“Sallie Mae sounds like a naive and barefoot hillbilly girl but in fact they are a ruthless and aggressive conglomeration of bullies located in a tall brick building somewhere in Kansas. I picture it to be the tallest building in that state and I have decided they hire their employees straight out of prison. It scares me.”
-David Sedaris, “The Santaland Diaries”
Like most of the adult population of these United States, I graduated from college in hock up to my ass to Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae, more formally known as the SLM Corporation, is a government-backed loan entity that handles the student loans for about ten million people, including li’l old me.
I got out of Canisius in 1999 with about seventeen thousand dollars in debt. I know that might not sound like a whole lot, but considering I had nothing to show for it but a BA in English, that was pretty terrifying. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the students coming in now; Canisius tuition is now up over $25k a year, so they’re looking at a gross six figures for a four year hitch. Ouch.
Anyway, I’ve been slowly whittling away at my debt ever since, although it’s periodically in and out of deferment depending on how many classes I’m taking in a given semester. And through address changes, and job changes, and everything else, I’ve been sending in my checks. And I’ve never had a problem, until this week.
Since my loan payment is due on the fifth of every month, I generally send it in at the end of the preceding month. For example, my payment was due on June 5, and they received it on May 21. No problem. Well, they receive the payment for this month, which was due on September 5, on August 11. Apparently this was much too early for their software to properly handle; they ignored the payment coupon in the envelope and credited it as an additional, unsolicited principal payment. Then, on Sunday, they hit me with a late fee for “skipping” my September payment.
Now, I’d already figured out that they miscredited the payment. I was even willing to make a double payment in October; what the hell, I’m hoping to send them a big check in the next couple of months to get this loan paid off before the kid arrives, a little extra next month ain’t going to hurt me. But I’ll be damned if I’m paying a late fee for their mistake.
Yesterday, I called the 888 number and navigated the shaky, shaky branches of a poorly configured phone tree. I eventually managed to get an operator, “Phillip”, with a serious Southwest Asian accent.
I explained the situation. Phillip put me on hold for a while, and then blind transferred me to another agent.
Now I spoke to “Alec”, and got to endure some serious “Who’s-On-First?” action.
Me: You guys didn’t credit the payment properly.
Alec: Well, we didn’t receive a payment for you in September. That’s why it’s late.
Me: No, the September payment was sent to you in August. That’s why you didn’t credit it right.
Alec: No, there’s only one payment in here for August.
Me: I know, I sent you the one that was due in August at the end of July.
Alec: No, there’s only one for July. I think you’re missing a payment in here somewhere.
Me: Is there any way I can stab you in the face through the phone?
Eventually, I managed to get Alec to understand the problem. He even transferred me to a supervisor, who was “looking at my records right now”. By which he apparently meant the voicemail box for a supervisor, who still hasn’t called me back fifteen hours later.
So, this morning, I called them back and swung through the branches of the phone tree again. (Incidentally, it’s called “brachiation”. Look it up.) This time I spoke to “Jack”, who sounded like Vlad the Impaler but immediately grasped what I was saying and took care of the problem.
I guess it goes to show; if you want to get things done, talk to a scary Romanian.