Ode to Citibank

All right, so I’ve already carried on about my credit  and debit card woes.  Debit card hacked by Finns!  Credit card compromised and destroyed; fresh, new, unblemished credit card sent — which I tried to activate over the phone.

No luck.  My new card was as pure as Tiger Woods, having already been used in Brazil.  (Brazil and Finland!  That seemed massively unfair, since I’d never been to either country, where I appear to be rather well-known, already.)

“Destroy the card,” the Citibank voice at the other end of the line said.  “We’ll send you another one.”

I took out my scissors and cut up the card.  Dutiful, as always.  Grateful, too, that Citibank was protecting my interests — even before the card was activated.

Dutiful, grateful — no, let’s make that naive and premature.  Yesterday, I was paying bills.  We try to go paperless — good for the earth!  The right thing to do!  But, also, hard to read!

So I was squinting at my online Citibank bill, thinking it seemed a bit high.  By pressing my nose against the computer screen, I could make out an extra thousand-plus in charges.  “Moved from previous credit card,” it said in the margin.

Having, by this time, possessed more credit cards than Imelda Marcos, I was a little curious about which card it had been transferred from.  So, I called Citibank and got a perfectly nice woman on the phone who investigated for me.

The extra thousand-plus bucks?  Oh, yes, transferred from the earlier, never-activated, always compromised credit card.  Just a nice little charge run up by my friends (amigos?  I know no Portuguese) in Brazil.

Well, the agreeable Citiwoman said, I needed to file a protest and the amount would be temporarily deducted from my balance — then investigated.

“Any other problems?” she asked.

“Nope.  No credit-card fraud yet this month,” I said.

“Well, you certainly have a good attitude about this,” she said.

“Actually,” I said, “I don’t.  I’m wondering why — when it was clear this amount was fraudulent from the beginning, it ended up on my bill.  I could have overlooked it so easily.”

“Yes,” she said, fervently agreeing, “that’s what they count on.”

They!  Oh, yes, the ambiguous, antecedent-free they.  The source of all problems, the purveyors of nothing good.  They!  The Brazilians!

I hung up because I don’t, on the whole, enjoy chatting with corporations, no matter how mellifluous their mouthpieces and empathic their manner.

All I could think was: When your own credit-card company appears so happy and eager to scalp any exposed body part — who in the hell needs a Brazilian?

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about the Prius with the McCain bumper sticker

17 comments… add one
  • Loving the punchline. Didn’t see it coming!

  • What a pain.  And you’d think with things the way they are these days, the credit card companies wouldn’t want to piss off and lose their good customers.

  • Yup.  We got waxed as well.  It was the Brits (or at least someone in Merry Olde Englande) who got to our card info but our company (we’d ditched the large bank for a local) caught it for us and put a hold on our account until we could wade through all outstanding charges. Together.
    That was an unanticipated treat  – explaining my shopping habits to my husband and a bank employee simultaneously.
    I’ve considered going back to mailing money.  Who’d be expecting that? I’m weary of switching cards midstream as a matter of course very few weeks!

  • You were lucky to actually get a real person at Citibank! My husband had this happen to his credit card in Sweden.  They stole $3000. Fortunately the bank picked it up, but they have frozen certain international transactions so he has to call and get approval for them.  So frustrating!

  • And it adds up to so much more time on the telephone talking to automated voices to get to a real person! Crazy.

  • Remember the good ol’ days when our banks were tight with our money?

  • You sound so calm about this. I’d be pulling out my hair. I hope it gets all straightened out soon. But I did manage to get a good chuckle out of this (at your expense, sorry)

  • Eddie Romero Link

    I enjoy reading your thoughts and like your ending about the CC incident. Just had a similar one that took three months to clear up.
    Hint: Find one person in the Citi – Dispute Department to deal with and stick with them till the end. Also check your messages frequently at your acct. online page. Good luck.

  • We had a credit stolen too–but not over and over again as you have. Makes me wonder about Citibank. It still bugs me that every time you go through a retailer line (and I’ve been throw several buying back-to-school supplies) you’re asked to open an account every time.

  • Ha! Sadly, I must admit to being a former Citigroupian and from time to time we had to listen in on such calls as the one you described. The banks don’t want to lose a dime so the onus is always always always on you to recognize it. Nevermind that your card was compromised before you ever used it!

  • I’ve been going rounds with AmEx here. I’m SO frustrated with credit card companies and their willingness to screw their customers over.

  • Hilarious joke at the end! And, I had a similar (though not as involved) experience with credit card fraud last week. This is crazy!

  • This gets me really steamed. I really want to find a way to get out of the credit card game once and for all, but good luck!

  • You all are scaring me… maybe I’ve been uber-lucky, but I only had a CC account stolen for the first time this past holiday season. Luckily, it was the account that I only use for online purchases with a super-low limit (under $1000), so the little jerks in Orange County could only buy $300 worth of stuff at Macy’s before it was declined. Mwah ha ha.

  • Oh, ha, ha.

    But I know it isn’t all that funny really.  I wrote 18 months or so ago about when my identity was stolen — the baddies didn’t even need my credit card — they just had my name, address and date of birth (all three helpfully published on the internet by Her Majesty’s Government) and they could start ordering iPhones (my thieves were particularly fond of cellular telephony).  The companies were all very friendly and solicitious, but they still kept sending the bills, getting redder and redder.  And my credit rating is shot to hell.

    I also understand the sheer nuisance of how much time this takes to sort out, even if it never costs any money.

  • Ahhh. It’s so easy to overlook some of these charges. I once had some sort of weird service — $2.99/month–continually being charged to my card. Took me months to notice it, and then even longer to figure out how to get it off the card since I didn’t know what the dang thing was in the first place. That is what they count on.

  • Hilarious blog fodder, Ruth, but I don’t doubt it’s a royal pain to deal with in reality.

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