Over the past 2 months, I’ve been battling American Express to get them to correct a colossal mistake THEY made, but for which they blamed us/me and penalized us accordingly. To be fair to American Express, Chase Bank also failed during this time period, but not as badly as American Express. The issue common to both American Express and Chase is that their mail center can’t process all the incoming mailed payments in a timely fashion (both companies admitted as much to me). Thus, despite mailing our payments on time, and the post office actually delivering them on time, they sat at the destination. Both American Express and Chase failed to adjust for this and started sending late notices, imposing late fees, and even reporting Magnus to the credit agencies. To Chase’s credit, they had figured out the problem by the time I called and had started making corrections, although it is impossible to know whether the damage they did will linger, for example, on our credit reports. American Express, on the other hand, was completely obtuse about the problem. The situation was compounded by Melissa and me being on vacation. They called, texted, emailed, froze the card and basically harassed me for days, which turned into weeks, then months. Calling them was painful and the calls lasted an hour or more with transfers to multiple agents, many of whom had accents I couldn’t understand, and they were unable to comprehend that the failure was on their end. Not only did they process a payment late, but they failed to credit an $11,000 payment to us. That’s right, they lost $11,000 of our money. For some people, that may be pocket change. I’m not one of them. At some point, I decided to go to the top and I wrote the CEO’s office. Apparently this person gets lots of messages such that he has a “public” email address (email@example.com) where messages are answered by his minions. This did trigger some action, but it was still very difficult to communicate with anyone who seemed to “get it” and who was willing to find our lost money. We did receive a letter telling us they were working on it, but never did anyone take responsibility for their mistake(s). As of this writing, most of the situation has been resolved, I think. And, we received another letter, but of note, at no time did any of the correspondence from American Express offer an apology for the (massive) inconveniences they caused. I have about 12 hours into this situation that THEY caused. In billable hours terms, that is a lot of money – especially due to the vacation damage. So, I have to say “Shame on American Express.” Their customer service was horrible. It is hard enough running a small business without having to fight a company that is supposed to help run that small business.
David has an awful time dealing with the huge companies we depend on in both business and personal situations. I can barely tolerate speaking to “customer service” representatives long enough to convince them that I authorize David to speak with them regarding credit card and other billing issues. David has spent countless hours in his “OK to Handle” mode (as his Macy’s credit card was issued after I said it was “OK for David to handle” everything!). Meanwhile, I am often close enough to hear David’s part of what is obviously a mind numbing and exhausting conversation. The recent example of American Express’ incompetence, furthered by its unwillingness to accept responsibility for its $11,000 mistake was one of the worst. Compounding the problem was its persistent and continual punishment of David and me, its customers, by cancelling and/or refusing to authorize purchases we were attempting to make during our Alaska vacation. All of this was made worse by the time zone difference between the Eastern United States and Alaska, which forced David to make numerous calls and handle numerous emails in the early morning, before we traveled to remote locations lacking internet service. When, after months of David’s persistence in convincing American Express it was in the wrong, the company finally agreed with him, instead of doing what many people do when they make a mistake, that is, apologize, there was no apology forthcoming. There has been a lot of social psychological research which shows that, when people apologize on behalf of a corporation, considerable positivity results. For example, measures of client satisfaction show an increase after an apology is made, including in situations with far worse outcomes than what David and I experienced with American Express. Medical care providers are now being trained to apologize for medical errors in patient care, resulting in fewer medical malpractice lawsuits. If only the form letter from someone writing on behalf of American Express’ CEO had contained 2 important words, “I’m sorry.” That would have gone a long way and my guess is that David would not have to air his frustrations in a post. Bottom line: Apologize when you make a mistake.
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