Phoning it in

So yesterday I got this call from a woman who lived in California. She started out pleasantly enough. "I'm having a problem getting one of my dependent care claims paid," she said, her tone even and well modulated. "I guess I need a little help with it."

So I said I'd be happy to do whatever I could for her and started looking at the claim... why it had been denied (insufficient documentation), which led me to look at the claim she'd submitted itself. She'd filled out the claim form correctly, as far as I could see, but instead of submitting an itemized receipt from her daycare provider, she'd sent us a page from a ledger/notebook with a detailed accounting of her childcare expenses for a month. Looking at the claim form, and at the page she'd sent, it was pretty clear both were in the same handwriting.

So I explained to her "Well, we need some kind of itemized receipt from your daycare provider. This is obviously a page detailing your expenses, but it's clear you made it yourself. That's not acceptable."

"Well," she said, her voice beginning to get just a tiny bit harder and colder, "I don't understand this. This is exactly what I've submitted every time prior to this and they've always paid it before."

Okay, now, here's a thing -- last year, the company I work for subcontracted all the claims processing to a different provider. That subcontractor decided the best way to make their quotas was simply to pay everything that wound up in front of them, which certainly made all our participants happy. However, it didn't make our actual clients (the employers of said participants, who get to keep any money in the accounts that the participant doesn't use by the end of the claim year) very pleased, and it didn't make the IRS very happy, so we fired those guys and now we do the claims processing in house, and pay a lot more attention to things like the client's guidelines and IRS regulations.

All of which means, all of us who take calls hear about what we did last year and how much better it was pretty much constantly, and frankly, speaking only for myself, I'm sick of it. I don't give a shit what happened last year, or what claims were paid prior to the one I'm being called about at the moment, or what a participant did or didn't send in Back In The Day, or any of that crap. Of course, we can't say that straight out to a participant, however badly they may need to hear it, we have to find a nice way to say it. Which I tried to to. But this woman wasn't having any of it.

"Well, look, I have a nanny," she exposited to me, her tone condescending to the point of sneering now, because, you know, clearly she understood that she was speaking to someone who had never had a nanny in his life and who Just Didn't Understand The Situation. "And she doesn't keep any books or give me a receipt. These are my own records of my expenses, for tax purposes, and they have always sufficed prior to this."

Okay, let me break for a moment and say something else: it is very important, when you call customer service, to try and get the customer service rep who takes your call on your side. There is always something a customer service rep can do for you, but often times these are peripheral things that are neither mandated nor forbidden by company policy, and it is entirely up to the rep in question whether they want to make the extra effort to help you. Sometimes the stuff they can do for you is strictly against the rules, but often times the system isn't monitored particularly well, and if you get the rep sympathizing with you, they'll be willing to go that extra mile to make your life a little easier.

However, none of that is going to happen if you piss the customer service rep off first thing. It amazes me that people don't seem to realize this, as it seems completely obvious to me, but still, people call me all the time with really shitty attitudes or start right out being nasty and mean and, well, those people lose me immediately. By treating me with disrespect, they have just guaranteed that they will get the absolute bare minimum I can get away with providing to them, and if I can get away with doing something to fuck them over, well, I'm going to do that, too. And after six months on a particular job, you get to be pretty adept at figuring out ways to do that.

Now, this woman hadn't been pissy enough with me at this point in the call that she'd moved to the "you get nothing but a hard way to go from me, bitch" list yet. But I will say this: when you call me about a problem you are having with your dependent care account, and you say the magic word 'nanny' to me, you have lost me. I am not on your side any more. Abruptly, you have become in my eyes an absentee parent, an affluent asshole who wants to have kids, but doesn't want to be bothered actually raising them. I have absolutely no respect for people who can't be troubled to raise their own children.

Still, I figured I had an easy way to help this woman, because dependent care really is pretty fool proof. And I might as well make her happy if it didn't cost me much. "Look, ma'am," I told her, keeping my tone friendly and supportive, "there's an easy solution to this. On your claim form, there's a place where your daycare provider -- your nanny, in this case -- can sign. It's the provider's signature blank, right under the affidavit. Just get your nanny to sign it and we don't need any supporting paperwork. We'll just pay the claim." And then I sat back, confident I was about to be showered with thanks and praise.

Well, as Cirocco Jones once noted to Conal Ray, never expect gratitude. There was a few seconds pause, and then, in the iciest and most exasperated tones imaginable, this aggravating bitch replies "That is VERY inconvenient."

Further note: Along with the word 'nanny', another magic word a participant can drop into the conversation that will completely alienate me from their cause is "inconvenient". I tell you this in truth, gentle readers -- I do not give a fuck if your tax free health reimbursement account is not being managed in a fashion you find convenient. You don't like it, pay your goddam taxes. Combine this with the fact that (a) this cunt is being snotty to me now and (b) she's got a fucking NANNY, and at this point, she's really got no shot of me doing anything whatsoever to help her with her problem.

However, after another very brief pause, Aggravating Bitch is going on "I fill these claims out at work and submit them from there. There are times I don't even see my nanny for... look. It's just extremely inconvenient. I have submitted these claims with this documentation for the last year and there has never been a problem before."

Now I'm just fed up with her, so I tell her "Well, apparently the processing department has a problem with it now, and based on my experience, I will tell you that they are not going to consider this adequate documentation."

At this point, she's realized that she just isn't getting anywhere with me, so she goes to the last resort of those who are certain they are entitled to get their way regardless of minor, trivial annoyances like, you know, the law: "This is unacceptable. Let me speak to a supervisor."

So I said, sweetly, "Absolutely, ma'am, please hold for a moment while I get one." Then I looked at my list of supervisors, picked out one I knew was home sick that day, and transferred Aggravating Bitch into her voicemail.

Then I took another call, and then the one after that beeped in, and it was Aggravating Bitch again. "I just spoke to you," she said, snidely. "You put me into a supervisor's voicemail. That is unacceptable. I need to speak to a real person now to get this resolved."

"Absolutely, ma'am," I assured her. Then I transferred her into the voicemail of someone who hasn't worked for my company for months.

After that, I don't know what happened to her.

Now, I'm normally and naturally a very gullible person... I tend to just, instinctively and without thought, believe whatever people tell me. It isn't until later that, in retrospect and hindsight, I figure out that there must be more going on that what was actually stated on the surface. In this case, though, well, having thought about it some more, I have to say, I think this woman is doing something she shouldn't be doing. After all, how hard is it to get your nanny to sign a claim form? No, she's doing something she knows isn't kosher here... her nanny is being paid under the table (maybe she's an illegal) or maybe she isn't paying for her childcare for some reason, or... something. Whatever the case, something stinks about the whole situation. Which is good, since it probably means she won't complain to any of my supervisors about me.

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