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Rant: Bank Customer Service Hell

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This was not a good day for my nerves in maintaining my various financial accounts. Today I have had to waste nearly an hour on the phone to fix errors by my banks. Here’s a rundown of the stupidity:

Chase – I opened a new Chase personal credit card account in October and did a balance transfer to my Capital One account, where the promotional rate was about to expire. After a couple of weeks, the account was no longer available for viewing on my Chase Online page and over a month past the opening date I had yet to receive a statement. I called to find out that a fraud alert had been placed on my account (although no one from Chase ever called to tell me that) and I had to basically re-answer all of the questions from my application to verify that it is indeed a legitimate account. Thankfully everything is fixed now, but it is still a royal PITA. Time wasted: 22 minutes.

Capital One – Despite calling twice to verify that no finance charge would be assessed on my promotional balance if I paid it off before November 1, on my latest statement the clowns at Capital One proceeded to charge be a finance charge on the balance I paid off on October 23. I called up customer service and waited on hold for a while for the first line rep, who immediately declared he could do nothing for me and I would need to talk to an account manager. After waiting on hold for the account manager for a while longer, she comes on the line and I repeat my story and she looks at the account and agrees that an adjustment is needed almost immediately. Time wasted: 25 minutes.

HSBC – Reviewing all of my accounts in Yodlee, I noted that my HSBC Checking which I closed last month had been charged a service fee of $12 for falling below the minimum balance requirement. I call up HSBC and after navigating their Labyrinth of a phone tree menu I finally talk to a person and explain the situation twice. She reviews the account and noted the account had been requested closed last month and manually closed the account and submitted the credit to reverse the finance charge. Time wasted: 9 minutes.

In total I spent 54 minutes on the phone correcting errors made by my banks. This isn’t including the time I spent to pull up my notes on the accounts. I also didn’t even do anything with a bank by mail deposit that isn’t showing up on my Presidential Checking account, although at this point I can’t be sure if it is an error by the bank or the postal service lost the deposit in transit.

November 16, 2007 Posted by | banking, Credit Cards, Customer Service | , , , , | 2 Comments

Unimpressed with Drugstore.com

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Always searching for a bargain, I recently took advantage of a promotion on Drugstore.com where you got $10 off a $25 purchase when you paid using PayPal. Being parents of twins we are always in need of diapers, so I decided to take the opportunity to get some diapers on the cheap and test out their service.

At this point my verdict is at “not impressed”, although it may soon move to the “very disappointed”. I placed an order for two packs of Huggies Size 1 diapers and a pack of outlet covers (I needed some filler) last Tuesday night (11/6). A week later I finally receive a confirmation that the outlet covers had shipped. However, as of tonight (Thursday 11/15), the two packs of diapers still had not shipped.

I might could understand if I had ordered something out of the ordinary, but diapers are a basic item at drugstores everywhere. How could it possibly take over a week to process an order for two packs of Huggies? At this rate, the twins will have outgrown the diapers by the time I get them.

November 15, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | , , | 1 Comment

KMart: Our Disorganized Stores Make You a Thief

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Here is a ridiculous story that appeared in the WSJ. This woman was shopping at a KMart in Bridgehampton, NY with her family looking at flip-flops, among other things. Per the account in the article, the area with the flip-flops were a mess, with some in boxes, some not, some not in the right boxes. She goes through and finally finds her size, but since they weren’t in a box she searched through the mess to find the box. She finally finds a box with the right size marked she assumes is the right one, puts the flip-flops in the box, and proceeds to checkout.

She checks out with the flip-flops and is walking through the exit when she gets the tap on the shoulder from the loss prevention associate for the store. Apparently the box she put the flip-flops in was not the right box, and she had accidentally short changed the store a whopping $8.00. Instead of allowing her to pay the difference for the honest mistake, they detain her for over an hour accusing her of shoplifting. Apparently they thought she was doing a shoplifting scam where tags or boxes or switched to get high priced goods at the price of a lower priced item.

The long and short is that she was finally allowed to leave, but not before being banned from KMart. She sent a letter to the KMart Director of Loss Prevention, who backed up his employee claiming that they did nothing wrong.

The saddest part of this is they didn’t even let her keep the flip-flops! They ended up processing a return for the flip-flops refunding her money for the lower price paid.

Keep that story in mind the next time you are considering buying something from a poorly organized store where you aren’t sure what is the right box.

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | 11 Comments

Today’s Fight: Trilegiant

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You’ve probably seen them before. The offers come with your credit card statement each month, or in banner ads on your favorite website. They always offer a free or low cost trial of some service you’ve never heard of that you can cancel at any time, and oh yeah – they’ll give you a free gift card just for trying it out! What a deal! Right?

The company behind most of these offers is called Trilegiant, but you’ll see their services under the names CompleteHome, Great Fun, and AutoVantage, amongst others. Kind of like the credit card companies they often advertise through, they put out the almost to good to be true offer in hopes that the consumer will screw up and they’ll make a lot of money off of you. If you read the terms closely, if you don’t cancel within the trial period, your credit card will be billed for the full amount of a year’s membership, usually around $120 per year.

Luckily I am too smart to get caught in their trap, so I signed up for several of their programs, submitted the forms for the promotional bonuses, and cancelled. Unfortunately most of the bonuses never came, and today in the mail I figured out why. They sent me a letter (see attached, 20070904_tlg_0001.jpg) stating that I and/or other members of my household were abusing their services by signing up for the services for the promotional bonuses and they had cancelled my memberships (actually I cancelled them, but minor point). My brother-in-law, who lives with us and has been doing this game longer than I have, got the same letter.

However, if you read their terms, what we did is totally legit and they should still be obligated to give us our bonuses. As such, I sent the following letter to them today:

To whom it may concern:

I am quite disappointed that Trilegiant has felt the need to send me a letter informing me that they have chosen to cancel my memberships in its membership programs. Although the letter and cancellations ultimately have no effect since I had already cancelled memberships in Trilegiant programs, I am quite offended at the accusation of “abusing our services”.

I will freely admit that I signed up for several Trilegiant programs because of the promotion items that were offered as a bonus for joining. However, there is nothing in the terms of the offers which prohibits signing up for more than one Trilegiant service, cancelling said services before the trial period expires, or even signing up for services more than once in a given period. None of these points are addressed in your terms, and the signup pages for these offers simply indicate that by trying the service and completing the provided form, your promotion bonus will be sent.

As I violated none of your terms, my actions do not constitute abuse of your services. Furthermore, as I did not violate any of your terms of service and I fulfilled the terms of these offers, namely by joining the services, paying the trial membership fee, and completing the provided forms, I am fully due the promotional bonuses that your company has so far failed to send. Per my records, I am still due the following promotional bonuses in connection with Trilegiant offers:

  • AutoVantage Gold (Member #5508XXXX) – $50.00 ExxonMobil Gift Card
  • Clever Clubhouse (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 Blockbuster Video Gift Card
  • CompleteHome (Member #5508XXXX) – $50.00 Lowe’s Gift Card
  • HealthSaver (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 Bed Bath and Beyond Gift Card
  • PC Safety Plus (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 Cash Back
  • Travelers’ Advantage (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 ExxonMobil Gift Card
  • Everyday Values (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 Cash Back
  • Great Fun (Member #5508XXXX) – $20.00 ExxonMobil Gift Card

Although Trilegiant does reserve in its terms the right to modify offers and cancel membership, it failed to do so prior to my acceptance of the promotional bonus offers, thus it is still fully liable for honoring these offers.

Please send all of the promotional items due to the address listed above. Note that if any of the promotional items promised are not received by September 25, 2007, I will be filling formal complaints against Trilegiant with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Office of Attorney General for the states of Texas and Connecticut, citing your false advertising and other unfair trade practices. I also retain the right to pursue collection of these claims through any other legal means necessary.

Regards, BOE

Now to see if I actually get a response. I’m not holding my breath on that one, though.

If you are interested in raping and pillaging Trilegiant for promotional bonuses, I’ll post some tips on that tomorrow. =)

September 11, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | 2 Comments

Another Complaint Method – Company Stock Message Boards

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I posted last week on How to Complain and Win. Well, here is another weapon in your complaining arsenal when conventional complaining just won’t do. If your adversary is a publicly traded company, you can post your complaint to the various company stock message boards on sites like MSN Money, Marketwatch, and Yahoo Finance. Most companies have at least one person who is assigned to monitoring those message boards, so a serious complaint will be likely be noticed and dealt with. Some of the guidelines provided on this posting at the Consumerist are:

1. State you are a longtime customer.

2. Indicate you and others will be taking your business elsewhere.

3. Include a contact email and phone number to show that you are legit and not just trying to move the stock price.

Unfortunately Buy.com is not publicly traded, so all of us will have to keep fighting them using other methods.

September 7, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | 1 Comment

How To Complain and Win

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It has happened to all of us. A product breaks and the manufacturer won’t honor the warranty. That big rebate on your new computer is weeks overdue. Your cable TV services has you yelling “Comcast: It’s CRAP-tastic”. And so begins your descent into customer service hell.

A lot of times, the difference between getting excuses and getting want you want is knowing how to complain effectively. MSN Money has outlined some great complaining tips in this article. The basics themes are to know your rights and what you want the company to do, be concise in explaining your problem, and don’t be a jerk about it. They also had a great tip about getting a headset so you aren’t tethered to a phone for the three hours Dell is certain to put you on hold.

The article also mentions keeping notes of your conversations, including names and dates. Their reason is to impress the next rep you talk to, but the better reason is to have a record should you need to escalate your complaint and to let whoever you are dealing with know you are thorough and won’t let the issue die until it is resolved.

I actually prefer written communication to phone calls, but for those instances where you need to talk to a live person these tips should be quite useful.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Tips | 1 Comment

Weird stuff from FNBO Direct

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Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I had to go out Jersey for the beginning of the week, and then fell ill Wednesday evening, so I haven’t had a lot of time this week.

Anyway, this morning I had a weird email from FNBO Direct. As many of you know, FNBO Direct is one of the new online banks offering high yield savings, currently at 6.0% APY through September 30. They sent me an email this morning saying that I did not include my employment information on my initial account application as required by the USA Patriot Act and they had previously tried to contact me to update this information. As I had not responded to their prior email, they had frozen my account until I contacted them with the information.

Since I had not received a prior email for the information, I was pretty irate at the idea of them freezing my account. So I tried calling them this afternoon to get the issue resolved, waited on hold for about 20 minutes, and then hung up. Right after I hung up I got another email from them saying the initial email was sent in error and they apologized for the inconvenience.

I guess in the end there was no real harm, but it makes you wonder about how FNBO Direct is being run. It makes me doubt whether I will keep any money there after the promo rate expires.

August 10, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Savings | Leave a comment

Kenneth Cole Shoes STILL SUCK!

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Just a quick update to a posting from several months ago. I had posted in March about a pair of Kenneth Cole men’s dress shoes that I have where the buckle broke off after only about a month of wear. The folks at Kenneth Cole were friggin’ useless, telling me I had to send the shoes back to them via first class registered mail with return receipt requested for them to consider whether there really was a defect in the workmanship. I was put off by the whole thing, and so the shoes sat in my house for a few months while I figured out what to do with them.

Well, I finally decided it was better to shell out some dough to fix the shoes than to let the sit around unused, so I brought them over to Houston Shoe Hospital today. The cost to repair the shoes will be $10.95 plus tax, and I’ll have them back in a week. Much better than sending them to Kenneth Cole for about $14 and waiting 4-6 weeks to get my shoes back (if they even decided there was indeed a defect). Maybe I will send them a complaint letter with a copy of my receipt asking for reimbursement for the repair.

Kenneth Cole shoes SUCK! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

July 23, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | Leave a comment

Buy.com and Connect3D not honoring valid rebates!

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Here is a warning to the world to beware of rebates offered or advertised by Buy.com. Earlier this year, I jumped on three deals for free after rebate memory cards and thumb drives marketed under the brand name Connect3D and advertised on Buy.com. As these rebates are well overdue and there are rumors that Connect3D is out of business, I followed up with Buy.com asking that they honor the rebate. Much to my dismay, here is the response I received a couple of days ago:

Dear Buy.com Customer,

You recently purchased an item from Buy.com in which Connect 3D offered a manufacturer’s rebate. We regret learning that Connect 3D has failed to honor a rebate offered to you.

Reports are circulating that Connect 3D is now insolvent and no longer performing any business functions. We are investigating these reports. Indeed, before allowing Connect 3D rebate forms to be posted on our website, Buy.com took the additional steps of requiring financial statements from Connect 3D and obtaining a contractual commitment from Connect 3D to pay Buy.com directly for wrongly-rejected or extensively-delayed rebates. This contractual commitment allows Buy.com to bypass the rebate center and invoice Connect 3D directly on behalf of those affected customers who have contacted us directly.

Buy.com has submitted demands to Connect 3D to perform on its contractual obligations. Connect 3D has ignored those requests and has refused to pay Buy.com for any of the Connect 3D rebates owed to our customers. As a result, on July 6, 2007 Buy.com filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against Connect 3D and others (including without limitation, Connect 3D’s principal officers, Marc Levaggi and Mike Walsh, Connect 3D’s distributor, Wintergreen Systems and Connect 3D’s affiliated entities) for failure to honor commitments made to Buy.com and its customers. Litigation is unpredictable, costly and time consuming. However, it’s Buy.com’s belief that Connect 3D and the other defendants in this litigation should be required to honor your rebate.

No assurance exists that Buy.com will be successful in this litigation or in attempting to enforce any judgment that may ultimately be obtained.

We sincerely apologize for any hardship or inconvenience resulting from Connect 3D’s failure to honor your rebate. Buy.com wants to remain your favored internet retailer. While we pursue this matter, please accept the following gift certificate as an indication of our sincere regret.

Sincerely,

Buy.com

You are the recipient of a $10 Buy.com gift certificate from Buy.com Customer Support. You can apply this gift certificate toward any of the over 2 million products at Buy.com.

Hey Buy.com – you want to remain my favored internet retailer? How about standing behind the offers YOU advertised on YOUR website? I’m sorry, but a $10 Buy.com gift certificate is not equal to $100 in cash rebates that I am entitled to. I honestly don’t care what agreement Buy.com had with Connect3D and what litigation is being filed. Buy.com advertised the rebate, therefore it has a legal obligation to honor that rebate since the manufacturer refuses to.

I have already sent a reply to these bastards expressing my displeasure. If I don’t get my money within two weeks, it will be time to submit complaints with the BBB and the CA and TX Attorney General Offices.

Always remember my golden rule: “Everyone is out to screw you!”

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Rebates | 18 Comments

Voice recognition for Customer Service lines sucks!

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Ok, if there is one thing that drives me up the wall, it is the voice recognition systems that you now have the navigate through when calling many customer service numbers. Am I the only one who finds the idea of being forced to talk to a machine insulting? It is like they are saying “hey, you aren’t important enough to talk to a live person, however we think you should have to talk to a machine that won’t be able to help you.”

I much prefer the good old fashioned “press 1 for this, press 2 for that” to having to speak to a computer. It just seems a lot more efficient to me. Plus if you are calling from the office, this way the entire office doesn’t know your business.

I realize some people might actually prefer the voice recognition system, but how about giving users the choice in the opening menu. If they can do “press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish”, I think this is a reasonable request.

May 17, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | Leave a comment