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Discover Uncovered

Discover Uncovered

I received one of those hateful automated calls today from Discover Cards, advising me of possible fraud in those mechanical tones that are so irritating and depersonalizing, and demanding that we call as soon as possible. I didn’t know we had a Discover Card, so I called my wife who was out shopping, and found that she had just purchased something for $99, and hadn’t used the Discover Card for ages before that. (She pulled it out by accident. Everyone sends us credit cards.)

So Discover is spending I’d guess over a thousand dollars, once we call and put up with the bureaucratic nonsense, to assure themselves that we really spent $99 because some computer program assembled a profile saying this was suspicious.

Meanwhile, my Bentley dealer sent back my wife’s car, which was serviced and needed a couple of tires, costing about $3,000. They picked up mine while they were here and took it back for its servicing. I tossed the driver my keys from the balcony, where I was drinking an ’04 Paolo Scavino Barolo, reading a couple of books, and smoking a Cohiba. Nothing was signed, I have no bill, and Bentley will settle up with me later. I trust them. They trust me.

I remember once storming at Amex from London that, with my history of world travel, if they grew suspicious with UK transactions and caused me to interrupt my trip because of their paranoia, I could easily switch to MasterCard. They said they’d make a note and haven’t called since. That was ten years ago.

Dumb-Ass Stupid Management is rampant. That’s why good consultants are needed. Common sense is endangered in many operations, threatened by fear, avoidance of even minimal risk, surrender to computers, and DASM. But the economy is recovering nicely and competition abounds. I can live without Discover. But they can’t live with this kind of idiotic customer interaction.

By the way, see my Saks experience elsewhere here. No response yet. I’ve written to the CEO, regular mail. Let’s see if he’s on the ball.

© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 10

  • Garry Beavis

    May 11, 2010

    Had an experience of DASM yesterday when putting a car in for service. Called later in the day to see if the car was ready and got the automated phone service and the message that my call was being recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. The call was then diverted and ultimately rang out with no answer. My second and third calls were the same. Obviously the ‘quality assurance and training’ is not a high priority!

  • Alan Weiss

    May 12, 2010

    Believe me, they are NOT recorded for training purposes!

  • Kelly Eric Frigstad

    May 14, 2010

    I wanted to comment on a couple of items in your post as I am not sure that you are treating Discover fairly. Discover has a system in place to help reduce fraud and I would assume that it saved them a sizable amount of money. I would also assume that most users of Discover would be happy to receive a call that was appeared to be protecting them (when it was actually protecting Discover.) . For Discover the risk was more than $99.00, (if the card had been stolen, the $99.00 purchase would probably have been the first of many, so they try to catch it early.

    Your relationship with your Bentley dealer is one where they know you; or rather they know the value of you as a customer on a more intimate level. Because they have this knowledge they can provide more personal service.

    Discover has little to no knowledge of you in there systems, as such they treated you like any other Discover customer. I have to assume that Amex, who prides themselves on providing a more personal, high touch service, would have acted different.

    Also your estimate on the cost of the call is a bit high. Averaging the cost of the application development and the outbound automated system design and maintenance the outbound call would cost approximately $0.26. The agent you worked with on the return call probably has a loaded cost of $17.00 to $25.00 per hour (depending on where they were located) so 5 min spent talking to the agent cost Discover another $2.00. This is a small price for Discover to protect them from a possible fraud.

    Now there is the cost that came from them making you an unhappy customer, but in this case the cost is minimal to them, as you do not use the card much.

    In the case of your experience with Saks; who should already know that anyone coming into the store asking for help is a valuable well off customer (or they should assume such,) they have provided a disservice and deserve your anger.

    To close off, I want to say that I enjoy your posts, and have learned from many of the posts as well as from two of your books that I have read. Thanks for taking the time to share, it is appreciated.

    Kelly Eric Frigstad

  • Alan Weiss

    May 14, 2010

    Do you work for Discover? Thanks for writing. But I disagree.

    Haunting a customer and threatening to shut down their ability to charge because $99 was charged locally on a card not used for a while is bizarre and absurd. It irritates me, and creates an annoyance in my day. If you think that’s the best way to handle fraud, then you and I have differing ideas about customer loyalty and responsiveness. Most organizations feel ANY customer is an important customer, if they’re any good. You believe that I’m not important due to small use at the moment.

    That’s why I’m the consultant!

  • May 15, 2010

    Here’s one for you. I just now got the same call (Saturday afternoon) from VISA for my card. Guess what they needed to confirm? My lunch purchase from the day before which totaled a whopping $11.02.

    Is this insane or what? If there was an attempt to purchase $18,000 in used car parts from Italy, I’d understand, but this? Come on.

    Is it more stupid that they actually call about this stuff or that no one has the common sense God gave Koufax to figure this out?

  • Alan Weiss

    May 15, 2010

    Unbelievable. Koufax is laughing over his latte.

  • May 16, 2010

    Bleh ~ the card companies are catering to the Bread & Circuse masses, many of whom would sue the company because they didn’t catch that $11.02 purchase and call immediately about it.

    I’m sure there are truckloads of government regulations (and lawsuits) that led the companies into their unfortunate practices in the first place, but if AmEx and the other premium cards can provide the protection you need while also providing the service you command, then regulations alone cannot be the reason for the insanity.

    These companies have simply chosen self-preservation over customer service.

    I see Koufax has already switched from the bottled water to latte since the flood!

  • Alan Weiss

    May 16, 2010

    Koufax loves latte, because he then eats the cup.

    I agree that the “lawyer effect” in in place: Companies want to absolutely reduce their risk not just to prudent, but to zero, customers be damned.

    NBC just canceled Law & Order, with over 7 million regular, affluent viewers. That has to be one of the worst run operations anywhere.

  • Kelly Frigstad

    May 19, 2010

    I don’t work for Discover, but I have worked for and with some of their competitors.
    I should have added that while I can see why they did what they did, it does go a long way to defining their brand as a mid level product. I also understand that your perceptions of the event are of course valid.
    They chose to use caution and focus on limiting liability as opposed to providing you the service you are accustomed to. Their choice; and ultimately I believe their loss.


  • Alan Weiss

    May 19, 2010

    That’s a good synopsis. You must undertake a certain amount of risk to please the customer. I remember the local book stores that wouldn’t order a book for you without you paying in advance. They all went broke with the advent of the big box stores because they failed to capitalize on what they were best suited for: personal service. A stationery store owner once cautioned me not to sample a pen too much, because if I damaged the point I’d have to buy it! So I left him and bought directly from a Cartier store. The oaf is driving away someone who could have purchased his store, let alone his pen.

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