bill blunder

Rob didn’t skip his mortgage bill: He accidentally made the same payment twice.

When I woke up last Saturday, I had envisioned having a nice, leisurely morning, grabbing some breakfast and maybe taking care of a few things around the house.

First, I thought, I better check to make sure that the mortgage payment made the day before had gone through. Going online to check my account, I found something that froze me on the spot.

Instead of seeing the check I’d paid with the day before—it hadn’t posted quite yet—what stared back at me was an automatic mortgage payment I had meant to cancel. Because of that mental lapse, I was in the midst of paying twice, though there was only enough money in the account for one payment.

It’s the kind of “Oh, no!” moment that happens when you realize you’ve been a real klutz. And yes, I’m fairly familiar with moments like that.

I am the guy, after all, who once tossed his wallet up on top of my car as I loaded stuff at the beach. Yep, you guessed it, I finished loading and drove off with my wallet still up there, and it blew off soon after I crossed a bridge.

Anyway, back to last week’s blunder.

Noting that the automatic payment was labeled in my bank account as “pending,” I hoped there might be a way to nip that bugger in the bud and thus avoid overdrawing my account.

So instead of breakfast, I dashed to my bank, BB&T, where I found a banker and confessed my thick-headed move.

She was nice enough not to giggle as I told her my lame-brained story, and instead consoled me by noting that it wasn’t the first time this had happened and probably wouldn’t be the last.

Her understanding and kindness were much appreciated, because at that point, I was feeling like a 6-year-old who’d showed up for kindergarten in nothing but his BVDs.

In defense of my stupidity, there had been a method to the madness that caused my mess.

With the deadline for my mortgage payment getting close when I got paid Friday, I opted to run a check right over to a SunTrust bank, which takes payments for the company my mortgage is with. I thought that would get the money there faster than the automatic payment, which takes a few days to arrive.

Dropping the check off on Friday, I distinctly remember making several pointed, serious mental notes to cancel the automatic payment. Reminders I immediately forgot.

My sympathetic new BB&T banking friend spent considerable time Saturday morning trying to help me. She chronicled what had happened, and told me there wasn’t much she could do on her end because the payment and the check had already been processed.

My best bet, she said, was to go quick like a bunny to the SunTrust across the street—where I’d deposited the check—and see if they could and would reverse the automatic payment.

An equally nice banker over there said he’d be glad to, once the payment was no longer labeled in my account as “pending,” a place this whole ordeal has made me see as a sort of financial purgatory.

It’s taken nearly a week, help from another nice SunTrust banking official, two deposits to cover the overdraft and accompanying fees, and a promise from SunTrust mortgage to reverse the automatic payment to get me to the point where it seems this will all soon be resolved.

I appreciate all the help I’ve gotten, but still feel like a real dope.

My pain has been eased by hearing stories of similar mistakes, like my sister’s tale of an incorrectly placed decimal point that turned a $726 utility payment into a $7,260 hit. And the one from another banker, who said a cellphone payment many years ago magically, and mistakenly, ballooned from $220 to $220,000 and actually went through.

She and my sister both got their money back, and I’m sure I will too, thanks to the many folks who were nice enough not to snicker when I told them my story.

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Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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