An open letter to Chase Credit Card Services

Dear Chase,

It’s been a minute or two since our relationship began. I believe it was sometime around 2003. We were both significantly younger, and less bloated. Just like now, one of us was not aiding in the processing of Russian sovereign debt payments.

Like many new relationships, there were doubts. I believe I signed up for your credit card for two reasons: 1) Wife #1 really, really wanted more frequent flier miles and, 2) you had apparently not done enough research and were willing to believe I’d pay you back.

It was, therefore, not a marriage built on a foundation of love, but rather an arranged entanglement where neither party cared a lot about the needs of the other. I, for one, was never going to get your logo tattooed on my ankle.

Other than the aforementioned bloating, the main change in our relationship occurred in 2010, when United destroyed (I mean bought) Continental. My Continental card backed by Chase was no more. You did your best to save our relationship with your new co-branded United card, but my ability to translate those miles into flights diminished significantly with the, ahem, improvements United brought to their frequent flier program. None of this was your fault, but it definitely made things awkward.

The years sped by. I retired, but still generated plenty of activity on your card in my personal life (the first step is acknowledging the problem). Was it enough that your cut kept Jamie in presidential cufflinks? Probably not, but then he says all his government bling was gifted. Why are presidents giving bank executives swag?

Where was I?

A few years ago, I decided your United card wasn’t working for me. The card was like date night at the same lousy restaurant for years on end. I tried to spice things up by switching to the card you offer with Southwest. It was at that point that I discovered that you did care about our relationship. A lot.

When I called to deliver the news of the desired change, there was a gulp, a pause and transfer. Your rep involved in the United program then came back on the line with her A game. Over the course of twenty minutes, she offered to waive fees and, perhaps, make it possible to one day convert the many miles I had collected for an actual flight. I thanked her for the effort, and the offer, but said I was moving on to the next door (or floor) down in the Chase Credit Card Services building by going with the Southwest card. I admit that I felt a little bad about the call. I did what I thought was best for our relationship but, well, I also felt like I’d let you down.

Flash forward to the end of 2021. Thing #1 and I schlepped nearly four hours to San Jose (Costa Rica) to buy him a new set of desk speakers for his birthday (yes, we’re trying to find new ways that he’ll be able to claim he can’t hear us). I used your card to complete this purchase, and then repeated the schlepping back home to Cerro Plano. There was much excitement with the unpacking of the new speakers – until there wasn’t. The fancy computer speakers, you see, did not work.

Over the next few days, I badgered the vendor involved until they finally responded. Their preference was that I make the eight-hour round trip drive to leave the speakers with them to study – then repeating said drive when the speakers were fixed. We settled on a plan where I paid to ship them back using the public bus in a system that is, creepily, known as encomienda.

I packed up the speakers and shipped them. I provided the receipts via email to the vendor, who assured me they would be picked up. I would soon hear from them.

The problem was – and this is where you came in – the vendor never contacted me, nor did they reply to my follow-up phone calls and emails. They were, it appeared, content to keep my money and their defective speakers. If Costa Rica had less severe libel laws, I’d be glad to name the vendor. As it stands, any public criticism, even if true, leaves one wide open to a lawsuit. I will say that if you’re in San Jose in an electronic store that looks a lot like a house and are forced to pay inside that house before you are asked to walk across the street to pick up your purchase at their warehouse/house – go elsewhere.

Where were we? Oh, right. I contacted you and disputed the charge. In particular, I pointed out that I had already shipped the speakers back to the vendor and, via your secure email system, attached the correspondence involved as well as the shipping receipts. I was counting on you, my long-term partner, to help (something I had done only once or twice in the past couple of decades).

Weeks went by. Eventually, you sent me a letter, which said you had ruled in favor of the vendor. Your decision was influenced by a letter you received from the vendor saying that they’d love to help me but, sadly, couldn’t because I hadn’t returned their defective product. There was also mention of the fact that I had tested and approved the speakers when I picked them up at the warehouse (which was not possible and did not happen).

Since I’d already sent you ample evidence that I had returned the speakers I thought this development worthy of a call. After the obligatory, lengthy hold I was told that the only way you would reopen your “investigation” was if I faxed you a sentence asking you to do so. Well, there was one other option: I could also send you a letter via the USPS. I explained to the rep that I live in Costa Rica, where the mail system is as reliable as a used Jaguar, and that I, like almost everyone else living in a time later than the 90’s, don’t have a fax machine in my house. There was much discussion, bordering on kerfuffle. We both went to bed angry.

The next day I received a message on your secure email server that I could, as it turns out, send an email via the secure email server and ask that the dispute be reopened. Whether or not that was a tacit admission that your prior terms for reopening a dispute via smoke-signal were a way to make the situation go away so you could better focus on Jamie’s next set of free cufflinks is something known only to you.

I contacted the shipping people and had them send me a picture of the box I had sent to the vendor. This was easy for them as the box had been sitting in their San Jose terminal (which is where the vendor said they’d collect it) for over six weeks.

I then emailed the rep at the vendor who’d signed the letter you’d received. We exchanged several emails in which she said she was unaware I’d already shipped the speakers to them (though I had previously and repeatedly sent that information to her department). She couldn’t explain why she’d told you that I had tested and approved the product in her letter to you. She also couldn’t explain why they had ghosted me for the prior month – but she did give me a full refund.

I took all this correspondence and sent it to you via secure email. I wasn’t asking you to do anything. I’d already received the refund. If nothing else, I wanted you to understand that I wasn’t making any of this up. I had, in fact, sent the speakers back to the vendor who had, using a nice term, lied to you. We’d been together a long time. I wanted you to believe me. And, if I’m being completely honest, I was hoping this might light a small fire under whoever it was at Chase that had ignored all the evidence and sent me the rejection letter.

A few more weeks passed before I received another letter from you. In this letter you confirmed that, after your new round of exhaustive research, you still ruled in favor of the vendor. The charge would stand.

I will admit that, at this point, I was a bit peeved. I called you and, after receiving the obligatory messages about how much you cared and the unusually high call volumes, eventually reached your rep. After a quick recap of recent history, I asked to cancel my credit card and end our relationship.

Interestingly, unlike the time a few years before when I’d simply switched from one Chase co-branded card to another, there was no interest or attempt made to keep me as a customer. The one thing I was promised was follow up after “management” had had the opportunity to review everything.

A month or so later, just for fun (and because I have a strange need for closure), I called again. Yes, I was getting a little close to my Fatal Attraction bunny moment but, in my defense, I’d just had to redo the sixth automatic payment I’d previously set up with your card so you were on my mind. Also, I missed you. Not your service, but the familiarity and the fact that you didn’t flag and stop every other transaction I made in Costa Rica like my other card. I wanted to come home, but I wanted to feel good about it. After another forty-minute hold I made it to one of your reps, who asked me to repeat my story. I did. He then said he was sorry, it was all above his paygrade and, if I could wait a few minutes, he could pass me to someone who might care be able to take action.

I repeated my saga with a supervisor. Together, we reviewed the various exhibits that had been sent via your secure email (particularly the photo of the box sitting at the depot that the vendor never picked up and, of course, the correspondence regarding how the vendor had accidentally-on-purpose lied to you and, when called on it, refunded the charge). A bit wounded, I asked why it was that Chase had decided to believe the vendor despite all the evidence supporting my position.

I don’t know what I expected. Probably the least likely outcome in my head was to hear the response from the supervisor, which was, “Thanks for giving us this opportunity to better understand our customer service; it’s very valuable to us and we’ll use it to help other customers.”

In dating terms, that was the equivalent of, “It’s not us, it’s you.”

I expressed disappointment. A lot of disappointment. Things got even weirder when your supervisor then asked if I wanted to reopen the card. I didn’t. She was surprised, and then promised yet more research on my transaction. I told her there was no point. What more was there to “research?” I had been willing to let inertia take our relationship to the grave. But, as of now, I’ve moved on.

I suspect you’re going to send me another quasi-form letter I didn’t ask for where you again confirm that, based on your exhaustive research, the charge was righteous.

I will leave it here as I’m sure you need to get back to your call volumes, which are, apparently, high.

Good bye, and good luck.

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