… are greatly exaggerated (apologies to Mark Twain). [Just for the record, there isn’t definitive evidence that Mark Twain actually wrote those words.] Anyway…I walked into Sleepy’s mattress store to look at buying a new mattress. The bedding I purchased for this house was not the best but at the time it was used only for vacations so it wasn’t an issue. I realized it was time to bite the bullet, look at new mattress technology, and get something that (1) was not 3 feet off the ground and required climbing into; and (2) might eliminate waking up with a backache. Into Sleepy’s (with Rachel and Riley) we went, waking up Gary, the salesman who was obviously sound asleep at his desk. Gary is the quintessential salesman but funny and good at what he did, so we quickly decided on a mattress, was assured that the Fourth of July sale prices were already in effect, and then was told, “You know, we have 0% interest for a year if you want to spread out the payments.” This was very attractive to me since mattresses these days are ridiculously expensive, so I agreed. Gary took down all my information and called GE Credit which provides most of the appliance, furniture, mattress, etc., credit. I was turned down!
“Wait,” I said. “This is ridiculous.” Some time ago I was turned down for a credit card and didn’t think much of it. I chose to ignore it but this time clearly something was wrong. “Let me speak to the person from GE credit,” I whined. The woman I spoke with didn’t want to give me any information but Gary, in his most convincing salesman way, persuaded her to talk with me again and she said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you are listed as deceased!” Needless to say, I was upset and confused. “Clearly,” I said, “I am not.” She indicated there was nothing to be done except for me to call Experian, one of the three major credit reporting companies in the country, and straighten it out. While Rachel and Riley sat on one of the many beds, I tried to call Experian and quickly realized that this was an effort in futility. We left Sleepy’s without a mattress and headed home to try and deal with Experian. (It is a 40-mile round trip to Sleepy’s.)
When I got home, I tried calling again. It turns out that you cannot actually talk to a person unless you buy something! It took me about 2 hours to figure this part out. Not having a choice, I bought a “membership,” which allowed me not only to look at my credit report but provided online a phone number that eventually got me to a real, live human being. There was some comfort in being able to tell my story to a sympathetic person but I was furious that my credit had been held hostage by this company and that I had to pay for information that should be mine in the first place. Two things happened at this point. First, I was walked through the “disputes” procedure and did it over the phone rather than online. Second, after assuring the person that I was indeed alive, she told me where the problem was in the first place: Envision Credit Union in Tallahassee. They noted that, when I closed out my Envision accounts, I was deceased! The next day, because now it was almost 5:00 PM, having taken 3 hours to get this far, I called Envision. They couldn’t have been nicer and agreed that they had made a mistake in how the notation was made, but they deal with Equifax! About a week later, the Envision representative called back for the third time and told me she had fixed it all with Equifax and that would fix it with Experian. In the meantime, Experian misstated my birth date on my record so I filed a dispute for that as well. It was taken care of almost immediately while the issue of my existence hung in the balance for over a month. This morning, I finally received an email from Experian (with whom I still pay a monthly membership until this is resolved!) that my disputes had been processed. I checked and I am alive once more with good credit I guess.
This is a cautionary tale. Michael told me that the federal government requires that every person be able to get an annual free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. If you are interested in checking out your credit, go to annualcreditreport.com and you can get a free report like I did. Equifax had no problem with me being alive and apparently now Experian is sorted out. It is disturbing and unfair in my opinion to be at the mercy of these agencies. It just doesn’t seem right and to add insult to injury, having to purchase one of their products in order to solve the problem made it even worse. I strongly encourage you to check your reports annually as I will from now on.