Saturday, February 9, 2008

Destination Frustration

Viva Italia!

If you've never had the opportunity to visit Italy, you need to shut this window down and book a trip there immediately. You will be changed for the better for ever.

I first experienced Italy in the Summer of 2006 when I "avoided" turning 40 by going on my first out of the country vacation. And oh, what a vacation it was! Naples, Capri, Pompeii, Rome and Florence. In just eight whirlwind days.

The love I have for Italy produced a second return trip there in 2007. I visited Genoa, Cinque Terre, Portofino and performed a perfect 10.0 dismount from Nice, France back to the States. This second trip was even better than the first and deepened my love for the country and it's people.

Love + My Credit Union = Hate

That love was augmented with full-on hate as I realized I was abandoned by my credit union just shortly after leaving American soil.

For some mystery of the unexplained, my credit card was promptly "deactivated for my protection" when I tried withdrawing Euro-cash at the Italian "Bancomat" on Day 1 of my trip. Little did I know at the time the card was deactivated because the error message at the terminal was not very specific.

I presumed it was because the ATM's network was unique and may not process foreign cards so I tried again at another location. And another. And another. On day FOUR of my trip all hope was lost as I realized nobody was accepting me - or my funds.

Frustration turned panic as I realized that I was in a fantastically foreign country with limited Italian-speaking skills, little remaining cash and NO CASH PRIVILEGES, compliments of Texans Credit Union.

Texans Discredit Union

How would I eat? How would I buy any souvenirs for friends? Would I have to sleep in a borrowed box?

The $400 US Dollars I brought with me were wearing extremely thin, as was my patience. I had already borrowed cash from my partner and was embarrassed to say the least. I felt like a circus freak thrown out of his own circus.

So, Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Prior to the first year's trip, I was cautioned by an internationally savvy friend that domestic credit cards may not be automatically "turned on" for international purchases. So I called the credit union in advance of my trip to ensure they had my travel dates. No problems, Year 1.

I replicated the same approach for Year 2, yielding much different results.

Since the small-sized credit union was only open limited hours and timing was hard because of the seven hour difference I opted to call my CHASE credit card, who smartly offered 24-hour customer service. Go figure.

A half-day later and she-bang! I used my CHASE card with success.

Brace Yourself, Italy!

I bought. I spent. I purchased. I spanked that CHASE card for the remainder of the trip and couldn't wait until I returned to the USA so I could return the favor, by spanking Texans Credit Union.

I called them and released the larger than Vesuvius-sized rage from within. The poor lady I spoke with had nothing to say. No explanation. No canned excuses. Nothing.

After three more talks with representatives from Texans, I was finally presented with the answer "We have no idea why your card was deactivated." They could see in my account that I had called ahead and yes, that my card was deactivated.

Thanks, Texans for confirming your organization is about as lame as a cold, wet blanket.

From what I could gather after the debacle, Texans outsourced their credit card operations and the credit card provider didn't get the 4-1-1 from Texans that I was traveling. And yes, it was left to me to determine that the two companies didn't talk when things went wrong. Sounds like a fantastic operating procedure, huh?!?

So when the card was deactivated, there were no escalation procedures to notify me.

1) I was never notified of the issue via phone or in writing. Ever.
2) I never received a reason for the malfunction.
3) I never received anything for the mishap or the shite it caused.

WTF? This is protection? Where was access to my funds?

What I felt I deserved was some serious credit to my account. How about $500 for the pain and f'd up suffering on what was to have been my second trip of a lifetime? Not even 1/2% off on my next loan? A toaster?


I have to believe I'm not the only traveler this has happened to. Or, is their a bigger force out there working solely against me?

This month, my last account with the dirty-handed Texans Credit Union will be closed bringing to end an eight year, unfortunate relationship.

In retrospect, "The ruins of Italy met the ruins of customer service, compliments of Texans Credit Union." And I was punished in the process.

As for you, Italy, I shall return!
(sans the Texans credit card)

Psssst! Italy Lover? Read more about my Italy experiences here and here.


Nikki said...

I heart Chase bank. I'm glad they came through! Down with Texas Credit Union!

ActionNeeded said...

i have never had any issues with Chase, so that doesnt surprise me that they came through for you.

I cant believe Texans did nothing for you! They obviously f'd up.

WTF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WTF said...

YEAH!!! DITTO!!! Down with Texans!!

Patrick said...

And I did go back to Italy. Again.

for the love of : italy