I set one foot outside the country and warning bells apparently start going off at the Early Fraud Detection department over at Citi Cards. Happens every time. Of course, do they call me on my mobile phone? No. The automated system calls my home phone, which being out of the country, I am not inclined to check.
While I am happy that Citi Cards has an early fraud detection system in place, this time the system went too far. Waaaay too far. Can you say HAL?
So, after charging away restaurant, attraction, and hotel bills in the UK for a week, I come home Saturday, see a reminder to "buy new glassware" (we've been using recycled Pom juice containers to supplement our rapidly decreasing high ball and low ball supply of cheap glasses), go onto Macys.com, place my order, and click. Only to get an error message. I try again. Click! Click, click, click! "I'm sorry. We are unable to process your order." Wha?!
So I call the Citi Cards customer service number, talk to a very nice rep, who, after verifying some recent charges, takes the block off my card, and click! my order is processed.
Sunday morning. I get an email from Lands End, announcing free shipping for just three days. Great, I think. I need to buy my daughter a few warm weather things. I'll just do it now. So I fill up my shopping cart, go to check out, and EH! [insert loud buzzer noise here]. No dice -- or dresses or swim goggles. My credit card has been rejected. I try again. Nope. Nada. Nyet. Uh uh.
As I am sitting in front of my computer, seething, Lands End calls me. They know I am a customer in good standing and are checking on my order, because my card isn't going through. Bless them.
I pick up the phone and call Citi Cards. This time I speak to not one but TWO customer service reps, who apologize profusely and swear to me that the problem has now been fixed. And you know what? THEY LIED. (Shocking, I know.)
I call back Lands End. Card still isn't going through. I call back Citi Cards. And... Let's just say I wound up charging the items on my VISA debit card.
Monday rolls around. I go to sign my daughter up for a summer activity -- again on a site I have used before. And (you know what's coming, right?)...
Again, I call Citi Cards. And again I speak with a very nice customer service rep and an account manager, who, apologizing profusely for the inconvenience, tell me it's basically not their problem. That it's a problem with the Early Fraud Detection system, but that hopefully the problem should be resolved, soon.
That's very nice, I say. (Amazingly, despite serious sleep deprivation and a lack of food, I have kept my temper in check and remembered to say "please" and "thank you" throughout each exchange.) But, I inform Vladimir, I am about to go grocery shopping and would really, really like to be able to charge my groceries, as I always do. "Shouldn't be a problem, ma'am," Vladimir tells me.
So, I go to Stop & Shop, do my shopping, and go to pay with my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard and... (I know. You are howling on the floor with laughter.)
This time, I decide I need to take a slightly stronger, more authoritative approach in my dealings with Citi Cards customer service. So I get out my microcassette recorder, stick in a tape (I tried digital, but I can't transcribe off a .wav file), and place the call. This time, I get Christina, who, naively, asks how she can help me.
"Hello Christina," I say, just as sweet as pie. Then I inform her that for quality assurance purposes, I am recording our conversation. (I kid you not.) She is a little taken back but goes along with it.
I explain, as I have already to Kay, Sean, Vladimir, Hunter, and two other people whose names I cannot remember, that I am unable to use my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard and would very much like, once and for all, to have the Early Fraud Detection department remove the block on my card, that the card has been in my possession at all times, that I have repeatedly verified all charges on said card, that I have been a customer in not just good but excellent standing for more than 10 years, and that if Citi Cards does not resolve this problem in the next few minutes, I will be canceling said card and will never use another Citi-backed card again, capiche?
Christina (poor thing) capiched all too well. Like the long line of sweet-talking customer reps before her, she attempted to resolve the problem on her computer, but it was just too much for her -- and she asked if she could put me on hold. (Btw, I think I am pretty safe in saying that the phrase "May I put you on hold?" is one of the most feared in the English language.) Do I have a choice, I asked her? Not if I wanted to get this matter resolved, she replied sweetly, but she promised not to transfer me. That was the only promise she kept.
Several minutes later (in fact, it took so long I shut off the tape), she came back and announced she was pretty sure the problem had been resolved. Pretty sure?!
So I asked her, very sweetly, albeit with teeth clenched, if the problem has not been resolved, to whom should I speak over there? She replied, the Early Fraud Detection department. Fine, I said. And do you possibly have a direct number for them, so I don't have to go through voice tree hell for the eighth time in 48 hours? "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't." Of course not. I then, smoke slowly starting to puff out both ears, politely thanked her for her help and hung up.
I then got on the computer and applied for a much better, annual fee-free, rewards points giving, anytime travel, concierge service included VISA card through Merrill Lynch, for which I was immediately approved and which will arrive tomorrow via FedEx. And you can be s**t sure that as soon as I have activated it, I will be shredding my and my spouse's Citi AAdvantage cards and canceling my account.
UPDATED 4/23 at 6:35 P.M.: Despite being told my new Merrill Lynch VISA card would arrive via FedEx today, it didn't. How do I know? Because I waited around the friggin' house ALL DAY waiting for said card (because I was told that I had to be here to sign for it). You're chuckling, aren't you? Frankly, I don't blame you. Interestingly, today my Citi AAdvantage card magically started working again. (I had an automated payment set up, which went through. Gotta change all of those when/if the new card arrives. Thanks to "the little sister I never had" for reminding me.)
You know that I would be a liar
2 hours ago