Thursday, February 05, 2015

The frustration of fixing a credit card bill mistake

This is probably not an unusual experience to many readers here.  What is required to get an obviously incorrect credit card bill adjusted can be agitating to say the least.  This has always been the case at most firms other than American Express, but the question today is how could it have become so much worse after years of this issue being well known.  It is both laughable and hard to digest in our supposedly technology advanced world.

K's  credit card from a financial firm where we both worked at various times had an obvious error this month.  She was double billed, same amount to the penny and same day, what should be an obvious error.  Complicating that was that she remembered the sandwich, soup, and salad Italian take-out food shop swiping her card twice and saying it was getting no response, and then paying cash.  We go there twice a week at least so some kind of fraud is unlikely. The fact that she ended up paying cash is not relevant to this post because we never advanced that far up the food chain of intelligent life to discuss it.

K and I called the customer service number on the bill.  We received the usual automated voice, with a continuing list of choices after entering identification information.  Nothing there would allow a choice that involved explaining something to a person.  I tried the same number again to see if I had somehow missed some way to reach a person on the first call run through of the menu two times, while regularly saying "representative".  A second call was made to a different customer service number on the back of K's credit card.  Hey, I knew that automaton as I had just spoken to her.  She showed no recognition of me, and should I have felt slighted?  I queried multiple automated choices that had nothing to do with what we wanted, just hoping to reach a human being.  No such luck.

Then we decided to call our local private banker at the related firm to explain the situation, and ask if we were doing anything wrong, or if there was a better number for the credit card division.  As luck would have it, she was out of the office for four days on business, and my personality is such that once something is on my "To Do" list, I want to get it done before it gets lost in the maze of financial, parental, estate, and medical paperwork here.  It sometimes does.

That led me to transfer to one of the private banking call centers, this one in Arlington, Texas, and explain the situation.  That was of course the inability to correct the credit card bill and the fact that we were not an insignificant client of the firm.  She was responsive and polite, and put us through more than the usual paces of identification, and then she looked up the problem and we discussed it. She agreed that it was a problem, something we already knew, and said that she would transfer us to the credit card division.  Not much progress so far.

We did then reach a person in the credit card division.  We only discussed the double charge with her and did not take the mind stretching advance to the fact that both of these charges were likely wrong. We did not know the capacity of the person to which we were speaking, and wanted to keep her engaged.  That then to led the same and even more extensive requests for identification, even K's late mother's maiden name, which has two different spellings and thus can create confusion.  After being on the phone for well over five minutes with that person she said, "I don't handle this type of situation, it is not my area, so please hold while I transfer you."  How could she have not said this at the outset when we explained our purpose?

As anyone who knows me can imagine, my patience was running thin.  We reached the supposed "right area" and then again we began the identification process for the third time.  I unfortunately uttered a profanity and expressed my frustration in clear terms(once in Texas years ago, in the 1980's, an airline lost my luggage that was supposed to arrive with me in Houston, while I was scheduled to drive west in a rental car to the upper edge of hill country.  In phone calls to find my bag, I once again used the same profanity of exclamation, one that is used as verb, adjective, adverb, noun, etc. in most parts of Texas, and was told by the agent on the phone, "If you can't keep a civil tongue in your head, this call is over").  At least this call center clerk did not admonish me, but she ignored my comment and went right back to her rigid protocol fulfillment of questions as if  I was interested.

We were not, and just gave up, as in said "thanks" and hung up.  More than 35 minutes after the effort to deal with $78 of incorrect charges, it was no longer worth it.  We will call our capable local private banker when she returns next week, and hopefully pass the baton.  This chore remains on my list, which seems to only lengthen.

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