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Stuck In (Telephone) Jail!

Robert Gibb

Ringggggggg... ringggg... ring...! "Thank you for calling Investor Services at Chevron-Texaco. Please enter your 9 digit Social Security Number followed by the pound key," says an automated voice.

Being Canadian and thus not having an SSN, I frantically keep entering "0" hoping to get an operator. Each time the response is, "The number you have entered is incorrect. Please enter your 9-digit Social Security Number followed by the pound key."

After several tries the computer-assisted telephone jail system gives up, assumes I’m incompetent and refers me to a human.

"Good morning. My name is Sc#2$tle Shmick*%lty (exact translation). How may I help you?"

"I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. What’s your name?" I ask politely.

"Jade," she replies.

"Thanks, I’m Bob."

"I need your Social Security Number to access your account."

"I’m Canadian. I don’t have a Social Security Number."
Eventually, Jade figures out how to get my account up on her computer screen.

"What seems (operative word) to be the problem?"

"I haven’t received a statement since last December."

"Of course not. If you have less than 100 shares we only mail a yearly statement."

"Oh! Well, there was a previous error and incorrect withholding tax was taken."

With feistiness she replies, "You’re being taxed at 15%."

"Yes, but my last statement showed 30% was withheld."

"My screen shows you’re being taxed at 15%," she stresses.

"But my last statement showed 30%," I counter.

"Do you have a W-8BEN on file?"

"Well, if your computer screen says I’m being taxed at 15% I gather I do."

"Well your dividends are being taxed at 15%."

"So you say, but my last statement showed 30%. How do I know it’s 15% now? How do I know the original error was corrected?"

"You can go online and access your account by keying in your Social Security Number."

"I’m Canadian. I don’t have a Social Security Number."
And on it went...

Dale Ennis informs me that a frequent request at MoneySaver is for the 1-800 numbers of U.S. DRIPs and DSPs (Direct Stock Purchase Plans). Let me start by saying my own experience of 1-800 numbers has been one of frustration when attempting to correct errors. Most transfer agents correct errors but the process is often time consuming. Some errors encountered include:

Improper tax withholding at 30 percent rather than 15% - Often this is the result of the transfer agent failing to note a valid W-8BEN is on file. Most transfer agents will refund (not reinvest) the amount if it is their error. In the instance above, however, transfer agent Mellon, after admitting they were in error, one year later informed me that the money is with the IRS and it is up to me, not Mellon, to recoup it.

Also note that W-8BENs are valid for 3 years only. Some companies will send renewal W-8BENs with statements. Other companies do not send renewal W-8BENs. Stay on top of this.

Misaddressing of statements - For some reason, for over a year, one transfer agent dropped the first digit of my address on three accounts. Statements were sent to 217 instead of 1217 Pandora Avenue. Had this address existed it would have been beneath 30 metres of water in our harbour. Luckily, our mailperson intercepted most of this mail. Still, after calling 1-800, the transfer agent, despite having cheques with addresses on them, insisted on mailing a confirmation letter to the incorrect address to prove I was who I said that I was.

Rejected cheques - This has become less common as more Canadians open U.S. DRIP accounts. However, if you ever have a problem with a cheque, it is usually because the U.S. transfer agent rejected it in error assuming it was drawn on a foreign bank. Use highlighter to accent any U.S. address on the cheque.

Referral errors - While trying to get a withholding error in my Johnson and Johnson account corrected I mentioned that the agent had already corrected my Coca-Cola. Subsequently, I received an e-mail from someone indicating I "made no sense" as my Coca-Cola had already been corrected. The message about Johnson and Johnson had not been passed on correctly.

When dealing with problems by 1-800 numbers it is important to document everything. Expect to wait long periods on the telephone. Get a chair and a cup of coffee. Expect to hear music: some good, some bad and a voice every so often saying, "Thank you for holding. We value our customers."

Get names, dates and what was discussed on paper as you might have to make a follow-up call. Be clear and polite. Ask for direct local numbers for future calls.

Here is a good source of 1-800 numbers for U.S. DRIPs/DSPs:

. http://www.dripinvestor.com

You can also request a list of "No-Load Stocks" that includes 1-800 numbers at:

. DRIP Investor, 7412 Calumet Ave., Hammond, IN, 46324-2692

Current Events

I’ve changed the title of this column to more accurately reflect my view of the DRIPping experience.

The first meeting of the revamped Victoria ShareClub was held in November. If any other ShareClubs have items of interest, send them to me at the e-mail or address listed below.

Robert Gibb, 106-1217 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R3 (250) 383-7075 [email protected]. Mr. Gibb is a frequent contributor to Internet DRIP boards under the nickname OperaBob.

© Canadian MoneySaver, PO Box 370, Bath, ON K0H 1G0 613-352-7448 - Published February 2003