As an indie author it should not surprise anyone that I am, well, independent. I have always questioned authority. Maybe it was growing up in the 60's, when the mantra was "never trust anyone over 30". I am way past 30 now, but I still question anyone who blindly follows rules instead of using common sense.
It is not that I want anarchy. Rules are great-when they make sense. And, sometimes, they should be broken. A good case in point: people working in the accounts receivable division for medical companies.
Several years ago I was very ill. In fact, I could have died. The bills mounted. No one could figure out what was wrong. Eventually, we ended up filing bankruptcy. I tried and tried to talk to various people about payment plans. To them, a payment plan was 25% each month or nothing.
Well, they got nothing. Am I proud of that? No. Nor am I ashamed. It was interesting how many calls we got once the bankruptcy notices went out. All of a sudden people were interested in just pennies on the dollar. They could have had all of the money, had they worked with us instead of making life hell with their renegade collection efforts.
Then a few years ago I had another medical bill for $400.00. I had just received the bill in the last week of September and the company I contracted with folded up without warning in October. Trying to do the right thing, I called the clinic and explained that I was out of work, but looking. I would send $100 that day and then have it paid off by December 31st if I found work right away. Otherwise I would call them and work something out. "Geat! No problem, thanks for calling," he said.
I found work, but not the same month. I started in November and it took a couple of weeks to get paid. I still hoped to be able to pay, but as December reared it's head it became obvious that I would not be able to pony up $300 that month. It is hard going from two incomes to one without notice even for a month. I called them and told them I would pay $100 and then pay monthly. This call happened around the 5th of December. I sent the check, which they happily cashed.
Imagine my surprise when I got a call (from the same man) around the 20th..asking me when I planned on paying. I explained that I had already talked to him and sent $100. He then said that I told him originally that I would pay in full by the 31st. I shot back that I had been decent enough to call him by the 5th and explain that I couldn't. He told me that was not their policy and that I could fill out the papers he had sent for a payment plan (with interest). I refused.
I then said, "First of all, even if I had not called you, you just admitted that I had said I would pay in full by the 31st. What calendar do you use that the 20th is the same as the 31st? I would be damn irritated had I been meaning to pay by the 31st and gotten this call." It was policy. I then said, "Well, I bet you were happy to cash the $100 I sent you. I am more than happy for you to come over and look under our Christmas tree to see how many gifts we have purchased. You will find a tree with zero gifts under it. Yet, we took our obligation to you seriously enough to send you $100." He again stated that a verbal or assumed payment plan was not their policy. I hung up.
In January, I sent $50. Nasty letters about sending the balance to a collection agency arrived. In February, I sent $50. Another letter, followed up by a phone call. Same person. Now I was really mad. "Seriously? You are hassling me in THIS economy (Feb. 2009) over $100, with a record of paying off $300 of the total bill? I can't believe you don't have people who owe more than $100 that you should spend your time with." He started in again about filling out paperwork for payments.
I had enough. "Listen," I said. "You have finally crossed the line to totally pissing me off. I have heard enough about your policies. Now you listen to mine. Here it is. I could now easily send you $100. I am not going to. I am going to send you $50 in March and $50 in April and it will be paid. UNLESS, and this is key, you call me up or send me another collection letter. Because here is the Rowland policy: When you refuse to use common sense and won't work with us when we are doing our best, we take action. So here's the deal: If you call or send a letter between now and the end of March, I will cut the amount I send in half to $25. Then, if you call or send me anything in April, the April payment will be cut in half again, to $12.50. I don't give a damn if I end up paying a dime a month for the rest of my life. THAT is the Rowland policy."
Silence. I continued. "You might think it smart to send this to a collection agency. If you want only half of the money, because they will keep half, please do so. The payments will remain the same as I mentioned. And if you want to do something to our credit, take your best shot. It is ruined anyway. Really, nothing can scare me in your "policy" manual. But I will tell you one thing. You should be ashamed for treating someone this way over a $400 bill that has been reduced over five months to $100. Let's see: $100 in Oct. $100 in Dec. $50 in Jan. $50 in Feb. I am wondering how conciliation court would view your pitiful attempts to show me in the wrong. And, by the way, please take notes and post them with our account so everyone there knows that I am done fooling around with you." I hung up.
No more calls or letters. The bill was paid as I said. $50 in March. $50 in April. The Rowland Policy did it's job. As a sign that I have posted on my facebook page says: You can't fix stupid, but you can numb it with a 2 x 4.