AMEX is broken. I hate AMEX.


Seth Godin posted a video of an old presentation entitled This is Broken discussing consumer experiences that are “broken”  for a variety of reasons. These can be anything from an overflowing trashcan in the men’s room, to a confusing road sign, to spam E-mails. Seth outlined seven general causes for broken experiences such as the “that’s not my job” effect, selfish jerks, “I didn’t know” and things that are broken on purpose.

I recently had my own experience with a broken system through American Express. When I say broken, I mean broken in a way that had me wishing horrible, hateful things upon all AMEX employees, stockholders, friends, family and pets. 

The story is a bit long, so please bear with me.

It began when my agency offered a $100 gift card for anyone that participated in an on-line health survey. I assume it was a way for the company to get some sort of insurance discount by pretending to care about the physical wellness of its employees. I took the survey and received my gift card in the mail a few weeks later.

The card looked like a standard gift card from American Express with a value of 100 “points” stamped along the top. Why “points” and not simply dollars, I do not know. It had the account numbers punched in just like a credit card with my name and the phrase “Achieve More” written at the bottom in fancy gold letters. My, how exciting.

So I got to spending the points on various things, assuming that like every other gift card I had everused in my life, the card would stop working when the value ran out. BIG MISTAKE. I ended up losing the card somewhere under my car seat, and found it a couple of months later. Curious about whether I still had any money left, I logged onto the website to make a balance inquiry. The site told me that the card I had entered did not exist. BROKEN ITEM #1.

Instead, I tried dialing the balance inquiry number on the back of the card. The automated response told me the card had expired, which it had not. BROKEN ITEM #2. I dialed “0” to speak to a human being, at which point they explained to me that the card was in fact still active and had a negative balance of $15, (BROKEN ITEM#3) and I could make a check payable to American Express Corporation. What??? I owe YOU money? And besides that, I have to write out a check and snail-mail it?? BROKEN ITEM #4

“How is this possible?” I asked. When a gift card is out, that’s it. It’s done. The drone on the line explained that businesses can simply force a gift card through if they choose. Essentially, this turns my free gift card into a credit card  I don’t need and didn’t ask for. BROKEN ITEM #5. The guy couldn’t care less. This was a perfect example of what Seth called “it’s not my job.”

I demanded to see a bill. They politely agreed and asked for my home address and/or E-mail address. At this point I asked how they ever planned to reach me for payment if they didn’t have any of my information?  What if I had never found the card and these measly $15  I owed sat rotting away in my credit report, slowly driving me to the edge of a  bad credit cliff point-by-point like the little yodeller on The Price is Right? Serenity now!!! Broken Item #6.

This is the type of experience that can make a consumer despise a company and vow to never, EVER do business with it again. What type of company holds itself to such low standards? I have since cooled down a bit, and take back my initial statements about AMEX employees. I would never want anybody’s pet to get hurt.


~ by Joel on April 21, 2009.

3 Responses to “AMEX is broken. I hate AMEX.”

  1. Reminds me how I felt after finding out that instead of receiving a nice tax return this year like I always do every year, I OWED the guv’ment mula. Very frustrating.

  2. AMEX is THE WORST!!! Left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

  3. I know this thread is REALLY old, but I just found it and had to share my own Amex story…

    I had an American Express card for about 2 years before I finally came to my senses and realized I was paying a $75 annual fee for a card that did really nothing for me. I was even a member of the “travel rewards” program, which never led to any rewards after all. So I canceled the card, cut it up and cut my losses.

    Or so I thought.

    Three months later I got a bill for $30. The annual fee for the travel rewards program. Which, apparently, they didn’t cancel when I canceled the card.

    In a state of bewildered disbelief at how they could be so stupid, I called customer service, who said they couldn’t access anything on my account because I had closed the account.

    I ignored the bill. Until the next one came. And the collection letter. And finally the letter from the collection agency.

    I reported the whole thing to the collection agency ombudsman. He contacted Amex to get their side of the story. But they never called him back so the charge was eventually removed.

    Do not deal with Amex, they do not deserve your business.

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