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So much for the AmEx card.


I've had an American Express card since I graduated from college. It's been a great card. I liked the card. The customer service is great, and the card services are well worth the $55 annual membership fees. Never an unhappy customer.

Until today.

I have the card number memorized, so it's easy for me to use. I bill mostly online expenses to the card, and use only that card for online purchases. In case of fraud, I have only one card to cancel. Easy that.

I placed an order online last week (on December 31st for tax and accounting reasons) and used my AmEx card for the purchase. I could save all of $20 by shipping to my house instead of my post office box, so, eh, sure, no problem, I listed my home address as the ship-to address.

This morning I received an email saying the ship-to address is not a valid delivery address for the AmEx card, could I please add it? The last time I tried to add an additional address to my AmEx, it was a horrible, horrible experience, one I remembered well, so I was absolutely positive the address was already on the card. Just to be sure, I called up AmEx.

Turns out, my home address wasn't an authorized address on the card (WTF?) and I needed to create a password for the account, too. Fine, transfer me to the password change department.

Here's where it gets creepy. In order to identify I'm who I say I am, I had to answer some questions (their apologies if the questions were redundant).

The first question was the last four digits of my Social Security Number. Standard question there, no problem.

The next question was "What was your first elementary school?" Now this one was kinda weird, but sure, I'll go with it. As near as I can tell, they can't verify that one, so I tell them. Which they spell wrong, after I tell them, so I had to spell it for them, too. It's a good thing they asked for an elementary school, because that's significantly different than the first school I went to.

Great! I'm flying with passing colors. So the next question comes. "What address did you use previously?" Oh, that's easy. I gave her my previous post office box. Because I have used nothing but post office boxes for the last 10 years. Before that I lived at other people's houses, so should be no records of my address. And before that, I was at school. And before that, my parents house. So, that P.O. Box was the most correct answer.


"We use public records to obtain a list of addresses where you might have lived. We just need one of these addresses."

Might have lived. Might have lived. Might. Have. Lived.

Not, "you lived at." Not, "your address." Not, "The address you had with us before the current address."

Might have lived. According to public records.


Okay, fine, since I couldn't answer that question, I had to ask the next security question: "What's the name of a relative?"


Blink. Blink.

What? You want the name of one of my relatives? shrug I said the full name of one of my first cousins.

Not on the list. Of course not, I think. What do you have, my whole geneological tree? No, no, no, she says, she wants me to give her the name she has in front of her on the screen. I can't help but think, "That could be one of six BILLION people, how the fuck do I know what is on your god-damned screen?" Instead, I said, "I don't know what's on your screen. I've given you enough information to identify me a hundred times over and steal my identity. I'm not interested in this password, I just want to add a shipping address to my card. That's it. Just an address." To which the customer service rep (Juanita?) replied with a lecture on how I should be interested, because this password is the most important password, blah, blah, blah.

I hung up on her.

And called back. I tried again, with the same results. I couldn't add an address without a password. And I couldn't get a password because the records they have to match me are incorrect. Fine, I'll cancel the card, switch me to that department. "You can't cancel the card without a password." Transfer me anyway.

The woman in the card-cancelling-department asked for my password. Okay, I've had enough. I'll admit to a bit of hysteria here. All I want to do is add a fucking shipping address, an address on their fucking public records list, if they bothered to look it up, and I can't do it. Cancel the fucking card.

They do. Then hang up on me.

And after I hear the dial tone on the other end of the line, I realized I could have paid the extra $20 and had the online order shipped to my post office box.