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Author: Fuskie Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Ticker Guide SC1 Red Winner of the 2010 Rule Breakers Challenge Answer Team Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 310321  
Subject: A Tale Of Two Hardware Stores Date: 1/6/2013 12:41 PM
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In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I started out 2013 with a mistake. Two of them, in fact. I am at the final stages of 3+ year home renovation project, and in the last year have financed some large purchases on Home Depot and Lowe's credit cards. Both these cards have payments due on the 4th of the month, separate from the other cards due on the 21st of the month, so they can get first benefit of my paycheck on the first of each month.

I schedule these payments in Quicken as soon as the bills are received, dividing the remaining promotional balances by the number of months remaining to determine the correct amount to complete payoff before the promotional period ends. I schedule these payments on the cards' respective web sites when I get the pay stub from my employer, usually 3-4 days before the end of the month.

Due to a clerical error, my employer did not publish the pay stub until December 31st, but that's no excuse. I screwed up and I own that. That is not what this post is about. I put at risk my promotional balances at 0% interest. I made the payments 2 days late and called each card issuer with a mea culpa. Both banks assured me that my promotional balances and rates were not at risk as long as I made my payments before the next statement date, which I have done.

Where these parallel stories diverge is what came next. Lowe's noted that I had a $25 late fee assessed to my account, but did not offer to waive it in my hour of desperation. I implied, without saying outright, that I would appreciate their reversing the charge, but they either didn't get or take the hint. Home Depot, on the other hand, not only informed me of the $25 late fee (I already knew of the fees assessed on both cards), but informed me that he had already credited the fee back to me. Without my asking or even mentioning the late fee.

So who am I likely to take my future business to? Even through Home Depot is a couple miles away and Lowe's is a couple blocks away, I will be more likely to head to the Big Orange. For the cost of $25, Home Depot bought my loyalty. For the price of $25, Lowe's pushed away a customer. Don't get me wrong - I messed up, I earned those late fees. But how you treat customers, and how your agents (the card issuers) treat your customers, can have an impact on your business.

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