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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Citigroup, Citicorp, credit cards and outright customer abuse
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Citigroup, Citicorp, credit cards and outright customer abuse

having to spend any time whatsoever on this kind of crap is, imho, totally inexcusable...

18 May 2008

Steven Freiberg
Chief Executive Officer
Citigroup Global Consumer Group
399 Park Ave
New York, NY 10043

Cc: Vikram Pandit, CEO, Citigroup Inc.
Cc: Vice President, Citicard Customer Service

Re: [Name and credit card number redacted]

Dear Mr. Freiberg:

I am writing you because I believe you need to know my truly appalling tale of perhaps the very worst customer service it has ever been my misfortune to experience.

Before I begin, you should know that I am currently working on a project in Afghanistan. I live part-time in Argentina and the U.S. As with many travelers, I rely on my ATM and credit cards to provide me with necessary funds in a timely manner rather than traveling with large amounts of cash-on-hand. I travel extensively and have done so for most of the past twenty-five years.

Let me now outline the chain of events which includes the facts of the egregious and totally unacceptable treatment at the hands of your customer service “professionals.”

(Note: All dates are based on Afghanistan time which is 8 ½ hours ahead of U.S. eastern time.)

6 May 2008

I withdrew a $200 cash advance from an ATM machine owned by a local bank here in Afghanistan.

12 May 2008

I attempted to withdraw another $200 from that ATM and was rejected. Subsequently, I phoned the Universal Card customer service center where I informed the representative that I was calling from Afghanistan. When I had gone through the identity verification process, I was told that customer service had attempted to contact me but, as a result of not being able to reach me, my card was scheduled for cancellation. I asked why it was being canceled and was told that “the customer database had been compromised.” I asked for additional information about the “compromise” but that was all the representative could – or would - tell me. I said that I didn’t want the card canceled but was told that if I left the account open, I would be liable for any charges incurred through fraud. At that point, I was only told that the card must be canceled, not that a new account number would be assigned and a new card provided. When I expressed my concern about losing my card and my account, I was then told that I would receive a replacement account number and that a replacement card would be mailed to my billing address. I said that I needed the card now and was told that a new card could be express delivered to me here in Afghanistan. I carefully spelled out the address of the project here (I live and work in the same building). Since there is no street number, I was careful to point out that both DHL and Federal Express make regular deliveries here and that our location is in both of their databases. I also provided my local cell phone number. The representative carefully verified all of the details and assured me that the card would arrive in only a few days. I thanked her for her help and rang off.

14 May 2008

I phoned customer service to find out the name of the express company and the tracking number so that I could make sure that delivery was in progress. After providing my old account number, but before going through the identify verification process and communicating my request, I was asked by the representative if I could provide my new account number. When I said that I couldn’t because I hadn’t received the new card yet, the representative informed me that the new card had been sent to my billing address in the U.S. She also expressed concern that I hadn’t received it yet. Needless to say, I was taken aback. I basically went through the entire drill of the previous call, providing the address and phone information for Afghanistan. The representative placed me on hold during the call for 3-5 minutes at least four times while she conferred with either her supervisor and/or technical assistance people. She told me that the account number and card that had been mailed to the U.S. would have to be canceled and a new one issued. Finally, when we were almost finished with the call, she asked me if I wanted my billing address changed to Afghanistan and my statements mailed here. I said absolutely not (I had already told her I was on a temporary assignment here), that I received my statements by email, that I didn’t want them mailed anywhere, and that I wanted the billing address in the U.S. and the phone number to remain the same. She said that I could call back the next day to find out the name of the express company and the tracking number.

15 May 2008

I phoned customer service last evening prior to going to bed to find out the name of the express company and the tracking number. The representative informed me that a new card had been mailed to the U.S. because policy dictated that it could not be sent to Afghanistan. At this point, I was stunned. I explained the full details of the situation to the representative, emphasizing that I understood the policy, but expressed deep frustration over not having been told that in the first place. I also told her that, while I appreciated her apology and realized that the fault was not hers, I expected and deserved some consideration from the company for what was fast becoming a monumental level of disservice. I stated that, although I had no idea of what that consideration might be, I would like to speak to her supervisor, not to complain about her, but to satisfy myself that someone in higher authority would at least be made aware of my circumstances.

An account manager came on the line. I explained my situation and acknowledged that I both understood and accepted the policy that a card could not be delivered to Afghanistan. That notwithstanding, the account manager must have repeated at least 6-8 times that, “Sir, there is nothing I can do about getting your card to you in Afghanistan.” I became increasingly frustrated as she repeated that statement while I repeated that, yes, I understood and accepted that, but was only interested in what she could offer as consideration for my trouble in acknowledgment of the company’s high level of disservice. Finally, she offered to place my account on an introductory offer status, interest-free on all purchases for six months. Since some small consideration was all I was interested in, I agreed that was satisfactory, thanked her for her help, and prepared to end the call. Prior to that, however, I had one final question. This is where things got truly interesting.

I asked the account manager if she could verify that the second card was being mailed to my billing address in the U.S. Amazingly, she told me that it was being sent to my billing address in Afghanistan, the same address where my statements were to be mailed. I could scarcely believe my ears. I related my previous instructions to the other representative on 14 May and demanded that she immediately correct the mistake. I provided the U.S. billing address and contact information and re-affirmed that I wanted to continue receiving my statements via email. In conclusion, out of curiosity, I asked how, since my billing address had been changed to Afghanistan, my card would have been sent here if the policy was not to deliver to Afghanistan. Her answer was the final straw. She informed me that the card would have been MAILED - not couriered - to the address in Afghanistan. I told her that trusting a credit card to a virtually non-existent Afghanistan postal system would be tantamount to guaranteeing that it would not only never arrive, but that it would also be stolen. As that point, I asked to speak to someone higher up the food chain. She took my number and told me that someone would be getting back to me in twenty-four hours. That was approximately sixty hours ago.

I understand that you are the senior executive of Citigroup’s card business and have many layers of managers working under you who are specifically tasked to attend to seriously dissatisfied customers such as myself. I do, however, have a request for you personally, and it is a simple one. I want nothing less than a written letter from you, under your signature, not that of a subordinate, that re-caps the details of my horrendous experience at the hands of your company, and offers a most sincere apology. I require your personal assurance that you have been apprised of and fully understand this example of abysmal customer service.

I also want to inform you that I will be posting this letter on my personal weblog as well as forwarding it to my extensive list of personal and business contacts.

I will await your response.


[name redacted]

i shared this with a friend... his comments...

That chain of events is simply ridiculous. How on earth can customer
service get so bad... what kind of recruitment policy did they have? 'Hire the rudest most unsympathetic people on the planet'???

my response...
no, "they" don't "hire the rudest most unsympathetic people on the planet"... "they" hire generally well-meaning, ordinary folks like you and me... but, with "their" stilting, uncompromising, totally inflexible rules, regulations, policies and procedures that do not make allowances for any deviation from the norm that "they" have defined, combined with the constant threat of firing for the slightest mistake, "they" seriously limit "problem-solving" to the recitation of scripted boiler-plate... and, if the script doesn't contain precisely "their" senior management approved recipe for your particular unique problem, you are s.o.l. (shit outta luck)...

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