Gray Watson Personal Thoughts 2003.04.17
American Heritage Billing Suckage

I love the American Heritage of Invention and Technology magazine. It is fantastic. Every one has 5+ articles going deep into the history, background, and details about a certain invention or technology. I can't wait for the next one to come. You can tell how much I love them because I'm still a customer.

So I'm completely disgusted with the American Heritage's billing staff and procedures. Below is a summary of the fun that I've had with them in the past couple of months. I have a subscription now to 2007 and there is very little I can do about it I guess. I would avoid bills from their Harlan, IA office like the plague. It turns out that you cannot call this office and that the other billing offices can't call them either -- yes this is ridiculous. If you ever get a chance to talk to a "Michael Ross", credit manager, if he even exists, please tell him to go !)!#! himself for me. Or maybe just tell him to get a telephone.

I would like to thank Elizabeth in Forbes' NYC office who tried to help me get this resolved. The rest of the people have been less than helpful, have passed the buck, or have written me off as a kook. Sigh.

I'll provide a [far too long] "summary" first.

Last year I got a FINAL NOTICE bill [for the Invention and Technology magazine] from the Harlan Iowa office on 9/26/2002 for $24.95 for 8 issues of Invention and Technology. It was from a Michael Ross, Credit Manager. I paid it via Quicken on 10/31/2002. Then I got another bill a month later for another $24.95 which I paid on 12/13/2002. Both of these payments went to account number XX-XXXX-XXXX at address:

American Heritage of Invention and Technology
P.O. Box 5340
Harlan, IA 51593-0840

After doing my taxes, I discover that I paid twice and decided to call and get a refund. It seems to me that magazines pull this trick of double billing on purpose and I don't put up with it. When I call the subscription number (800-777-1222) they said my account is still not paid up and they have no record of these payments. Turns out that to them my account number is YYYYYYYYYYYYY (of course different than the above).

I initially talk to a less than helpful woman and then call back and get a nice one and she credits my account. I faxed her the bills and she credited me to 2007. I called today and asked for a refund and her supervisor wants me to fax her proof of payment.

My questions are:

Okay. There's the "summary". More below.

Incident Log

Thu Apr 24 10:09:29 EDT 2003

This maybe started on the 23rd in the morning.

Called American Heritage to ask about my 2 bills and payments and to get them to refund one of them. In looking at my bill paying statements I found this:

#XXXX 10/31/2002 American Heritage Inv & Tech 24.95 #XXXX 12/13/2002 American Hertitage 24.95

This stuff really burns me up because I get the feeling they do it on purpose.

I initially talked to Jenny at x2351 who was not very helpful and when I pushed the issue got very snooty. She did say that my account was in arrears and they have not seen any of the $50 that I've sent to the Harlan office to a different account number. She was definitely very skeptical of my story like I was making it up. She asked me to fax her the bills.

I decided to call back and talked to Debby at x3805 who was very nice. She credited my account for the time being. I told her I would fax her my bills which I did on 4/25 after some problems with PageSender. I also faxed them to Jenny with a note telling her that she was less than helpful and that Debbie was taking care of it.

Thu Apr 24 12:45:12 EDT 2003

So I decided to find the Harlan, Iowa office myself. I did some web searches and it's not a very large place. I called information and asked for American Heritage publishers. I got the number for a poor woman working at American Heritage nursing home or some such. Seems that people call her on a weekly basis about this. I tried to give her my email address to give to these other lost souls but I've not heard from them. Oh well.

Wed Apr 30 16:47:07 EDT 2003

Called and talked to Debbie. She said that she showed the bill to her supervisor and that the account is valid up through 2007 or something.

I asked for a refund for one of the $24.95 and she said that her supervisor said that they could not do it and Debbie asked if I would like to talk to her supervisor and I said please.

After on hold for a bit she came back and said that she was busy. She did ask her how she wanted to proceed and she said that if I can prove payment, they'll refund. I said that why do I have to prove payment when the Harlan Iowa office has my money. Debbie understood but couldn't do anything for me. They all keep saying "but it's a different call center" like it's a different company or something.

Finally I decided to call and talk to someone in the home office. Initially I called American and Heritage: 212-367-3100 and went to customer service, subscriptions and got back to Iowa. I asked for the home office number and got 212-620-2200 which is Forbes. Going down their phone menu system to subscriptions for American Heritage took me to Iowa again. Ugh.

Wed Apr 30 17:05:35 EDT 2003

Called American Heritage 212 number again and pressed 2 to get the editorial department and talked to Elizabeth and asked who I should talk to. She is going to call back with the name/number of the woman whom I'm supposed to call.

Wed May 14 20:04:00 EDT 2003

Sent Elizabeth email because I'd not heard anything.

From: Gray Watson
To: Elizabeth
Subject: RE: you asked for it

Hey there:

I've not heard anything about this. Any idea of the status? I really don't want to deal with the people from Iowa again.

Tue May 20 16:39:49 EDT 2003

Got mail from Jennifer Schulties. I never did fax the proof of payment. I guess I didn't want the hassle and thought that I didn't have to prove something that their Harlan Iowa had in their computers.

From: Jennifer Schulties
Subject: FW: you asked for it

Mr. Watson,

I am in the home office and I can take care of your inquiry. Please send me the proof of payment and I will instruct the Iowa office to issue a refund. You may fax me at 212.367.2615 or send it via email.


Jennifer Schulties
Circulation Marketing Manager

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