OK, I’m Delinquent…Customer Service Fail?

A real life lesson in the not-so-subtleties of how a brand can maintain or destroy customer relationships.

My credit card was recently compromised and I had to cancel the account. My recurring charge memberships with two different martial arts schools (one for me, one for my kids) were adversely affected. They both contacted me to let me know that my payments didn’t go through. The situations were very similar, (I didn’t want to continue membership with either) and the outcomes were the same, (they let me terminate the memberships).  At the end of the process, I end up liking one of the companies, but not the other. Check out the email threads (names deleted).

Martial arts place Number 1 (my kids):

Sent: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 7:28 PM
Subject: Delinquent Capoeira Account

I hope this email finds you well.  I am writing to inform you that your account with XYZ is currently delinquent and needs to be updated ASAP.  Please contact me at your earliest convenience with your up to date payment information.  I am the only one that checks this account so you can send an email back with your information or you can call me at 310-xyz-wxyz.  Please take care of this promptly before your account occurs any further charges or goes to collections.
Thanks in advance for your cooperation.
Take care,

Sent: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM
Subject: Re: Delinquent Capoeira Account

I hope you’re doing well. Our credit card was stolen and canceled and I hadn’t realized that we were still paying for classes. I’m not sure if you’re aware that our boys decided that they didn’t want to continue classes…they went a few times and I didn’t want to force them to continue. I’m hoping that you agree that the money we’ve spent, (I’m assuming well over $500) is more than enough to compensate you. I’m also hoping that you don’t feel it necessary to take the extreme step of incurring extra charges or submitting anything to a collection agency which would be damaging to our credit. Please let me know if we can move forward without any additional action necessary.
Thanks so much
Erick Brownstein.

Sent: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 7:11 AM
Subject: Re: Delinquent Capoeira Account

Hello Erik,

Thank you for getting back to us. I hope all is well with you and your family. I understand that they no longer want you continue capoeira and will cancel the account. Please know that we are always open to you and your family should you ever want to come by! Take care,

Martial arts place Number 2 (me):

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 9:46 AM

Dear xyz Member,

We hope you are well! This email is to notify you that the payment for your October membership dues has been rejected. Please contact me as soon as possible or reply to this email to make payment and avoid late charges.

Please be aware that a $25.00 bank rejection processing fee has been assessed.

Thanks,  Hope to see you soon!

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Hi x,

If I let my membership lapse, what is the charge for re-instating down the road? My life and health are conspiring to keep me away from xyz these days…


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Hi Erick,

Thanks for getting back to me. Once the charge for October is taken care of you can either freeze your membership for longer or terminate. If you were to freeze for a few more months your first month back would already be paid for by this October charge. If you decide that you would prefer to terminate your membership you would have a month of credit to use however you choose when you return. That means that you could either pay first and last month’s dues but get your first automatic charge taken care of by the October credit or you could use it to pay for first or last month and then just get billed again normally. Either one works. If you think you will only be out a couple more months I recommend extending the freeze rather than terminating all together but if there’s no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel then I recommend the termination.

Thank you,

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 1:02 PM

Hi x

Thanks for clarifying. If I’m not going to train in October, I’d obviously prefer not to spend money now for something I may use later…
Unfortunately, I think it makes sense to terminate and then I’ll deal with it down the road.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Hi Erick,

I understand that you would prefer not to spend the money now however we do have a 15 day cancellation policy so anything made beyond the billing date is considered outstanding. I cannot process any terminations or freezes on memberships that have a balance so, as I mentioned in my previous email, the dues for October will be held for your use indefinitely.

Thank you,

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Hi x,

I understand your policy. What can we do to keep me a happy potential member? It feels like I’m being punished for having missed a deadline, being forced to pay for something that I may or may not use in the future, all with an underlying threat of collecting on an outstanding balance. I would imagine you are capable of ‘forgiving’ an outstanding balance so that you can go through the freezing/termination process.

Let’s create a case study for the kind of customer service that leads me to being an evangelist for your brand rather than a detractor. The value of the former is clearly much more than one month’s dues.


Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 1:35 PM


Your membership has been terminated.

Hmmm…I may be overly sensitive, but I’m ready to give the first place another chance, while the second company, for the sake of expressing their frustration, just blew any hope of me coming back. We customers are not an easy bunch.

1 Comment

  1. rex says:

    Its interesting how most of us are on both sides of the customer and biz coins – ultimately, we all want to be treated with respect and kindness. Unfortunately, not everyone abides by those rules, loved ur response.

    “Let’s create a case study for the kind of customer service that leads me to being an evangelist for your brand rather than a detractor. The value of the former is clearly much more than one month’s dues.”

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