Problems With American Airlines Credit Card

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This post is going to be bit of rant, due to very poor customer service. Many people probably don't like reading rants, but in extreme cases (like this one), I find it necessary to document the case for those interested. Maybe it just makes me feel better that someone from the company may see it and offer to fix their service.

On Saturday, my wife was looking at her American Airlines Credit Card bill. We are going to a convention in March and she purchased the American Airlines tickets with the card. As you might imagine, this is one of the ways of earning more miles. The statement had an obvious problem - no miles earned from travel purchases. "How can this be?" she asked me. I told her it clearly looks like an error.

Having a little extra time on Saturday, she decided to call the credit card and get to the bottom of it. I thought this was destined to go poorly. Credit cards seem to be getting squeezed nowadays and I didn't have high hopes that they were putting money into having the best customer service representatives available on a Saturday. I thought she was lucky to get anyone on the line to be honest.

That's where the problems started. I may be wrong on some of the details, because I simply may have lost track after awhile. The first credit card person couldn't answer my wife's question, so she transferred her to another credit card person. After my wife explained the story again, the person said that she needs to talk to American Airlines about it. (I thought this was a bovine excrement excuse because the statement clearly says the purchase was from American Airlines.) So my wife got transferred to American Airlines and explained the problem once again. This customer service person, probably more used to hearing people looking to book flights than field calls about credit cards, sent my wife to the only place that made sense to her - the American Airlines card membership application program. Of course they are not set up to help someone who already has an AA credit card. So this is a dead-end.

She starts over with the credit card company and the chain of calls repeats itself. This time they transfer her faster before she can explain that she's been through this. Starting off the conversation with "this is the 6th time I've been transferred, so please don't transfer me to [fill in the last place she was at] doesn't seem to help." At this point, I decided to give her advice. Standard stuff like, "Make sure the call is recorded in the call log and get a reference number. This way so if you get disconnected or transferred you can come back to where you were in the chain."

It really was a perfect blame game situation. The credit card company can blame the airline for not coding the purchase right. The airline can claim that they don't know what's going on at the credit card company. I suggest that she try to conference them all, but of course neither party will accept that solution - even if we are using our own phone to conference. It becomes clear to me that this is one of those fun customer service situations where you caught in the middle of two sides that won't talk to each other. By this time, my wife is nearly in tears. Though the situation is annoying enough to warrant tears, I'm starting to wonder if it's compounded by thoughts of how my wife is occasionally caught in the middle of a communication battle with her two divorced parents.

I'm getting ready to intervene and offer to try to get it resolved myself, when she tries one last call to the credit card company. This last call says that the statement appears to be in error and she deserves those miles. The statement is supposed to be fixed as I'm writing this. If it's not, I'm going to have to suggest the "We've had this credit card for years and are a frequent customer of yours. What are you going to do to make me happy?" response. We'll see how that goes if it comes to it.

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Posted on February 11, 2009.

Major League Baseball and The Onion of Evil

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I made fairly sizable purchase last Friday. I called up Comcast, my cable operator and said, "Yes, I'd like to sign up for the MLB Extra Innings package." My wife and I will pay $160 to watch the next six month of our favorite team, the Boston Red Sox from our San Francisco area home. It hurts me to spend money like this. It seems like living in a different location shouldn't prevent you from seeing your favorite team. Alas, that's the way things work today and I have to live with it. I imagine that in 5 or 10 years this business model will go the way of music stores like Tower Records.

There are a few options for Major League Baseball fans living away from their favorite teams:

  • Slingbox - We have a Slingbox back home, but there have been lots of technical problems getting it work with Verizon's FIOS service. It's partially Verizon having a complicated procedure for adding new televisions and partially the wiring of my friend's house. It's at the point where I've become too much of a burden to him and have dropped the subject.
  • MLB Extra Innings - This is the way we went. You give the cable operator or DirecTV $160 (or $200 if you don't get their early bird special) and you get a set of channels with a bunch of baseball games. If you have the Dish Network, you don't have this option, they weren't able to reach a deal with Major League Baseball this year.
  • MLB.TV - This is an option for those who want to stream the games over the Internet. One of the pluses is that you can get a monthly subscription rather than buying a whole season. The price is a more reasonable $120 a year. You are reduced to watching it on a computer or hooking up your computer to your TV. However, the biggest negative is that MLB likes to steal your money or at least they liked to steal mine.
  • Streaming P2P services - I'm not sure these are legal and I bet the quality isn't the best. Still I've heard of people using Sopcast and/or TVAnts to watch games. I don't really consider this an option, but I'm adding it here for completeness.

On Saturday morning my wife and I woke up excited to watch the game while we do a little Spring cleaning (because of the time zone difference, it's only 10 o'clock). We turn on the TV and go to our new channels and see that they are showing only four of the days 12 games - all starting at 7PM. I think that's very odd since there were currently 6 or 7 games in progress.

I called up Comcast. It takes me about 20 minutes to explain to two people that I have no service problems, but an issue with the programming (or lack thereof) being offered. I get put on hold for a quite awhile and as the call approaches it's one-hour mark, they direct me to InDemand's MLB Extra Innings website. It seems that the program is their issue and not Comcast's. I buy that, and the Comcast person is nice enough to give me a phone number for their offices. Of course InDemand's offices aren't open on the weekend.

I eventually got routed back to Comcast where I found someone who actually watches baseball. This is helpful because I'm fairly sure the other Comcast reps believed no baseball was being played at the time. He found some fine print about the MLB Extra Innings not being able to carry games during Fox's or ESPN's Game of the Week. Well, Fox didn't have game on, so that couldn't be it. Wait, looking through my TV guide, they are showing a game at 12:30. So that explains it...

Major League Baseball is paid a lot of money by Fox and ESPN to not show the other games at the same time on that service. It's a fairly stupid thing, but I've never once thought, "The Red Sox game isn't on, I'll watch the Dodgers/Padres." I'd guess that few people don't have that thought either. If people are willing to pay $160-$200 to "follow your favorite teams" and "get access to ALL the hard-hitting, base-stealing action.", they don't care about the game of the week.

It's at this point where I decided to look at the MLB.TV service again. They claim "April - September: WATCH and LISTEN to every regular season out-of-market game" as well as "WATCH every 2008 regular season out-of-market game LIVE or on-demand." Eureka! So this how I can watch the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday when they are not the Game of The Week - "every game" means every game right? There are no asterisks or footnote markets next to those claims. Scroll down the screen and in the smallest, lightest gray text they can manage, they mention that the service is subject to the same Fox/ESPN blackout.

At this point, the Red Sox game was nearly over. They were losing 10-2 and my frustration came to a head. I explained the situation to my wife, who can't get over the fact that we paid $160 for most, but not all of the games that we got for free in Boston. The best I could do is say that Major League Baseball is an onion of bovine excrement - you pull off one layer and there's another layer beneath it.

Of course as long as they draw such strong feelings from me (and fans like me), they will be able to continue these practices.

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Last updated on June 14, 2008.

Does Anything Come With Electronics Nowadays?

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A couple of weeks ago, I got a HP OfficeJet from Costco (similar to this model). I was a little surprised that an item that costs hundreds of dollars made a big point (a full one-foot sq sticker) that it included it's own USB cable. I was pretty shocked by this, especially since the cost of such a cable is under three dollars on some Internet sites. The cost to the manufacturer is probably under a dollar. I realize that margins are tight on electronics, but are they so tight that they have to highlight a feature that cost them 0.03% of the amount that I'm giving them?

Just this past week, I cashed in years worth of SonyCard reward points for a Sony HandyCam. Most of the points were acquired before cash back programs were very good. I figured there'd usually be something that I could use from Sony, making it nearly as good as cash in my mind at the time.

I was excited to get a camcorder, the first I've ever had. The first thing that struck me was that it was small for camcorder that could record straight to DVD. As it was charging, I flipped through the instruction booklet. It seems that this camcorder uses a smaller version of DVDs - once that are 8cm instead of the standard 12cms. (I obviously didn't do my research, but it wasn't like I had a ton of choice - it was the best I could get with the expiring points.) The smaller discs were a disappointment as it records far less video than a regular DVD. At the top quality, I would get only 20 minutes of recording time instead of the standard DVD that gives you two hours worth.

I looked though all the included paperwork and cords and noticed that they didn't include one DVD that is required to use the video camera. A standard recordable DVD costs pennies in bulk and since Sony makes these mini-DVDs, there's no reason to think that it would cost Sony more than a fraction of a penny. They wouldn't be giving up their sales of these blank DVDs as anyone buying a camcorder is going to want to record more than a few minutes. Instead Sony decided to make a product that doesn't work out of the box. Perhaps this is the reason I'm finding that fewer and fewer of my electronics purchases come from the electronics giant.

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Last updated on August 1, 2011.

Major League Baseball Stole My Money…

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As some of my regular readers know, I'm a huge Red Sox fan (which hasn't been easy this past week), living in Northern California. If I want to see Red Sox games, I have three choices... a $160 (or so) cable subscription, a Slingbox, or MLB.TV's service to watch the games over the Internet. I've tried to get the Slingbox to work, but the cable wiring at my brother's place currently allows me to nearly every channel except for the high numbered ones that the Red Sox are on. I didn't want to invest heavily in the cable subscription - I would miss most of the games with most games starting at 4:30PM local time.

The MLB.TV service is different. At $20 a month, it's a price that I could easily justify. I particularly liked that I could try it out and not be locked into a contract. Everything sounds good so I signed up for a month. In the signing process they defaulted the "automatically renew my subscription" option. I was particularly careful to uncheck that option as I wanted to test the service for a month. Sometimes you just don't know how a streaming video is going to work.

It turns out that the service worked fairly well. It wasn't quite like watching on TV, but it was pretty good. I was a little sad when in the middle of a game on the last day of the month, the video cut out. The Red Sox had a comfortable lead, so it wasn't a big deal. With my wedding coming up the following month it made little sense to renew the subscription. I wouldn't be around to take advantage of it.

Flash forward ahead to when we get back from the wedding and I'm looking over my credit card bill. There's another charge from MLB.com for another month of service. Well this is a call for customer service. After getting a representative they confirm that I did indeed uncheck the "automatically renew my subscription" button. I started to get the satisfaction of justice being served, when the person explained that the button is to automatically renew the subscription each season, not each month. They said, I had to call up and cancel the because even if you don't check the "automatically renew", they assume that you want to each month. You have to call up and cancel specifically. They refused to refund my money.

I have a dispute in with my credit card to get them to intervene, but the representative said from the sounds of it, they'd have to take MLB's side. I'm not very optimistic in the outcome. I think the Better Business Bureau might be a better option for my complaint.

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Posted on August 13, 2007.

Why I May Never Buy a Toyota

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I went to see the new Harry Potter this weekend. My wife (a huge Harry Potter fan) and I caught an 8PM showing (an important fact) on a Saturday night. There were some decent previews, but the one thing that stuck in my mind was one commercial. It was a black and white cartoon where these "Deviants" murdered "Sheeples" in brutal ways. There were a couple of beheadings. At one point a Deviant skinned a Sheeple and wore his skin like a costume and did a little victory dance. At the end it turned out it was a commercial for a Toyota Scion.

The commercial one of the most gruesome cartoons I've seen. For this reason I won't link to it. By mentioning this, I'm giving Toyota the press they were looking for. Bad press is better than no press at all. So go ahead and watch the advertisement via YouTube or whatever. I won't link to it here, you are on your own. Ask yourself if that's what you want the kids of America watching. It's one thing to show such a commercial during a movie intended for more adult audiences, but for Harry Potter? There are ways to push a product and then there's glorifying brutal murdering and passing it off as "the cool this to do."

I think I feel stronger about this because it was an advertisement - not the form of entertainment itself. If I buy some gruesome video game or watch a horror movie, I know what I'm getting into. The strange part about my stance on this is that I'm usually the most liberal person you'll ever meet. Perhaps I'm not as liberal as I thought I was...

Aside: For those interested in a review of the movie... It was good, but it seemed like they tried to squeeze too much into a 2:20. I don't read the books, so I found I could really use a "last time on Harry Potter..." They still moved things along extremely quickly with the final battle not drawing any "goose-bump" moments that you might get from Rocky or even the first Matrix. I've gotten used to these moments watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ending of the movie could have learned quite a bit from Xander's broken yellow crayon speech.

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Posted on July 18, 2007.

How Much is Customer Service Costing You? (Part 2)

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(If you haven't already, reading part one first will be helpful. A quick summary is that I've run into a couple of customer support problems this week.)

The other problem that I've had is with my cell phone, the Palm Treo 700P. I've had Palm Treo's from when the Sprint Treo 300 came out. We are probably talking close to 6 years now. In general they are great devices. They get me out of jams whenever I'm on the road and need a little information from the Internet. They allow me to text message a lot quicker than most. They provide me with music when I'm at the gym. It's the music listening that's been giving me a problem. The audio jack on the Treo line is notoriously bad. Perhaps it's because it has to do double duty of being used for MP3 listening as well as handling a hands-free headset, I'm not sure the exact reason. The problem is that the phone gets stuck thinking that a headset is in, when it's not. Thus it routes all sound through the mic and not the receiver. This means that the only way I can talk to someone is by plugging in a headset. It is pretty well documented in the Palm forums and this TreoCentral sticky thread. Two separate entrepreneurs have even made it their business to fix this commonly occurring problem. One came up with a software fix, while the other has a hardware one. I've had the problem on every Treo I've purchased, but it usually resolves itself quickly. This time it didn't.

Happily my phone still has a month left of warranty, but it's been a nightmare trying to get it honored. I originally went to the Sprint repair store as this is what I've always done in the past. They've taken it for a few hours and tell me if there's a problem. In the past it's been very easy to get a new one once they evaluate the phone. This time they simply referred me to Palm to get the warranty taken care of. Going to Palm's website, they clearly refer you back to Sprint. It's a pretty fun game. I eventually got to Palm's warranty and started a trouble ticket with them. I then found the right person at Sprint (after getting passed through 5 different people) who made all the problems go away. Nicole authorized shipping a brand new one out to me. Now I'm supposed to send the old one back, but I haven't gotten the "return kit" yet. It's only a couple of days, but what happens if it doesn't come? Do I call up Sprint and talk with customer service again to give them back my broken device? Haven't I spent enough time at this point that I shouldn't have to chase them down to return their property?

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Last updated on August 1, 2011.

How Much is Customer Service Costing You? (Part 1)

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I'm putting the Guest Post Wednesday on hiatus for a little while.  It's kind of like the McRib sandwich.  It's good when it's around, but you can't have it all the time.  Instead, I'll ask how much time does customer service service eat up and what's it costing you?  In two parts today, I'll talk about what it's costing me.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I had mentioned how a car hit me while I was completely stopped in traffic. It was obvious to both parties (me and the little old lady) that she was 100% at fault and that her insurance would be covering the costs. Dealing with her insurance company was much easier than I thought it would be. It took about an hour of calls to set up the appraisal. The appraisal took about an hour, maybe a little more if you count the time traveling to the appraisal place. Dropping my car at the dealership and dealing with the paperwork was probably another hour and getting the rent-a-car from Enterprise was close to an hour as well. I'm rounding some things down and some things up and I'd say it really only cost me 4 hours of half a day of work to get my car repaired.

However, it was the phone call to pick up the car that seems to be the time sink. It was the auto body shop and while they had fixed the damage, someone had opened a car door into the bumper and that would have to be fixed as well. The call came on Friday the 13th to no surprise of mine. As the old insurance company wasn't at fault, they wouldn't pay for more time with the rental, so I had to return it and pick up my car, with the new dent, until the new bumper came in. Unfortunately, Enterprise was really backed up on a Friday (not surprising) and it took an hour an half before I had my old car back. Along the way, Enterprise was nice enough to tell me that the rental was only paid for three days and not the 5 it actually took to repair. I reminded them that the other insurance was paying and that I wouldn't be responsible. I also let them know that if they tried to charge my card, I would dispute the charge with the credit card company.

So I have my car back now, but I'm going to have to go through the whole process again when the bumper comes in. This time, I'm going to stick to my guns and demand that the auto body shop get the car and all the necessary insurance waiting for me, so that when I drop off my car, there's only a signature and I'm gone. By the time, I'm done, I will have spent a full work day with this. There should be some sort of compensation for all this run-around, but of course this would come from higher insurance premiums for all.

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Posted on April 25, 2007.

Updating Daylight Savings Time (Microsoft “Cancel or Allow”)

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I just woke up and remembered that it was the new updated daylight savings time. Since I'm Lazy, I didn't install the patch on my computers for the daylight savings headache. I thought it would be a quick and easy download. I should have known better.

I was given the official Microsoft knowledgebase link by my IT department and it looks like exactly what I need. As Kramer from Seinfeld (can I still use those references?) would say, "Giddy up." It seems I underestimated things. Going to download, I click on the appropriate link (even though they have two Windows XP versions, so the average user has to know which one they have - not likely). It takes me to a page that says validation is required. Now I have to get the validation program, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). It would be an advantage if it didn't exist and simply let me download the update. I figured I'd give it a try though. Unfortunately when trying to install WGA, I get a message saying that it wasn't the most updated version and I should get that Microsoft's site. I think Microsoft should have given me that in the first place.

Frustrated, I just gave up. There's simply no excuse for Microsoft to make it difficult to update it's clock. I went for the simple fix that I should have done in the first place. I double-clicked on the clock and moved it ahead an hour.

Maybe this is the reason why everyone at work is getting MacBooks. I think I'll find myself voting with my money if I have another experience like this. I've had enough of Cancel or Allow (Quicktime movie).

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Posted on March 11, 2007.

Just won $390 Million in the Lottery? Maybe not so quick…

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The news is hopping with word that the $390 Mega Millions has been won.  There's always a big rush to buy tickets when the jackpot reaches these amazingly high numbers.  I never understood why.  It seems like the odds of splitting the lottery just goes up when that happens.

And that's exactly what happened this time.  Instead of the $390 that everyone was dreaming about, it will be split into two $195M awards.  That's still a pretty great prize though, right?  Because it's wise to take the money in a lump-sum rather than wait for the payments over the 20 years (and pay taxes on them each year), the value of that is about 100M about 50% of the award.  When taxes kick in, it's suddenly down to some $65M or so.

One could still do quite a lot with $65 Million, but the dream of buying a baseball team is pretty much dead.

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Last updated on March 29, 2012.

Personal Finance Blogging Pet Peeves #2 (or #X tips that will save you $Y)

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If you've read a lot of finance blogs, you'll see articles that give you 30 ways to save $3,000 or 25 ways to save $2,000. Often times each of the ways are legit. Occasionally they are stretched a little bit. For instance, you'll often read about the $5 cup of coffee that can be made at home for a few cents. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but Energi Girl is. The last time I was at Starbucks, her drink didn't come to more than $3. I think it might have been $2.65.

The real kicker is that after you've read one of these and made some adjustments, reading future versions of these don't help. The second time I read that I can save by eliminating coffee, it's not helpful. The last 25 or so of these articles that I've read have led to zero applicable savings for me. Yet the articles almost always assume that all savings can be applied. This is the real crux of the pet peeve - the part that says, "Now that you've saved $2500..." Occasionally that will be followed up with my #1 Pet Peeve and that $2500 will be compounded for 30 years at 10% interest to $43,500 per year.

I'm sure I'm not the target audience for these kinds articles. However, it seems like most of the time personal finance bloggers are preaching to other personal finance bloggers. In the end I think I'm sour to go through the entire article and come up empty.

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Last updated on June 29, 2008.

 
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