A Personal Story About the Credit Card that Went Bad

English: First 4 digits of a credit card

English: First 4 digits of a credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember the very first credit card I received in my college days some 46 years ago. It was a Texaco gas card. I remember that my uncle was a land buyer for Texaco, and I naively believed he must have told Texaco about me and my bright future, so they sent me a credit card. I am not quiet as naive today as I use to be in those good old days.

During the same years, Shell Oil Company also sent me a gas card. I used both gas cards for well over 30 years, always careful to pay my bills in full and on time.

This story is not about good credit ratings or admonishing slackers to pay their bills, but this is a personal story about the credit card that went bad.

After my children had grown, finished college, and moved away, my wife and I decided to fly the coupe and move closer to our daughter. After selling our home, we temporarily moved in with our single daughter who quickly and rightly let us know we must be moving on to our permanent destination, anywhere within a radius of 300 miles. So, off my wife and out further flew until we landed in Wyoming, about a five hour trip from our daughter at 70 MPH.

Having now moved twice within a time frame of six months, my wife and I had left a forwarding address and notified all of our creditors of our moves. We still had the Texaco and Shell gas cards, and through the years we had added a Chevron gas card, a Diamond Shamrock gas card, and a Visa card. That is a lot of cards to keep up with and pay on time, but we managed and enjoyed excellent credit until the credit card that went bad.

For over a year we had not lived in an area where Shell gas stations were prominent until we moved to Wyoming. In approximately 2002, I filled up with gas at a Shell convenience store to find out just how bad the Shell card had gone. The clerk told me the card would not work, and I was told to call the credit card company. She said she would have to take the card. I remember telling the young woman there must be some mistake because my bills were all paid up. I remember feeling very embarrassed. That attempt to purchase gas was the first indication that I had a credit card that was going bad.

That evening, I contacted the Shell Oil Company card to correct the obvious mistake, and I find out Shell claimed I had not paid my last bill they sent that was almost a year old. I told the girl over the phone I paid all my bills when I left my home state, and if there was one outstanding, I had not received any knowledge of it. The bill was for around $32 for the original amount, but now Shell was claiming the bill had grown to over $120 with penalties for late charges and interest.

I told her if she could verify that I owed them the original $32 I would be happy to pay the bill. We had no record of ever having charged that amount to their card. She replied that she could not receive money from me now because they had already turned the alleged debt over to collections. After that, I informed her I would not pay the bill unless verified it was indeed my debt, and I sent Shell a return receipt verification letter in which I never received the verification.

After years of dealing with junk debt buyers who bought the alleged debt, a lawyer friend of mine forced the last debt buyer to abandon their claim in 2011 and restore our good credit.

I never could understand why an oil company I had done business honorably with for over 30 years could be so vindictive toward such a minor misunderstanding, but I have never knowingly patronized any Shell owned product since that time.

But thanks, Shell, for making me very pro-consumer active today. I have learned all about consumer protection laws since that encounter, and will take you to task if you try to tread on me again.

I still pay my bills and have good credit, but many of you out there do not. Because I understand how you can get into a financial bind beyond your control, you may need to reach out to an attorney like I had to do.

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