Kirby: No good deed goes unpunished

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

 

– Strother Martin in ‘Cool Hand Luke’

This is apparently difficult to explain, but I’m going to try.

For about a week and a half the post office kept putting an envelope in my home mailbox. It was not addressed to me. It was not sent by me.

Its return address window, however, showed my home address.

It was a thin envelope and I could tell it was a check. (The words “PAYMENT ENCLOSED,” a helpful clue.)

The check’s beneficiary was a Utah health care company operating out of the cramped headquarters of a Salt Lake City post office box.

I should say, former headquarters.

According to the yellow sticker pasted by the post office on the envelope’s front, the party was “Not deliverable as addressed … unable to forward.”

It also said, “Return to Sender, ” which is why it kept coming back to my mailbox, despite the fact that I had written on the front in a rather large scrawl “NOT AT THIS ADDRESS.”

The sender’s name was not in any phone books and Google did not have a clear hit, either.

The same thing happened when I “Googled” the health care company in Salt Lake City, which might explain why it no longer had an address accepting mail.

So I opened the envelope because it was getting ragged and it stated outside “ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED”.

It was indeed a check … for $12.

It also said in very tiny type, “Please Direct Any Questions to the Online Bill Payment Processing Center,” followed with an 800-number.

“Now,” I mistakenly thought, “I’m getting somewhere.”

I called and after a minimal voice mail maze “cheese hunt,” I got a real person. She was very nice and very polite, but seemed confused.

I explained the dilemma several times. I gave her the check’s numbers, three times, as I recall. I gave her my name, and listened as she tried to spell K-R-I-B-Y or K-O-Y-B-Y.

“Why don’t you just mail it to the company?” she asked.

“I tried,” I explained (again), “but the post office said it was undeliverable.”

“Why don’t you just return it?” she asked.

“Because the return address is mine,” I explained (again). “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

There was silence.

Then she asked for my “full name and phone number.”

“Why do you need that?” I asked.

“Security,” she answered decisively.

“Whose?” I wanted to know. “Why should I give you my name and number?” (Although I suspect she already had it.)

Silence again.

“Look,” I said, “I’m just trying to get someone their $12 check. I will even pay the postage … (pause) … because it’s Christmas.”

“Hold, please,” she said, but returned quickly to say, “I’m sorry. We need your phone number so we can get the person who sent the check to call you and tell you what to do with it.”

To stay out of trouble, I hung up.

 

Reach Bill Kirby at bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.

 

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