Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sallie Mae is a nightmare

I just had the most infuriating interaction with my loan provider, Sallie Mae.  It was so infuriating that it erases all previously pleasant customer service I've received from them.  Heretofore, I have recommended them as a loan provider.  Hereafter, I will not do so.  It was so bad that I'm now very concerned about them handling my [massive] debt for the next 30 years.  If I had any way to transfer my debt elsewhere, I'd do it this second in a heartbeat.
I applied for a 2 month forbearance.  It makes me feel yucky to do it, but just postponing two payments on one of my loans will help me get my finances straightened out.  (It's been a tight couple of months).  I got a letter in the mail confirming my forbearance, and informing me that my next payment will be in one month.  That doesn't make sense, I applied for two months.  So I called.  And so begins today's nightmare.
The first rep I spoke to informed me that the forbearance was applied to last month's payment.  I informed her that last month's payment was made, so it could not have been forborne.  She informed me that it was made late.  I responded that it wasn't possible, because I have auto debit from my account.  How could Sallie Mae be taking out money automatically, every month, and then deeming it late?  And if that's the case, why has no one brought this to my attention earlier?  Well, the rep informs me, I only started auto debit last month, after the late payment was made.  No no, I respond.  I've had it for at least one year.  On your other loans you have had auto debit, she says.  But not this one, not until after you paid late last month, she tells me.  I didn't pay late last month!  I insist.  It was automatically deducted!  I'm staring at my bank statement right here!  I'm staring at my Sallie Mae account right in front of me!  We argue back and forth like this for several minutes.  I'm growing increasingly agitated because this rep is telling me that I had one previously late or not-made payment forborne, which is why only next month's payment is forgiven.  Then she keeps trying to railroad me into just extending my forbearance one month.  I insist that I don't want an ADDITIONAL forbearance - I want a two month forbearance that I applied for, one that means I don't have to make two months payments.  (I was so insistent on NOT asking for an additional month's forbearance because there's a finite number of forbearances you can request over the life of a loan.  I didn't want to burn one because some idiot can't push papers).  She goes back to telling me that I missed a payment.  I ask what payment I missed, and she tells me a different date - this time a June date.  I informed her that the payment was made, she said I only paid part of it.  I told her that Sallie Mae took MANY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS out of my account in the beginning of June, the entire amount due, and there's no way I missed that payment, because I'm staring directly at my bank statement.  She said I paid it late, I told her it was impossible because I had auto debit, and she told me I didn't.  They have been automatically deducting my payments for over a year - probably two years, at this point.  She kept assuring me I was wrong, and I offered to send her copies of my bank statements to show every single deduction made, endorsed "DEBIT", over the past year, on the due date.  She didn't need my bank records because her records were not wrong, she said.  And the forbearance covered that payment I made in either July or June that was either late or not made. 
After a solid 10 or 15 minutes of this, I was livid.  She kept telling me, "Ma'am, I'm not trying to argue with you, but our records aren't wrong."  And about then, about that point, was the time that I was going to reach through the phone line and throttle her self-righteous neck.  Finally I said in a voice that could slice through flesh, "Stop telling me I am wrong and let me speak to someone who is going to fix this."  So I got a supervisor. 
Only marginally less frustrating, this second conversation.  I explained to the supervisor exactly what I was calling about and what the representative told me.  The supervisor said oh yes, the forbearance that you applied for online was applied to the last due payment.  Well, I explain, that's impossible because I PAID that payment and made sure to apply for forbearance AFTER that payment was made!!  But that's how it was processed, she explained.  My two month forbearance covers last month's payment (which was made) and next month's payment.  So I don't have to pay next month's payment.  Well, if the forbearance applies to last month, then refund last month's payment to my checking account.  I cannot do that ma'am, the supervisor bristled.  So, I posit, if I had applied for a ONE month forbearance instead of a TWO month forbearance, I would have to pay next month anyway?  Yes, she says.  Which means I would have asked for one month's forbearance, and had to make every month's payments anyway?  Does this make any sense to anyone else?  Apparently the Sallie Mae reps are crystal clear on this. 
In the end, she cancelled my original forbearance request and reissued a 2 month forbearance for August and September (which she explained so poorly that I honestly had to say, "I want two months forbearance and just want to NOT pay for August and September.")  And she responded, Yes, that's July through September.  I'm pretty sure they went ahead and fucked shit up again, but the supervisor continued to assure me that what I wanted was exactly what she was saying.
And then, the call didn't end with a friendly, "Is there anything else we can do for you today?" so thusly, the call never addressed the issue of my late / missed payments because I've never had auto debit before, and it's just as well.  Fucknuts.  She was all, Bye.  And I was all, Bye. 
I tried to get online to send some customer service feedback email but lo and behold!  No such thing exists.  So the only person, it seems, that I can complain to are the very people who I wanted to complain about.  Excellent.
So this is my customer service complaint, Sallie Mae.  For the whole world to see.  Everyone will know that you are accusing citizens of not making their payments for YEARS when said payments have been made, everyone will know that you will tell your customers that they are wrong (inexplicably.  I mean, how in the world did you come up with this fucked up, "You don't have auto debit until last month" shit?  Of all the things to dispute - how in the world could you believe that you've never automatically deducted my payments?)  Sallie Mae, the whole world will now know that even though SallieMae.com tells me that every payment has been made, on the due date, for the past year, on the auto-debit plan, that your reps will insist that's not the case.  I hope the word spreads far and wide, I hope all are forewarned, I hope that hundreds of thousands of people will become aware of the risks that they take with their finances when they agree to deal with you.
I anxiously await my next confirmation letter in the mail, due to arrive in 7-10 business days.  They'd better not dare to fuck this up again.


E. McPan said...

Auto-debit is convenient, but I'm always afraid of someone screwing up, like deducting payment when you're supposedly getting a forbearance. When I first moved here, I set up auto-pay on my electric bill. In November, I got a notice saying I had never paid my August bill electronically, so not only did I need to pay IN PERSON by cash or cashier's check, they added on a "late" fee of $25. I couldn't believe it took them 3 months to figure out the transaction got screwed up somehow and then charged me for it, too. I sympathize deeply with your situation.

Windypundit said...

Their web site says they're "one of the Top Innovators in IT according to InformationWeek" so I'm sure they can't be wrong.

You should try to go big-time on this. Google around for "Sallie Mae sucks", "fucking Sallie Mae" and phrases like that. If you find someplace with a forum or comments, post a summary of your story and link back to your page.

As the proud owner of the #1 search result for the phrase "fucking Sprint", I salute you for your guerrilla consumer advocacy, and I've linked to this post from my blog to help your score just a little bit more.

Fannie said...

Good luck, girl.


I don't trust auto-debit. I've had it deduct 2 payments instead of 1, before. It was their error yet they refused to own up to it and reimburse me for overdraft fees and the fact that I had to live off my credit card for a month because of their mistake.

Anonymous said...

You should send a copy of your post to Senator Ted Kennedy (and or staff)-- or any other member of the Senate Health, Education, Welfare & Pensions committee.

They have been holding a series of hearings this year interspersed by investigations (which probably only started because A.G. Cuomo in NY pushed the issue-- but whatever it takes to get at these kinds of abusive student lender practices is what I say, regardless of party, platform, or person. When student lenders see the risk of Congress following through on its threats to stop subsidizing student lenders who are just jacking their borrowers, it seems to have been the only time in 20 years that the industry has shown any humility or contrition-- feigned or real-- at all.

And if the committee doesn't do anything with it you're not out anything other than the minute it took to cut and paste your letter here to a letter to them-- and it's one more person/group to read your letter and hear your words on this issue that affects all of us borrowers at some point down the line.

Anonymous said...

Okay, your post just confirmed that I will NOT be consolidating my student loans with Sallie Mae.

Thanks for the post!

wvulaw98 said...

I feel your pain. My husband is an accountant, and so when he saw my principal was not dropping even a dollar a month, he told me to ask for a amortization chart. Instead, I spoke to four reps who each patiently explained to me that they do not have amortization charts, and they figure my payment by calculating the principal, the interest rate, and the repayment period. Duh! That calculation generates an amortization chart. I cannot even imagine trying to get them to move the payment around or request a forebearance. You're lucky they spoke reasonable english. I always get someone with an undecipherable accent.

Shelly said...

My husband and I are both teachers in the state of Oklahoma. We met in college and both had student loans. My husband had much more debt than I. He had Perkins and Stafford Loans. Upon our marriage and subsequent graduation from college we began teaching. We started to have to pay off two loans to Sallie Mae, which we couldn’t afford. Then they offered us the chance to consolidate our loans, which we gladly accepted. We have both taught in high poverty schools now for over ten years. My husband was told that his Perkins loans (app. $10,000) would be forgiven in certain percentages for each year taught. So about a year ago, after having taught for a long time we decided it was time to take the state up on their forgiveness of the Perkins Loan. We contacted Sallie Mae which told us to fill out a form, we did and said we were not eligible. One year later, hours and hours of phone calls, and several trips and phone calls with our state dept. of education- still no forgiveness. This is what they are saying- The state of Oklahoma is willing to pay for the loan, they say will meet all qualifications. Sallie Mae says they will not accept the payment because we don’t qualify. This is their reasoning. They said that when we consolidated our loans, our individual loans ceased to exist, and that is why our claim isn’t valid. I asked them to show me in our paperwork where there was a statement to that effect-none has been provided. If the people giving the money are willing to pay, what is the problem? Their greed, poor communication, and lack of common sense is amazing. I am at my wits end about what to do. The injustice of it all makes me sick. I am going to fight this, all the while, dutifully paying my monthly payments! Any help you can provide or attention to this problem would be greatly appreciated.

bruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bruce said...

Sallie Mae (aka SLM financial) is a bunch of criminals. I signed up for an 'at-home' computer training course several years back. Before I even took one course, the 'school' was closed! For a explicit view of my story, check out my website http://doodman.com/companies_that_suck.html

It's tragic.

Anonymous said...

Wow! All you say is so true. The U.S. Dept. of Ed. "Direct Loans" actually SOLD my loan in 2001 to Sallie Mae behind my back without any warning or fair chance for me to CHOOSE my own refinancing route. So now I am stuck with the evil Sallie Mae who refuses to honor Direct Loans' "Student Loan Forgiveness Program" where I was to be released of all loan debt after five years of service in an approved Title I serviced school system. Sallie Mae claims that they are unable to honor this program as my loan was sold to them while I was serving in my third of the five year requirement. That is just downright rotten of lenders and "servicers" such as Sallie Mae to deceive hard-working people. And the paper/"in-writing" verifications you request but are not provided by Sallie Mae also puts up a red flag for me. There is actually NO PHYSICAL location for Sallie Mae where one may visit and sit down with someone to work out solutions. It's all very fishy and they are not getting much of my money; just enough to keep them quiet and unable to use the law to attack me. I will write to my State's Attorney General and hopefully get something churned up on this matter! All of your testimonies are very supportive so, thank you!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I believe Sallie Mae has designed their system to make borrowers fail. I am also a victim of their predatory practices.

Please post your story on the forum at http://salliemaebeef.com

Anonymous said...

Sallie Mae's customer service is ridiculous. In the past, I've had a good experience, but now I don't trust anything that a representative tells me. In the last week, I have spoken with three reps who were either ignorant or unhelpful and rude. If you pose the same question to two people, you will get two totally different answers. I am convinced that the last two reps I spoke with didn't even look at my account.
In the background, it sounds like a party is going on in their call center. They've really gone to sh*t.

Anonymous said...

Just went through the same nightmare. Isn't it odd that the collection department is opened on Saturday, but not customer service? I was also told by the collection agent that Sallis Mae was not responsible for sending out statements, which I have not received in two months, just ads to take out more loans.

Well, I am rolling over this loan into my equity loan, which is almost paid off. Also, I am writing to my congressman and others. I'm not going to let this drop. If they can mess with a fifty year old woman, who had paid off a thirty year mortgage, I can imagine what they are doing to some poor students in their twenties...messing up their credit big time! Enough!

InNeed said...

I am very concerned now about my loans through Sallie Mae after reading all this. I'm 22 years old. I've been paying my loans off for about a year and 8 months now and recently I quit my job. I knew that I did not have enough income to keep paying so I applied for both a deferment for my federal loans and a forbearance for my private loans. I am not sure now if my applications went through for either because my account has been disabled and I cannot reach them at all, I keep on getting an answering machine. I need some advice. I would like to hear as much feedback as I can. I am really scared, what is the worst that can happen??? my email is yajcher@yahoo.com

Rosie said...

Am so glad to see I am not the only one tormented by the "geniuses" at Sallie Mae.

Without any problems I had auto-debit for over a year when THEY STOPPED taking payments in the middle of a school year. Now, TWO YEARS LATER they are harassing my for payments and I can't talk with the same rep more than once. The left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing here.

Northern Gal said...

OMG...I just experienced the same exact thing. One of the reps told me they stopped taking money out of my acct this year because they applied the forbearance to my private loans. Which clearly was a mistake on there part because i requested for the forbearance to be applied to my federal loans since they were electronically taking money from acct to satisfy my private loan. I was looking at all the electronic transacations on my bank statment while this rep said the payments were stopped...LOL!!! the transactions dated back to last year. long story short...the rep transferred me to a supervisor after she told the supervisor that i was an irate hostile customer (not at all disrespectful though)...shit wouldn't you be to when your money is being toyed with. The supervisor was yelling at me when she picked up the phone, i simply asked her to repeat what she just said, then the heffa hung up on me. It took me talking with 3 more people after that to get my situation resolved ( and im still not convinced it was fixed) when finally the last person apologized for the innappropriate behavior of that supervisor. I plain to file a major complaint!!! and hopefully consolidate with another.

katnip said...

I have had a horrible experience with them as well. My loan went into default and they gave it to an agency to handle. Trying to do the right thing I set up auto payments with "said" agency... Was making payments although it was horribly difficult due to the fact I'm unemployed but wanting to keep good with them. Not a worry in the world till I was supposed to receive my tax returns that were going to catch me up on bills and give me and my kids something to live on and pay bills with...and they garnished it...I called them up to tell them they had made a mistake, that I was paying. They told me that I had to have made a certain amount of payments before they would stop it and that it was a convenience to inform me of that and regardless of whether I had made a legal binding contract with an agency they deemed to represent them they still would garnish. They wouldn't validate the payment arrangement and tried to legitimize not informing people of the status of their accounts or certain methods of repayment they were perusing. They assured me they sent me a letter informing me (that wasn't certified, and they couldn't even tell me what address they sent it to)

To anyone reading please stay away from SallyMae No matter how hard you try to do right by them they will back door you and screw you every chance they get.

Justin said...

I just went through the same experience with Sallie Mae. They took money out of my account, when I had already paid for forbearance for that month.

I spent an hour on the phone with their reps. They finally admitted fault, and told me they could re-credit the funds in 10-14 business days. I told them that was unacceptable. So, they said they could do it in 3-5 business days. I told them that was unacceptable as well, but they didn't budge.

Because I'm poor, when they took money out of my account it over drafted my account, and now I'm stuck with a bunch of overdraft fees. They told me just to fax the fees somewhere and I would get reimbursed. No instructions, just fax documents to this number and we'll reimburse you. I'm very skeptical it will happen.

Sallie Mae needs to be put out of business.

Neda said...

With me, they run me in circles with my effort to pay EXTRA on my private loan. The loan I want to get rid off ASAP, and any money I earn on the side that doesn't go into immediate needs goes straight to Sallie Mae.

I've got an online auto-debit withdrawal set up, and I wanted to make an extra payment towards my private loan via online "pay now" feature. I even called the folks in India prior to sending the extra payment so we can be sure that we're on the same page - namely that all the money goes to my PRIVATE LOAN. I was instructed to make the payment by selecting the loan group of which my private loan is one part, and then send them additional email instructing them to apply the payment sent only to the private loan.

I sent them an email saying just that, and lo and behold, three days later, I see exactly what I feared I would see with a fine criminal institution as is my Sallie Mae lord. The payment just got distributed among the private and the two other federal loans.

I get on the phone immediately and inquire about this issue. These days you don't get to wait till some operator answers. Instead you provide your phone number, and then they call you back. The numbers that show up on my cell phone are from area codes on Mars no doubt. And you can't call them back on those numbers either. Your only contact with them is the 888 number given on the lender's website.

Anyway, I get someone to call me back within the next 15 minutes, and I ask them to correct the issue of improperly distributed payment. She starts "correcting it" by putting me on two "2-3 minute" holds, the last one during which the phone call terminates. Determined to fix this, I make another call, and as expected, eventually get to talk with someone from the other side of the peninsula. Already ticked off, I start demanding that I speak to someone who understands basic addition and subtraction because that is all the knowledge it takes to understand the nature of the mistake and the ensuing "fix up" (which to be sure was all but).

All I get by the end of the phone call, which happened to have occurred on a Friday afternoon is that a request has been sent, but it will happen next week. I let it go for the week, and call again the middle of the following week. I get a third person who tells me that there is NO WAY that I can make an online extra payment without it being applied to only a selected subset of the loan group. (and here I was, foolishly writing them that email previously). Instead I have to write a paper check, specifying on the "memo" line the exact loan to which I want the paper applied. This address is somewhere in Wilkes-Barre. On the next road trip that I can afford, I'll go check this place out. I bet it's a hut in the middle of the pine-woods next to an electric generator, with no human in existence for mile stretches.

It was a fine scam, and I'm pretty curious where things will go with all this accrued-interest-based debt.