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Dear USAA, Mastercard, and Bill Collector…

Or as I think of you at the moment, Larry, Moe, and Curly…

Yes, I will immediately send $641 to the collection agency to settle my “debt.” But in the meantime I will use my bully pulpit to vent about a year of being jerked around.

First of all, I have a great credit rating and plan to keep it that way, which is why that I am just paying up. I consider myself wronged, but I preen over my credit rating and will not let the Three Stooges sully it.

Second, this is to you, USAA: if you are going to have a credit card that offers insurance coverage for rental cars, then make sure it’s a real service. Because the day I rented that car from Avis, a year ago, I called and asked, and was assured, yes, I would be covered. I trusted you as I have trusted you since 1985,  when I was a second lieutenant with a used Pontiac Fiero (bad judgment on my part, but I digress).

In fact, I was dorked around for a year, and then last week received a collection-company notice (without having ever seen an actual bill), and then received a notice that my claim was denied (read on about that), and then received a second collection-agency notice, as if I were some scalawag and not someone who pays bills on time quite assiduously.

Third, Mastercard, thank you to the anonymous person who warned me back in September 2009, after I dinked my rental car and naively sent in the paperwork, thinking that hey, I’m covered, that the process would be much longer than I anticipated. Whoever you are, you spoke truth to justice. My only comment is that you prolonged hope where I should have had none.

Fourth, Mastercard, you win. I sent in the same paperwork over and over and over and over and OVER again for a year, and every time asked for a confirmation that it was received, only to hear deafening silence, and then would get another request for the same information. I spent way over $641 in personal time repeatedly sending you the same material. After a while I began to wonder if you expected to wear me down or if I would lose this information and give up. I never gave up, not until you sent a message — AFTER I had been contacted by a bill collector! — that my claim was denied.

Why was my claim denied? You pointed (last week! After I received the collection notice!) to an arcane rule that because I had used a coupon to rent the car, I wasn’t entitled to a credit, even though I had upgraded the car so in theory it wasn’t free… and I had used my Mastercard… but never mind. You had an entire freaking year to offer me your lame excuse.

I never got an opportunity to just pay Avis the $500. I never got that bill. My experience went from paperwork nightmare to Criminal Consumer.

Mastercard, you plastic Satan, I will take that credit card and violate all local environmental laws to burn it on our deck in full view of God and San Francisco.

USAA, I wrote and called to ask for your help. You are a terrific insurance company. You sell a lot of other financial services. Based on this experience, I plan to avoid anything you sell unrelated to insurance, and when it’s appropriate, I’ll divest myself of your credit cards (which for the record I clear off every month). The left hand clearly doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Collection agency, I don’t know who is doing your mail-merge, but mailing me twice in a week, the second time to threaten me, “We do not understand your lack of attention in this matter,” feels a little OCD. I realize your office is “prepared to proceed with further collection in this matter,” but at least let me get out my checkbook. Because at this point I will be thrilled to make all of this go away.

USAA, I also don’t understand why I am being billed for more than my deductible. It’s not that much more, so perhaps I should just pay it and keep blogging about how unhappy I am with your credit card services.  Since I can’t get a clear answer via email or telephone on any of this from any of the companies making my life miserable, if you have a response, please use the comment field below.

Hey, Avis, I don’t fault you one bit. I do ask that you understand that I wasn’t trying not to pay you. I was just taking advantage of a “card member benefit” that turned into a nightmare. I’ll know better next time and either pay extra for full coverage or not bother with a “benefit.” Or I won’t go for the $99 upgrade on a “free” car and that will mean I get the smaller car I don’t scrape when I pull into a very small garage on Lombard Street.

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