Crazy Crapitalism

by Richard Kostelanetz (September 2014)


Some credit card outfits are sleazier than others. I’ve had American Express’s for decades without any serious problems; but since some lesser merchants don’t accept its plastic, no doubt for some good reason unfamiliar to me, I’ve had to get a second credit card. When Amazon.com offered me one, especially with a credit on a current order, I agreed to accept its Master Card. That was a mistake.

Because Master Card sent bills to a wrong address, I never received them and so was not prompted to pay money due. Once I discovered what went wrong, I paid my debts without any penalties and the MC bank acknowledged its mistake in a personal letter to me. The trouble was that Master Card had meanwhile informed Eperian and the like that I was a deadbeat and so all of them lowered my credit score. When I sent a copy of the MC apology, I didn’t get any response; telephone calls were no more successful. This reduction in my credit score didn’t initially bother me, as I have no mortgage or any other outstanding major debts. However, when American Express lowered my credit limit by 80%, even though I’ve always paid its bills in full promptly, I then discovered a principal problem with Eperian and the like. The customer can’t get past their robots. Getting through is impossible. To characterize them as dumb and inhuman is an understatement. That I’ll write up elsewhere.

Suffice to say that if American Express doesn’t want to take its cut on money I spend, it won’t get it. One beneficial result of free-market capitalism is offerings us customers alternative options. As I now pay major bills directly by checks, Amex is voluntarily losing my business. Anyone owning its stock should consider AmEx as a company that easily screws itself, small time with me, bigger time probably elsewhere, all while paying Eperian and the like to be screwed. No individual can make a winner of a chronic loser.

So I accepted an unsolicited credit-card offer from Capital One, rarely using it, nonetheless paying monthly bills in full. One trouble came when they mailed me another card. Not thinking otherwise, I cut up the previous card and used that new one. That was a mistake on my part unknown to me until I received bill for $39 for opening a new account that I didn’t need and thus certainly did not authorize.

Getting that new card cancelled took a full hour over the telephone, because Capital One’s call-center employees in Nicaragua sound as though they are instructed to repeat and repeat that I must have ordered it, because their company can do no wrong. Repetition in speech occurs when someone is voluntarily stupid--not understanding or not accepting what he or she hears. Either way, the implicit point of repetition is that someone is dumb, dumb, dumb. Since I’m not, we must conclude….  For the few purchases I made in this account, I submitted my checks, closing it.

Meanwhile, CapOne is sending me dunning letters for the initial account. The principal problem with these solicitations is their stating only a “new balance” without explaining how it was established. Indeed, between the charges itemized and the money they demanded was a few hundred dollars. Over the telephone, in a conversation lasting well over an hour, because my complaint was forwarded to a supervisor, they claimed it was for other purchases made in the past and thus not acknowledged in the latest statement. Since I customarily pay in full upon receipt of every statement invoice, I asked them to find the missing charges explaining that, as my checks that have category numbers in their lower left corners, I can only pay identifiable expenses. I have no code for expenses invented by Capital One, no one else.

As I telephoned 800-903-3637 to ask for a more complete accounting, I should have sensed CO askew when I was asked to repeat my social security number more than once only to hear that it did not match any account in their records, Lord knows why. Since I received another bill that didn’t add up, so to speak, I telephoned again on November 24, 2011, this time getting first Meg and then Lucky in Manila, who repeatedly insisted that CO’s numbers did add up to their total, even though it was quite obvious to anyone familiar with elementary arithmetic than they didn’t. Meanwhile, I told CO to close my account; I would not use its card.

After further delay Lucky found another expense that she insisted should be added. Even then the total claimed wasn’t reached. I asked her to send me a statement with that purported additional expense; so that, in case it represented something for which I already paid, thus asking me to pay for it again. This attempted fraud I could forward to the Attorney General. However, such stupid crooks they’re not, apparently. Instead I received reprints of their earlier statements for 2011, all of which I already had, needless to say. This represents the USPS-assisted version of repetitive dunning that I’d already identified as the CO style. Obviously, they wanted simply to intimidate me, rather than identify exactly what was owed to them. For that fault alone, they should be barred forever from issuing not only credit cards but negative reports to Eperian and the like. Consider Capital One to be guys who want its customers to believe that 2 + 2 equals five and, if you don’t accept their faulty math, they’ll dun the hell out of them. Another word of this attitude is unfriendly fascism.

One recurring problem with CO’s is “customer service” people are so stupid, so repetitive, that telephone calls to them customarily take over an hour, sometimes as long as 90 minutes. People working in call centers outside the USA can afford to waste your time with repetition after repetition. Smart though this strategy might seem in the short run it finally hurts CO, as a customer learns he must set aside in advance at least an hour before dialing. So I called again on 6 December, after midnight, entered my account number, etc., to the customarily prompts, only to hear that CO was closed. Surprised as well as annoyed, I left another message asking again for a verifiable statement. To no surprise, nothing of the sort ever came.

Having given up on dealing directly with CO, I forwarded this my narrative in December 2011 by USPS directly to Capital One with a copy to the NYS Attorney General. Eric T. Schneiderman’s office. Judy Blumberg, representing the NYS Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, advised me on 5 January 2012 to forward my complaint to the Controller of the Currency, Customer Assistance Group in Houston, TX, which did. She additionally advised me to return to the NYS AG if I didn’t get a favorable resolution. One reply from CapOne was a telephone call on my answering machine from someone identifying himself perhaps as Nicholas expressing concern. As he didn’t leave any return number, I called CapOne yet again, only to hear some factotum tell me they didn’t know who Nicholas was and, natch, had no record of his call. The other replies from CapOne were yet more invoices, perhaps a dozen, all lacking in itemization, which they are evidently unable to do. Also some emails demanding payment. At relentless dunning they are more skilled than accounting. (If your landlord tells you to jump off your roof, are you going to jump off your roof?) Such outlaws are they—white-collar thugs, reallythat I’d recommend prosecution not of underlings but of top officials, the CO chiefs who must finally be held responsible for such recurring mischief, if only to prevent everyone there from misbehaving again. Until then, my nickname for these guys, by which they should be known, is CD for Capital Dun.

It turns out that the NYS Attorney General must have had a wrong address, because Texas Consumer Assistance replied that my “complaint does not fall under the jurisdiction of our office.” I was further advised to “direct all future correspondence regarding this issue” to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, PO Box 4503, Iowa City, IA 52244.” This I did on February 27, 2012. Need I be the first to question why Judy Blumberg and her New York State Attorney General colleagues didn’t have the correct address for my complaint? Am I getting a run-around?

Some dunning agency (at 8002605570), calls my home telephone a few times each day, no doubt programmed for relentless harassment. Whenever I answer, asking for the caller’s name to appear in the article I’m writing, he or she hangs up on me. None of them, may I guess, want to be identified as the fall-guy, the chump, for the CO bosses above him. They must know that they are participating is an illicit activity for which, living outside the USA, they cannot be prosecuted, though their bosses can and should be. Were any of them to stay on the telephone, I would ask to be connected to his superior and then his superior, etc., always writing down whatever identifying information they give me. Widen the net.

In the mail in July 2012 came a form letter from a names new to me--Nelson, Watson & Associates, LLC 80 Merrimack Street Lower Level, Haverhill, MA 01830). Dated 18 June 2012 (and thus slow in the mail), this duns me for $1,315.59, which is a figure considerably higher than any seen before by me. As no supporting accounting was enclosed, my first thought was that this letter was a fake—that these guys were crooks sending thousands of such letters much like email scamming by fakes in Nigeria hoping to find someone stupid enough to send them money.

Messers Nelson and Watson, if they aren’t ghosts, should be prosecuted for attempting fraud, beginning with revocation of the permit # 116152 they claim to have from the NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs. If indeed such a permit exists and is not revoked, then the folks at NYC/DCA should be terminated, if not prosecuted, as co-conspirators in an attempted fraud. After sending a copy of this essay in progress to the NYC/DCA and to Mayor Bloomberg’s office, I received from Daniel K. Kuzmitski, “Director of Training and Compliance Nelson, Watson” which read in part: “It appears that he is disputing the validity of this account. We have closed and returned the account back to our client, Capital One Services, LLC, as a dispute and he will not be contacted again by Nelson, Watson.” I asked the NYC Dept of Consumer Affairs to revoke this license to prevent NS from indulging in such mischief again, but never got a reply. For now at least NS must think it has a license to send.

On 21 Sept. 2012, I found on my answering machine, 9:05 am, a call from 207-512-5389 with an aggressive, thuggish voice telling me, “My name’s Brad Fuller, I’m calling from Bryant, Hodge, and Associates, a professional debt-collection or assert-recovery corporation” demanding that “you or your legal representation” call 888-675-4485 and press 1 “to speak to a live agent.” Instead, I pressed 8 to speak with whomever called me from the 207 number, got an answering machine, and asked to verify who hired him. As no one called me back, this may have been a fake. Let no one doubt that debt-collection attracts shady characters.

Lest I think that Capital Dun’s wolves had fallen asleep for the winter, I received in January 2013 from Foster & Garbus LLP, located at 60 Motor Parkway/P.O. Box 9030, Commack, NY 11725.9030, duplicate photocopies of all my Capital Dun statements, but none of the correspondence, which was apparently kept from these fools. This too repeats the fictitious figure of $1,315.59 with no accounting. Whereas Nelson Watson’s letter has only its corporate moniker at the top, this has at the top of its single page the names of fourteen people, all purportedly lawyers. Below the signature of “Anne Viscecchia/Compliance Officer” is a footnote that reads, “Please note that we are required, under federal law, to advise you that we are debt collectors and [sic] any information we obtain will be used in attempting to collect this debt.” Accepting this invitation I sent to both Foster Garbus and Judy Blumberg (at the NYS Attorney General’s office) this essay in progress, but neither responded. If only to curb further pestering, I enclosed for Foster & Garbus only an invoice for my professional services for $1,000, incidentally noting that debt collectors who fail to pay their bills should be banned for life from their business—all fourteen of them. May I note that these guys, unlike Watson, Nelson, didn’t claim a NYC dunning permit, which, as I said, may be a fiction. Given the delay of four months, my hunch is that Capital Dun shopped this job around until they found lawyers dumb and desperate enough to accept it. This couldn’t have been easy, given that dummies with law degrees are hard to find.

Also in late January 2013 I received a letter from the Rodier Law Firm at 1501 Broadway (NY), which I recall as a building with many small offices. More than four decades ago, it housed a human answering service before I purchased my home machine. This letter informed me of “A Lawsuit Filed against you by Capital One Bank (USA), N. A. for $1,315.59.” This was news to me, who hadn’t heard before of “Case # CV-043058-12/QU.” Nonetheless, the Rodier firm urged me to call them for representation.. How did Rodier know about me? Directly from Capital One? Were they in cahoots, as we say? 

Several months later, just as this critique was set to appear in print, I received yet another dunning letter, this from the Northfield Group, Inc., in Minneapolis, offering me a “settlement” of $1,018.92, instead of my “current balance due” of $1,455.59, to a PO Box in Minneapolis. To support their demand they claim a “New York City Department of Consumer Affairs License number” of 1283580 and a license, no number given, from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. As no accounting for either figure is offered, I assume that they are equally fictitious and, further, that any letter fictitious in one respect is probably fictitious in others. A webpage http://www.debtorboards.com/index.php?topic=549.0 describes Northfield as “jerks,” which would be libelous were there not many examples apparently true. For more negative information, see: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Northland-Group-Inc/Minneapolis-Minnesota-55439/Northland-Group-Inc-Scam-attempted-ripoff-Hoax-Minneapolis-Minnesota-490771. Another webpage (http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/northland-group-inc-minneapolis-minnesota-c225823.html) itemizes bad dealings before one victim concludes with this advice: “Do not pay to these individuals. They are evil, and they will be punished soon. If you have been harassed by them, do sue them.” Why such white-collar thugs should still be in business and why Crapital Dun should commission them are questions I justly pose to white-collar law enforcement in this country.

Further Internet searching tells me, to no surprise, that this “Group, Inc.” is actually not in Minneapolis but in Edina, MN. As no individual names appear on its webpages, can’t we conclude that no one wants identification with such a sleazy operation. Just as I was ready to conclude that Crapital Dun had run out of guys stupid enough to swallow their sword, Northfield popped up (or down). So copies of my revised critique went out to them and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, along with an invitation to reply to me before this appears in print. Don’t be surprised to find him/them/it no less dumb than earlier recipients who, once caught crooked, choose not to respond.

And just as this revision was set to appear, yet another clawing hand arrived in my mail. Calling itself ARS National Services, Inc, this claims “New York City License: 1020790,” though its address is a P.O. Box in Escondido, CA. Perhaps the most curious details about the ARS (not ASS) letter is these guys in Southern California, if that is indeed where they are, offer me the same amounts with the same purported discount as the Group in Northfield, MN. Perhaps they are the same guys with a different name and a different license number from the NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs.

It will be instructive to see, once this narrative of Crazy Crapitalism is circulated, who sues whom for screwing what? Stay tuned as the conspiracy unravels. Meanwhile, anyone owning shares of Crapital Dun should consider that their company, unable to present a credible invoice, was spending thousands of dollars screwing itself.

_______________________

 

Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster's Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.

 

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