About that check from yesterday.
This domain, my name dot com, has been a bunch of different websites over the years. I first registered the site on April 18, 2005, and created a simple website using iWeb, some long forgotten software created by Apple.
That site, was the beginning of my photography career, which ended in 2012. It was a good run, I photographed over 400 weddings, but ultimately what I thought was my passion wasn’t and as my enthusiasm for photography waned, I began to get depressed, and even fall into debt.
After a long struggle, and with the help of my wife, we were able to take care of the different issues I created, and return to a normal life, both mentally and financially.
Every so often I am reminded of that time, and yesterday, was one of those times.
Our 5 year old was going a little stir crazy in the house. While a day of relaxing on the couch and watching TV is perfect for a 46 year old, my son has a different idea of fun. It involves jumping up and down on the ottoman, wiggling, and squirming, and pretty much just unable to sit still. I could see that he needed to do something, and with Independence day coming up, I decided we should probably go outside and practice riding his bike.
Our neighborhood has a 4th of July parade every year. It starts at the neighborhood pool, and goes through the center of the ‘hood, passing right by our house. Ari has participated in it every year – from me first pushing him in a stroller which we decorated with red, white, and blue bunting.
Last Christmas, his grandparents in Austin got him a Captain America bicycle. He hasn’t really taken to it in the last 6 months, despite my best efforts.
I’ve got a week to change this, but it wasn’t going to happen today. It was a struggle to go down to the corner and come back up, and I wasn’t going to push him any further, so as we came in I checked the mailbox, found one letter referenced above and came inside.
Thankfully, the bike riding did it’s job, and he got some of that excess energy out.
But back to the letter. It was smaller than usual, and not in an envelope. It was a single sheet of heavy paper folded over on itself with instructions on how to open it properly: “To Open, Fold, and Tear at this Perforation”.
I didn’t immediately recognize the return address:
Gehrich TCPA Settlement
PO Box 31552
But I knew this was a settlement check based on all the other identifiers mentioned above. But what for? Why was I getting a check?
A quick Google of the name told me all I needed to know.
When my photography business was failing, I became overdrawn on my Chase business account. Fees quickly racked up, and it wasn’t long before I was almost $20,000 in debt. It happened real fast, faster than even I could imagine, and I tried to hide it from my wife because I was extremely embarrassed, and felt like a failure as a breadwinner and husband..
For about 6 months I was able to hide it from her, but the collection calls and letters kept coming, and eventually I wasn’t able to keep up the charade any longer. It almost ended our marriage, but I’m so grateful it didn’t.
Many of the calls I received were robo calls – demanding I pay my outstanding debt, and threatening me in all kinds of illegal ways. I would do anything – Just make the calls that were coming at all times of the day stop.
The only way they did was when I came clean, and we began to take care of the debt (which we negotiated down, and paid off quickly).
Fast forward 4 years. I get a letter that I can be a plaintiff in a class action against Chase. The use of the robo calls and recorded messages is illegal, and there was a $34 MILLION dollar settlement that I could get a piece of.
This was incredible. In my head, I could forsee that I might actually get more than I owed Chase.
What a turn of events that would be. Imagine them having to pay me!
I could get reimbursed for all the hassle, all the strife, and even come out ahead.
After all, I wasn’t intentionally trying to defraud them. I simply got behind of a few credit card payments, and suddenly with all the interest changes, and fees, I owed nearly 3x more than I started with.
The piece of mail was my cut of that settlement.
Here’s the breakdown of the $35,000,000
- $18,331,967.49 – member claims
- $1,000,000 – cy pres distribution
- $5,152,929.51 – Administrative costs
- 1,500 – for each of the 5 named plaintiffs
- $9,507,603 – attorney’s fees
I opened the letter to see how much I received.
After all the court costs, legal fees, administrative costs. After every one got their cut, and all the other plaintiffs had received their share I got my portion.