Posted by: patenttranslator | April 12, 2015

Three Examples of How Big Corporations Steal Our Money And Get Away With It Too

 
Most of the time, nobody notices when a huge multinational corporation is stealing money from its customers. But sometime the stealing is so blatant that we actually find out about it. I can offer three examples, probably fairly typical, from my own personal experience of what large corporations can get away with in the United States of America.

T-Mobile Managed to Steal 30 Dollars from Me

My wife is not a very technologically savvy person. In fact, she is the opposite of somebody who would be even remotely interested in keeping up with technology. Whenever her computer for some reason stops working, she simply yells at me, usually in Japanese: “Chotto kitte, ne! Mata nanika dame!” (Would you come here? Something is wrong again). Sometime she yells it at me in English, but she never specifies what it is that is “wrong”. It could be a disconnected mouse, no Internet connection, or anything else.

We have intercom in our house, which means that all she has to do to talk to me if she is downstairs and I am on the second floor is to press one of four buttons on the intercom panel which is installed in every room, namely the one which says INSIDE/PATIO TALK.

But she refuses to do that. Why press buttons when you can yell? I try to see these and other idiosyncracies of my wife as a charming eccentricity. I should note that she is also a genius chef, which more than makes up for her reluctance to keep up with technology.

She has a flip cell phone, the kind that just about anybody can figure out how to use, and I chose the prepaid plan from T-Mobile for her phone because she almost never uses it as she basically just keep her phone in her car in case of an emergency. Fortunately, there have been only two minor emergencies in the 31 years that we have been married requiring her to call me: each time she locked her car keys in her car and she had to call me to come to her rescue with my car keys.

She also needs the cell phone when she is changing planes on her way back from Japan, which she visits occasionally to spend some time with her aging mother, in order to let me know about delayed departures and such so that I would know when to pick her up at the airport.

A few days before she was supposed to come back from Japan to US two months ago, as I was making sure that her prepaid plan had enough minutes on it, I saw to my consternation that there were zero minutes available on her plan under a REFILL REQUIRED button. So I started a chatting session with T-Mobile online to let them know that there must be some mistake because a week ago, there were still 30 dollars on the plan, which is not supposed to expire until the end of the year. No problem, said the T-Mobile representative chatting with me online, we fill figure out what happened. But there was a problem because he needed to know her pin number, which I did not know (and she would not know it either). OK, no problem, said the T-Mobile guy, what are the last four digits of the last call received on your phone? But since I did not know that either as the phone was turned off somewhere in Japan, the T-Mobile representative refused to help me.

And that was how T-Mobile simply stole 30 dollars from me.

I was angry, but what could I do? So I put 10 dollars on the phone from my credit card to make sure that my wife would be able to call me from the phone once she is in Los Angeles. And sure enough, she did call me to let me know that all the connecting planes from LA were delayed and that instead of picking her up at the airport here at 11 PM, she wanted me to pick her up at 9 AM the next day.

From now on, I will be putting only increments of 10 dollars on my wife’s phone to make sure that T-Mobile will not be able to steal more than 10 dollars at a time from me again.

Amazon.com Managed to Steal 79.95 Dollars from Me

Most years I spend quite a bit of money on electronic toys. Over the years I bought quite a few of these toys that I love so much from Amazon. The last one was a Bluetooth speaker for $79.95.

I loved the design of the speaker, the round push buttons and the cool green and red lights on it almost as much as the sound of the speaker, which I paired effortlessly with my iPod, iPad and iPhone so that within a few minutes, I was able to take my toys with me to any of the rooms in our house while listening to the rich sound of the speaker playing my music on one of these cool toys.

I was in heaven – but only for a day, because the next day, the speaker started turning itself off after a few seconds. I figured that it must have been a faulty battery. So I contacted Amazon, this time by calling them, to let them know about the problem, and they sent me a return label to return the non-functioning speaker to them. I used the label as instructed and mailed the broken toy to Amazon.

After a few days I received an e-mail from Amazon informing me that the item was received. But to my surprise, they did not refund $79.95 back to my credit card which is what every other company would do.

Instead of giving me back my money, the almighty Amazon.com Company decided to keep the money in some kind of a “credit” for me, although I never agreed to such an arrangement. If you buy something with a credit card, you have the right as a consumer to call your credit card company to let them know that you were sold a broken product that you returned and that you want your money back.

So I called the credit card company, told them that I don’t want to pay the $79.95 on my bill, and explained to them why I did not want to do that. The credit card company (MasterCard) opened a claim and assigned the processing of my claim to a company called Synchrony Bank in Orlando, Florida. When Synchrony Bank asked me for documentation, I promptly forwarded to them e-mails from Amazon confirming that they did indeed received the malfunctioning speaker from me.

But after about 10 days, I received a form letter from Synchrony Bank stating the following:

“We understand that you are seeking a credit to your account for returned merchandise or a cancelled order. Each merchant determines their cancellation and/or return policy. In this case, they have informed us this transaction [sic] is outside of their cancellation and/or return policy.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department”

Translated into English, this must mean that if Amazon says that they are not going to give me my money back, Synchrony Bank is not going to lift a finger for a customer who went through the process and supplied them with all the documentation as required.

I in fact anticipated that this would most likely be the result, I just went through the process to confirm what I thought was likely to happen. Amazon is a huge multinational corporation, probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest customer of Synchrony Bank, which is why the bank is not going to do anything for me lest it should displease Amazon.

I have been shopping with Amazon for about 15 years now, but I will never buy anything from them again for as long as I live. In the case of T-Mobile, perhaps it could have been some kind of a computer glitch that made my 30 dollars disappear. But both Amazon and Synchrony Bank have documentation that clearly shows that I returned a defective product for which I was (allegedly) issued a credit that I refused to accept because I never agreed to such an arrangement in the first place.

So there could be no computer glitch involved here, and it is a policy of Amazon not to return money once the customer pays, even if the product is returned because it is faulty.

Is it also the policy of Amazon to eventually disappear phantom credits? It would seem so.

I tried to recover the money that Amazon stole for me by finding another product worth about 80 dollars to see if the phantom credit that Amazon allegedly issued to me really exists, instead of crediting the money back to my account, which is what a less arrogant and less thievish company would do.

But the credit does not exist. When I logged into my Amazon account and tried to use it to purchase something else, the website asked me to confirm that I would be using the same MasterCard to pay for it. Amazon still has all previous information about myself, including my billing and shipping address and MasterCard number, but nothing about “a credit” in the amount of $79.95.

I will never buy anything from Amazon, not even a single book, for as long as I live, because I cannot be sure that they will not steal my money again. I will be buying from other sources, preferably in local stores.

Incidentally, I did buy another Bluetooth speaker in the meantime (from a local Radio Shack store in case I had to return it). It works just fine and I absolutely love it.

Amazon got to keep 79.95 dollars that it stole from me, although it lost a customer of 15 years. But they are so big that they simply don’t care about little details like that.

Cox Communications Almost Managed to Disappear My Telephone Number

I also spend quite a bit of money every month for telephone charges. I have two business lines, as well as a toll free (800) number, up until recently I also had a standalone fax line until I decided to finally retire it, and my wife calls Japan just about every day. In fact she is on the phone to her mother, to whom I was also speaking just a few minutes ago, as I am writing this post.

A friend advised me some time ago to switch my home phone service to Ooma, a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone that according to Wikipedia was started by Ashton Kutcher in 2004. It is much cheaper than traditional fixed phone lines. You can actually get away with paying only a few dollars for taxes and nothing for incoming and outgoing calls once you spend about a hundred dollars for the Ooma phone device. I chose the more expensive version which costs 15 dollars a month for a year, and 25 dollars a month from the second year, because this version also include 1,000 minutes of international calls, which is something that I used to pay for extra when I was with Cox Communications. The monthly bill from Cox for just one line used to be 65 dollars, which did not include international calling charges. So once I switched to Oooma, I got my initial investment of about a hundred dollars back in just a few months.

The problem was, I wanted to switch my home phone number to Oooma because it is a number that I was using for the last 14 years.

According to US laws, consumers have the right to take their phone numbers with them to their new service provider and they can do it through a process called “porting”. So I sent a request to port my home phone number to Cox Communications and waited.

I had a feeling that Cox Communication would not give up a fairly lucrative customer without a fight, and I was right. Twice I received a letter from Cox Communication stating that I my home phone number was not eligible for porting because I was still on a contract with Cox. But I happened to know that there was no contract. After I called Cox three times and asked them for something that would prove that such a contract existed, they could not find anything.

After that I received another letter stating that my number could not be ported to Ooma because Ooma rejected the porting. But Oooma of course did not reject anything.

During my fourth call to Cox Communications, when I received yet another monthly bill from them for a service that I no longer wanted, they told me that should the service be discontinued, my number would probably no longer exist, without specifying the reason for that.

Most people probably give up at that point if they need to keep their old number. But I was so mad at Cox that I told them that I was not going to pay them a single penny no matter what, not even if it meant that I would lose the telephone number that I was using for the last 14 years.

Next day, I finely received a message from Oooma that my home phone number was ported to them, after about 3 months of fighting with Cox, and a week later I received a check from Cox for about 70 dollars for overpayment for services.

But until the last moment I had no idea whether I would be able to keep my phone number or not.

The three examples that I offer above illustrate the fact that large corporations steal our money left and right these days simply because they know that they can get away with it. Although there is not much that we can do about it, I think that we should try to fight back whenever we can and as much as we can.

If we don’t fight back, not only large corporations like T-Mobile, Amazon, or Cox Communications, but just about every business will try to steal as much money as possible from every customer because stealing money outright from powerless customers will simply become a perfectly acceptable way of doing business.

It is of course also quite possible that I am hopelessly behind the times if I don’t even realize that stealing money from powerless customers has been a perfectly acceptable way of doing business for a very long time.

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Responses

  1. You know, you should be more positive! Find joy and contentment in the knowledge that your small contributions along with countless others, has helped a few companies accomplish success. Don’t fight it, embrace it with a big fat hug!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Highly positive, totally captivating! Thanks, Steve!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you Steve! Our strategy is to keep a lower profile and to maintain the lowest dependency level that we are able to. Of course that doesn’t mean that all our activities are as smooth as silk but, so far, we have managed to avoid major catastrophes though a few times its been nerve-wracking enough to seriously discombobulate us. These tests always seem to appear when we’re least prepared for them or when very serious problems are troubling our nearest and dearest which in my partner’s case means her Mum who lives 2 minutes away and in my case means my only child, Tara, who lived with me in what is now the Czech Republic but during the time she spent here was still Czechoslovakia.
    Wishing you all the Best, as always, and still looking forward to some personal contact :),
    Michal

    Like

  4. [Wistfully] If I lived in the same house with a Japanese chef, she could yell at me 1000x times per day! Does the Wife write? Does She have a blog? I’d love to read her thoughts about food and living with a patent translator 🙂

    I would not presume to give anyone any advice but it might be worthwhile to send a message to Amazon and explain the matter again, if it wasn’t too long ago. Their customer service is outstanding, and while the U.S. corporate Hall of Shame hosts many, Amazon is usually behaving very well.

    Personally, I’ve been trying to develop both more vigilant and more philosophical attitude about being surrounded 24/7 by hungry hyenas big and small. Fairly well educated and computer savvy, I am able to catch and prevent/resolve many hyena attacks but even my usually non-bleeding heart bleeds for those who can’t. Immigrants and elderly people in particular. And that quest for a more philosophical attitude… it is failing miserably, especially as April 15 approaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 1. Wife does not have a blog, and she claims that she does not read mine either, although I have a suspicion that she does read it once in a while without letting me know, just to keep tabs on me.

    2. She really was a chef, the last time she had a job that paid bills was in 1989 when she was working as a chef in a restaurant in San Francisco called Oritalia, quite popular with yuppies back then (fusion of Japanese and Italian cuisine, hence Oritalia, get it?)

    Now she cooks mostly just for the two of us, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Jewish, Korean, or whatever kind of “fusion” strikes her fancy. She watches TV cooking shows obsessively looking for new ideas. But if she wants to know whether a certain kind of sausage tastes good or not, she has to ask me, and she has no idea how to make knedliky or svickova.

    3. To hell with Amazon. They lost this former customer forever and ever. I don’t forgive arrogance.

    Like

    • To paraphrase the old saying, never ascribe to arrogance what is probably just incompetence…. The odds are you just haven’t contacted the right person yet. Tracking down someone who actually understands the problem and what to do about it is quite an art today. I’m surprised our high-tech society hasn’t collapsed from low-tech support personnel by now.

      For example: Our local ISP was sold to a regional ISP, and for months people with the local domain were getting sporadic bounced mail. One mailing list discussion owner (after I had to resubscribe again and again and again because of the bounces) finally figured it out- during an “upgrade”, the new ISP had simply not configured the two backup mail servers properly to recognize our local domain. So whenever traffic was busy enough to have the backup servers kick in, the mail would bounce as “no such user” for everybody in town. We spent some time futilely trying to alert tech support by e-mail and by phone. Phone tech support insisted they didn’t have backup servers (wasn’t in their script). Finally I searched the net for contact info for the CEO – found him on a forum discussion. Sent him e-mail, described the problem, and within an hour the problem was fixed. He knew they had backup servers and he knew they had to be configured to recognize all the local domains. He sent me a nice note saying he got his engineers to fix it. They knew they had backup servers, too. But all the other people called and e-mailed for many months probably didn’t even know what a backup server was or how e-mail propagation works. Probably thought it was directly delivered from sender to the recipient’s computer, rather than bouncing from node to node and being stored on servers all along the way before being passed to the next node.

      Like

  6. Dear Mr Steve,

    A great post as always! touching a wider range of consumers worldwide.

    However, I do believe that the sweet revenge, is not to boycott (for every person opting out, there are hundreds of new fishes flocking in), but to scandalize them sounds good and fair to me! letting the biggest number of people know about it, to avoid and take precautions, same like you did today with this elaborate informative post.
    Hence the importance of service/product evaluation posts.

    With a dedicated post for each case, harnessing the power of social media – ( Hash-tags maybe!) you can even post the link on their official social media platforms, this can be a good pain the neck and might give their executives some annoying hard time – if the company is not willing to deal with the normal complaint platform. so let’s have fun smudging and smearing!

    Like

  7. Dear Mr. MN:

    Thank you for your comment.

    I don’t boycott Amazon, even though they simply stole my money like a common thief.

    But I can’t buy anything from them now that I know that if I dare to send the product back to them because it does not work, they might keep my money again.

    That is a risk I am not willing to take.

    Like

  8. I’ve had nothing but good luck getting refunds from Amazon or vendors who sell through them. Customer Service generally fixes things quickly for stuff sold directly by Amazon. With other vendors, you just have to be persistent. And you should go to the page on the site from which you bought the thing and either include your story in a comment or innocently ask a question in the q&a section for the item about how to proceed. Thise questions get sent directly to people who have posted and the odds are good that you’ll get decent advice. Also put a comment on the vendor’s page. Then contact the vendor, send them a copy of what you’ve posted, ask if they can help get you the refund, and also tell them that you’ll revise your post if they make you happy. Be nice and polite in both public and private so they take you seriously. Just keep to the simple facts. You received a defective product, your card has been charged, you sent back the product and they definitely received it, but you are still waiting for the refund. Be patient, the actual vendor may just have one person dealing with customer complaints and you have to break through any automatic responses.

    Document all of this to send to the bank if your refund campaign fails. You will probably have to fill out some form with the bank, attach all your documentation. You might be able to do all this online.

    I wouldn’t give up on T-Mobile, either. Now that you have the phone, you can tell them what they originally needed to know about last number dialed. If one customer service rep seems clueless, try again during a different shift. It took me three tries just to get a dsl line installed by the local phone company- the first two guys I called during the day shift cheerfully said they would schedule me, then nobody showed both times. The third time, I called on a Friday evening – a woman with more experience and smarts figured out what happened: in my area, they needed to use an old DOS program rather than a Windows program to set up such things, the young guys didn’t know how and didn’t bother asking a supervisor but instead just didn’t do anything. She knew how, had me set up in a few minutes, and waived the installation fee for my trouble. And the installer showed up.

    And about porting your phone number: I recently had to do this, and the new carrier emphasized that I should call THEM (not the old company) when I was ready to sign up (I had a free trial to check local coverage) and let THEM contact my old company and get my number ported properly. Otherwise there was too much chance of the old company messing it up, as you discovered. Never ever expect a company you are disconnecting from to help you out…. The new company is the one who is getting your business, and they will move mountains as needed to get through all the red tape to make you a happy new customer.

    Like

  9. @Kathy

    I did everything Amazon asked me to do, and yet, they did not give me my money back.

    It is not incompetence. Somebody made a decision not to return the money. The simply steal money from people and get away with it. This is indeed arrogance, and last I checked, stealing was a crime.

    I am not going to waste any more time with Amazon. Fortunately, the amount they stole was small. They can keep the money, but I don’t want to have anything to do with this company anymore.

    Like

    • Did you contact customer service to tell them that you couldn’t find the credit issued? It might be there somewhere in their system, just not in a form you could easily recognize. Pr maybe it did get lost in their system. Usually Amazon customer service is very good ( if you really want to get frustrated make the mistake of trying to order something from Walmart online, or welcome to my world of having to contact Comcast cable every few months when their idiot computer decides to charge me for something that is supposed to be free forever and they know it…). But you have to ask the right question and send it to the right person. Don’t forget that messages do get lost in cyberspace sometimes, so resend anything after a decent interval. If just replying to their confirmation message for the receipt doesn’t work, there should be some navigation buttons to help you do that right on the archived copy of your order online. Go to your account and look for Orders, you can search to find that particular item.

      It’s not unusual to just issue a store credit instead of putting a credit on your charge card. But that might have something to do with the actual vendor if it was not purchased directly from Amazon, since usually I do get a credit on my charge card from Amazon when something defective arrives directly from them (in my case, no returns have been needed because food has been involved). Amazon may also have issued you a gift card (code you enter during the payment process). I really doubt they intended to steal your money- that’s really bad for business these days because word gets around fast on the net and Amazon has an increasing number of competitors.

      You have their message saying they were issuing the credit, just ask where the heck the credit is and how you access it to buy something. You really do have to follow their procedures if you want to get your refund, every store is like that. But I think you just need to find out what happened to the credit they intended to issue. That’s not a small amount of money to me… 🙂 But I really don’t think they intended to steal your money, that doesn’t make any business sense. You returned the defective merchandise and they received it and they said they were issuing a credit. There is light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to walk a little further into the darkness to see it.

      Like

  10. “But I really don’t think they intended to steal your money, that doesn’t make any business sense.”

    It does make sense to steal when everybody else is doing it too.

    I unsubscribed myself from Amazon junk e-mails and put a link to my post in the “Additional Comment” section of the reason why I did that. I am not going to beg them to please, please give me back what they stole.

    Like


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