Giving credit where credit is past-due

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to pay my natural gas bill. I would. I really would.

Nothing would make me happier than to pay my $76.38 balance with a certain natural gas utility, thus protecting my “valuable credit rating.”

Because, as we all know, the barometer of a person’s worth as a human being in our society hinges on their ability to make utility payments on time.

I mean, you start buying into the idea that people can be decent, caring, and upstanding citizens even if they miss a payment or two and soon you have anarchy in the streets my friends. A total breakdown of societal morals.

So trust me, I am well aware of how crucial it is, if I am to hold my head up among decent people, to pay my natural gas bill.

Should I ever forget, I will promptly receive a telephone call from a computer-generated-voice-guy asking me to “please stand by for an important message from a creditor.”

No gas. The problem with paying “my” bill? I don’t have one. A natural gas bill that is.

It is quite possibly the one and only debt I don’t have, I’ll admit, but nonetheless – I don’t.

Not for lack of trying, but rather because my neighborhood does not receive natural gas service. Neither did our previous address. Prior to that I lived at home with my mother.

While she may have been a stickler when it came to my doing my own laundry and turning out the lights when I left a room because honestly, she didn’t own Ohio Edison, she was still not so harsh as to make me underwrite the heat and hot water with my baby-sitting money.

Nonetheless, through the magic of technology, this phantom gas bill has hounded me for well over a year now. We have come to refer to it as my fantasy gas.

I’ve tried. Oh how I’ve tried to get the computer generated voice guy to come around to my way of thinking. He is generally not persuaded.

It is truly a blessing that all the creditors in the world have gone to automated calling.

Otherwise, logic and reason might be permitted to enter into the equation, whereupon our nation’s creditors would immediately fall so far behind on harassing innocent citizens that they might never catch up.

Human touch. I tried to go over computer-generated-voice-guy’s head and speak to an actual human being. There is no such thing at the utility company anymore, of course, but it was fun to try.

I sat on hold for approximately six days, routinely offered the option of paying my bill automatically by credit card, personal check, or simply pounding a series of random numbers into the telephone and what the heck, they’d charge my balance to somebody.

The system never, however, gave me an option for “if you believe your bill to be in error please press 76, star, pound sign” or any combination thereof.

It is as if the notion, the very suggestion, that any error could have occurred on the part of the creditor and not the consumer, or non consumer as my case may be, is so outlandish as to not be worth mentioning. Ever.

Fortunately, my “seriously past due balance,” despite being fictional, was finally turned over to a collection agency.

Suddenly, all kinds of people were clamoring to speak to me. Usually during dinner.

Sadly, it turns out that reaching an actual human being does not guarantee that logic or reason will enter into the conversation. I actually made greater inroads when talking to the computer.

It’s gotten so that I almost miss “computer generated voice guy.” I thought he and I had something special. He generally kept his calls to 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings. He was a true gentleman.

Friendly advice. My new phone friends from the collection agency have been willing, even eager, to enlighten me – at all hours of the day and night – with their learned opinions.

As professional credit collection agents operating on commission (not that this would affect their unbiased dedication to consumer rights, mind you) they offer this sterling piece of advice: “just pay the bill and save yourself further trouble.”

As one of these kindly folks suggested: “I know it seems unfair but honestly, if I were you, I’d pay the balance just to protect my credit rating.”

Finally, an obvious solution! Next time that computer-generated voice guy calls, I’ll refer him to the collection agency.

Seeing as how it’s such a small price to pay money you don’t owe to correct an error you didn’t make, they certainly shouldn’t mind cutting him a check.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is still fighting the good fight, despite dire personal risk to her credit score. She welcomes comments and commiseration c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem Ohio 44460 or kseabolt@epohi.com.)

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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