Check confusion at Macy’s is driving me #$&!@ mad

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

Question: I recently made a purchase at a Macy’s store in San Francisco using two checks. One check for the amount of $31 was supposed to go towards the Macy’s American Express Card Account. Another check for the amount of $173 was supposed to go towards the Macy’s department store account.

I was told by my bank that both checks were processed electronically and deposited. But just one problem: The amounts went to the wrong accounts ($173 went to the American Express Account and $31 went to the Macy’s department store).

My wife, whose name is on both accounts, and I have attempted to make several phone calls to solve this matter, to no avail.

I tried to explain but was treated rudely by the call center. I was given a few fax numbers and my bank faxed information as well. I even phoned Macy’s Corporate offices and spoke with a representative, and she assured me that this situation was resolved.

Well, I just received my statement today and it says I still owe the company $209, so nothing has been resolved. I spoke with a customer service rep, who said Macy’s needed “proof” that one of my checks had been deposited.

I would like to resolve this situation as soon as possible. We have never received such poor customer service from Macy’s. Please advise me on how to solve this problem. — David Garcia, San Francisco

Answer: Macy’s should have applied the payments to the right accounts, of course. When it didn’t, it should have quickly fixed the problem instead of forcing you to send faxes and talk to representatives who, as it turns out, couldn’t help you.

Your transaction is a little confusing to me, since I’m not a regular Macy’s shopper. But if you’re at the cash register, why wouldn’t you pay by credit card and then mail in a check to cover the expense later on?

I consulted with someone with knowledge of a department-store’s back-office operations, who told me that writing a check like that at the register would have caused some problems from a bookkeeping point of view. That may be one reason why you ran into trouble, but I can’t know, because I wasn’t there at the time.

I suspect you might have been able to short-cut all of this nonsense by sending a brief, polite message through this form on the Macy’s site. It would have been routed to the correct department for a hopefully fast resolution.

Another even more obvious solution: Next time, consolidate your payments. Don’t try to pay for a credit card bill at the register. Also, I would consider scrapping the company-issued credit card. You know, there’s a reason they offer 20 percent off your purchase price when you open an account. These payment methods earn the store a tidy profit, especially when customers only pay off the minimum balance.

An appeal to someone higher up at Macy’s might have worked, but you needed a paper trail to show them you made an effort to fix this, and you didn’t have one. Most email addresses at Macy’s are [email protected] and you can find a list of executives on its website.

I think you’ve suffered enough. I contacted Macy’s on your behalf, and it put the deposit amounts in the right account for you.

Who should change the way they do payments?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • MarkKelling

    Macy’s credit card system sounds like the worst cluster I have ever heard of. Many stores have co branded cards that work one way at that merchant yet function as a regular credit card elsewhere and you still only get one bill with the total and with one payment due.

  • EdB

    Macy’s just need to require that type of stuff to be done at the Customer Service counter, not a register on the floor.

  • MarkKelling

    Good idea if they actually have one of those in the store you are at. Many have removed that area and you have no other choice than to conduct all transactions at a register.

  • EdB

    Curious then about those stores. Where do you take returns to?

  • bodega3

    There is no credit department at an of the Macy’s in our area any more. There is a phone to use where the former office was located. Everything is handled at the cash registers. I always feel badly when I have to take a clerks time to handle my payment when they could be helping someone with a sale. But that is how it is set up…dumb IMHO!

  • bodega3

    To any register than will handle a sale. Usually not jewelry, cosmetic or perfume but the others will.

  • jpp42

    I could see myself doing this. It means the issue is taken care of – you simply don’t have to bother with it later. But definitely would be annoying for both the cashier and anyone behind you in line.

  • LudditesAway

    So you’d rather hand someone a piece of paper, with your signature and bank account number printed on it, instead of an electronic form. Brilliant.

  • LudditesAway

    They need to give special treatment to low rent folks who still use checks. I’d say a register int he corner of the basement would be appropriate.

  • LudditesAway

    Or you could just pay the bill when it comes, thus pay no interest, and join the rest of the normal consumers.

  • brianguy

    I’m not sure why the consumer regarded this as a “purchase” in his letter. this seems to be nothing of the sort, just a bill paying function in the store, which almost all dept stores allow. someone at the customer service desk or in the back office in that store screwed it up, and someone in Macy’s corporate accounting should be the one able to fix it. maybe somebody was incapable of transferring them to that dept or contacting them on the customer’s behalf, though I’m not sure why.

    it is a bit surprising, since I’ve had success with Macy’s before when I apparently didn’t have a receipt to return an item, but it had the return tag on it. When they scanned the return tag, it wouldn’t pull up the correct price I paid in the system 30 days earlier (which was $50), only the last clearance price (which was $20). I gave them the (non-Macys) card I’d verified with my bank that I’d used and they still couldn’t find my transaction in their system, though I give them credit for trying. but the manager that they’d called who was working the floor near this dept (shoes) went out of her way to give me a credit for the difference, even though the $50 charge was never found in the computer. I was incredibly grateful since I couldn’t afford to lose the $30. I’m usually pretty good with receipts, but this lesson taught me to be even more careful.

  • bigheartinnewyork

    One company, we know very well, JC Penny tried to change that model to what you are suggesting when its CEO (now ex-CEO) who came from Apple and the company failed miserably. The situation has become so miserable that the company has been apologizing to customers in TV Ads. Majority of customers enjoy this kind of math,discounting and couponing that drives them to stores. They get a sense of accomplishment.

  • JewelEyed

    But still, why would you want to hand a check to an underpaid retail worker who you wouldn’t give access to your bank account?

  • HowMatt

    Was there any info on the copy from the transaction as to which account it went into? Diffrent last 4 of the account #’s, something like that.

  • pauletteb

    I worked part-time at Jordan Marsh/Macy’s for 15 years, and when the Macy’s corporate model was adopted, everything went to hell. Macy’s customer disservice is absolutely no surprise to me. That being said, many customers pay their bills at the register so that they can wait till the last minute. It’s quite possible that the store associate simply applied the wrong checks to the wrong accounts from the get-go, but Macy’s should have fixed the issue without Chris having to get involved.

  • pauletteb

    Most retail outlets allow payments to be made in-store.

  • BeckyAintheBay

    It’s split into two accounts because you get a lower interest rate on the purchases made at Macy’s since they don’t have to pay any percentage fees to AMEX which lowers their cost on those purchases. Most department stores do the same thing, although they don’t usually have two separate minimum payments for each side, they take care of that on their own, because they are required by law to put your payment toward the higher interest purchases. I’d guess that Macy’s is trying to make more money off of their customers by splitting the two accounts so that you have to make a minimum payment towards the Macy’s purchases even though paying the AMEX side first would save the customer interest (the law goes minimum payment first, then highest to lowest interest purchases).

  • http://www.JourneysBySteve.com/ Steve Cousino

    As opposed to working with an underpaid bank teller for your financial transactions? Or letting that underpaid retail worker process your cash, check, or credit card payment or assist you in understanding a product you were considering purchasing?