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Times Are Tough

timesaretoughEarlier this week my credit card statement arrived in the mail.  When my wife opened it she was shocked to see that our minimum payment had increased dramatically.  Upon further inspection, we noticed that the interest rate on the balance had been nearly tripled – i.e. from very low to very high.

“We paid it on time, right?”

“Yep.”

“We paid everything else on time right?”

“Yep.”

“Hmmm…  I need to make a call.”

ACT 1:

So I dialed up the customer service line on the statement and was connected to a very friendly representative of the company.  Upon verifying my identity, she asked how she could help.  I responded by asking for an explanation of why my rate had gone up so dramatically, when I had, to the best of my knowledge, held up my end of the bargain.  She chuckled and said “Oh, well you know times are tough right now, and we needed to raise the rates of many of our customers to help the situation.”  “You know, we sent out a letter.”  “The good news is that I am authorized to change that back to the original rate.”  “Would you like me to do that for you?”

Dumbfounded and pretty upset I replied with something like “uhhh…. yes?”  She actually sounded like she thought she was doing me an enormous favor by changing my rate back to what it was – like I should be thankful to have such a thoughtful company looking out for me in these tough times.  What?

I then asked if, rather than continuing to submit my payments, it would be okay for me to draft a letter suspending my payments due to tough economic times.  “I will happily change the terms back if you call me,”  I said.  Oddly, she did not find that to be real funny, and suggested that it might not be a good idea.

In the end, I was informed that my rate had been returned to normal, and they were very sorry for the inconvenience – but they did send a letter.

ACT 2:

Being a person who is not particularly trusting of big company call center follow through, I decided to check my account online 2 days later to see if the rate had been returned to my old rate.  “Nope”  Time to pick up the phone yet again.

This time when I called I was informed that the web does not update that type of information real time.  I was assured that in fact my rate had been returned to normal because I had rejected the new terms that had been proposed by the credit card company.  That is when it got good again.  Here is the short version:

Customer Rep  – “Did the customer service representative explain to you what it means to reject the new terms?”

Me – “No, what does it mean?”

Customer Rep – “It means that although we returned your rate to what it previously had been, when your card expires in June it will not be renewed and will no longer work.”

Me  – “So, you no longer want to do business with me?”

Customer Rep – “Well, we just don’t want to do business on the terms that you used to have.”  “If you allow the rate to increase to the new rate, we would love to continue to do business with you.”

Me – “No thanks.”  “I reject your offer.”

I then asked if they would issue a credit back to the time that they increased my rate, as the interest compounds daily and adds up fast.  After a lengthy discussion of the merits of taking this action, relative to the hell I would raise otherwise and a talk with her supervisor, she relented and agreed to credit me back the money which her company had attempted to take from me without consent.

CONCLUSION:

If you have a credit card make sure to check your statement very carefully.  Apparently the bailout money we have already given these companies is not enough, and now they are looking for ways to politely steal it from you directly.  Don’t fall victim to this scam.

I am not mentioning the company by name in this post, as I don’t want to engage in some legal battle with them.  They would probably just raise my rate again, which I can not afford.  However, know that they will be mentioned prominently in the letter that I will be sending to my Senators and Congressional Representatives.