(In)Flexible Spending With My (In)Convenience Card

The modern-day pay raises are really reductions in expenses; since your company is too cheap to give you a 3% boost in pay this year, you make your own raise by cutting back on cable TV, or doing cash back rewards on your credit card, or enrolling in one of those transit savings programs through work.

At least we did.

I had signed up for a childcare savings program when Little G was born six years ago, then swore I would never, ever again give some corporate services doofus the right to take money from my check and not give it back. See, all was going fine for about two weeks or so, then The Missus opted not to go back to work because Little G just wasn’t taking the bottle from the super-nice Latinas at the daycare joint hard by the Midtown Tunnel, and we suddenly had no need for daycare–or daycare expenses–anymore.

Extricating myself from having money deducted for such expenses, however, took months, and endless phone calls to faceless corporate administrative services knuckleheads.

Six years later, we, like the rest of the 99%, are keen to free up a little cash each month, so I decided to enroll on one of those flex spending accounts that takes money out of my check, pre-tax, to put towards my mounting Metro-North ticket.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, it just so happened that the U.S. government basically told rail commuters that they’d prefer if each of us were sitting in our Hummers, clogging the Deegan and the air above us, by virtue of the $240 a month tax benefit given to car commuters, but just $125 offered to mass transit types.

But that’s old news. It still amounts to potentially substantial savings.

But could Ameriflex (hey–how about a moratorium on Ameri-style business names, Ameridebt, Ameridream, Amerisave, Amerihealth, Ameritrade and Amerihamster? Do you really think you’re being clever?) actually handle this without hassle?

In fact, no. I got an email from Metro-North’s Mail N Ride Friday, telling me my new Ameriflex “Convenience Card” was rejected. This was my first attempt at using it, as the program had not fully kicked in by the time I needed to flash the plastic for my January monthly card.

I called Mail N Ride, and spoke with an actually pleasant woman named Annette who–and this is a first for me–offered to stay on hold while I called Ameriflex to work it out.

Alas, Annette disappeared from my phone screen about five minutes into being on hold with Ameriflex; it seemed too good to be true. Good thing she bounced–the hold lasted for 17 minutes, all of it filled by a surprisingly delightful instrumental version of Joe Jackson’s “Be My Number Two.” It simply never ended, and it sounded really good.

When I finally connected with a human, I was told that Ameriflex had categorized Metro-North as “Government Services” instead of “Transportation,” which presumably was grounds for rejecting my card. The guy said he would try to fix it, and someone would call back–probably today.

In their defense, Ameriflex called back around 20 minutes later. It went to my voicemail, and said everything should be fine.

So I called my pal Annette at Mail N Ride. No pleasant Joe Jackson number this time–no “Steppin’ Out,” no “Breaking Us in Two”–just drab Muzak for seven minutes while I awaited her return.

Annette said she would retry the card. She said she would call back if there’s a problem.

It’s been almost two hours.

Dare I think I am in the clear?

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