Lessons From The Birds…

Isn’t it funny how nature reflects God, life reflects art, and animals reflect people? I tend to pay a lot of attention to animals. My mother does too, especially now that she’s retired. She tells me regularly about the ducks, iguanas, waterfowl, birds and squirrels that come to her back patio to be fed on a daily basis.

It seems in all the communities of this earth, there are hierarchies, and oddly enough, if you pay attention, you can see that even in the animal kingdom, some of these hierarchies and the relative behaviors that accompany them is very much like how people act, usually when they aren’t being thoughtful and considerate of others.

Lately, I’ve been noticing birds. I was near a traffic light, and I noticed these birds to my left flying from tree to tree in a certain area. It looked at first, like one bird was the lead bird…a large black bird; and that a group of 8 to a dozen smaller brown birds were following his lead from tree to tree. But as I watched, it became increasingly obvious that this black bird was being bum-rushed by the brown birds.

It was very similar to what it might look like if a bunch of puny nerds at any given middle school, finally recognized their strength in numbers and brain power, and got together and attacked the larger school bully.

boat_tailed_grackle_sim_1This black bird was trying to fly quickly to a different tree – away from these brown birds; and the brown birds would swoop down after him in something resembling a Blue Angels, diamond like formation on either side of this bird and swoop where he swooped. They weren’t attacking the bird, but it looked a lot like harassment. This poor black bird couldn’t seem to break free of them. He was just caught up in what seemed a stressful situation.

The light changed and I had to move on…but this reminded me of another bird-related situation I saw at work. I had put some old muffins, in the grassy area in front of my office window across the drive in our parking lot. Right at the base of the curbs on both sides of this grassy area, the curb drops down in the center and ends in front of a small drain. I usually put nuts for the squirrels there, but the blue jays have gotten wind of the nuts, as well as a few black birds, and they have started to pick them off before my little squirrel friend can get there.

I also put some dry cat food and some of those chips you get at the Chinese restaurants, there for the birds…and the squirrel if he showed up. It seems that these birds recognize me…particularly the blue jays, as I often put food out for them. I no sooner got back into my office, when the 2 black birds and 2 blue jays were down in the grassy area picking at the muffins. Soon a fleet of brown birds showed up, and everyone was picking at the muffins, snatching the chips or the dry cat food, and flying off for a minute to enjoy their personal snack. This had been going on for several hours…taking up most of the morning.

However, a short time later, I noticed another black bird who had just arrived. By this time, most of the muffins were gone, and everyone was concentrating on the chips and cat food. This particular black bird got down in that little “V” where the food was; and had the nerve, after just arriving for the first time; to act all possessive as if he had made the great discovery of the food, and it was all his. He proceeded to chase off any of the brown birds who continued to return to get more of the cat food, so they began to hustle him. As he jumped after one, another jumped into the “V” and grabbed some food. He couldn’t turn and get after the food thief fast enough, then another would jump in and snatch some food.

I found this rather amusing, because this black bird so reminded me of people…how selfish they are…greedy, and stupid. The more he attempted to hoard the food, the more food he lost as the brown birds tag-teamed him. And I didn’t actually see him have time to eat any of it, because he was too busy being selfish and trying to keep the other birds away from it. So this crow had to eat crow, because he was unwilling to share as all the other birds had previously been doing.

Now, I tend to think that crows are among the smartest of the birds. I’ve seen these black birds find creative ways to get food; like the crow I saw at my college, that alighted onto a partly open trash container to grab a sealed ketchup packet. He then got down on the sidewalk, put his foot on the packet to hold it in place; and proceeded to peck at the packaging until he popped a hole into it. He then stuck his beak repeatedly into the hole to suck out the ketchup.

So they are smart, but it seems to me that they’re smartness and innovation has caused them to become blinded by pride and self-importance; and I could easily compare their interactions with other birds to this country’s interactions with other countries.

It seems like the black birds have a somewhat arrogant air about them (“We’re Amuricans!” GW); and perhaps lack effective communication skills in the world of the birds. I mean, if you do any research on crows, you will see that most of the information states that crows basically have a bad rep. I mean, they are like the lower level bad boys in the world of feathers; with vultures being above them in rank.

And then, just look at the stress dynamic of the situations. In two of the scenarios, the black birds were being pressured. In the first situation, I have no idea what that black bird did to get all those brown birds chasing him down like that; but apparently, the brown birds were completely in control and enjoying the game they played with the black bird. The second situation was more about the black bird frustrating himself out by being unrealistic, greedy, and selfish. I mean, there was no way he could have guarded that food from the rest of them, especially those who were regulars there in the first place. I see people act this foolishly on the regular; and they have no idea what they are doing to their spirits, minds and body through thoughtless, self-flagellating actions like that.ddd4fd3bfc3f64e86064790d8cf2fb55

I don’t think my imagination is on overdrive when I say this, but just like Revenge of the Nerds, it seems that the smaller brown birds have gotten more confident, and are rising from obscurity and asserting themselves to claim what’s theirs. The funniest thing was that one of the blue jays came back, and  hopped about the grassy area looking for more. After checking the “V,” he actually hopped across the drive, and came right up to my window and looked at me, as if he was asking me, “Is that it? You got any more?” When I didn’t get up to bring out more, he flew away.

Animals are so much more intelligent than people give them credit for, and it always amazes me how much of God’s nature is found in nature, as well as how much animals seem to mimic people. There’s so much to learn observing animals and plants.


Student Loan Mismanagement: Overcoming Lender Error – Pt 2

Considering the last tongue lashing I had given the lender via my letter, one would be inclined to think that they would have scrambled to ensure that they corrected all the mistakes and subsequent overcharges due to their “error.” Granted, I only had to wait 4 days for a response this time. No doubt, the threat of outside contacts had stirred their response, but was it enough? Would they correct the entire account situation or just kick out another series of incorrect billing statements?

After explaining all the additional actions they had taken, they stated, “In reviewing your account, it is apparent that our representatives mishandled your initial concerns.” You think? And I knew they had too many hands in the pot! They went on to elaborate on their training of their “team members” and how critical it is to their bottom line of providing “the level” of service they strive to achieve. Blah, blah, blah.

The kicker was the explanation about their two operating systems, which they claim are to originate loans, and handle loan servicing respectively. They claimed that their normal process is that a systematic transfer of the address from their origination system is made to the loan servicing system any time they made a new disbursement. They utilize the hard copy Promissory Note originally filed, and apparently, do not update their systems per additional subsequent electronic filings for loans. As they went on to state, they discovered that their loan servicing system was more current in its address information than the originating system, which held the original Promissory Note information.

This more current information in the loan servicing system makes sense, because this was indicated as the system that services new additional loans. One would naturally presume that if this system receives more current information as students apply for more disbursements, then this system should be the first one examined for updated contact information. They stated that they do not receive a new hard copy of the Promissory Note on any new disbursement agreements that are done electronically, and that many times, the information that they are receiving from the schools contain outdated demographic information. Of course, they recognized that this was not the case in my situation.

But, how much sense does that make? They told me that they are utilizing both electronic notes and the original hard copy paper Promissory Note; and that subsequent to the original hard copy, any additional loans are done electronically. Yet somehow, they neglected to update their files with the new incoming contact information on the newer loan requests simply because they are done electronically? This, in the “electronic” age? Are they serious?

Then they stated that as a result of this opposite situation in my case; this “systematic file transfer process” was canceled. How much sense does this make? Then they say that because of this, when the loans “transferred” the new address did not transfer with them. Did it sound like it would transfer in the regular procedure? My situation was allegedly the opposite of what “normally” happens, but I can’t see the “normal” setup working either. The bottom line is that the current contact information is not transferred under either of these scenarios.

After this asinine explanation of how their systems misfire and basically don’t work properly in conjunction with one another; they proceeded to tell me that this resulted in mail that was being generated from the servicing system being returned to their office. The next two statements put it all into perspective for me.

“Once your loan became “past due,” we were required to perform due diligence in order to try to obtain an updated address for you. We recognize now that we overlooked our origination system in trying to locate you.”

student-debt-consumeraffairs.com_student-lending-probes-and-lawsuitsThis was a joke. I thought I was being “punked.” They stated that despite all the returned mail that was sent out from the “servicing system,” they “waited” until the loan went into “past due status” before they did the “required due diligence” in an attempt to obtain an updated address on the borrower. Ain’t that somethin’! Additionally, they stated that they recognized that they “overlooked” their origination system in trying to locate me. They still hadn’t got it. The problem was not in their bypassing the

rong>origination system to find me.

They already stated that they actually do refer to that system primarily because they claimed that newer information delivered electronically in subsequent loan requests from the schools, contained outdated demographic information. Clearly they had already stated that the address information in the origination systems are outdated, because that system only holds the information from the original Promissory Note, and does not contain any information in the newer electronically filed Promissory Notes. Those electronic Promissory Notes are recorded in the servicing system, which they made clear is disregarded for updated demographic information, despite the information in that system being more current. So basically, everything is outdated, yet just as clearly, they said that they refer to that outdated information.

Then they said, “We understand the confusion this information may have caused you.”

Really? How could they understand my confusion, when apparently, they couldn’t understand their own?

“We hope this additional information and the additional steps we have taken have helped to alleviate your concerns.”

Not really. If anything, I was having more “concerns.” They went on to state:

“Please be assured that your situation is “unique.” Generally, what would have occurred was a demographic update from you that would have updated our servicing system. Because the update came from your school, in the form of the electronic file to our origination system, it required a manual review. Because this is an uncommon scenario, “we are confident our existing process sufficiently covers the majority of our customers.”

Seriously? They are “confident” of this? Wow. So it was only because the update came from my school; the institution that the loan requests are made through, that this whole mess occurred? I would think that any update from any school would require a manual review to ensure that the correct, updated information was recorded into the correct system to avoid calamities such as this one.

Was it over? Not by a long shot. Within the next month, I received 3 more statements, all with different amounts due. The first was lower, but subsequent statements were higher, and in one they attempted to charge a late fee because it takes them 10 days to process my payment upon receipt. You know I was not going to let that stand. Again I let my fingers fly free as I let loose on them in yet another letter detailing my frustration. I told them that the appearance of correcting the problem while conducting back-door manipulations to charge me more were unacceptable.

I requested that one person be assigned to my account, and that they supply me with that person’s name, and a direct contact line so that I don’t have to continually see these issues cropping up. This accommodation was never addressed. They insisted that I needed to understand their problems in properly training their personnel. However, I informed them that this was not my problem because, were the situation reversed, and I didn’t get a payment to them on time; they would not be willing to accept any excuses or reasons why from me. They’d simply penalize me in fees and interest, saying in essence, “It’s not my problem.” The last few comments, I think, was what motivated the final complete correction of the overcharges on my account. After telling them they were incompetent and inept, I went for the jugular.

“From this point on, I will be contacting various entities within the federal government, and filing my complaints with them. I will be giving them the entire history of your mishandling of my account, which I still believe is with intent; as well as letting them know that I don’t feel that your organization should be entitled to get government contracts for financing student loans, because it is more than obvious that you cannot handle the responsibility within the scope of lawful business practices nor any integrity.

I can only imagine the millions of people you have ripped off…overcharging them due to this level of incompetence. This is just not acceptable on any level, and I will make sure that this is made public, much in the same way you would publicly report any negative info on my credit record.”

The last thing I stated in that letter, was a request for an amortization schedule on my account from the date of the first payment, until the loan was due to be paid in full. I wanted to make sure they were charging me the correct interest. Bear in mind that from the time of my first correspondence with them, three months had passed of this foolishness. Their next letter was to inform me that they had reapplied a payment and waived the late fees to make all loans due the following month.

Additionally, they included in this letter, an “Automatic Payment Plan Authorization Form.” Were they for real? After they bungled up my account like this, they actually thought that I’d allow them to put their hands into my bank account and automatically withdraw whatever they chose? Clearly, the lights were on but no one is home in that institution. What gall. They did send the amortization schedule, but the very next month, another two statements arrived and one came with a higher payment requirement. The letter that went out was three sentences.

“I am not sending any additional funds other than the current payment amount. Correct your own error, but it better not get charged to me in any way. Don’t say you weren’t forewarned.”

That, and the printout of my account history that they subsequently sent me, ended the entire drama. So, if you are a student, or know of one, have them read this article. You do have options. My situation could not possibly be an isolated one, but appears to be one that happens frequently due to the system processes that they so inadequately explained to justify their mess. The difference is that most people probably don’t catch it, or if they do, they don’t attack it with the voracity that I did. However, I’m of the belief that if more people were informed that financial institutions were operating like this; perhaps it would be stopped, or at the least, better regulated to ensure that millions are not being financially raped in this manner for years by these lenders. Be mindful.