A month ago, doing my checking, I noticed some weird transactions coming from my Google Wallet. This was strange because I don’t use my Google Wallet, except a $2.99 monthly payment to keep my cloud super-big — the future is now. But there were transactions that spanned hundreds of dollars that were unfamiliar to me, so I went in to check what was going on. What I find is super, super weird:
There are pages and pages like that, of transactions I have apparently sent to strangers, and transactions strangers have apparently sent to me. So, my account has been hacked — in some kind of bizarre way that I can’t fully understand.
And so, rattled, I go to get customer support from Google Wallet. Manuel calls me (Hi Manuel! Nice to meet you!), and for 20 minutes I try to explain what I see on my computer. Manuel seems extremely confused. I say, “Look, I don’t know any of these people. I have not used my wallet.” Eventually, Manuel says, “OK, I see. This is a lot of money. We can refund all of it. I am going to send you a refund.” And then I get an email that says:
I am feeling pretty satisfied. I go into my account and find that someone has accessed it from Istanbul, and someone else from Atlanta, and I have accessed it from Chicago, and we were all accessing the account at the same time. I feel like Google should have alerted me about this, because that kind of activity is very, very odd. But they are giving me a refund. I forgive them. They’re doing the best they can.
And so a week goes by, and then another one, but no refund appears. So I decide I am going to send an email to Google, because you know, at the bottom of their email to me they say, “Do you have more questions? I can help! Just respond!” So I just respond. I respond, altogether, 25 times. Every time, a new Google representative (Bobby! Billy! Bud! Etc!) tells me that they’re sorry and they’re contacting a supervisor.
“Call your bank,” James from Google tells me.
My bank says they have nothing to say to me because they have not received any sort of refund.
Crunch (yes, his name is Crunch) says, “You’ll hear back from me between 24 and 48 hours.” I do not hear back from him at all.
And then eventually, Mike A (Hi Mike A! So great to meet you!) emails me and says,
“I got an update from them stating that the charge dispute was filed by the person who sent you money due to which this whole problem appears.
I request you to contact the sender who is responsible for sending the amount to you.”
Well, Mike A, that is EXTREMELY unhelpful, as the sender “who is responsible for sending the amount to you” IS GOOGLE.
So I go back to Wallet. I go back to the customer support page. I enter my phone number AGAIN. I enter my case number. The site says that someone will give me a ring within 2 minutes of receipt of my request, but no one ever calls. Thirty minutes later, I enter my information again. No one calls. Again.
I am desperate. I write a desperate email to Google:
Almost a full month ago (A MONTH!) I contacted Google Wallet about thousands of dollars that had been stolen from my account from a number of suspicious names. I spoke to a representative for a long time -- money was being taken out of my Chase bank account at that time at a rate of once or twice per day. I started to notice the charges when I went to balance my checkbook; by that time, an enormous amount of money had been stolen.
The representative on the phone, after about half an hour, told me that he would be able to offer a full refund. Here is the beginning of the email that was sent to me (since apparently it has been forgotten in the MONTH that it has taken for this issue to continue to not be resolved):
We’ve investigated the charges dated July 15 to Aug 5, 2016 and confirmed that they are suspicious and weren’t made by you. I’m giving you a full refund. Your receipt is below.
However, a "refund" never came. I noticed on the receipt of my phone call that my payment method was listed as "visa," when really my Chase bank account was linked to my Google Wallet, so I wondered if maybe that was the hold up.
Since then, I have contacted Google over 15 times. Each time, I've been told that "experts" were being contacted. Occasionally I was told I would hear back in 24 to 48 hours, and would not get an email back at all, even 72 hours later. I began trying to get a customer service representative on the phone by entering my case number into the phone support line on the Google Wallet site. (The site ensures that someone will call within two minutes of receiving the request.) I tried this twice. No one ever called me.
My Google wallet remains overdrawn by more than $500. The money that had already been withdrawn from my Chase bank account has not been reimbursed.
The last email I received says, "I request you to contact the sender who is responsible for sending the amount to you." That is pretty much all it says. I can't contact the sender, because the "sender" responsible for sending the amount to me is Google.
I am happy to talk by phone, but I am exhausted. Please remedy this issue.
Trevor (hi Trevor! I’ve never met you before!) emails me back and directs me to a website where I can report my complaint about Google Play and its products. I don’t even know what Google Play is.
So, back to the Wallet website, where I angrily request to speak to a supervisor. This time, Jim calls back. (Hi, Jim! Pleasure to make your acquaintance!) He talks to me for 45 minutes. (Well, he talks to me for 15 minutes, and puts me on hold for 30 minutes — I now know the Google hold songs so well I could sing them at a talent show.) At the end of our session, Jim tells me I need to file a dispute form for Every. Single. Fraudulent. Transaction. There are over 20. Jim doesn’t want to help me with this, though. You know, he’s super busy and everything.
So I sit at my computer for two full hours filing 20 separate dispute forms. There are intervals where I am so angry I am SCREAMING at the computer. Partially this is because, as I am filing an inordinate amount of dispute forms, Google has decided I am a robot, and is forcing me to complete multiple needlessly complex CAPTCHA quizzes. They’re the kind where you have to click on all the pictures with street signs in them. Each one takes about three minutes, and requires ample mental energy.
I file the forms, and the form reader lets me know that I will hear back from Google in between 18 and 32 hours. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” I say to my computer.
A week later, as I am sure you have predicted: crickets.
And so I put in my information and get Google to call me. AGAIN. I talk to Frances this time. (Hi Frances! Nice to know they have some women working at Google!) Frances talks to me for another 30 minutes. (Did I say 30 minutes? I meant five. I was on hold for 25 minutes.) I have to explain it all to her again. She says things that have been written for her in a training manual: “I understand that this is frustrating,” “That sounds hard,” etc.
Then, after all the waiting, Frances tells me, “No fraud has been detected in your account, and so you’ll just have to tell the local authorities.”
I don’t have words. “Sophie, are you there?” Frances says.
“But someone accessed my account from Istanbul. I am clearly not in Istanbul. How can you say there was no fraud?”
“Our fraud department told me that there was no fraud.”
“Can I speak to someone in your fraud department?”
“They have no number you can call.”
“Do they have an email address? An actual address? A Twitter handle? Anything?”
“No. It is best for you to talk to the police. We cannot give you a refund at this time.”
Then I start to cry. I unload all my emotions on Frances. Google has BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. I have, like, ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Does Frances understand how many HOURS I have spent trying to work with Google around this issue? Does she get how many things I’ve been told? How many people I’ve talked to? Poor Frances. It isn’t her fault. But there she is, and I am basically screaming into the void at this point.
I call the Chicago police. They have me file a report. I ask them what the likelihood is that this will get sorted out. Craig (hi Craig!) answers in one word: “Honestly?”
Look. If someone robs you and you don’t have insurance, you don’t expect to get the money back. You swallow the pain of it, and you move on with your life, locking things more securely than you had in the past. Had Google told me the first time, “Please file a police report, there is nothing we can do,” I would have been bummed out, but I would have understood. Instead, they put me through hundreds of hoops and had me spend hours upon hours of my time trying to talk to customer service representatives who are clearly underpaid and un-invested. I honestly never believed that customer service could be so bad anywhere — not even at Trump Industries. But Google is supposed to be good! They have the money to hire people who can help. They should have been able to help.
I can’t use Google for storage anymore because my Google Wallet account is frozen, and it is -$584.90 in debt. That’s on top of the money taken out of my bank account. So I’m putting everything on a damn hard drive and getting my mail forwarded to my Yahoo account. In middle school I thought, “Google is great! What a funny name! I’m going to hop on the GOOGLE BUS RIGHT NOW! Screw AltaVista and AskJeeves!” And I have so far felt very validated in that decision.
But not anymore. I’m over it. Fuck you, Google. Fuck you to hell.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this rant, $350.00 was deducted from my account. DEDUCTED.
SECOND UPDATE, A WEEK LATER: Thanks to the loud, angry voices of the internet, Google's interest in my case was suddenly piqued (someone at The Daily Dot reached out for me, so thanks to my friends who work there), and Rosie (I talked to Rosie four whole times in a row!) fixed my account, alleviated my debt, and gave me 100GB of Google Drive storage for life. So it just goes to show you: If you have the extremely rare privilege of being a person with powerful connections, you too can have your customer service nightmares resolved. I feel guilty and wish that the world was this kind to everyone, and not just those of us who have relatively well-read blogs. But thank you thank you THANK YOU all the same. I can't believe how lucky I am to have such incredible, supportive friends — far and wide.