Your money or your sanity

I’ve been fortunate to have never had to deal with a bill collector before. But there’s been one chasing my 90-year-old mother for over a year now.

What I think happened is that we got a bill from an ambulance company we used last year to transport my mom in her wheelchair about 3 blocks from the hospital to a doctor’s appointment. I submitted the bill to my mom’s insurance company (at everyone’s urging) to see if we could get it covered (I figured it wouldn’t be).

While I waited to hear from the insurance company, the ambulance company sent another bill, which I waited to pay. By the time I heard “no” from the insurance company and actually paid the bill, the ambulance company had already turned us over to a collections agency (a pretty fast trigger-finger, I thought, but I guess they’re used to people not paying).

Let me say again: I paid the bill. Last year (April I think, for a February transport).

Monday morning, at my mom’s, we got a call AGAIN about the darn payment.

This is after I already talked with someone at the collections agency weeks and weeks ago and sent her a fax and a copy of the cancelled check.

And still I got the call, before 9:00 a.m. From someone who wouldn’t tell me why they were calling my mother (“a business matter”) and wouldn’t talk to me unless I put my mother on the phone, which I refused to do (a classic Catch-22, no?).

I finally got through to the woman that I had already taken care of this. She then bothered to check her records on the matter and a few minutes later asked tentatively, “Is this Christine?”

“Yes it is!”

I proceeded to give her an earful about how I’d long ago sent a fax and copy of the cancelled check, and had asked for confirmation (which I’d never received), all in a voice I don’t tend to use on the phone.

Supposedly, she is transferring the matter to the accounts department (or some such) and they will be sending me a receipt within 10 days. She couldn’t actually confirm they got my fax, so I expect this isn’t the end of it.

It might also be that we used the same ambulance company more than once, and I only paid for one transport (because I only got one bill — I pay every darn bill she gets, thank you very much), and I still owe the company money. I’m just waiting for that to be the case.

But I’m sure not sending them any more money until they tell me that is, in fact, the case.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about people for whom wrestling with collections calls is a way of life. I’m sure some are in the same situation as we are — at their mercy, even though they’ve paid (or think they’ve paid).

I’m also thanking my lucky stars I don’t have to dun people for a living.

To give vent now and then to his feelings,
whether of pleasure or discontent, is a great ease to a man’s heart.
~ Francesco Guicciardini


  1. RL said,

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 7:40 am

    You may want to do a little bit of research for fun about this kind of harassment (which what it is, at this stage of the game). You may be able to legitimately explain to the ambulance bill people that it is within your rights to sue them, if they don’t get their act together. Not that you would, but it might make them go away. I remember receiving a large bill for year’s worth of my mother’s room payment from the nursing home where she was–after she died. That’s right, the bill was for a span of time that started a week after she died, and went for a year of supposed care. I had fun explaining to the billing people (who were located right there at the facility!!) that she was dead, had been dead, and that maybe they should update their records–took more than one call for them to believe me!!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Wow — that’s rich, RL. I probably would have laughed and cried at the same time getting that bill — laughing at the ridiculousness of it and crying because I’d know what it would take to get it straightened out. Would you believe I just fielded a call from the same woman at the collections agency? She claims they never got my other fax — so I’m resending. (She asked, “Why are you sending me a cancelled check?” DUH — TO PROVE I ALREADY PAID YOU!!!) Getting that call again sure makes me like your idea of threatening legal action.

  3. RL said,

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Geez, I swear they feed those collections people something different from the rest of us. Well it’s Friday–send that fax, turn off all electronics, and have a beer.

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