WOTD: bureaucracy

Unfortunately, today’s word is something that has become a fact of life for most of us living in the modern world. Dictionary.com defines bureaucracy as, “government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.” Hehehe…I love how they used the word “petty” in their definition.

Additionally, bureaucracy can be associated with all large organisations and not just with government. Thus it is further defined as,  “administration characterized by excessive red tape.”

Ahh…red tape. That’s a colloquial synyonym for bureaucracy and is defined as, “excessive formality and routine required before official action can be taken.” Much of this red tape is manifested in the form of letters from large organisations such as insurance companies or banks. Since so many must be sent out daily, such letters are automatically generated and sent out by computer. At no time are these letters seen by human eyes. This must be the case, otherwise why would dead people continue to receive letter after letter despite frequent and repeated attempts to inform the sender that the recipient of their letters is in fact deceased?

The following exchange is a classic example. It’s a bit long but definitely worth reading to the very end:

My father died on Jan 02, 1995. He left no forwarding address.

Therefore, it fell to me to collect his mail. I didn’t expect much really, since my sisters and I had been careful to notify his bank, insurance agent and a host of other businesses that one of their customers was no more. You would think a death notice would cut down on the amount of correspondence from those firms. Quite the contrary. Instead — for months, mind you — my deceased father continued to receive mail from companies that had been told of his passing but pressed on, determined to contact him anyway. The first to hope for a reply from beyond the grave was my father’s bank.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Our records indicate payment is due for overdraft protection on your checking account. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Therefore, we are automatically withdrawing your monthly $28.00 service charge from you account. Please adjust your records accordingly.

Sincerely,

The Phoenix Branch

Dear Phoenix Branch,

This is to notify you once again that Mr. Hanson died Jan 02, 1995. It is therefore unlikely he will be overdrawing his account. Please close his account, and adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Later that same week, I receive this note from Dad’s insurance company. Again, this is a firm that had been told in no uncertain terms of his death.

Dear Mr. Hanson, It’s time to renew your auto insurance policy! To continue your coverage, you must send $54.17 to this office immediately. Failure to do so will result in the cancellation of your policy, and interruption of your coverage.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent

Dear Insurance Agent, This is to remind you that Mr. Hanson has been dead since January. As such, the odds he’ll be involved in a collision are quite minimal. Please cancel the policy, and adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson.

The next day, I went to my mailbox to find this:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Let me introduce myself. I am a psychic reader, and it is very important that you contact me immediately. I sense that you are about to enter a time of unprecedented financial prosperity. Please call the enclosed 900 number immediately, so I can tell you how best to take full advantage of the opportunities that are coming your way.

Sincerely,

Your Psychic Reader

Dear Psychic Reader, My father regrets he will be unable to call you 900 number. As a psychic reader, I’m sure you already know my father is dead, and had been for more than three weeks when you mailed your letter to him. I sense my father would be more than happy to take you up on your offer of a psychic reading, should you care to meet with him personally.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

P.S. Should you be in contact with my father in the future, please ask him if he’d like to renew his car insurance.

A few months of calm passed, and then these arrived:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Our records indicate a balance of $112 has accrued for overdraft protection on your checking account. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Please pay the minimum amount due, or contact this office to make other arrangements. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving all of your future borrowing needs.

Sincerely,

Your Bank’s San Diego District Office

Dear San Diego District Office, I am writing to you for the third time now to tell you my father died in January. Since then, the number of checks he’s written has dropped dramatically. Being dead, he has no plans to use his overdraft protection or pay even the minimum amount due for a service he no longer needs. As for future borrowing needs, well, don’t hold your breath.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Dear Mr. Hanson, Records show you owe a balance of $54.17 to your insurance agent. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Therefore, the matter has been turned over to us for collection. Please remit the amount of $54.17 to our office or we will be forced to take legal action to collect the debt.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency

Dear Collection Agency, I told your client. Now I’m telling you. Dad’s dead. He doesn’t need insurance. He’s dead. Dead, dead, dead. I doubt even your lawyers can change that. Please adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

A few more months, and:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Our records show an unpaid balance of $224 has accrued for overdraft protection on your checking account. Our efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Please remit the amount in full to this office, or the matter will be turned over to a collection agency. Such action will adversely affect your credit history.

Sincerely,

Your Bank’s Los Angeles Regional Office

Dear Los Angeles Regional Office, I am writing for the fourth time to the fourth person at the fourth address to tell your bank that my father passed away in January. Since that time, I’ve watched with a mixture of amazement and amusement as your bank continues to transact business with him. Now, you are even threatening his credit history. It should come as no surprise that you have received little response from my deceased father. It should also be small news that his credit history is of minor importance to him now. For the fourth and final time, please adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Dear Mr. Hanson, This is your final notice of payment due to your insurance agent. If our firm does not receive payment of $54.17, we will commence legal action on the matter. Please contact us at once.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency

Dear Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency, You may contact my father via the enclosed 900 number.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

It has now been a couple of months since I’ve heard from these firms. Either the people writing these letters finally believe my father is Dead, or they themselves have died and are now receiving similar correspondence. Actually, there has been a lesson in these letters. Any one of them would be cause for great worry, if sent to a living person. The dead are immune from corporate bullying. There’s nothing like dying to put business correspondence in its proper perspective. Perhaps that’s the best reason not to fear death. There’s no post office there.

Until next time…

2 thoughts on “WOTD: bureaucracy

  1. Indeed, the whole “death receipt” business. I haven’t watched that movie in quite some time. It’s so very dark. So Orwellian.

English, motherfucker, do you speak it? J/K - it's ok if you don't.

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