San Francisco: Fear the e-Check!

This story starts back in 2010 when I received my bill for the property taxes I owe on my home. Now I could write a check to pay for the taxes [which I should of], but decided to pay online. I wrote maybe 3 checks in the last year as it’s more convenient for me and the companies I deal with to pay electronically and I have never once had a problem. I noticed that all of the online payment choices had a “convenience fee” associated with them.

I’m always hated the idea of a “convenience fee” where by using it makes it a convenience for you and the company you’re paying. There was a convenience fee free option of using an e-check so naturally I chose that. I entered my account info and routing number and got a receipt that my taxes were now paid. I did notice after awhile that in checking my account that it seemed like they hadn’t taken the money out yet, but hey it’s the government, they tend to run like molasses on a cold day.

Last week I receive a letter from the SF tax collector’s office saying that my e-Check had been reject by my financial institution because the account didn’t exist AND I was being charged a $50 fee for the rejected e-Check and an additional $57 for being late with the payment even though I originally had paid it on time.. Funny, no other utility company had sent me a letter like this. So I make a phone call and the woman I talked to immediately told me to talk to my bank and get them to send her and her superior an email stating that it was a mistake and they’d remove the penalty fees.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Apparently at some point my routing number had changed and I didn’t know that. The bank informed me that was why it was probably rejected, but because the letter said it was rejected by my financial institution and didn’t name the bank that was the problem and they couldn’t write the email. So I send an email to the tax lady and she tells me that she can’t say what bank because they only process the e-Check by the numbers that I gave them and sent me a gif file of what they received. As it turns out I had made one mistake in the account number also. The SF Tax Collectors office apparently doesn’t have any way of verifying whether or not the information you gave them was correct.

So I go back to my bank and show them the printed out email that has my account number with the one number wrong and the old routing number which you would think would be enough proof to show them that I tried to pay with the account, but once again, unless the SF Tax Collector’s office could mention the name of my bank even though I could show them the account and routing information they can’t send an email. So now I’m in a bit of a catch-22 situation and while all the other employees at my local bank are being very helpful to me the assistant manager has been blocking me from the branch manager who if I could find him would recognize me and help me. While I could get nasty and name names, I’m not going to do that.

I just wanted to let everyone know that when it comes to the SF Tax Collectors office be very careful as they don’t have a system of checks and balances in place to verify what they’re doing and if anything goes wrong it’s your fault and they make you be the middle man with your bank.