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Pluses and Minuses

In which, for your amusement, I weigh the pros and cons of customer service...

So on Monday I went and registered E for summer classes in art. This takes time as we consult the schedule from the end of June through August but we succeed in getting it done. This would be a plus.

On Wed morning I received a call from the Art Studio that, oops, they made an error in the amount they charged my credit card by a factor of ten. Yes, ten. An extra zero before the decimal point. Instead of paying a reasonably expensive amount for 10 art classes, I learned that I had paid the equivalent of college tuition at a private institution for my child. For a full year. Excluding room and board, of course.

That they made an egregious error of many thousands of dollars is a minus. That they phoned me is a plus. Because otherwise I wouldn't have known until my card was refused.

This was charged to my everyday usage credit card. We charge everything we can. We pay it off each month. We earn Disney dollars. All pluses. But cards do have limits. And this charge exceeded the limit in and of itself. I knew it would shut down my card completely. The one The Dude and I use without thinking, the one that has several automatic charges on it each month. A big minus.

Art studio says it will process the credit immediately. A plus. I decide to phone my credit card company at the end of the business day to verify this. A plus. The incredibly outrageous charge is still on my credit card. A minus.

I begin chasing through the phone system robot to try to get help so I can use my card until the error is resolved.

The automated fraud protection system never kicked in with this charge. A huge minus. A little over a year ago, The Dude bought a high quality rowing machine for about 15% of this charge. The automated system refused to authorize the charge when he placed the order. He had to use a different card. In early April, small charges for groceries and gas MADE WHERE WE LIVE were questioned by the automated fraud system. The Dude was in RI with Miss E and also making charges on the card at the same time. None of his charges were questioned. Only mine. All were under $50. The insane charge was not questioned by the system. (And yes, a charge of this size is outside of my normal spending patterns.) It almost makes one think that they deliberately ALLOW a charge that will exceed your balance so they can charge fees.

First live person I spoke to said the problem could take up to a week to resolve in the system. When I said I needed to use the card, that it's my card of choice, he said the issue was beyond him and he would transfer me. A minus. The transfer is successful. A plus.

Second live person I speak to, supposedly in a higher or more advanced position, tries to help, but she can't override an amount that large. A plus and a minus here. Her name is Renata. Renata puts me on hold for many, many minutes while she sees what she can do. Renata listened to my problem, understood how unusual it was, and tried to help. Wow. A phone person actually tried to help. Major plus. I happily stay on hold.

After much toing and froing, Renata finds that she herself can't fix it, but she conference calls with the people who raise your credit line. I only need it raised for about a week. A temporary change. Which is what Renata herself couldn't do for that large an amount. I must formally request it.

It goes like this. I am asked what my household income is. I am told they will pull a credit report. I am fine with this. We've already refinanced the house, pulling a credit report will not do any harm and our credit is solid. I am told what the current balance is. I am asked what I want my new limit to be. (We are working from a script, I can see that and I'm pretty cool with it. The credit line raiser has been told what the situation is.) On the phone, out loud, I remark that I need about $Xk to cover any charges if what they say is true, that this could take up to a week to resolve. So I ask for a credit line about Xk higher than the balance they told me was currently on the card.

Drum roll, please.

"I'm sorry, but you're now $350 over your new credit limit."

WTF? Didn't we just talk this out? Didn't we just work it out at about Xk above the current charges?

"Apparently, there are pending charges on your card of $Xk."

Well, why didn't you tell me that? She looks and the pending charge is, guess what?, the correct amount from the art studio, among other things. But that's the main culprit.

"Ok, so let's increase the limit another Xk to cover the pending charges." I said.

"I'm sorry, but you can't do that. You can't request an additional credit line increase."

WTF?

So even though I pointed out that she failed to tell me what was truly sitting out there on my card before I asked for the increase, she said there was nothing she could do. The card was dead. I said how disappointed I was in the company and hung up. Big, big, big, big, gimongus MINUS. Where I thought my company had come through for me, they had turned out to be no better than any other company I've dealt with. (Except USAA.)

Five minutes later, the phone rings.

It's Renata.

"You hung up so fast, I didn't have a chance to talk to you after disconnecting the credit person. Let me please see what I can do about this."

WTF? A human. A real live human behind the anonymity of a phone system calling me back personally and offering to try to help fix a problem created by one of her co-workers.

Renata puts me on hold again. Renata finds someone in consumer lending who actually listens to the situation and succeeds in raising my limit another Xk so I can actually use my preferred credit card for the next week. This in spite of the fact that we never, ever carry a balance, never pay them any fees at all. We just churn a whole heck of a lot of merchants through their system. Renata is my hero. Renata is a PLUS. Renata has written notes in my file.

I thank them both profusely. When the consumer lending person hangs up, it disconnects Renata as well before I can thank her privately and find out how to give feedback. Alas.

I think about it for a few minutes. What Renata did was extraordinary. My situation was extraordinary and she rose to the challenge. She resolved it. She made a customer very happy. I want Renata to have feedback. I want this in her file. And she's on duty tonight. The longer I wait, the less likely I can get the feedback to the correct individual.

I call back. I go straight to the "0" option and bypass all the menus. I've already checked online that the credit line went through on my account. I have the cushion I wanted. I tell the first person what I want to do. He transfers me to a supervisor. I explain to the supervisor exactly what occurred, even though the calls are monitored/recorded. I explain that Renata HEARD the credit person NOT give me the right information and she didn't give up when she could have. She called me back. She persevered and got the problem resolved. The supervisor can see her comments in my file. He can grab her personnel number and write up a quick memo to her manager which will go into her annual review file. He does it as we speak, another hallmark of a good manager. He reads it back to me, his summary of what happened. I approve it. It is done.

Renata deserves to be recognized. This level of customer service in a big company, by phone, that required her to stay with me for almost an hour, is often frowned on. But we're solid users of that card. I even laughed and said what was so amazing was that Renata recognized that we don't fit the normal consumer pattern, we don't carry credit balances they make money off of. And she helped me anyway.

Karma all around. And now I'm sharing this story. There's hope sometimes in this world of ours.

Frog Out

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
elarasophia
Jun. 18th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
Go, Renata! What a great outcome. It must feel great to have made that connection with someone, too. Good for you. :)
patesden
Jun. 18th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Very cool ending to the story. If I'd had to bet on that one, I'd have been wrong.

I actually process credit cards at my store. When an over charge happens, we imediately void it. I'm surprised the void didn't go through as fast as the charge. And I am surprised the charge didn't alert theautomatic protection.

Glad it all worked out.

kelly_yoyo
Jun. 18th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Wow, Renata is my hero now too! That's one good employee there. I hope she gets recognized for her fantastic work.
klingonguy
Jun. 19th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
Renata may be your hero, but you are mine.
birdhousefrog
Jun. 19th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
you say the sweetest things. totally fictional, but sweet.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )