Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 at 10:02 pm. About Ramblings.

My beef with Columbia House

I have been meaning to blog about this for months, but was awaiting a semi-conclusion to the story before burdening you with another one of my tirades.

When I was in my second year of medical school, I got a DVD player and decided to buff up my DVD library by joining Columbia House. Sure, we are all familiar with the online/mail order music/video club – get a gazillion DVDs for $.99, then you’re only obligated to purchase x number of DVDs at y price over the next z years. Like a fool, when I registered I asked the company to bill my American Express card (huge mistake – never give your credit card number to this company). Anyway, I received a bunch of DVDs, purchased my however-many I was required to purchase in order to fulfill my obligation, and then I called in 2003 and cancelled my membership. I probably would have remained a member, but I would receive these annoying emails on a monthly basis telling me that I would automatically receive a “Director’s Selection” DVD if I did not opt-out of receiving it by a certain date. On several occasions suddenly a DVD would show up at my apartment and the charge would show up on my Amex card. I would have to return it and wait for the credit to appear on my credit card statement. Anyway, this got to be more than irritating and I cancelled my membership. Case closed…

 …until October 2005. During this two year period between closing the account and October 2005, I: A) got married and changed my last name, B) lost my wallet and cancelled my American Express card, receiving a new card with a new number, C) moved from Charleston, SC to Seattle, WA, and D) never communicated with Columbia House.

On October 28, 2005 a charge in the amount of $46.52 to “Columbia House Video” appeared on my Amex statement. I called Amex, and they opened an investigation of the disputed charge; they also suspended the charge. After about a week, though, I decided to call CH and see if they could credit back the amount. The sales rep at CH could not find any record of the transaction. He also could not find any record that I had ever been a member when I gave him my maiden name and former address. When I gave him my OLD Amex card number, though, someone with my maiden name for a Florida address and with an open CH account popped up in their system. I insisted that I had never lived in Florida and asked to have the account closed. Get this – he told me that he could only close the account if I could CONFIRM THE ADDRESS. I told him I could not confirm the address because I had never lived in Florida, but whoever this was in Florida was using my old account and my old Amex number, and somehow charges were appearing on my NEW Amex card! He still refused to close the account or credit back the charge, but told me he would open an investigation.

I was absolutely livid. This was so stupid! First of all, why was my Amex account being charged when I had a new number even though the charge was made to my old number? Isn’t that the purpose of cancelling a credit card? So that if you lose a credit card someone can’t steal it and use the number? And second of all, I was outraged that I could not close my own account (which had been closed supposedly two years earlier) because I could not confirm an address where I had never lived. Still, I felt I had no choice but to wait for the Amex investigation to finish.

Of course, despite faxing my Amex statement to CH, the charge was not credited back. Then, on November 19th, another charge in the amount of $26.44 to CH Video appeared. Again, I called Amex, and then I had Evan call Columbia House for me because I was too angry to speak civilly to them. Of course, they refused to speak to Evan because it was my account, but when I spoke to them they refused to allow me to close the account because – again, I could not confirm the Florida address under my maiden name.

Anyway, to make this painfully long story a little less long, the first charge was credited back, but not the second. I had to make a total of two more calls to CH, each time explaining what was going on with the charges, the account in Florida, how my old Amex number seemed to result in charges to my new Amex – and each time the guy on the other end did not give a crap. Eventually the charge was credited back because of Amex’s investigation, not because of anything CH did.

So while both charges have been credited now and the CH account is suspended, the account still has not been closed. I could be 90 years old and still have an account open with CH, unless I were to guess the correct address in Florida before then.

On a brighter note, I just bought a beautiful container of strawberries at the grocery store for $2.50! I have waited months for a good, inexpensive quart of strawberries. How is that for random?

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