1. From a letter sent to me by AmEx: “Dear Cardmember, We are pleased to notify Cardmembers that the $1,000,000.00 Prize in the Super Million Dollar XV Sweepstakes presented by American Express Publishing is still available and could be yours to win. The Prize Entry Number that decides the person who will win the $1,000,000.00 Prize has already been preselected. That person could be you, DAN HEATH.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. The vaguely ESL wording? (Super Million Dollar!) The Roman-numeraled sweepstakes? (Were there really 14 prior events? And were they also Super?) The repetition (“already…preselected”)? The helpful reminder of who, in fact, I am? (“you, DAN HEATH”) Oh, and there’s this: Is the credit card company that prides itself on its “elite” reputation really sending me *sweepstakes* mailers? (AmEx, did you run out of hair tonic and Charles Atlas literature?)

Let’s just leave it at this: You know how to make your cardholders feel classy, AmEx! Super Million Dollar Classy!

2. In the midst of praying for my sweepstakes victory, I get an email from AmEx warning me about a suspicious charge. (A $99 florist fee. Because, if there’s one surefire sign of identity theft, it’s a bouquet.) As we all know by now, “suspicious charges” mean that our credit cards will be shut off for our own protection. So I called AmEx from the road, knowing that I’d need the card for travel expenses. Gave them the usual: card number, security code, SSN. Asked them to clear my account so I could use the card. OK, more security questions: Birthdate, mother’s maiden name, address, phone #. Not bragging, but I did pretty well on the quiz.

Then the fun beings: “But you’re not calling from your home phone.” Nope, this is my cell. “Is there someone at your home number?” Nope, I’m on the road. “Will you be there later?” Days after I need my card, yes. “Is there anybody who could answer your home phone?” Um, I’m the person who you need to be talking to, and here I am! “Well, do you have a voice mail that has your name on it?” Er, no, not on my home phone. “Well, we can’t reactivate your account without confirming that.” [Much verbal abuse and erosion of karma.]

Let me speak to your manager. [Long hold.] “The manager is busy right now, can she call you back?” Sigh.

28 hours later, I received that call back. And that’s the story of how AmEx lost a customer. But guys, please make sure you keep me in the loop for SuperDeluxe Million Dollar Sweepstakes XVI!

(I know these customer-service stories are a dime a dozen — anybody got an “elite” AmEx story to top me? I’ve got a free book for the biggest doozy!)

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