The Public Eye

printed 02/19/2021

Thank you, U.S. Postal Service and Citibank Mastercard. After years — make that several decades — of struggling with my apparently unhealthy obsession about paying my bills on time, I have achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a deadbeat.

It’s true. As of last week, I enjoyed that warm feeling of having my Mastercard locked away from my hot little fingers and being advised of this action by hearing the clerk say, “DECLINED,” at the cash register.

Oh, how I have longed to hear those words, and I owe it — along with the past due amount of $109.42 — to the two of you.

Thanks, U.S. Postal Service, for sending my full, balance-clearing payment to Citibank via your new Garden Slug Express Service, and thanks, Citibank, for instituting a credit-managing computer algorithm that begins with “Tough ****, Kemosabe.”

What follows is the transcript of the conversation I had with “Randal” after my card was rejected at the beer store, where my deadbeat status was confirmed for one and all.

“Hi, my name is Randy and I am a Citibank Client Resolution Specialist. Thank you for logging on today and being a valued customer with us. What can I do for you today?”

“Well, Randy, my credit card, which has been paid off completely without fail every stinking month for the past 25 years, has been locked after being declined — In Front of Other People, Randy — and, as a valued customer, I want to know why.”

“Give me a minute while I check your account ... Oh, I see. Your account is past due. Your past due total is $109.42.”

“It's the Postal Service, Randy. The check for the full balance was mailed 10 days before the due date.”

“Yes, we have been hearing about some USPS delays in some areas.”

“What? You’ve been hearing about delays in some areas? How about an area the size of the whole (deleted) country, Randy? It’s been in the news, you know, people missing prescriptions sent by mail, birthday cards arriving just in time for the funeral, mortgage payments caught somewhere between the Tim-bucking-too sorting center and P.O. Box Zero in Total Disarray, Virginia, and you’ve heard about delays? Randy, wake up, man. There’s a world out there that’s falling apart.”

“I can certainly note that you have mailed a payment, but in the meantime, if you would send me a minimum of $35.00, I can unlock your account. Otherwise, I have no way to remove any holds on the card. It’s an automated process.”

“Then why am I talking to you, Randy, when the computer is in charge?”

“That would be because you are a valued customer.”

“I am, am I?”

“Well, you would be a valued customer if you paid the $109.42. Absent that, it’s tough noogies, sir.”

UPDATE: I am no longer a deadbeat. As of Feb. 17 — 29 days after being mailed — the payment arrived.

This was good news and cause for celebration, although I did have to hear the beer store cashier say to the entire world, as I passed him my resurrected card, “I sure hope it works this time.”

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