Coffee heat rising

Zapped by Macy’s!

Lenten thanks, Day 23

Well. At least it’s nice and quiet at four in the morning. Except for Sheriff Joe’s ubiquitous helicopters, which use the skies over our neighborhood as an aerial freeway.

Update: This all turned out for the best. A Macy’s supervisor took charge, figured out why their statements had never reached my house, untangled the mess, and accepted payment for the original bill. It remains to be seen whether the collection bureau, which has an unsavory reputation, will actually be called off. But for the nonce, things look brighter.

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Yesterday I pick up the mail and open what looks like some official correspondence or possibly a long-awaited check from Google Adsense, which sends payment in envelopes like the one in hand, with no clear return address. And what should I find but a threat from a collection agency!

Say what?

They claim I owe Macy’s $91.

I have no clue what this is about, since I don’t ordinarily shop in Macy’s, because it’s too far away, it’s an unpleasant store to navigate, and it’s generally overpriced. I call Macy’s and spend a good hour wending my way through punch-a-button mazes. Finally one factotum claims I made a purchase last September for $28. I point out that’s a far cry from $91, and if I made any such purchase, why does the account number on the bill collector’s statement not jibe with the account number on the credit card they sent me, which was never activated? She has no clue, either.

Finally, while I’m listening to obnoxious sounds and waiting for yet another clueless soul with a Bangladeshi accent to come on the phone, I sift through several months’ worth of Excel entries and discover that indeed, in September I bought a bargain purse for $28. Now I remember! It was one of those girls-on-the-town shopping adventures. Among several strategies that La Maya and I used to drive the price down from about $90 was to agree to open a Macy’s charge account for 10 percent off—hence the presence, in my file drawer, of the unactivated card.

Macy’s never sent a statement. I recall noticing that the bill hadn’t cleared after the first month, but then as my Excel spreadsheet turned into an endless roll of toilet paper, the uncleared line fell out of sight and it simply slipped my mind.

Not one statement is in the file, and I am quite certain no statement ever landed in my mailbox.

M’hijito suggested that I probably didn’t recognize their bills and tossed them in the recycling bin with the flood of unwelcome junkmail that the USPS dumps into my mailbox. That certainly is a possibility. But I doubt it: I’ve been around for more than a day or two, and I do know what first-class mail looks like. Unless Macy’s sends its bills at bulk-mail rates, it’s highly unlikely I would have missed six statements.

No. The only explanation is that they didn’t send a statement and so, since my bill-paying is triggered by the arrival of statements, I failed to notice the outstanding charge.

Hmmm….  Interestingly, I don’t seem to have been the only one to experience what appears to be a Macy’s scam to extract interest and late fees from unsuspecting customers. We have this endless Facebook exchange, in which a woman describes exactly the same experience and one commenter remarks,

For anyone claiming that this is not a scam, they’re out of their mind. This is absolutely a scam to create late payment fees on behalf of Macy’s. Yes, as an employee you can explain it well and yes, as a credit card user, you can eliminate the problem by being aware of what the account is and how it works, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a scam. Macy’s purposely makes it very easy to lose track of a small balance that is due in order to tack on a large fee. It’s a classic shady business technique/scam. Just like when a company asks you to sign up for a “FREE” rewards service or some other set-up that is free for a month, but then requires you to cancel the $9.99 or $19.99 that starts billing every month. Sure, you can cancel it, but most companies who operate this type of shady practice make it difficult to find a phone number to cancel, or they bill it under a name that doesn’t look familiar to you and if you’re not paying close attention to your credit card bills each month, you can end up getting billed several months for something you never intended to sign up for in the first place.

Other people have described similar behavior and said it damaged their credit rating. Macy’s also has another scam, whereby when they issue you a credit card through one of their 10% off schemes, they’re actually issuing you two credit cards, one of which you don’t know about. One is a regular store account and one is an AMEX account. Since they no more bother to tell you this than they bother to send you statements, if you go to your online site to check your balance, you will think it’s zero, because the real balance appears in an account about which you are kept in the dark.

Well, I guess I’m going to have to pay the bastards. But you can be sure I’ll never buy another piece of junk at a Macy’s store again.

5 thoughts on “Zapped by Macy’s!”

  1. I think I would dig in my heels on this one, citing all the places you have read where they do this to others. From what I have read from you, you don’t seem like the type to miss something like a bill. Document from other sources. Keep records of everyone to whom you talk. Be a pain. Pay the $28. They WILL drop the rest. If they put it on your record record, you are allowed a one-page rebuttal. In that one page, includes links, names, and your story. I would do it and guarantee that it would be taken from my bill, that no more charges would accrue. I would not lie. I would not even admit I might have thrown out the bill, especially 6 months of bills. Well, not even one bill from them.

  2. @ Practical Parsimony: Really, it’s more hassle than I can cope with just now.

    Consider: for the past full week I’ve found myself fixing dinner at 9:30, 10:30, 11:00 p.m. Shoveling myself into bed at midnight. Waking up at three or four if I haven’t taken an allergy pill, maybe making it to 6:00 a.m. if I knocked myself out with a Benadryl. Getting up, starting over, working nonstop till the middle of the night.

    I just can’t do any more, I’m so tired. I’d rather pay the 90 bucks and be done with it. Believe me, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren will hear from me, as will the Consumerist, Yelp, the Arizona attorney general, the U.S. attorney general, the Better Business Bureau, and anyone else I can think of. But I’m just not up for trying to get a bunch of evil credit bureaus to undo a black mark on my record…unless it’s already there.

    In that case, yeah: prepare to see Hell raised and a block put under it.

    I’m quite sure I did not throw out six months of bills. I assess whether each piece of junk mail is blue-barrel-worthy by checking the postage. First-class gets opened. Period.

  3. I would not mention checking the postage. Okay, at least you have a good plan to see they get their just reward. Something must be blooming in your area to cause such a problem with your allergies. Mine will be giving me fits soon.

    I did such a good job with a bill for my daughter that now she calls and tells me I need to take care of whatever it is, billwise, to straighten things out. I am never furious, just outraged and shocked. Oh, yeah, I pretend I am her with her permission.

  4. I would pay the $28. Yes, there will be a mark on your credit, but are you planning on needing credit any time soon? My in-laws had to pay for a disputed pillow that came up when they moved and needed a bridge loan.

    Also call the collection agency. Take some of their time while you are at it.

  5. @ frugalscholar: I’ve learned that outfit has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, because they don’t even bother to respond to complaints. In Cincinnati alone, 81 unresolved complaints.

    The first thing I’m going to do this morning is go in person to Macy’s. I hope department stores still have accounts receivable departments — they used to, because people would go into the store in person to pay. If they do, I should be able to at least find a live human being who lives in North America to speak with.

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