Wednesday, October 03, 2007

...a failure to communicate (Conclusion)

[In Part 1, we learned that some simple things can get complicated pretty darned fast. Here's how they can get untangled. ]
I finally connected with the lady at the top of that particular heap, who went back to the carrier to see about a resolution. We went back and forth for a number of days (I took pains to keep my client - the law firm - in the loop all the while).
Finally, the carrier agreed to make an exception, based on the understanding that I would obtain the outstanding forms when I delivered the policy. In the meantime, they would overnight a check to the annuitant within 24 hours. Of course, it was now the first week in September, so we were already behind, but it seemed like an appropriate compromise. I agreed to it, and hoped for the best.
Several days later, I was informed that the check had arrived (Yippee!), but that it was post-dated for September 17th (take back the Yippee). This was not in keeping with our agreement, and so I informed the nice lady at XYZ. I further informed her that I would not be forwarding the additonal paperwork, since the carrier had breached our agreement. She asked if she could forward that to the carrier, and I of course said "sure!"
The folks at the carrier were not happy. You see, they now had a major problem: if they were ever audited, and the auditors saw this case, the carrier would have insufficent paperwork to justify having sent any money. This would be a bad thing for them.
On the other hand, I had all the documentation I needed (copies of the emails, the FedEx forms, etc), and so had no such problem. They needed the paperwork, and I needed an explanation for the post-dating, and for the fact that we never received the August payment (or so I understood), and that August payment itself.
Again, a flurry of emails, and then the carrier called me, demanding that I pony up the forms. The not-so-nice lady from the carrier explained in detail why they needed them, and how she would never have made the exception if she'd not had my assurance that I would comply.
I listened politely, and when she was finished replied "I understand everything you've said, but I don't care." I wasn't being snide [ed: yes, you were], but honest: the only leverage I had was that paperwork. Without it, they were up a creek, and they had no leverage with which to pry it from me*.
There was a pause (no wonder), and she then repeated her little shpiel. I listened attentively, and replied again "I understand, but I don't care. You agreed to make timely payment, and a check post-dated for 10 days isn't timely. You breached the agreement, and the only leverage I have is this paperwork. You need it, and I have it, and my client has her check. Where shall we go from here?"
She was so flustered by this that she said "you know what? Have a nice day" and hung up on me. I, of course, burst out laughing: she had called me, and then hung up on me. Droll, and yet humorous.
I called my client to apprise them of the latest developments (such as they were), and then called the nice lady at XYZ to discuss the latest round. She had just gotten off the phone with the carrier, and was motivated to get this resolved (after all, this was 100% her company's fault: neither I nor the carrier had really done anything wrong).
So, we set up a conference call between her, the carrier (represented by the lady with the less-than-stellar phone manners and her assistant) and my own charming self. We went back and forth, until finally we had a breakthrough: turns out, aside from the paperwork issue, the real sticking point was that they couldn't honor a 31st-of-the-month payment date: it had to be no later than the 30th. Well, this was the first I (or XYZ) had heard of this, and it helped to clarify the timing problem. The post-dated check, it turns out, was the August payment, and she would be receiving her September payment at the end of this month (and so on). We had understood, incorrectly, that the post-dated check was for September, and were holding out for the August payment. Had they bothered to explain this in the first place, we would have avoided some blood pressure issues.
In the event, all's well that ends; I sent the requisite paperwork up last week, and everyone's satisfied (if not happy). Just goes to show that a little communication can help one avoid a lot of complication.
*[It may have occured to IB readers that the carrier did, in fact, have one piece of leverage. Fortunately, they apparently weren't sharp enough to see or use it. I'll leave what it was as an excercise for the reader]
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