The $130 piece of cake

Near the end of work last Friday, one of my co-workers sent out an email offering luxury suite tickets to the LA Kings hockey game Saturday night.  Since I haven’t yet been to an event at Staples Center (or an NHL game) and it was an opportunity to see a game from a luxury suite, I grabbed two of the tickets.

So on Saturday, a friend and I went to the game.  One of the perks (as described by one of my roommates) of the luxury suites, is the dessert cart that goes around to all the suites.  When it came around, I asked my friend if she wanted something, which she did.  A decent sized slice of a “S’Mores” Cake.  Prior to the game, I had stopped at an ATM to get some cash…just in case we wanted something from concessions.  Of course, since I was prepared with cash, the cart didn’t take cash…only cards.  So I gave the guy my debit card and he authorized it (and I signed) for $9.98.  A little spendy…but it was a decent sized slice of cake.  Anyway, the game went on…the Kings beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3…and I took my friend home.

Sunday night, I’m out checking out a different friends artwork at a gallery opening and I get a call from my credit union.  They are calling to check about possible fraudulent activity on my card.  There are two charges on my card for Saturday night from Levy Restaurants @ Staples Center.  One is the pre-authorization of $9.98…the other was a settled charge of $130.11.  I explain to the person on the phone that I had authorized $9.98, but not the $130.11.  They told me that since it was a merchant dispute, I’d have to contact the credit union during regular business hours to dispute it.  When I get home and look at the receipt (to see if there is any contact info)…the phone number listed is 310-XXX-XXXX.  Looking online, comes up empty as well (only a corporate office number in Chicago).

Monday morning, I call into the credit union as soon as they open at 8.30am.  I get told by the phone representative that I need to fill out a form and fax it in.  I do this, and call back about 45 minutes later to verify receipt of the fax and to see when a credit will be processed.  This second rep is not able to verify receipt of the fax (just that it wasn’t sitting on the fax machine) and tells me that it could take up to 5 business days to process a provisional credit.  I tell the rep that it is unacceptable and that I’d like to speak to someone higher up.  The rep transfers me to voice mail of the Manager of Central Operations “Tom” and I leave a message requesting a call back today.

Before lunch, I still haven’t heard back, so I call again and this time I’m transferred to the voice mail of Sylvia, apparently the only person that processes these disputes.  Again, I leave a message requesting a call back today.

I call back again after lunch, talk to a different phone rep, ask for a supervisor and again get transferred to Tom’s voice mail.  I leave a second message.

Having not heard anything yet, around 3pm I call again.  This time the phone rep tells me that I’ve filled out the wrong form.  I press the phone rep, “Are you sure this is the right form?” as she seemed a little unsure.  I even asked if I could speak with someone who would know for sure.  After a few “hmms,” she decides that I do have the right form and lets me know to fax it in (to a different fax number that goes straight to Sylvia).  I do this, requesting a phone call for confirmation upon receipt of the fax.

Having still not hearing anything, and business hours coming to an end, I call again around 4pm.  I end up getting the same phone rep that I had talked to around 3pm.  She informs me that actually she told me the wrong thing…and it is a yet a different from I need to fill out.  I ask to speak to a supervisor but am not transferred.  Instead she suggests that I fax this new from to both the Sylvia fax number and her supervisor (who might be able to issue a provisional credit).  Again, on the fax cover sheet I request a phone call confirming receipt and I also express my frustration with the service provided today, which is causing me to seriously consider finding a new credit union.

Of course I do not get a confirmation call.  So when I leave work, I call again.  This time the phone rep does confirm that the supervisor received the fax (though doesn’t confirm Sylvia received it).  By then the business day is almost over and I’m pretty much out of options for the day.

Later in the evening, I file a complaint about Levy Restaurants at Staples Center with the BBB.  I also write down my notes for a letter to the President/CEO of the credit union.  I decide to wait until Tuesday to actually write the letter though (because I was so frustrated Monday night).  Below the cut, I’ll paste the letter I submitted and his response.  As of now, besides his email response, the issue has not been resolved and I have not been contacted by anyone from credit union.

**update 3:59pm**
Just received a voice mail from the credit union.  They apologized for the issues and want me to call back.  So once I get out of work, I’ll call back and talk to them (I’ve got a direct number this time.  In the meantime…a provisional credit has been issued.  That credit will likely be reduced by the original amount authorized once Levy @ Staples responds…but whatever.

**update #2 5:10pm**
Talked to Sandy from the credit union.  Says part of the problem was a training issue and she’ll work on correcting that.  Apologized for the frustration they caused.  They’ll keep me up to date with any news from Levy @ Staples.


Dear Mr. Bruen,

I am writing about my experience recently trying to resolve an
unauthorized/incorrect charge to my debit card.  On Sunday 11/9/08, I
was contacted by the credit union regarding possible fraudulent
activity on my debit card.  After talking to the person on the phone, I
determined that my card had been overcharged approximately $120 than I
had authorized.  I was told that it would need to be disputed, and they
would be unable to do anything until Monday morning.

Monday morning I called the credit union and spoke to a phone
representative.  They directed me to fill out the AFFIDAVIT
UNAUTHORIZED ACH ACTIVITY form and fax it in to (323) 851-0383.  I
filled out this form and faxed it in at 8:44am.  After about 45
minutes, I called the credit union again, to verify that the fax had
been received.  I could get no real answer and was eventually
transferred to “Tom” a manager of central operations, where I left a
voice mail requesting a call back.  I was also told to check back after
lunch.  After calling back a couple more times, where I left messages
on voice mail for Sylvia (who apparently is the only one that processes
these forms) and a second message for Tom, I was informed by another
phone representative that I had filled out the wrong form.  I was then
directed to fill out the FRAUDULENT TRANSACTION form and fax it in.  I
faxed this to the number on the form at 3:02pm, along with the receipt
showing the correct transaction amount.  On my cover sheet for the fax
I requested a confirmation of receipt via phone.  I waited
approximately a half hour before calling back.  This time I was
informed that again I was told the wrong form to fill out.  In fact I
needed to fill out the OTHER DISPUTED TRANSACTION form.  This I faxed
(along with a copy of the receipt showing the correct transaction
amount) at 4:03pm to both the number on the form (Sylvia) and to Patty
Roberts the manager of the phone rep.  Again, I requested a phone call
to confirm receipt of the fax.  Again, I received no confirmation.

The issue that is most troubling to me is that I was told that it would
take up to 5 business days to be issued a provisional credit…in part
partially because there is only one person processing these cases.  I
find this unacceptable.  There has got to be a quicker way, to at least
provide a provisional credit.  As it is, because of an error out of my
control, I have no available funds to spend, and if the original
“correct” transaction goes through, could even be overdrawn.  I work
hard to make sure that I always have funds available for my
transactions and this experience has been very frustrating for me.

Every time I contacted the credit union on Monday, I felt as if I was
getting the run around.  Right now, I am seriously considering looking
for a new place to bank. I find it incredible that there is no faster
way to dispute a fraudulent/incorrect debit charge than 5 Business days.

Sincerely,
Ryan D Gillespie

**********

his response (which came later in the day on Tuesday…a bank holiday):

I’ve received your email.  Thank you for sharing your
experience.  I apologize for the situation and understand your concern.
 The Credit Union is closed today.  I’ll direct or VP Operations to
look into the matter and respond to you soon.

Regards,

Charles Bruen
President/CEO
First Entertainment Credit Union

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