Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Catch-22...We're Gonna' Screw You

Here's my rant for the week. I've been trying to get a parking ticket resolved with a nearby city in the same state I live in. Two years ago, I got a parking ticket. It was a legit ticket. I forgot to pay it on time and the city sends a few notices, adding some penalty fees. I pay the fine and the penalty fees. Six months later, the city starts sending notices again, claiming neither the original fine nor the penalty fees were paid…and, by the way, we are including additional penalties for the last six months. I tried calling their phone number, figuring if I could talk to a live person I can get this resolved…but, the phone queue has an expected wait time of more than an hour each time I call. I'm more than an hour each way from the city, so I'd need the better part of a day to go up in person and try and resolve this.

I decide to write a letter describing the problem and requesting a reason for why I keep getting these notices. A month or so later I get a response…a fucking form with a box checked off that says the citation was not paid. Oh, and I also get additional penalties tacked onto the tab. I write back, this time with a copy of my cancelled check. Another month or so goes by, and I get the same form with the same box checked, and a handwritten note saying I need to show proof…what the hell did they think the cancelled check was for?? So, now it is about the principle of the thing…maybe someone just didn't look at the cancelled check…maybe someone lost the copy of the cancelled check…etc., etc. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. So, I make another copy of the cancelled check, send a new letter, and send copies of all my past correspondence. Guess what? Another month or so goes by, I get the same form with the same box checked off and another hand-written note requesting a copy of my checking account bank records to verify the check was written and cleared. I bang my head against the wall a few times…have a few drinks…and comply with the request.

This is really pissing me off…the notices are not showing that I paid anything, and the penalty fees are mounting, and it's obvious no one is really READING my correspondence.

This cycle continues, until finally I get a flagging notice put on my vehicle, and the city has the MVA withhold my registration renewal…coming up at the end of this month. This time I skipped the head-banging and went straight to popping a few drinks to ease the pain.

So, I've got to get this resolved before the end of the month…the city's phone message says to expect major wait times if you come in person…so I call them up and wait in the phone queue for almost an hour…and then get to talk to a person. She tells me that yes, even though it is not reflected on the notices, they do realize that I paid the fine and several months penalty fees, but they claim they received my payment in between billing cycles so it triggered their system as being unpaid. I explained that there is more than a month's difference between the date on the check and the date they deposited the check…that's not my fault if they waited a month to deposit the check. I also explained the history of all the correspondence…which she was unaware of and could care less about…and asked if we could come up with some sort of compromise given the circumstances. No…she said only a judge could do this and she would have to send me forms to request a trial, which would probably not be scheduled before the end of the year…and, in the meantime the penalties would continue to grow & I wouldn't be able to renew my registration. ARGHHH!!! I don't drink during the day, but I was really tempted!

Okay, so what if I pay the hundreds of dollars they say I owe, then request a trial and hope that the judge would agree to some kind of compromise and the city would maybe pay me at least some of my money back? Would this be feasible I ask her? Yes, that's probably the best course of action is the reply. Okay, so she tells me how much, and says to go to a website where I can pay and get a confirmation code, then says to call back so they can verify the confirmation code and give me a fax number that the MVA can use to communicate with the city when I go down to renew my registration. So…that is what I do.

When I call back, of course I have to wait another 45 minutes in the hold queue. I give the person my confirmation code, she asks me to hold while she verifies it, and 20 minutes later she is back on the phone saying there is a problem…the city "forgot" to add an administrative fee to my bill so they are refusing to release the hold on my registration. The clerk was very nice and explained the reason I was on hold for 20 minutes was that she was trying to get the powers that be to forgo the administration fee since it was their mistake in the first place. No dice…they refused…and I've got to believe the cost of them (god only knows how many got involved) even discussing it was more than the fee itself.

It gets better…no, actually worse. Here's the Catch-22. I can no longer go to the website and pay the admin fee because the official records show I am all paid up. So I have to wait until they update the system, and send me another bill, which they will probably do at the end of the month or the first week of August…too late to renew. Oh yeah…and this will result in additional penalty fees being applied since THEY should have added the administrative fee several months ago.


To be continued...


Unknown said...

Hey, this post was made in 2006. You haven't died, have you? I want to know what happened.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ!! Sounds like you live in Jersey