Tuesday, April 13, 2010

HR Block unintentionally racist...?

Sorry this post is coming just a couple of days before taxes are. I just wanted to make sure we received our tax refund in our account before we anything happened.

Just a disclaimer: this is not a post to try and destroy HR Block or slander them. In fact, everyone I talked to from HR Block was very professional (though none had the power to fix things to my ultimate satisfaction). But the actions of the company as a whole("corporate") this particular year with "Best of Both Worlds" --perceptually -- seemed racist, specifically for South Side residents.

So here's the story:

We have been going to our local HR Block office for a couple of years, and feel comfortable that they know our particular tax situation.

This year, HR Block offered "Best of Both Worlds", which allows customers to input their own tax information, but then submit it to an HR Block professional for review. The price for this service is at least 1/3 the regular price of just submitting it to a professional and having that one-on-one time with them. My particular package included unlimited questions to HR professionals from around the country as well.

This particular year, I had more time but less money, so this made perfect sense. On their website, they even state (though with a disclaimer):

We'll match you with a tax professional best suited for you based on your tax
needs or you can choose a tax pro you've worked with in the past
It wasn't a guarantee, but why wouldn't a office within a few minutes of me not participate, especially my local one?

After spending some hours inputting info and reviewing it, I was ready to submit it to a professional for review. My local professional, according to the website, was not available. However, after submitting my zip code, the recommendations did not make sense. Out of 9 pages of recommendations, not one was within 6 miles of my home. Again, this is 79th & king Drive, with HR Block professionals every 1/2 - 1 mile.

On the first page, I got one recommendation for someone in Peoria. Other ones that popped up included Bloomington and even Springfield, which is 200 miles / 3 hours away!

I called the phone number, and the operator said that was likely due to the closest professionals being busy.

That didn't sit right with me (why would everyone be busy from here to Springfield?), so I went to my local office anyway. They let me know that they were trained specifically by HR Block to do this, and were "certified" and were doing these type of reviews at the beginning of the tax season, but then was suddenly taken off the list. They also let me know no one in that district (which covers a good portion of Black South Side of Chicago) was allowed to do the Bets of Both Worlds professional review.

My local office tried their best to work it out (making calls, trying to get something worked out), so I could use the Best of Both Worlds service as intended. But they were unsuccessful, and I had to wind up driving a long distance out of our community to an area I am rarely near to drop off my material. (And they weren't allowed to send that material back in the mail, so I have to go out of my way again). What should have been a couple of days turned into several weeks.

Concerns i would have for HR Block & this Best of Both Worlds program
  • Why is it that NO tax professional on the South Side, east of I-94 has the ability to review "Best of Both Worlds?

  • Why is there no option to sort recommendations by distance?

  • Why release this service when major kinks like the above have not been worked out?

Action item: If anyone else felt that HR Block, or any other corporation, is slighting the South Side in favor of other communities, let that corporation know. Your one voice might not change company policy. But if they start hearing from hundreds, or even dozens of people, things might change.

Note the people you'll talk to probably are not the people with the power, so don't blame them for the problem, but strongly though politely & respectfully let them know that their company needs to step up their service in a particular area.

You may ask -- don't the workers notice this possible racism? Probably, but unless they have solid proof, they can't really do much, or else endanger their own livelihood. So it's up to us, the customers, to help leverage our power ($$$) and make positive change for our community.
HR Block's phone number is 1-800-HRBLOCK (1-800-472-5625) and their website is hrblock.com

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