Adventures in (good) customer service.

thSo often we encounter lackluster, slipshod or outright lousy customer service. Not today, though.

I’ve had an AT&T Universal Mastercard since 1992. One of the things I appreciate is its connection to the Citi Thank You Rewards program. A perennial frugal hack for me is using credit rewards programs to pay for birthday and Christmas shopping, as well as for restaurant gift cards to treat my hosts when I travel.

Since Christmas is closing in, I checked today to see if I had enough points for a specific gift for my daughter and son-in-law.

Turned out that I needed 14,000 points for the item. I had 12,585 with 1,226 more points waiting to be credited on Nov. 21. In other words, I was 189 points short and the next batch wouldn’t hit my account until Dec. 21 — a little late for ordering the present.

I said, “Oh, well, I’ll give an IOU for the gift and order it on Dec. 22, then. Thanks anyway.”

The customer service rep said, “Let me talk to my supervisor.”


Less than a minute later he came back and said, “Good news! We’ll credit those points early and just give you the rest. Would you like to order that item now?”

You bet I would!


Little things mean a lot

It was just a 189-point punt. Big deal, right?

However, that supervisor would have been within his rights to say, “Sorry – rules are rules.” The fact that I’ve been a customer for 23 years probably figured into the decision. Fact is, though, he didn’t have to credit the points early or spot me the additional ones so I could order right away.

As a result, the item will arrive in about three weeks, well before Christmas. I’ll be able to include it in a box of holiday cheer that I’m sending to Abby and Tim. (Think: homemade peanut brittle and sea-salt caramels, a few other presents and a couple of jars of Adams No-Stir Peanut Butter, a brand they can’t find in Phoenix.)

Sure, I could have put in a card saying, “Watch this space – a major gift will head your way some time in January.” But it’ll be a lot more fun to open that gift on Dec. 25.

With one small (but shrewd) gesture the Thank You program further cemented my good will. Thank you, Citi: You just made a difference in my holiday.

Readers: Had any customer service wins lately?


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  1. Discover waived my first (and hopefully last) late fee for missing a payment a few years ago. I had been with them for more than a decade, never forgot to pay in full ever…until I did because we were on vacation, and they waived it immediately and told me to have a great day. 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      Your situation shows that (a) asking can yield the outcome you desire and (b) being a good customer helps tilt the odds in your favor.

    • Discover is amazing. Their commercial is actually accurate: “We treat you like you’d treat you.” I use them exclusively when shopping online (in case my number is every stolen, I know it would be no problem…because nothing is a problem with them!). When my wallet was stolen a few years ago, Chase made me jump so many hoops and stay on the phone with them so long (gave them the police report details over and over) that the thieves were — at that moment — using my credit cards all over the metropolitan area. When I called Discover, they said: “So sorry your wallet was stolen. We’ll cancel your card, send you a new card, and notify all the credit bureaus. Can we help you with anything else?” I’ll stick with them (and no, I have zero affiliation). I also learned the company was started by women…who wanted a card with good customer service 🙂

      • Kaycee Fisher

        I had the opposite result with Discover. I had mailed my payment in, as I always did, and it apparently had gotten lost in the mail. They did waive the late fee, but they made me pay 2 months payment in advance (yes, at the time that was all I could do) and then they asked if I was interested in auto-bill pay. I said NO, not at this time. Sure enough, the next month they took the money out of my account and for far more than I was able/willing to pay. And when I explained this, more than once to different CS reps, one of them said: “But you gave us your bank info” @@ ( I had to in order to make the “late” payment via the phone ) I did eventually find someone who got what I was saying and was apologetic. Needless to say the next month my Discover card balance was transfered to another card.

  2. Cathy in NJ

    My best customer experience was in Disney World. While in the park I had an issue and I had to visit a day clinic. While waiting for my pills to be delivered to my room, I called the dining line to say I would miss my Christmas Eve dinner reservation could they reschedule it later. The lady told me everything was booked but that if I could make it to the restaurant an hour later they would seat us. I was so happy because I was thinking it was going to be counter service pizza and not the dinner I was looking forward to in Epcot.
    I wasn’t staying in the high priced hotels and they truly didn’t have to reschedule a reservation for Christmas Eve.

  3. It seems like I’ve had a good week with CS too! One example: I just chatted with Target’s customer service about their weird billing of my credit card instead of my gift card, and when I remarked that I appreciated the help because the service had been frustrating, the CSR offered me a $5 gift card for my trouble. That was nice.

  4. That’s really nice! I have the same card and it’s nice to know they have good customer service. I’ve never had to contact them since it’s not my main card but I’ve had it the longest since it was my first credit card.

    American Express, on the other hand, is lousy. I had the same situation as Crystal where I forgot once in over a decade to make my payment on time and they refused to waive the late fee. They basically told me I wasn’t a valuable enough customer to them. So I took their card and put it in my safe and haven’t used it since. I think it’s been nearly ten years. I do belive even though it wasn’t my main card they still would have made more money than the $18 fee they refused to waive. But they were too short-sighted. Their loss.

    Discover is my main card and I have no complaints. They are simply the best.

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s too bad, since a reasonable attitude is all it takes to retain customers.

    • Ironically, American Express just waived a late payment after Husband accidentally missed it by a day — and they were quite understanding and wonderful about it.
      Maybe it’s the specific customer service person you get? We’ve had kind people work with us at MasterCard and Discover…

      I’ve had good results also at Chipotle and Little Caesar’s. Managers at both places responded promptly with food issues, and went out of their way to make it good.

      My problem child has been Safeway. In a problem that’s happened before, they ‘forgot’ to take off 50% discounts on clearance items — even though it was clearly marked. And you don’t get certain sale prices if you haven’t requested them beforehand.

      I’m headed back in there to dispute about $15 worth of groceries I paid for — but shouldn’t have had to. Generally, they’re nice about it. But why should I have to point this out in the first place?!?

      • Donna Freedman

        That’s frustrating. It can be tough to watch the cash register — the items get rung up so quickly — but I think shoppers should do this. At times I’ve caught weekly specials that did not ring up as sale prices, and have had to suggest (politely!) that the cashier pull out the ad so I can point the out the correct cost. (When I remember, I bring the ad with me.)

        Lately I’ve taken to grouping the 50%-off-clearance and other sale items at the end of the order, and feeding them through one at a time so I can check the price. No, we shouldn’t have to do this — but if there’s a glitch or an inattentive cashier, I want to be able to say, “Could you re-check that price, please?”

        At one local store the rule was that if the price rang up wrong you got the item for free. Those were the days.

        • priskill

          This happens occasionally at my grocery and I, too, try to point out politely that these are marked down. I try to place them with the bright red clearance tags pointed at the cashier. When they have missed it they cheerfully refund in cash so I don’t mind too much.

          Also have Citi thank you points — awesome! and the customer service walked me through getting plane fare with so much patience. Love this program — earn points for what I was going to buy anyway — yes, please!

  5. I’ve had good experiences with Bank of America and Capital One. Last summer, my BofA card was compromised and they knocked themselves out to replace the card, waive the charges, and so on. A year ago, when my cousin died unexpectedly, I used Capital One No-Hassle Miles to fly out to Pennsylvania for the funeral. They were just awesome. I think it helps to (a) have a good payment record and (b) be polite. No one wants to help a jerk.

  6. jestjack

    I have had “challenges” recently with Discover over an “expired” e- certificate that was communicated to me as “the same as a gift card”. To be clear they are not… and I will never redeem my rewards for a certificate again. After several e-mails and phone calls they did agree to “make it right”…but it was frustrating. My Amex Card experience has been very good. I have had a couple of problems with product failures and they took care of it immediately. And they double the warranty on products you purchase with their card.

  7. I love to hear stories like this one. The sad thing is it is so rare. I will never understand why companies let their employees treat customers poorly.
    I went with my MIL to Crabtree and Evelyn to exchange some soap and then use a 25% off coupon and you would have thought that she asked for the manager’s first born. I politely stepped in and told the manager that we would be more than willing to give her all the time that she needed to fix the problem. I will never be rude but my next step was to call their home office. Why would you even start with being snotty?

  8. Impossible Girl

    Bed, Bath & Beyond! I was gifted a set of plates several years ago and, while helping me set the table for dinner, my clumsy-ass (his words) FIL dropped one and it shattered. Since they were a set and not open-stock I figured it was lost but on a whim I emailed BB&B explaining what happened and asking if I could possibly purchase one plate to replace the broken one.

    Not only were they able to send me just one plate, they sent it completely free of charge. I was totally willing to pay for it but it felt like they were more interested in gaining a repeat customer, which they did. We bought a house last year and guess where we did ALL of our “new house” shopping?


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