PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA – Part 3: I want my treasure back!! (Please)
What are my rights in the situation that I summarized in my previous article: “PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA: My Treasure Is Taken!“? Well, the answer is very simple. I have a contractual right to get my treasure back. I also have a right to fair, honest, and ethical treatment.
In this third part of my personal “PIRATES OF THE CREDIT SEA” saga with Citibank, I make a reasoned, written appeal to the Citibank executive whom I believe is in charge of Citibank’s Jacksonville, Florida credit card operations. In doing so, I received my first evidence of Citibank’s “customer service” stone wall and intransigence. I also received more evidence of Citibank’s administrative incompetence regarding my credit card account.
Okay, Citibank had decided to refund two months of their excessive interest rate charges and had reset my loan interest rate for the 32.31% default interest rate back to the 2.99% special interest rate. Resetting the interest rate did not matter, because my wire transfer had paid the loan balance in full. I no longer owed anything to Citibank on this credit card account. Instead, they owed me.
However, Citibank was still holding on to 4 more months of excessive and unjustified default interest rate charges. I knew that I had to write a letter to recover my treasure. The only name I had was Citibank Vice President and General Manager, Julie A. Garry. I thought that if I explained the situation to her, she would be reasonable, and see that Citibank had made mistakes in putting my account into default.
I wrote a polite and detailed five page letter to Ms. Garry explaining the situation. Three pages of this letter provided a chronology of events over the past year, which clearly demonstrated my continuing adherence to the terms of the credit card agreement. (See Part #1 for a summary of these events.)
Two weeks later, I received a cryptic letter signed by an “S. Larson” of Customer Service. We had had other communications previously from S. Larson, when we tried unsuccessfully for four months last year to set up automatic payments on this account. This S. Larson informed me that “after further review, we have determined that your account is not eligible for a credit of the finance charges.” That was it. There was no explanation of why Citibank was justified in having done what it did. Those 19 words erased all the goodwill that I had personally built up in carrying my AT&T Universal Card for over 15 years.
(While Citibank did this, I have to keep reminding myself that AT&T is not an active party to this, even though AT&T’s brand is all over the written communications about this credit card. Without careful examination, most people would conclude that these were AT&T’s policies, because this is an AT&T “affinity” credit card that I have had for about 15 years as a “charter member”.)
By the way, I said in Part 1 that I would give any person involved in this saga who was not a VP or higher, a pseudonym like “Deckhand Moe” or “First Mate Shemp.” However, I will use the name S. Larson, because I have found out that most, if not all, letters to customers from Citibank’s Customer Service Operation are signed by S. Larson in typeface with a human signature script underneath. I have also found out that this credit card operation has 30,000 employees. That is a lot of S. Larson letters.
In talking to “First Mate Shemp” at Citibank, I learned that S. Larson is not even flesh and blood, despite the human signature. My wife had corresponded with S. Larson several times in her efforts to set up the failed automated payments that lead us into this mess. My wife thought she was dealing with a human being. It turns out that my wife was corresponding with a machine — and not a very competent one at that. From here on, I will call this the “S. Larson machine,” which I have come to understand is just a part of Citibank’s computer infrastructure. It appears that the S. Larson machine is not very accurate.
The remaining few sentences of this rejection letter from the S. Larson machine said that I could use my credit balance “towards future purchases or cash advances,” or I could “request that a refund check be sent” to me. This part of the Citibank appeal rejection letter was very curious to me. I had written a thoughtful and detailed letter to Julie A. Garry, Vice President and General Manager. (I still believe that Ms. Garry is a human being, but I cannot be 100% certain at this point, because I have not heard back from her.)
The letter I wrote had taken my valuable time, and I had made an effort to be clear, informative, and accurate. I attempted to provide Ms. Garry with that information that I thought would aid her in her decision, once she verified the facts that I had supplied. I did not really believe necessarily that Ms. Garry would personally review my appeal, but I did expect that she might delegate the matter to a subordinate who would deal with my case fairly and competently.
I really do hope that a competent human being actually did review my appeal letter to reach Citibank’s decision. However, I have no clue about what actually transpired in Citibank’s decision process. When any company says “no” without explanation in response to a reasoned and factual letter, it is easy for an outsider/customer to conclude that they either do not have a good reason to say no or that they just do not care.
In response to my efforts to appeal, apparently a machine had written back to me. In doing so, this Citibank S. Larson machine had determined that I was not eligible for a refund. However, the S. Larson machine also told me that I had a substantial positive credit balance in my account (which was for Citibank’s refund of two month of excessive default interest rate charges). The S. Larson machine also wrote that I could make future purchases or even get a cash advance for this credit balance by using my AT&T Universal credit card.
Now, this does seem like rather odd advice, since Vice President Garry had written to me twice about a year ago to tell me that all AT&T Universal accounts were closed and that I could NOT make any further purchases, and I could NOT get any cash advances on my card. I doubted the truth of what the S. Larson machine had written to me, but the S. Larson machine had chosen print this cryptic rejection letter and this apparently bad advice on “AT&T Universal Card” letterhead. Apparently, the S. Larson machine was giving me directives specifically for the AT&T Universal card and not just any generic Citibank credit card. Citibank was telling me to do things that contradicted their prior written instructions. At a minimum in my situation and opinion, I have come to believe that Citibank’s credit card operations have demonstrated evidence of repeated incompetence.
So, what really is true? Has my closed AT&T Universal card account really been reopened for charges and cash advances? Had any competent human being at Citibank really reviewed any of the particulars of my appeal in good faith? Or, had somebody just said: “not – within – the – 60 – day – Fair – Credit – Billing – Act – window — hit – the – S. – Larson – machine – reject – button — no – explanation – required — (and perhaps) — the – facts – of – the – matter – are – not – relevant.”
Having lost all faith in Citibank. Therefore, I took the third point of advice from the S. Larson machine’s letter about what to do with my credit card balance. I wrote to get a partial refund of my money. While I still expect to recover the rest of my treasure, I no longer even have any faith that Citibank will keep to its stated agreement to refund the credit balance that they say that I already have. In my letter requesting a partial credit payout, I asked that Citibank’s credit card operations to leave a credit balance on the account of $18.17. It will be interesting to see whether Citibank will be able to execute this refund, as I have requested.