Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Awaiting Credit Card Refunds: Does Patience Pay Off or are You a Sucker?

I am tracking three separate refunds on my credit card. In each case it is obvious that the company holds onto the money as long as they can get away with it, and you might get your credit two billing cycles later. This is a common ploy. It's the reason why stores love to sell gift certificates. They get the money without the merchandise moving out the door, and they especially love customers who lose or forget about the gift certificates. Likewise, the issuers of refunds hope you'll forget you have one coming.
Therefore, it is incumbent on the consumer to track these things, and it eats up a lot of time. It would be reasonable in some cases to just say the hell with it and let it go. Gotcha!
The first refund, a $199 deposit for a cell phone in Israel, came through in August. The phone was turned in May 29. If I hadn't gotten in touch to tell them our credit card number had changed, I quite doubt they would have tracked me down. How many people remember 10 months later about a deposit? I thought the deposit was a little sketchy at the time, since my daughter used her own phone and all they provided was a sim card.
The second deposit is huge, and a complete fiasco. In December we charged $2700 in airline tickets for a trip abroad. The travel agent emailed the itinerary which I carefully printed out; paid in full. (Of course the airline has the money for an extra five months this way.) When I went to download our boarding passes we discovered that actually the travel agent had mailed the tickets snail mail, without telling us, and without those paper tickets, were were grounded. So we had to go the morning of the trip and pay for a whole set of new tickets. "After you complete your flight, the airlines will refund your original ticket in 30 days." Famous last words. The airline never returns our calls and the travel agent (who never told us to watch for the tickets and sent them without any tracking info, duh!) says it's the airline, not they, who issues the refund. Finally 90 days afterwards, we talked the airline into refunding the money themselves. That is nice, but it doesn't pay me back for my 2 months of hassling this through, or being without the original $2700 for an extra three months.
My third refund is for new is for new glasses which were unsatisfactory. I went to have them redone, and the store had closed that branch without telling me; I had to traipse off to a different branch quite far from my house. When I arrived at my rescheduled appointment they kept me waiting until I was so pissed (especially when I realized I would have to return to the distant branch to pick up the replacement glasses) that I told them I WANT MY MONEY BACK. I have never ever done that. Very liberating! They agreed to refund my money, within six weeks. What are the odds of that refund ($369) coming through on time? I will be glad for the refund, but I would be happier to have glasses that worked.
Possession is 9/10 of the law, as they say. So I guess that means that once they have your money, it's not gonna be easy to get it back!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A better approach -- and one that I have used succesfully many tims -- is to simply challenge the charge on your credit card. The credit card company is required to investigate the situation and not charge you for the charge while the investigation is in progress. I've done this whenever I've purchased a lemon and can't get quick satisfaction from the merchant. It works every time: the credit card company investigates the charge, the merchant (who is usually shoddy) doesn't respond to the credit card company, and the credit card company is then required to void the charge permanently from your bill!