I have to hold true to the word I gave the customer service rep from JCPenney and tell this story to the general public. I figure the bad press I can give counts for something.

My first impressions of JCPenney were very good. My mom in her travels to the States had decided to get a JCPenney credit card as she liked the things there, including the variety. Well I hadn’t really spent much time there myself, I decided to check it out when I went to Grand Forks last December for some Christmas shopping. Well, I was just about blown away. They had great sales, but even better, interesting gifts! I especially loved the thermos you could plug into your car to keep the contents extra hot (it also had a thermometer on the outside). On top of that, they had this massive kitchen set in a box for only 100$ which contained everything from cookie sheets to frying fans to a knife set. What a deal! I left there promising to be back next December to find more gifts to impress my Canadian family and friends. I will admit right now I will be breaking that promise.

My mom watches her finances closely. She isn’t someone who is short of money. So I knew when complained to me about JCPenney charging her a $35 late fee for the credit card we shared something was wrong. Well, she phoned and got it resolved…or did she? Turns out that once she received her bill, her payment was due the very next day. So she express posted a payment to them, incurring an extra $12 expense to try and get it there on time. Well the payment ended up being one day late, and she was met with this fee. So she phoned in, and JCPenney took it off. But the same issue was awaiting my mom the next month, and every month after. So what, she is stuck paying a total of an extra 47 dollars just to have this card? Well the CSRs for JCPenney weren’t so nice anymore. They told her it was as simple as a “mail issue” and there was nothing else they could do. Now I have worked as a CSR before (actually for Comcast) and I know that there is always something you can do.

So I finally had enough. Mom and I decided to cut up the cards, and she would mail one final payment. But this wasn’t enough for me. I decided it was time for me to phone and hear this for myself. To know me in person is to know I am not someone who flies off the handle at small things. I generally treat people with dignity and respect, and always make the extra effort with CSRs having done that job and knowing the crap they deal with. But in the end, I couldn’t take it with this woman. I let her have it, and went up and down a couple times. I appreciate she tried the famous “What would you like me to do to solve this for you” but when I told her, she said she couldn’t do it (Hint: don’t ask that kind of question if a reasonable answer is given but you still can’t/won’t do it). The obvious problem in the end here is that more time is needed between the billing date and the payment due date. But since that would break the contract we signed with them, that would not happen. I asked her “If the situation was reserved, what would you do”? She said “I’d re-think my usage of the card”. I told her we had re-thought our usage, and since this was the lame attempt to keep our business when there were so many other options out there, that our usage was done.

So word to the wise especially to all my fellow Canadians and international shoppers out there: Don’t get suckered into acquiring this card if you want to deal with all of these extra charges. And, when it comes to be December, go on strike against JCPenney with me.

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Tyson Turner writes a weekly column for the Casual Observer, focusing on Canadian issues. His articles can be found North of the Border.

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