Sunday, November 30, 2008

My pal Citibank

My credit card company hates me. And that's the way I like it.

In speaking about my credit card company - Citibank to be exact - you would normally see numerous profanities throughout this entry. About how those bleeping, sons of bleeps are always trying to bleep with you every chance they get. I'll try my best to keep this G-Rated.

One of my goals in life is to NEVER let them take my money. It's like a big game - we are all rats in their maze and you have to pay attention to EVERYTHING in order to get out of there with all the money you started with. You also need persistence, endurance and the resolve of a Samurai warrior to NEVER surrender.

Citibank enticed me to sign up for another card with them. They offered me 5,000 extra airline miles and 1.2 airline miles per $1 of purchases for one year. My normal Citibank card offers 1 airline mile per $1. So I signed up for the new card. I will use it for a year, get all the extra airline miles that I can and then cancel it.

The very second after I signed up for this new card, the games began. They grabbed my squirming, fur-covered body and dropped me into the maze.


My new card gets mailed to me and I have to call a number to activate it. Oh, but they have so much more than activation on their minds. The guy on the other end of the line - we'll call him Joe - has that warm, smooth voice. It is deep and masculine, yet soft and soothing. You want him to read you bedtime stories. He thanks me for being a cardmember and welcomes me to the American Express family. Gee, thanks Joe.

Joe really, really wants me to sign up for their Credit Protection Program. I really, really don't want them charging me money every month for something I don't need. I say no. Joe thinks I mean maybe.

Joe is not pushy. He just recites the program benefits again, lulling me into a sweet stupor with that mellifluous voice of his. I am putty in his hands. He goes in for the kill. He offers me a $15 Amex gift card just to sign up for the free 30 -day trial. He says, "What I tell MY customers to do....." I am HIS customer! Oh, Joe - you had me at "May I have your credit card account number, please."

I do it. I sign up for the free 30-day trial. What Joe doesn't know is that I most certainly WILL call to cancel before the 30 days runs out. I will take their $15 from them and buy toilet paper at Target.


I get the Credit Protection Program materials in the mail. There is no $15 Amex gift card. Joe, how could you?! Oh, the betrayal! Instead of the $15 Amex gift card, there is a redemption certificate to fill out and mail to them so that they can send me the gift card in 6-8 weeks.

Joe has messed with the wrong woman. I will not surrender that easily. I fill out their redemption certificate and mail it in. They have forced me to spend 42 cents on a stamp, but that is all they will get from me.

My next step is to call to cancel the Credit Protection Program. This time I get the Anti-Joe. The woman on the phone is so robotic in her answers and devoid of any real human emotion that I wonder if she is some digital Citibank Customer Service Bot. But no. I'm sure they would have programmed at least some fake personality into a customer service robot.

I tell Robot Woman that I want to cancel. She answers by reading off her screen in a flat, stilted, monotone voice:
I am sorry to hear that you want to cancel. In these difficult, economic times, this protection is needed more than ever. Would you like to reconsider and continue this protection?
I say no. Robot Woman says:
I can understand that cost might be a concern. Can I get you to reconsider with our lower cost program that still provides the same 16 benefits of the other program?
I say no. I don't want it, don't need it and will not pay for it no matter what the cost.

Robot Woman then wants to offer me $50 in MasterCard gift cards for continuing the service. Where have I heard that before? I was just starting to get over Joe's betrayal and she has to bring it up again. (Sigh....why Joe? Why?!)

Fifty dollars is a lot of money, but I never forget that I am in their maze and I listen to exactly how she phrases it. They will send me the $50 in MasterCard gift cards if I keep the Credit Protection Program open UNTIL I RECEIVE the MasterCard gift cards. In other words, they'll be happy to charge me $20 a month for the next 6 months while they take their time sending me these so-called MasterCard gift cards worth $50.

I say no and she starts again to try to convince me otherwise. I cut her off and say I do not want it and I want to cancel. I can almost see the computer screen in front of her as she switches from Try to Convince Them Screen #18 to the Give It Up and Get Rid of Them So You Can Take Another Call Screen #23. She quickly reads to me the wrap it up monologue:
Fine! Whatever! We'll cancel you and stuff, but don't think we won't try again to wrap you in our web of financial trickery. Your cancellation will take effect in 2 days. Thank you for calling. Really, we mean that. THANK YOU.


I know how much you are wishing this was the end of the story, but it is not. I got my first statement for this new credit card and there is a big, fat $50 annual fee on it. The offer for this credit card clearly stated that there would be no annual fee. The only reason I know that the offer had no annual fee was because I saved the original credit card offer. Who saves those things? I do.

And in telling this story, I just realized what my superpower is. Not super human strength or the ability to fly or be invisible. My superpower is Super Financial Organizational Skills! In other words, I am a Super Nerd. That is the only reason I am able to go through their maze and come out alive. Mere mortals could never withstand the barrage of minutia and inscrutable fine print or the endless follow up phone calls to soulless Citibank Cyborgs. Give me a calculator and a obsessively exact filing system and no one can stop me!

I call them up. This time I get a relatively normal sounding woman. She's no Joe (sigh) but she seems to be more human than Robot Woman. I tell her that my credit card offer stated that I would have no annual fee. She looks at a few things and then says she has to put me on hold for a moment.

She comes back and tells me that her manager is going to let her waive the annual fee. LET HER? As if they are doing me some huge favor. As if they weren't deliberately trying to screw me out of $50 by charging it in the first place.

She tells me that the $50 will be credited to my account within 3 days. And then, no kidding, she asks me if I am interested in signing up for their Credit Protection Program.

No thank you.

NO! Thank YOU!


Bethany said...

Oh my gosh, you tell a good yarn girlfriend. Thanks for taking the time to write this out. It read like a fast paced mystery novel and got me all tense and also laughing! Great job!!!!
I'm proud of you.
But you're right, mere mortals would've perished at the first sound of sweet Joe.

Anne Leddy said...

I hate these credit card companies. I never believe a word they say and they will not entrap me ever again.