Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A couple of weeks ago I was on the Internet, attempting to place an order with an international company I had been successfully dealing with for years, only to have a message flash up that my credit card had been denied.
Thinking that there must have been some mistake, I placed the order again and my Visa number was again denied.
Unless I had become the unwitting victim of some kind of identity theft, I knew that my Visa card was as good as gold.
When my mother died, my daughter Hillery and I flew out to New Jersey, to “settle the estate” with relatives, a process that involved a great deal of sorting and shipping in the midst of grief, frenzy and deadlines.
Right in the middle of this mess, my Visa card was suddenly and inexplicably denied to the shipping company, though it had been accepted for several previous transactions.
I don’t know if you’ve ever called Visa to try to straighten out something like this, but it is no picnic. There is no number on the back of your card for you to call and ask why your credit has been denied. The customer service office gives no such option, and it was only when, after hours on hold, that I pressed the “report stolen card” option that I got a human voice on the other end. It was a voice from India.
Nothing against India, but my hearing is not so hot, the Indian accent is difficult, and I could not understand a word that the young man was saying to me. He referred me to his supervisor, a woman who was even more unintelligible. We fought to understand each other until, both exhausted, it was revealed that my Visa transaction had been denied because it had taken place in New Jersey while I was, after all, supposed to be using it in Aspen. And that if I were going to TRAVEL, I should have let them know beforehand.
This information saved me from future angst. I travel very sparingly, but now I know to call Visa if I’m going to take a trip, not being entirely sure what constitutes “out of boundaries” – it’s kind of like health insurance.
Hence I was, needless to say, hesitant to call Visa and demand an explanation as to why my transaction had been denied now. I was in Aspen, I had not traveled, and I was in no mood to engage in a conversation across the continent that consisted of, “What? What did you say? Please talk more slowly.”
Instead, I replaced the order, got denied, placed it again for a smaller quantity and got approved and figured to hell with it. Mine not to reason why.
A week ago I was in City Market, successfully shopped with my Visa card, then went to the other check-out counter to buy – well, I’ll say lottery tickets – and my Visa card was denied.
It’s one thing to be denied on the Internet, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re denied at your local grocery store. Mortifying and humiliating doesn’t begin to describe it. You offer to write a check instead. Eyebrows raised, your ID is asked for. I mean hell, if your credit card is in the tank how good could your check be?
So it was off to India, but to my relief I either got a young man claiming to be in Illinois or a young man from India who could speak really good English. While telling me constantly and supposedly reassuringly that Visa was only looking after my best interests, and that they assiduously monitored EVERY transaction, he explained that the initial denial occurred because it was an international transaction. Why then had it later been approved? Well, he didn’t know the answer to that.
As for the City Market fiasco, he said that purchase had been denied because I had charged the exact same amount at City Market the week before (talk about surveillance!) which apparently “looked funny” to Visa.
He kept asking if he had addressed all of my concerns and I replied that of course he hadn’t, none of it made any sense whatsoever. Well, what could they do for me to make me satisfied? Promise me that it will never ever happen again, I said, but of course they couldn’t do that.
He then told me that Visa would give me some free miles on my United Express card – 500 free miles, whoops. But then he gave me something even better. He gave me a secret phone number to call if I ever had trouble again, and said that if I would ask for a “Stateside Representative” I would not be transferred to India. That’s what I call a real reward.
Here it is – post it on your refrigerator and carry it in your wallet: 1-800-955-9060.
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.