In early August 2008 we purchased some expensive mattresses, using dealer 0% financing through Citifinancial. As we did not receive any paperwork regarding the financing by mid September, we got nervous. We called the dealer about information, we called Citi, both no luck, Citi did not find any record about our loan. The dealer asked us to wait two more weeks, and then he would make further inquiries. A week later we finally got the paperwork, an account statement and a payment slip. The due date was early October. Before it was due we have sent a check to the address on the account statement, and also added a payment slip.
2 weeks later we realized that the check was not cashed yet. We called Citi on the phone number stated on the account statement (FOR ACCOUNT QUESTIONS CALL…). When giving the agent on the line our account number from the account statement, they said they could not help us; this account number does not exist in their system. It must be from some other Citifinancial activity, they need to transfer us. That’s what they did, but the next agent in the other department said the same thing: not our number, you need to call 1-800-… . Finally I got the number for a local branch that should be able to help us. When I called there, it said that the line is discontinued.
Same evening we received a letter, only a sender address, no name on it. In a way that I can only describe as laughable (I think it was supposed to be funny) we were “reminded” on our payment obligations regarding Citi. It did not contain any names or phone numbers that would have made it easier to get in touch with the originator. The internet enabled us then to find the local branch to the sender address and a phone number. At this branch we were then told that we had the incorrect account number. To make it clear: the number on our account statement and payment coupon was not correct. We were asked to issue another check to make the first payment. We agreed to do that, if we get some kind of information what happened to our first check and why we suddenly have two account numbers. The branch manager called at the phone number stated on our account statement to look into this issue. She got that day as far as we did: we don’t know this (first) account number (and, interpreted, we don’t want to have anything to do with it). She gave us a card with the Citifinancial Customer Service number to call and promised to look further into this issue.
Today we called Citifinancial Customer Service. I can only hope that the way they service their customers is just a little disturbed through the additional pressure of the current bank crisis. It was a really unpleasant call. Partially it was certainly my fault: I was obviously not able to explain clear enough WHY I thought the check did not clear. The agent did not get for a long time that the account number that Citi provided us with is not correct. I asked for two things: a confirmation (in writing, please) that we only have ONE account with them, and a confirmation that the first check we sent in will not be cashed, or, that we will be refunded any fees we will have to pay to cancel the check. The only thing I got out of this was that I should request the refund from my branch (“I mean you can only request it: I don’t want to say with that that they will do that!”) in a voice that told me with every syllable “Please don’t EVER bother me with this crap again”. I can’t believe that someone who is getting paid to take care for the problems of the customers is not even remotely interested in it that the employer sends out kind-of-important information that is just plain wrong. And this is about computer generated letters. That means, there is most probably no “human error” involved. And so the error might actually have happened not only once, but maybe a thousand times that day. Or why should it only have happened once? But no one cares… maybe they care if suddenly nobody pays their bills anymore, because everyone has wrong account numbers.
And now to the best part: let’s contact them by email, tell them you don’t want to be a ping-pong ball between branch and customer service, you just would like to get an answer on your problems. I received an answer, two hours later, by email, telling me (short version): “Our branches don’t have email. Please call your local branch or call our customer service department at 1-800-…”. Now I want to cry. I give up. I will now (silently) protest over the internet. I will never make a credit purchase anymore if Citi is involved. And they will never know why. I don’t think it’s satisfactory to either side. But I guess life is easier for the ignorant.