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Citi Credit Cards / Rude and unprofessional public relations

1 United States

RE: Citi Credit Cards

I have had a Citi card (through Quicken) for exactly 7 years and have always made payments, often more than the minimum, on time. I am very careful to take care of my credit rating and have a very good score as a result. In May 2007, I made a mistake, which I discovered as I was reconciling my bank statement. I use Quicken to reconcile, and I pay bills online through my bank. I noticed that the amount paid to Citi that had posted to my bank account was less than what I had entered in my Quicken register. It appeared that I had paid less than the minimum. I researched the problem, including talking to a Citi Card representative on the standard help line on April 30, 9:37 a.m. I got it all straightened out and told the representative I would increase the amount set to go out on June 10th to be sure I covered the shortfall. As part of bringing my finances up to date, I also updated investments and credit cards, all of which are in Quicken. I noticed that on April 24, I had been hit with a $39 late fee. (The due date was April 17.) I was not happy. I called back, at 10:46 a.m., with the intention of learning exactly how long I had had the card and then proceeding from there with a complaint. I called the same 800 number I had called earlier. A woman answered. She asked me for the account number (as usual), and then for my address (hmmm), and then for employment information. At that point, I put the brakes on and asked what was going on. Turned out, my call had been shifted to Collections, a fact I had not been told when I called in or the phone was answered. The woman, too, had failed to identify where she was located. Her attitude was not particularly pleasant or respectful. I explained I had already talked to a representative, had cleared up the mistake, and had already increased the amount to go out on the 10th. (I usually set payments to go out to most creditors from the 9th to the 14th.)

Since then, and I write this around 9:20 a.m. May 5, I have received 6 phone calls from Citi. The most recent was 8:09 a.m., today (Saturday), waking me up. (Thank you, Citi.) Some of these calls were hang-ups; the others were canned messages. I typically don’t respond to hang-ups and canned messages. I think both are rude and if from a company, really unprofessional and a public relations screw-up.

As I write this, I get yet another call (9:49 a.m.). This makes the 7th call in 6 days. It is another canned message. I decide to call back—this is going to be fun. I am told to wait. I am then disconnected, and I get a fast busy signal. Ok. I call again. I am told to press 1 if I want English. I HATE THIS. I believe that only really stupidly run companies ask Americans to press a number to get the native language. I press no number. I then get a jagged and lengthy canned message in Spanish. I finally get an English-speaking person. The call continues to break up. I ask the man who answered to repeat what he said because he is breaking up. He says something I don’t get but that ends with “the problem must be on your end.” Such tact. Of course, it’s my fault, I say, and I hang up. The game continues.

It is interesting to note the amount in dispute. US$9.00. That’s right. All of the above over a measly 9 bucks. The minimum amount due had been $159. I had thought I paid $200; I had actually paid $150. Logic dictates that if I had intended to stiff the company by not making a payment, I would not have paid anything. Despite 7 years of good payment, I have been treated like a common criminal. I could pay as agreed for a thousand years, and 1 missed or partial payment would bring out the big guns to seek me out and shoot me down.

I heard recently that Citi was going to be laying off thousands. This tells me that the company is in financial difficulty. I can see this in the handling of the above situation. It duns good existing customers over a pittance in an astonishing display of wasting resources. And the fact that it would expend such energy to go after such a small amount—and remember, I had already taken the initiative to handle the situation—indicates how desperate it is for money. Add to that the income it derives from levying late charges—it has no incentive to act differently. I suspect that it treats others of its existing customers in a similar fashion, thereby resulting in the loss of such customers and bringing about a further erosion of its money base. One could argue that other similar companies act the same way, and that would likely be correct. But that does not make such behavior right (or even smart).

It is usually a lot easier and cheaper to keep current customers than it is to get new ones. And yet, I get offer after offer for credit cards from various companies, despite my having specified to the various credit bureaus that I was NOT to be contacted. And I don’t recall when Citi last did anything for me regarding this card (except raise the interest rate, which is definitely not something in my favor). By its own actions, it destroys any loyalty toward the company or incentive to do future business with it—this is not intelligent behavior.

There is simply too much competition out there for any good-paying, honest person to have to endure such bad behavior from a credit card company. If I could find a credit card company whose management demonstrated the intelligence to value its existing customers, I would be a happy, and loyal, customer.

As soon as I can, I will pay off this account. I understand that it is actually better for a consumer’s credit score for that consumer to keep open inactive accounts. In this case, I will make an exception. When I am ready to pay off the account (likely in a few months), I will happily cut up the card and send off the pieces to the company with instructions to close the account and never contact me again for any reason whatsoever.

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