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The Internet is my Moral Compass

A couple of weeks ago I made an online purchase. It cost roughly $130. It was one of those things where you order online and pick up in person, so I ordered, drove over, collected my purchase and my receipt, and that was that. Except that when balancing the checkbook a few days later, I noticed that I had been billed twice for my purchase. There was a charge for $130 and a second charge for $140. So, I called the store, explained that I had been billed twice, and asked if they would please credit the $140 charge. They were very polite and apologetic and offered an explanation about how the error occurred and promised to credit the $140 charge immediately and to also credit my account $20 for the next time I bought something from them, just to apologize for the trouble. Piece of cake.

A couple of days later, I remembered to check for the credit and found that they had credited the $130 charge instead of the $140 charge. I made a note to call and have them correct it, but days passed and I eventually decided that I was too busy. I decided to just eat the $10 instead of dealing with the hassle of another phone call. Piece of cake.

The next time I checked the bank account, I saw that they had credited the $130 charge. How odd, thought I, I thought they had credited the $140 charge. Which they had, they credited both charges. So I called them, and they were confused, and they asked if I could please call back the next morning to talk to the manager who handles such things. So I called back the next morning and spoke to that manager and he was also confused and could not be compelled to charge me $130 and have done with it. He asked if I could get my receipt and take it into the store and then maybe he could help me. And I said, you want me to haul my two kids into your store and entertain them and keep them from touching anything while undoubtedly trying to explain this to you all over again all for the privilege of being charged $130? And he said, if you don't mind.

I mind. I have any number of better things to do with my time. I feel guilty that I have secured $130 worth of goods for the bargain price of zero dollars, but I am not wracked with guilt as I have made two phone calls informing the store of the problem and asking them to be charged $130. However, since I am asking you about this lo these weeks later, it seems I am not entirely at ease with my approach.

So you tell me, if I don't march into the store and demand to be charged $130 dollars, am I stealing and setting a bad example for my children that will inevitably lead them to a life of crime? Or does the fact that I have twice asked to pretty, pretty please be charged what I fairly owe satisfy my obligations and can I move onto obsessing about something new?

Comments (51)

We've had some experience in this area that I won't go into specifics for fear of incurring the Wrath of the Morality Police. In my world, you made an effort, twice. Your time is valuable and they are apparently incompetent. Not your problem anymore. Surely you will be screwed by being overcharged one day without your knowledge, so I would consider this a karmic boomerang. It all evens out in the end.

move on. you're worth it. And that manager is probably having a good laugh about the woman who WANTS to pay up.

I would pass it on. Seriously. Expend $130 in gifts or services back to your community such as the local soup kitchen or food pantry. I feel obliged to caution that eventually the store auditors *may* catch up and ask to correct the account. Good karma would most likely cover that likelihood, though.

$130/$140 is likely enough that if the store auditors due catch the mistake, they will likely try to recover the money, and since it is there money, they are entitled to it.

In order to cover yourself - rather than going in to the store yourself, I say make one more attempt, but this time create a paper trail. Send a registered letter to corporate with a copy of the receipt, your story, and the dates that the various credits were issued. Ask them to then send you a separate paper bill, which you can then pay. If they don't, then you are in the clear. If they do, then you can pay, which is what you have been trying to do.

Why go through the trouble? Your credit report ... I'm assuming stores who have a record of you owing them money that is (at least as far as the books are concerned) unpaid can ding a credit report ... and if that happens in the future, you can produce the paper trail as your good faith effort to resolve the issue. Since it was an online-> store purchase, you likely had to give them name and address and all that info, so if they do try to pursue it ... they have more info than they would for a typical store only purchase.

I am so bad. I would totally not bother and let them suck it up. Their mistake, nothing that good would ever happen to me. I don't know about the whole "credit report" thing though, since they do have your personal info.

I'd wait to hear from them again -- if you do-- and again offer to resolve it over the phone or online only.

You tried. Twice. And this is a purchase that should have been resolvable the way you bought it, on the internet or on the phone as a back up. You shouldn't have to drag yourself down there, in person, with baby and toddler, to deal with their incompetency.

Their mistake, your gain. It's not like you stole it. You have explained it to them. They are being dumb.

You've met your karmic obligation. If they lack the accounting oversight necessary to help you resolve the issue, then it's no longer any of your concern. You may spend the money on liquor and cocaine with a clean conscious.

Since they credited your account, then when/if they find the error, they will probably just debit you the original $130. But that could take months... so if you ever notice that $130 has mysteriously disappeared, it's probably that they finally caught their error and were fixing it. And yes, they can legally do that without notifying you - they should notify you bc that's the nice thing to do, but they don't have to since technically it's their money and their mistake to rectify.

I agree with Kali. Donate the funds to a charity you feel worthy and move on. You tried to do the right thing. Donating will clear your conscience.

You have BEGGED to be charged. You've tolerated considerable hassle to try to be charged, and that was after they made TWO mistakes: not only (1) double-charging you, but also (2) charging the wrong amount for the second thing. THEN they made another mistake: (3) refunding the wrong amount. Then they made ANOTHER mistake: (4) refunding the other amount also. Then they made you call back because they were too dim to understand their multiple mistakes. Now they want you to do the work to fix their multiple mistakes. I say NO. And I am a fretful and morally-anxious person who once brought a $3 pair of earrings back to Target when they didn't show up on my receipt. Also: I would leave the $130 charge in my checkbook for awhile, in case they DO figure it out.

Move on. You made every effort. However, I have to agree, you might want to let the money hand around for a bit just in case they do figure out their accounting. Sometimes it takes a while for things to clear up.

don't do it. you made a good faith effort to correct the error. your time going in there to correct it is worth the $130. their loss for their poor customer service, accounting, etc.

I would second what TisDone said and try to resolve it by mail (or fax), rather than in person. Paper trails are good. If it was a less expensive purchase (like $20 or so), I might be more inclined to say it's not worth the hassle, but I'd be concerned that in a few months they will realize the error and try to correct the mistake and suddenly I'd have $130 yanked from my account without prior warning.

If you called them to correct the mistake, knowing full well that they have the capability of charging you back the amount, and they won't do it...? You're done here.

We recently had something similar to us. We ordered a Christmas gift online, and when it was delivered, there were two of them in the box instead of 1. We did call the retailer and tried to explain the situation. The first time, they wanted us to pay $8 to ship it back to them (for a $50 item, and their mistake), and the second time they seemed to not care at all. We ended up keeping the item, and they don't care. It's been months, and they haven't followed up at all, so we're going to open the box this week and use it. We tried. You tried too, and that's about all you can do.

I would probably feel guilty, but at the same time you have tried twice. I would call them back, tell them that you can't make it into the store, and you would like them to sort this out. If they still don't do it then I guess it is a free gift to you as you have definately tried.

I'm curious to know how this ends up.

I would probably feel guilty, but at the same time you have tried twice. I would call them back, tell them that you can't make it into the store, and you would like them to sort this out. If they still don't do it then I guess it is a free gift to you as you have definately tried.

I'm curious to know how this ends up.

this happened to me before. unfortunately they eventually caught their error so i wouldn't spend the money. but you certainly shouldn't have to haul yourself and the children up to the store for their mistake.

move on - their mistake, their problem - you alerted them to the error, they chose not to fix it, and thus you have done your duty and they are dumb - there you go - glad to be the cricket on your shoulder - heh

It would bother me, so I would try to call again. I would not go into the store. The problem is not complicated. They charged you twice. They were to reimburse you for one of the charges. They accidentally reimbursed you for both of the charges. They need to charge you once for your purchase.

I wish I could say, to tell with it! Keep it! And that's totally what I came here to say, except after reading some of the comments where it might affect your credit? Or they may charge you months later? Well, they scare me. And I'm easily intimidated.

i'd still try again over the phone, either with the same manager, another manager, or someone higher up. once you're charged appropriately, all will be well. really.

I had nearly the exact same experience when purchasing a treadmill from Sears. I spent two weeks trying to iron it out. They never managed to get their sh*t together. I even went to the store and said, "Here. Charge me for that cash & carry. I will then "forget" it and we'll be even." They couldn't even figure that out.

I eventually figured I'd spent $400 of my time trying to get them to take their money, gave up and gave the money to a friend with serious financial and medical issues. Trying to keep my karma balanced :). You can only do so much. It's sad that they don't know what to do with someone whose being honest.

I had nearly the exact same experience when purchasing a treadmill from Sears. I spent two weeks trying to iron it out. They never managed to get their sh*t together. I even went to the store and said, "Here. Charge me for that cash & carry. I will then "forget" it and we'll be even." They couldn't even figure that out.

I eventually figured I'd spent $400 of my time trying to get them to take their money, gave up and gave the money to a friend with serious financial and medical issues. Trying to keep my karma balanced :). You can only do so much. It's sad that they don't know what to do with someone whose being honest.

I must be terrible, as I would just let it go and hope that they don't find the mistake. You made a more than reasonable effort to correct the mistake - no guilt necessary!

Oh Please! You did your share of informing them of the goof up! I can't believe he's asking you to come to the store to sort it out. I mean it would make sense if they made you go through hoops to get credit but when they're losing money they should make all haste to fix their mistake and not push their luck by asking the customer to do all the hard work!

I say "Merry Christmas Beth!" Enjoy the free product.

I'm anal about this kind of stuff, but even I wouldn't drive back to the store after spending so much time trying to resolve their mistakes.

I'd offer to fix this online or offer to mail copies of the receipts to them, but the later--I fear would get you overcharged yet again.

This was an error on their part and one that I would think could easily be fixed. After all, don't they have an accounting person or department that keeps track of their receipts?

If not, they have bigger problems than your charge.

I didn't read the other comments so forgive me if I repeat. I would call them again and (probably to someone different because life isn't ever easy) explain to them that there was a mistake made. THEIR mistake. You are willing to pay the charge, you are unwilling to traipse all over town to do it. It is ridiculous of them to ask you to. If they can't figure it out, I say you have done due diligence. They have your cc info and, I assume, your phone number. You have a life to lead. This is their job, not yours. I'm not a bitch, honest.

I think you did your part. The mistake was theirs, and they shouldn't expect you to inconvenience yourself to help them fix it. I say move on.

I think you did your part. The mistake was theirs, and they shouldn't expect you to inconvenience yourself to help them fix it. The money they lost reflects their poor organization and customer service, not your negligence. I say move on.

Their mistake...move on.

Their mistake. I'd get a babysitter for the children and have a nice night out with the husband! :)

In the current economy, companies seem to be pulling out their "these people might owe us money!" files and collecting old debts. Some friends of mine found out they were turned over to collections for a $78 cell phone bill that they had paid, but that the company had charged to a different account from the same household.
6 years ago.
The Company totally made the mistake - but technically one bill was paid, and one was not, so even though Company was at fault, my friends get to pay a 6-year old bill AND their name is now on record with a collection agency.

I would go with the paper trail route - either they will still not be able to figure out how to charge you for something, OR in a few years when they suddenly realize that you got the five-finger discount THAT THEY GAVE YOU and try to collect it, you can pull out your shiny pretty file and say "uh, and why was this not able to be handled in 2009, when I contacted you multiple times to correct the error and no one followed through, hmmm?"

I'm inclined to morally agree with TisDone and then Kali.


When faced with a similar situation (We basically got a very nice leather recliner for free. I'll spare you the long story but it involved SEVERAL mistakes on their part and SEVERAL attempts by ME to PAY THEM including me BEGGING on the phone "Can you just please charge my credit card $1600, PLEASE???") we just finally gave up.

In hindsight, I might have made one more attempt, in writing and then called it a day. And then maybe passed along the money or some of it (*mumble*new shoes* mumble*) to a favorite charity.

I think it would be pretty unreasonable to make you come in to get this figured out. It isn't like you aren't willing to pay, but when they made the mistake, you should not have to make the effort, they should. If they don't want to charge you without you coming in then I imagine it is their loss. I am sure they will figure out how to charge you eventually if they need it badly enough.

I'm the kind of person who - if she notices that she's left a store without paying for something and hasn't gotten caught - goes back in (even if it means getting the kids out of their carseats again) to pay for it. There have been times when they've been grateful to take my money, and other times when they've said "Oh, just take it".

Since this was their error to begin with, and you have made two attempts to correct THEIR mistake, even going so far as to let them know that you haven't actually paid for the item, I'd say it's on them. Like others have said, I'd leave the money in your account *just in case* for at least 3 months, so that if they wise up and charge you, it's covered. But otherwise, I think you've done your part to correct this situation.

I tend to figure that if I tried and they can't seem to get it together, than it's a lucky day in my favor. Now because I am a worrier and I like to try and keep my karma going okay, I tend to take that money that I didn't end up getting charged and donate it in some way.

You aren't responsible for their stupidity and lack of...whatever it is that would enable them to do this correctly. Screw em!

(My moral compass is broken, by the way. I would totally feel bad about that for 24 hours, and then be over it!)

I would call again and say going in to the store again is not feasible for you at this point...and I like someone else's idea about the registered letter.

I agree with the 4th comment by TisDone. Primarily because of the whole store auditing thing- they aren't going to care if you tried to explain things and it will only be bad for you in the end. This is not a moral decision but more of a cover your a$$ decision. I am one of those people who never gets away with ANYTHING so I tend to err on the side of caution.

I don't think it should be up to you to force them to charge you. I can't imagine that the manager could be that confused and not have a record of what they charged/credited. Seems like they kind of have their head up their asses. Hmmm, I wonder if you'll still get $20 off your next purchase???

I say you tried. You made a lot more effort than most other people would've done. You shouldn't have to haul your kids and spend the money in gas (even though it's not as much as it was, say, this summer) to go to the store to make them take your money. It should be something that can be simply resolved, and if they can't grasp the concept, it's not your fault. In fact, I scored a free hard drive about 5 years ago, and I didn't do anything about it. I didn't notice it until I went to finally fill out my rebate receipt on the thing. It was a couple weeks after I bought it, and the rebate wasn't with the receipt. I looked at the receipt & it wasn't on there. I said screw it and figured free was better than however much money I was supposed to get back. lol. I saw 'em scan it, so I don't know why it didn't show up, but not my problem. And it shouldn't be yours anymore either.

Screw all that, the more important question here is what did you buy?

My moral compass was run over by a clown car years ago...smashed to bits, poor thing.

Speaking as the wife of someone who owned a small business for 30 years, I'd say make one more attempt. My husband had the odd incompetent employee who'd do things like the double refund, and since he was usually making a very slim profit margin the loss was not-inconsequential.

The creation of a paper trail suggested by TisDone seems like a reasonable way to proceed. Then if they *still* screw it up I'd say you can definitely keep the money with a clear conscience.

Um, you lost me at hard math.

You have made an honest effort more than once - it isn't really your problem at this point. I would keep that $130 available in your checking acct for awhile in case they catch the error and charge you but otherwise I think it is way above and beyond to schlep your kids into the store to explain to them how you owe them money.

I definitely think that you have made an honest effort to correct an error made in your favor and that asking you to do anything more at this point is very crappy customer service. They messed up. They messed up several times. You took the time out of your day several times to help them correct their error and now they have "fixed" it in such a way that is in your favor and they STILL want you to fix it for them. I wouldn't feel the least bit bad--how much time have you invested into this mistake? And how much do you charge per hour???

TOTALLY don't worry about it. If they call and ask you for the $130 at some point in the future, great. Otherwise, NOT your problem. Yay for free stuff!!

I'm with the paper trail people. Send them a letter (cut and paste from this post)and tell them that you are perfectly happy to pay them in whatever way suits you best (specify)and to contact you at x address/phone number to arrange the details.

Your conscience is then clear.

I got some tickets in the mail that were much, much better than the ones I ordered. I called and confessed, they agreed to send me my real tickets, and then asked that I mail back the tickets that had been wrongfully sent to me. So I did. I'm convinced if you slide on a debt, you'll wind up with a broken refrigerator, or lose your sunglasses--something that will wind up equaling the amount you owe. So I say, pay it.

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