My Turn to (Almost) Get Screwed by the System

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Has a huge corporation ever tried to screw you over?

Odds are, the answer to that question is yes.

I recently had it happen to me. Here’s my story.

Before we begin, allow me to preface this screed by saying that I am not someone that feels I am constantly being beaten by the system. I acknowledge that corporations and lobbyists have far too much power and influence, but I just treat it as a fact of life that I can’t change. (I’m tired.)

I’m not a conspiracy theorist and while I am liberal, I don’t believe everything is evil. I don’t have an egg avatar and I don’t watch Alex Jones.

Maybe it’s because I’ve played the game and, in return, have been treated generally well by the system. I’ve had cushy office jobs and have managed to move up in my career.

I’d like to believe that it’s because I’m smart, fairly well-educated, and I’m always trying to learn something new, but the fact that I’m a white male, born and raised in a middle-to-upper-middle class area in the northeastern part of the United States probably didn’t hurt.

With all that said, here’s what happened.

The organization that I used to work for is one of the largest companies in the United States with over $130 billion in revenue every year. It has a massive infrastructure and while some systems are antiquated, it has the personnel, tools, and experience to make sure everything runs smoothly.

I left my job on August 19th after giving the standard two weeks notice, turning in all of my company-owned stuff (laptop, ID badge, etc.), and even completing two exit interviews. I did everything I was supposed to do.

I had received my last paycheck the week before, on August 12th.

I should have received my next paycheck on August 26th. That check never came.

I gave it a few days and, on August 29th, I called Global Payroll and was told the process takes two to three weeks and I should just “be patient.” This from a company that considers you late if you don’t pay before the date your bill is due. I had already waited two weeks, but, fine, I tried to be patient.

I then began checking my account balance obsessively – as soon as I woke up, just before going to sleep, several times during the day, even if I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I’d sign in to see if my money suddenly appeared.

No dice.

The savings account began dwindling as we pulled for it to pay for groceries and student loans and school clothes. I was owed vacation time and I certainly wanted it, but they could have sent that later. Really, I just wanted my one last regular paycheck as a bridge before I started getting checks at the new job. I’m lucky that I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I also don’t have six months of savings in an emergency fund, either.

I live in the real world.

On September 8th – twenty days after my final day and twenty-seven days after I was last paid – I called again and was fortunate to get a much nicer person on the other end. I was told that they’re “backed up” regarding payments – at first, I thought this meant that everyone else was jumping ship, but then I remembered that massive headcount cuts were in the works – and that it would take a long time. That’s all she offered. There was a long pause. I guess I was supposed to accept this and hang up? I explained that I hadn’t been paid in four weeks and that I had bills to pay – you think the mortgage company wants to hear your excuses?

I wasn’t harsh – it wasn’t her fault and as someone that has worked with the public, I know the feeling of getting yelled at for something that is corporate policy – but I was persistent. After a moment, she mentioned that she could process my check immediately and that it’d show up in a few days. She asked me if I’d like her to do so.

Uh…yeah.

(I imagined someone calling and, when presented with this same opportunity, saying, “You know what? Nah, I’m good. Keep the money. Just pay me whenever you can. You need it more than I do.“)

She told me she would process it and I would see the money in my account in four business days.

I thanked her, hung up, and began thinking about three things: (1) how long it would have taken if I hadn’t called? Two months? Three?; (2) all of those millionaire  superstar financial planners and how basic their advice is and how they never really take things like this – events that occur every day in real life – into account; and (3) how banks take your money out in the middle of the night and the money is gone immediately, but when you deposit a check, the funds aren’t available for four days.

In the grand scheme of things I’m lucky. I’ll (supposedly) have the money in a few days, able to pay my bills and, hopefully, replenish my savings. But so many more are not as fortunate and something like this could really ruin their credit score, maybe even their lives. It happens every day. I guess this was just my time.

Sooner or later, we all get screwed.


Christopher Pierznik’s eight books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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