Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why I Stayed with American Express

When someone does something wrong, Tell Them.
When someone does something right, Tell Everyone.

I've said that many times in my life.  Positive reviews on my blog are an illustration of that.  Being a Big Brother type, negative reviews are a warning, but that's a very different story.

We have all gotten used to horrendous support from companies.  The worst seems to be the technical sites like those from computer companies who have decided that in order to pay for upper management's ivory back scratchers, they lay off the US, UK, Canada, Australia or what have you based expert level support for a cheaper support based out of an emerging economy.  Nothing against the tech people in Bangalore, but when I hear That Accent, I have taken to asking them if they can forward me immediately to a US based group.  I have been almost universally sent back here to someone who has been able to give me the highest level of support that I could expect.

I have been a customer of American Express for years.  I have to say that being able to talk to someone who is much better than average is why I have kept the card.  I am talking to someone in the United States who knows what they're doing, and will be willing to do what it takes to make me happy.

Yesterday I broke down and made some Customer Support Service Calls.  I don't like doing that sort of thing, since I have functioned as a Customer Support Manager in a Call Center when I was the Lead Application Manager for a financial package.  I know what these folks go through from both ends. 

I literally wore out my AMEX Blue Card.  The stripe is worn with an even "clear" spot where the many reads of the card had eaten the magnetic stripe away.  The card has a neat dent in it where I took a center punch and a hammer and destroyed the RFID Chip on purpose.  It is now widely becoming known what kind of a "bad technology" RFID is for secure transactions so I won't go through it here. 

The lamination on the card began to peel up and the thing looks a mess. It got so that I was surprised when it would read instead of reject me.  Gas stations were reliable, the rest... nope.

So I called up American Express from the number on the card.  It was smudged so I got out the magnifying glass and turned up the lights and was able to dial out to them and got through to the call center in less than 5 minutes. 

I spoke with Tiffany.   If you are Tiffany I have to say thank you.  If you are Tiffany's Boss, you need to give her a raise or at least a bonus.  Tiffany was ... well, perfect at what she was doing.  We talked about how I had worn out the card, I mentioned that I use it for the vast majority of my purchases, and that she was happy to help me get a new card.

No muss and no fuss. 

As we worked through the security procedures of giving her the old four digit code off the card and other details, at no time did I feel lost or confused.   Everything was amazingly clear and concise.

The order for a new card was placed and she asked me if there was anything else.   This was where I threw my curve ball at her - could I please have a card with no RFID chip in it. 

She wasn't sure and had to check.  I sat on hold for under a minute when she found the information and was able to "Turn Off" the RFID chip. 

I feel better about that.  The report about the whole RFID mess and how you can be "Electronically Pickpocketed" has gone viral.  There are a number of reports on You Tube but this one says it pretty well and even shows how easy it is to do the deed.   When I get my passport, I'll get a foil sleeve and leave the chip alone, but the credit cards have a date with a hammer and a center punch.

According to hackers, you can read an RFID Chip up to 160 feet away.  Around 45 Meters for those who are Foot-and-Inch-Challenged.  Half a football field anyone?

You can see the TV News Report out of a Dallas station on this link here.  At least until it gets pulled.

Anyway once all that happened on the phone, I left Tiffany feeling like everything was done and I forgot about it.  The next morning, 10AM (Now) I am sitting in my chair and I hear the UPS truck drive up.  The friendly driver gave the horn a tap and I went to the door as he got there.  It turned out that American Express sent via UPS Next Day Air a brand spanking new American Express Blue Card.  I now have a new AMEX card with a sticker telling me to please activate it.  From Omaha to me in one night!

So now, I've got a call to make ...

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