Check your credit-card bill carefully for "stereo" charges

Consumer Reports News: February 24, 2010 10:07 AM

Maybe I look like a sucker or like I have some disposable income that needs to be quickly disposed. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong or I committed some act to anger the God of Electronic Payments. Whatever the reason, in the last months two different merchants charged my credit card twice for the same purchase.

In August, Radio Shack twice charged my MasterCard for $42.95 in connection with my purchase of stereo headphones. After months of fighting to straighten out those “stereo” charges, an A&P supermarket twice billed my card for a $9.17 grocery trip. Disposable income or not, no way am I paying $18.34 for three cans of frozen grape juice cocktail, two packages of sliced bread, and a 3-liter bottle of ginger ale.

In the Radio Shack case, I remember the salesperson asking for my card a second time, saying his initial attempt to process the transaction didn’t go through. I guess that should have set off an alarm in my head. But I didn’t give it a second thought, as I handed back my card and actually signed the electronic signature pad again. That’s the last time I’ll do that without asking a lot of questions.

I don’t remember anything unusual happening during my purchase at A&P. The employee who researched the problem was at a loss to explain why the double-billing occurred, saying that it was only the second time she had ever seen that happen.

Well, it’s now happened to me twice in a short time. And it illustrates why we all need to check those credit card statements carefully when they arrive and report any problems immediately. (And we'll have more incentive now that credit-card companies must disclose how long it will take to pay back our bills with just the minimum payment.) 

In all the decades I’ve been checking, it’s odd how retailers have never made a mistake in my favor.—Anthony Giorgianni

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