Thursday, November 05, 2009

Please Stay On The Line

My children always got a kick out of telling other kids that their mom was an alien. How many kids can make a claim like that? My green card expired recently so, to ensure that the U.S. government wouldn't kick me back to where I came from, I went online to renew it. Long story short, I got taken. To the tune of several hundred dollars. Now here's something new my kids can tell the other kids---their mom is a pigeon.

I'd been so proud of myself too for figuring it out. Pride does indeed come just before a fall.

It wasn't until I received the application in the mail telling me to submit my application fee, along with the completed forms, that I became suspicious. What application fee, I asked myself? Isn't that what I just sent these people? Since I wasn't getting any intelligent answers, I called them. I spoke to a supervisor; yes, I still had to pay the application fee to the government; and no, the fee I had paid was for their services. I told him that I thought his company was running a shady business; profiting from people who turn into pigeons in their anxiety to do it right. He became hostile and curtly told me that I could fax a refund request to this number. Then he hung up.

I duly faxed my refund request. I followed it up over the next week with several phone calls. There was all kinds of dissembling: the person in charge of refunds was out of the office, could I call back later; my name, phone number and the nature of my problem [I didn't tell them that my main problem was idiocy!]were taken and promises made to call me back in an hour. Which, no prizes for guessing, did not happen; something had been sent to me yesterday, she was not sure what. Nothing ever came in the mail........

Once again I called the correct Government office. Explained my tale of woe. He listened, asked some questions and gave me a number to call for reporting immigration fraud and abuse.

And that's when the fun began.

A cheerful, recorded female voice welcomed me.

"Thank you for calling! We value your call and the opportunity to serve you. Please hold and we will assist you in just a moment."

I waited patiently.

The moment turned into several minutes. Just as I was getting fidgety, the smiling voice returned.

"Thank you for calling! Your patience is appreciated. Please stay on the line and we
will be right with you.

Marginally mollified, I settled in to wait, again.

Ten minutes later, the patience that they appreciated so much was wearing thin. The soothing music piping into my agitated ear was failing to soothe me.

Possibly anticipating that I'm about to start hopping around in futile rage, a different voice came down the line. A deep and reassuring male voice.

"Thank you for calling. Your call and your business are very important to us. Please continue to hold. We will assist you in just a moment."

Having already dealt with thieves, I've now moved on to liars! If my call was so important to them they would have answered it already! I'm starting to understand why the government has a problem with terrorists. I have now been on hold for fifty minutes. That's enough to incite a person to murder and mayhem. Normally I wouldn't have the patience to hold for so long. Normally I'd have given up in disgust after fifteen minutes. But, if I do that now, I'll just have to endure the whole rigmarole again, later.

The music stops. "At last!" I think. I'll finally connect to a human being, rather than infuriatingly cheerful recordings telling me how important my call is. But, it is not to be. The pianist employed to placate me is merely taking a breather before embarking on a whole new musical selection. The cheerful female voice comes on again, assuring me that someone will assist me momentarily.

As I am sputtering and cursing under my breath, a live voice comes on the line. Temporarily disconcerted, I almost forget why I'm calling. A few pleasantries about the long wait, and my delight that it is over. Then I explain my problem to the gentleman on the other end. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt in assuming he is a gentleman, even though a gentleman would not have kept me waiting for so long. Possibly, the long wait was not his fault.

He listens as I explain how I was taken. He is probably smirking. Probably sighing and thinking "There's one born every minute!" I wonder how many pigeons like me he hears from every day.

He tells me I need to speak to someone at such-and-such an office.

I pause; take a deep breath to steady the nerves and keep the voice level.

"They told me to call you," I say.

"Oh," he says.

We have come full circle

"Sigh." He will see what he can do.

I hang up with the distinct impression that I have just wasted the last few hours of my life and will never see that money again.

That was two months ago. The silence has been deafening.

But now the government has received my application [and the several hundred dollar fee] and is "processing" it. Since government bodies move slowly, I'm not holding my breath. But at least the FBI won't be on my doorstep tomorrow with deportation papers!


Changes in the wind said...

You are not the first or the last to be taken advantage of and the shame is ALL theirs....Fifty minutes waiting on the phone??? You deserve an award for that one.

Pauline said...

Good heavens! Life is the oddest thing we have to go through while on earth. My daughter had a similar issue with her passport. Perhaps our imminent demise at the hands of inept politicians, the fat cats on Wall Street, big corporation greed and TV "news" personalities will not be as painful as trying to live with them!