I just got off the phone with a gal working for Kids Klub with the school district. She insisted we were owing them nearly two hundred dollars. In the end she was right. We do owe her two hundred dollars. We owe the money because our payment of the bill was applied to the wrong account.
Each month we are given a little copied and printed 1/4 page voucher with our kids' names and how much we owe Kids Klub, and after school program of our school district. We are told to bring payment into the office at the school, or hand it in to the staff person when we pick the kids up. Last year they provided us with a yellow envelope to insert our payment into. This year, we have had no envelope. This fact will be important to understand later.
So we have brought our money into the office, stated it was for Kids Klub. It has Kids Klub on the check. However, some of the checks, having cleared the bank, did not show up in the accounting for the Kids Klub with their Quick Books. What happened to the money we gave them? Was it embezzled by the twentysomethings that lead the group. Was it lost in space?
Finally, an idea came to me. Our kids have been getting a lot of hot lunches lately. (The wife is a hot lunch fan. I prefer the kids eat cold lunches. So the kids choose what they want instead). Perhaps, when the secretary got the money, even with kids klub on the front of the check, it got applied into the wrong account. The accountant for Kids Club suggested I look at the stamps on the back of the envelopes placed there by school district accounting when they deposited the checks. Sure enough, the money was applied to the "cafeteria fund" by the school district instead. I had to spend $4 chasing down old checks to figure this out, and looking six lines down the endorsement stamp for which fund it went to.
What was frustrating was at the end the woman in the office told us that we needed to go into the office and tell them to give us the yellow payment envelopes for their fund. It became very obvious that they were working to shift blame to us for the problem. I said we would be glad to use the envelopes, as we had done last year, but they were not provided. (I was countering that they need to accept the blame and correct their accounting system.) I was told two more times that the yellow envelopes should solve our problem. The conversation ended amicably enough.
Now, I have been in the shoes of the woman on the phone, and I am not upset with her. She is doing her job. But perhaps she could have said something like, "We want to do things better for you, and it would really help us out if you went to the office and requested the yellow envelopes." instead of putting all of the responsibility and blame on me for their misallocation of funds.
I think in our overly contentious and litigious society we scared to take responsibility and shoulder some of the blame when problems come up. We are afraid we are going to be taken advantage of. So, instead of saying that the district accounting made an error, that they can't correct the error at this point, and we are going to have to pay what we owe their particular fund, they try and shift all the blame for finding the fund, and forcing their staff into procedural compliance to me. Again, not uncommon. But, perhaps in a lot of different areas of life we need to do better.