I bet you think this is going to be a product placement post… It isn’t, but it’s sure going to sound like one.
Last December, I attended a course in Tampa, FL. They had a “free gift” if you signed up for more than three days, and this course was five. The choices were an Xbox 360 Core, a PS3 40GB, Nintendo Wii, iPod Classic 80GB, a Zune, a Garmin GPS/wristwatch or a $300 Visa gift card. Since I already had the others, I chose a Wii.
Of course the Wii was out of stock, so I asked if I could wait and get one of those. They said OK. They were good about sending me updates, and then around May they emailed me and said they still were having trouble getting the Wii and would I like something else? I still wanted a Wii, so I chose the $300 Visa gift card. A few weeks later a $200 and a $100 American Express gift card showed up on my desk. I was going to use them to buy a Wii.
Of course, I never did and carried around the gift cards for awhile. Eventually I did use up the $100 card, but I still had the $200 card. I tried to use the $200 card at Ikea last week and it was declined. I think I had about $230CAD rung up, and it was $200 USD, so whatevs. Last night I tried it again at London Drugs for $150 and it was declined again. Perhaps I can only use it at a US merchant…
Just for grins, I went to www.americanexpress.com/giftcard and clicked on the Check Balance link. I punched in the card info and up came… a balance of $35.20. WTF?! I started clicking each month in the dropdown for purchase history and there it was, June 16, 2008. Two purchases at Hotwire.com for travel on the same day. My gift card had been hacked.
I tried to send a message through the AmEx website, but you had to be a registered member to do so. After three attempts to create an account with the giftcard failed, it locked me out. I called the number on the screen which was generic AmEx Customer Service and spoke with Paul from INDIAna (as if) and he gave a different number for Gift Card services.
I called them and spoke with a c/s named Cindy (no trace of an accent whatsoever) and asked her if it was too late to dispute the charges as they were nearly six months old. She said she didn’t think so and said she would transfer me to the Fulfillment team. I was put on hold, and listened to Bing Crosby xmas tunes for a few minutes, and then she herself came back on the line and apologized for it taking so long and would I like to continue to hold, or did I want the number to call fulfillment directly? I said I would wait a little longer, and then she connected me with Jose on the fulfillment team. He asked me a couple questions and before I could even ask if it was too late to dispute the charges, he said he was going to send out a replacement card for the full value.
He thought I didn’t hear him and repeated it. I heard him fine, I just couldn’t believe it! I gave him my parents address, and he had to check with someone to see if they could mail it to Canada, but re-iterated that the card would only work in the US. It turns out they couldn’t, so I gave him my address in Sumas, WA and he said it would be there in 2-3 business days. That would be Boxing day, so probably not (although they don’t celebrate Boxing Day in the US)
At the end of the call, he asked me if I was an American Express cardholder. I said “No, but if this is the way you treat your customers, then I’ll be signing up for one later this afternoon!”