Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About It

Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About ItIt’s funny how something as simple as purchasing gas can turn into a challenge when the people you are dealing with are unreasonable. This is exactly the situation in which I found myself a few weeks ago when I stopped at our local gas station to fill my tank. As I was trying to use my credit card to make the purchase, a voice from the clerk inside advised me that the credit card readers were not functioning and that I would need to use cash to make my gasoline purchase. As I look back on the situation now, I should have taken my business down the street, but at the time I didn’t believe there would be any problems making a simple purchase using cash.

The gas station also serves as a mini-market, pizza maker, sandwich shop, donut vendor, breakfast burrito distributor, and oh, yes, it sells gas as a way of drawing the public in. As I entered, the clerk asked me how much gas I wanted to buy and I said I wanted to fill it up. She asked me how much I thought the car would need and I gave a guess that about $20 should do just fine. I presented her with a $20 bill and returned to my car and began the refueling process. I was only able to squeeze in $15 worth of gas and I returned inside to the counter to get my $5 change.

This was when the fun and games began. I explained that my tank only took $15 to fill up and I thought I would receive my $5 back. The clerk told me she had no way to confirm that I only took $15 worth of fuel, to which I replied she could come out to the pump and see for herself. She informed me that she was alone and that her assistant was late coming in to the store. She informed me that I would have to see the store manager in the morning and that I would have to return then.

I returned the following morning and the same clerk was present and brought the manager to the counter. I explained the situation and was amazed when the manager told me she had no way to confirm my purchase of only a $15 nor would she return the $5. I asked her if she thought I would be returning if I wasn’t owed what I considered a small sum of money. I also asked if she was calling me a liar and she had no response. I left making a comment that this wasn’t over yet. As I drove home I thought to myself how ridiculous this situation had become over such an insignificant amount, especially since this gas station was a nationally owned company and could well afford a lousy $5.

Upon returning home, I thought I would call the company, but my wife suggested that I wait a day to calm down. Heeding her opinion, I waited until the following day and went to the company’s website in search of a phone number. Instead of calling, I noticed the company had a customer service email for public use. I reiterated everything I mentioned above, left my cellphone number, and requested that I be contacted.

A few hours later I received a phone call from a person who identified themselves as a VP in charge of customer relations. I was informed that the manager of the store was standing by and that she would personally be waiting to return my $5 and offer an apology. In addition, he was emailing me a coupon for a free pizza (I had previously eaten pizzas from there, and they were not a gastronomical delight — a little too greasy for my tastes — and I am a huge fan of Papa Murphy take and bake pizzas) as well as for drinks as a token of the company’s appreciation for doing business at its gas station.

I did return to the station and was given my $5 as well as an apology. I wasn’t gloating in my conquest — in fact, it was a pain having to go through all of the hoops for five bucks.

So what did I learn from this experience? To me it was more convenient to send an email for two reasons:

  • The email provided me with proof that I had contacted the company.
  • By emailing I was able to keep my emotions and anger in check.

I also learned that big companies will listen to customers who feel they have received poor customer service on the local level.

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Sean Hackbarth

Target Store Customer Service Problems

I ordered a few items on Target’s Web site the other day; it was relatively simple to do. Then, less than 48 hours later, I discovered that lower prices for the same items had been posted. I immediately reached out to see if I could be refunded the difference (which, in my estimation, was over 20%). Seems like a logical thing to do, after all. It was too late to cancel the order, though it would still be subject for a return once received — and if I knew I could do that, this post wouldn’t exist.

Target’s official contact form kept telling me I was posting “invalid feedback.” Turns out, after 20 minutes of troubleshooting, you can’t use the “$” symbol when you’re writing to customer service. What are the odds of a customer using the dollar sign on a site designed to sell them things? Anyway, I finally got something submitted and never received a response — not even an autoresponse. I would have been happy with that.

I reached out to @Target on Twitter, and it responded with generic statements suggesting that I couldn’t get a discount on clearance items — even though I could just as easily return the purchased items and buy the same lower-priced ones! Mathematically speaking, wouldn’t that cost Target more money and burn a customer in the process? I’m not sure that’s its goal.

I went to a local Target store, and the clerk at the customer service counter threw up her arms and said they had nothing to do with what happens online. Oh, I didn’t think it was that way. I guess you can only exchange items (or so she told me). The website suggested there was a bit more crossover (or so I thought). I don’t know who to believe, anymore.

I reached out (kindly) on Twitter again this morning after not hearing from Target customer service for two days. I was given a human being’s name and email address, and I pleaded part of my case with him. Didn’t hear anything all day, though I sent my message in the morning. Again, I’d settle for a “We’ve got you in the queue, and it’ll be X hours before we can respond” response. No, I’m still left guessing as to whether or not I’m going to get partially refunded on the purchase I made.

A few minutes ago, I finally got an email from Target regarding my order! It’s telling me that part of my order is now no longer going to be able to ship on time for Christmas. Great. That’s not the email I was looking for. Now one item is in limbo — and I can’t cancel that part of the order, either. Mind you, I could get the same item for less money now, and Target either won’t give me that partial refund, or it’s going to require me to jump through more hoops (after waiting to find out whether or not I can do it in the first place).

Target Store Customer Service ProblemsI have to possibly wait until everything gets here, return it somehow, only to turn around and re-purchase it for a lower price. Only I might not repurchase it at all — at least, not through Target (in-store or online). Thank goodness the late shipment isn’t for a child on Christmas morning. Heaven knows, I’d be on the verge of tears by this point if my will wasn’t so strong.

Given how much money I’ve spent with it this year, you’d think Target would care a bit — or spend more money influencing customer dreams instead of inducing nightmares! I’m not a RED card holder, though… so maybe that’s the problem? I definitely promoted a few of its specials earlier this week to our Twitter and Facebook audiences (not making a dime from the referrals).

You might wonder why I didn’t just pick up the phone and call someone? I wonder this in return: why should I? After all, I didn’t order anything over the phone; why would I have to use the phone to correct the issue(s)?

I don’t know who is in charge of customer service at Target, but they seem to have their heads up one another’s collective asses. The order contact form is broken, the online / offline story is disjointed, there’s no easy way to attain refunds for price drops within X days, the site has persistent navigation menu design problems, and… okay, so that last one has nothing to do with Target customer service; I’m just sliding that in there because I’m annoyed to the point where I wanted to pen this post to see if anybody else has (or had) these problems with Target. I know it’s not just me (TLDR: the Target.com president resigned a few weeks ago).

Maybe this will get Target’s attention.

Allegiant Air Kicks Off A Crying 2 Year Old, Cranky 4 Year Old and Mom – No Refunds, Sorry!

Allegiant Air offers low cost flights from various airports around the country and they are explicit on certain discounted offers, that there are no refunds. But when one thinks of a no refund policy, I personally believe that it would apply when someone fails to make it to their scheduled flight. Over at the Consumerist they have an article which described an incident that happened on one Allegiant Air flight.

The article states the following:

An Arizona mom says she was flying to Billings, Montana for her birthday — but never got off the ground because the airline kicked her — and her unruly kids off the flight. They were told they could take another flight — if they paid for it. The airline says it’s their policy not to offer refunds.

Apparently, while still boarding their Allegiant Air flight, the woman’s 2-year-old started to cry. While she was trying to calm the toddler down, her 4 year old got “restless” and wouldn’t stay in his seat.

The airline removed the family from the plane and told them they could take another flight but neglected to mention at the time that this flight would cost $900 more. The airline says they will FedEx her luggage back from Montana (it was apparently behaving itself in the cargo hold,) and offered her a credit towards a future flight. She wants a refund.

I can understand the position of the airline when it comes to removing the children and mom from the flight. Not knowing all of the facts, I would imagine this was done to protect the other passengers on-board from being disturbed by the kids. What I can not understand is the fact that Allegiant Air would not provide the mom and kids to take another flight at the same price and now refuses to provide a refund.

In my opinion Allegiant Air is being unreasonable. What is your opinion?

Consumerist site with the story.

Who Can Expect to See the Economic Stimulus Rebate Check?

While there appears to be a lot of add-ons taking place on the current bill it appears that most taxpayers can expect to see a rebate of up to $600. This equates to $1,200 for couples, and even more for most families with children. Since the country is already trillions of dollars in debt and creditors are finding it more difficult to secure loans for borrowers this must mean that the Treasury has plans to print up some money. Sadly, once they do this the value of the current dollar is sure to decline, making it even harder for the lower income and fixed income citizens to make ends meet.

However, one must note that since this windfall also depends on smooth sailing at the IRS, an agency already overrun with forms and expected refunds we may find ourselves already in quite a pickle before anyone even sees a single rebate. Despite this, however, the Treasury believes that the IRS will be in a position to start mailing off the expected rebates within 60 days of President Bush signing the measure into law. They think that the entire process should be able to be accomplished in as little as 10 weeks if not sooner.

But do you qualify? “Almost everyone who earns some income will benefit according to Douglas W. Elmendorf, an analyst at the Brookings Institution. He believes that the idea behind the economic stimulus package is to get the money into the hands of those most likely to spend it. That means that even low income parties should benefit. This should be a critical part of the package since these are the individuals who would be most directly hurt by the downturn in the economy. By lower income we are talking about individuals who do not make enough to pay taxes but had at least $3,000 in earned income. If the current measure makes its way to the president’s desk that would mean that these individuals would get $300. Those earning less than that would be disqualified as would the wealthiest Americans. Older people living solely on Social Security would not get the rebate unless one of the add-ons changes the criteria.

Individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000 and couples with incomes exceeding $150,000 would get smaller rebates based on a declining scale determined on the amount of money they made above the ceiling cap. Contributions towards IRA’s, retirement accounts and health saving accounts would not count towards the limits.

It appears that ¾ of those eligible to receive the rebates will be working people. Another ¼ would qualify solely through pension or interest income. These individuals and the unemployed who receive income over $3000 for the year will receive a $300 rebate.

People with income less than $75,000 would get a rebate equal to the amount of taxes they paid in 2007, up to $600. Those who earned more than $3,000 but owed little or no taxes would get a flat $300, or $600 per couple.

This means that a low-income family of four – with $35,000 in income and virtually no tax liability – would get $1,200. That includes the flat $600 per couple and $300 for each child. A single person would receive the lower $300 rebate.

A single parent of two with income of $38,000 and a tax bill of $433 would get $1,033. – a $433 tax rebate plus $300 per child.

Since the bill is aimed at the middle class families making over the $150,000 ceiling would have their rebates cut according to a prescribed formula. So, hang in there one and all as we can only hope that this rebate will actually arrive in the hands of those that need it in time to make a difference.

[tags]Economic Stimulus package, Economic Stimulus, Rebate Check, Refund, Treasury, Rebate ceiling, Brookings Institution, Douglas W. Elmendorf, IRS, President Bush[/tags]

Does Your Mobile Phone Provider Owe You a Refund?

It’s not very often that a check arrives in the mail out of the blue. I opened the mailbox today to find a check from Verizon Wireless for $93.94. There was no explanation other than a form letter laser printed on the check stub.

Dear Customer,

Verizon Wireless has done an extensive audit of accounts and determined that you had an account with a credit balance for which you are due a refund. Your former cellular phone account may have been with Verizon Wireless, or another company that became part of Verizon Wireless or from which Verizon Wireless acquired accounts (including, but not limited to, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Nynex, Ameritech Cellular, GTE Wireless, Airtouch, Frontier, Commnet, and Price Communications).

Enclosed is a refund check. This is not associated with any marketing campaign but instead relates solely to Verizon Wireless’ determination that you overpaid your final charges.

If you did not have a cellular phone account with any of the above companies listed, or you feel the refund check was sent to you in error, please destroy the check. Credit balances from un-cashed checks will be remitted to the State as unclaimed property.

We appreciate your past business, and we welcome any future business.

Sincerly,
Verizon Wireless

Needless to say, I was skeptical. I couldn’t remember having an account with Verizon Wireless, but I did have a Bell Atlantic Mobile account many years back.

So I called the toll-free number listed at the bottom of the address on the check.

“You take the cake on this one,” said the friendly account representative. “I’ve seen accounts go six or seven months before everything’s cleared up, but this one sets a record.”

It turns out that the refund dated back to an account that was closed in December 1999.

Fantastic, eh? Seven marvelous years later. I didn’t ask if interest was involved.

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[tags]cellular, mobile phone, refund, CRM[/tags]