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The stupidity of systems

A couple of weeks ago, I called the customer service at PayFlex. PayFlex is the company used by my employer to manage our Flexible Spending account. Usually the threat of losing unused money kept me away from participating in the plan. But since I was gonna have kids last year, I participated. So on December 31st, I realized that I had some money ($43.34) left over in my account. Well it was 10pm and everywhere was closed on New Year's eve. So I went online to CVS and bought qualifying items using my PayFlex debit card. The receipt was time stamped 10:49pm. Boy was I lucky to have remembered before midnight.

Forward several weeks later and I get an e-mail from my company's HR person saying I still had $43.34 left over. After I got over the shock, I searched my hotmail account and luckily I still had the order confirmation from CVS. I pdf'ed it and uploaded it to PayFlex. Thinking that was the end of it, I checked this morning and low and behold I still had $43.34 left over. Turns out they paid the CVS claim from this year's plan.

I called their customer service said their system shows CVS processed the payment on 1/6/2010. I said that's great but I have a receipt that shows I bought the items on 12/31/2009. Anyway to cut a long story short, her position was this:
  • If I had used any other credit card, merely submitting a claim with my receipt showing 12/31/2009 would have been good enough to get the claim processed in the correct year
  • However, since I used my PayFlex MasterCard, they have to go by the processing date from CVS. So essentially, by using their debit card I am subject to the whims of CVS.
Took me a while to explain the absurdity of that point of view. Eventually, she left, consulted with others and came back with "You have to file an appeal by fax". Yes by fax. In 2010.

I understand the need for organizations to have systems but I hate that people seem to surrender their ability to think. At least in this case, they had a procedure, albeit one that relied on archaic technology, in place. The last time this happened to me, I spent an hour on the phone with VA's DMV trying to make the woman see that their system was wrong. In the end, I got a letter of apology, a free record of my driver's license history and a massive headache.
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