- Platinum Member
- Posts: 93
- Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:53 pm
- Location: USA
[color="Navy"]Author's Note: I thought that after mentioning AMEX as often as I have in my other posts that it was finally time to explain exactly WHY I stand so firm behind the company. I swear that everything about this story is true with names edited out for privacy reasons and I further swear that I'm not paid for writing any of this and I have no contracts with the company aside from the one I signed when I signed up for the cards that I have in my collection.[/color]
My relationship with American Express as a company started at a young age.
As a child, I watched my parents pull out American Express traveler's checks when we went on vacations and when I was a teenager and getting ready to take my first trip alone for a scholarship program, I listened to my father tell me about the benefits of my American Express traveler's checks before handing me an envelope full of them along with an instruction sheet and phone numbers. "Take good care of them," he said, "And in case something happens, they will take care of you. Have a good trip and remember to call home."
Though nothing bad ever happened to me and my checks (thank goodness!), something about the way my parents had presented me the checks instilled in me a vague sense of respect for the company and this respect would carry me into my card-carrying years.
When my first chance to apply for an American Express credit card came, I was a university student and a fresh face in the world of credit. American Express at the time was still considered new to the credit card field (all of their previous cards were charge cards) and so what I was being offered was one of their newest products - Blue for Students from American Express.
In being honest, I have to say that I hardly paid attention to the benefits that the credit card representative was telling me about. Instead, my attention was fully fixated and divided between the curiosity that the Blue card was - clear and with a big blue holographic square in the middle - and the simple fact that I - a young university student! - might be approved for an American Express.
Excitement at possibly owning a shiny American Express card for one of my first credit cards was 95% of the force which propelled me to fill out the application form and when I got my first phone call from the American Express representative, I was given the last 5% reason needed to confirm that yes, I was very much interested in applying and becoming a card-carrying American Express member.
Little did I know that that last 5% would later become part of my 200% reason for STAYING and the reason I am writing this little story.
To explain that 200%, then, needs an explanation of that 5%.
Going back to the 5% part of my story, about a week after my application, I got a phone call from the Blue division of American Express. Before this phone call, I had received no other correspondence from them.
Polite and patient, the representative who called me called for two reasons - one, to confirm that I was indeed applying, and two... to confirm that I was indeed applying and to confirm that I knew what I was applying for and asked me if I would like a bit of education in regards to credit.
You know how universities and colleges are flooded with credit card reps? Well, the representative wanted to make sure that I hadn't made my choice just based on what the reps were saying or offering as a sign-up bonus. The rep also wanted to make sure that I knew that I would be getting a credit inquiry if my application was processed (meaning, I would get a hard pull on my credit report) and the rep also wanted to make sure that I knew what having a credit card meant, knew what having an American Express meant, and understood how to use credit wisely.
In other words, I got my first free lesson in credit counseling from one of my first credit card companies.
In return for the rep's questions (which I appreciated because remember what I said about being awed by the card's shininess and the company's reputation?), I bombarded her with a million related questions and to my pleasure, she took the time to address each and every question.
Fast forward almost half an hour and my application was processed and approved and when I got the congratulations, I swear the rep was about as happy about the results as I was and when I finally hung up the phone, I thought back to my experience with the traveler's checks and wondered to myself if this was one of the reasons my own family trusted in American Express. "Take good care of them," I told myself, "And in case something happens, they will take care of you."
I received my Blue in a week after that phone call and after I peeled the card from the paper, I became a formal card-carrying American Express member. Proud to simply carry such a unique card and proud to be supporting - and be supported by - a company like American Express, the card quickly became my primary and I took the representative's advice to heart - making my payments on time and paying in full besides.
And then... something happened.
That "in case something happens" sort of happen.
I became extraodinarily ill and because I was unable to work anymore on top of being forced to withdraw from university, my finances went spiraling out of control and predictably, my payments started becoming smaller and smaller while my expenses were getting higher and higher.
I charged everything. Medical expenses that never seemed to end, school expenses, personal expenses. Anything and everything that could be charged, I charged because I desperately needed to keep myself afloat despite not being able to work.
I remembered what the American Express rep told me, but I was embarrassed - too embarrassed, in fact - and too proud of what good I had managed to do before and too naive in thinking "I can handle this myself" to call for help and so... my credit took a hit.
Though I continued to pay on time, I was getting to the point where I could hardly afford the minimum and then came a time where I couldn't even pay the minimum and then after that... I started being late as I sought to stretch the time I had between payments.
Finally, when I finally realized that the crisis I was in wasn't going to end soon or on its own and that my illness and unemployment status was going nowhere, I caved and liquidated what savings I had and with the help of my parents whom I owe the world to whom accidentally discovered my American Express bill, I paid off every debt I owed, sockdrawered my cards, and went back home to recuperate.
I can say that I was definitely one of the lucky ones; the fact that my family was willing to help me out even as an adult in one of my darkest times was extraordinary. The fact that I hadn't defaulted (yet) and was able to pay off a good solid chunk on my own by buying time and liquidating years of unspent money was amazing.
But I was scared, too, and horrified that I had not only ruined my credit history but had also disappointed people who had chosen to trust me. Especially given the kind of relationship American Express had started me out with with their first telephone call and extension of trust towards me, I was definitely embarrassed and it took over a year for me to muster up my courage and try again.
For myself - to repair my broken credit, for the card companies who had entrusted me to use credit wisely and who would be the markers on my credit history, and to simply gain closure, I fanned out my cards, gritted my teeth, and called the numbers on the backs of the cards.
American Express was the first company that I called.
"Take good care of them," I told myself as I listened to the automatic voice prompt, "And in case something happens, they will take care of you."
Fully expecting the worst or at least lukewarm results, the credit rep that answered firstly gave me a warm welcome back and said that it had been a long time since they had heard from me... and then asked me gently if I was ready to come back to American Express.
No accusations. No blaming. No embarrassing questions. No feeling like I was a second class citizen or dirt or just another account number.
Her approach and tone of voice reminded me of the first representative I had spoken with when I first got the card and out tumbled my story. I apologized for the credit mishaps I had gone through and though I hadn't intended for it to happen, I spilled everything that had happened to me during that time period and after listening to me, she put me on hold and referred me to their internal credit counseling service.
The gentleman whom I got transferred to welcomed me back similarly and for a few minutes, we just talked about credit and the importance of good credit and how to build and rebuild credit and how to not fall into credit traps. It was like the first credit counseling experience I had gotten from them, but better and more thorough.
After the counseling was done with, he - like the rep before him - asked me the same question - if I was ready to come back to American Express - and when I said that I was ready, he said - and I quote: "Then I welcome you back to American Express. We have missed you and hope that your renewed relationship with us will last a lifetime. I want you to remember that we at American Express are here for you and if you need any more advice on credit or need credit counseling, please don't be afraid to let us know."
"Take good care of them," I said to myself again as I hung up the phone and fought to swallow the lump in my throat, "And in case something happens, they'll take care of me."
I was young, but at that point of time, I already knew all too well that a destroyed relationship with credit companies and credit on its own can haunt for a long time - going even beyond the effects of bankruptcy - and hearing the representative's good news was a bit like feeling lucky all over again.
When I got my account back (the card itself was deactivated and my account went inactive without use and so the phone call ended up reactivating the card and the account) and I saw that it had a better APR and a higher credit limit on it than I had started with, I knew that I had been given a second chance.
A second chance to regain the trust of a company who decided to take the initiative and trust in me for a second time. A second chance to rebuild my credit without the burden of a late/defaulted APR and a super tight credit line. A second chance to take my credit by the horns and DO something about it RIGHT NOW to help it. And possibly most importantly, a second chance for me to believe in myself and to believe that I could have excellent credit once again and to believe that 'failing once' didn't have to mean 'failing forever'.
My "in case something happens" happened and the first credit card company to take care of me and give me my credit life back was American Express and I swore that I would never forget it.
Fast forward to another six, seven years and a business credit card and VISA-to-AMEX conversion later, they become the first and only to give me my identity back, too.
By a fluke accident of my own doing, my wallet - a particularly precious gift given to me by my older sibling - fell into the hands of someone other than myself and by some miracle, it was later recovered by a restaurant owner whose trash bin it had been tossed into (and missed).
The restaurant owner - unable to find a telephone number to call me at because I was an unlisted number - decided to try and track me down using my credit cards.
Out of all of my cards at the time - and the cards that I was carrying are the cards I carry now - one card rep wanted to help her help me but didn't know how, one card rep simply said that they would cancel the card and send me a new one and thank you for calling, and one card rep said, "Thank you for notifying us of this unfortunate incident and thank you for trying to help. Let me connect you to Lost and Found. I'm sure we can help you find [the card owner] and let them know that you found their wallet."
At seven in the morning on SUNDAY, I hear my phone ring.
I was getting ready to yell at the caller; who in blazes besides a telemarketer calls me at seven in the freaking morning on a day that I have no work-work and have time-off from my side work and projects besides?
The first thing I hear is an anxious introduction. "My name is XYZ and I am calling from the Lost and Found department of American Express."
Lost and Found?! American Express?! Who?! WHAT?! ME?! I was awake in a second. I felt like I was about to win the lottery and my heartbeat was like a jackhammer in my throat.
The voice continued.
"I really apologize for calling you so early on a Sunday morning [insert name here], but I just wanted to let you know that your wallet and its contents has been recovered!"
... I was so astonished that I couldn't do anything but stare. The wallet - like I said, was a precious gift - though not branded was admittedly an expensive piece and the contents even moreso. The fact that the wallet in and of itself had been recovered in the first place -
When I recovered, I asked her kind of dumbly if she was certain.
"Mrs. ABC of XYZ restaurant was given the wallet by an employee who had recovered it from the restaurant's dumpster. Mrs. ABC opened your wallet and saw your American Express and called us and asked if we could help you get your wallet back. So if you don't mind, I would like to ask a few questions just to make sure the wallet and its contents are indeed yours."
As I had, of course, reported my wallet and cards lost and stolen to American Express the week before when it happened, it was already on record that I was missing my wallet and cards and it only took a few confirmations - wallet appearance, other items, etc - before a confirmation was made and I was linked to the restaurant owner who had apparently been on hold the entire time.
The American Express representative was extremely happy. I was absolutely ecstatic. The restaurant owner was overjoyed and promptly informed both of us that she would have the wallet in the safe ready for me to pick up at my convenience and I had never in my entire life been happier to hop out of bed at seven thirty in the morning on a Sunday.
When I arrived at the restaurant, the restaurant owner sat down with me and my friend who decided to accompany me and as we had breakfast, she explained her side of the story...
And it was from her that I learned of how American Express - out of all the cards and card companies in my wallet - was the only one who helped her to find me and put me in touch with her and my wallet.
Out of all of my cards, American Express was the only one?!
She explained that she had tried the other cards first and was about to give up when she realized that I had an American Express in the mess that the contents of my wallet had become. Being a business owner, she, too, was familiar with American Express' customer service (as her restaurant accepted American Express) and decided to give American Express a try and called the number on the back of my card.
She detailed how polite, professional, and compassionate the American Express team had been and detailed how she got routed to Lost and Found whose representative promptly told her that she would be able to help and then told me that not only was she glad that I carried American Express but that she was also glad that she was an American Express customer herself and that my mishap with my wallet had taught her something.
I had already been blessed with both outstanding customer service and a fantastic relationship - both personal and business - from American Express on previous occasions. To have hoped for another blessing - a miracle I would have called it - was too much and to say that I felt like a million dollars and felt like my American Express cards were a bunch of lucky stars which helped me get my identity back after she shared with me her story is an understatement.
If I hadn't loved American Express already, I most assuredly loved them, now, and when I later called them to confirm that I had indeed gotten my wallet back (if not, they would have helped me seek further action against identity theft), I flat out told them so.
Even though the representative who answered said while laughing that it was all a part of their job, I told them that I loved them and thanked them for doing what I felt was the extraordinary and said that I would never forget the things that they had done to help me and help someone else help me. Still laughing, the representative thanked me and then patched me in to another department where I was given further advice on preventing and monitoring identity theft by another helpful representative.
I wasn't a Gold member. I wasn't a Platinum member. I most certainly wasn't a Centurion member. I didn't make six figures. I didn't own a second home somewhere in Italy. I never took advantage of their travel offers. My business was a one-man-band and SMALL at that. I even got the late APR penalty from them before!
In other words, I was just little ole' human me who carried one old Blue, one True Earnings, and one Macy's American Express.
In more ways and more situations than one, they showed me that they valued me and I couldn't and can't help but love them right back.
That said, I didn't write this love story; this love story wrote itself and now more than ever, I know that it will be one that will last a lifetime.
I can honestly say that I am a better person because of them - because of the examples they showed me through their customer service - and I am a proud bearer of excellent credit in part because of their decision to give me - someone who was struggling - a second chance.
Thank you, American Express and all of the awesome people who work for your company - especially the ones whom I spoke of in this story; I love you for all the things you have done for me - the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.
AMEX: Everyday (MR), Macy's (cobranded)
MASTER: Citibank Dividend Platinum Select (non-World version)
VISA: Chase Amazon Signature, Chase (bank issued)
GE: Care Credit (medical expenses), Macy's (store), JCP (store)
AMEX: Costco True Earnings
VISA: Chase Ink Cash