Thursday, October 8, 2009

Online banking saved the day!

I was almost overcharged by $500 this week. I hired a repair person to do some work in my home. I'd hired him before, so I had a level of trust with this person. Also, because I'd worked with him in the past I didn't request a quote ahead of time (big mistake). I assumed his fee would be the same as last time, maybe slightly higher for inflation.

His invoice was $500 higher, for the same service. I was in shock. I wrote him a check and went about my day, trying to figure out what went wrong. He had charged me $600 for a cleaning solution. I couldn't dispute it but it just didn't seem right. Certainly not asking for a quote in advance was a big mistake I'll never make again. I wasn't sure what to do.

That night I couldn't sleep. I got up and through online banking, put a stop payment on the check I wrote him. I figured it would give me a chance to find my old receipts, get other quotes and figure out why his invoice was so high. Also, I figured if he can show me proof that his cleaning solution cost $600/gallon, and he can show me documentation that a home my size required a full gallon of solution, then I would pay $800. I had every intention of paying him a fair price, and I contacted him in the morning to tell him his check would not clear to prevent further problems for him. I asked him to fax me a receipt for his cleaning solution and manufacturer's documentation that justified an entire gallon for my home.

Then, I dug out the old receipts. Sure enough, his last invoice for the same exact service, was only $300. He had over charged me by $500. In the days that followed, I never received the proof I requested to justify his charges. So I mailed him a letter and a new check for his services in the amount of the previous invoice plus 10% for inflation. I hope it ends there!

The lesson in this story: beware of scam artists. Times are tough and many people are in dire situations that cause them to take drastic measures - sometimes unethical. Be aware and cautious with your money at all times, but particularly these days. I was grateful for the technology of online banking that night, it saved the day!

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