December 2, 2008

The Paper Trail

I save things, lots of things. I've always been a pack rat by nature. It's a bitch when moving, but my tendencies to hoard have helped me a few times. I'm not saying that I save everything. I don't hold onto nick-knacks and trinkets until they've lost all meaning and I no longer know what they are. I save useful things. I save paper.

I am the kind of girl who saves credit card payments to credit cards that have been closed for years. I have a paper copy of several of my old newspaper articles - some back in my college newspaper reporting days. I have kept old apartment leases, paperwork to any membership club I ever joined, and insurance policies for a car I haven't owned in years.

When I moved into Mike's place, I sorted through some of these old files in their appropriately labeled folders and found pay stubs and tax returns from 1997. I threw these away but with some hesitation. Yes, I know you can only be audited for the past seven years, but old habits die hard. Another set of docs I kept without fail are old utility bills. I had ComEd and People's Energy bills and payment receipts that went back as far as three addresses ago. I didn't feel the need to keep these in my and Mike's home so once I had paid my final bills, I threw these old ones away.

I hesitated when I threw these away too. But I have reason to hesitate. Hoarding paper has proved beneficial to me because I seem to be one of those people whom other people try to take money from, many times over.

Let me provide a few examples, if you will.

There was the time I unknowingly joined a Bally's gym and then had to fight my way out of paying for the first month. Seeing as I didn't know I was a member, I didn't think it was fair I paid for something I didn't even know I could use. Then there was the time I joined another gym with a seven-day trial period. I canceled after seven days but it took two months to get my $100 deposit back. I practically had them on speed dial that last month. Then there was the time I was charged a late fee three times over by my credit card. I had paid off said card and was trying to cancel it for months. The only thing stopping my cancellation was a service fee for a service for which I had not signed up. I canceled the service and then accumulated three months worth of late fees while they took their sweet time removing those fees from my account. That was fun.

The worst though, by far, was Cognitive Arts.

I worked for this evil company in 2005 on a six-month technical writing project. To make this very long and complicated story short(er), let me summarize this way: Girl works for evil company. Girl signs "Independent Contractor" contract. Girl files taxes in 2006 and pays lots of money because she was an "independent contractor." Girl goes to paralegal school and finds out that according to employment laws, she was not an "independent contractor." Girl was an employee. Girl submits paperwork to the I.R.S. saying she overpaid her taxes because she was an employee, not an "independent contractor." Six months later, government sides with girl (not evil company). Girl gets tax money back. Six months later in 2007, girl gets W-2 from evil company. W-2 claims girl worked for evil company in 2006 and earned thousands of dollars in wages. Girl files 2006 tax return saying she did not work for evil company that year. Approximately one year later, girl gets certified mail from the IRS saying she did not claim thousands of dollars worth of income she made in 2006 at evil company. Girl files amended tax return saying evil company is wrong AGAIN, and she did not work there in 2006. Government sides with girl AGAIN. Currently, girl hopes saga with evil company is over.

Yeah. All true.

I don't even know how many hours of my life were spent dealing with all the crap in the paragraphs above. Between the evil company, my gym misfortunes and credit card problems (not to mention all the other things I'm forgetting), I have probably spent at least two month's worth of lunch hours dealing with other people's clerical errors. So when I received a "priority message" on Nov. 10 saying I was delinquent on my ComEd account by $21.25 I had to chuckle. Really? That's all you got ComEd? Bring it. I've beaten a truly evil company many times over for thousands of dollars. I see your $21.25, and I will not pay it!

It needs to be said that I have been successful in dealing with the many minor and major headaches mentioned above because I have held onto my precious paper. I save bills, receipts, correspondence and anything I sign. And when I make calls to get something straightened out, I always ask for the name of the person and then record the day and time I spoke to them. Then I save those notes in my appropriately labeled file folder. Yes, I am that girl. I have learned it pays to be that girl. As I said I did throw away all my old ComEd receipts but I've managed to trace my story through old bank statements and the company's own reimbursement checks made out to yours truly.
Tonight I composed my letter to ComEd's collections people. They will be receiving my one page letter complete with six attached exhibits tomorrow morning via fax. I am ready to fight this. Granted it's only $20, but darn it, it's $20 worth of my money that they do not deserve. So I'll take on yet another company, just little, old me and my paper.


kelsalynn said...

oh hell yeah! Fight it for sure! I tend to fight things like that more off principle than the actual dollar amount in dispute. Go get 'em tiger.

Also, please tell me you SHREDDED half of the stuff you're referring to and did not SIMPLY THROW IT AWAY as you described. Please, oh please, tell me you shredded your sensitive stuff no matter how old.

I didn't know the second part of that evil company store (the 2006 W-2 bull crap part). I'm glad it's over (at least hopefully). Do you want me to toilet-paper the office next time I'm in the area? I totally will. Don't tempt me evil company!

Megan said...

I have many similar stories with such companies. Gym memberships are the worst! I had to argue with Bally's about a dozen times before they finally stopped their nonsense. Saving paperwork isn't a bad thing, but it's tough to figure out what to save because the second you throw away 15 year old bills, that company comes out of the woodwork because of an "audit". Eh!

Amy said...

Yes. I should have stated that I SHRED all my old docs. I'm paranoid enough about my docs as is. I can't believe how neutrotic I'd be if I'd just tossed them all.