The very first credit card I acquired was from Mobil Oil. They offered one to college seniors and I had a car. I’ve had the card ever since (and that’s 35 years for those of you counting). My father-in-law actually worked for a division of Mobil for at least that long as well, so there’s a definite reason to be loyal to that brand.
I like to think my family is the kind of customer a gasoline company would want – four cars, a fair amount of driving out here in the suburbs. So what happened over the weekend which cost them our business is kind of weird. But I’ll let you judge.
I got a voice-mail asking me to call some 800 number about my Mobil account and it’s not a sales call. Now, I figured out pretty quickly that the bill I found stuffed under some papers had been paid a few days late but the account gets paid in full every month and it was only $43. I had already told the bank to make the payment so maybe there was suspicious activity or something? I made the call.
I was told a hold had been placed on my account, meaning I, and the other people who buy gas, couldn’t use it. I was 5 days late. Not 2 months and 5 days – just 5 days. When might they expect their $43? Well, the payment was electronic and I would think first thing Monday since I authorized it the minute I found the bill (the bank sent it yesterday). But why, I asked the person on the other end, would Mobil spend money to chase down a 35 year customer who always pays on time and in-full when they’ve missed a single payment? Why would they call them on a Saturday afternoon? Why would they stop use of the account with no notice? You know they’re going to want late fees, interest, and probably one of the cars (the fees will be more than the bill, I’ll wager) so why make me feel as if I’m a deadbeat who never pays and is always late? This was not a polite reminder. In fact, had they called and said “gee, you’re always on time and now you’re late – is something wrong and how can we help?” you’d be reading a VERY different type of post about Mobil this morning. Instead: no thanks, Mobil.
I won’t cancel my Mobil card since canceling credit cards, I’m told, hurts your credit. It will just go in a drawer and I’ll go shopping for gas rather than looking for Mobil stations. Given gas prices, that $43 collection and the treatment they gave me to get it will cost them roughly 55 times that amount the first year I buy elsewhere. See-ya!
I think the business lesson is pretty clear. Treat your customers well and your long-term customers even better. Don’t treat them as idiots or criminals, even if they happen to be one or both (most folks aren’t). When you play in a competitive category, especially one that’s highly price-sensitive, customer service may be what saves you. Or kills you.
Think I’m over-reacting? Let me know.