Transition Management Consulting, Inc.

When Benefits Aren’t a Benefit

by Jackie Eder-Van Hook

American Express like most credit cards has a policy that if your credit card is lost, stolen, or damaged they’ll replace it within 24 hours. This is an invaluable service especially for those of us who are on the road a good deal. On a recent plane trip that I took, but my wallet didn’t, I learned the hard way that not all AMEX cards are the same. We have a Costco AMEX.

Thursday AM at 6:30 am. -- When I realized that I didn’t have my wallet, I called AMEX and asked them to overnight a new card to me. They told me that they couldn’t get a card to me until Saturday morning – WHAT? What about your “promise” to help cardholders (members), if the card is ever lost or stolen? Nope, sorry two days is the best we can do. That means I will not have a credit card or any cash for two full days. Emergencies and mistakes happen all the time 48 hours isn’t responsive and it certainly isn’t helpful.  

A supervisor told me that it is Costco’s policy that the card includes a photograph. But this is an emergency. He responded with a perfunctory “sorry.” So you won’t help me? There is nothing I can do, except send you a card for Saturday delivery. I was shocked. I then asked if they could give me a cash advance. “Ohhhh, you want to do that?” “Well, yeah! I have no money and no credit card.”

AMEX finally gave me the phone number to Global Assist. The Global Assist representative was efficient, though I had to keep asking her to think outside the box. Then I was handed over to the “authorizer,” a woman who nominally spoke English, whose voice was barely audible, because of a combination of her soft spoken-ness, bad connection, and airport noise. The call with Global Assist ended 23 minutes later as I walked down the jet bridge.

After being on the phone with six people for a total of 65 minutes, disconnected once, navigating the two different convoluted automated telephone systems, while moving through two airports, I finally had a workable solution. AMEX called and faxed Hyatt an authorization that allowed me to get into my hotel room and eat. Thanks Hyatt for coming to my rescue!

Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t leave your wallet behind (duh)
  2. Don’t count on the benefits actually being useful
  3. Know the rules because the person you are talking to doesn’t know, doesn’t care, or won’t tell you. (In yet another corporate cost savings measure, AMEX no longer offers to overnight a credit card to you. You must ask them to do it.)
  4. Expect to be surprised, because sometimes a large corporation like Hyatt comes through and does the right thing. Upon my arrival at the hotel, staff knew what they needed to do. Good job Hyatt!
  5. Have a well considered backup plan. I shudder to think what happen had I been abroad.

While I was experiencing my treatment by AMEX, I thought of similar experiences as an association member. I’ve experienced the don’t know, won’t tell, or don’t care phenomenon -- and that is when I give up my membership. 

I think there are some implications for associations from my experience. First, only offer benefits you can truly afford to offer, inclusive of the customer service costs. Second, train your people to think critically, creatively, and outside of the box, and give them the authority to be truly helpful to your members. Be Hyatt not American Express.

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