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"It just isn't possible" -- Sure it is, you just don't know how to do it.

By Andrew Pollack on 04/15/2010 at 04:10 PM EDT

How many times has the voice of customer service told you something isn't possible? I had a bit of a frustrating morning dealing with Fidelity. It did turn out OK, but it shouldn't have been that hard.

Each year, as Saint John the Accountant finishes my taxes, he tells me how much I can put into my SEP IRA (the equivalent of a 401k for us self-employed types). Since this is a pretty serious deduction, the amount I put in impacts my taxes quite a bit. In fact, if I were to have put nothing in the SEP IRA this year, my taxes would have gone up by around 40% of the amount I could have legally put in -- so for every dollar that is eligible to put in that I don't, I would be throwing away 40 cents. Needless to say that any year I can afford to do so, I take advantage of the deduction.

This year, I tried to use Fidelity's web site. Yesterday I arranged a transfer from my checking account to the brokerage account for the amount in question, and the web site said the transfer would be posted that day. This morning when I looked at the site, those funds were listed but not available to move into the SEP IRA. After a bit of poking around, I gave up and called the customer service line.

Now, Fidelity has always had what is in my opinion outstanding customer service. That's why I was so disappointed with the initial result of this call. The person I spoke with informed me that the actual transfer would take 4 days. Further, there was absolutely no way to change that to make it faster or to cancel the transaction. The funds were essentially useless for four days. Needless to say I was .....perturbed. I explained to her that unless this was resolved, it would cost me x thousand dollars in more taxes plus the additional services of Saint John the Accountant to adjust the numbers, and that this was unacceptable. There was nothing on the web site which indicating this would happen, and I expected it fixed immediately. The customer service rep very politely put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and declared there was absolutely nothing to be done. She'd spoken to everyone should could think of, and that there was no power on earth that could stop what was already in motion.

After about 3 or 4 minutes of pointless arguing (and barely holding myself to a reasonable standard of decorum), I declared that I needed to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor quickly understood the issue, called my bank, and within minutes the issue was on its way to resolution, with the original transaction being cancelled between the bank and the investment house and a new transaction being made directly into the SEP IRA.

What was patently impossible, completely regrettable, but absolutely set in stone irreversible no matter who she talked to on the part of the first rep, was quickly and effectively resolved by the supervisor. I wonder how many people just sit there and accept the first answer?


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: "It just isn't possible" -- Sure it is, you just don't know how to do it.By Adam Brown on 04/15/2010 at 08:05 PM EDT
This is not uncommon unfortunately. I have had cases where I have discussed
(argued for an hr or so) about a matter with a call center operator for an
airline and then eventually gave up in frustration. After hanging up I decided
that it wasn't good enough so I called back again and got someone different who
understood the issue immediately and resolved in less than 3 mins! Lesson
learnt is that if you are speaking to someone in a call centre that gives you
the wrong answer hang up, call back, and you will probably get a different
answer!
re: "It just isn't possible" -- Sure it is, you just don't know how to do it.By Dag Kvello on 04/16/2010 at 02:57 AM EDT
This is what happens when You delegate responsibility for a job, but not the
authority to do it.
Very common in large, hierarchical organizations where no-one can be trusted
with the authority to do "anything". People tend to shy away from making any
kind of decision in those kind of environments.

It's Your fault (responsibility) when something goes wrong, but it's to Your
boss's credit (because he/she's got the authority) when he/she fixes it.
re: "It just isn't possible" -- Sure it is, you just don't know how to do it.By Mark Crosby on 04/16/2010 at 11:58 AM EDT
Sad but true...

One of the lessons life has taught me, and I need to remind myself of from time
to time, is that just because someone has a particular job or role, doesn't
mean they have the skills, knowledge, competence, or desire to perform that
job.

It's usually the ones higher up the corporate ladder or in job that requires
specialized knowledge (like a doctor) that I don't identify problems soon
enough.


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