I got another phone call for Dad yesterday. The "Sarge" has been gone since 2006, but his popularity among the telemarketers for insurance agents, home improvement companies, home security outfits and credit card companies remains strong. This particular call was to inform him that the lawnmower had been diagnosed, problem spotted and how much it would cost to fix it. I explained to the caller that it was I, and not my dearly departed father, who had dropped the grass cutter off and would be picking it up.
My dad did cut the grass for many years, and grudgingly turned the responsibility over to me when he turned 81. For 13 more years, though...he supervised my weekly forays into the yard and rewarded me with a cold beer after the completion of the task. Those were good afternoons, sitting in the garage...sipping beer and talking about whatever crossed our minds. He died on a Tuesday afternoon, I normally cut grass on a Thursday. He was up and around for my lawn maintenance two weeks earlier, before he entered the hospital.
I thought about the call and the other calls he still occasionally receives and decided to do a credit check on him. An hour or so later, I discovered that he still had a fair credit rating, had five accounts with various card-issuing companies still active but no balance remaining on them. I made the appropriate calls to close and cancel these and four out of the five went very smoothly. One of them insisted on a copy of the death certificate before they would close the account. I told him he could drive down here and pick it up.
I decided to run my mom's credit history as well. She passed away in 1998. Two accounts still open, including a positive balance on a credit card that she had overpaid back in 1995. I called and explained. The customer service guy said he'd send a check.
If you have loved ones who have passed, it's not a bad idea to check their previous credit history.
All this reminds me of the time we signed the family Yorkie Bobby up for a credit card.
We're not sure how the caller got his information but we got a call one afternoon from a telemarketer asking for him. I told the called to hold. Bobby was sleeping on his favorite chair and drowsily looked at me when I told him he had a call. It appeared to me that he wasn't interested in taking the call, so I told Dad that Bobby had a call. Dad got a big kick out of this and suggested I find out who it was.
I told the caller that Bobby was interested in who was calling him. And, he may have been. He was always willing to go on walks with people, engage in a tug-of-war with his favorite toy or just submit to a good petting and combing. He told me the name of his company and why he was calling. I asked the caller to hold again and told Dad and Bobby. Dad asked Bobby if he wanted a credit card. Bobby lazily extended a paw toward Dad. We took this for a "yes".
Since Bobby couldn't speak for himself, I offered to get the details. A major credit card, low introductory APR and some other perks that escape my memory now. I urged the caller to continue. It sounded like a great deal for Bobby. After all, what if he was out on a walk and decided he wanted a bottle of water or breakfast burrito? What if he wanted to treat Sarge and I to a beer or a lunch at Dad's favorite restaurant?
We sealed the deal. Two weeks later, Bobby's credit card arrived via mail.
With a credit card comes credit responsibility. Since it was his first card, I sat with him and gave him a lecture on fiscal proprieties, paying off balances and identity protection. He passively listened while chewing on a beef jerky stick.
It was time to go shopping.
He needed dog food and his brush was pretty old, so we decided to go to the pet store where these supplies were available. Pet-friendly store, so he was able to accompany me in the store. We looked at different brushes, got the one that seemed like it was best suited for his coat and picked up a bag of his IAMS dog food. We proceeded to check out. The clerk rang up the purchase, scanned the card and handed me the receipt.
Bobby was now a consumer.
Since he didn't have a checking account and a steady income, Dad paid his first monthly statement for him. I urged Bobby to go out and seek gainful employment. Movie animal, police dog, security patrol...I told him he had several options. His ears perked up, though, when I mentioned that many dogs were used in advertisements and he was a cute fella, so I suggested he develop a resume and get employed.
He also got several more invites for additional credit opportunities. We used the card for several more months at the pet store and also one afternoon when Dad and I went to lunch at Dad's favorite Mexican restaurant.
Margaritas on Bobby!
Then, about a year later..sadly...Bobby passed away. It was my sad duty to mail in that final payment, cut the card in pieces and include a note that Bobby was gone. Dad received several phone calls to extend Bobby credit in the after-life and had to break the sad news of Bobby's demise to the telemarketers.
Bobby had a better credit rating than Dad.
I know that the three of them (Mom, Dad and Bobby) are re-united in the skies above...watching over us and enjoying long walks in heaven.
Pre-approved for a $5,000 credit limit.