Not In The Zone Of Waiving The Fee

, , , , , | Right | January 21, 2020

(I work in the treasurer and collector’s office for a town. We have a pretty strict payment policy. We have a one-day grace period after the due date, after which we charge interest. State law allows us to waive up to $15.00 of interest and/or fees. Sometimes, if the customer is sincere enough in their excuse why they didn’t pay their bill on time, we will waive the interest and/or late fee, but not more than the legal amount. I do have some authority over these instances, but if I don’t like the customer’s attitude or if I’m unsure if I should do it — we also look into payment history — I ask my manager for approval with the excuse given. Real estate tax bills were due on the first of the month. It is currently the ninth. A woman who doesn’t seem familiar brings in her bill with her check already written out for the original amount. I look up the bill for the current amount with interest.)

Me: “Okay, so, after this payment, the balance will be $4.59, which we can put on the next bill if you’d like.”

Customer: “What? Why?”

Me: “Because it was due last week on the first. It’s now the ninth.”

Customer: “Listen. My husband volunteers for the town.”

Me: “Okay.”

Customer: “He is on the zoning board.”

Me: “Okay.”

Customer: “So, can’t you give us a break?”

(I think, “Did she actually just ask us to waive her interest because her husband is on a board? Isn’t that unethical?”)

Me: “No, sorry.”

Customer: *angrily* “Well, why not? He volunteers for the town.”

Me: “We don’t waive interest for any reason.” *especially name-dropping!*

Customer: “Can you ask your manager?”

Me: “Sure.” *to my manager* “This customer just asked us to waive her interest of about $5 because her husband is on the zoning board.”

Manager:What?! No. Absolutely not. I can’t believe she would even ask that. No, tell her we can’t do that.”

Me: *to the customer* “Sorry, my manager says we can’t do that.”

Customer: “I don’t believe that. My husband volunteers for the town! He doesn’t get paid! And you can’t waive $5 of interest?”

Me: “No, we can’t.”

Customer: “Unbelievable.”

Me: *knowing this isn’t going to go anywhere* “[Manager], can you come here, please?”

Manager: “No, we absolutely cannot waive interest just because your husband is on the zoning board, or any board or committee, for that matter. It’s against the code of ethics.”

Customer: “But I don’t understand why you can’t waive it. It’s just $5. He volunteers for the town. As in, he doesn’t get paid. And you can’t give us a break for $5.”

Manager: “No. It’s unethical, and frankly, I’m surprised you’d even ask. Your husband signed a code of ethics, and this would violate that code. So, no, I’m not going to waive it.”

(The customer then stormed out and tried to slam our self-closing doors on her way out. My manager talked to the town clerk, who would have sworn the husband in to his position and given him the code of ethics. The clerk said the husband may have known not to do it, but the wife may not have known. My manager cooled off a little after that. She told me that if the customer had come in with almost any other excuse, like it got buried in a pile and she just now found it, she may have waived the interest, but because she asked in that manner, it wasn’t going to happen. I also noted that one of the Select Board members makes late payments for almost every bill, and he always pays interest, so why would we waive it for a zoning board member? Update: While typing this out, the customer called back to apologize to my manager. She thought about what she had said regarding ethics violations, and she agreed that wasn’t the best course of action to take. She said her husband had buried the bill in a pile of mail, and she would be talking to him later.)

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