Thursday, July 23, 2009

American Express doesn't care about its loyal customers


Here's a nastygram for you. I hashed this one out on the phone just now and I am still so upset about it that I hope this makes sense.

Jeremy and I have had the Costco American Express for several years now. We've never had any complaint. We used it, we got our rebates, we were happy. We always paid our bill on time, without exception, even if it meant going to an internet cafe in Amman, Jordan late at night to make the deadline. Our whole theory of using a credit card was to never pay a cent of interest or late fees, and we succeeded at that without error.

Fast forward to last month, when we used our Costco American Express to pay for our moving service with ABF. It put a couple thousand dollars on the card, but we weren't worried because Cornell would be reimbursing us.

Then last week, when the Costco American Express bill came due, I took a look at the statement and realized that the moving expenses had just barely squeaked in to that month's billing cycle, and the reimbursement funds from Cornell had yet to come through. So we were stuck paying the extra thousands of dollars sitting on the credit card with the money in our checking account. Except we didn't have extra thousands of dollars in our checking account.

I immediately called American Express and spoke with a nice employee. I told her we'd never had a late payment, ever, but that this month, I needed an extra day to transfer some funds from our high-yield savings into our checking account and could she push the bill due date back as a courtesy, just this once?

She responded that while she couldn't extend the due date, she could post a note on our account that we were planning to pay on a specific date. Then, when we made the payment, we could request to have any late fees reversed.

I asked her if she thought that would be a problem. She said absolutely not, given our impeccable history of paying our bills on time and the fact that I called ahead to warn them that we were going to be late.

I'm sure you can guess what happened. We did exactly as this nice employee said, and then they slapped us with a late fee anyway and refused to reverse it.

The most maddening part about it all is that every employee I spoke with on the phone didn't care. They didn't care that we'd been loyal American Express customers since 2006. They didn't care that we always paid our bills on time, and that we took extra effort to notify them that we'd be slightly late this one time. They didn't care that their own employee told us that it absolutely would not be a problem to get any late fee reversed. They didn't care when I said I felt cheated and lied to by American Express. All the supervisor kept repeating was, "At this time, as a company, we are not issuing courtesy reversals of late fees."

I told him I didn't care what their policy was as a company - if he took a look at the facts in this situation, he would see that it clearly warranted an exception. I started out arguing that we deserved the courtesy reversal because we had never been late on a payment before, but when it came down to it, I stuck to the point that an American Express employee had told us the fee would be waived. What the supervisor was basically telling me was that she had lied to me.

I don't pretend to understand all the intricacies of the credit card business, but I have to wonder if they would have been more willing to deal kindly with us if they'd ever actually made any extra money off of us. Perhaps a person who pays their bill on time each month, every month, is not their idea of a good customer. After all, we only ever paid exactly what we owed, without any extra added-on interest or fees (until now, of course). Maybe that's why my "loyal customer" argument fell on deaf ears.

My question is, what do I do now? I'll write an official nastygram and send it, of course, but what then? Do I cancel the card? I've never had a supervisor put up such a brick wall of "no means no" before, and I'm not sure how to get around it.

Let's all cross our fingers for high Google rankings of "American Express customer service," "American express doesn't care about their loyal customers," "American Express refuses to reverse a late fee even when they said they would, which makes them liars," and "American Express sucks and I hate them."

Update: American Express did eventually make good on their promise to reverse the late fee. Read about it here.

7 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

OK, ouch. That one hurts me extra badly, because it's not just an American Express: it's a Costco American Express. Ugh. I can't believe that. I would be SO PISSED.

My suggestion is to call back and see if you can talk to the supervisor's supervisor. Explain it all over again, explain that you know that the economy sucks and everybody's trying to squeeze every last blood penny out of everybody else, but that seriously?! Their employee lied. And that you are happy to take it up with the BBB or whoever. That is ridiculous.

JackJen said...

You need to Get Gephardt, that's what you need to do.

Also, you might want to call Costco and see if they care that one of their customers just got royally raked through the coals by a partnering company.

Jennifer said...

I'm furious just reading this! Credit card companies can make me SO mad! My only suggestion would be to call and try again--and hope for someone nicer. Or have Jeremy call--Jeff always gets a better response than I do when I call on things like this. We have so many experiences of getting two totally different stories when we call any variety of customer services.

Good luck!!

Susanne said...

Oh, I'm pretty sure credit card companies have lovely names for people like you and me who always pay their bills on time and never pay interest or fees. I think my husband told me we were "deadbeats" or something along those lines. Ah, yes, I just found this about it:

http://moneysavingcreditcardsecrets.com/blog/2008/09/17/punishing-deadbeats/

I am sorry for this. I would be hopping mad as well. Stuff like this aggravates me to no end! :-/

Also be wary of credit card companies starting to charge annual fees. Since Congress passed the credit card reform measure a few weeks ago, I heard that some formerly "free" cards were going to not be free any more. Just an FYI.

Let us know if this issue is resolved. Best wishes.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I've heard that too, that people like us are 'deadbeats' in the eyes of a credit card company. And I am proud to be one, believe me--

But you know, every time we use that AmEx or Visa, etc., the businesses we patronize pay 3% to the credit card company, so it's to AmEx's advantage to keep us happy.

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