Paper bills and invoices should be normal part of business practise

Business has an obligation to provide monthly details of consumers accounts

Is it just me, or is business getting too casual for their own good when it comes to providing statements these days?

Last July, I had some dental work done. An assessment was made and submitted to my medical services plan by my dentist – pretty routine stuff.

I had the work done, and was billed my portion for the remainder of the bill. No big deal.

I avoid dentists, so I wasn’t in a big hurry to go back, especially since I had just had a substantial amount of work done. I finally returned to the dentist’s chair in early January for a routine cleaning.

I stopped at reception to pay my portion of the bill.

“Oh, you don’t owe anything,” said the receptionist, “you apparently overpaid your portion of the last bill. You have a balance of $190, so we’ll just deduct what you owe from that.”

I was in a hurry, so I left before I had a chance to think about it. When I did, I was angry.

Basically, the dentist withheld almost 200 dollars of my money for six months. I never received a statement, phone call, or anything indicating I had a balance – a substantial amount that would have been much more beneficial in my pocket than my dentist’s.

I phoned the office a couple of days later to ask what their policy was.

“If there is a credit balance we usually leave it until your next visit,” came the reply.

 

“What would happen if I had died, or moved in the meantime?” I asked.

“I had no idea you were holding this money.”

 

“Well – we  haven’t come across that situation yet,” came the reply.

I asked the receptionist to send a cheque for the remainder, finding this business practice unacceptable to me.

What would make a business think that it is all right to withold overpayments, without even telling the patient that he / she had overpaid? To top it off, when I got the cheque, there was a bill enclosed for the deductible portion of my medical insurance.

I’m thinking I will hang on to the bill, and see how long they are willing to wait for their money. I have a feeling it won’t be as long as they were willing to hold on to mine.

Iin another case, I called the provider of my roadside assistance program after realizing that my annual membership had expired.

“Oh, that was automatically renewed on your  credit card,” came the reply to my inquiry – a month ago.

Who knew? I never recieved notice of the renewal, nor have I yet received any documentation outlining what I paid, or what I was paying for this year.

What’s with this casual attitude towards letting people know where they stand financially? I thought times were tight for most people financially.

I know I would rather have what owed to me in my hot little hands – much the same way as I’m sure these businesses would rather be paid in full rather than wait until the next time I patronize them.

Finally, there is the common practice of business these days to make customers pay for a paper bill. Computers aren’t universal, nor is the internet – so why is this practice allowed?

Paper is a physical thing. It attracts attention, where a bill that shows up as email is simply another electronic message.

 

Personally, I am reluctant to see a paperless society. It’s bad enough when all you have to depend on is an electronic notice. It seems to me that if we get used to that, it will be a lot easier for businesses with questionable accounting practices to “neglect” to keep us informed about aspects of our accounts that they would prefer we not know about.