As Vince has written, the tourist trade in Lanesboro dies off in winter, so he goes on seasonal unemployment. The State loads his weekly payment onto a debit card which is managed by US Bank. When he was arrested, he was no longer eligible to receive additional payments; fair enough. However, he still had a balance in his account, which he couldn’t access.
So I started calling US Bank. I will not bore you with the details of how much time I spent on hold, making copies, faxing and mailing and emailing the Power of Attorney form Vince had painstakingly found in the prison library, and doing it all over again because US Bank claimed they never received it, and so on. Months passed.
My friend Stephanie, who came with me to visit Vince, works for a big consulting firm. I said to her, “I feel so cynical! I wonder if big corporations ignore people like me until we give up, and then they keep the money, and all those tiny accounts add up …” She laughed and said I wasn’t being cynical at all, that that’s exactly what they do. They wait you out. They do nothing. They make a nice profit.
But I am a fighter. Hearing Stephanie’s take on it made me mad, which energized me. I called the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. When a real person answered the phone and asked me to describe my complaint, I was tongue tied for a moment. “I…I wasn’t ready to talk … I’m not used to a government agency or company that actually answers the phone.”
The AG sent a letter to the CEO of US Bank, asking him to respond within five business days. US Bank ignored the letter. I don’t know what transpired after that but I received a check for $154.03 within a couple weeks. In particular, I’d like to recognize Joao Halab in the AG’s office for pursuing this on my and Vince’s behalf.
A hundred and fifty bucks may not sound like a lot of money, but it meant coffee and ramen and pens and paper to Vince. And to give Vince credit, he told me to keep $50 for m effort, which I did.
I’ve got other battles going as well. They are mostly internal ones; I am choosing not to expend my energy on them because I know I cannot win them.
I wrote that I have to move because I am being priced out of my apartment. I haven’t found a new place yet. It seems there are either spacious penthouses with doormen and champagne happy hours for $2,000 a month, or dark cramped rat holes for $800 a month, and not much in between.
My landlord has started showing my apartment, which amps up the pressure. I called a friend who lives in the building and asked, “Should I make a point of being home when they come in with the potential renters, so I can make sarcastic remarks about how they’re taking advantage of the economy to jack up rents?” She said NO without hesitation. I knew that was the right answer, but I needed to hear it.
But when I came home from seeing yet another “no-go” apartment, there were people in my living room. These potential new renters gushed about what a beautiful apartment I have. I kept my mouth shut.
The poor leasing agent is also being priced out of his apartment, which he’s been receiving as a benefit of being an employee, so he’s very sympathetic. He called me a couple hours later to say that a corporation had rented my apartment sight unseen but would be sending someone the next day just to verify the square footage. They’ll be using it to house MBA interns. I asked which company it was and he said Ecolab, which is a company that makes industrial cleaners.
This is me a couple years ago reveling in the view from my apartment:
My other internal battle is a February work trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I can’t say much except that it adds inherent complicated stress and additional pressure to find a new apartment by the time I leave, because I’ll come back and need to move five days later.