March 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

THE PHONE — “Yes, your credit card has been compromised. But we will send you a new one with a new number,” says the voice from my credit company, House O’ Cards. I reply: “By ‘compromised’ you mean hacked, stolen, breaking and entering. I used your company’s plastic instead of carrying cash because I thought it was safer. Now you tell me your company is unsafe. The American people want Congress to compromise to get things done. You make the term sound like ‘incompetent.’ Come to think of it….”
Here we go again, but in a different direction. A year or so ago someone picked my pocket at a Houston Texans game. It was the second time I was robbed that week. The first time was when I paid good money for a ticket to a Houston Texans game. Losing the cash in my wallet ($3) was bad enough, but getting in touch with all the various companies which automatically put my bill on the credit card was almost impossible. Each firm had its own unique way of refusing to talk to me, only offering recorded dead ends: “To return to the option before this option, press 3. For a surly vice president to tell you how important your business is to us while trying to stifle a chuckle, press 6.”
But this time I am not calling the credit card company; it’s calling me to say that my card has been “compromised.” This probably means 4-million customers are getting similar calls. Have you ever had your credit cards stolen, lost or burned during an insurance fire? Then you know the fallout is akin to undergoing a heart bypass or listening to the musical guests on “Saturday Night Live.” Still, the task would be made much easier if the companies I deal with moved into the 19th Century.
Here is my attempt to give the new card numbers to my cell phone company, 2 Dixie Cups & String, Inc. “He-woah, dis Billy Bob in Jerkson, Mississ… Missasiss… Maine. How help?” Once more I have First World technology and Third World assistance. This conversation goes back and forth across the Pacific with Billy Bob and I understanding about every fourth word. One thing that keeps coming across is: “You wan top-off of minutes to use? Only 20 bucks.” No, I don’t. At the end of the conversation I think I have changed my card number, learned some cuss words in Hindi and Billy Bob says I bought a 20-dollar top-off.
The electric company said it couldn’t change my credit card number until I paid my February bill. February of 2010. I also do business with the Left Bank of the Trinity, It could be based in Saint Helena, because I can never speak to a real person in the home office. “To help us keep track of our shiftless employees, this conversation will be recorded and broadcast on ’60 Minutes.’ Please enter your street address, phone number, driver’s license number and times you have bothered us before. Listen to all our options as they have recently changed. We’ve been saying that for five years and our brain-dead customers still buy it.” Does your bank’s recording give you 12 opinions, none of which you want? My bank needs a bailout of ineptitude.
After calling the cable company and being put on hold to listen to 15 minutes of Lawrence Welk, I finally get this: “If your credit card has been stolen, please enter its number, who took it and where. We at Disable Cable value you as a special customer and are offering you this exclusive TV package of Polka Poland, the Custard Channel and Movies Filmed in Idaho for only $45.40 a month. It comes with NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN and the Crocheting for Christ Channel. Take it all or sit in the dark. All our wage slaves are with other customers, so don’t think you’re special. We’ll be with you when we feel like it.”
Most of these charges are automatically put on my House O’ Cards monthly bill.
But the account with my burglar alarm company, We’re Usually Alert, Inc., bills me annually, as does my yearly yard service, Weed The People. I’ll forget about them until next January when I get an angry phone call demanding payment.
Ten percent of Americans say they have been the victim of credit card fraud. Of those, 27 percent say it was because the card was lost or stolen. The median amount reported on credit card fraud: $399. But happily enough, new safeguards are cutting in to the thefts. In 2000, North American e-merchants lost an average 3.6 percent of their sales to stolen or fraudulent credit cards. In 2007, that figure was down to 1.4 percent. Of course, like most such statistics, if that victim is you then it’s 100 percent.
Credit card companies estimate they lose more than $300 million a year in fraud and stolen cards. That figure could be reduced if they paid a few bucks to fix the problem in a jiffy, which is how I’ll make my next fortune: When a customer puts a company on his or her credit card for automatic billing, add a phone number to call in case of a problem. That way a credit card company has a list to call in one easy move. The operation could be done with computers and recordings so the firm’s policy of “No humans will deal with our customers” stays sacrosanct.
Following hours on the phone over a long period of time I have finally fixed each company no matter how difficult. “That’s done,” I say to my wife. “Problem solved forever.” She smiles that wifely smile that says she should have been a nun and says, “Did they ask for the expiration date? That date is May, 2013. Then you’ll need to call them back with the new expiration date.” On further thought, we have compromised with Third World technology.

Credit Ashby at

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