When I received the letter telling me that the class action lawsuit I was involved in resulted in an award of nearly $12,000, I was in shock. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I'm conservative with money so I knew the lion's share would go into my savings, emergency fund, a little into my Roth, and finally it would help cover moving expenses. In many ways, it was a godsend, especially because I had gone through a lot with the company being sued and it felt beyond nice to be compensated for the unfairness we all dealt with. (In my case, someone else started the lawsuit and we had the choice to participate. I chose to participate).
This letter required that I send in a reply that I wanted the money (I know: duh). Who wouldn't want the money? Nonetheless, I followed the instructions included.
I filled out the form. I even scanned it for my records (I thought I was being smart by doing this; I thought I was doing what I was taught). Then, I folded up the form and put it an envelope. I found a stamp and dropped it down the mail shoot, skipping back to my apartment. Man, what I went through with that company was going to do some major good in my life, right?
I'm not the type to count my chickens before they have hatched (for example, in my mind, living situations don't feel safe until everyone has signed legal documents). But, it felt as good as done. The judgment was complete. I only had to wait a few months for the money.
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But month after month, I never received a check. When I caught up with an old friend that used to work with me (she was on the west coast), she mentioned that she had gotten her check already. That's when I began to worry and reached out to the law firm. I had moved, so maybe they had the wrong address.
The firm in charge of lawsuit claimed they never received my letter and because I could not provide a record of having sent it, it was too bad and so sad for me. I would later find out the firm would claim this with others as well, but that group of ex-employees had the luxury of being in the same city. The news spread to them much quicker. Days before the deadline, they faxed in their forms because their mailed forms had also been "lost."
Nowhere on the form did it say to send this piece of paper "certified." It seems so obvious now that I should have done so. But I didn't. I did not know any better. In all the jobs I have worked, between sales and marketing, I have never in my life had to send something certified. My friend, who worked high-end retail, knew this, but I did not. I was ignorant. I thought I was so smart for scanning the form, but I had made a huge mistake.
Two things collided: a law firms' dishonesty and my own ignorance. But at the end of the day, I can only control what I am responsible for and not the ethics of that firm. It was my fault.
I could not fathom getting that amount of money in one shot let alone losing it the same way. I cried and cried. My tears were not over the loss of the money (although, there was some of that), but more so because of the deep shame I felt. I should have known better. And I paid an awfully high price — at least to me.
I wish this story had a happy ending. It doesn't. I learned a very expensive lesson from an expensive mistake. I hired a lawyer and it doesn't look good. To help me feel better, my roommate says after taxes, I only lost six grand. Somehow that doesn't help. It's over a year later and I can finally talk about my dumb, ignorant mistake (and its consequences) without getting sick to my stomach. One month for every one thousand dollars. And even now, I can't say that writing it all down has made me feel better. I spent the better part of a year mourning that money, thinking of what I could have done, how this past year would have looked different. I can't do that anymore, though.
I can only recognize my mistake for what it was and know that it doesn't define me. I am not irresponsible with money. And I can grow from it. Believe me, I will be sending anything important certified.