Gary Silverman, the FT’s US news editor, wrote a column about his surprise to find he and his wife each had a $119.99 charge from TLG Hotline on their JP Morgan Chase credit cards.
"We pay our cards automatically, and I don’t always examine the bill, but this time I did and noticed something strange. My wife and I had been charged $119.99 each by something called TLG Hotline."
"I called the phone number next to the charge and was told by an operator that we paid the money to enroll in an identify theft and credit-card protection plan run by an outfit called Affinion. She said we had opted in by cashing a $9.25 cheque mailed to us "on behalf" of Chase. An Affinion spokesman said it developed marketing programmes for Chase and other banks."
Silverman suspects they piled the cheques up with some small rewards cheques from Chase and then deposited them.
"Only in this case, I suspect the credit card cheques set us up for what felt like a sucker punch. We didn’t read the disclosures that came with the $9.25 cheque – I admit it…" and wound up with a $119.99 charge.
"I told the operator I wanted my money back and although it was returned, the experience left a mark. When I’m in Giuseppe’s, I feel like I’m with family. When I’m at Chase, I feel like I have to watch my back – and I can’t imagine that’s a good thing for shareholders of the bank."
He contrasted the bank experience with Giuseppe’s, a great local Italian restaurant in northern NJ whose true name he won’t reveal. But, as a resident of that area, it is my goal to find out.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder how many banks are screwing up their reputations with these short-term profit pitches. When I get home and call an 800 number to get my new Bank of America ATM card registered (see below for my poor experience with BoA) they will tell me I have to stay on the phone while the call is processed, while in reality they are just using the occasion to pitch me on overpriced card insurance.
In small ways and large, banks are contradicting their marketing with their behaviour.