Paul Kelleher: Yes, I’m calling to inform you that my mom died on the 24th of January.
Bank of America Estates representative: I’m sorry. Oh, it looks like she never even missed a payment. That’s too bad. Well, how are you planning to take care of her balance?
PK: I’m not going to. She has no estate to speak of, but you should feel free to just go through the standard probate procedure. I’m certainly not legally obligated to pay for her.
BOA: You mean you’re not going to help her out?
PK: I wouldn’t be helping her out — she’s dead. I’d be helping you out.
BOA: Oh, that’s really not the way to look at it. I know that if it were my mother, I’d pay it. That’s why we’re in the banking crisis we’re in: banks having to write off defaulted loans.
“I lost it there,” Kelleher, a mild-mannered 30-year-old who lives in Brookline, Mass., where he works remotely for a Washington DC-based non-profit, told TPMMuckraker. When pressed, he said, the estates rep backed off that last claim, but only a little, continuing to suggest that cases like his mothers had played a role in the financial crisis.
The rep’s apparent intention, as Kelleher described it, was to mislead him into believing that he was obligated — at first legally, then, failing that, morally — to cover his mother’s debt (which, in any case, was not large: she had had a $1000 limit on her card). Of course, Kelleher was sophisticated enough to know that’s not true. But how many other less savvy callers in similar situations, he wondered, might respond to the rep’s breezy “how are you planning to take care of her balance?,” with a confused “I guess I’ll mail in a check”?
And what bothered Kelleher as much as the estate rep’s insensitivity, not to mention her apparent effort to deceive, was the impression he got that she wasn’t winging it.
“It seemed rote,” Kelleher said. “It was too naturally delivered to have been a misstatement.”
That impression was strengthened when Kelleher eventually spoke with the rep’s supervisor, Eric Davis. Kelleher said that when he recounted his conversation with the rep, Davis apologized — for what, exactly, it was unclear — but told him: “That’s not how she meant it