The All-Purpose Pretext

Since we moved here, I noticed that even though I had changed the billing address on my Amer­i­can cred­it cards, my state­ments for some of them were con­sis­tent­ly too late to be able to pay them on time. I phoned cus­tomer ser­vice for one of them, MBNA, and after some dis­cus­sions about pos­si­ble ways of fix­ing this, they admit­ted that they could­n’t help me yet, but the rep­re­sen­ta­tive encour­aged me to check my bal­ance online peri­od­i­cal­ly and at some point in the future, to con­tact cus­tomer ser­vice again to see if they could get what I want­ed. What I want­ed was to get my state­ment via email (or at least, an email to be sent when the state­ment was read­able), the way I get with my Invest­ment accounts. Since this par­tic­u­lar cred­it card was even con­nect­ed to my Invest­ment accounts (that’s where the bonus­es for using the card go), it seemed pos­si­ble that maybe they might do this in the near future.

That was 6 months ago or so. After get­ting my state­ment for this past month late once more, I decid­ed to give MBNA a call. The ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive had a south­ern accent. That was­n’t all that sur­pris­ing. What I was­n’t pre­pared for was a full dose of unabashed Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­da:

Me: (after the usu­al account exchange of secu­ri­ty and account num­ber infor­ma­tion) Hel­lo, I’ve been con­tin­u­ing to get my state­ment too late to be able to pay it. I know that I’m in Cana­da, but is there any way that you could send the state­ments ear­li­er or send an email noti­fy­ing me of them?

Ser­vice Rep: Oh yeah, we’ve had a lot of trou­ble recent­ly get­tin’ state­ments to peo­ple OUT­side the US because of the guv-ment. They now have to check all of these state­ments.

Me (gasp­ing in aston­ish­ment): You’ve got to be kid­ding.

Ser­vice Rep: Oh no, not at all. This is nec­es­sary, after what those ter­ror­ists did down here. You watch the news, dontcha?
Me: Are you telling me that I have no choice, that this is the US gov­ern­ment who are hold­ing up your state­ments?

SR: I told you, to peo­ple in oth­er coun­tries, you’ll be get­tin’ your state­ments late from now on. It’s a new pro­ce­dure. If you want to talk your Sen­a­tor about this, you can do that, but there’s noth­in’ we can do.

Me: Can’t you just send the state­ments out a lit­tle ear­li­er to make up for this?

SR: Sir, we send those state­ments as soon as we can already. The guv-ment just has to do this to keep us all safe. I’m sure you under­stand that.

Me: I can’t believe this. No one told me about this months ago. Is there some­one else I can talk to about this?

SR: You’re talkin’ to me. Now I sug­gest you check your state­ment online, which you can eas­i­ly do from www…

Me: (break­ing in) I do that already, I real­ly just want you to send me the state­ments ear­li­er or send an email so I’ll know when to check…

SR: We won’t do that. That’s jus’ some­thing we don’t do.

Me: OK, that’s it. I’ve had it. Please can­cel the account.

SR: (almost relieved): I’ll be hap­py to do that, sir.

It did­n’t go much longer beyond that. I think at some point I almost heard her mut­ter some­thing about for’in­ners.

At any rate, I believe I’ve learned some­thing. The behav­ior of the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion is now being imi­tat­ed every­where, even by the Pri­vate Sec­tor: When you find your­self at odds with your customer/citizenry, blame the idea of Ter­ror­ism. The Bush gov­ern­ment has lit­er­al­ly got­ten away with mur­der and may­hem by using the umbrel­la expla­na­tion of “9/11 Changed Every­thing”. The rights of Pris­on­ers of War, the right to a Free Press, the pri­va­cy of phone con­ver­sa­tions, med­ical records or finan­cial trans­ac­tions; every­thing is up for grabs under the “We have to fight the Ter­ror­ists.” excuse. I did­n’t think I’d be hear­ing that par­tic­u­lar spiel recit­ed to me from a cred­it card com­pa­ny like MBNA, but I guess this is a game that any­one can play. So, if you get lousy ser­vice or a shod­dy prod­uct from some Amer­i­can com­pa­ny, don’t be sur­prised if they pull out the ulti­mate ‘Get out of Jail Free Card’ that has the num­ber 9 and 11 on it.

6 Replies to “The All-Purpose Pretext”

  1. My head near­ly explod­ed as I read that. Grr!

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s com­ing here too. One of my cowork­ers con­fid­ed in me that she got real­ly fright­ened after a CBC doc­u­men­tary on ter­ror­ists in Cana­da. I said a cou­ple of sen­tences of how it’s anti-Islam pro­pa­gan­da, mixed in with a dose of racism. To no avail. She’s a can­di­date for receiv­ing Joe Sac­co’s Pales­tine, required read­ing for any­one who has no idea what the Mid­dle East is up in twit­ters about.

  2. My head near­ly explod­ed as I read that. Grr!

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s com­ing here too. One of my cowork­ers con­fid­ed in me that she got real­ly fright­ened after a CBC doc­u­men­tary on ter­ror­ists in Cana­da. I said a cou­ple of sen­tences of how it’s anti-Islam pro­pa­gan­da, mixed in with a dose of racism. To no avail. She’s a can­di­date for receiv­ing Joe Sac­co’s Pales­tine, required read­ing for any­one who has no idea what the Mid­dle East is up in twit­ters about.

  3. Every­thing things a freakin’ con­spir­a­cy, a boo­gie man in every clos­et.

    It’s not like you’re liv­ing in a for­eign coun­try now, right? I mean, it’s just Cana­da, you should be able to expect your Amer­i­can accounts to be exact­ly the same across an inter­na­tion­al bor­der… here’s a hint goober, get a Cana­di­an cred­it card and maybe you want find your­self with this prob­lem.

  4. Why don’t you just put a month­ly date in Out­look to check your state­ment online and quit look­ing for things about which to whine?

  5. Mak­taaq — For­tu­nate­ly I haven’t come up against this kind of thing here yet, but I expect that soon­er or lat­er I will. I’m hop­ing that this does­n’t reach the lev­el of hys­te­ria that it appears to have to the south.

    Paul — I’ve got Cana­di­an cred­it cards, and recent­ly got one in US Dol­lars here so that I don’t have fees from the cur­ren­cy exchange (which is no small amount). This was one of my last remain­ing US cards. As for the accounts being exact­ly the same over the bor­der, that’s just the point: Appar­ent­ly they are, except for their lack of abil­i­ty to get me state­ments in time to pay them.

    Thermblog ‑I’ve been doing just that (or some­thing sim­i­lar; I use iCal) for about a year. The com­pa­ny asked me to return after some peri­od to check, so I was fol­low­ing up.

    The post is not whin­ing or con­spir­a­cy-mon­ger­ing, but the fact that the threat of Ter­ror­ism can now being used as an umbrel­la excuse for every­thing from bad ser­vice to essen­tial­ly pass­ing the buck. Clear­ly some busi­ness­es have reached the point where they do this. Or per­haps they’ve instruct­ed their reps to use it.

    I believe that the tree rots from the roots. A rot­ten gov­ern­ment that uses fear to keep the pop­u­lace in check will result in the same prac­tice in the pri­vate sec­tor.

  6. Ah, what we have to look for­ward to upon gain­ing our PR sta­tus — Deal­ing with “Cus­tomer No Ser­vice” back in the States on exist­ing accounts there. Oh, Joy!

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