Wednesday, March 29, 2006

cold, cruel truth

You know who doesn't love you and never will, no matter how nice you are to them? Credit reporting agencies. The big three - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - get phone calls from people every day who's sole point in contacting them is to complain about why they can't buy a house. Being on the receiving end of a nation's worth of anger and frustration must make you really unfriendly and impersonal.

Why am I talking about this? I took a look at my credit report the other day for the first time. Turns out some bill for $27 bucks had gotten lost among one of my moves from apartment to apartment and I ended up in collections. I had no idea. It happens, I guess. It's part of the difficult nature of moving. Sometimes things slip through the cracks and sometimes those slippery things are important.

Anyway, I wanted to figure out what the deal was and get it resolved so that I could up my credit score. The problem is, the credit report seems to have a limited number of characters it can use when printing out whom you own money to. Mine said:


?? As far as I could tell, I owed the lower half of California $27. Knowing that that makes no sense, I decided to call Equifax and try to get them to fill me in with a little more info.

And that's when I found out how much they'll never love me. Equifax happens to have the most unfriendly phone system I've ever experienced. There are a couple of numbers you can try calling. If you call one, you get stuck in a phone chain of seemingly irrelevant options. If you press "0" (the international key for "I'm tired of your phone system; just gimme a dang operator"), it hangs up on you. It hangs up on you! It's like Equifax is grumpy and punishing you for trying to outsmart it.

If you call the other number, one of two things happens. Apparently most of the time it plays a recording, tosses you into a phone queue, waits a little bit to see if you'll be answered quickly, and if not - hangs up on you without any explanation. I tried that number 4 or 5 times, each time getting hung up on, before it finally went to a customer service rep on the 6th go. But, seriously ... 6 tries to not be hung up on? And like I said, that's just from that one number. That doesn't count the times I was hung up on at the other number for trying to find an operator.

So, Equifax doesn't love anybody. And fair enough, I guess. They aren't loved in return so why should they? The IRS can hand out lollipops all day. At the end of it all, they're still the IRS. I guess it's the same principle. So, they seem to have decided to take the approach of "If you want to deal with us, then you'll jump through our hoops, you sonuvabitch. If you try to be clever, we'll hang up on your ass. If you do finally get through to someone, THEN you can bitch at us about not being able to buy a house. But you're really going to have to work for it if you want to bitch at us, a-holes."

So, just a word of warning if anyone else needs to go through this.

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