It began with good news.
I received a letter that was not a bill, or a reminder that I was due for my annual cardiologist’s appointment.
The letter is one page, printed on paper the color of the healthy flesh of some tropical fruit, possibly a guava.
“Entertainment Partners”, who are responsible for disbursing residual checks for some of the production companies I worked for, was writing to inform me that
“Our records indicate that the following payroll check has not been cashed.”
They then offer a procedure by which I can get that uncashed check reissued, thereby receiving the monies – I love that word – they had previously sent me but that, according to their records, I had never deposited in the bank.
Let me be clear. We are not talking “Lottery Windfall” here. As the years pass, my residual payment amounts substantially recede. Sitting in my home office is a check for eight-four cents, which I am not sure will pay for the gas to get me to the nearest Bank Teller machine to deposit it.
This check, the letter reports, is for one hundred and twenty-two dollars and sixty-four cents, which you will agree is not nothing. You can comfortably deposit that without the bank machine chuckling at you. Unlike
“Eight-four cents, huh? And you are putting it in the bank, rather than buying some gum?”
The process for receiving my replacement check sounds easy. I had to call the “Unclaimed Property Hotline”, tell them my nine-digit “Search Letter Number” and six-digit “PIN” number, both “appearing above” in the letter, plus give them the last four digits of my Social Security Number.
Easy-peasy. I do as instructed and I will receive a hundred and twenty-two dollars and sixty-four cents.
Here is the essential issue of this financial transaction – the announcement that there will be no problem completing this process because
“This number (for the “Unclaimed Property Hotline”) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The words “For your convenience”, being implicitly “understood.”
Okay. (And don’t get ahead of me.)
I call the number for the “Unclaimed Property Hotline”, knowing someone will be there because they said in the letter they would be.
The line is “Busy”, and I hang up.
“Okay fine”, I think. A lot of people are calling about uncashed residual checks; I will call them back later. No problem there. The “Unclaimed Property Hotline” is available 24 hour a day, seven days a week.
A while later, I call back the “Unclaimed Property Hotline.” The line is still “Busy.” No announced “Wait Period.” No recorded music to pass the time. Just the “Busy Signal”, and that’s it. I call again later. No luck.
Over a 24-hour period, I call the “Unclaimed Property Hotline” maybe a dozen times, all with the same negative result – no progress whatsoever. I am thinking, the “Unclaimed Property Hotline” may in fact be available 24/7, but it may as well not be. “Unavailable” or “Busy”, I am still not getting through.
I call the “Unclaimed Property Hotline” again and again – every time, still “Busy.” I am losing my patience. Which may, putting a cynical “spin” on things, be the actual point of this frustrating exercise. Could “Entertainment Partners” actually not want to reissue my residual check? Do they hope I’ll go, “Forget it”, and give up?
These people do not know whom they are dealing with.
A retired television writer with time on his hands.
I re-read the letter, discovering that you can e-mail “Entertainment Partners”, but only if the listed “Home Address” in the letter is incorrect. The listed “Home Address” in the letter is not incorrect.
I audaciously e-mail them anyway.
“Hey! I can’t get through!”
is the succinct gist of my e-mail.
The next day, I receive a return e-mail from “Entertainment Partners” saying, in part,
“I am sorry you were unable to go through our automated hotline ” – Peter An.
My friend Peter suggests I call the “Unclaimed Property Hotline” at different times – apparently nobody gets through on the first try – such as late at night.
Once again, they do not know whom they are dealing with. (Besides a guy who says “Whom.”)
Last night, for unspecified reasons, I am awake at three-twenty A.M.
I get up…
… and call the “Unclaimed Property Hotline.”
The line is still “Busy.”
At three-twenty A.M.
I try again. “Busy.” I try a third time.
Glory be! I get an automated announcement!
As instructed, I excitedly “Press 1”, to submit my relevant information.
I am then told to enter my nine-digit “Search Letter” number “appearing above”, which I do. Half way through, however, the voice says, I have not included enough numbers. Which in reality means I have entered those numbers too slowly. Why did that happen?
Because it is three-twenty A.M.
I memorize the nine-digit “Search Letter” number “appearing above”, punching it in as fast as I can.
And I make it!
Now for the six-digit “Pin” number, which I flub on my first three attempts.
Hey, I’m tired!
Finally, I submit all the information required. Having complied with their instructions, I am told it will take four weeks for “processing” before receiving my check.
That’ll happen, won’t it?
I mean, look how easy it was to get through.