A Shopper Bites Back (or, Thanks, Consumerist, for giving me a consumer backbone)

As I've previously mentioned, I'm pretty sick and tired of being asked to show ID whenever I try to use a credit card for purchases. Not only does it do nothing to protect either party from fraud, it's also expressly disallowed by both Visa and Mastercard. Today is the story of how I fought back with blazing speed and may have won another credit card fight.

Shauna's car had stopped turning over last night and I drove out to meet her mom to give it a jump-start. After 45 minutes of trying to jump it and charge the battery, I figured the battery was dead and needed replacing. The brace holding it in place was secured by bolts in such a position as to be virtually inaccessible, so I decided that I'd have it towed to the Saturn dealership tomorrow to get it replaced. I've been taking Saturns to dealerships since I bought my LS2 about eight and a half years ago and started doing so for Shauna's SL2 when we got married. We've probably dropped several thousand in maintenance and repairs at Saturn of Salt Lake in the last three and a half years and I've spent a lot more at Saturn of Henderson.

As I always do, I attempted to pay for the repair with a credit card. The receptionist then asked to see ID with the card. "No thank you," I replied. She then smiled and said that their policy is not to accept any credit card without identification. I then asked if I could please speak with the manager. The manager then came out and I explained what was going on. He re-iterated the policy and I replied that Visa does not allow a merchant to require ID as a condition of acceptance. I even kindly referred him to the Rules for Visa Merchants manual and even provided the page number of this restriction.

Then came what I didn't expect. The manager then asked me "so you no longer want to be able to bring your car here?" The implied threat that I would be blackballed as a customer for asserting my cardholder rights is absolutely incredible. I ended up going back and forth with him for a couple more minutes before I pulled out my drivers license and advised that I would be filing a complaint with Visa.

As soon as I got home, I looked up information on filing complaints with Visa over at Consumerist and found the appropriate number to call. Within 10 minutes, I filed a complaint with "Tony" (who sounded very unlikely to be Tony) over at Visa HQ. I then called up the customer service number for Saturn Corporate and filed a complaint with them. Louise, the woman who assisted me, was very helpful and even called the dealership while I was holding the line. She spoke with the same service manager I did, Paul Jeff, and forwarded the complaint to the general manager of the dealership.

I don't know what the final outcome will be or if the service manager at Saturn of Salt Lake will make good on his very thinly veiled threat. What I do know is that I've spent thousands of dollars at Saturn dealerships and never had a customer service issue like this. The quality of their work is always top-notch and I intend to still go for service, but I will not sit back and let them bully me around.

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8 Responses to A Shopper Bites Back (or, Thanks, Consumerist, for giving me a consumer backbone)

  1. Misty Fowler says:

    I think I’m going to check my bank statement for how much I’ve spent at Harmon’s in the last month, and be prepared to put my foot down next time I shop there. I am there nearly every day, and it’s annoying to have to pull out my ID for $20 worth of groceries. Thanks for the above info!

  2. I am agog… I am aghast. Hasn’t this guy heard that we are in some kind of economic downturn? And his response to you is, “Take your car somewhere else next time”? Talk about a power trip.

    I’m curious… do you actually carry around the Rules for Visa Merchants booklet? If so, that’s awesome.

  3. Jesse says:

    I don’t carry a copy around, but I’m thinking about printing that linked PDF and keeping it in my car for good measure. The ID craze has to stop.

  4. Jason says:

    Though I hate Bank of America with a passion, one program they offer is the photo identification ON the card itself, providing no need for additional ID.

    I always wondered why in the ID crazed world we live in, this idea hasn’t been spread to other banks.

  5. Kristi says:

    I hardly ever get asked for ID and every time I think “someone could really run up charges on this if they stole it.”
    By the way, who pays when a card gets stolen and there’s a fraud guarantee? The credit card companies?

  6. Jesse says:

    The merchant typically has to eat it and pay a chargeback fee.

  7. numberless says:

    I want to add that people readily accept many of the home-made IDs I create as well as some internet purchased ones when accepting credit cards from me. The funny thing is, it’s purely because I DON’T have any government issued IDs, but the name is always legit. I’m not using a fake ID per se, but the reality is that someone with half a brain, a printer and Photoshop can make an ID that most desk jockeys will accept without a second thought.

    I always liked when internet sales people would have me fax in pictures of the credit card and an ID if I wanted to ship to an alternate address. That’s secure!

    The trouble with all this ID nonsense is twofold:

    1. It inconveniences honest people in order to hinder only the absolute dumbest of criminals.

    2. It continues to keep drilling into the minds of Americans that widespread identification and tracking is perfectly normal and acceptable in a so-called “free country.” What a joke.

    I still fly without ID though. It requires an extra 10 – 30 minutes every time I do, but frustrating TSA and giving them no recourse makes me a very, very happy boy.

  8. numberless says:

    Oh, I forgot to also say, Jesse, thanks for bringing this up. As someone who lacks an ID most of the time, this will be really helpful for me! Plus, you know how much I like causing trouble for people who don’t follow their own policies!

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