It Never Hurts to Ask: Getting Late Fees Removed

This past Saturday, I decided to get some air and take a leisurely stroll out to the mailbox at dusk to see if any goodies had come in the mail. However, I was very unpleasantly surprised to find that I had somehow missed a payment on our water bill and received a $15 penalty.

Our city’s water billing system is run by a tiny 2-person department that seems to send bills out when they can instead of on a set schedule. Our water billing cycles are 2-month periods, so logically we would have a bill due every 2 months. But our water department being so small, with more and more people moving into the area, those 2 poor ladies are swamped from 8-5. I tried all day yesterday to call them but always got a voicemail, and finally left a message around noon today and was surprised to get a call back in the afternoon (a first with this department.)

Anyways, this means that our bills come very irregularly and we sometimes don’t get a bill for 3 or 4 months, and then sometimes we receive a bill a month for 3 months in a row. It isn’t unusual for us to be paying a bill for services from fall of the previous year in the spring (i.e. paying for water used Oct 2007 – Dec 2007  in March 2008). Needless to say, this can get confusing and I often have little panics where I think I’ve missed a payment when I haven’t.

This week was one such instance. I had made a water payment on the due date of March 12, 2009 and so wasn’t expecting to have another bill due until mid-May. It turns out that they had sent out another bill some time in March or April, which I don’t recall receiving, and that I had a payment due April 24th. I honestly don’t know what happened with that bill but obviously somehow messed up.

When I spoke to one of the ladies from the water department today to ask about it, she told me that, yes, bills are due once every 2 months, but no, I did miss a payment on April 24th. I think because she saw the illogic of it, she was nice enough to waive the $15 penalty for me. I didn’t even have to ask (though I had been planning to) for this one-time courtesy.

So, it never hurts to call in and inquire when you have a billing discrepancy such as this. If the late fee is just $1 or $2, it might not be so bad, but a $15 late charge on a $68 bill not even a month overdue was a little too much for me to let slide by.

Just remember when you call in to be polite, don’t demand but ask nicely, and you will most likely have a positive result.

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7 thoughts on “It Never Hurts to Ask: Getting Late Fees Removed”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story.

    It’s amazing that companies still are slow to bill people. With the advent of the computer there is absolutely no reason to ever not get these out on time. What’s even sadder is that some people are so passive aggressive that they will pay the $15 and not even question it. Amazing!

    Rick Vaughn’s last blog post..Benefit of Credit Unions

  2. Cell phone and cable bills are the same way. So long as your nice, they may waive the fees. Health insurance providers don’t charge any late fees, but your policy will lapse if the bill goes unpaid out of your grace period. Then you have to prove insurability again and this can be a problem if your health has changed.

    Health Insurance Guru’s last blog post..Health Care Reform and the Government

  3. Your post is very good advice. Asking to have late fees removed applies across the baord. When i worked for a credit card company the most common thing was seeing people being charged late fees but they would alway sbe afraid to ask to waive them since i couldnt come out and directly say i will waive..if they just asked it would disappear. Granted when they have it waived it doesnt mean it wouldnt be reported on their credit report which i feel is worse but still atleast they saved money.

    So word to everyone…always ask to have it waived. and if they say no then hang up and call again for a new rep…it will work eventually.

    Questrade’s…May 30th, 2009 – Today’s QUESTRADE COUPONS

  4. Comapnies will do anything to keep and create new fees to squeeze out everylast bit of money from the consumer. Itr is in their nature. The worse one can do is pay their entire balance off before the due datre each month which in escense is free money for the entire month

    Kelly’s last blog post..June 1st, 2009 – Today’s QUESTRADE COUPONS

  5. If I get a late fee on my dentist’s bill, I ignore it and write a check for the amount due. They never send me an additional bill for the late fee alone. I pay him in full over a few months time and he is a bazillion times wealthier than I. He gets fair payment from me, so i feel no guilt refusing to pay his lates fees just cuz I held the bill for a few weeks til my next paycheck. Of couse, this will not work with Verizon. With a big company, you have to call and negotiate.

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