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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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.