Wednesday, January 22, 2014



I was doing a small shopping at Costco - anything under $100 is small with that giant - and presented the check-out clerk my American Express Costco credit card and a $40 Costco redemption cheque.
The clerk frowned and said I couldn't use the cheque  because it was issued in my wife's name and she hadn't signed it.
I said that since it was a joint account and I was using one of the two credit cards that Costco and Amex had issued for the account, I didn't see the problem.
She said they couldn't do it because of "privacy" laws. Nonsense, I said, this has nothing to do with privacy laws. My wife and I have a membership account with you, I am using a card with my picture on it that is issued for that account, and you say that's not good enough.
So she called a supervisor who once again waved the "privacy' excuse. No, I said, this has nothing to do with any so-called Canadian "privacy" law but everything to do with your policy. For heaven's sake, the whole transaction is backed up by a credit card that you are allowing me to use to pay for $90 in groceries.
As I left, another supervisor, who had watched warily from a distance, came up and went through the whole "privacy" song-and-dance argument again.
Everyone was polite but firm. And all of them finally admitted that it was store policy and not some "privacy" law that that they couldn't have recalled if it earned them a Bahamas vacation.
"Privacy" laws are brandished at us so routinely, you wonder why it is always so one-way, always making life simpler for the company but never for the customer. It doesn't matter whether you are armed with all the PINs, passwords, customer numbers, questions (where were you born?)  SIN numbers etc.,  just trying to do some simple business, like checking a phone charge, when it is your spouse who set up the account or the bill comes in their name, and it's mission impossible.
Maybe the companies hiding behind the "privacy" excuse should be in charge of the do-not-call list because I get at least three illegal sales calls a day and I have never yet got around the "privacy" blockade without dragging Mary into it.
Since in the last few years, there have been stretches for both Mary and me when we can't be trotted to a store or a phone because the incapacitated spouse is the name on the account, it has become frustrating.
I realize there is a lot of fraud around. The scamming letters from Nigeria keep coming, and every two months there is another attempt to trick me into revealing key numbers for my bank accounts and credit cards.
But I have a warning for companies that really want to make it difficult for a couple to do some simple changes, like amending a billing address. The customer can just stop doing business with you. After all, there is always another store, or telephone company, or credit card, or bank etc.
Years ago I set up an account for me and an account for Mary with ING, the on-line bank. I routinely have transferred money in and out, or established GIC accounts, and there never has been a problem.   There has always been a problem with Mary's account, so much so that we have switched PINs, passwords, and questions on several occasions.  A few weeks ago, I thought I would double-check the data on-line with the statement that Mary had been mailed.  Once again, I was told there was a problem. I phoned but they refused to deal with me because I was a man, even thought I had all the necessary numbers and codes. So I got Mary on the phone too. Her old PIN wouldn't work, again, so she went through the procedure to establish a new PIN. It wouldn't work either. Tried four times.
Finally, I said to the ING rep, could this be because we are talking on two phone? Yes, he said, that would be it. I then asked why he hadn't mentioned this when he said Mary had to be on the phone too. Did he think we would be holding one phone between our two heads?
At this point, Mary ended several bouts of frustration with this one account by cancelling it. She told ING just to move the money to her regular account. She just didn't need this hassle every time. Which ING did, after only two more phone calls.
My warning message about these extra hassles by lazy companies is not protected by "privacy" laws either real or imagined! If you want to keep my business, you better smarten up because if you make it too difficult to perform even a simple chore, you're toast!

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