American Express – Can’t Get No Satisfaction

delta-platinum-amexThe American Express slogan, “Don’t leave home without it” dates back to 1975 and ranks among 8 Of The Most Successful Ad Campaigns of All Time according to Investopedia. Well the article date back to 2011; therefore, there is a chance it has lowered in ranks. Aged as it may be it nevertheless the American psyche has it ingrained.

However, with such a successful and long-lasting slogan why is American Express forcing me to leave home without it? The customer support team certainly has not been able to answer that question with any satisfaction.

Currently, I have two AMEX cards: a Platinum Optima and a Platinum Delta Skymiles card. Back when we lived in CA, I had a Gold Business card and up until recently, I had a Gold personal card. Feeling it was redundant, I closed the latter. I have been an American Express member since 1987. Next year will be our 30-year anniversary. I could only wish they would send me a present.

Frequently, depending on my purchases, I use one of two different addresses registered with each of the two AMEX cards. Some online purchases require a US address negating other options, so I use my best friend, Daphnee’s address in New Mexico. When possible, I use our Budapest address, which is our regular billing address. Over 15 years there have not been any issues that were not resolved with a quick phone call.

Around the beginning of September, an AMEX e-mail alerted me to look for a new Platinum Delta Skymiles card. This was curious as the current card had an expiration date of October 2017. Thinking they were replacing the card with newer cards that included the EMV chip, I did not give it much thought. However, about a week later, another e-mail followed urging me to call in to validate the new card. Sure, I could do that if there were a new card.

After calling AMEX, I found Daphnee supposedly received the card in NM, not to me in Budapest. Daphnee and her wife were in NJ for over a week so there was no way for them to check. When they returned to NM, I was finally able to reach them on September 15; there was no card in their possession.

The next day, I made another call to AMEX explaining the situation; I then asked to have the replacement card come to me in Budapest. Assured this was not a problem at all, I gave them my address spelling it out several times, listening to them repeat it and again feeling confident I would be meeting a DHL driver within the week handing over my card.

Getting organized for a six and half month trip is time-consuming. A dozen times a dozen requests went out attempting to entice others to do home exchanges in seven different cities in five different countries. That is a gross number of notes (12×12). There were also attempts to rent out the apartment (success), a Bolivian Visa to gather paperwork for and apply, tourist information to gather, plane, ferry, and bus tickets to purchase, plus dozens of other assorted things, which do not include activities of daily living. Hence, time flew by and tracking the calendar for AMEX was not top of my mind.

When I realized no card had shown up, I called AMEX again. The young woman I spoke with transferred me to another department while being promptly disconnected. Calling again of course means yet another person, going through the same story again, bouncing around from one department to another again having answer security questions.

“Let me assure you this will be taken care of this time. You will have your card in a few days.” More than a dozen agents have repeated the same script, so this has to be highlighted in their training manual.

In the meantime, the search was on for airline tickets from Merida, Mexico to La Paz, Bolivia and then on to Cuenca, Ecuador. My compulsive searches brought the realization that one multi-city ticket would be far less expensive than point-to-point individual tickets. Additional hours padded my search attempts, as now I had to return to all of the booking sites to fill in dates and cities for a multi-city, multi-country itinerary. After doing all the searches with a Miami IP address using a VPN, I then backtracked using the Hungarian IP address.

By the end of a full workday, I uncovered one site that offered the tickets for $50 each less than any other current offering. Having used the company before, I had no qualms in booking through them. Erring on the side of caution, I placed a call to AMEX alerting them of the upcoming charge. “Don’t worry Dr. James. You have excellent credit and this charge is well below your limitations. It will not be a problem at all, but your account has been duly notated.”

Within seconds of making the airline ticket purchase, an e-mail arrived “We have sent your ticketing request to the airlines for confirmation.” An hour later, another e-mail landed in the inbox. “Your credit card has been declined.” What the hell?

Then it occurred to me, the card in question was the Platinum Delta Skymiles card. Thinking I must have used our Hungarian address on the form, I resubmitted it using the New Mexico address with full confidence it would slide on through this time. My credit limit is 20 times the amount of the tickets after all. After another hour passed, I received a phone call from the online travel agency to inform me yet again the card was declined. “Would you like to use another card?” I could have but I dug my heels in.

American Express is on my speed dial. After the fifty-two security questions, chomping at the bit, I asked why the charge was declined when I not thirty minutes earlier called to report the charge? It so happened they canceled my Platinum Delta Skymiles number back when I first called to say I had not received the replacement card. They could not have mentioned this when I called them to say 1.) I am still waiting for my new card and 2.) I am charging airline tickets on the same card number I have had. Apparently, these concepts are not in the training manual.

I called the travel agency once more asking to use my other AMEX card. It was declined as well. As I was speaking to the travel agency, a potential fraud alert e-mail from AMEX arrived. “Was this you? If so, click YES and have the merchant reissue the charge.” After sharing this info with the agent, having clicked on YES, I humbly asked that they try again. By this time, the tickets have increased by $25. Still it was better than other options. Again, AMEX declined the sale. Too mentally exhausted to call them again, I just used my United Visa card, which sailed through without any issues and we have our tickets.

Still, after a multitude of calls to AMEX, there is no card in site. Each subsequent call, I the representative assures me the card is with DHL. One rep said if I called back in two hours, they would have the DHL tracking number available. Three hours later, the rep receiving my call said the issuing of tracking numbers occurs at midnight. This was on a Friday. By Monday, they assured me the card would be here by Tuesday. This scenario happened twice now. Still no card!!

Finally, I called DHL to ask if they could track a letter without a tracking number. They could, but nothing had our postal code for delivery in their computer. DHL people claim it is impossible for AMEX to ship using DHL without getting a tracking number. Basically, the DHL woman called AMEX liars. Smack!

When I think about it, I am not even clear in my own mind why I want to have a dedicated Delta mileage card any longer. It does provide free luggage allowance when used for Delta tickets and once a year, I get a companion ticket free. However, the latter has so many restrictions, even when we lived in California, it was not worthy of using. At one time, AMEX had a wider range of partner airlines for the transfer of points for the non-dedicated cards, but over time, they have fallen by the wayside. Delta is the only one that really benefits us. If I surrendered and gave up the Delta card, I would only lose the luggage allowance. My stubborn nature keeps me hanging on. If I leave, it is on my terms.

Using Elliott.org Company Contacts, I e-mailed William H. Glenn President, Global Corporate Payments and Business Travel at AMEX, but the e-mail bounced. Then I resent the letter to Elizabeth Rutledge Executive Vice President, Global Advertising and Media. This time, I used a Return Receipt and Read Receipt option. I have proof it reached its destination; someone opened the e-mail, but no response at all from anyone.

The fight continues. Today is Wednesday. The last time I spoke with them was last night when the card was due for delivery. “Just give it one more day,” they said. I have given it weeks.

If you find mistakes in this post and bring them to my attention, I can no longer take responsibility for my actions. (Hint, hint A.F.)

This is my log of calls from Skype.

Oct 18 13:34    +18888005234     03:51
Oct 18 13:13    +18888005234     13:50
Oct 18 13:12    +18888005234     00:16
Oct 14 15:52    +18888005234     10:54
Oct 14 13:51    +18888005234     10:22
Oct 14 13:49    +18888005234     02:30
Oct 12 09:16    +18005284800     22:35
Oct 12 08:31    +18005284800     22:33
Oct 12 08:29    +18005284800     01:05
Oct 12 08:29    +18005284800     00:15
Oct 12 08:06    +18005284800     03:12
Oct 12 06:35    +18005284800     03:27
Oct 11 15:31    +18005284800     13:46
Oct 06 07:11    +18005284800     00:01 Disconnected
Oct 05 16:03    +18005284800     00:00 Disconnected
Oct 05 12:00    +18005284800     00:00 Disconnected
Oct 05 12:00    +18005284800     00:00 Disconnected
Oct 05 09:59    +18005284800     14:51
Oct 05 09:55    +18005284800     03:41
Oct 05 09:33    +18005284800     17:52
Oct 05 09:32    +18005284800     05:02
Oct 05 09:18    +18005284800     00:00 Disconnected
Oct 05 09:02    +18005284800     07:29
Oct 05 08:58    +18005284800     09:18
Sep 30 14:11    +18005284800     16:59
Sep 19 07:20    +18005284800     10:52
Sep 15 18:05    +1505989XXXX Daphnee    38:35

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI.

We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.