Saturday, April 22, 2006

AOL at the Bank

While AOL's agreed to refund the $3.95 charges and investigate the rest, I don't trust them the tiniest bit, so I'll challenge all charges at the banks, too.

This was another adventure in customer service. We use several different banks. One's in Florida, where banks have famously bad customer service.

The other bank's in Utah. It's for truckers. Superb customer service, and many interesting features. If we didn't still need a local bank, it's the only one we'd have.

Here's what I aim to get reversed:

FL Bank:
4/12/06 $25.90
4/17/06 $3.95

Utah Bank:
4/5/06 $3.95
4/15/06 $23.90

The $3.95 is for the so-called free privacy wall; the other charges are for monthly service. Why charge $23.90? That's the old rate. HMMM. Oddly, AOL charged both banks in one month. HMMM.

I was out of town digging fossils, so I didn't catch the charges until I got home. The first one was the $3.95 posted 4/5 to the Utah bank. Not a fortune, no! But it's good to investigate even little Mystery Charges since they can lead you to much bigger problems you didn't know about.

Case in point, huh?

How a Customer Service department is trained and authorized says a great deal about a company's character, and its approach to financial management.

I call the FL bank.

I'm told I have to go into a branch to contest the charges. I explain that a physical disability makes this very difficult.

Ok. *sigh* I can do it over the phone with you, then. I'll fill out the papers on my end, and then mail them to you. You fill them out and sign the two affidavits and mail them back. If you don't send them back you won't get a refund. Allow 6-8 weeks for us to investigate it.

This phone call takes about 45 minutes.

The papers came in the mail today. I sign them as is, even though I see AOL has now refunded the $3.95 charge at this bank (one down, three to go.) When dealing with sharks, cover all bases, to excess.

The Utah bank is very different. They say to fax them the dispute and it'll be resolved in 3 days or they'll die trying. This call lasts a couple of minutes. I fax. Within an hour, they call me back.

One issue: This account is in Walter's name only. While the Utah bank has my Power of Attorney for Walter on file, they're not sure the Mastercard people will accept my signature for Walter's. Since there is no recourse once Mastercard denies a dispute - it's absolutely final, no matter what - they say it's best to have Walter sign it, not me. Also, even though AOL agreed to refund the $3.95, they don't have that info yet. So let's add it to the dispute.

Excellent advice.

And: since AOL is notorious, you really should think about cancelling this card and getting a new number.

I agree.

That phone call took about 10 minutes, including swapping AOL war stories.

I update the fax, pin Walter down at a truck stop, fax the dispute to him there, and he faxes the signed dispute to the bank. Done.

Re.: [name, account #]
Merchant: AOL
Transaction Dates and Amounts:
4/5/06 $3.95 4/15/06 $23.90

Dear [Good] Bank:

We dispute the referenced charges from AOL.

We are supposed to have free service from them for one year. The $23.90 was a monthly service charge on the old account that we cancelled. That charge is NOT valid.

The $3.95 was for a privacy wall that was supposed to be a free promotion. Again, as we would NOT have gotten that feature if it weren’t free, that charge is NOT valid.

They have been informed they are no longer authorized to charge ANY of our bank accounts for any reason. They have agreed to this.

However, [your bank] is kindly issuing a new card for us, since AOL has shown, repeatedly, that they do not keep their word.

Thank you. We greatly appreciate your help in dealing with this vendor.

[signed, Walter]

I see a Comment on my blog about killing the cards - mine are debit, not credit, but still. They're right. I call the FL bank and kill that card, too.

Okay. My little seeds are planted. Now - like my buddy BB says, Let's wait and see what happens.

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