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Thursday, May 21, 2009
In the Age of Google, this is no way to run a business - Capital One edition
IN LIGHT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA's attack on credit card usury, I repost the following, originally written 6 weeks ago.
CAPITAL ONE sent me another of those credit card offers that try to entice you with an interest-free 6 or 12 month balance transfer and I signed up. When the card came, it had a $1,000 limit, and I called them to say that if they didn't raise that significantly I wasn't going to activate the card. They started a song and dance that I didn't have time for and I told them not to activate my card unless I called back.
A week later, I got a $39 bill for Capital One's "membership fee," with a notice that $15 was due immediately (or else they would give me a $39 late fee, for a $78 charge on a card with no balance on it - the late fee would also cancel any free balance transfer and start an obscenely high interest rate). I called Capital One when I had more time and told them that I wasn't paying the membership fee and activating the card unless they raised the balance limit significantly. Another song and dance started, this time after I was transferred to a supervisor.
"What limit would you like?" the supervisor asked. "Are you looking for flexibility?"
"I don't know what that means," I said, "I'd like to know the highest limit you'll give me."
Twice more, she asked if I'd like more "flexibility," without explaining what that means in the context of a credit card. Twice more I said I'd like to know the highest limit they would give me. Then she disclosed that she couldn't tell me that without activating the card and the membership fee. I told her no other credit card company had ever said that to me.
"Well if you won't tell me what you want, I'll just deactivate this card," she snipped.
I had told her what I wanted, and the card wasn't activated. This was clearly a game to try to get me to sign on the dotted line. We agreed to disagree and to not activate the card.
The next morning, Saturday morning, a caller from a number unknown to me called my cellphone, without leaving a message. I called the number on the Caller ID and was greeted by Capital One Customer Service.
They were presumably calling to ask me why I wasn't activating the card, and maybe they would have given me a better deal. But I'll never know, because they said they wouldn't talk to me unless I gave them my social security number. I thought I probably was talking to Capital One, but I didn't know that for sure, since all I had done was hit "Call Back" on my phone. I didn't give them my social security number (which they wouldn't have asked for if I had been in when they called me) and that was the end of that.
The founder and CEO of Capital One is a fellow Boomer who also serves on the Board of MasterCard International and is a member of the Stanford Business School Advisory Council. He has been awarded Washingtonian’s "Business Leader of the Year", Worth’s list of the top 10 CEOs and "50 Best CEOs", and Future Banker’s list of "influential personalities in financial services." It's embarrassing that my generation thinks this is a smart way to run a business. It's only a step or two above Nigerian emails.
May 21, 2009 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink
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Thanks for sharing. It is useful for me.
Posted by: Alex at May 6, 2009 12:42:24 PM
John, this is why the credit card industry needs as much regulation as banking. It is out of control, especially on the various ways it extorts fees from unsuspecting users. I shred probably 3-5 unsolicited offers weekly. Thanks for this expose', although you probably need to make it a "Note" on FB.
Posted by: Lucy Rowland at Jun 25, 2009 5:31:25 PM
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