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Why are you in Germany today?!?!?!

Well, actually, I am not in Germany today. But my credit card bank thinks I am.

(Wasn't sure where to place this, but bear with me and you will see why I put this here.)

I have a few different credit cards and swap them out every so often so that none get cancelled for lack of use. I just swapped last week. Yesterday, I purchased online several software updates for my and my family's computers from a company based in Germany. All went well. This morning I tried to use the card and it was denied with a "Call Issuer" error. So when I got back to the house, I called them. It did not go as expected.

"Why are you in Germany today?!?!?!" was the first thing the customer service rep said to me after I was properly identified. "You are American, you should not be there!" I said "Excuse me?" First of all, why I might be in Germany is none of your damn business, you don't know anything about me other than I tried to use my credit card and it was refused. And you are not my mother so you cannot question where I am going. "The transaction was denied as fraud because you are in Germany because of several transactions you did yesterday and your card was just used in Colorado." Actually, I have not been to Germany this year and I am in Colorado. I immediately asked for a supervisor and was told there are none on Sunday. Hard to believe. So I hung up and called back. Got a much more agreeable rep, but still asked for a supervisor and was immediately connected to -- the first person I called! I will try again tomorrow.

How I decided this is where to put this posting: The company in Germany uses Pay Pal for payments from the US. I don't have Pay Pal (never saw the need for it) so used the credit card in question to pay. Each of the transactions was around €25.50 after VAT was removed. Pay Pal generously offered to convert this for me and charge me only $35.99 for each transaction. Seemed a bit high. Looking on Google, at that time the current converted amount showed as $30.25 which is a significant saving. The credit card has no foreign fees so I just requested to be billed in Euro. After several questions from Pay Pal, including a statement about how much credit cards "always" charge for the conversion, they went ahead and billed my card in Euro (verified by checking my online credit card statement).

Seems like a Dynamic Currency Conversion attempt by Pay Pal. So, when paying for things in foreign currency, always demand the local currency for the place you are buying from is used even with Pay Pal.

Oh, and I think I will be cancelling this card when I talk with a real supervisor tomorrow. I really didn't like the questioning by the rep that was none of their business to ask.

Posted by
25786 posts

sounds like you got somebody still wet behind the ears

Posted by
1268 posts

Mark, all I can add is that I worked inbound customer service calls once upon a time for a morgage company. It was a weird place, weird time in my life (1988). We got dinged if our customers asked for a supervisor, and the productivity goal was 3
minutes and we never ever were

supposed to hang up on a client. We had to sign a thing so that the supervisor could randomly listen to us each day, she told me she usually got the giggles while listening to my calls, still not sure why.

Posted by
5984 posts

Maybe they're all working from home anyway, with no real supervisor accessible.

Posted by
5669 posts

On the other hand -- the credit card company was protecting you from a possible fraud attempt. Agreed, the representative's use of words was inappropriate Usually they ask "is this a valid charge?"
I have had online charges (foreign train tickets) denied until I posted a "travel" notification for that country.

Posted by
21219 posts

I think someone has a pretty thin skin. Sounds like they were trying to prevent a bad charge. If you get grumpy up front then I think they will return it. I would not go to war over what you described.

Posted by
3465 posts

I have had conversations with credit card companies before over suspected fraudulent charges. I do appreciate them trying to not loose money in those situations. Having worked in banking and credit card servicing for the past 30+ years, I know handling phone calls is not an easy job and I have great respect for those who can handle the job properly. Given that, I have NEVER been asked "Why are you there?" or told "You should NOT be there!" with attitude. It has always been "Did you make such and such a charge? Let us make sure it was you and fix the issue." in a helpful tone of voice. If the rep was attempting to be humorous or somehow trying to turn the interchange into a friendly conversation, it was a failure on their part because it sounded nothing like that at all.

If getting a rude customer service rep on the phone with an attitude toward me about what they think I might be doing and getting annoyed by that is being thin skinned, then so be it. My attitude in these 2 calls was one of shock, not grumpiness, for the very few words I spoke.

Posted by
276 posts

Hi Mark- I had a much longer (3 months overall) interaction with a customer "service" center from a well known 401(k) financial management company that finally ended several weeks ago. Originally all I wanted to do was change my password. This comedy of ineptness convinced me that if you need to do something out of the ordinary with a customer "service " center wait until normal operating hours during normal business days. The last person I talked to at this particular financial company admitted that they were desperately trying to hire people due to the uptick in business created by the virus (more folks staying at home with nothing to do except bug their banks, order stuff on line that doesn't work as advertised, etc). And "most" of the new hires were not trained properly before they were deployed to the call centers.

Doric8 confirmed my long term suspicions regarding supervisor availability and productivity. This is especially true for newer employees working outside of the normal working hours and normal working days.

Lastly, since you brought it up, my comments on PayPal. It seems like the customer "service" at PayPal has seriously degraded since they acquired Honey. It is so bad that I cancelled my account 2 weeks ago...

Be Safe!!!

Posted by
276 posts

I think some of the voice response systems already employ AI- I've ran into infinite loops in several VRS recently. Could it be that the IT folks need to justify their existence and thus expand their empire??? Nah...

Posted by
4998 posts

And how did the first customer service rep know that you were American, whether you were or weren’t in Germany?

Hope you get everything resolved on Monday.

Posted by
1632 posts

tangentially related to Cyn and Ufkak's comments - I used to have my iPhone settings set for British English and date-and-time conventions and Siri's voice as the English male, just for novelty/fun's sake, but so many apps and cookies snoop all over your phone that it resulted in too many misunderstandings and assumptions within other kinds of transactions - like the most popular ridesharing apps would treat me like a visitor in the places I live. I believe that some apps automagically track where you are when you first open them and then behave like that is your residence region and other places are not...

Posted by
3465 posts

Calling from a US phone number, the card type in question is only issued to US residents. After verifying my identity, the rep would have full access to my account information like mailing address. Maybe she winged it by my accent as well.

I have many other cards to use in the meantime. And being home, I'm not stuck with no access to funds.

I'm sure the situation will resolve itself, thanks

Posted by
7492 posts

If I were you, when I got to a supervisor I would be interested to know why all the German transactions went through unchallenged, and why it was the 'home town' transaction that set off the alarm.

Posted by
276 posts

Joe= Don't throw up your hands in despair if you ever get the truth to the questions you asked. Just laugh it off and go about your business since, as The Donald says, "it is what it is"...

Be safe!!!

Posted by
2796 posts

Sorry Mark, but I think this is just another funny covid story, especially the part about asking to speak to a supervisor and being connected to the first person again. Totally believeable!

Posted by
48 posts

American being a bit touchy? I have rights and all that. FYI, Your constitution does not mean a thing in Germany.

Posted by
3465 posts

Les, I'm sorry but I think you completely missed the entire story here.

I made no mention of rights or constitutions as they have no bearing on this situation, and I would not have gone off on that tangent no matter. The online transactions by the company in Germany were all processed with no issues.

Posted by
2916 posts

I can't believe that several people are criticizing Mark for what he said. It was a totally inappropriate way for a customer service representative to start a conversation. It doesn't matter that the purpose was to determine the validity of a charge. That was a totally absurd way to proceed.

Posted by
1586 posts

It would be interesting to know the location of the person you were calling - were they in-house? Out-sourced? What part of USA? I loathe any problem that has to been solved on a weekend because it never seems to be the “A” team.

I never thought of putting a travel alert on to buy something overseas but I may to consider it for the future if travel restrictions continue.

Good luck

Posted by
3465 posts

Thank you everyone who is interested in my outcome.

After nearly 2 hours on the phone mostly on hold listening to the greatest hits of Muzac going round and round over the issue, I was finally put through to a supervisor. Here is what I was told by the supervisor:

  1. My account had been put on a higher watch since it had been 18 months since I used it and suddenly transactions started showing up. To them this indicated the card may have been stolen. I had responded to the "We noticed activity ..." messages from them saying all was good. I knew it had been a while, but didn't realize it had been that long.

  2. The transactions from Germany posted via Pay Pal were done as "force post" transactions. This means no authorization was done, Pay Pal just said pay us. Merchants are allowed to do that when the transactions are under $50 if they are willing to accept the risk they may not be paid. All of the items were less than $50 individually.

  3. The Germany transactions were all sent through by Pay Pal or by the German company as "customer and card here, unable to use chip". Should have been "customer and card NOT here, online (MOTO)". Probably means nothing to someone who isn't familiar with credit card processing. The difference is in how much of a fee is charged by the card network with the first being the lower option. But this is also why they were able to use the force post option.

  4. When I attempted the in person transaction in Colorado which was for groceries and was $85, when the authorization went through the credit card system flagged it as being impossible for me to have made it there so soon after the mislabeled "in person" German transactions posted causing the denial.

  5. The supervisor agreed with me that the original rep I talked with about this should not have asked me the question or made the comment about being in Germany in the manner that was used. I guess they will review the tapes and use it as a training exercise.

  6. My card is usable again, if I choose to use it. Since there is no annual fee for this card, I am not going to cancel it at this time.

All together, I guess I am happy with the handling of the perceived issue. Given the information the credit card company had available to them, it did look like fraud, so I have no issue with them blocking the transaction here at home (never really did on that part). Other than that first rep I talked with, my conversations with the other reps and the supervisor were all very professional and done in a tone as anyone would expect.

The call center for this credit card company is located in Miami, Florida. It is an in-house department. Everyone there does speak English and Spanish. I do not believe that had any impact on the tone of voice used by the first rep.

Posted by
4998 posts

All’s well that kind-of ends well. So, Mark, your transactions all went through, they know you’re you, and your card is safe. Your experience might result in no one else ever being treated like that again by this card issuer.

But maybe most important . . . did you earn any points or bonus miles from these transactions?😁

Posted by
4606 posts

Of course, we can't hear the intonation, but when I read the post, I was thinking the CC rep was being chatty: "Good heavens, Mark, what are you doing in Germany? How did you get there? What's going on?"

Mark, of course, had more cues than we do. We have had customer service people start a conversation about our situation. I figure they're bored and want to know more about how we ended up where we did.

Not hearing the tone of voice makes a difference, but I do think I'd like to give the interlocutor the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by
3465 posts

Yes, I earned my cash back on all the transaction -- all $1.50 of it. :-)

The intonation of the first customer service rep reminded me of when I would do something my mom didn't approve of when I was young and get yelled at, not at all of a chatty getting to know me making me feel comfortable approach.

Posted by
4998 posts

Mark, cool - that buck-fifty will buy you a baguette in France some time!

But if it happens again, for some unforeseen reason, the quick response to the card’s customer service interrogator is, “You know, you’re right . . . I’ll leave Germany right now, and fly to my place in North Korea. But I’ll keep my mailing address in Colorado. Thanks!”

That might not get your transactions resolved, though, so maybe not.

Posted by
3465 posts

Haha, Cyn. Yeah, that might raise more red flags than resolve them.

Posted by
1268 posts

Mark, glad it was resolved, even if if did take 2 hrs with Muzak. I have a whole seperate conspiracy theory about the music being so hideous that it makes you want to hang up and scrub your ears.
One other nearly repressed memory from my customer service past... I was plucked up from a temp agency for that job, as was every one else who was working a phone line. The mid level supervisor who would grudgingly come over and plug in her head set and talk to our escalated folks was 25 and I think was a permanent hire. Actually a good thing was at that point our mics were cut off butt we could still hear the conversation, which was supposed to be "coaching", but was of course shame based when she had sighed heavily and rolled her eyes on the way over. The two higher level
supervisors who randomly listened in
were in cubicles on our same floor
and seemed to have more seasoning
. Sometime after Christmas they
started to phase out my group so
they could what, bring it some more

confused fresh hires?

Posted by
6721 posts

I'm having trouble finding the "money-saving strategy" part. Just curious what kind of software update comes from a German-based company that can't be found more cheaply in the US (Newegg, B & H, and other outfitters)?

Posted by
5984 posts

Don't you folks find that most people that are not travelers have very little to any knowledge of geography, and they're not going to get that training at their wages. I recall a call with my credit card provider, about a purchase that was blocked. I had ordered something online from an Italian company but the transaction was through a bank in Switzerland. The rep on the phone would not believe that ".ch" was Switzerland and not China, and so on to the supervisor. . . .
Then there was the time I had to convince the rep that England was a real country (not on her list). She asked me to name a big city there, and I said London. She said, I think thats a country not a city. So I suggested the United Kingdom, . . . and it went downhill from there.

Posted by
3465 posts

Agnes, The money saving part is to not allow Pay Pal to charge foreign transactions to you in your home currency and insist they use the local currency of the country you are making the purchase in. I saved $6 per €25 transaction by insisting Pay Pal charge the Germany transactions in Euro instead of using their conversion rate to USD which looked like a DCC rate.

The software is a TV show recording type product for the Mac to record broadcast TV in full HD. It was originally sold by a US company, but was bought by the current German company a few years ago. Their software is, and always has been, available only on the internet. They also sell a subscription to a TV listing product that integrates with their software so you can just click on the listing in the display to schedule recording vs manually setting times and dates. There is a hardware component that is part of this, but I don't think it is available any longer. They had a major update to the software and it was time for me to extend my subscription as well. Their requirement is that each subscription is a separate purchase. Two of my family members also use this product, so there is the group of purchases.

There are many other software packages available online direct from the vendor at significant savings over the package you might find at any retail store. As long as you don't need the box which would be a waste of cardboard and plastic in most cases, why not buy direct and save a bundle?

Posted by
3465 posts

stan, Yes, the failure of geography teachers is very frustrating (and probably not their fault if the students don't want to lean the subject). I have had similar experiences with customer service reps not knowing, and their highly scripted software also being uninformed, about what countries are where as well as what are actual countries. I had to convince one credit card rep a few years ago that Denmark was not a province of Canada.