Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Complaining To American Express

Tommorrow is the publication day of Nightfall. I've got a dinner tonight with the Hodder team so hopefully I'll fnd out then if it's selling or not!

I'm at just below 60,000 words on the new Jack Nightingale book, I keep getting waylaid with complaint letters that I have to write. I'm thinking of putting a book together containing my best examples. Here's what I was working on yesterday!

Julia Charman,
Manager of UK Cardmember Services,
American Express Services Europe Ltd,
PO Box 68,
Amex House,
Edward Street,
Brighton BN88 1AH.

Dear Julia,

Thank you for your letter dated December 16 regarding the double-charging of £289.11 that occurred last year in connection with a car that I hired from Hertz.

You say that one of the benefits of being an American Express Cardmember is that when one wishes to question a purchase made to one’s card that you will work on one’s behalf to help resolve the matter with the merchant. I understand the principle and indeed when I worked as a Consumer Affairs journalist I would always advise readers to use a credit card such as American Express rather than a debit card to book plane tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars.

However, I have found in recent years that American Express has been taking the side of the merchant rather than the customer. I had a great deal of trouble getting American Express to refund the cost of Eurostar tickets earlier this year after Eurostar cancelled my trip because of the snow. At first American Express wouldn’t refund my money and it was only after I asked to speak to a supervisor that my money was given back and even then I was told that the matter could only be resolved if Eurostar agreed to refund my money.

In your letter you say that you have credited me with the £289.11 but you also warn me that ‘if at a later date, the merchant provides valid support, we may have to contact you again.’ It is the warning that annoys me. There is clearly an error, the money was clearly taken from my account twice, yet you make it sound as if there is still an issue with the money. Also, I spoke to Hertz immediately after I spotted the double-charging on my on-line statement. According to the Hertz representative I spoke to, they received only one payment of £289.11. Yes, American Express took the money from me twice, but only paid the money to Hertz once. If that’s the case then the error was clearly made by American Express. I need you to look into this for me and to find out exactly what happened with this transaction. At the moment, Hertz is telling me that the fault was not there’s and that American Express was to blame.

Recently I’ve been discussing the standards of service from American Express with three friends, who coincidentally between them have a regular card, a gold card and a platinum card. All agreed with me that standards have fallen in recent years. I have been an American Express cardholder for more than twenty-five years but recently I have begun to feel that you are more concerned about your merchants than you are about me. With that in mind I am now considering dropping my gold card and going back to the regular card. I need you to supply me with a list of benefits that I would lose if I go back to being a regular cardholder. I have a suspicion that I won’t be losing much, but I am prepared to be convinced otherwise.

The main issue I want to raise with you though concerns tickets I bought for the Miley Cyrus concert in Manchester on December 28 last year. I bought the tickets on line through Ticketmaster on June 11 last year. The tickets were specially for American Express cardholders and went on sale 48 hours before they were offered to the general public. I was under the impression that the seats were specially reserved for American Express cardholders.

I asked for the best available tickets and was offered seats in Section BL G, Row P, Seats 5-6. I paid for them with my American Express card and gave the tickets to my ten-year-old daughter as her Christmas present. She was obviously thrilled and excited but all that evaporated on December 28 when we arrived at the MEN Arena. Our seats were in the furthest block from the stage, right at the back of the arena, close to where the lighting and sound technicians were based. We were in Row P which means that there were only ten other rows behind us. As soon as the band came on stage everyone stood up and my daughter was unable to see anything. She wasn’t even able to see the large screens on the stage as absolutely everyone was standing up. She tried to stand on her chair but security officials kept telling her to get down as standing on the chairs was a health and safety issue.

I have been going to concerts for over thirty years and I can confidently say that they were the worst seats I have ever had. Even I had difficulty seeing the stage and I’m a fairly tall adult. My daughter could see nothing and the concert was a huge disappointment.

I need you to find out who decided that my seats were suitable to be offered to American Express cardholders. Was it the MEN Arena, Ticketmaster, or someone at American Express? Whoever made the decision needs to be told that they made a major blunder in offering such awful seats to cardholders. I couldn’t have done any worse if I had gone online two days later and bought them along with the general public.

I trusted American Express to supply me with good seats and you didn’t – you gave me pretty much the worst seats in the arena. At least if I had been high up at the top of the stadium my daughter would have been able to see something of the stage. Frankly, I think you should do the decent thing and refund my money.

I appreciate that this is a long letter, so I will summarise what I am expecting from you:

1) Confirmation that the double-charging of £289.11 through Hertz was an American Express fault and not an error on the part of Hertz.

2) A list of benefits for Gold cardholders that are not available to holders of the regular American Express card.

3) Confirmation that you will be refunding the cost of the Miley Cyrus tickets, along with an explanation of why such bad seats were offered to American Express cardholders.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Leather


Anonymous said...

Keep us updated with the reply from them and Hertz!

A pedantic grammar perfectionist who cannot abide such basic mistakes in one who purports to be a writer. said...

"At the moment, Hertz is telling me that the fault was not there’s and that American Express was to blame.'

There's? I believe you meant their's.

Stephen Leather said...

Well spotted! I should maybe have run it by my editor before sending it!