4 - 2008

Give yourself credit: Ask

This month, I’ve done my share of complaining. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a world-class complainer. I’ve gotten some fees knocked down without even meaning to — but along the way,I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly about addressing problems with a service.

The good:

I use one Chase credit card a lot because I like their rewards program and it’s easiest if we charge everything to one card and then pay it all off. (I had been using a debit card, but then I got depressed about forgoing a one-way airline ticket every year by doing so.) Recently, I made a big purchase on the card, which resulted in our going over the limit for two days before my payment was received.

It was an honest mistake — many of our credit cards have crazy-high limits. I forgot this was a card whose limit I voluntarily decreased a couple years ago, on our mortgage lender’s advice (to minimize our risk should someone steal our card or identity). I think we were about $100 over the limit, and then made a payment of a couple thousand dollars. When I got my bill, it showed a $39 overlimit fee.

I called Chase and asked if they would waive it. I only had to hold a few seconds before reaching customer service, and almost before I finished explaining, the rep said “No problem, it’s done.” A few days later I had confirmation in the mail. Wow! That was easy. Just for asking.

The bad:

A few weeks ago, I ordered photos from Snapfish. My order came … but it was not the order I knew I had placed. I e-mailed customer service letting them know about the error and asking for a shipping credit so I could re-order what I didn’t receive without having to pay for shipping again. I went back and forth on e-mail with a customer service rep who wrote:

Please note that as per our records you have place an order for 1 4×6 prints and 6 4×5.3 prints only. Totally you have placed an order for 7 prints only.And also note that you have not placed any order for 5×7 prints.

I explained that what I did NOT receive was bothering me more than what I did receive. I pointed out that I had chosen photos to order, but they had vanished from my cart. He/she replied:

Please note that as per our records there is no order with 5×7 prints placed under the email address … If you have another email address that we can use to look up for your order, please reply to this message and let us know. It would also be helpful if you could provide order # so that, we can search for your order in our customer database in multiple ways.

Besides the bad grammar, this discussion was going nowhere. I wrote back and said again that the point was that the photos had vanished from order, but that arguing more wasn’t worth my time, so never mind. Then I got an e-mail telling me they had credited me for two 5x7s (a $1.58 value). I re-ordered, but I couldn’t even remember what the second 5×7 I wanted was, so half the credit will go to waste (I can’t use it for something else). I also got a message offering me a free photo flip book for being a great customer, but I can’t make the book using the browser I use (Mozilla). Oh brother.

The ugly:

I also use an online backup service that I signed up for in August. I used to get an e-mail every day telling me my files had backed up. Those e-mails stopped, but I didn’t even notice among the 60+ e-mails I receive every day — and the many e-mails I’ve unsubscribed to to keep that figure low. Then I went online to look for an old file and saw that my files haven’t backed up since November. Yikes! The system is there to protect my business files (which back up at a rate of 30-some per day). I’d been being billed my $10 a month and hadn’t received any error notices, so I hadn’t noticed a thing.

I called and talked to the most condescending support person in the world. He gave me directions for a system I didn’t have and then acted like I was stupid to not have the same window on my screen as he did. I asked what happened that I didn’t get a message telling me my files weren’t backing up and he said “Well *I* don’t know!” I suggested they should look at their system. Finally, I asked to speak to a manager. He said they were all in a meeting, then put me on hold for several minutes. I expected to get cut off, but finally talked to a manager, just to ask him to look at their system and assure me it would work (and perhaps have a little chitchat with their service guy). The manager said he would credit me three months’ worth of fees, without my asking.

There you have it: The ugly truth about complaining. It can be painless, occasionally; more often it’s a blood-pressure-raising hassle. I think it’s most worth it if you can do it without expectations.

I saved about $70 by posing these complaints. It took about 30 minutes of my time … and some headaches.

Was it worth it? What are your experiences with complaining? Do you bother?

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