A Day in the Life of a Consumer

I found out how quickly a brand could change from being a favorite of mine to becoming an entity I would never trust again. The result was a new sense of awareness the hard way, and my last visit to our favorite food joint.

I was sitting in my office at work and decided to take a break to balance my credit card with my checking account. I went to my personal email to catch up as well, and saw an alert for a card. But the odd thing was, the alert was for a card I had recently closed and should have been at a zero balance.

The email notification showed it over $5,000!

This caused some feelings I don’t wish to recall. Had my identity been stolen? Who was to blame?

My eyes opened to this vulnerable position for the first time 10 years ago, and then shut indefinitely to the brand that happened to be part of this experience.

As a consumer, I decide what brands to purchase from or invest in based on my gut feelings about them.

I search for bargains, but I am also willing to pay more for quality, peace of mind, atmosphere, and how the experience of the brand makes me feel. Once I find a brand I like, I stick with it, loyally, unless something goes very wrong.

I go through a number of checkpoints all at once when making buying decisions, automatically. Things run through my head like: Do I like the packaging, the atmosphere, the product, the service, the price, and most of all do I trust them?

This applies to all industries, from food, hotel, and travel, to healthcare and retail.

Setting the scene

We frequented this wonderful place often. It was a micro-brewery with an amazing menu, nice atmosphere, great service, and best of all, it was a newer restaurant close to home.

By the time I was expecting my second child, our visits became weekly occurrences. I loved the healthy options they offered and my husband reveled in the sweet treats and savory fare.

This restaurant was a sit-down establishment, with wait staff. I would never have dreamed that our credit card data would be compromised there.

I hadn’t even thought about it being a possibility at small retail locations or large brand-name establishments for that matter.

Here's the deal:

Taking a step back, there is something you should understand about me. I am a Type A personality and completely in control of our finances. I love to save, I have a very high credit score, and have never in my life paid interest on a credit card, as I pay them off in full every month.

I earned my credit score by being responsible, which also came easy. I not only bought only what I could afford, I often passed on buying things that I could afford, and do this even more today. I used credit cards then, and now, because of the convenience, the points, and the sense of security in them over a debit card or cash.

So, what happened?

It all started with a peculiar email notification from my past credit card company, showing thousands of dollars in recent purchases on a card that was not in use. I picked up the phone and called the card’s customer service line immediately.

I told them the scenario: My card had been closed weeks prior, it should have shown a zero balance, and it showed that it not only had over $5,000 on it, the purchases were made overseas!

The customer service rep asked me if I lost the card because the purchases were made with a physical card on location. No, I had not. In fact, I had cut it up when I closed it.

That’s when a sense of loss, vulnerability, violation, and anger set in.

It felt very creepy too.

The card company of course took care of this right away for me and ensured the card was not used any longer. It did not impact me financially, but it did impact me emotionally.

After some research, I discovered that people can steal magnetic strip information from your card with a special tool, and sometimes there could even be servers at restaurants who might do this. They accept your card and take it with them for a few minutes, which is part of protocol, so we never noticed anything strange at first.

Once they have the magnetic strip, they can make a new physical card and sell it!

We narrowed it down to this scenario being the culprit, at our favorite place. This theft halted our weekly visits and in 10 years, we haven’t returned.

Is the customer king nowadays?

I think about this scenario from time to time, and realize how important it is for me to be able to trust the place that I’m doing business with.

Although the restaurant brand itself didn’t steal from me, their employee did, and so their brand was ruined.

This particular experience I shared was 10 years ago. Cyber criminals have been on the rise for years, continuing to find new ways to steal. My experience was a singular one. Imagine the implications of thousands or millions or consumers like me, experiencing a full breach of data. A brand is only as strong as the people who support it.

Today, I focus on protecting myself with security measures that include card monitoring services, on top of the fact that I review my accounts weekly and check every line item.

When I think of this, it begs the question: If a restaurant, hotel, doctor’s office, etc. decides to accept credit cards as payment, then why don’t they all want to protect themselves, let alone their customers?

This customer holds companies and brands collecting my data to high standards.

The Bottom Line?

The bottom line is that royalty leads to loyalty. The customer is king and always right. When a brand operates under this assumption, their business thrives.

This story was written by a consumer, based on a real-life scenario she experienced a few years back.

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