He who seeketh, findeth

October 20, 2007

All they MAY DO is say “NO” – (Saving money by calling customer service).

Filed under: Happiness,Health,Money — Steve (Chessiq) @ 7:42 pm

When it comes to Banks and other services providers (SPs), there are times when I “lose” money because of my own fault, sometimes because of other people’s fault. For example, there was a time when I transferred money from one bank to the other about 10 days prior to the day that I was going to write a check from the latter bank account. The transaction was supposed to clear both banks within 5 (business) days. It cleared the first one within 2 days, and it took a long time to clear the second bank because the paperwork was sitting on somebody’s desk for over a week! In the mean time, the check I had written was returned, I was charged all sorts of fees everywhere. To add salt to the wound, the bank that was sitting on my check charged me overdraft fees! After fuming and everything on the side – (this is very important, don’t be mad at the customer service, even when they are behaving like jerks) – I called the payee to find out if they could waive the fees, since it was not my fault. No they wouldn’t. What could I do to make sure that my record was clean? A letter from the second bank, stating that they had messed up etc. I had called my first bank during the 10 days to find out what was happening and I had detailed notes on when they made the funds transfer etc. Then I called the second bank to tell them what had happened… they did an internal search for the transaction and found the hangup. They offered to process the transaction ASAP. I said thanks, and then got the details of the person I was speaking with and reference number for the problem – and then continued to tell the person how the delay had impacted me. I started with something that the person could help me with, waive the fees at the bank. She did that for me. Many thanks. At this time, the only thing that was remaining was the fees that the payee (of my check) charged me. I went on to ask for a reimbursement of those charges. I was told to go to a local bank (branch) for some paperwork… anyway, after things didn’t quite work out here, I spoke to the regional manager and then emailed her proof of all the charges and reversed charges and remaining charges and she decided in my favor within 24 hours. It’s been a couple of months, but I am sure I saved over $200 in fees. ($35 overdraft fee, $50 returned check fees, $30/day late fees, and other ridiculous fees that you agree to when you don’t anticipate things getting that out of hand.)

The one thing that I usually get in trouble with is “free-trial” stuff. Usually, it is stuff that I don’t NEED, but I just WANT to try (so that I know 😉 ) – the latest incident was stamps.com – I have AVG anti-virus software. The “lean” package is free for home use, but you could get the full package – anti-virus, firewall, spy-ware, etc for a year, free of charge, if you try out a bunch of things. So I choose to try out stamps.com for a month, “risk-free”. I knew that I could cancel the same day once I got the activation code – but I was like, I may print some free stamps, or I may …. I don’t know. I guess I can cancel when everything is good – I feel like calling customer service and answering all the questions about why I was canceling (before the free trial was over) etc. I waited too long even though I knew it was getting really really close, and then it was a weekend, and stamps.com customer service does not open on weekends! Anyway, I called in on the following Monday or Tuesday to cancel, and the guy was gracious on the phone. Asked me why I was canceling, told him that I never send anything in the mail. That’s true. I was never going to use the service. I thought everything was okay until a couple of days later, I see some charge, $15.95 or $15.99 had hit my credit card! Nice. I had dealt with this before, only this time, I thought the problem was that I had canceled the service late. As usual, I told myself, I don’t make $15.95 in 5 minutes, so I might as well take the chance to do that for once! Call customer service and see if they can refund me the money. All they may do is say, “NO”, but I could save money if I convince somebody to do it. The CSR told me that the service was not a free trial, it was a risk free trial! What’s the difference? I cannot remember the details, but they charge for their service in advance, so once I exceeded the 4 weeks, I got billed for that. AND they were about to bill me for the next period that had started when I called them, but they decided to give me a courtesy one time waiver etc. (I could have been billed over $31 for something that I never intended to use! I considered just dropping the request, but I was like, let me press and see what he says.) So I apologized for my misunderstanding of the situation, and asked if he could do me a big favor by refunding me the money. He sternly refused. There are times when I dislike male CSRs and at other times I dislike female CSRs! At other times, I love them both! Thing is, most of them are good. It’s just that sometimes these things will go your way, sometimes they will not. So I asked him one more time if he could do it, he said he could not. I thanked him for his help, asked for his name, and then asked to speak to his supervisor. After a minute or so, I was on the phone with his supervisor, and I explained the situation, what I had understood from my talk with the CSR, and what my position was. I told him I understood their position, but I needed a favor – a refund of the fees, as I never intended to use the service. “Okay, can you hold, I will see what I can do.” “Thank you very much.” I meant it each time I said thanks – when I was given the opportunity to speak to the supervisor, to when the supervisor told me he would see what he could do – sometimes it may be too late to reverse stuff. A few seconds later, he told me he had reversed the transaction and it would appear on my card in 5 to 7 business days. “Thanks so much, I really appreciate it.” He offered to give me the reference number, normally, I would take it, but this one time, I said no – I told him that I trusted him, so I didn’t need the number. I hope I will not need the reference number!

So, I figured I could just share these two of the many experiences I have had, whereby calling customer service for whatever needs, be it reversing outrageous charges, to canceling your cable (and you end up getting one or months free of charge), to asking for a lower interest rate on your loan or credit card – pays off. After all, all they may do is say “NO”.


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