Back to work, helping people get refunds

After a week in the Mexican sun, I’m back connecting customers to corporations, trying to open lines of communication and relieve frustration.

Two days later, I have a bunch of victories to report. You’ll find stories posted below about a 12-year-old boy’s savings at TD Canada Trust, a new mother’s concern about nursery furniture bought at Stork Craft and a student’s battle with defective hinges on an HP laptop computer.

I’m not alone in this fight. Last July, musician Dave Carroll released a video, United Breaks Guitars, that went viral on YouTube. When denied compensation because he didn’t file his claim within a 24-hour period, he decided to write and record a bluegrass lament about how badly customers are treated.

The airline finally did agree to pay for repairs, but only in response to negative publicity. Carroll nixed the offer and recorded two more videos.

The latest, released tonight, thanks United for helping to relaunch his career. He knows that the 9 million YouTube views of his videos were worth much more than the $1,200 he put out to fix his Taylor guitar.

Along the way, he’s done media interviews and he’s been adopted by business schools as a case study in poor customer service. Well done, Dave.

Here’s his final comment as he touches down on the landing strip:

I had hoped that creating these videos might make a big corporation rethink how they think of each and every customer, but could never have imagined the potential hidden inside a music video and a few social media tools.

Corporations of all kinds around the world now feel compelled, in part because of United Breaks Guitars, to build in a better model for customer care into their businesses. I’m proud to have been a part of it but the real credit goes to the millions of people around the world who took the time to laugh and tell a friend.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

12 thoughts on “Back to work, helping people get refunds”

  1. My mom told me I should be an excellent money manager. When I was 8 years old, she told me that I should have 4 good habits with money.

    1) spend some money
    2) save some money
    3) give some money and
    4) keep some money for my education.

    She also told me that if I put some of my money in the bank, it would gain interest.

    That sounded pretty good. I was pretty proud when she took me to the TD Bank to open a kid’s account where they put my very first bank book in my hands.

    I gave the teller my first money, totaling $8.47 I had earned by helping mom and dad out at the garage sale.

    I felt confident when I left the bank that I was being a great money manager.

    I could trust the TD bank to take care of my financials. My mom said while my money was with the bank, it would gain interest. I wasn’t too sure what that meant, but I was very curious to learn how my money could grow just by sitting there.

    Eight dollars and forty seven cents was a lot of money to me at the time. It was a great sacrifice to leave it at the bank.

    Fast forward four years. I’m 12 now and have odd jobs. It’s time to go back to the bank and ask for a bank card. I was super curious to find out how much interest had accumulated into my account.

    Horror! There was no interest. In fact, there was no bank account!

    I was astounded to learn the TD Bank stole my money! I was told by the teller that the TD just closed my account because it remained “dormant” for 4 years!

    I’m a kid. I don’t know what dormant means! It turns out that because my account has no activity, the TD decided to close my account.

    I thought that was the plan! My money was supposed to be earning interest! That’s activity, isn’t it? My mom says I should have received a letter or something. I just wanted to know “where is my interest?” Where is my education fund?

    In disbelief, my mom asked for the bank manager. He said they would do an investigation to find out why the TD closed a kid’s account and took my money inside which they called “a closing fee”.

    Taking money that rightfully belonged to a child of eight years of age is just wrong. And it doesn’t make me want to be a TD customer any more!

    We talked to the person behind the counter, who agreed that the bank should not be permitted to take the money. We were told they would launch an investigation, but we were never told how or when it this could be resolved. The T.D bank stole my cash and intends on keeping it. Sweet.

    The TD should put a huge warning label on a kid’s bank book that says “if you don’t use this account within a year, we will keep your money!”

    My mom tells me this is an excellent money management lesson. To be an excellent money manager, you don’t put your money in the bank, you must be the bank! I’m not quite sure what she means yet.

    My mom says I should send the TD an invoice for my money plus interest, plus invoice them for my consulting time on how I think they can serve kids better at the bank.

    My friends think I should sue the TD for pain and suffering. My dad thinks I should just use this lesson to help me make more money.

    I think I should make them pay for my education so I could learn how to be a better bank.

    It’s illegal to steal money, isn’t it? I hope other kids go check their bank accounts right away, and don’t let the TD take their money!

    The TD should make good on all the kids’ accounts they have “closed” for inactivity in the past 10 years, and start a kids’ division with micro-loans to kids who want to start businesses or need loans for their education.

    And for that, Mr. TD CEO sitting on the green padded chair, my $20K invoice is on the way (plus interest)!

  2. Hi Ellen, we have sorted things out with Adrian and are very sorry he had a bad experience.

    Customers like Adrian are very important to us and we want to be part of helping them to learn how to manage and save their money.

    Like all banks, we’re obligated to notify customers whose accounts are inactive and, after a certain number of years without any activity at all taking place in the account, a dormancy fee is applied to adult accounts.

    It was never our intention to apply this fee to youth accounts. What happened to Adrian’s account was a mistake and we are fixing it so it doesn’t happen again.

    We’ve also offered Adrian a gift of $500 toward his education fund, which he has accepted, and we really hope he will continue to let us serve him in the future.

    For your information, in order to prevent any account from being considered dormant, a customer has to let us know they are still using the account by doing at least one transaction.

    Even just checking your balance counts as a transaction.

  3. I have had no success in obtaining a refund for nursery furniture I purchased that is unsafe for my daughter.

    I purchased two pieces from Stork Craft (through a link to the company on the website) on Jan. 24, 2009 and the third piece on Feb. 10, 2009. Our daughter was born on March 21, 2009. The furniture was assembled but was not used — as our daughter slept in a bassinet in our bedroom until she was 7 months old.

    With the change table, the drawer under the changing platform was starting to separate at the back. Not until it was regularly used did it start to fall apart.

    We are no longer able to use this drawer. If we were to put anything in it, there is a chance that the bottom panel would fall out completely to the shelf below. (All that was ever stored in this drawer to begin with were receiving blankets – nothing of any great weight was ever in there.)

    The dresser has defective runners on all 3 of the drawers, so that they are not flush with each other and often near impossible to open. The hinge on the door to the side cupboard has completely separated from the side panel of the dresser (this happened one day when I opened it to pull out a blanket), so I’m sure you can appreciate the danger to my daughter if she were to pull on the knob of the door to pull herself up, as many young children learning to stand/walk would do. I fear that the entire door could come flying off and hit her in the head.

    The crib is my biggest concern. First off, it is one of the drop side cribs that was part of the recall in November of 2009. Upon hearing of the recall, I attempted to make contact with Stork Craft for almost 6 weeks, with no success, to obtain their “repair kit,” which they claim would ensure that the cribs would be safe for children to sleep in (I’m sure you can understand my reluctance to believe such a claim).

    The phone lines were not accessible and their website had shut down, I’m sure due to the high volume of concerned parents trying to access it.

    The second issue with the crib is that the side panels have started to separate. If my daugher were to grab hold of a piece and pull on it, she would pull a painted piece of wood right off (which would no doubt end up in her mouth as do most things these days do, since she is teething).

    I was irate when I discovered this problem. In my opinion, this posses a huge safety risk to any child in these cribs.

    I was finally able to make contact with Stork Craft by phone at the beginning of January, 2010. They were only willing to offer me replacement parts.

    I sent them an e-mail clearly requesting a REFUND. I asked them what Stork Craft’s position was going to be 6 months from now when the replacement parts they sent me were now also broken and we found ourselves right back in the same situation we were in now.

    I sent them several e-mails attaching pictures of the damages to these items and placed countless phone calls to their ecommerce dept. The level of Customer Service I received was next to nil.

    I was treated poorly, lied to, hung up on and even was accused of being a liar myself.

    I made several attempts to make contact with any individual who was in a position of authority, i.e. supervisor, manager etc., and even asked for contact information for the president of the company, in the hopes of speaking to somebody who could authorize a refund for me. All attempts were unsuccessful.

    I contacted Stork Craft by telephone on the following dates:
    January 4, 2010;
    January 7, 2010;
    January 20, 2010;
    January 26, 2010;
    January 27, 2010;
    January 28, 2010; and
    February 4, 2010.

    E-mails were sent on the following dates:
    January 20, 2010;
    January 21, 2010;
    January 25, 2010;
    January 26, 2010; and
    January 28, 2010

    I am now at the point where I have to buy new furniture for my daughter so that I can ensure her safety and security. Sadly, this going to impose further financial hardship on our family, as we are now having to buy baby furniture again during a time when I am on a maternity leave and my husband is not working due to a health issue.

    Any help that you might be able to provide in obtaining a refund for the items I have purchased would be appreciated more than words could express.


    Later the same day:

    Thank you so much for contacting Wal-mart on my behalf, in an attempt to resolve this situation.

    Happily, I received a call from Stork Craft this evening and they have advised me that they wanted to arrange a time for UPS to pick up the three items I purchased, as they were going to be issuing me a refund.

    I was also advised that I would be receiving an e-mail confirming their agreement to refund my money.

    I honestly don’t have words to express the immense gratitude I feel for what you have done for me and my family. We are so very thankful!

    You were able to do in 24 hours what I’ve been desperately trying to do for the past 3 months. I plan to go out tomorrow morning and purchase new furniture that I know I can trust to be safe for my daughter. Thank you again so very much for your help, I am more grateful than you could imagine!

  4. My daughter’s laptop, purchased at Best Buy, went through a repair under warranty of the first two hinges. Now the other two hinges have broken.

    I alerted HP at the time of the wastefulness of repairing only two.

    My daughter needs a reliable laptop to help with a learning disability. She was told by York University’s disability liaison office that this model is the best. And it is not.


    Shannon Kidd, Best Buy spokeswoman:

    Hi Annette, I have good news.

    We know you have been through a lot with the laptop and understand that this is critically important to your daughter’s studies.

    The normal process would have been to take the laptop back and get it repaired under that same hinge recall.

    We think the right thing to do here is to replace the laptop and avoid once and for all this happening again, so we’re making an exception.

    It will be a Product Service Plan exchange and the store will help her select a replacement that will fit her needs. We’ll have this all organized for you by tomorrow.

    Fine print: the PSP won’t carry over to the new laptop, and we will make up any difference in cost from the refund amount if the new laptop is more expensive.

    Let me know how it goes once you have been to the store.

  5. Nice work! The only thing I’m curious about with TD: didn’t the branch manager sort this one out? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it worked out, but did the situation have to escalate this far? Any competent branch manager should have resolved the issue pretty much on the spot.

  6. Hi Ellen – United Breaks guitars! I loved it. And now I’m inspired and working on a song about how Ontario auto insurers and their stable of medical second opinion salesmen break the hearts of seriously injured auto accident victims whose bodies are already broken. I’ll have to get somebody else to sing it. Then I’ll upload it to “the beast with a billion eyes” (You Tube)

  7. Last year I got an email from the CIBC saying oops, we have been charging you services when you have been paying your student loans, which we hold. They refunded 7 years of service charges with interest.

    Imagine my surprise when I looked at my account the other day. I only pay my student loans from this account. The service charges are again reappearing.

    Do they not put a code on people’s accounts once they correct a problem? Would only make sense.

  8. The TD story about taking other people’s money reminds me of something that happened to me a year or so ago.

    I was walking along Wellesley Street in downtown Toronto past the Green Machines at the TD on the corner of Church and Wellesley. In one of them, there was money sitting in the dispenser that someone had forgotten to remove at the end of their transaction.

    I took it, but as the bank was closed, could do no more with it. I made note of the machine, current time and returned the next day to the bank.

    Everyone at the bank looked at me like I had 3 eyes because I was returning $40 that didn’t belong to me. I told them which machine, the time it happened so that they could see who did the transaction at that machine, withdrawing $40 at 8:30, and perhaps contact them telling them their cash was returned. Seems to me it would be easy to do since everything is computerized.

    Boy, was I wrong! I followed up a few days later and was told by the manager that not only does the bank not bother looking up this information, unless the person comes forward saying that they’d forgotten to take their cash, the money goes into a separate account that stays in TD’s control. Nor would I get the $40 back if it was unclaimed.

    Important lessons learned…

    1. If I ever forget to take cash from a machine again – report it just in case someone turns it in.

    2. If I ever find money in a bank machine again, I’ll do what I was tempted to do in the first place and either give it to charity, buy someone a meal somewhere or give it to some homeless guy on the street. I certainly won’t turn it in to the bank.

    Bunch of crooks.

  9. I always look forward to reading what you and your readers have to say. Today, however, you purport that the letter from Adrian T is from a 12-yr-old, or at least the author does, and this does not sit well with me at all, which causes me to suddenly question the authenticity of the letters in here.

    Study that letter closely. It contains adult language, adult punctuation, et cetera. Very disappointing, not at all “cute” or “clever,” as may have been intended.

  10. That letter by Adrian T sounds a lot like it was written by mom or dad. He claims not to know what “dormant” means but then uses “inactivity” in his own letter. Let’s keep it real here.

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