I fired Macy’s today.

His Majesty the King of Thailand passed away yesterday and I am decidedly understocked with black dress shirts (and there is very little chance of finding any to fit me in Thailand).

Over the past couple of years, Macy’s had become my “go to” place for suits and dress shirts because they had several brands that fit my odd size and “Wendell” at the Burnsville store is a real gem and very helpful.

Since I’ve been posted overseas, I have made a number of orders online, most of them cancelled by Macys. A recent order I paid for with PayPal and it was delivered so I assumed that the problem was with the Macy’s Credit Card Account (which I have a zero balance). I have never been told why my Macy’s card (which they pushed hard for me to accept) was so easily accepted in the store but my orders would be cancelled whenever I made them online. No explanation; just “Call us.” which I was never inclined to do until today.

I had paid by PayPal so I was puzzled as to why the order had been cancelled by Macy’s and besides, I really need the shirts.

What follows is the gist of my experience with calling Macy’s. Additional pertinent information is that, in what is apparently purely coincidence, I received an email today purporting to be from PayPal warning me of “unusual” activity on my account. I learned that this was a “phishing” scam. With that in mind, I called Macy’s and the following ensued:

The phone rang, and then was picked up and I could hear lots of voices talking in the background but no one talking to me. This background noise had a distinct “sweatshop” ambiance to it so my antennae were up.

After I said “Hello?” several times, a voice came on and said, “Uh Macy’s, this is Yolanda.”

“Hi Yolanda, this is Carl Andersen calling about an order that was cancelled by Macy’s and I’d like to know why.”

Yolanda then asked for the order number and my name, which I provided. I then asked her to give me some information so I could verify that I was talking to the “real Macy’s.” She said her name was Yolanda and gave me the last four digits of her Macy’s Employee number. I explained that I’m a customer, not the Human Resources Department, and that I have no way of verifying her Employee number.

Could she, for example, tell me products I had ordered?

No, for security reasons, should could not share that with me until she finished verifying my identity. Could I please provide the shipping address: I provided the house number and street, which I assumed would be sufficient to satisfy her need to know that I was actually the one who placed the order. Nope. One item at a time: And the city? And the state? And the zip code?

Thinking we were done, I then asked again for some information, such as the products ordered. No I’m sorry, sir. Can you tell me what you ordered and then I’ll confirm it for you?”

No. That may help you verify MY identity but doesn’t help me verify YOURS.

OK, can you please give me your billing address. No. You need to establish YOUR bona fides before I give you any more information.

“Please hold.”

Five minutes later, she comes back on and says, “I’m still working on it. Please hold a little longer.”

“No, Yolanda. If you cannot satisfy yourself, based on the information I’ve already given you (order number, name, address), then we’re done. Can you please put me on with your supervisor?”

“Please Hold.”

Two minutes later, “I’m transferring the call now.”

I get more terrible music on hold and five minutes later, Lucy comes on. My 30 years of listening to Asians speak English tells me Lucy is in the Philippines.

I explain again to Lucy that I received an obvious phishing email purporting to be from PayPal shortly after I made the order so I need to be sure I’m really talking to Macy’s and not some scammer. I tell Lucy that I will not be providing any more personal information until she provides me with some information that verifies FOR ME that it’s really Macy’s on the line. I suggested, again, that simply telling me what I ordered would do it. She says, “Oh that’s fine, Sir. You ordered three Van Heusen dress shirts in Black, is that correct?

“Yes. Thank you. Now, why did you cancel my order?”

“We tried to call you on the number in your account and got voice mail, so we had to cancel it.”

“You called me, to verify an order for which you had ALREADY BEEN PAID, didn’t reach me on the first try, so in the interest of security, you cancelled the order and refunded my money. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“OK, how do we resurrect the order.”

“We would need to be able to reach you on that number, Sir.”

“I already explained to you that I’m overseas a the moment. I’m the one who called you and provided all my identifying information and the ONLY way you can verify my identity and the validity of the order is to call me on the phone?”

“Yes, Sir. That’s my policy.”

“Well you know, Lucy. Macy’s is already making it way too difficult for me to order online. Even if I was in the USA at the moment I would not want to receive a phone call from you to verify an order that I paid for with an outside service like PayPal. You received the money. I don’t understand the problem.”

“Well that’s my policy, Sir. I’m sorry.

“Well, here’s my policy, Lucy. I’m overseas and urgently need these shirts but I’m not going to replace my business sim card with my personal sim card just so I can sit around and wait for someone at Macy’s to call me to ask me if I made this order.” So you either need to figure out another way to satisfy yourself with my bona fides or I’m going to have to find my shirts somewhere else.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. There’s nothing I can do.”

“You know, Lucy. In the last two years, I’ve spent over $3000 on clothing at Macy’s. At least some of that was an order where you shipped it WITHOUT having to call me to verify. Funny thing is, all if it was brands I can buy elsewhere, often for less money. If you can’t help me with this order, and it appears I’ll continue having this trouble ordering from Macy’s, then can you please just cancel my account?”

“Please confirm, Sir, that you want me to close your Macy’s account.”

“I confirm. Close the account. I have no more need to do business with Macy’s.”

And lickety split. She closed the account before we hung up, without asking me for any more information.

In the interest of MY PROTECTION, she could not send me the less than $100 worth of shirts I ordered after a nearly 20-minute discussion about it.

But with EXACTLY THE SAME information, she closed my account in 15 seconds.

I now understand why Macy’s has been closing so many stores.

If they keep on like this, their transition to online sales is not going to end well either.

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