Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Drop dead, Macy's

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote a long post about the outstanding customer service I received when dealing with Sprint, a post that you can read here.

Now comes the opposite side of the coin, courtesy of the chuckleheads that run Macy's.

As some of you know, I have worked in downtown St. Paul for a number of years, and I always made an effort to shop at the downtown Dayton's store. As St. Paul went through difficult times and a number of retailers fled the core city, Dayton's maintained a commitment to the city that I admired. And when Dayton's became Marshall Field's, I continued to go out of my way to shop there, just to honor their commitment to serving the downtown crowd. And several years ago, when Macy's took over Marshall Field's, I continued to patronize the place and accepted the Macy's credit card they sent me, simply to honor the effort they made to keep a store open in a downtown that is not particularly hospitable to business.

So over the years I bought clothes, a pretty expensive watch, some hard-to-find perfume and many other things at Macy's. And sometime last summer, I made another (to be my last) purchase there. I don't even remember what it was, but sometime in late August I got a statement saying that I owed $11.50, which leads me to believe it was a tie, or a golf shirt from the clearance rack, or some such thing. At some point in the first few days of September, I walked over to the store and dropped off a check for $11.50 at one of the registers.

Here's where things get a little fuzzy. Macy's didn't credit my account for the payment, and at some point in October I got a bill again for $11.50, plus a $35 late fee. (Let's set aside for a moment the morality of a $35 late fee for an $11.50 balance and just focus on the process.) I went into my checking account online and saw that the check had not cleared, which was strange because when I looked at the sequence of check numbers, the check I had written before the Macy's check had cleared on Sept. 8, and the check I wrote after the Macy's check had cleared on Sept. 14.

So I called the folks at Macy's (which included the "push 1 for English, push 2 for customer service, blah, blah, blah...) and when I eventually got through to a person, I explained that this $11.50 had been paid, and that they had the check somewhere. Sorry, the person said, "It says on my computer that this hasn't been paid."

I told her that I didn't much care what her computer said, I had paid the $11.50 and I wasn't going to pay a $35 late fee. She then suggested I stop payment on the check, and send out a new one for $46.50. I explained that it was pretty unlikely I would pay my bank's $30 stop-payment fee, plus send an additional $46.50 to Macy's, which would drive the price of this tie or shirt to around $76.50. She said she'd make a note in the computer.

I thought that would be the end of it, that eventually the check would show up in their records, they would see the error of their ways and this would all be over. Boy, was I wrong.

Later in October, they started calling me, and we went through the same routine three times. They would explain that they were calling from Macy's, and could I please send them their $46.50. I would explain that they already had all the money I owed them, and no more payments would be forthcoming. They said they'd make a note in the computer.

The December statement brought an epiphany of sorts. Turns out the folks at Macy's had FOUND my $11.50 check. And even though it was been given to them back in September, they hadn't credited it to my account until sometime in late November. So now my statement tells me that yes, you did pay the $11.50, but Macy's would now like another $77.50 in fees and interest.

So I put in another call to their "customer service" department, who told me that we could clear this all up if I could just produce a copy of the check. That means another fee to my bank, of course, but I was ready to bite the bullet just to prove my point.

But wait a minute. Turns out the folks at Macy's don't run checks through the system like most businesses do. They process them electronically in a way that doesn't leave a cancelled check. So my bank, which can provide me on-line copies of virtually every check I've written in the last five years, can't provide a copy of the Macy's check, because of the way they process their accounts.

One, final, communication with "customer service" was answered with an e-mail that essentially said, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do. Please send us $77.50"

At this point, it's more likely that Elvis will show up in the Macy's parade singing "Blue Suede Shoes" than it is they will ever get a $77.50 check from me. I cut up my card, sent them the pieces along with a little note, and made a vow to never, ever, ever set foot in a Macy's store again.

Perhaps they'll make a note in their computer.

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