Last week the bank sent overdraft notices on two different accounts. In one case a family member confused the debit card with the credit card, which look nearly identical. With the credit card, there would have been no problem making a $65 expenditure because the unused capacity was very high. However, the checking account was another story: the balance is kept lean for reasons familiar to anyone who has a dependent.
In the other case there was a lack of communication between two signatories on the account, who were both writing checks at the same time. The bank honored all the checks, but I’m grumpy about paying $32 in overdraft charges on negative balances totaling only $70.
Yes, offenders deserve the blame, but it seems to this humble observer that banks, airlines, and governments impose unduly harsh financial penalties for minor slip-ups. Once upon a time I mailed a $200 license fee on December 30th, when the amount was due at the government office on that date. The late charge was $100. Someone scraped off the renewal tabs on my license plate; an alert parking control officer gave me a $30 ticket, and I had to pay $10 for replacement tabs.
Incidents like these have always bothered me, but I’ve learned to look at the cost of continuing the battle, whether I bear any responsibility for what happened, and usually conclude that it’s not worth fighting City Hall. Call it maturity, or wimpiness, but there’s less stress in my life.