Early in February, a family came to us to file four years’ worth of tax returns. They were quiet, friendly and humble, and quickly had everyone in the office smiling. They weren’t sure they were even going to get a refund, thanks in part to prior difficulties with an ex-spouse and the IRS. But they were trying to get into a home and needed to file all the back tax returns. Excitedly, the preparer told them they had refunds coming – enough to get them in the home! This was their chance that something good was finally going to happen to them! Because they couldn’t afford to pay, the fees from the returns were to be taken out of their 2013 tax return. They opted for a debit card to receive their refunds, we gave them a good deal and they left very happy knowing Liberty Tax had done a great job in preparing their tax returns and ensuring they would receive all the refunds available to them.
Then, something strange happened. On Feb. 15th, they called to check the status of their refund and our records indicated their card should have been funded four days earlier. But the card balance still showed zero and we hadn’t been notified of the card funding. So where was the money? We contacted the card company who verified the card numbers, then told us to call the IRS because they showed the card had been activated and funded. The customer called the card company as well, only to be told to wait patiently. We contacted corporate and asked for their help.
After four days with no answers, the customer was getting more and more desperate but amazingly remained calm and courteous to all the Liberty staff. You see, they were waiting on this $7000 refund to get into a new home, and hoping they didn’t lose the home to someone else. They had already given their notice to their landlord and packed up all their meager belongings. Both parents were between jobs, and their three teenage children were trying to continue in school, depending on their parents to figure it all out. The prior landlord couldn’t allow them to stay since he had rented the property. These people were just down on their luck, had no home to go to, no resources for funds. Our hearts were breaking for this nice family and we didn’t know where to turn or how to help as the response kept coming back, “We’re researching it.” They still had the card, which should have had thousands of dollars on it, but not a single cent had been put on it. And to make matters worse, with nowhere else to turn, the family had to move into a relative’s single-car garage. Can you imagine – two adults and three teenagers in high school living in a single-car garage?
We wrote emails, made phone calls, nothing was getting us answers. Finally, in desperation, we even went so far as to email John Hewitt himself. On Feb. 21st, six days after we began this refund-seeking journey, I spoke with a Net-Spend manager by the name of Kevin. He vowed to track down the funds even though his records showed the problem lay elsewhere than with the bank. Meanwhile, unbelievably, these customers continued to refer their friends to Liberty Tax, never once uttering a negative word against us! They stopped by to check on the status and we gave them coupons for free hamburgers, tacos, coffees and haircuts. Several departments at corporate also leapt into action that day – the team was relentless and amazing! We were headed into the weekend with no faith in hearing anything until Monday, Feb. 24th, but on Saturday, Feb. 22nd at 2:36 PM, we got a call from our Area Developer and Support, Geoff Knapp. The card had been loaded!
As soon as I got off the phone, I called the customer. Darn, just his voicemail! I left a message to please call. At 4 PM, the client called back. He sounded so dejected, so beat up by life. My heart just swelled. I had one of the greatest pleasures of my career with Liberty in telling him the card was funded – they now had their money, they now had options. There was a long pause and I finally said, “Robert? Say something, please.” With a quaver in his voice, he quietly said, “Thank you, thank you so much. We just left the pawn shop. We were going to pawn our last valuables because we need food.”
The happy ending? They moved out of the relative’s garage and into the home they called their dream home, thanks to the tenaciousness of the Liberty Tax team.