I found it necessary to sign up for PayPal last year, and my relationship with that organization has been satisfactory. But I should note that I have not had any real occasion for a problem to occur, and the test of any organization is how it behaves at a moment of crisis with it's customer.
Which brings me to Bill Me Later, which is apparently PayPal's extended billing arm. And before I get into it, I want to explain "credentials." I am a former credit manager for a large company, and a long-time consumer advocate. In the latter role, it is rare that I haven't prevailed when I've encountered problems, and even rarer when the company has been completely unresponsive. And over the course of many years, I have been successful in winning many major battles including receiving free carpeting from Sears and winning in court against my pool company in a case I argued myself against their lawyer who represented a major Phoenix law firm.
Now back to Bill Me Later.
I ordered some gloves for my wife in December and when I went to pay via PayPal, I was offered a ten dollar discount if I selected what I thought was their new extended billing arm, Bill Me Later. However, and this is important, the name was not prominent, and I had no recollection of even realizing it was a name rather than just a method of billing. Anyway, I took the discount. Why not? I mean, I may or may not use the service, but at least it was there if I needed it.
Well, a month or so passed and I decided to buy a DVD recorder from Buy.com. I would normally have paid by my Amazon card because I get reward points, but I saw that there was a $25. discount if I used Bill Me Later. Which would you choose? I decided to "sign up." And though I have no recollection, Bill Me Later claims that the discount was for new customers only and that the offer said that. I'll take their word for it, but as I indicated, I thought I was new as well.
At the final checkout, the full balance appeared, and you might think that was a clue that I was ineligible, but in fact there was a blurb that said the credit would appear of the billing statement, and since this was a "pay later" transaction just like a credit card, while I had a moment of pause, it was only a bit unusual, and since I am skilled at handling any minor problems, this was not terribly bothersome. In fact, I remember thinking, "Why would someone use Bill Me Later rather than there Credit card if there weren't the sort of rewards I was being offered – or they couldn't get a credit card?"
Of course I realized future rewards wouldn't likely be that big – that this was merely an enticement from a start-up organization, but that's another reason why I didn't suspect anything out of the ordinary, or that I might be ineligible.
Upon receipt of my statement and seeing that it lacked the credit, my first reaction was, "Well this is typical." But I noticed then that I had to access my account through PayPal, and it started to dawn on my that I was not a new customer of Bill Me Later as I'd thought. But that didn't matter because I hadn't realized the discount was just for new customers, and there was still another problem – I would not have made the purchase if I had been apprised at checkout that I wouldn't be getting the discount. Simple enough?
But I'm reasonable. I figured I'd explain the situation, someone would be sympathetic, and we'd reach a solution that, at the very least, would involve BML crediting me $15.- the difference between the credit I'd originally received, and the $25. I thought I was entitled to when I made the purchase.
And if something approaching that scenario had occurred, you wouldn't be reading this.
Now I'll try to be brief. My first call ended with Jarred saying that he would submit the credit request, and I must emphasize again that I was not aware that the $25. was for new customers only, but even if I were, BML would still owe me something for their lack of clarity and the Amazon points it cost me, not to mention my nuisance. Jarred further advised that if I was going to pay in full, I should deduct the credit. Which I did.
But the credit never appeared. So I wrote them and received an apparently automated reply that someone would provide an answer to my inquiry within two business days.
That didn't happen.
So now BML was on the hook for redressing the nuisance it was (and would continue) to cause me as well, but needless to say, it would all be forgotten if a sympathetic ear understand that this had now gone on too long and that BML needed to make things right.
So I called this morning, and for a moment, Vicky seemed to be that ear. After hearing my story, she put me on hold, and I felt certain that those with whom she was conferring would realize that they had been more than partly responsible and that $25. was a small price to pay for making things right and garnering good word-of-mouth.
I was dead wrong.
When Vicky returned, she gave me the bad news that the credit was for new customers, and there was nothing she could do. So I took the next step in matters like this and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told one would have to call me back as none were available. So with whom had she just conferred?
I demanded and got a supervisor – who was much less friendly than Vicky and when, in a moment of irritation, I said that I would not be paying the $25., the response I got was shocking.
Put yourself in the supervisor's shoes. If someone told you he wasn't going to pay. What would you say? If it's anything other than something non-inflammatory, you've failed your company for the simple reason that you never want to slam the door on a customer, whether he's right or wrong. I mean, there's still a chance for resolution or at the very least, that I'd come to my senses, grudgingly pay, never use them again, and just go away.
Instead I was told curtly that my failure to pay would be fine with her and it would result in additional fees accruing.
Do you see any way back now? Does that make you as a customer want to deal with Bill Me Later? Unless you're desperate for credit? Even if you feel I'm completely wrong, this is what you may have to look forward to if anything goes wrong with your transaction.
I have since written an email restating my case, including itemizing the misunderstandings and the nuisances, and to my amazement, I got a reply. Bear in mind that they couldn't be bothered answering my first inquiry, but when it came time for a chance to put me in my place for a second time, they didn't waste a moment. Here it is in its entirety…
We have received your inquiry regarding your Bill Me Later account. We appreciate this opportunity to serve you.
While we do offer promotional credit incentives for purchases made with merchants that offer Bill Me Later as a method of payment, not all purchases made using Bill Me Later qualify for these credits.
Specifically, you did not qualify for the Buy.com credit of $25.00 because the merchant reward was for new Bill Me Later accounts only.
Bill Me Later Customer Care
I'm sending this along to Bill Me Later, and I'll certainly keep you all apprised of any response.