Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to send away for something by mail order and the standard line was "four to six weeks" for delivery? You may have thought that those days were over but for the nostalgic ones, I'm proud to say they're not.
I got my credit card statement yesterday and there was a $550 charge from "Academic and Research Con" in "East Stroudburg, PA." I can't remember what it was and can't find a receipt, so I called up the credit card company, Key Bank, in this case to see what help they could give me. Very little as it turns out.
Key Bank can't tell me any more information about the merchant, not even a phone number. They'll be happy to send me a copy of the receipt. I can expect delivery in four to six weeks. I asked if they'd be willing to wait four to six weeks to get payment on that charge. The customer service person didn't think that was funny. Just out of curiosity, I asked her why it took four to six weeks. I didn't really expect a good answer and I wasn't disappointed. She said "oh, that's because we have to send it over to another department and they have to pull it."
I'm almost certain the charge is legit, still Key Bank did nothing to help me figure that out. I also wouldn't be surprised if the process really did take four to six weeks for them to complete, but the point is that my 21st Century mind can't comprehend it. I want Key Bank to be able to email me a copy of the receipt the same day. Nothing less is acceptable given the expectations of instant communications that we've created. This is an identity problem: I want better identity information about the people who show up on my credit card statements. I'm guessing that's not very high on the priority list of people building federated identity systems for the financial services industry.
Interestingly enough, the same bill contains a shining example of something merchants can do themselves to solve the problem. There's an $8 charge on the bill with a description that reads "ES *GLUCOSE" and a locations that reads "WWW.ESLR8.COM". If you go to www.eslr8.com, you'll see the following:
You type in the keyword that follows the * on the credit card statement and get back the merchant information. Nice and simple. eSellerate "gets" it whereas Key Bank clearly does not.