** This post has been edited to protect the not-so-innocent **
Oh customer service, where have you gone? Long story short: did you know that if you timely pay $2000 on a $2200 bill with 0% interest, you still owe $1700? Yeah, me neither. Now for the long version.
I can't remember if I blogged about our [couch-buying] experience yet and I'm too lazy to read my own archives. In September we bought a new couch and chair, of which I've posted pictures. We couldn't be happier with the furniture and the salesperson who helped us was a perfectly nice man. The salesperson told us we could get 10% off if we opened a [store] credit card that day. We were planning on paying cash, but the card was 0% interest for a year. The only catch was that we had to pay 25% of the balance with the first bill. Sounded like a decent deal. A couple hundred bucks off our bill.
We got our October bill, paid a little over $500 on our $2200 balance. I was on trial in November, so I just sent out another $500 from our online banking system, not having seen the new bill. I come home to find the December bill says the balance is $2200. Huh? How does a $2200 original balance minus $1000 in payments equal $2200?
I also notice that even though we only opened one credit card, we somehow have two lines of credit. Then I noticed we had a $500 credit on the second line. It turns out that this is what [certain stores] do... and the fun part is that if you pay your bill online, they automatically credit it to the line of credit that usually has no balance. I can only imagine the number of people who have done this and waited until month 12 of their no-interest year to make the bulk of their payment, only to have all the back interest charged to them because they paid the "wrong account." Not to mention to people who might never realize their balance isn't going down, so they just keep paying.
So I spent a couple hours on the phone... I think talking to India... one December night. Then the phone goes dead. Sweet. I think it was my low battery. During the call I did get the credit on the one line moved to the other line. I also got multiple explanations for what happened to our other $500 payment, after they eventually acknowledged cashing that check: (1) I was told that I had made another $500 purchase; (2) I was told that the cost of the card was a 25% "non-refundable deposit"; (3) I was told that the cost of what we did buy was $2800. My favorite was explanation number 2, which meant that Rob and I were stupid enough to pay an extra 25% on our bill just so we could get 10% off our bill. Eventually Rob told me to insist they walk me line by line through the bill, and of course this led them to what I thought we actually owed.
I called again the next day and after a looong phone call full of math problems and lots of time on hold I was assured my bill had been corrected. Just to be sure, I took down the representative's name and id number. I also got assurances that my future online banking payments would not be credited to the wrong line of credit.
A week later I paid our December bills and since we hadn't received an updated bill, I just paid $1000, knowing that would leave less than a couple hundred dollars left. I definitely didn't want to overpay and then have to try to get money back from [the store].
Last week we got the January bill. Our balance was $1767. Seriously. It's as if my three hours on the phone didn't happen except that at least they had moved the one $500 payment to the line with an actual balance. No sign of the latest payment. So yesterday afternoon I made another phone call.
I started with the first problem -- the missing $1000 payment. She said I had made a payment to the wrong line of credit. (Unlike our November and December bills, but like our October bill, our magical second line of credit did not appear on the January bill at all. The customer service rep got annoyed with me when I kept calling the second line of credit "a magical line of credit we never signed up for.") I told her I'd been assured that my payments wouldn't be misapplied again. She explained that to have my payment correctly applied when paying through online banking, I had to delete the number "0" from the end of my account number and replace it with the number "32." I'm sure she was telling me the truth, but I was a little floored that in order to pay my bill I have to use an account number that does not appear anywhere on my bill rather than the only account number that does appear on my bill.
We moved on the problem of the $500 payment [the store] had re-refused to acknowledge. It took a long time to explain the problem and once again I got explanation numbers (1) and (2) from above. After lots more time on hold, I was told I needed to be transferred to the furniture customer service department. When I refused and gave the woman the name and id number from the man who fixed my bill in December, she told me that there was no one on file with that id number and no record of any call from me on that date. Wow. So I let her transfer me after getting her name and id number as well.
It was getting close to the 45 minute mark for my phone call and after another 30 minutes on the phone with the furniture woman, she told me she had to transfer me back to the credit card folks. I tried to refuse, so she said she'd get a supervisor from that department on the line. Thirty minutes later she came back on the line to say we were still waiting for a supervisor. Another 20 minutes went by and she came back to tell me that the correction had been made and would show up in 1-2 days when it was formally processed. Silly me, I believed her.
I told her I wanted to pay off the balance on the phone because I had no faith that my next payment would be applied properly and I refused to write the wrong account number on a check. She said fine, but it'd cost me $10. If I hadn't been so irritated, I would have laughed, but instead I told her that was ridiculous and the fee should be waived for a customer entering her sixth hour on the phone with customer service in phone call number three after a total of just four billing cycles. She put me on hold again.
I kid you not... a HALF HOUR later she came back to tell me that not only would they not waive the $10 fee, but that they couldn't correct the balance after all. Argh! My greed in not wanting to pay that $10!!! The rep said they'd have to call the store and discuss the bill with the furniture department there. Although I refrained from obscenities, I was far, far, far from pleasant in hanging up the phone.
By this time, it was after 5pm. I picked Rob up from work and we set out for the suburbs where we bought the couch. We got to [the store], asked for a customer service department, and were told there wasn't one. We went to the furniture department and were told there were no managers around at night. However, our salesperson was there... and incredibly enough he had received a phone call from the furniture customer service woman I'd spoke to earlier. (I was shocked that there'd actually been some follow through.) He couldn't do anything for us, but he was able to copy the receipts I had -- not all of which the store had! -- and said he expected it would be taken care of by his manager the next day. If it had been anyone else, I would have probably refused to leave the store without the problem solved, but he has always been nice to us so I couldn't bear to be a jerk to him.
When we were leaving the store, I asked the him, "I'm not crazy, right? Even if the first $500 is labeled as a 'non-refundable deposit,' it's supposed be credited against our balance, right?" "Yes!" he said quickly, as if it couldn't be more obvious. The first person at [the store] to acknowledge that fact. A tiny victory.
So we'll see what happens. Sometimes I think that I'm going to run out of places to do business with... because I've already got a decent-sized list of companies who I've informed have lost my business for life. Not that I'm a grudge-holder or anything. :)