A few bucks off at the retail register can become exceptionally expensive
I construct a lot of things, and if you get enough beers in me you can hear me complain endlessly at the poor quality of modern power tools. I’m a joy to be around when on that rant.
While not a professional builder I spend my weekends with a tool belt on and a drill in my hand. But these days that cordless drill will die an unfortunate early death, where even the versions from the 1980’s lasted longer.
I was in Home Depot just before Christmas and lamenting my disgust for modern power tools with the paint guy. Mine is an odd world. He saw me looking at a replacement for my current drill and walked over to help. He must have seen the steam coming out of my ears. It turns out he was sympathetic to my plight and steered me to a replacement that he thought was best. Ninety-nine bucks, drill and battery alone. I already had a charger from the last failed drills. I not too thrilled.
He kindly offered to use his managerial authority to knock off 25% and then I could get another 25% off if I filled out a credit card application and charged it to a new account. What a dude.
I hesitated at first, but a less-than-fifty-bucks replacement seemed like a great deal. I applied, was approved (I have great credit) and walked out of the store with my new drill that I’d probably kill within six months or a million holes, whatever comes first.
One-and-a-half months later I received a call on the phone, a robotic voice telling me that it is an attempt to collect a debt. Turns out it is from Citibank and they represent Home Depot on a past-due account.
Funny, I never received a bill, and now that I thought about it, it was a few weeks ago that the drill was purchased. I called Citibank/Home Depot and navigated a most clunky obstacle course of touch-tone barricades before finally reaching a human being. The person I spoke with was not terribly sympathetic, and simply demanded over and over again that the account be paid and brought current.
We went around and around for ten minutes before I finally said, “Close the account, tell me what I need to pay to make this go away and we’re done.”
I paid $54 and change. Over and done.
So I thought.
Today I received call to collect a debt. Home Depot/Citibank.
Again I navigate the maze of options to not reach someone, then find another number online to finally contact a human being. Turns out I have a balance of $108, all late fees and interest.
It took about twenty minutes to unravel what had happened, but apparently when I asked to close the account and make it go away, the operator gave me the amount to bring the past-due amount current, leaving a small balance.
I never heard anything about this. My guess is that I received additional bills but saw Home Depot on the envelope and figured it was junk mail solicitations. I rarely shop there, and after all, the account was paid up and closed.
So the tiny balance that remained after I requested it be paid up and closed, morphed into several more late fees at $30-some dollars each plus interest. I explained this to the operator who didn’t care. I explained this to a supervisor, who obviously had no lessons in customer service. They wanted the money and that was all they could do.
They had me. I was screwed. I could tell them to eff off and they’d just keep adding late fees. I have sterling credit, perfect credit, and can’t afford a negative hit.
The supervisor said that she could waive the last late fee, but that’s all she could do. Crooks. I had no choice. I agreed to that stinking offer, paid $67 in addition to the $54+ I already paid, a shitty new drill for $121.
Throughout this ordeal there is one clear message. Citibank is not interested in customer service or satisfaction — they are about collecting money. They know that people with good credit do not want to sacrifice it, so when faced with the decision to stand on principle or cave in, you have to cave in.
The other lesson is to verify that accounts are closed after you close them, and check to make sure mail solicitations are truly mail solicitations. I have neither the time nor the desire to do such things.
It is easier (and cheaper) to just not take the credit card discount offer in the first place.