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Hello Old Friend – Can You Help

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I thought I had my topic picked for this month’s Law Alert until I arrived home from work Monday night.  There was a message from my 80 year old father-in-law.  My father-in-law is a retired Army Colonel and he had received a call from an old Army buddy “Bob” asking for his help.  Bob had switched bank accounts and he was no longer receiving his military pension.  I spoke with Bob.  He shared that had tried to call a toll-free number, but it was constantly busy.  He went on to tell me that he had made a mathematical mistake which caused him to overdraw his account. He said this was the first time this had happened and was charged penalties.  Bob was so upset he closed the account.

My father-in-law has a daily ritual where he comes to our house to pick up our two dogs.  We have discovered this routine serves a number of purposes:  we get to see my father-in-law each day, he gets to enjoy the company of our two dogs at no expense, and the dogs get another day of faithfully following my father-in-law on his daily activities on the mountain.  We knew he would be earlier the next morning.  He wanted to make sure I had spoken with Bob and that I was able to help.  I explained that I had talked to Bob and assured him I would work with him until the problem was fixed.  I checked in with Bob the next day only to find out that his health was not good and this was simply more than he could handle on that particular day.

As I think back over the past few days, I wondered if it was the Defense Finance and Accounting Services’ intent to provide a toll-free number to Veterans’ that was always busy?  Was it truly the bank’s policy to always charge overdraft fees and to deny assistance redirecting a direct deposit, for a loyal customer who had made a one-time mistake?

This reminded me of a mistake we had made during the past year and the outcome.  We were leaving Philadelphia one Sunday morning and there was a fine mist of rain and sleet.  When we approached the toll booth we could not safely enter the ticket lane due to a tractor trailer and the bad road conditions.  This forced us into the easy pass lane.  Well, we all know what this means.  When we finally exited the turnpike, we were pleasantly surprised when the toll booth attendant informed us that the State affords each driver a one-time pass and we only had to pay a toll for the distance we had traveled.  I have no idea if this is true; all I know is at that one moment, the toll-booth employee listened to our story and did what was right.

When the day is done, it is about being able to provide the best customer service to that one customer, at that one moment in time.  It is not about us or how busy our day might be.  This one phone call made me realize that it does not matter what systems we put in place if we end up creating barriers or hurting the customers we are trying to reach.  Like all businesses, we are not without fault and we may regret how we have handled a particular situation.  As I move forward as an Elder Care Coordinator for the firm, I am revitalized to follow our pledge to consider all of our clients’ unique circumstances and provide services to meet their individual needs, to treat each client with the respect and courtesy they deserve.