Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Off the beaten path...Banana Republic Credit Card harrassment

Forgive me for going so far off the beaten path here but I need to blow off some steam. And if any of you shop (or have shopped, or are considering shopping) at Banana Republic I think you should read on.

In January, I found a bunch of items at Banana Republic that I wanted to buy. To get a slightly better deal I decided to open a Banana Republic credit card. I don't shop there very often but the 15% discount was worth it to me at the time. I received the actual card in mid-January and I just received my first credit card bill about 3 days ago. So far pretty normal, right?

Well this is where the story takes a turn for the worse. Beginning yesterday, my cell phone has been receiving calls from (330)-433-5970 just about every hour. Since I don't know the number I ignored the calls. A reverse number lookup revealed this is an unlisted number. Finally around 10:30 PM (!) last nite they finally left a message saying it was GE Financial calling on behalf of Banana Republic.

I called the number back only to be connected to a COLLECTIONS AGENCY saying my account was 60 days past due. Confused, I explained that I had just received my first bill on Saturday and the due date was March 5th, so I wasn't sure how that was possible. At that point the operator became hostile and began telling me how GE Financial could get access to my bank account, freeze it or withhold the money from my paychecks in order to collect the full amount due. They would also be assessing additional late fees and interest fees and making a negative report to the credit bureaus. (All this posturing for about $300, which is no small shakes but has to be pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things I'm guessing.)

Hold on a second, I said. First of all, I have every intention of paying the bill off in full. On March 5th. When it's due. Secondly, this account is NOT 60 days past due; in fact it's not past due at all. Thirdly, this is not how the collections process works and what you are saying to me right now is not only incorrect, it is also illegal. Then I calmly explained that I was getting off the phone and please don't call me again. Click.

I thought that would be the end of it, but this morning the calls started again. At that point I was livid. I answered the call and calmly but firmly told the operator (once again) that I had just received my bill, that I would pay it off in full by the due date, that my account is NOT past due and that if they call me again I will be filing a complaint with the NY State Attorney General's Office as well as the Consumer's Bureau, the Office of Consumer Affairs and any other consumer advocacy group that might be able to help me. This boils down to harassment I said, now STOP CALLING ME.

I want to make something clear here. I take money very seriously and I am highly offended by anyone that insinuates otherwise. I pay my bills and I am certainly not a thief. For Banana Republic (or a company that they partner with) to resort to such drastic and unnecessary measures not only colors my view of the GE Financial but of Banana Republic as a company. Banana Republic, THIS is how you treat your customers? For shame.

And I am not the only person going through this. You can read about their predatory lending practices here, here, here and here. I will pay off the bill in full, I will file complaints and it will be a very long time before I go to Banana Republic again (if ever). And I think anyone else considering opening a credit card account with Banana Republic, Old Navy or Gap should really reconsider if this is the way they plan to treat customers. Shame on you, GE Financial, and bigger wag of the finger to you, Banana Republic for downright horrible customer relations.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's awful! I am so glad to see you know your rights as a consumer and call them out on their terrible AND TOTALLY ILLEGAL behavior of harassment. Good luck! Have you considered sharing your story in the Consumerist, which is a wonderful consumer rights website? (I have not read your links in the article yet so if they link to the Consumerist, my apologies). You are completely in the right and I am sorry you have to fight, but applaud that you are.

Suzi

jacquelyn said...

Though what tey are doing is certainly reprehensible, keep in mind that all of the Gap company credit cards are run by GE bank, not the Gap (or its brand) itself.

That being said, I think you should call BR customer service and tell them what you are epxeriencing. They need to know that the people they partner with are treating customers this way. I also think you should write a letter to BR customer service as a follow-up to the call.

Right now they probably have no idea that you are being treated this way; BR just hands off the credit card business to GE. You need to make them aware of it.

Now I know I will be watching my statements from Gap and BR like a hawk! I know how you feel; I too take my finances very seriously and play by the rules. It bothers me when companies can't do so as well.

Marta B. said...

Almost the same thing happened to me. However, I think it was with Express, and I had had the card for a bit, but didn't realize my account was past due. I started receiving SEVERAL phone calls daily, then finally just picked one of them up. The rep would not let me off the phone until I gave her my bank info to the pay the bill (much easier in the scheme of things). So beware. Store credit cards tend to get harassing if you so much as go a little past due. Their tactics are way out of line.

T said...

That really is awful! I hope everything gets sorted out, and thanks for sharing this. This makes me curious- I always thought it was a bad idea to give out credit card/bank info over the phone, unless you called the customer service or were absolutely certain that the person on the other side of the line was legit. Is that a misconception? I have a friend who got scammed that way, and it makes me very wary.

Absolutely Sweet Maria said...

That's awful. Make sure that isn't going on your credit report! Call and complain to Banana AND I would copy the company on your letter to the attorney general.
I have had problems w/ my Banana card as well. Several times in a row it was declined in store (not being at my limit), and every time I would call they would say my account was frozen b/c they thought it might be compromised, but they could not tell ME, the cardholder, WHY they thought so. After the 3rd time it happened I paid it off and stopped using it. After reading your story I am going to take it one step further and cut it up.

burntphotograph said...

how rude of them! :(
i've had a gap card for almost two years, and split an old navy one with my mother in the three of four years before that. i never have had a problem with a collection agency on their behalf contacting me. i would be super, super upset if they did.

roxy said...

Thanks for letting me vent. I am just so flabbergasted by the whole thing.

Suzi -- I love the Consumerist blog! I did not email this specific instance to them, though I have emailed them in the past...and they have never written me back. I'm sure they get tons of tips every day.

jacquelyn -- Very true that it's not Banana doing this directly. However they certainly choose their own vendors and I think it is fair to hold them accountable when their vendors are treating customers poorly. (Can you tell I'm working as I write this? ha.) I will take your wise advice and write Banana about this. If they don't know, they can't fix it!

T - I would not ever give out my bank information over the phone. I also refuse to validate my identity by my SS# (I give my mother's maiden name instead).

Shoes and Wine said...

That is really awful, but unfortunately not surprising. I work for a federal regulatory agency and the trick is filing a complaint with the proper regulatory agency. I don't know who regulates GE Financial (I will shamefully admit I used to work for them which is why I am not surprised), but a good place to start is http://www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov/?District=13

They should at least be able to help you determine the best place to file a complaint and ensure that your credit is not affected.

I would also just send a caution that the rules that govern credit card lending, and in particular, predatory lending and unfair practices, are slated to change at the end of 2010. My opinion, not based in any official knowledge, is that credit card companies will be as aggressive as possible before those rules limit their ability to do the things you've described.

tga said...

"that point the operator became hostile and began telling me how GE Financial could get access to my bank account, freeze it or withhold"

WHAT!!!!!!!!! Girl, i could not read on after i saw that, i became as heated as a volcana after i read that. they threatened you?!!!! they can't do that. not even the government can do that, unless you owe child support or committed some illegal activity. what! let me continue to read to see how this was resolved.
oooooohhh!!

Stacie said...

Ugh! I'm so sorry! What an awful experience. Your right, when you are someone who is careful with money and than to have someone accuse you of not paying a bill - terrible!

I've had a Gap card for the last 2yrs and use it all the time with only good things to say so far. I guess I'll have to start crossing my fingers they don't go off the deep end with my acct!

Down Comforter said...

What a dreadful experience! It's amazing what some companies consider acceptable business practices.

AJ said...

oh my goodness. many thanks for the heads up to your readers. i hope you can get this resolved quickly.

Anonymous said...

I have my story to share too. Banana Republic customer rep called our home last year, demanding a minimum payment on a late payment. After rummaging through my file and checking my BR online account, I found that I did not receive the bill. I have a perfect credit history and never been late with any other bills. I paid the balance online immediately, and had them waive the late and finance fees. The same thing happened again in March, and they waived the fees again. From then on, I marked the calendar to go online to pay the balance in advance, even before I get the bill. I did so in April. Then in the week of May 19th, I had a death in the family and went away, and didn't have a chance to pay the balance online before the bill came in.

Then, the same thing happened for the 3rd time last Satuday (May 30., 2009). They called our home at 8:30am on Saturday, waking us up and asking my husband to pay the minimum payment on a late payment. I went through our bills and found that the last BR bill I got was as of March, and I got online and paid the balance including the late fee $29 and finance fee $9+. I asked them to waive the fees, as I did not receive the bill again. The customer rep refused and said there was nothing they could do and it's still my responsibility to pay the bills even if I never got the bill. She also said they are allowed to call our home that early in the morning. I asked her who's they to allow them to call us so early in the morning on a weekend when most people sleep in, and she said the federal government allows them. After having this happened 3 times, I cancelled my BR credit card, as it was just not worth it.

I talked to my girl friends who have the BR credit cards, and they have been having the same problem of BR customer rep calling them at home and demanding a minimum payment for a late payment, when in fact, they didn't get the bills. One friend tried to cancel the BR credit card and it took her a year for them to finally close it. We are wondering if BR does it on purpose, not sending the bills so that they can charge a minimum fee and finance fee.

Anonymous said...

At least I'm not alone in my frustrations with this horrible company. I've been trying to make an online purchase from Old Navy and The Gap for a week now. Twice the order froze on me and blew away everything in my shopping basket so I had to reenter the order...twice! I sent emails to customer service about this twice, and twice they said, "oh sorry, why don't you call us to place the order" WHAT?! Do they not understand the point of online shopping?!

So the latest is my attempt to place the order today. I have a Banana card that I got for the same reason you did a few years ago. I haven't used it for over a year, but they are offering a good discount if I use my card.

I tried to enter the account information and it says that I have no credit available on my card. I do understand that since it hasn't been used for awhile.

So I called customer service, went through a million different prompts before I got to the customer service line, and then got a recording saying the call volume was too high and they couldn't take my call now....Goodbye.

WTF! Is that what they call customer service?! I am so aggravated with them right now I want to boycott buying anything from this lousy company!

Anyway, thanks for your post, I appreciate you reading my rants.

Anonymous said...

I work for Banana Republic itself, and while I will admit its not the best place to work, most of that is due to the rude customers. I myself have a card through Banana with GE, and I have had the exact same problems with them. That being said, people need to remember that it is GE calling you and harrassing you, not Banana or any of its employees. Too many times I have been screamed at by customers furious with ME about their card. We have no access or control to anything to do with the cards in our stores. While this is a very frustrating matter, it is not a sales associates fault or job to fix it. We can call GE in store, but we can't do anything about the issues, only they can. So before "boycotting" the store altogether, think about who its actually affecting. It doesn't hurt GE if you never shop at Banana Republic. Yes, it hurts Gap Inc corporate, but it hurts the stores in your areas in a HUGE way. Gap Inc itself is a huge company and employs so many people. By boycotting shopping there, you are affecting the jobs of the people in your town, not necessarily corporate. When people don't shop, we don't get hours, which means we can't pay OUR bills. So by all means, be furious with GE. Close your account. Never open a card with GE again. But certainly don't stop shopping at Banana Republic for good. The "business deal" between the 2 companies is certainly not what you think.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I wish I read it before I opened an account with them. My price for greed to get good deals is not worth the frustration and stress I am going through now. Will not be buying from Banana. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth!