07/18/2013 04:12 pm ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

The System Really Does Suck

The other day I received a notice from the California Franchise Tax Board about an installment agreement I had with them to pay off some monies owed. The notice said they were terminating the agreement because I was not following the terms of the agreement, and they now wanted the entire balance paid. The agreement stipulated my making set payments due on the 15th of every month.

A couple of months ago, I decided to pay down the balance faster, so I started sending in triple the amount due, and making sure the payments were made about two weeks before they were due. This, I thought, would probably result in the FTB sending me flowers, or at least a thank you note. But instead I get a letter that my agreement was terminated. I was certain there was some sort of mistake, so I called the FTB and explained the situation to the customer service representative.

I was informed, much to my surprise, that the termination of my agreement was not, in fact, a mistake. My agreement was terminated because, as the letter stated, I was not following the agreed-upon terms. It seems I was making my payments TOO EARLY and, to make matters worse, I was paying MORE than the amount due.

I immediately pointed out the irony of this to the customer service representative who did not confirm or deny this was in anyway ironic, funny, insane or even a bit stupid but rather explained this was how "the system" worked. He did remedy the situation by putting me back on the installment agreement, pointing out that the FTB would waive the $35 fee for reinstating the agreement (that had been terminated because I was paying too much too early).

I was then instructed to "please follow the agreement moving forward or this would happen again." "What does that mean?" I asked, hoping the irony would start to sink in. "It means," I was told, "to please make the payments as specified by their due date." I wasn't satisfied; I wanted him to actually say it. "Yes, but what do you mean by that?" I asked again. Realizing he was in a corner and I wasn't going to let him off the hook, he made the plunge and sank to a level of absurdity never-before-seen in customer service history... "It means," he sheepishly said, "that you should stop paying early and don't send in so much money anymore."