Last week I had to deal with something that I hope I’ll never have to deal with again. I tell you the story in the hope that you may never fall into the same trap I did.
It all started earlier when I paid my business credit card account to my bank. I operate a credit card for our business which I pay off in full each month. I do this over the internet using BPAY.
I didn’t pick the error up until the statement for my personal credit card account arrived showing a $1400 credit balance. It didn’t take long to work out what had happened and I thought it would be a simple task to get the bank to reverse the payment and transfer it into the correct account.
Before I tell you what followed, understand this. I have a business account, a business credit card account and a private credit account all at the same bank. My personal bank account is held at another bank.
When I contacted the bank where both the credit cards were held and explained what had happened, I was on the phone for about 20-30 minutes while they tried to work out how to fix it. The girl I spoke to put me on hold and went to away to ask her colleagues what to do. When she returned she told me that I could transfer the money myself but it had to go via my personal account, that is the one at the other bank. I tried this but the system wouldn’t let me do it.
I made two further phone calls back to the bank and both times had to start again with a different person. On each occasion, the call took 20 -30 minutes.
In the end I was told the only way I could do it was to go to an ATM or the bank, make a cash withdrawal from personal credit card and then bank it into my personal bank account, at the other bank. Do this and then pay the business credit card account from there to put everything right again. By the way, while all this was happening, my business credit card had been “blocked” because they hadn’t received any payment.
That’s all bad enough but here’s the real clanger. The bank also told me that because I had to make a cash withdrawal from my credit card, I’d get hit with a sizeable fee but when I did, I could ring them back and they’d refund it. How much would that be I asked? Probably $200 -$300. You’re joking I said!
At the time of writing this, I have spent about 3 hours trying to resolve it and am yet to see what that fee actually is and to get it written off.
Ain’t technology great? My mistake… yes, but be assured I won’t be doing that again.
If it was within my power to change one thing that would genuinely help small business operators, it would have to be this.
I would find a way to have a board or advisory council of long term successful business owners to make decisions that relate to running a business. As it is we have politicians, public officials, academics and the like making policy and from where I sit, the decisions they make and the policies they implement rarely show any understanding or appreciation of how a small business operates in the real world.
In my view, policies made by such people are based on theories more than real world experience and business owners are the ones who suffer most from this.
Honestly, as a business owner, I’d feel far more comfortable and confident if people like Gerry Harvey or Lindsay Fox were deciding small business rules and regulations than I would to see people, no matter how many letters they have after their name, who have never run a small business from the front line telling us how it’s going to be.
I’m an honest hardworking small business owner with about 10 employees but despite that, I know that if an official from Work Cover, the Tax Office, Fair Work or any other government department walked into my business, they won’t care one iota about whether I’m honest or not, or even if the circumstances make me an innocent victim of some sort, if I’ve got a loose power point or I’ve got a wage payment wrong, I’m gone.
The reason I live in fear, like so many others, is because I’ve heard of so many cases where a small business owner has gone for a ride simply for not getting one of the million rules and regulations we have these days, right. In such cases, it would be nice if the authorities took into account the big picture of what that small business owner contributes to society and didn’t just focus on an innocent mistake or oversight. There’s an old saying I like that says “rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of fools”. Shame more powerbrokers don’t act like wise men (or women).