When Simon Khin decides to purchase ground coffee worth $48 at the end of his recent plantation tour in Bali, he is startled to discover that he has actually been charged $4,800. But what was more shocking to Khin was Capital One’s refusal to permanently reverse this fraudulent charge.
Question: We were in Bali on a tour of a coffee plantation and a coffee shop called “Agrowisata.” We purchased two small tins of coffee. The total should have been no more than 620,000 Indonesian rupiah (IDR) ($48); instead the cashier charged us 62,000,000 IDR (US $4,820) on our Capital One Visa card. I signed it thinking it was for $48.
Capital One said that because we did not have a $48 receipt, we can’t dispute charges. I am outraged that Capital One is not protecting us. I thought we would have consumer protection, but they are just telling us to deal with the merchant directly. Can you help get my money back? — Simon Khin, Seattle
Answer: When I first read your case I was as surprised as you were at Capital One’s handling of your problem. Suggesting that you should personally negotiate your money back from what appears to be a fraudster on the other side of the world is entirely beyond the realm of good customer service.
During the chargeback investigation you tried to plead your case with the credit card giant. However, when the coffee plantation provided a signed copy of your receipt, Capital One informed you that the charge would stand.
A signed receipt is strong evidence that you made a purchase at this establishment, but a common sense approach to this dilemma would be to require an itemized receipt from the merchant. After all, it is highly unlikely that even the most ardent coffee lover could rack up an almost $5,000 bill at a coffee plantation gift shop.
You believe that the owner of the shop added zeros to the final bill post-signature, but you also admit that you may have been confused by the currency conversion and not realized that you were signing a receipt for thousands of dollars.
I contacted Capital One on your behalf. On this first go-around, no one directly responded to me, but someone did immediately call you and reiterate that the investigation was closed — and no refund would be provided.
This response did not sit well with us. It is entirely unfair that this vendor could take $4,800 of your money without proving to Capital One what you purchased.
I sent a new inquiry to Capital One and asked if someone could take a closer look at your case. I also asked how a consumer could protect themselves against this type of fraudulent charge.
Advocating cases involving enormous corporations such as a bank or a credit card company can be quite difficult. Finding someone in authority who is willing to “go off script” and take a more personalized look at a case can be a formidable task. I would compare it to standing in front of a giant brick wall; trying to find a tiny, hidden door to get inside and make actual human contact.
In your case, I felt strongly that if I could make that contact with the “right” someone at Capital One, that they would see it our way. So I continued to plod away to find that “someone.”
And finally, after two months and multiple inquiries, I found an executive at Capital One who wanted to help you. In our discussion of your case, this executive agreed that because the merchant could not provide a detailed receipt or explain how you acquired such a massive bill at a coffee shop, you were owed a refund of the $4,800.
We also discussed ways that consumers such as yourself can protect against “mistakes” like this. The executive that I spoke to recommends that you download a fairly new app from Capital One called “Mobile Wallet.” This is a great tool because it provides instant purchase notifications.
In your case, had you been using Mobile Wallet, you would have been immediately notified when the charge of $4,800 was applied to your account. If this charge was a simple input error you would have been been able to correct the problem before you even left the property.
Although it is unfortunate that it took several months, we are pleased that Capital One has refunded your money. Your case is an example that persistence pays off. When you know you are in the right, keep pounding on the company’s virtual “doors,” and the chances are that one will eventually open.