The Nightmare of Government Customer Service

Montgomery County Maryland has instituted a system in which a driver can use a cash key to pay at the county parking meters.  The key is purchased at a county transportation department (MCDOT) office, and you can put any amount of money on the key. On January 14, 2014 I put $100 on the cash key by charging $100 to my credit card. The very first time I tried to use the key after putting the $100 on it, it did not work.

I went back to the MCDOT office. They checked their records and found the recent $100 purchase. They then electronically checked the key and found that it was defective and showed no funds on it. I asked if they could give me a new key and the service clerk assured me that he could, but that the new key would have no funds on it. The county, the clerk told me, does not transfer unused balances. I was stunned. I said you are telling me that the county is absconding with my $100 dollars. He just repeated, do you want another key or not? But if you want one, you will have to pay to put funds on it.

Outraged, I called my credit card company on my cellphone. I explained the situation to their customer service representative who seemed to immediately understand why I was so upset. I asked her if she could imagine a private company telling you that if the product they sold you was defective, then you would just have to buy it again. I was flabbergasted by the arrogance of the County. This was raw monopoly power. This is the power of government.  The credit card company representative said she would reverse the charge and start a dispute resolution process.

The MCDOT clerk then called his supervisor and explained that I had called the credit card company which was reversing the charges. After a discussion, he then told me that the supervisor had decided that since I was such a good customer, this one time, they would let the unused funds be transferred to the new cash key. But he told me that the supervisor said that she was granting me this concession only once. If the key became defective again, then I would lose all the funds on it.

Can you imagine any private company treating a customer so arrogantly? Aren't you looking forward to trying to get customer service from the government under Obamacare?