Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not my M & S

Don't believe the logo, M&S doesn't care about you or me. I can't claim to have been one of their most valued customers but I have been a regular and loyal customer for almost 50 years. I had a store card, which became a credit card a few years ago. I would use the card for my purchases and pay it off online as soon as my statement arrived.

Oops! Last month something happened to distract me between collecting the mail and going to my desk and I forgot to make the payment and by the time we returned from the wedding in Lancashire my payment was overdue. Today I received my punishment - an interest charge of £1.57. Fair enough. I came to my desk to make the payment and discovered another sheet of paper in the envelope:

You have failed to make a payment
Failing to make your minimum payment can mean that you have broken the terms of this credit agreement and could result in us taking legal action against you. It could lead to your having to pay additional costs and make it more difficult for you to obtain credit in future.

In case you are wondering what enormous sum I owed M&S to incur such threats - FIVE POUNDS!

My account is now closed.


  1. I'm going to play devil's advocate here. I worked in banking for a long time. There are so many things banks are legally obliged to tell people it can come over as threatening.
    Someone at M&S needs to look at the wording of the legal stuff and start off on a bit more of a friendly setting.
    Computers surely these days can be programmed to tell the hardened defaulter from the Oops I made an oversight customer.
    I hope you also wrote to customer services and let them have both barrels...
    (The reason I got out of banking was the hard-nosedness of it all these days. Selling and profit have replaced customer service. Don't get me started...)

  2. Rattling On
    I did let them know exactly why I was closing my account in no uncertain terms. I haven't had a response yet but expect it to be a standard letter telling me that the offending letter was standard. Blame the computer as usual.

  3. I'm sure you're right about them blaming the computer, but it doesn't programme itself. Businesses must start to earn loyalty, instead of taking customers for granted.
    I think you were right to vote with your feet.

  4. Yes, it's all down to communications skills (or lack thereof), even when it's a legal requirement.

    But some of the most unexpected organisations manage to shoot themselves in the foot. I was a member of what is now the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) for almost 30 years. The CIPR just happens to be the UK's main association for communications professionals and full members like me pay a considerable annual subscription. I wrote to the institute last year, saying that I was planning to retire and, sadly, would not be renewing my membership. Did I receive a letter thanking me for my longstanding support for the institute (which included giving up my time in the past to contribute to CIPR careers days)? Did I receive a letter wishing me well in my retirement? Of course not. Instead, I received the briefest of emails from a junior staff member saying that she'd removed my name from the institute's database. And that was that. Now I wonder why I ever bothered.

  5. I expect Marks & Spencer was required by the government to put that in.

    In the States, dunning letters, even of little consequence, are now required to announce, in big type, that THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO COLLECT A DEBT, etc.

    However, if I were running a business, and I had a long-time customer who usually paid her bills on time, and if the balance were $8 and the payment was one month late, I'd program my computer to hold its peace.

    It isn't just communications skills that are lacking. It's a sense of knowing you are trying to sell stuff to people.


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