No One at AmTrust Bank Seems to Know Jack About Their Minimum Balance Policy

This post has a long prologue, so I can catch you up on things since I effectively stopped posting last year.  It’s only a partial summary, but it helps to understand why I was asking about the Minimum Balance Policy in the first place.  For those of you uninterested, skip to “Here’s the meat of the story:”.

I’ve written before about how much I hate bank fees.  And I’ve written about how I use my bank accounts to manage my bills and save money.

A lot has happened since those posts were written, but you may be glad to know that I still use my bank accounts to manage my bills and save money, and I still hate bank fees.  And have had no trouble with both.

But, the economy has affected us all.  It’s been almost a year since pay cut #2.  We’ve moved since then, rented out the townhouse, and are looking for ways for me to make some money to help our bottom line.

August was a particularly tight month, and things are only going to get tighter.  We have a large property tax bill due in November, and there’s Christmas, too.   Plus, in order to keep our wonderful, reliable tenants we had to reduce the rent $100 a month.  Sigh.

As I was paying bills last month, I was very much afraid I’d have to take money out of our Money Market to meet our obligations.  But after collecting some past due fees from a couple of clients, and getting paid $75 to taste butter in a focus group, I was pretty sure I’d make it.  Just.  But I’d likely have to “borrow” a few hundred dollars from the Money Market account, just to be safe.

Except for Husband’s paychecks (which are direct-deposited into checking, I deposit all money into our Statement Savings account.  I don’t keep a great deal of money in there – it’s mostly used as a way station for money on it’s way  to the checking account, our Money Market (which is our long-term liquid savings), or to pay our mortgage).  I got in this habit years ago when I did keep more money in there so that I didn’t have to worry about check holds and could transfer cash into my checking account  after depositing my dark-ages paper paycheck (no direct deposit for them!).

Here’s the meat of the story:

That Statement Savings account now has a $250 minimum balance, which is pretty standard in the industry.  I’ve not given it much thought, but I’ve also been careful never to go below that threshold.  But when paying bills last week I forgot to transfer the “loan” of the extra few hundred dollars from the Money Market to the Statement Savings.  Luckily, I realized this on September 1st – the  day my mortgage is deducted from the account, and the day that my balance would have fallen below the $250 threshold.  And, luckily, it was around lunchtime, well before the end of the business day.  And to make it even more lucky, I realized it when I was on my way to the bank to deposit the rent checks into that account, so it wasn’t in the least inconvenient to handle it.

I was handing the deposit to the teller when I realized I had a few questions.  Would I get charged a service fee for going below the $250 threshold if I made a deposit before the close of that business day?  In other words, if the automatic debit hit my account at 1:15 pm and I made a deposit bringing me over the $250 requirement at 1:20 pm, would I get hit with the charge?  Or is it based on the balance at the end of the day?  I was told that I COULD get charged the fee.  There was no way to know, as it was automated.  Really?

And, what if I deposit checks?  Would the checks I deposited be counted as meeting the minimum balance requirement, even though they were as yet uncollected?  Does the bank give the client the benefit of the doubt in the limited scope of meeting the account’s minimum balance requirement?

If the check deposit I was making would suffice, I wouldn’t need to transfer cash from the Money Market.  But if I was required to keep an available balance of $250 – not simply a balance of $250, then the transfer would be necessary.

The teller, when asked, told me the balance had to be available.  That didn’t make sense to me, as it would seem that the bank would say what they mean and mean what they say, and I was pretty sure the word “available” was nowhere in this particular part of their fee disclosures.  I seemed to remember words that go something like “must maintain a minimum balance of $250…”, NOT “must maintain a minimum available balance of $250…”.

So, I asked very politely where it was written that we had to maintain the minimum available balance.  I wanted to know not only so I could know whether or not I needed to transfer money, but also because I thought it very important that THEY should know.

The teller called the manager, who tried to be helpful, and  recommended that I was “better safe than sorry.”  She offered to deposit one of my checks without a hold, effectively removing the necessity for me to transfer any money.

Very nice of her, and completely unnecessary, because the answer was much more important that my particular situation – which would have been easily taken care of regardless.  The offer of the one-time accommodation meant that the manager didn’t know the answer, either.  And I was never shown the disclosure, even though I’d asked twice.

Both the manager and  the teller seemed perplexed that I really, truly wanted an answer to these questions.  I was not angry, I was not belligerent.  I was quite pleasant as I explained that I felt it was important to get the answers, so I would know.  And they would know.

Seeing a long line, I assured them that they didn’t need to find out right that second.  I would welcome a phone call later, once they received an answer, most particularly to the question:  Is it minimum balance of $250, or minimum available balance of $250?

I did receive a call back from the teller near the end of the day.  She told me that it was available balance.  I asked, again, to see where that was written.  She hemmed and hawed for a few moments, and wound up telling me that she spoke to several people and they all indicated available balance, but they didn’t really know.  And, frankly, didn’t seem all that eager to find out.

How can they not know?!?!?!?    Someone must know!

So, now, I must find the answer.  I am off to the Consumerist, and  to try to find some bigwig AmTrust email addresses.

And I’m asking you, my dear, neglected friends.  Do let me know if you know, if you know someone who knows, and/or if you agree with me that it’s important to know.

In Re Roman Polanski, or, Doing the Right Thing Unless You Don’t Wanna

Roman Polanski.  I have so much to say on this subject it will be a long, rambling mess.

In re: his tragic life

What a tragic life he’s led.  Losing his wife and unborn child to Charles Manson and his merry maniacs is enough to send anyone over the edge.  I get it, I really do.

In re: his crime

I also understand that the rape happened in a more permissive time.  Pedophilia was not a common word in the  American vernacular.  The general public (and, tragically, many churches) did not talk about it in good company.  Arrests and jail time were rare, and though perhaps the behavior that led to such consequences was not exactly accepted, it was certainly most often swept under the rug, or best ignored.

But not by this girl’s mother (though how she could be surprised in the face of her utter neglect in sending her unaccompanied child to hang with the guy is beyond me).

Perhaps Roman Polanski was used as an example, a deterrent.  Perhaps someone was taking a moral – or a political – stand.  But so what?  A forty-four year-old man should not be having sex with a thirteen year-old girl.  Period.

But let’s forget that for a moment, too.

In re: the arrest and plea

The thing is, he WAS arrested. For RAPE.  He DID plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.  No matter how he or anyone else felt about it, he plead guilty.

In re: fleeing like the coward he is

And then he ran.   Far.  Because he feared the judge was going to put him in jail, instead of a wink and a wrist-tap sentence of “time served.”

And has evaded taking responsibility for HIS, HIS, HIS actions – the crime he has admitted – for the past thirty-two years.

That’s not what a real man would do.  A real man would have taken responsibility.  At least sometime in the last thirty years.

Now, I know you’re going to tell me that the case against him is wrought with problems.  There are charges of misconduct.  And the victim doesn’t want the case to go forward.  That should change everything.

But to me it changes nothing.  He ran.  He didn’t stand up.  Appeal!  Please!  Get the case thrown out if it won’t stand.

And then stand trial for your thirty-two year flight from responsibility.

You know, be a MAN.

If he had stood up like a man and served his sentence, then lived his life admirably since, fine.  I’m all for second chances.  But I’d sure never leave him alone with my kid – or any other.

But that isn’t what he did, is it?  He fled.  And he expected to hide behind the more permissive cultures in Europe for the rest of his life.  And he was correct in those expectations for thirty-two years.

In re: Switzerland grows some kahunas

And then Switzerland started growing a conscience.  We all know they started opening up their legendary secret banking records, forcing the world’s cheats into accountability.  Amen, my Swiss friends.

And now they decided to honor a thirty-two year-old warrant for Polanski’s arrest.

Because, Mr. Polanski, it doesn’t matter how angelic, how philanthropic, how upstanding you’ve been for the last thirty years, you don’t get to avoid this responsibility.

You just don’t get to.

In re: Roman Polanski, entertainment industry god

It has always boggled my mind that Polanski has enjoyed great popularity and support since he fled.  Actors, directors, filmmakers, entertainers can’t line up fast enough to support him.  His movies – only one of which (Rosemary’s Baby) I have ever seen – are widely applauded.  He is considered a cinematic genius.

I’m sure he is.

But he raped a child. Even if she gave a 13 year-old’s version of consent.  It is legally rape, folks.  No matter what plea he copped.  And I could never help wondering how these actors and actresses justified working for him.

“Sure, he raped a kid, but he’s really a super dee-duper terrific guy!  And a genius!”

What do they say to their kids?    “He plead guilty to having sex with someone your age?  Honey, don’t worry about that old sex with a kid, thing.  It was waaaaaaaaaaaay before you were born.  Well, yes, he did flee to avoid jail.  But he had a really good reason!  That mean old judge was going to put him in jail!  And I want you to watch and learn how he and all of the rest of the people that support him are justifying not only his original crime, but the wonderful way he has been canonized by us so that we make it all not his fault!  After all, it was kinda consensual!  I want you to learn from him how not to take responsibility for your actions.  And if you ever commit a crime, I’m sure he’ll tell you how to flee and live abroad  – well, for thirty-two years, anyway!  And, if you’re lucky, and if you kiss his ass enough, perhaps one day YOU can be in one of his films!  Oh, joy!”

In re: the petition

And they startle me even more, now, with this infamous petition.

Yes, theses idiots started a petition demanding his release, accusing Swiss authorities of a failure to appreciate  the genius that is Roman Polanski,  and the hereto before unknown fact that international film festivals share the same sanctuary status as churches.

Um, huh?  Sanctuary?!?!?!!!!

The SACD petition that Martin Scorcese, David Lynch and  over 100 other industry insiders signed says, in part:

By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed (and we all know what happens when we assume, don’t we?) he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects.


Um, so????????????????????  By that logic all murderers and rapists should be able to travel unencumbered, for the good of the arts.

These superstars of intellect and morality go on to say:

It seems inadmissible to them (filmmakers) that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.

It doesn’t seem inadmissible to me at all.  It seems poetic.

In re: the idiots supporting Polanski

His supporters include the not-so-surprising, like Woody Allen (um, didn’t he screw, then marry his adopted  stepdaughter?).  Then there are the ones that do surprise me, like Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme and Michael Mann – all terrific filmmakers with apparently extraordinarily bad judgment. I can only hope that they are sorry they sign that ridiculous piece of drivel.

Debra Winger issued a separate  statement:

This fledgling festival has been unfairly exploited and whenever this happens the whole art world suffers…

Yes, but it was perfectly okay for Polanski to unfairly exploit that thirteen year-old, Debra. Seriously, folks, my eyes are starting to bleed.


In re: “it isn’t rape-rape”

Whoopi.  Whoopi Goldberg.  She actually defends Polanski on “The View”, first saying that he wasn’t charged with rape (Wrong!  He WAS, but he plead to the lesser charge) and that nonetheless, she’s sure it wasn’t “rape- rape.”

Whoopi.  It will take a looooooong time to live that down.  Sure, it wasn’t stranger-rape.  The girl was not kidnapped, beaten and left for dead after her rapist put his penis inside her.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape.  This guy was in fact much smoother, more insidious.  He made this 13 year-old, who wanted nothing as much as she wanted a career,  feel like the adult she wasn’t by giving her alcohol, and drugs, and made her feel pretty and  special.

Before he put his penis inside her.

That’s rape in the eyes of the law.  And in my eyes, too.  It’s rape-rape, Whoopi.

In re: do the right thing

It’s always easier to pay now instead of later, Mr. Polanski.  When you pay later there are always penalties.  And interest.

Do the right thing.

Do the right thing.

Do the right thing.

1400 words, give or take.  That is, thankfully, all I have to say on this subject.

To Make a Stink or Not to Make a Stink? That is the Question.

Husband has been with the same company for 7 years.   He is a hard worker with a good work ethic, and he goes above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.  Last week his company was pitching a new client, and they didn’t even ask him for an animation because his department is slammed with regular work right now.  Husband worked on it at home on his own time at his own impetus because he knew it would give his company an edge, and it looks like his animation will land them the client.

Great, isn’t he?

He’s also a terrific troubleshooter, and has become the go-to guy for hardware and software tech support in addition to his regular duties.

They love him almost as much as I do.

Like most of the rest of corporate America, times are tough at Large Conglomerate.  There were massive layoffs last year, and a handy dandy pay cut to go along with it.   Grateful to keep his job, we accepted the cut with as much grace as possible.

Things are going much better now.  His office has hooked several new clients, and receipts are way up.  Being part of a Large Conglomerate, though, means that the entire company has to be in the black consistently before his old pay is reinstated, no matter how much his little piece of the pie shines.

Poop.

The other day the HR person was chatting with Husband, and the subject of vacation came up.  She’s been there 2 years longer than Husband, and takes 4 weeks of vacation (compared to Husband’s three).  She said there was no written policy dictating when the 4th week was awarded, and she’d gotten her 4th week 2 year before.  She volunteered to ask if Husband could get a 4th week, too.

We were both excited about this possibility, thinking that:

1.  He deserves a bonus for all of the extra work he does consistently, and

2.  It would help lessen the blow of the pay cut.

Today the HR person forwarded Husband an email from the corporate HR department denying the request, and it included the policy in place addressing the 4th week of vacation.  As with many other companies, employees of Large Conglomerate are eligible for the 4th week of vacation after ten years of service.

Fine.

But why does HR person get the 4th week?  Do labor laws not specifiy that all employees of the same class get the same benefits on the same schedule?  I’m sure executive level rules are different, but at Husband’s and HR person’s level they absolutely do.  Don’t they?

That’s discriminatory.  And it isn’t the first time the company has exhibited discriminatory practices.  Heck, I’m Jewish and even I don’t think Jewish employees should get Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off with pay without giving other employees commensurate time off.

These things are unfair.

Husband, of course, will do nothing.  He doesn’t want HR person to lose her extra week, which she surely would if he made a stink.

But to me it stinks anyway.  It violates my innate sense of fairness.

What would you do?

JCPenney’s Misleading Coupon Means I left JC Without Giving Them Any of My Pennies

JCPenney Coupon crop

I received an email offering the above coupon, which gives a 15% discount off of regular and sale price merchandise, expiring today, August 1, 2009.  I  thought it was a good deal.  I even shared it with you.

Today Son and I went into the store and selected several items. When the cashier was ringing in the sale the coupon did not work, and she and another cashier claimed it was because the items I selected were clearance items.

Nowhere on the coupon does it say that you cannot use the coupon on clearance items.  The cashier claimed that the coupon was only good on sale and regular price merchandise.

Um, yeah.  Clearance stuff is on sale.

“No,” she explained.  “Clearance is not sale.”

Excuse me? In what universe is that true?

When I begged to differ and explain that they may be correct in the JCP world, or perhaps even in the retail world, in the real world customers see clearance items as being on sale. This, in my opinion, is very misleading. JCP needs to realize that not everyone using their coupons and reading their ads is aware of this industry-centric hair splitting. If you did not want the percentage off coupon to be accepted for clearance items then clearance items should be excluded on the coupon, in writing.

And it was clearly not.

And another thing.  Customers who would like to explain their problem with the misleading coupon should not be talked over and interrupted to the point they cannot get a word in edgewise, refused the opportunity to speak to a manager, nor asked, ” So do you want it or not?”   Because when that happens those customers will do what I did – say, “No, thank you,” and see the nasty looks and eye rolling begin as they turn to walk out of the store.  Possibly never to return.

While I did and do have an issue with the unclear wording of the coupon, what was much more disturbing was the way I was treated by their employees.   If they would have simply said, “Yes, maam.  I can understand why that could be confusing and unclear.  I’d be happy to pass along your feedback to my store manager,” then I likely would have purchased the selected items anyway.

I didn’t want to – and refused to – argue.  I just wanted the opportunity to explain my issue with the wording of the coupon.

Instead I sit here having left JC alone without any of my pennies, irritated and waiting for a response back from their customer service department – promised within 48 hours.

Charging A Hormonal Woman to Cash a Check Spells Trouble

Some things just piss me off. There are some charges/policies that should be outlawed. They are just not fair. And when I come across something like this at certain times of the month the level of pissed-offedness increases exponentially.

Today I needed to go to the bank to deposit the checks from our renters (I’m thrilled that not only was it on time, it was a week early!). Since we are going out of town and their bank is right down the street from mine, I thought I’d stop by and get the checks cashed and just deposit cash into my own account, avoiding the hold-time for deposits of local checks.

Son and I stopped into Regions Bank and were immediately greeted by a teller. I handed her the checks (two because they pay it out of two separate accounts) and she asked me if I was cashing them. After answering yes, she asked if I have an account with them. When I replied in the negative she said, “No? Then there will be a charge per check of…” and frankly, that’s all I heard. Apparently this bank is one of THOSE banks that charges a fee if you cash a check and don’t have an account with them. Even though it is DRAWN ON THEIR BANK

I find this practice reprehensible, and have ever since I heard that Bank of America started the trend several years ago. If someone is nice enough to accept a check from me (for whatever services rendered) I expect that part of the service I get in exchange for letting the bank use my money (to make themselves heaploads more money!) is to CASH the damn CHECK. Whether the payee chooses to deposit it in an account of their own or go to my bank to get some cold, hard cash should make not one iota of difference. Not. One. Iota.

Regions Bank was instantly added to the list titled “Banks With Which I Will Never Do Business”.

As steam started coming out of my ears I took back my checks, replied that there is no way I would ever do business with a bank who would charge such a usurious charge, took Son’s hand and started to walk out of the bank.

Son pulled me towards the restroom, as he is on a quest to visit every restroom within an ever-constant 100 yard radius. I told him, loudly, “Sorry, not today. They’d probably charge you to see it, anyway.”

Posted in rants. Tags: , , , . 2 Comments »

Thank you, Craigslist advertiser!

Dear Craigslist advertiser,

I know you want to get rid of your stuff.  I know there are a brazilian listings in our area, so competition is fierce.   I understand that the furniture is at your estranged husband’s house and you need to get it out of there.

It’s true, I did call to inquire about your “Very nice! leather couch, loveseat, chair and ottoman in very good condition!”  I decided against going to see it, having reconsidered schlepping a half hour to see it, and spending $500 right now when we really could leave the living room mostly empty.

I appreciate you contacting me, telling me that you’ve reduced the price to $250.   I was planning to try and talk you down to $200, and was excited about the prospect of taking the furniture.  I was wondering how we’d get it to the new house. Your husband gave me excellent directions, and your in-laws met me at the door.

What I didn’t expect was the smell of cat that permeated the apartment.  See, I’m allergic to cats.  But I soldiered on into the garage, risking itchy, swollen eyes , in search of a great bargain.  Hey, bairgain shopping is not for the weak of heart…

I was shown the couch.  You remember your couch?  Are you sure?  The one with all of the tears in it that were not shown in the photos, or mentioned in the ad?

See, I don’t care that the loveseat, chair and ottoman are in perfect condition, and no, I don’t want to go into the other room to see them.    I wanted the entire set to be usable.  Silly me.

So I high-tailed it out of there, peeved that I’d wasted my time and gas money to go look at your furniture when if you’d been honest  in your ad I’d never have bothered.

But  I learned a few things:

1.  When buying furniture always ask if they own a cat. No sense in me buying a couch that will make my eyes swell shut.

2.  Ask if  there are any rips and/or tears or other damage to whatever I’m inquiring about. There’s a chance – however slim – that the ad placer will find it less easy to lie over the phone than in writing.

3.  Son apparently isn’t completely done with naps.  He fell asleep in the car on the way there.  Made my heart smile.

So thank you, Craiglist advertiser, for being such an asshat.

Lying, Justification and Farewell (or some other F word) You

Well, it’s over.

Husband and I walked into Son’s school to withdraw him, where I was told in no uncertain terms by the administrator that I was unprofessional for talking with other parents about what I had seen, that the teacher in question was not unprofessional and was in fact justified in confronting me in the parking lot because I was pointing at her and talking about her (I was talking about her,  but certainly not in tones loud enough to be heard by her when she was thirty feet away, and I was certainly NOT pointing at her, thankyouverymuch).

And even if I was doing all the things I was accused of, would not the teacher still be the unprofessional one?

And I should keep it quiet, especially when I completely disagree with how it was handled?

Anyway.

So now I am feeling sad and weepy because I feel ineffective in my communication with these people, because Son had to be removed from an environment where he was thriving, and because that lying, manipulative, cruel teacher is still around children.

%d bloggers like this: