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February 10, 2011

Day 1 of 30: Made small talk with credit card rep. Result? Fee removed.

Before the call with Amex (goal: remove a mysterious service fee that has creeped onto the last few statements), I wrote down these six words on a blank page. Not sure that I needed a reminder, but it felt good to see them as I spoke:

what i want: remove all fees

I called and explained the situation. The agent asked if I had previously asked for it to be removed, and I said, "Something like that, since I never signed up for this service. So yes, it's there by mistake."

As he was looking up my account, there was a  pause in which he asked, "How is your day going?" Instead of the conventional "fine, thanks," I told him the truth: "I'm having an amazing day. I'm in California where it's warm and sunny, and I can't believe this is February. Where are you?" He answered Virginia, where it's 30 degrees. I apologized for gloating and told him I took a nice road trip through Virginia once. Then, he told me about the cruise to the Bahamas he just finished, and I congratulated him on his weather coping mechanism.

Then, action: "I have found your account. I do see this fee has been applied twice. Now this service is very useful, and I recommend you don't cancel."

"Thanks, but I'm not interested. I never sign up for 'extra coverage services' like that. It's not my style."

"Well, it's useful because in case of loss of income, or if you were to get injured or married or divorced, this will cover payments. We will actually reduce your balance by up to $500. I really recommend you think about leaving that on there."

I told him I don't need that kind of protection, because I can get free 'coverage' in an emergency from Mr. A or my parents... and then the ask:

"So I'm wondering if you could take me out of the program and even remove those two fees?" 

"Let me take a look here..."

"Of course. I know you aren't required to do that, and this kind of great customer service is why I decided to get an Amex card."

After a pause:

"I will be able to take care of this for you. And thank you for letting me give you more details about that  protection service." He said he'll put a note in my record to make sure the service ends and no new fees get applied in the interim.

"Thank you!"

"That's what we're here for. To take care of you guys. Thank you for being a valued American Express customer."

Thanks for making me feel valued, Amex!

Closing reflections:

1. His question, "How's your day going?" wasn't just small talk. He was testing my mood. Was I angry with Amex? Curt? Would I be nice to deal with or use half an hour of the supervisor's time? 

2. This wasn't a very challenging request, but it still could have gone either way. (Unless Amex is really gentle on fees -- I don't know their policies that well.) I do think that establishing rapport with the agent from the first minute or two set the tone of our whole conversation. Plus, that opening back and forth SO beat 40 seconds of silence or worse, hold music.

3. When he thanked me for listening to his brief spiel, this showed that his real objective was to share that info and try to convince me to stay. If I hadn't listened or been rough, he might have said, "Eff you too," and not canceled anything. This way, we both got what we wanted.

Gained: $24.60 and knocked something off my to do list
Lost: 10 minutes
Question: Have you been successful at knocking off a fee? What strategies did you use?
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