Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Computer Error? Really?

Two weeks ago I got a notice in the mail. Actually it was addressed to my daughter, who is away at college and it said "Open Immediately" so I did. (Not that I'm always such a pushover...) It was from Collection Services for $192. 52 from a place called Quest Diagnostics.

Now some people may be accumstomed to receiving such notices, but not me, and certainly not my daughter who doesn't even have a credit card. Still, I confess my immediate reaction was "We don't have extra money to pay for this! What will they reposess if we don't pay it? Will they put my little girl in jail? What will this do to her CREDIT SCORE? Dear Lord, in heaven, HELP US!"

Then I grasped hold of reality again and calmed down. I dialed the number on the letter and they said they couldn't speak with anyone except my daughter, without her permission. So after a series of calls to her for permission, her physician who said she hadn't seen her in four years (we're a very healthy family!), and to Quest Diagnostics, who said they had no record of this transaction, I called the Collections Services and they said they would delete the record, if indeed my findings held up. (Indeed?!)

Three days later, another call from Collection Services, repeating the original message. I called (not so happily). The customer service had quite an attitude issue, but probably because I had a little attitude with her (maybe not a little). 

When I was about twelve my mother sat me down and said,"Honey, always remember these words. They will one day prove to be the most helpful words you'll ever know." I thought of her fondly as I finally got the opportunity to use my Mama's words of wisdom. I squared my shoulders and in my most authoritative voice said, "May I speak with your SUPERVISOR?"

"She will tell you the same thing."

"MAY I SPEAK WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR?" Those are powerful words. Well, they made me feel empowered.

After only five minutes of hearing a recording tell me what a wonderful company Collection Services was (!?) I spoke to the supervisor who traced the bill to Pittsburgh. (We're in middle Georgia) I called Pittsburgh (toll-free) who traced it to a physician, an OBGYN as a matter of fact, in New York.

The sweet girl in New York (Oxymoronic, maybe? Just kidding, of course!) was very helpful when I said, quite bluntly, "Ain't No way, this is my daughter. Someone else's daughter, possibly. I don't want to sound naive' but ain't no way this is my daughter. (I did use the word 'ain't' twice).

The sweet girl in NY resolved that the patient had the same name and similar birthdate so when the information was entered into the computer, my daughter's address came up. I didn't ask why. At some point you blame all errors on computers and that seems to be satisfactory. I could have spent more time trying to find who the lame-brain was and how they figured a girl in NYC would be using an address in Milledgeville, GA, but All my Children was just about to start (haha. Is that even still on?).

I did remember to ask for a letter of verification as proof in case this incident showed up on her credit report then next time she goes to buy a car or whatever. All in all, I felt pretty good about myself for not giving up. For pressing on through the muck we call technology.

Have you had a similar experience with "Computer Error"? How did you handle it?


  1. You know, you just can't argue with technology.
    Like when you put in a DVD to play at home...and you get the message that the movie 'has been formatted to fit THIS screen' do they know what size screen you have???

  2. OMG - I love that you intensified the 'southerness' to prove your point :)

  3. Way to stand your ground!! I bet they'll think twice before messing with a Southern Mama. Ain't no way they'll ever make that mistake again!!

  4. Way to go have you been,I have been doing the A-Z Challange with Arlee Birl over at Tossing it out, and that has kept me sory! Love the post by the way!

  5. I HATE when this happens. We've never been blamed for someone else's debt but we have received colletion notices for debt we had most defintely paid. I've learned to keep all paperwork when something gets paid off to avoid the dreaded "do you have a copy of that,ma'am?"

  6. Way to go!!! I am currently at war, I mean in discussion, with a local hospital. Last July I had to take my little girl to the ER because I thought she had an appendicitis. (did not, was bloated.) They did not charge us a co-pay at the time. I figured it was because of they type of visit or something. Normally they are vultures asking for co-pay, so I figured we were good. Anyway, here we are 9 months later and I am just getting billed for $100 for the copay. There was a lot of confusion between the hospital and our insurance company, but basically the hospital was at fault. Anyway, It's 9 MONTHS later and they've had plenty of time to get this straightened out. Each time I ask questions they give me different information and I finally told them that I wasn't paying it because of their sloppy accounting practices. I'm Irish and German with a little red neck mixed in :)

  7. Hi. I'm so glad you visited my blog and hope you'll be back again! Welcome, welcome!

    I love the name of your blog! Fabulous! Yeh, um, computer it's the computer and not the person entering the info...and then you have to "prove" you're right!!! One time I found out someone had stolen my ss# and used it...then I had to "prove" it was MINE!!!

  8. You are impressive!!!

    My story: my daughter was in the midst of a bad asthma flare up and the doc sent a slew of scripts to Walmart. When I arrived at Walmart, I was told that my insurance denied the scripts and that we had to mail order the scripts. After several panic-stricken calls to the insurance, we were told the scripts would be handled immediately if sent to CVS. The doctor resent them immediately to CVS. At CVS, the pharmacist said insurance denied the scripts because Walmart had filled them. Again, a gazillion calls (while my daughter was still literally gasping for breath.) We eventually tracked down the problem: when the doc sent the scripts via Internet to Walmart, he acidentally sent them to Rite Aid, as well. The double request for the same scripts shut our account down. There is something to be said for hand delivering a written out script.

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog! We had a similar situation with a doc in our town. My mom and I have similar names (Kathy and Katie) and went to the same dermatologist. The computer (or the idiot behind the computer) billed us both for each other's visits on more than one occasion. Before we knew it-- collection agency came knocking. All it took was a "promise" to go to the NC medical board and report it as fraud to our insurance company, and the doctor cleared it right up. :)

  10. Good job, Mama! I was hounded by a collection agency for a ridiculous charge that wasn't mine. The guy was a scum bucket who made me feel just terrible and like I was avoiding him. I was about to have a mental breakdown when I turned it over to my husband let him go to town on the situation. It was such a relief when they stopped calling.

    Loved your mother's word of advice!

  11. Oh yeah, I just love speakin' slow as molasses when I deal with morons. I say things like "Honey" and "darlin" with a sh*t eatin' grin. Must be a southern thang.

    Good for you for sticking it out until you got to the bottom of it.

  12. They don't call us southern girls Steel Magnolias for nothing!!

  13. Wow, glad you got that taken care of! I've heard some horror stories about collection agencies!!

  14. GO YOU! What a weird situation!! When I was single and broke as a joke, I got an overdraft thing. I had so little money, it wasn't hard for me to keep up with it, so I knew it was wrong. Turns out a purchase at Wal-Mart had gone through twice. Called Wal-Mart. They blamed the bank. Called the bank. They blamed Wal-Mart. I called the bank several times (because they have the money), and finally got some action. Because at the time I called, I was watching a little special on my bank and how they had to return money to customers who actually HAD overdrawn their account. So if they go theirs back, SURELY they would give mine back. And they did, along with all their silly fees. And I switched banks.

  15. I knew I recognized that company's name- they handle all my pap smear results- TMI? oh well. :) that would have definitely freaked me out, though- and yes, the magic words of "let me speak to your supervisor" always work wonders!


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(No she didn't...yes she did.)