Credit cards are wonderful things. They enable bogans to acquire far more cask wine than is advisable, interest rates above 20% to be published and give inarticulate big people work as debt collectors.
They’re also terrible things. They enable bogans to acquire far more cask wine than is advisable, give people named Brad work at call centres demanding payment on one call whilst offering credit limit increases on the next, show how incredibly pathetic the RBA is at understanding payment systems and attempt to meld customer-focused intentions with systems and processes that were carved onto stone tablets by The Flash when he last ran back to the time of Jebus.
For those that know how to exploit them, there are ways to make usage of a credit card an excellent source of value. Insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty and various status perks are all nice, but the biggest benefits are, in ascending order of shiny:
- Earning points/miles/currency for spend on travel/vouchers/experiences
- Sign up bonuses of the above quantity
As UA is entirely contributed to by Arseholes, seeing an offer for a credit card that sees the perks and points earn significantly offset the fees charged is like a beacon for our kind. When there is no fee associated, the offer is akin to one’s mobile provider of choice offering to telling all scammers to fuck off on your behalf and broadcast the call recordings.
In January 2016, I decided to take up the Tuatara and Opal Lending Collective on their brilliant offer of ejaculating enough frequent flyer points to fly more than 16 metres at all who apply whilst levying no fees. As soon as the bonus frequent flyer points were exonerated from the clutches of this banking corporation, I ensured that my resolve to not pay any fees would be hard and unshakable, to almost the same extent that a bloke caught driving a ute above the speed limit resolves to educate anyone who will pretend listen about his baseless opinion on the irrelevance of speed in road accidents.
As being a professional Arsehole requires that one must never forgo the opportunity to be an Arsehole, I called the Bank of Mordor and indicated that I was as likely o accept an annual fee as a Mormon would be willing to accept that Trey Parker is the second coming of Joseph Smith.
This particular Arsehole’s former partner attempted to impress upon me that there was no way that Sheering Shed Financiers would ever provide any concession in terms of fee waivers, reductions, loyalty recognition or other retention incentives. I decided to take this information as a challenge to my skills.
Upon explaining my thinking to the underpaid staffer who had the misfortune of answering my phone call, they graciously offered to halve the published annual fee! Almost a victory, like convincing people at a new school you have a date at a school social by slow dancing with your sister.
A 50% discount is normally a cause for celebration, however there were alternative offers to be had. Upon explaining that I could pay a slightly higher amount than the discounted annual fee and receive a new shiny thing that would allow me to fly all the way from Sydney to North Sydney using the bonus provided by said product, the apologies were only drowned out by the apathy and surrender that the intonations of the bureaucratic victim betrayed. In an attempt to prove that I’m capable of empathy, I thanked them for their efforts and promised to call back within 48 hours.
I’d successfully applied for an alternative shiny thing that offered far more in the way of perks and sign up bonuses than what the Russell Crowe Extradition Financier Organisation had initially waved in front of the public and calledback to ensure that I would not be expected to suffer under the indignity of paying a fee for something I had no intention of using. After convincing another future refugee from cognitive dissidence that I was definitely closing the account I asked the following questions:
- Will the account be closed immediately? (Yes, yes Mr Arsehole)
- Will the annual fee be charged? (No, definitely not Mr A!)
- Will I need to do anything beyond paying the final balance to finalise the account? (Of course not sir/ma’am, the account will be finalised at that point)
Three simple questions with three simple, emphatic, definite, unambiguous answers. I had been mostly happy with the conduct of this provider of imaginary dollars up until this point and had every reason to believe that they would do entirely was said.
Being wrong is terrible
A physical mailbox is a very odd thing. Sometimes the results of tree murder appear within, promising amazing deals from a local pizza purveyor, salvation from the newest delusional nutter religionist or statements from someone you didn’t vote for telling you about how they’ve wasted your rates and/or taxes on things you couldn’t care less about.
On this particular afternoon I received an envelope containing a journal of all the irrelevant crap I had spent money on as well as a line reading “Annual Fee”. I was puzzled for a moment, thinking that I was told by a wonderful person named Bertha that I would definitely not be charged an annual fee.
A crisis developed. What had I done to offend Bertha? Had I split the infinitive in conversation? Had I failed to observe correct subject-verb agreement during our verbal discourse?
Then I remembered that I was dealing with a bank, and that Bertha had probably hung up the phone, wrapped up the call and thought that she’d done the right thing in spite of the obstacles to customer satisfaction and front line staff performance placed in front of well-meaning staff who are graded on how well they dodge and frustrate the infrastructure they’re required to work within. She may have also said, “Thank fuck I don’t need to talk to that Arsehole anymore,” but I don’t think I made that much of an impression.
Of course that’s how it works? Are you stupid?!?
Again I was subjected to the impost of exchanging syllables with a brow-beaten person, with the particular person this time being a bloke named Bruce. Bruce and I did not exactly have a happy conversation.
I was told that having a closing balance results in “the system” charging an annual fee. I was also told that I should pay the balance immediately. And I was told that I should call back once I had done so to ensure that the account was closed.
As eager as Bruce clearly was to finish the call so his carer could get him home so he could play horizontal Jenga with a partially-dressed geriatric manikin, I thought it beneficial to his career that I impress upon him the facts of the situation such that he could reassess his response and improve his level of empathy with the people who provide reason for his employment.
This did not go well
“You need to call back!” Bruce said. “You need to finalise the account now so the system can reverse the annual fee!” he said. “What’s a credit score and comprehensive credit reporting?”
As is detailed in the first installment of the manifesto, time is important. Bruce clearly had little regard for his own, and zero regard for mine. Telling Bruce that the Coin Counter Collection Collective of Christchurch either needed to sort this out with no further waste of my time or otherwise pay for my time must gotten his attention and he undertook to ensure that this would be the last I would hear of this particular issue after the final payment was made on the due date (a concept he had massive trouble with).
Hooray! Closure! Success! We can move on with our lives and watch that episode of Gigolos where Brace rolls around with a transexual again!
3000 – 3000 = 594
Either Bruce made a promise in desperation or he was distracted by the pattern on his shoelaces prior to following through. Again my mailbox was polluted by a document stating that I had paid off everything I had spent and that I had failed to pay an annual fee for a product that had been cancelled. And that enables said bank to charge interest on the full amount (funds spent and imaginary annual fee).
At this point there’s no option other than to be an Arsehole. Writing to this particular bank resulted in the following message the next day:
We are experiencing a very high volume of complaints. We will respond to your complaint within 10 business days.
One of these statements was true. The other was not. 13 business days later, there was a wonderful conversation with someone who claimed that the bank had done everything they promised to do (they hadn’t) that no issues had occurred (they had), none of my time had been wasted (it had) and that no compensation for my time would be offered (no spoilers…). Admittedly the annual fee and associated interest had been waived, however it is insulting to hear that an amount has been waived due to an organisation levying said amount via actions that are in direct contradiction to stated intent.
There will be article on this specific type of response at some point, but suffice to say, we were not amused. An escalation path was requested and provided.
The customer advocate says you can fuck right off
This particular bank has a customer advocate department that is charged with being the active and vocal representative of the customer. Surely one would expect that presenting all facts to this department would result in some reasonable assessment and consideration of the case in question?
This was, now unsurprisingly, a terribly false assumption. The response from this customer focused department was summarised thusly (yes, there will be a scan uploaded):
Our systems impose fees automatically. You should have known this and ignored the statements made to you by our staff. We think your time is worthless. We are of the opinion that you have no basis to call our actions and misrepresentations into question. Go to the Ombudsman if you want, but we reckon you’re too lazy to call us out on our lies.
Pick a number between 1 and 1000
Print to PDF is an amazing thing. As are scanners. As is the fact that all bank interactions with customers are subject to retention requirements under law.
Providing the various statements issued by the bank in question throughout this idiocy, the responses to stated grievances and specific time and date references to the verbal interactions with the bank to the supervising authority as well as a randomly chosen number for a compensation amount resulted in a few wonderful outcomes.
The bank did indeed apologise, admit the failures and shortcomings in their processes and systems and paid out the requested compensation. Having a PS4 Pro and new SSD to go with it was a very decent outcome.
Why is this so hard?
The complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service alone would have cost the organisation a significant amount. The internal charges at this particular bank are well in excess of the FOS, staff and compensation amounts achieved.
It’s a terribly hollow victory. That said though…