Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 6:48 am | Fair 53º


Susan Estrich: Dear American Express — Don’t Punish an Honest Man for Your Mistakes

I've been an American Express cardholder for longer than I care to say. Let's just say it's been close to 40 years, and American Express has always been the first card I use.

No more. Hello, MasterCard and Visa! 

Here's the short version. I bought a suit for my son at an off-retail store. For the next few months, the store's owner (aka thief) charged me $1,400 per month, month after month.

The first time we caught it, she cried and cried and refunded the money. The second time, we called American Express.

Turns out she had done it time and time again. I'm still waiting for thousands of dollars. But that's just the prologue.

They canceled my card last week and promised to send me a new one.

I found it on the ground outside my house. No signature required. Didn't even make the effort to walk up the stairs to leave it at the front door. Why bother?

So I called the number on the back of the card, and, miracle of miracles, I found an honest man. Probably too honest for his own good. That's what I'm worried about.

The honest man told me I was right to complain. But there was absolutely nothing he could do.

The only advice he could give me was to find some higher-ups and make a "public stink."

Finding higher-ups is really easy. First, you look up the chief press person of the press department. They always give their emails out in case someone like me is inclined to write a piece like this.

Next, you just use the same format for anyone else you want to reach.

Somehow my letter found its way to a woman who said she was in the executive office, but with no email address — so she sent me an email I couldn't respond to. How helpful.

Finally, she reached me. Of course, she blamed the carrier. Why would American Express be responsible for making sure a replacement card (that was issued because of major fraud) is delivered to the actual cardholder?

Of course, to activate the card, I had to call and verify my identity, but all that was required was my mother's maiden name, which you can find in five minutes online. This is security? 

But here's the worst. She listened to the recording of my conversation with the honest man, and she was clearly not pleased by it, to say the least.

"Don't punish him," I said. "He was the only helpful person I talked to."

She told me that was none of my business and I would not be informed about what happened to him.

But it is my business. It's all of our business. When an honest person answers one of these calls and has a genuine conversation with you instead of just reading a script, it means a lot.

(I once spoke to a customer service representative who said she was from Detroit. "What's your baseball team?" I asked. That's when she fessed up that she wasn't even in the United States. Need I add that she was utterly useless in helping me?)

So I would commend American Express for having an honest person in America answer my call. But my fear is that he will be disciplined for it.

If anyone reading this can help, please pass this on to him. A good man deserves help. An honest man deserves praise. 

If American Express thinks otherwise, let's all make a public stink.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >