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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Losing funds on an expired account

Yes, you read that right. I had a debit card on which I had lost ten dollars AFTER the card had expired.

Here's what happened. I went to one of our favorite sporting goods stores and bought myself a pair of athletic shoes. As my wife was also purchasing goods, she put the whole thing on her debit card.

The next day, I saw the shoes had gone on sale - $10 off. I figured the sporting goods store would most likely credit me the ten bucks since only one day had passed. What I never counted on was the hassle that was to come from the attempt.

I returned to the store and stated my goal at the customer service counter. The woman looked at the slip and asked for my debit card onto which she would apply the credit. Without thinking, I handed her my debit card, not knowing it is not simply a duplicate of my wife's card, (after all, it's the same bank,) but a separate entity in itself.

She swipes the card, presses a few buttons, and hands the card back, saying, "There you go!" I thanked her and left.

Over the next few days, I checked our balance online looking for the ten dollar credit. After about a week or so, I started to wonder, specially since there were several other transactions listed after the fact. I even investigated other accounts in case it somehow got applied to a different one.

Expired Card

I called the bank to see what they had to say. I wasn't expecting their response. They told me the card was deactivated as of several months ago. When I asked why, they stated it had been reported stolen. As I had the card in my hand at the time, that seemed somewhat implausible, and I told them so. Further research yielded some sort of "subcode" that indicated the card expired because of non-use. It seems like these should be two separate codes, but maybe that's just me.

A Credit Card?

One thing I found odd was that the receipt indicated the credit was applied to a charge card. Though we have an account on that listed charge card, it is not with the bank in question. Could my expired debit card actually have the same sixteen digits as somebody's credit card?? Stranger things have happened, I would imagine.

I returned to the store a THIRD time and once again confronted customer service. After a few minutes, she called a manager and acted as a liaison between me and her. Finally I asked if she could bring the manager down so we can get this settled since it was obvious we were getting nowhere.

The manager arrived after a few minutes and told me that this matter was out of the store's hands. She showed me their records which indicated a credit was applied to a credit card with the exact digits as the card I handed to the checkout, so there's nothing they can do.

Never mind the fact that a debit card is not a credit card, the card I handed the checkout was an EXPIRED card. A worthless piece of plastic that might as well have been a comb, for what the card was worth. How a famous, big name store can apply ten dollars to a comb is beyond me, but that's what they said "their records" told them, so they're off the hook.

When I suggested their records may be "wrong," they told me my only recourse may be with the bank. I told them I already spoke to the bank, and they pointed back to the store. I asked if they could speak to my bank directly, and oddly, they agreed.

Resolution - eventually

Turns out the store manager and the bank representative were former colleagues, which was quite a coincidence, but the bottom line was that they told me they both needed to do some research to figure out where the ten bucks went.

Several days later, I got a message from the bank telling me that my account would be credited $10 within seven to ten business days, and indeed that's what eventually happened.

A day or two later, curiosity got the better of me and I called the store manager and asked what they had figured out. She said something along the lines of, "You got your ten dollars, what makes the difference?"

I said, "I'm glad I finally got my money, but I would have assumed YOU would like to figure out what happened. Next time it may be for a thousand dollars and I'm betting that customer won't be as patient and understanding as I have been." She was unamused.

But apparently, neither this store nor my bank is ever expecting anyone to walk in and unknowingly present an expired debit card, which happens to have the same account number as someone's credit card somewhere in the world, and request a credit for a $1000 purchase originally made on their spouse's active debit card.


I was a little perturbed that nobody seemed to care about where the heck the money went. To me, it wasn't about the ten bucks, it was the principal. The other thing that got me was the attitude of the store manager. First because of her reluctance to believe the store could be at fault because "the store records show the credit was applied." Computers can't make mistakes? And second because she blew me off again when I called to find out what happened.

I think in the end, the bank just credited me the ten dollars, probably out of some miscellaneous "good faith" account, even though it is still my belief it should have come from the store. After all, their books would have come out ahead, wouldn't they?

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