Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 17, 2013

An on-hold marathon with the credit card company dampens the holiday spirit


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — An elephant walks on its tiptoes. A bat has good vision. And a 15-letter word that uses none of the same letters twice is “uncopyrightable.” I know these facts because my credit card company plays loops of trivia while callers are waiting on hold. I think these random bits of knowledge are supposed to make me feel less frustrated — as if I have gained something of value while wasting my time.

Not quite so sure it worked. Last week’s on-hold marathon was the result of one evening of online Christmas shopping.

I had resolved to enter this holiday season with a brighter, cheerier attitude. I vowed to be less grumpy and grinch-like. One key to this attitude change, I believed, was to shop earlier. And thus I found myself online, purchasing a plethora of journalism related gifts for my Daily Telegraph family. I actually had fun during the shopping process, and at one point almost hummed a Christmas carol.

Of course, I did not allow myself to get carried away. Instead I gave a half-smile, cranked up Death Cab for Cutie on the iPod and proceeded to the online checkout lane.

The error message surprised me. Something about my phone number not matching my billing address. How was that possible? Neither number nor address had changed in many years. I made my way back through the check-out process, and then committed the cardinal sin: I hit the "Confirm Purchase" button for a second time.

Woe is me.

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I consider myself a savvy online shopper. I know the rules and tricks of the trade. Free shipping, extra discounts. My email lights up daily with special rewards.

That said, I also know the value of shopping locally. I love perusing the shelves of mom-and-pop businesses to find that special gift. Unique sweaters, rare jewelry, one-of-a-kind items for that special someone. Treasures can be found close to home.

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My recent online purchases could not be found in southern West Virginia. They were specialized gifts. Coffee mugs, books, attire and more catering to journalists and word nerds — which we at the Daily Telegraph are.

Once again, I battle through the online purchasing process and hit the “Confirm Purchase” button again ... and again.

I should have known better, but the bright yellow, blinking error message made me think all was wrong, but could be made right with the touch of a mouse.

Huge error.

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Late in the p.m., there is still no confirmation on my purchase. I go to bed, and call my credit card folks early the next morning. They give me a different story. Not only did I order my gifts once, I had four purchases in the same amount in a less-than-15-minute time frame.

I recall repeatedly hitting the "Confirm Purchase" button, and cringe. My order was for $503. My bill showed four $503 purchases in a 13-minute span. Yep, that totals up to a couple of grand.

The credit card folks tell me to call my merchant. I do so, and get Megan on the line. She is helpful, and has customer-service savvy. Unfortunately, my merchant has no record of my order — not once, twice or four times.

I call the credit card company and they, once again, blame my merchant. My head is spinning. I am starting to wonder if I am going to pay $2,000 for $500 in gifts that I won’t receive because there is no record of the order.

And a Merry Christmas to all.

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Megan is a wonder. After countless calls in an hour-and-15-minute time frame, we are finally on a conference call with my credit card people. The people who tell me, as a cardholder, I can’t cancel charges on obvious repetitive billing because ... well, I’m not sure why. But I can’t.

I point out the obvious. “It’s four charges, all for $503.08, all made within 13 minutes. Is it not obvious that it is duplicate charges?”

“Yes, it is,” the voice tells me.

“So can I stop these charges,” I ask?

“No,” the voice tells me. Only the merchant can do so.

Fortunately, merchant Megan is there to intervene. She asks about the cancellation of charges. Once again we are put on hold. During the break, I again hear about elephants who walk on tiptoes and bats that have great eyesight. Finally, a voice comes back on the line and tells me the charges have been removed.

Wow. Too much effort and needless time spent.

I tell Megan I will call her tomorrow with my new order. She laughs. It’s good that a sense of humor can still be found.

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Online glitches happen. I know this because I work with computers daily. I do not attempt to understand the hows and whys of the errors — as a mere mortal, I simply go with the moment.

I refuse to let the week’s glitches dampen my Christmas spirit. Tomorrow I will again call merchant Megan and reorder gifts for my newsroom family.

Until then, I will go with the flow. And attempt to maintain a happy outlook.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her at @BDTPerry.