my credit limits with a whisk of her magic mouse.  Oh well.  I’ve lived high on the credit hog for too long.  Might be fitting to have to save my money going forward before I can buy something.  Actually, as I was talking with her, I grabbed my wallet and removed the AmEx card and my two Bank of America credit cards.  It’s just too easy to charge a quick coffee on them.  That’s what I’ve been doing too!

The call ended politely enough with Bank of America’s representative reminding me to not struggle on my own and to reach out to them if I need help.  The odd thing, of course, is that nothing came of the call except that I lost a whole lot of hours I could have worked making money for the Bank; and I calmed the Bank’s fears.  Odd, isn’t it?, that really what happens on these calls is saying to the Bank, “Don’t worry.  It’ll all be all right.  Just relax.  Everything’s going to work out fine.  Just trust me.”  Really.  In a nutshell, that’s all that happened.  She didn’t pass along any information that I didn’t already know.  My APRs weren’t adjusted, even though I referenced that they’ve been high for very long.  I got the standard response: make payments consistently for six months and your account can be reviewed.  “Can be,” eh?  Ok.  Fine.  but . . . if I have been “on track” all along, as she noted, except until about six months ago, then why are my APRs at the highest possible rate?  Why weren’t my accounts reviewed six months ago and the APRs brought down?  Or a year ago?  Lots of double talk from these banks.  Very inconsistent.

The oddest thing of all.  About twenty minutes after I hung up with her, someone else from Bank of America called!  I also answered that call out of a sense of rage.  I was not going to let that continue.  But the representative beat me to the punch because she confirmed that I had just spoken with someone and mumbled somewhat out loud and somewhat under her breath why the system redialed me.  Insane!  She apologized and wished me a nice day.  I reciprocated.

Today’s antics just confirmed to me that nothing comes from these calls from the banks.  Talking with them doesn’t stop future calls.  If we knew what they did with all the account-noting they do, then perhaps I’d be more inclined to talk.  But now . . . when time literally means money . . . I’m not willing to spend my time putting my arm around a bank, placating its fears.  Didn’t taxpayers already do that with billions of dollars?

10 Responses

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  1. What happens if you don’t make the monthly payments for a few months? Does it go on your credit report at the credit agencies? Do they add on extra fees? Or simply jack up your next payment?


    February 16, 2010 at 18:34

  2. Good question. Not sure really. The other card was closed for going past 120 days without a payment. Can’t believe it went that long, but it doesn’t surprise me. Cell phone was suspended twice. Have received numerous turn-off notices from electric company. Rent got backed up. Been hand-to-mouth for too long now. But as for payment and such, the credit card companies do add on monthly finance fees (even if the card has been closed, it seems) and late fees. And anything else like over-the-limit fees. And what was due the prior month(s) just keeps accumulating. As for Bank of America’s internal policies, not sure really. I don’t think they automatically report to the credit agenies accounts that are late. So if calling them prevents that, then that’s enough of an incentive for me to start holding the bank’s hand once a month. If I’m still struggling to make ends meet, that is.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 16, 2010 at 18:53

  3. And of course . . . to top it all off, just a second ago I received this email:

    “Dear [Laid-off Lawyer,

    Please give us a call today regarding your account, ending in [XXXX]. We have an urgent servicing matter that we need to discuss with you.

    Please call us at 1.800.234.5356, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Eastern time). Our experienced representatives are ready to assist you.

    From outside the United States call us collect at 1.302.738.5719.

    You can also visit us online at to view your account details or make payments.


    Insane! Just pure insanity. That makes contact number three today from Bank of America. And after I spoke with someone for over half an hour. Just gotta throw your head back and laugh.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 16, 2010 at 23:37

  4. Bank of America reps are total idiots. When they approved me for a reduction in my interest rates and monthly payment if I froze my card a manager called and left a message that I had been approved for this plan. He left a number to call back and confirm that I wanted to be on the plan. I did. But some woman – Shanelle/Laqueesha something – picked up and said I was not approved and who the hell had said I was approved – and what the hell type of program was I talking about. She didn’t “know nothing” about this type of plan. We argued for several minutes. Finally I hung up. I called back later another equally illiterate woman picked up and and said the same nonsense. That I wasn’t approved. I insisted their manager had called. The third time I got through to the manager and he said yes of course you were approved, I don’t know who was telling you you weren’t. I don’t know if that was really Bofa – sounding like the DMV to me.


    February 17, 2010 at 00:26

  5. One thing I’m not clear on. Why don’t you go on a repayment plan? Yes, they cancel your card, but they also slash your APR by, well… a lot.

    Jim in Chicago

    February 17, 2010 at 12:24

  6. I don’t get his aversion to a plan either, except that it would require him to manage his cash flow better, and he’s apparently incapable of that. I set up a plan with a card last year, and for doing so, they credited $1,000 to my account and gave me a 4% interest rate for several months. Totally worth doing.


    February 17, 2010 at 12:54

  7. How the hell did they credit $1000 to your account? Based on what?


    February 17, 2010 at 18:00

  8. They just offered to do it as an enticement to enter the program. They even made the offer – I didn’t have to ask. It was Discover, not BoA.


    February 17, 2010 at 18:42

  9. What program? The program to freeze your card?? Or a repayment program? A repayment prorgram is only offered if you have not been making payments, right? Is the fact that they slash your debt to get you to enter this plan and that you are not paying the full amount owed reported to your credit agency?


    February 17, 2010 at 19:49

  10. I was on a repayment program, which was initiated after I fell a couple of months behind after being out of work for a really long time (over a year) and after my savings finally ran out. My account stayed open, although it was frozen during the plan (I couldn’t use the card). That helped me enormously in getting all caught up, and now I’m back to making normal monthly payments, although my interest has remained pretty low (much lower than the default rate). It’s only reported to credit bureaus if it’s a settlement — you pay less than you owe under a negotiated agreement with a lender, and the account is closed. Apparently your credit will take a hit, from what I understand, if you go the settlement route, but it’s a smaller hit than if you just defaulted and walked away.


    February 18, 2010 at 09:00

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