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Wal-Mart MoneyCard Break-In Offers Lessons For New Payment Tactics

April 18th, 2012

That’s fine. But you’re talking about someone who trusted a local Wal-Mart with money and got ripped off by an overseas thief, and then found out that the company wants to make an example of her. Note that it’s not clear that this woman—in any way—did help her attacker, but the process does not seem like one to engender warm feelings.

(Note: When the media coverage happened, Green Dot was mentioned as an afterthought. The headlines spoke of a Wal-Mart customer getting ripped off after she entrusted Wal-Mart with her money. You can outsource the processing, but you can never outsource the blame.)

This situation gets worse. On the Wal-Mart site, there’s an FAQ to help convince customers to use and to trust the Walmart MoneyCard. Remember, this wording is aimed at prospective customers who may be nervous about trying a new payment product. When the Wal-Mart FAQ asked, “What if someone steals my Card or uses it without my permission?” here’s what the site told prospects: “You should treat your Card as if it were cash. Guard the account number the same way you would cash or any credit card. Do not share your Card number with anyone. If you lose your Card or believe it to be stolen, please click here to report it lost/stolen. We will cancel your old Card, transfer the remaining balance to a new Card and then mail it out to you at the address on file. Fees may apply.”

Let’s look at that last part again: If there’s a theft that is not your fault, Mr. Customer, “we will cancel your old Card, transfer the remaining balance to a new Card and then mail it out to you at the address on file. Fees may apply.” Note how it skips over mention of the funds that were stolen. It seems to just write that part off, focusing only on transferring whatever breadcrumbs the thieves left behind.

And for good measure, it adds “Fees may apply.” For the victim. A victim, because your retail system—or your card processor’s system—was breached. Want to bet that neither the person who wrote that section nor whoever approved it was on commission?

Turns out that the “Fees may apply” language references a charge for overnight delivery of the card. Two thoughts. First, why bring that up? If you want to send it through regular mail, do that. If the customer asks for it to be accelerated, that’s when you can bring up any additional charges.

Second thought, though. Wal-Mart will waive shipping charges on regular online merchandise but not for a victim of its side’s security hole?

To be clear, it appears that everything ultimately happened according to proper procedure. The customer eventually did get her money back. And Green Dot now says the FAQ on Wal-Mart’s site will be changed.

But as chains explore a wide range of different payment options, it might be a smart idea to also explore new customer-service processes to go with those new payment vehicles. It’s not enough that the new payment mechanisms work. Your shoppers have to be comfortable with them.


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