Canceling Privacy Assist and Asshole Tactics

Today I decided to cancel my “Privacy Assist” credit monitoring account through Bank of America. Fun times, fun times.

I’d used Bank of America’s Privacy Assist service for a few years. Recently, I pulled a credit report for all three bureaus to see where I stood. Thanks for that by the way, Comcast, my several-years-closed account which you sent to collections after claiming I hadn’t returned equipment, despite the receipt I produced on several occasions really reminded me to watch my credit score like a hawk … assholes. In any case, the service that “comes with” freecreditreport.com’s “free credit report” seems a little more detailed, so I thought I’d switch.

I logged into my account – which is separate from my Bank of America online banking account for reasons unknown – and looked around for what I figured a large corporation like Bank of America would easily provide: the cancel link. I consider myself fairly web savvy – I mean, come on – but it struck me as odd that I simply couldn’t find the link. I checked the FAQ: the only mention of cancellation is a warning about how it would affect some bullshit software they provide. I clicked the contact link: no e-mail address, no form to fill out, just a telephone number and a mailing address.

It was at this point I realized what I was in for, exactly. Asshole Tactics. The Asshole Tactics Rules of Engagement state the following:

  1. Make it easy (or involuntary) to sign up for a service online.
  2. Require recurring payments by credit card.
  3. Make it impossible to cancel the service online.
  4. Mention nothing about how to cancel, only warnings of bad things happening should the consumer decide to cancel.
  5. Make the most convenient method of contact a live, person-to-person telephone conversation.
  6. Make every effort to side-step the cancellation request (including dire warnings, guilt trips, implications of irresponsibility at not wanting the service, etc.).
  7. Imply the consumer is unfriendly if they don’t play along with item #6.
  8. “Mistakenly” ignore the request, resulting in at least one more recurring bill.

With the exception of Rule #8, the “gentleman” with whom I spoke today followed the rules perfectly that I could tell. Whether Asshole Tactic 8 is followed or not remains to be seen. It will be another month until I know for sure. Make no mistake, there will be no need to “imply” that this consumer is unfriendly (#7) if #8 is followed.

After a mostly standard identity verification process, the guy noted I’d been “with them for some time” and asked me, “Is there any reason you don’t want to continue this important service?” I fully understood he was doing his job (customer retention or, better yet, up-sell), so I said in a kind tone, “Oh, I’d just like to cancel.”

What followed was a flurry of (scripted) attempts at attacking the ‘problem’ from different angles. Comically, one of them sounded like a spurned boyfriend/girlfriend along the lines of “if it’s anything we did wrong”. I kept responding, “no, I’d just like to cancel.” Could I have told him why? Sure, but it would’ve resulted in a whole different page of questions, selling points of their particular service versus the competition, and attempts at offers of a free month or a temporary upgrade (which I’d have to call back to ‘downgrade’ in a month, lest it turn into a ‘permanent temporary upgrade’), etc. I’ve been through this before. Many, many times.

After the first four or five times I had calmly restated that I’d “just like to cancel”, the man’s tone became … desperate? Impatient? Annoyed? I’m not sure what word best describes it. In any case, I finally told him I’m just trying to get this done and don’t want to answer any questions – please, just cancel the service.

This prompted what must be the “emergency question of last resort” in his script – it involved the dire consequences of a lack of credit monitoring service, with the implication of irresponsibility and lack of reason on my part. That’s when my patience ran out.

I didn’t curse, I didn’t yell, I only said forcefully, “Sir, either cancel the account with no further questions or put me through to your supervisor.”

At the time, I was highly annoyed by the response (in fact I sat there biting my tongue to keep from yelling), but now it’s almost entirely comical. He said, “Alright, sir, I see you prefer automation. We try to have a conversation with people, but I see you have zero tolerance. I’ve canceled the account. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Me: “Nope.” Click.

I mean … seriously? What the fuck, Bank of America? Do you really need to retain customers on that service so badly that you’re willing to resort to fly-by-night industry Asshole Tactics? I’m seriously considering moving to another bank on principle alone. Douchebags.

I realize I’ll probably have to go through the same thing with freecreditreport.com (all the signs are there – you can apparently only cancel by phone), but hey, I fight the battles as they come.

Update: I’ve since learned that the providers of Privacy Assist is a completely different entity than Bank of America (hence the crossed-out references above). That doesn’t make Bank of America look much better, however – they should be aware of Privacy Assist’s customer service practices by now, which begs the question: why would BoA continue to associate themselves with these people?