I’ve shared before my opinion on handling frustrating customer service situations – rather than try to reason with a script reading, non-thinker in a cube half way across the country (perhaps half way around the world), if I’m materially aggravated, I’ll draft a letter to the CEO.
Admittedly my results have been mixed. The CEO from Six Flags was wildly dismissive, and the CEO from U-Haul delegated his duties to a lackey unable to understand my complaint, but the COO for TransUnion called me directly and invested 45 minutes in discussing the issue and providing me with his personal contact information if I ever experienced another problem with his organization.
So while my outcomes have varied, I’m satisfied in knowing I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve escalated to the top. Because I know most organizations have a dedicated team responsible for handling these types of letters, I’m confident I’ll either reach a pleasant conclusion or I’ll identify a company not worthy of my business. Sorry, Six Flags and U-Haul, my dollars are not for you.
Recently I’ve encountered an interesting cross road between my penchant for letter writing and my motivation for driving this site. While making extra principal payments against my wife’s student loan (in an effort to get out of debt), I’ve observed a dishonest tactic by Sallie Mae. It seems that despite very clear labeling, Ms. Mae likes to treat large principal payments as advanced monthly payments – interest and all. In this way, a large payment pushes out the next monthly payment date (forcing you to pre-pay interest) rather than unilaterally attacking the principal loan balance.
I personally find this a dishonest practice at best and malicious theft at worst. I’ve also found it cause for another round of letters.
As a set up to the letters below, this nonsense happened just recently (March and again in April), but it also happened multiple times in the fall of 2008 – before my job transition. So below, to demonstrate a full context, I’m providing copies of my letters from just last week, as well as, the letter from 2008. Finally, to further illustrate my point, I’ve provided the form letter I customize each time I submit an additional payment – you tell me how they missed my intentions.
How a lending institution could screw this up so badly is beyond me. How they could do so when provided such clear direction to the contrary is another matter altogether. Face it, my messages to you only resonate louder against the backdrop of these examples – Debt Sucks. If sweet sounding Sallie Mae is so eager to screw you over, can you imagine what other lenders have in store for you?
Enjoy, and let me know what you think below:
Letter to CEO Albert L. Lord – April 2010
April 12, 2010
Albert L. Lord –
I am writing to your office a second time to share my continued disappointment with the significant limitations demonstrated by your organization.
On a number of occasions I have submitted additional principal payments against my wife’s outstanding student loan (account number ##########). When these payments are processed, they are routinely processed incorrectly and recently a large payment was not credited at all.
My previous correspondence dated December 30, 2008 (enclosed) dealt with the repeated failure of your organization to recognize clearly marked checks as payments against the principal balance. Instead of reviewing the account records – which so clearly demonstrated a “next payment due” date several years into the future – my wife was met with a terse phone call explaining “her error” and a promise to contact me directly to “help set me straight”. Not surprisingly I was never contacted and the account information on the web was quickly corrected. Apologies and/or acknowledgements remain outstanding.
True to form, your organization has screwed up again.
- On March 14 a check for $1000 was mailed and cashed on March 22. This check and accompanying letter (both enclosed) were clearly marked as principal payments yet processed as monthly pre-payments (screen shot enclosed demonstrates “next due date” of January 2011)
- On March 18 a check for $3036 was mailed and cashed on March 25. This check and accompanying letter (both enclosed) was not credited against my wife’s account until at least April 9 and not until the payment had been verified multiple times by my wife. This payment too has been processed as monthly-pre-payments (screen shot enclosed demonstrates a ridiculous ‘next due date” of February 2013)
- During my wife’s follow-ups she was told many conflicting stories. She was told that the payments were treated as principal payments with no explanation for what your website demonstrated. She was also told that she was responsible for all interest on the loan regardless of how quickly the loan was paid. Clearly demonstrating errors in both your recruiting and training processes.
I am mailing a check to your organization this week to pay our remaining balance and forever close my wife’s account. I require that you promptly and accurately process this payment – steps which have represented significant challenges to your operations team to date.
As an accurate payoff balance is impossible to glean from your site, given its design to assume interest pre-payments, I also require a prompt return of any overpayments which may be unwittingly included.
I expect all overpayments and documents confirming the closure of this account to be express mailed within 72 hours of the time my check is presented for payment.
In the interest of full disclosure and to help inspire accountability on your side, I will be posting this letter and your response (including its timeliness) on my blog.
Attached you will find the enclosures referenced above. Please contact me or the loan holder if there are questions, meanwhile, I await your prompt response.
Letter to Payment Center and CEO Albert L. Lord – December 2008
December 30, 2008
Sallie Mae Payment Center –
Please consider this letter a wake-up call to help you overcome a troubling level of incompetence.
Allow me to explain. On two occasions in November 2008 I provided checks with accompanying letters indicating that my payments be treated as additional principal payments – I am resubmitting those letters for your re-review.
However, when viewing the account on-line my payments have been treated as pre-payments – which includes the pre-payment of interest. A losing practice if ever there was one.
To address this issue, I require the following 4 actions on your part:
- Immediately adjust the accounting for my additional payments according to both my current and previous requests
- Make the necessary interest credits to the account
- Provide me with a detailed accounting of the above steps
- Provide me with your preferred method of communicating an intent to make additional principal payment as black and white printed letters are not sufficient
Enclosed please find copies of my original letters from November. Please contact me or the loan holder if there are questions, meanwhile, I will await your prompt response.
Additional Principal Payment Template
March 14, 2010
Sallie Mae –
Please credit the full amount of the enclosed check as an additional principal payment against my wife’s student loan.
- Loan Number: ##########
- Loan Holder: wife’s maiden name/wife’s married name
- Current Payment Amount: $1,000.00
Upon posting this payment, please provide loan holder with an updated payoff balance.
Please contact me or the loan holder if there are questions.
So what do you think? Is Sallie Mae sinister or just inept? Am I overacting? How do you think they’ll respond??
I’d love to hear your response and I promise to share Sallie’s response with you.
Photo By: jk5854
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