I hear dumb peopleOkay, let's vent.
Latest on the hit parade of Stupid Participant Tricks at work: Bitching Because Nobody Notified You Your Claim Was Denied.
Here's how that goes:
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Uh... hi... yeah... I sent in a... a... reimbursement... thing...
ME: A claim?
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Yeah, a reimbursement claim, that's it... for my 2005 account... back in... I don't know... August...
ME: [keyboard clicking briskly] I show we received a claim from you on December 12, 2005.
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Yeah, okay, that's when I sent it... I... um... well... I haven't received any payment or... heard anything and... I... well... [trails off vaguely]
ME: [click click click click] Ah. Okay. Your claim was denied.
STUPID PARTICIPANT: What? But... but WHY?
ME: [continuing to click away] I'm checking, one second please... ah. Here we go. You failed to sign the claim form.
ME: You failed to submit any documentation with your claim form.
ME: You failed to submit a claim form with your documentation.
ME: Your documentation was insufficient, your employer does not accept canceled checks as sufficient proof of payment.
Or, etc, etc, etc
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Well, I'm sure I signed the claim form/I know I sent in a claim form/I know I sent in my documentation/Last year I didn't have to sign my claim form/send in a claim form/submit any documentation/canceled checks were fine!
ME: I sincerely apologize, but I'm looking at the file you submitted and there is no claim form/the signature line at the bottom of the claim form is blank/we only received your claim form without anything further/if your claim was processed erroneously last year I am sorry but you will need to submit a properly filled out claim form and acceptable documentation this year.
STUPID PARTICIPANT [realizing he/she is beaten, switching tracks] Okay, but I am very upset that I was not notified about this. I sent in this claim form back in August!
STUPID PARTICIPANT: ...and I've been sitting here waiting for my check and nobody got in touch with me, I was not notified that there were errors in my submission, this is MY money, why didn't anyone tell me this?
ME: I apologize, sir/madam. Our processing department normally notifies participants via email of any denial codes.
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Well I didn't get any email! I'm very upset about this! I'm very displeased! This is terrible service! WHY WASN'T I NOTIFIED OF THIS?
ME: I'm very sorry you didn't receive our emailed notice of denial, sir/ma'am. If you will send in a signed claim form/acceptable documentation for your claim, we will be happy to reprocess it.
STUPID PARTICIPANT: Well, how long will THAT take?
Okay, folks, gather 'round. Although I cannot explain this to participants on the phone bluntly enough to get it through their slope browed slackjawed pinheads, because that would be bad customer service, I'm going to lay it all out for you here.
(1) You can call us before you submit your claim form and ask us questions about how to fill it out, and what documentation is acceptable to your employer. People do it. All the time. And we will look it all up and tell you whether your employer requires Explanations of Benefits, whether they will accept a canceled check as proof of payment for dependent care, and we will remind you, generally, to sign your claim form. If you don't want to be bothered because you're sure that something as simple as filing your claim for reimbursement from your tax free health care account, which is regulated by the IRS, whose rules never ever ever change, is a piece of cake and you know the drill perfectly, well, that's on you, bitch.
(2) You can call us a few days after you fax your claim in, or a week or so after you mail it, just to make sure we got it and that all the pages are there. This is a GOOD idea. Wise people do it often.
If, on the other hand, you stuff your claim form into your fax machine and/or mailbox and then don't bother to follow up on it for several months, well, you're an idiot. As you have so cogently noted, over and over again, it's YOUR money.
Now, as to specifically why we do not make more than a token effort (emails of notification) to advise you when your claim is denied, well --
(a) We don't have time and it isn't our job. I take calls all day. On a slow day I may occasionally have two minutes between calls, once in a while. I never have time to make outgoing calls, and my supervisor never authorizes me time off the queue to make outgoing calls. If my supervisor authorized other reps to take time off the queue to make outgoing calls, those of us dealing with the proportionally increased call volume would wait until our first break rolled around, and then we would lynch the bitch.
The claims processing department doesn't take calls, and they don't have time to make calls telling you your claim has been denied, either. Why? Because although it is impossible for you to emotionally accept or believe this, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PARTICIPANT IN AN FSA AND YOUR CLAIM IS NOT THE ONLY ONE HERE. We have literally millions of claims sitting in queues over in the processing department. Our processors have a certain (high) quota of claims they have to get through every day, or they get fired. And that's just how that works.
(b) We wouldn't want to call you and tell you your claim was denied, even if we had time. Why? Because you're a bunch of stupid sulky whiney pissy baby-brats and you'll argue with us about it and we don't need it. It's very annoying to have you tell us over and over again that we can't do this (we can) and it's your money (it isn't; you put it aside in a tax free account and you don't get it back until you jump through all the hoops and you signed a piece of paper when you set up the account acknowledging that and if you don't like it, here's a fucking concept, just PAY YOUR GODDAM TAXES AND SHUT THE HELL UP, BITCH) and last year you didn't have to do any of this you submitted your claim exactly the same way as this year and it went through no problem (we don't care, it doesn't matter, this year you will do it the right way or you will not get paid, dickhead).
We don't want to have to point out to you where in the papers you were given when you signed up for the FSA it says you have to submit EOBs, or it explains about effective and termination dates on the account, and we couldn't, anyway, because we aren't participants in your FSA and we didn't get those papers and we haven't read the fuckers and it isn't our responsibility to, we didn't sign them, YOU DID, dimwit.
We don't want to have to point out where on our website it tells you that sandwiches at Panera Bread are not eligible for reimbursement regardless of how healthy and vitamin fortified they are, because it's a very complex website and anyway you're a moron, and it causes us a great deal of stress to constantly have to throttle down on the impulse to actually tell you you're a moron, which is like this throbbing drumbeat of anguished rage in our temples constantly while we're on the phone with you. And one of these days we're just going to snap and even if that doesn't result, eventually, in the SWAT team putting a bullet in the back of our heads as we hold our hugely overweight team leader in front of us as a kinda-human shield while spraying spittle all over the place as we hysterically shriek demands no one will ever listen to, it will still definitely result in us losing our jobs, and that's a bummer, so, no, at the very end of it all, we wouldn't call you even if we had the time, because talking to you dumbass people is annoying enough when you call US, it's not like we're going to initiate the process.
And if this isn't enough, then there's
(c) The simple truth: if you don't get any notification regarding the status of your claim, eventually, you are going to call and ask us. It is invariable, irrefutable, and axiomatic. This is, after all, YOUR money, and you want it, and while you may be stupid enough to sit around with your thumb up your ass for two or three or six or even twelve months (I kid you not, I got that call) after you fax or mail in a claim representing hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you earned last year and had deducted from your paycheck, eventually, if you don't hear anything from us, you WILL call us. That system works. It works every time.
Or maybe it doesn't. I suppose there may be people out there who open Flexible Spending Accounts, file one claim a year representing the entire balance, get that claim denied, and never ever check up on it. I wouldn't know; it's very hard to demonstrate a hypothesis in the absence of all data, and, well, it's very difficult for me to believe that there are people out there who are that goddam stupid. (However, there are people who vote Republican and people who send money to televangelists, so I suppose anything is possible.)
But, if there are such people, then their employer loves them, because Flexible Spending Accounts are use it or lose it accounts, and if you don't use up your money by the time the claim year closes, it is forfeit to your employer.
And... guess what? We work for your employer, not for you. They have no interest in making it any easier than they need to for you to get this money, and therefore, we have no real interest in doing it, either.
Oh, yeah, while I'm venting: saying "I don't think I'm going to do this FSA thing next year, this is too much trouble" is fine, but if you expect it to motivate us to go above and beyond and provide you with extra special super duper customer service (which seems to mean, set aside all the rules just for you and pay out your claim anyway even though it consists entirely of a piece of grocery bag you scrawled 'I bought a special support mattress please give me $2000' on in crayon), well, trust me when I say, when that call is over with, we laugh hysterically at your stupidity and tell everyone in all the cubicles around us about it and they laugh hysterically at your stupidity too. And then that night they tell their significant others about it over supper and their significant others laugh at your stupidity, also. And then some of us even blog about it.
Here's the haps: we don't care if you use an FSA next year. No, I take that back; we care deeply in that we hope you don't. Seriously. Because you're a dumb ass whiney pissy baby brat, and if you don't use the FSA next year, we won't have to deal with you.
Which brings me to what may be the hardest part of my current job: empathy. See, in the call centers where I worked before, I was dealing with Post Office customers, and Sprint long distance customers. Now, everyone is a post office customer, and mail is very important. And anyone can have Sprint long distance; it's not like it's a reflection on your character that you chose Sprint instead of one of several other largely interchangeable and pretty much identical long distance carriers for your telecommunications needs.
So when these people have problems, I can empathize, and do my best to help them out, provided they aren't being complete fucking tools to me on the phone.
But with the customer class I'm dealing with now, well, it's different. People with Flexible Spending Accounts are, for the most part, pretty well off. They have decent jobs that offer decent benefits, or they wouldn't have the FSA in the first place. And, let's face it, the only reason they're doing this in the first place, and putting up with all the hassle, is that someone told them they could get a break on their taxes by doing it, and they thought that was a pretty good idea. So, add it up: these are affluent people with good benefits who are actively trying to avoid paying their taxes. To say the least, my sympathy level does not start out high for them.
Now, if one of them calls me up and they're nice and pleasant, that's fine. I like to help people, I'll do my best to help anyone who isn't a complete dillhole to me -- even if their problem is that they hired an au pere to watch their kid, and the au pere doesn't want to give them their tax I.D. number to put down on the dependent care claim, and can't I do something? (I can't; they need to hire an au pere who is willing to comply with the laws of the nation where she works. But I won't get snotty with them, I'll just explain that as kindly as I can.)
But the slope is steeper for these people. They hit me with the slightest riff of entitlement, the tiniest whiff of attitude, the most minute particle of bitchiness, and that's it, they get nothin'. I am not inclined to like these people anyway. After all, they could just pay their goddam taxes, like the rest of us.