My Three Grudges

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I don’t like to hold a grudge. We all need to minimize the negativity in our lives and focus on the positive. Forgive and forget, some people say. Or, others say forgive but never forget, so you won’t get fooled again (you’re welcome for the earworm). My ex-wife falls into that category.

However, there are some acts that are so egregious, that they are unforgivable and unforgettable. For these, we hold a grudge. This is my story of three such transgressions, which will live in infamy.

1. Allstate Insurance. When I first started driving, as a teenager, I carried Allstate auto insurance. On my 18th birthday, I got my one and only speeding ticket. Who knew a 1974 Mercury Capri could go that fast? I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t been caught speeding since!

Fast forward to 1990, my 25th birthday. My insurance rate had gone up because of that one speeding ticket. It was already pretty high because I was a young male driver. Now that I was 25, a double witching event in the auto insurance industry would work in my favor. First, insurance rates come down when you reach 25 years old with a safe driving record. Second, my one and only speeding ticket would be expunged from my record after 7 years, which just happened to be on this same day.

Armed with this knowledge, I called my local Allstate insurance agent in Lancaster PA, where I was living at that time. His name was Owen White. I will never forget that name, because of what Owen said to me when I asked him about reducing my auto insurance rate on my 25th birthday.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Montero, but we can’t lower your rate. That discount only applies to new Allstate Insurance customers, not existing customers.” Are you kidding me?!?

“Owen, do you mean to tell me that I have to leave your company, and then come back as a new customer, to qualify for a lower rate as a 25-year old driver with a clean record?”

“Yes, Mr. Montero, I’m afraid that’s correct.”

“Well, Owen, let me tell you this, and please listen carefully. The first part of that solution will come true. I am leaving Allstate Insurance. As for the second part, let me be perfectly clear: I WILL NEVER USE ALLSTATE INSURANCE AGAIN, EVER.”

And I never did. I switched to Erie Insurance at that time and bundle my auto, home and life insurance with them now, which is a nice piece of business. Poor Owen White called me weekly after I left, trying to win back my business. I told him the same thing every time he called: he had the chance to keep my business and he blew it. Owen stopped calling me after a few months. I wonder whatever happened to him?

I hold no ill will toward Owen White. He was just doing his job, following the company line. As for Allstate Insurance? You fucked me, so fuck you. I will never forgive or forget what you did to me. And I will never use your services again, as long as I live.

2. Weis Markets. Let’s skip ahead ten years to the year 2000. I was now living in the Lehigh Valley, where my employer UGI had relocated me to be the customer relations manager for their area office here. As part of my job, I had to negotiate with customers and prospects whenever we wanted to obtain a right-of-way to locate a new gas line on private property.

One such situation occurred when we were asked to run a new gas main to serve the Mack Trucks plant in Lower Macungie Township. The majority of this main extension was along a state highway. Getting permits from the state was time-consuming and costly, so we tried to get as many private rights-of-way as possible for this project.

A large portion of this main extension fronted on the property of Weis Markets, a regional, family-owned supermarket chain headquartered in Sunbury PA. Weis had multiple locations in the Lehigh Valley, including one less than a mile from my house. They typically cater to an elderly clientele, but the Weis store in Lower Macungie Township was a newer store with a more diverse target market. They didn’t have natural gas available to this store. Yet.

I first approached the Weis people with our request for a private right-of-way on their property to extend our gas main. In exchange, I offered to provide them a gas service lateral for their store, free of charge. This was no token gesture, as the service line for Weis would run a pretty long distance and be costly to UGI.

At first I got a positive response from the local Weis Markets person I was working with. However, he told me he would have to run it by his superiors, which in this case were the Weis family members at corporate HQ in Sunbury who ran the show. These corporate wonks did their homework and knew that UGI was typically willing to offer anywhere from $2-$10 per linear foot for a private right-of-way. This was true, but it didn’t take into account any additional costs (like running a service line) or the alternative costs (the state permit in this case).

Armed with this knowledge, the negotiation with Weis Markets took a turn for the worse. Here was the opening offer from a corporate engineer:

“We know that UGI is willing to pay $10 per foot for a right-of-way, and we know that you need Weis Markets to grant you this right-of way to extend your gas line to the Mack Trucks plant down the road, so we suggest you start the bidding at $10 and let’s see where we come back to you.”

What?!? What happened to agreeing to a free service line in exchange for this right-of-way? These jerks had really changed their tune. My reply:

“I’m sorry, but $10 per foot is the absolute max UGI will pay for this right-of-way, and that doesn’t include the cost of your service line. We do have an alternative in using the state right-of-way for this main extension, and we know the cost of that alternative, which puts the actual cap on what we’re willing to pay you.”

“I’m sorry, but none of those things matter to us. We suggest you start the bidding at $10 per foot.” To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode 1: the negotiations were short.

“Well, I’m sorry you feel this way. I’m afraid UGI is not willing to pay that much for this right-of-way. You’ve left us no choice but to obtain a state permit to extend our gas main. And if you ever want a gas service for this Weis Markets location in the future, it will cost you. Shall we say $10 per foot to start?”

And that was that. We ended up getting a state permit and ran this gas main right past Weis Markets, just a few feet from their property in the state highway right-of-way. We did our best to minimize the disruption to their store traffic, but I can’t say that we didn’t tear the shit out of their front lawn and driveways to save time and money. We did eventually restore everything properly, and grass grows back, but the scars from where we cut the paving across their driveways are permanent. I would enjoy seeing those cuts, if I ever planned to go near that store again.

But, you see, that never happened. In fact, I refuse to set foot in any Weis Markets store to this day. That includes the one less than a mile from our house, which they just refurbished into a shiny new supermarket. My wife and son have been in there, and they tell me it’s nice, but I will never know. I won’t forbid my family from going into a Weis store occasionally, but I discourage it. We have alternatives close by, including Wegmans and Giant, that are better supermarkets in my opinion.

Its been over 20 years, and Weis Markets is still dead to me. You fucked me, so fuck you. I will never forgive or forget what you did to me. And I will never shop in your stores again, as long as I live.

3. Chase Mortgage. The third transgression just took place earlier this year. Since we built our current house in 2006, we had already refinanced our mortgage once. With interest rates at all-time lows and the equity in our house growing, it was time to refinance again. Since our last refinance, our mortgage had been sold twice, most recently to Chase Mortgage.

I have experience with Chase, both as our most recent mortgage holder and as one of the first credit cards I ever owned as a young college student. I was pretty irresponsible back then and racked up some pretty big credit card debts, including a Discover Card and Chase VISA. Once I graduated from college and got my first real job, I consolidated my debts with a loan. Although Discover allowed me to keep my card (which I still use to this day), Chase made me give up their card.

I wasn’t terribly happy with Chase for doing this, but it was my own damn fault for being reckless with credit cards in college. I suppose I appreciate the loyalty Discover has shown me for all of these years, which is why they are my primary credit card today. This didn’t stop me from getting a new Chase Disney VISA a few years ago, but we only use that to get discounts on Disney trips and merchandise.

Anyway, back to 2021. Since we had our mortgage with Chase, I figured we’d give them the first crack at refinancing. The process was going smoothly until they ran a credit check. They came back with a score of 716, which I thought was a little low. At the same time, Discover was showing me a FICO score of 725, and Wells Fargo (our main bank) was showing me 730.

The reason this matters is that Chase has a stupid rule that they won’t refinance with an equity withdrawal (we had some projects to pay for) for anybody with a score below 720. Since they had me at 716, they wouldn’t refinance our mortgage. I was in disbelief! They were willing to shoot me down over 4 points? I challenged my mortgage rep on this.

“So, what you’re telling me is that you won’t do this mortgage refinance for me? You’re willing to lose my business over 4 points of my credit score, which two other financial institutions have rated above 720?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Montero, that’s correct. We could do the refinance without the cash out for you.”

“But that’s one of the main reasons we’re doing this, to get the cash out while keeping the payment and term the same. Are you sure you can’t do something here, as I do have other options? Could you please speak to your manager?” This was followed by a short hold as he went to speak with his manager. When he returned, the news wasn’t good.

“I spoke with my manager, and unfortunately there’s nothing we can do. It’s a Chase rule, and we can’t bend it. I’m really sorry.”

“Well, I’m sorry too. I’ve already spoken with Quicken Loans, and they’re willing to work with me, so I’m afraid Chase is losing my business because of this stupid rule. Have a nice life.”

And so we proceeded to refinance our mortgage with Quicken Loans / Rocket Mortgage. And what a painless and pleasurable process that was! We were able to provide all required documents online, skipped the physical house appraisal, and had approval very quickly. My credit score was not an issue for them! A few short weeks later a title agent came to our house to close the mortgage, and three days after that we had a check in hand from our equity and a new mortgage. Simple.

As for Chase, well, you know my refrain by now. You fucked me (twice), so fuck you. I will never forgive or forget what you did to me. And I will never use your services again, as long as I live.

The moral of my three stories: don’t fuck me! In business, as in life, you should treat people well, and they will reward you with loyalty. If you do the opposite? Expect us to hold a grudge.

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