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Nov 08

I love saving money, sometimes it means I would use sites like Hotwire or Priceline to save money especially with mystery hotel rates. For my recent trip to San Diego I decided to use Hotwire to get a good hotel in the downtown or the Mission Bay area. While searching for a good rate, I got a nice 4 star hotel in Downtown for $79 a night. The kind of hotels one could get were shown as Westin and its likes, I was thrilled to be able to get such a deal and booked it instantly alongwith a $16 discount the site was advertising at that time. I discovered it was a new Mariott in the San Diego downtown area called the Renaissance. Now for the big surprise, the hotel has a parking charge of $45 a night. Wow ! What a way to sell hotel rooms, sell them cheap on these sites and then have hidden fees such as these. The parking charge per night is more than 50% of the room cost washing down all your savings.

I immediately got in touch with Hotwire asking to cancel my order, unfortunately I got connected to the rudest agent I have ever talked to in my life. And I have talked to a lot of agents running this consumer blog. She actually started lecturing me on Hotwire rules and cut me off multiple times. She even told me, ‘Sorry sir, but I have to cut you off’. How can an organization accept such poor behavior from its agents. In order to not cloud your judgement and here are some facts about my call with this Hotwire agent which also summarizes what happened :

1. Agent cut me off rudely many times.

2. Agent did not want to listen to me.

3. Agent ‘lectured’ me on Hotwire ‘rules’

4. Agent kept on calling me by a wrong name

5. Agent was incompetent, unable to lookup a choice I was seeing on your website.

6. Agent lied that she cannot use the reference number to find which hotel I am talking about. Later when I didnt relent she looked it up.

7. Agent just refused to honor the $16 discount which had initially brought me to this site

Anyway, long store short, I did get a new hotel after going through my ordeal with this agent and asking to speak with a supervisor. I ended up complaining about her behavior towards me via multiple methods and finally got a response after I complained via social media. However the investigation agent came back with that the agent was ‘professional’ and something that sounded like everytime the agent did something wrong she apologised. Wow ! I did get $20 refunded for the issue, however its in the form of hotdollars which is only usable on Hotwire and has an expiry of one year. Dang it, it means I probably have to deal with this company again.

Just putting this out there incase you are about to book via Hotwire, the savings are not worth it. Will sent Hotwire a link to this also.


Sep 02

There was a time when American Express was considered to be the most consumer friendly card company. Usually comprising of a wealthy clientele, It was supposed to solve all consumer issues in a breeze and in a fair manner to the consumer.

Thankfully till now I never really had a dispute with a merchant that would need this mediation, however this July was the first time I did. I went to Sam’s club and bought a $100 membership from them. I split that membership charge onto 2 credit cards, 2 American Express credit cards to be more precise, $45 and $55.

When the charges settled, I saw that both my cards had been charged $100, obviously some computer system somewhere had a bug. I thought this is something which Amex would easily resolve. After all both the cards I used to make the purchases carry an annual fee and I consider Amex to be the best in customer service. But, boy oh boy, I was going to be proven wrong. Initially, American Express did not believe me and asked me to submit proof of the overcharging. This is even before they contact the merchant. I submitted the proof along with a description of what had exactly conspired. I have pasted the letter and the receipt below redacting crucial information.

After submitting the proof, there was radio silence for a month and a half. After that time period expired, American Express sends me a message that merchant has shared the disputed transactions receipt and the dispute is closed in the favor of the merchant. I wondered how it could be since I had clearly split the transaction.

Lo and behold ! the receipt also shows I had split the transaction onto 2 cards and the 2 $100 charges were incorrect. Some brainless idiot who is incompetent to even read receipts decided the dispute in the favor of the merchant at American Express. Here are the details :

To

AMERICAN EXPRESS CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT

CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT

PO BOX 981532

EL PASO, TX 79998-1532

Subject: Dispute of transaction at Sam’s club

Details:

I had split the total amount of ($100) on 2 of my cards both Amex cards, one card ending in 63006 was supposed to be charged $45 and the other card ending in 21004 was supposed to be charged $55. However for some inexplicable reason both cards are charged $100.

As you can see in the receipt, I had very clearly split the transaction onto 2 cards.

Thanks

image

 

Amex Response :

We would like to advise you of the status of your claim on your account from Sams Club Memberships. We removed the amount under review of $55.00 from your account during our investigation.

During our investigation, we contacted the merchant on your behalf and asked them to either provide an explanation or issue a credit for you.

In response to our inquiry, the merchant has provided us with the copy of signed charge receipt indicating your account has been charged correctly. We have attached the supporting documentation for your reference.

If you still question the charge, we request you to provide us with the documentation showing merchant overcharged. In absence of this documentation, we will not be able to represent your claim and investigate further.

Therefore, the amount under review has been reapplied to your account and will appear on your upcoming statement.

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to serve you.

Sincerely,

American Express Customer Care

The receipt is the exact same as above. Some paper pusher at Amex decided he doesn’t have to actually read a dispute or its documentation.

Now I know there is no way I can lose this dispute, but my faith in American Express as a company is shattered. I spent some time talking to an employee, re-filed the dispute and 10 mins later it was closed again in the merchant’s favor. I restarted another chat, this time with a ‘Harris’, some rude idiot who lost his cool after I told him I am not going on a 3 way call for something as crystal clear as this. This ‘Harris’ which I am sure is a fake name and some Indian call center is handling this then started to apologize. I am also Indian, but its so hard to talk to someone in a call center who doesn’t understand customer and company dynamics. Anyway, need to clear the air with his supervisor now. Posting this for posterity about how bad American Express customer care is.


Aug 30

Loyal readers would remember me ranting about the shoddy treatment meted to me by Gamestop and how they arbitrarily disabled a Giftcard I had purchased from cardpool. Guess what ? One letter from my state Attorney General’s office and they quickly backtracked :

 

image

 

So the lesson here is to never take things like these lying down. There are enough agencies here to protect consumer rights, use them !


May 20

gamestopcheats[4]

 

I am boiling with rage right now, the reason being the scum of the earth company called GameStop. Their dwindling stock price should be a good indicator of the inherent value they provide to customers. However my story is more retail than fundamentals.

Here is the gist of it. I needed to purchase some stuff of GameStop, as I normally do I got a discounted gift card (around $300) for GameStop from Cardpool and went on my merry way to make a purchase at the local store. I have done this many times before however this time it was going to be a bit different. As I went to the checkout counter the young lady there told me she had to ‘call it in’. Wait, was I at a GameStop or at a traffic stop, law enforcement usually uses terms like ‘call it in’. Being Indian, I am used to some level of discrimination, so I pretended to not mind and waited as the agent talked to someone on the line and boy she was in no hurry to resolve the matter. After a few jokes she hung up and looked at me. What she said next totally shocked me, she told me she couldn’t accept the gift card as it had been issued to someone else.

That makes absolutely no sense. Gift cards are by nature transferable and are like cash. The gift card I had also said nothing about any such terms. She told me there is nothing she could do and they have further frozen the gift card (WTF!). She further asked me to contact customer service.

I went home and I contacted customer service, waited a couple of days and got no response. Shitty service indicator number 1. I then filed a BBB complaint against this company and finally got a response, Here are their replies in their full glory :

Gamestop Response 1 :

On behalf of GameStop, we apologize for this poor experience in association with our company. 
After further research into this issue I have verified that the information you have provided does not match the information with the trade transaction.  We will only be able to speak with the owner of the account used on the trade transaction.
If you have additional questions, I am here for you.

Shilo | Guest Care Support Associate | GameStop | Service Matters

Service matters is their slogan, how ironical. How about unethically and illegally making money from unsuspecting customers.

My Response  :

 

Gift cards are transferable entities, if someone trades with GameStop and gets a gift card it does not mean that he has forever wagered his/her soul to Gamestop and must use it. He/She is able to sell the gift card and I purchased one such gift card. Its not a credit card or a debit card.

Then things got a little too personal, GameStop apparently wanted me to establish a chain of ownership to the person who 1st had the card. A good analogy is every time you use a $20 bill, you must establish a chain of ownership to the 1st person who was issued the bill. That’s obviously ridiculous. Gift cards are like cash, almost every gift card says its like cash. Anyway, this is how they responded :

GameStop Response 2 :

 

On behalf of GameStop, we apologize for this poor experience in association with our company. 
As you have stated this gift card was not purchased or obtained from GameStop.  You will need to contact Card Pool about this issue.

If card pool can provide proof of them purchasing the card from the previous customer and then sold the item to you we will be able to resolve the issue by providing a new card to you.

If you have additional questions, I am here for you.

Now to those who say this is reasonable, think of it this way, what if the gift card has changed multiple owners. Also, why would card pool ever reveal who they bought the card from, it would be a breach of privacy for the original seller.

Dear Shilo from GameStop ends with : “If you have additional questions, I am here for you. “

I did have a few more questions and points :

My Response  2 :

Do all gift cards sold by GameStop need to have change of ownership reported to GameStop ? Now you are just making up rules. The reality is that your associate who felt she was being super diligent committed an error in judgment possibly due to my race ? Your overzealous associate on the phone went ahead and disabled the card at his/her end just because he didn’t want a large transaction to go through. The store clerk actually said she had to ‘call it in’ a terminology which law enforcement uses kind of getting to my point of overzealous-ness again.

Even though I had possession of the gift card and had purchased it legally, GameStop went ahead and disabled it without having any legal basis to do so. Gift cards are like cash and unless reported lost or stolen this suo-moto action of GameStop is most definitely illegal. Its a legal debt to the person with the possession of the gift card.

Like I said, I am under no compulsion to ask cardpool or to give my information to you, you have the burden of proof to show the gift card was stolen or obtained by illegal means. By not allowing me to use a legal debt like a gift card GameStop is the company which needs to provide clarifications and not me.

I will be sure to report this matter to my state’s AG office as its obviously illegal and also use the social media to spread the message.

And they never replied back.

True to my word I filed complaints with the FTC as they regulate gift cards and also complained to the Washington state attorney general. I would have sued them in small claims but looks like Cardpool will be refunding my money. If someone else had a similar experience, let me know, maybe we can get a class action lawyer to take this up if we have enough victims. Making consumers prove the ownership trail for store Gift cards is moronic to say the least.

Conclusion

I am going to wait for their response to the WA State Attorney General, hopefully their legal department would be smart enough to see their snafu. Imagine how much money Gamestop will start amassing by introducing this arbitrary rule and then just freezing gift cards. I am safe thanks to card pool, but you may purchase a GC from a friend or a colleague and then GameStop will just freeze it and steal the money.


Feb 25

After having moved to America, I admired few things as much as the Starbuck’s loyalty program. Basically you earned a star for every visit to a Starbucks store and it took 30 stars to reach gold status. After you reach gold status, you would get a free drink every 12 stars.  It was nothing great especially when you consider that McDonald’s McCafe has a 5 drink punch card system. However it usually worked as Starbucks would often send out mailers with bonus stars etc.

Last week Starbucks announced far reaching changes to the program which reward only high spenders and make it exceedingly hard for tall/short coffee drinkers to get free drinks. As an example, if you spent $4 on an average on coffee, even without any bonus starts it would take you just $48 to get a free drink or a snack. An OK deal, not too good, but more importantly not too bad either. However under the new rewards program you would earn 2 stars for every dollar you spend. So $48 only gets you 96 stars which is short of the free drink. You must spend $62.5 to get the 125 stars needed for a free drink now. Ofcourse if you have a ton of money and didnt need the occasional free coffee anyway, the Starbucks program rewards you. When people sais they want more stars, this is definitely not what they meant. However that’s the stupid PR spin given to the change by Starbucks.

Here is an infographic showing the changes (ownership is with starbucks, please ignore copyright statement on this) :

image

Also worth noting is that the program sucks even more for new customers. Earlier on an average it would cost you $120 to become a gold customer, however now you would need to spend $150 to become gold and then spend an additional $62.5 to get a free coffee. A net expenditure of $212.5 .

What can I do to stop this change ?

Starbucks is spending big bucks to advertise this change, however there is already ton of social media backlash. You should voice your concerns online and email Starbucks about the change. Also you can call Starbucks and ask them for a refund of your gift cards since they have significantly devalued the program. This should tell Starbucks that it’s customers don’t appreciate the changes and force them to do a rethink.


Jan 03

Update : Working with MyProtein management, we have been able to resolve the issue.

This is not a Myprotein.com review, this is my horror story with this so called store with an extreme lack of customer service. I had placed on order with these guys on October 3rd 2015 (or so). For 2 months I heard nothing about my order, no shipment was sent. Then suddenly on 6th December (or so), they charge my credit card and tell me my order is processing. What the hell ?

So I write them a polite letter to cancel the order, I don’t like receiving items 2 months late. They say its shipped and sure enough I need to reship it back and they tell me that they would pay return shipping upto a certain value. Not wanting to pay out of pocket, I refuse the delivery with Fedex and send the package back. The package is processed by Fedex and sent back to them.

image

Its received by someone named Aschultz on 18th December 2015.

image

Since then they have been playing email tag with me. First they told me that the refund would be processed once they got their package back. It was strange that I had refused delivery but still they wanted me to wait, but I went ahead. After receiving the package back on 18th, they are just pretending to have not received it. Waiting for confirmation from their warehouse they say. Sending emails or trying to reason with them is like banging your head against a brick wall. The customer care just keeps responding with the same shit.

Please be advised that this refused delivery will now be returned to sender, once it has successfully been processed back we can issue you your refund.

I am sorry to advised that we are unable to process a refund or a replacement as the order is showing as not being returned, the details have now been passed to our warehouse to get this checked and someone will be in touch shortly.

Once we do get this order processed back at our Warehouse a full refund will be issued for you.

I am sorry for any frustration you are feeling, however we have not yet received confirmation from our warehouse that this order has been returned to us, therefore we would be unable to process a refund for you just yet.

Even after the order was received, they lied that its in transit to them :

Plesae (sic) be advised that this order is still showing as in transit to back to us. As soon as this has been back processed we will initiate your refund.

So I am writing this post with 2 objectives, one is to force them to do the right thing and refund my money and the second is to warn people about doing new business with them. Like I said, I havent met a more customer unfriendly business in the United States ever.

I have tried everything from writing a review on their linked website Trustpilot to tryng to escalate to tryng to reason. This company is shameless and possibly the most customer unfriendly company I have ever encountered in the US.