October 06, 2003
This afternoon my wife and I decided to purchase a new television set for our living room. We watch an increasing number of movies at home and wanted a bigger and better screen for viewing.
The local Best Buy had the set we wanted and we had them write it up for us. I filled in a check and the sales associate entered it into their system. The approval, through "Certegy" was denied. We called the 800-number to find out why. After working my way down through several layers of menus I got to listen to a recording saying that "negative information had been reported against my identification information." For more information I could call this other number.
Calling the second number connected me with the Office Max Payment Service Center. Huh? Re-calling the Certegy number again I double checked the digits of the more information number. Calling it again I was again connected with Office Max. Working my way down through their phone system menus I eventually was told that their operators were too busy, and I was told to leave a detailed message.
We left Best Buy and drove the few blocks to the local Office Max and talked to the manager there. While sympathetic, there was nothing he could do to assist us. He did look up the corporate phone number for Office Max. Calling that number I was able to (eventually) speak with a live human being in the customer service area. She said that I would need to talk to someone from the Payment center and gave me the same number I had gotten before. She did offer to send them a fax asking for priority service for my call-back.
After visiting the bank and getting cash for the purchase (how odd to use cash these days) we returned to Best Buy and made our purchase. I even got them to lower the price another $50. Ha!
While loading our things in the car my cell phone rang and it was Office Max. After verifying my identity, the service representative reviewed my account and discovered a 2 1/2 year old issue that had been cleared to the satisfaction of Office Max. Obviously, Certegy hadn't gotten their database updated properly. I asked Office Max to re-notify Certegy immediately. He said they would and that I should call them again in 2-3 business days to verify that our account had been updated.
What chaps my ass about all of this is that a mistake on the part of some company I've never done ANY business with, prevented me from making a purchase without the embarrassment of a refused check, the extra hassle of a bank withdrawal, and the trouble of calling several automated phone "service" centers.
One of the themes that Michele and I talk about frequently is the idea of being responsible for everything that you do or say. I think one of the major problems with our society today is the increasing reliance upon third parties to be responsible for ourselves. Sure it would cost Best Buy more to have their own credit/check verification service. But nearly losing a sale because two unrelated companies failed to properly communicate almost 3 years ago seems to be foolish.
Furthermore, shouldn't there be some kind of penalty or watch-dog group looking out for my rights in all of this? I'm sure that there is an Association of Credit Reporting Agencies and that they are protected from lawsuits when they make a mistake that costs me. I think this is backwards.