So like you guys know me, I keep pushing you to put all your spend on plastic money and earn miles and/or points for everything you do. However, there is another kind of plastic money I’ve never used in India which is prepaid cards. Why do I need them when I already have Visa/MasterCard/American Express lined up in my pocket, right?
Sometime back, you’d remember I hopped over to Goa for a friend’s wedding and assorted events. Now, the gifting was due, and we for the love of our life, could not figure out what to gift since there was no public gift registry. Then, we went around the options of giving away gift vouchers, from the spa to many other options. Eventually, I remembered the aggressive promotions American Express was doing for their gift and prepaid cards in India in the past few months, specially last festive season. So, after some looking around, I ended up on amexgifts.in, a specialised website set-up by a third party for American Express to market these cards. Regardless of it being a 3rd party site, I decided to go ahead and purchase American Express Gift Cards from them.
I should have known I was asking for trouble when browsed through the Facebook page of this entity which is full of complaints. However, I went ahead with an order, which was of quite a substantial amount I must say. Monday Morning at about 3 AM is not the time I expect their payment gateway to be flooded with transactions, yet, the payment gateway failed three times before accepting my payment with a perfectly usable MasterCard Credit Card in good standing.
The Terms of Service of the company stated that the order would be shipped to me within 24 hours. Most Indian e-commerce companies would use the same logistics providers, and these ensure overnight deliveries.
However, this is where the experience begin to go downhill with the website. Firstly for them, a payment made via a payment gateway (with a code at the back of the card, followed by a third level verification by MasterCard via the Citibank Gateway using an online password) was not proof enough for them to ship it immediately.
I received a mail during the day, from the payment gateway company, asking me to send them an email confirmation about the transaction, and that too within 24 hours. What?? I could be inaccessible for whatever reason.
These surprises were getting on to me, however, I did reply within 5 minutes of receiving the email confirming the details were correct.
Now, 24 hours later, I did not receive any emails from them regarding a dispatch. I waited a little more, thinking sometimes emails come later and the order before. However, after 48 hours of confirmation later, I dropped them a line reminding them that the order was due for shipment 24 hours back. This was on the 5th September 2012. I called as well, but someone went blabber blabber on the other side, and I asked for a supervisor. I was told the supervisor was not around and a callback would be initiated before 6 PM the same day.
I got a call from someone on the 6th September 2012 telling me they had passed on the order to American Express for fulfilment. What? Here they are, phantom people collecting real money from my account for phantom gift cards they don’t hold in stock and they want to sell them to me anyways? I was disappointed. I wanted to talk to the boss of this company and I asked to talk to him. At this point of time, I had already spent maybe 2-3 precious hours of mine trying to fix this situation.
I eventually get a call from the CEO, after receiving the shipment on 7th September 2012, and he goes, “ I heard you wanted to talk to me…” Not exactly the way to empathise with an angry customer. I go over the whole issue with him, and all he could say is, “We’re sorry your order got stuck due to our logistics partner not shipping on time. You know how all the e-com ventures in India are facing the same trouble, unreliable partners and all that” I reminded him that the shipment was delivered overnight.
“Oh!”, and he goes on to talk to someone, “What’s wrong with this one?”, and comes back to me saying, “I’m sorry someone left a bad piece of copy on the website and hence you got the wrong impression that we are shipping within 24 hours. Anyways we have had it fixed now and it states the current terms of service.”
I was angry even more and I asked this CEO to have these gift cards returned, when he goes, “Man, what can I do to keep you as a customer?” Yeah right, I was addressed as dude and man in this conversation a few times, but never as SIR! I might not be 50 years old, but I still prefer a professional approach when talking to or hearing from strangers.
Eventually, the lack of ownership of this expat CEO forced me to call his bluff and ask him to get these returned, where he goes one up on me and asks, “ Do you know even where to send them back to?” Wow, dude, you get three gold stars in my books to have used that one line.
So, as expected, nothing happened, and I had to talk to the customer care lady again, who promised that the reverse shipment would be done by the next day, but never organised it till Monday. I also asked for people in American Express, and I never heard on a name.
In a nutshell, take your call, but the following roadblocks will hit your way if you want to buy Amex Gift Cards in India:
- A process which takes more out of you than even what the regulator asked for;
- Clueless customer services department who do not know what to do and rarely keep their timelines;
- Broken workflow which requires over-secretive security measures not stated on the website;
- If you’re lucky, a chat with a casual-attitude CEO of a third-party website who will give you all the wrong reasons for why his team and he was not able to deliver and blame it all on everyone else.
Amex, I loved you. I respected you for your customer service. But with this move, you’re starting to alienate me. Your wrong choice of partners will affect your business, not mine!
P.S.: Since at a point of time, I felt I was giving them too much of free consultation on how their website was in bad shape, I asked for and received compensation. Rs. 500 to start with, which was sheepishly upgraded to Rs. 1,000 when I said it was too less. Still too less for my time, I say. But if I decide to give it away to charity or to my readers, I’ll still have to decide and maybe I will give you something to look forward to!