Sometimes Business Is Personal

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I get it. Business is business. Being objective, matter of fact, direct and straight forward can be necessary evils and are frequently desirable ways to communicate in the business world. But sometimes, impersonal, cliché, or generic language can come across as insensitive or even downright offensive.

My mom passed away in early October, and after the funeral, my siblings and I packed up and distributed her remaining belongings. When everything was complete, my family—two sisters and one brother —returned to their respective families and homes in Arizona and California. But there was one remaining task—a change of address—and since I am the only family member residing in Cleveland, all of my mom’s mail needed to be forwarded to me.

I had done a change of address a year earlier when my mom moved from her condo in Lyndhurst—that she shared with my dad when he was alive—to the independent living facility in Beachwood, directly across the street. So I knew it was a relatively easy and inexpensive process.

It was nearing the end of October, and I knew I had to get this done. One morning, still at home in my pajamas and after breakfast, I googled Post Office Change of Address and found a website with a USPS heading and what appeared to be the Post Office logo. I decided to check it out.

The online forms were straightforward and easy to complete. When I arrived at the last page, I was instructed to fill out my credit card payment information; I recalled from the previous year there was a minimal fee — about a $1—so when I clicked the button to complete the process, I was stunned when my computer screen flashed that I’d just been billed $49.50!

Immediately, I tried to cancel the transaction, but no company phone number or email address could be found. So I called my credit card company. On several occasions when I had a problem with a purchase, they successfully disputed the charges.

I explained the situation to the representative, who also tried – unsuccessfully — to find contact information. She was kind and reassuring—particularly once she knew my mom had just passed away and the reason for this transaction. She assured me that my complaint would be submitted for a dispute but cautioned that a response might be delayed due to the recent Experian hacking.

Several weeks later, I received a letter from the credit card company.

We have reviewed your dispute information and must advise that we will be unable to assist you in obtaining credit from the merchant.

I didn’t know if I would qualify for a refund, so I had no problem with their response.

By giving your card number, you are giving the merchant authorization to bill your account.

This statement seemed kind of silly. Of course the merchant would have my credit card number. Isn’t that what credit card disputes are about –paying someone for an item or service and then not being satisfied?

We regret to inform you that buyer’s remorse is not disputable.

Wow. Someday I will probably laugh about this remark, but in the moment, it stung.

It was clear they had sent a form letter with no regard for me, personally. My knee jerk response was to cancel my card and sever my relationship with the credit card company. But since I’ve accumulated frequent flyer mileage, I hated to walk away. Instead, I called. The representative agreed that the letter needed to be revised but still wasn’t sure they could obtain a refund.

This prompted my own research. I googled Post Office Scams and found several complaints and warnings about this site; it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who had fallen prey to their deceptive website. I also revisited my credit card statement. This time around I noticed a number associated with the Change of Address transaction. So I called. A man—who sounded like he might be from another country—answered. I told him about the charges and my intent to report the site to the Better Business Bureau. To his credit, he immediately and graciously refunded all of my money.

I’m happy the situation was resolved. But with a little more attention to the personal—even a simple statement about me not being eligible for a refund or them not being able to investigate the claim would have sufficed—the credit card company could have built good will. Instead, their response inflamed my tender wounds. And though I haven’t yet cancelled my credit card, if a compelling enough offer from a competitive company happens to come my way, I might just have to consider it.

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Andrea Peck

Andrea Peck is a trainer, facilitator, speaker, and communication coach who supports and inspires groups and individuals to strive for and achieve personal and professional satisfaction and success through effective communication.

Andrea is the author of Journaling: Discovering Ourselves through Acts of Creation and a booklet: Professional Image Enhancement: 49 Tips for Achieving Job Satisfaction and Success.

A lover of animals, the outdoors— particularly biking and hiking, culture, anything related to personal growth and learning, and naturally, great conversations. In fact, she is frequently told: “ You ask the best questions!”

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Readers take note of how to handle this situation.

    I had a really bad problem with something just like this but the amount was in the hundreds or I think even the thousands. It was quite substantial. I was buying coins from a man over the phone that would not clarify the number of zeros in the figure he quoted despite me asking repeatedly. It’s been a few years now and I don’t recall all of the details but I remember the way he said it he just lied about the amount and it was super sleazy. He refused to cancel the order. I called USAA where I had my credit card. They typically have excellent, top notch customer service but in this case the customer service rep would do nothing. Fortunately I worked for an insurance agency at the time with a lawyer. He told me to call up USAA to report a case of fraud. He said to use these words, tell them “I have been defrauded.”. Sure enough USAA filed a claim and I got my money back. Had that lawyer not told me what to do, I would have been screwed! Furthermore, I believe most credit cards offer protection from such fraudulent charges. It’s in the fine print of your credit card agreement you receive after you sign up for the card. I think it used to be one of the reasons people got credit cards when they were first offered. To this day it is one of the benefits of having a credit card but it’s not frequently discussed anymore when getting a card.

  • I’ll just add that it’s good to know the terms of your credit card and if it has this feature and only use a card that does for any place where a purchase might be dubious like on the web or with a company you have not done business with before. Have a card specifically for that reason. Do not use debit cards for these purchases.

  • I’ll just add that it’s good to know the terms of your credit card agreement and have at least one card specifically for this purpose. Use that card for purchases anywhere that might be dubious such as the web or with a company you have not done business with before. Do not use a debit card for these purchases.

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