Before we go ahead and blame all of the above institutions our story first starts all the way back to Westmont. Ultimately this is a tale of the American economy, financial system and the sad state it is in. It’s summertime and as usual my work load at the college reduces quite a bit. After five years this is a situation I have learned to deal with. Last year I still averaged around 30 hours a week and my rent was significantly lower allowing me plenty of breathing room. I assumed I would get the same amount of work load this summer and rightly accounted for such. One does know how the assumption theorem goes…
I don’t know if someone at the office of Campus and event services dropped the ball or what, but we were at a ten year low for summer events and work was looking grim. I was only picking up around twenty hours a week and at that point unemployment was worth more money than that. A few interesting opportunities presented themselves for the summer for both travel and bettering my abilities as a chef. If I left there would be extra hours to go around for my other employees under me. The option to take unemployment seemed the most agreeable choice for everyone.
Stoked, I took my leave the first week of June and things were good. Bizarro and I went down to San Diego for a little jaunt (read about that in the “You cant relieve the past” blog). I shot lots of photos and scored fun waves surfing. Cooking wise I got to work a variety of events with a variety of chefs picking up all sorts of technique along the way. I even tried some new things in my own kitchen and improved my fresh pasta game. Things were looking up.
In the midst of what was seemingly turning into a summer of epic proportions I was highly disturbed by a letter from the Unemployment office that my case was under review and all funds were to be withheld pending further investigation. It was alright I wasn’t worried this sort of thing has happened before. It was not my first rodeo with the Unemployment office. I am a seasoned veteran in the system working seasonal jobs for most of my life. I had a little paper put away thus I wasn’t all that worried.
As it turned out the discrepancy was whether or not I worked for Westmont or Sodexo. Of course with the amazingly fast (note my sarcasm) response time of a government agency this was not squared away till some time in early July. Like I said I was doing alright and as long as the state began to pay out I would be fine. Sure enough payments began finding their way into my EDD account.
In California you are not sent a check or given the option of direct deposit. Instead they set you up with some type of prepaid debit card system with Bank of America. The method is sort of convenient and sort of not, but its better then not getting any money at all. I grabbed my card since I have had the same one since I began working for Westmont five years ago. I went down to the atm pumped to grab some money and when I put the card in the machine said it was expired. Sure enough the card had expired in January and EDD or Bank of America or both failed to send me a new one.
No worries I figured I would just call the bank and they would have me sorted out with a new card in a few days. I have been a Union bank member for years and every time I needed a replacement card I always got one in about 3 business days. Apparently things do not quite work that way at Bank of America, on the contrary actually. Apparently if wanted to get my card in three business days it would cost me an “expedited fee” of $10. This may seem like a nominal fee, but for a person on a very fixed income, which unemployment is ten bucks is like two meals. I was not about to fork across to meals to these crooks, especially when it was their fault for never sending me a replacement card. Also I am pretty sure one could ship something as small as a credit card for a lot less then ten dollars.
I fought with various representatives and a few supervisors all who did everything in their power to turn the tables on me and allow me to believe it was my fault for letting the card expire in the first place. Of course it has been my experience that whenever a card of mine has a expired a new one was sent out to me in the mail before such date was reached. One surely rep tried to tell me that I might have thrown it in the garbage by accident. The nerve of them. I know I am an “unemployed low life” taking advantage of the system and all but I still deserve the respect any other Bank of America client is entitled to. After a two day battle I gave up and told them to just send the card regular mail (8-12 business days) cause it takes that long to ship a credit card?
Whatever, over it I cruised home to New Jersey to see my folks for a brief visit with the hope that when I got back my card would be waiting for me. 14 days later I still had not received my card. Now it had been over two months since I had any income whatsoever and at that point I was completely broke. Not knowing where to turn I went to our downtown branch of Bank of America here in Santa Barbara with the hope of getting some money. Keep in mind that by this point I had around twelve hundred dollars in there. The Bank could not do anything for me cause as it turns out although technically it was a Bank of America account being the fact that it was an EDD account gave me no bank privileges.
Besides myself I found my way into the office of the branch manager who was nice enough to call the situation in for me. Guess what; the mother fuckers at Bank of America never took my request to have the card shipped out. Finally I lost the battle and had to pay $15 to get MY MONEY sent to me via Western Union. On top of that I had them finally ship my card standard mail. Instead of being out two meals I was out three. My rent was due and my hands tied. Another case of where the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Welcome to America folks where that poem on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t mean shit. That being the case I guess the Bank of America holds true to the nation it supposedly represents, rich first and poor last.
Over it and tired of fighting the good fight though I knew I was not alone in my plight I left the bank with a feeling of relief that I would soon have my money, and be able to pay my rent and get a good meal in me. The next morning I went down to Western Union only to find out that all of their Santa Barbara terminals were down and would not be up for 24 hours. I thought Western Union’s motto was all about getting your money fast and easy especially when one is in a jam. Let’s face it more times then not if you are getting money sent via Western Union it means you are in a jam. Fucked I was forced to go into hustle mode where I managed to cover my rent and then some. A day later Western Union was back up and running, I got my money and was back in the black. No thanks to any of the aforementioned financial institutions.
For me this was another situation where I managed to fall into shit and came out smelling like roses. If you read here regularly for me such is a common situation. I can only imagine how fucked someone with out half the luck I have would have been. If I were you I would boycott Bank of America and Western Union cause both to me are inferior services whom do not deserve your patronage.