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English: Colin Farrell at the 2007 Toronto Int...

I know what financial mistake Colin Farrell wishes he could undo: It’s called “Alexander.”

Get ready to start the reactors…

This weekend, the new Total Recall opens. And while the movie isn’t a remix of a remix, it is a redo of a redo. The first “redo” is easy: The movie remakes a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (always an oxymoron, unless you’re talking about Kindergarten Cop). The second “redo” is where things get a little mind-bending—though probably not enough to make Phillip K. Dick proud.


The plot of these movies deals with a man who is somewhat unhappy with his life. In short, he’d like to redo parts of it (or, in reality, perhaps undo parts of it). That man, Douglas Quaid, seeks this escape by visiting Rekall, a company that implants memories into people’s minds. As you probably know, confusion, exploding heads, and three-breasted aliens ensue.

While we don’t have Rekall technology, the idea of this movie’s double redo led me to this week’s burning question: Are there financial mistakes you can Total Recall?


We all probably have many different financial decisions that we’d like to do over. The ones that immediately pop into my mind include:

I can’t reverse these decisions or get that money back. However, there is a financial mistake that I managed to get a mulligan on: Receiving a penalty on a financial account.

I’ve actually had these fees waived for both my credit card and my bank account. For my credit card, I spaced on making my payment. For my bank account, I fell below the minimum balance I needed to avoid a “maintenance” fee. Ultimately, I “earned” both of these late fees (though I do think the bank’s balance rules are incomprehensible). However, I undid them in the simplest way possible: Just by asking.


This is pretty close to the actual conversation I had with both institutions.


I wanted to ask about this fee that’s been charged to my account.


[Explanation of why I was charged this fee. Question about what happened.]


Honestly, it just slipped my mind this month, but I’ve already corrected the issue.


[Silence—what can they say besides "so you know it’s your fault"?]


If you look in my account history, you’ll see that I always pay my bill on time. I was wondering if you could make an exception in this instance and waive the fee?


OK, as a courtesy, we will waive this fee this one time.


Thank you!

That’s literally all it took—it’s even more straightforward than Arnold’s commentary on the Total Recall DVD.

Now, this approach won’t always work. If you’re consistently late with your payments, your bank or credit card isn’t going to give you this courtesy. And they definitely won’t waive these fees frequently for you either.

But, if you can show them that this is a one-time thing (and be nice in doing so), most companies will give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, they’ll see that you’ve been a good customer in the past—and they’ll want to keep your business.

Do you have a financial mistake you’ve been able to Total Recall? (Or do you just wish I’d stop using “Total Recall” as a verb?) Share it in the comments.

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  1. Glenn Hall August 3, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    When I had just graduated from college, I got a offer in the mail from a bank offering me a Mastercard and I was so excited I accepted it without even thinking about the 18% interest charge. I had a small credit limit at first, but when other banks saw I was letting my balance accumulate at that 18% interest rate, they put me on the DUMB CUSTOMERS LIST, and soon my mailbox was filled with credit card offers (at 18% interest of course!). I accepted quite a few of them and suddenly felt like a RICH MAN with my large credit limit. After a few years of this, I suddenly realized, HOLY #####!!! I am paying a fortune in interest every year (and it’s not even tax deductable). So I paid off all of my cards, cancelled all of them except one, and now pay off the balance every month. I want to TOTAL RECALL all the interest I paid on those credit cards. This would pay for a new Mercedes! (O.K., maybe not, but it would probably pay for a used Ford Focus). By the way, I like using TOTAL RECALL as a verb!

    • Ryan Lane August 3, 2012 / 4:38 pm

      Great anecdote, Glenn! You’re lucky you had the ability to pay off all the cards after your “aha” moment.

  2. Julie August 3, 2012 / 3:42 pm

    The price of admission to “Ted” was well worth the 115 minutes of air conditioning and relief from mosquitoes.

  3. CB August 3, 2012 / 4:56 pm

    This year I claimed a deposit to my IRA on my tax return . . . and then mailed the check at the very end of the day on April 17. So now I have to amend my return before I get “totally” audited. Lesson: save for retirement first, deduct later. And mailing checks for IRS deadlines isn’t like mailing Netflix DVDs at the end of the day Thursday in the hopes that you’ll have Call Me Madam for the weekend.

    • Ryan Lane August 3, 2012 / 5:00 pm

      No fun at all! For what it’s worth, I heard that “Call Me Madam” is Ethel Merman’s “Total Recall.”

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