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A “Computer Glitch” Caused Macy’s Customers to be Charged Twice

This article was written by in Consumer. 6 comments.

On December 22, a representative for Visa wrote about that company’s protection for customers who use debit cards:

If your account is compromised, Visa is committed to setting things right without further aggravation or inconvenience to you. Visa’s cardholder protection policy requires all financial institutions issuing Visa products to extend provisional credit for losses from unauthorized card use within 5 business days of notification of the loss. Many institutions will provide replacement funds even faster, sometimes within 24 to 48 hours.

What if the network or the merchant experiences a “computer glitch?” That’s doesn’t necessarily mean the account is “compromised.” But this is exactly what happened recently, although the problem appears to be due to the merchant rather than the network.

On Saturday, December 20, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, stores in Macy’s Central and East divisions experienced a period of almost two hours during which customers who completed purchases using a debit card were charged twice.

As a result, their bank accounts were debited twice as much as they expected, and as a result of this, many people were slapped with overdraft fees by their banks.

A Highland Village woman said her son bought her a set of knives for Christmas at Macy’s at Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville [Texas]. She said he spent $78 for the gift, then later discovered that another $78 had been debited from his checking account. He was eventually charged $50 in bounced-check fees, said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified.

computer glitchFollowing, there was aggravation and inconvenience. She, like everyone else who was unlucky enough to use a debit card in this situation, had to fax checking account statements. The store would take up to 10 days before refunding everyone’s overcharges.

Will the store pay everyone back for overdraft fees incurred due to duplicate charges? It’s not clear, but I wouldn’t count on it. This is a real life example of why you should avoid debit cards or any agreement where you authorize a merchant to automatically debit your checking account.

Use cash to ensure you always have the money available for your purchase. You’ll be sure the cashier won’t take your cash twice. Use a credit card to ensure you have protection for fraud and “computer glitches” and to put another layer between the merchant and your bank account. Monitor your accounts frequently to make sure you don’t see any unauthorized or suspicious activity.

Photo credit: akz*
Macy’s owns up to debit card glitch on Saturday before Christmas, Dallas News, December 30, 2008

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published December 30, 2008.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Woah. My mom got this problem recently also =O I wonder how many other people got this problem as well.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I’m proud to say I have never shopped at Macy’s in the three/four years they’ve been in Chicago. Their stores are tackier than a Kmart.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I like Macy’s, and I think their stores certainly have far nicer clothes and from far better materials than K-Mart, and when there are sales the prices could be as low. At the same time, I very rarely shop there: it’s half an hour drive away and I really hate driving. Going there and back and shopping wastes half of a weekend day and there are zillion things I’d rather do with my time. If the store had been closer I’d shop there more often.

Back on topic, people who claim debit cards have the same protection as credit cards always ignore the major difference: debit cards result in money being immediately withdrawn from one’s bank account whereas with a credit card, even the one set up for automatic payment in full, one sees the bill two weeks to a month before the money are actually taken. As a result with debit cards one sees a mistake or fraud after the fact. If the charge occurred in the beginning of the month, it could be almost a month or, if one checks one’s balance more often, a couple of weeks after the fact. In the meantime checks or automatic payments can bounce. After the fraud or a mistake is noticed, the bank may put back the money within 24 to 48 hours, but by that time a lot of damage can be done. At the very least – a lot of hustle. With credit cards, one gets the bill between 2 weeks and a month before the payment is due. If one calls and complains, one’s bank account is never touched.

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