Charge hasn't appeared on my credit card - what to do?
December 25, 2004 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I made a fairly subtanstial online purchase from a very large, well-known online vendor, with a credit card. Although the goods have long since arrived, my card has not been charged nor had a hold placed against it for any amount. A full billing cycle has passed since the purchase, and I'm wondering if they've just misplaced the bill. Should I contact their billing department, or just hope it never gets charged? And, if it doesn't get charged soon, how long should I wait until I can be reasonably sure it never will?
posted by anonymous to Shopping (26 answers total)
Everyone's going to moralize at you and say to pay for it, it's your legal ande thical obligation, but let me be the first.
posted by abcde at 10:13 AM on December 25, 2004

Don't say anything.

It's their fault if they fucked up, so enjoy the free shit!
posted by cmonkey at 10:20 AM on December 25, 2004

i'd go for the "hope it never gets charged" scenario. as to how long you should you wait before you can be reasonably sure the stuff is yours for free, 60 days.
posted by filthy five dolla n00b at 10:27 AM on December 25, 2004

"Hey guys, I have a chance to steal some stuff! Should I?"

posted by LarryC at 10:44 AM on December 25, 2004

Yeah. Pay for it.
And ffdn: That username is like a tattoo you'll regret when you get older. I hope you got a spare.
posted by Doohickie at 10:45 AM on December 25, 2004

thanks! i feel the same way about yours!
posted by filthy five dolla n00b at 10:47 AM on December 25, 2004

It's not stealing, they're giving it away. Enjoy
posted by klue at 10:49 AM on December 25, 2004

Yes, you should call them. "I bought this, and didn't get charged. What do we do next?"

It's called doing the right thing for a reason. You really shouldn't even have to ask.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:13 AM on December 25, 2004

I think at some point the charge will show up, maybe when they do their quarterly accounting stuff. Otherwise, enjoy.
posted by amberglow at 11:14 AM on December 25, 2004

After 60 days go ahead and cancel that credit card number, report the card stolen and then they can never charge you on it. Its not stealing if you didnt do anything wrong. They made the mistake, not you
posted by Megafly at 11:20 AM on December 25, 2004

With regard to what Megafly said, f you owe them the money, you still legally owe them the money, even if your credit card is no longer valid. I'm not going to comment on the moral issues but they can still bill you and then sue you for the money.
posted by grouse at 11:40 AM on December 25, 2004

truly, truly. there be no sins of omission. how can you go wrong when you haven't went?

and why can't you post with your name? that says a lot about how you really feel about this.
posted by filthy five dolla n00b at 11:45 AM on December 25, 2004

They'll find out, and they will charge you. The only question is whether you'll have sufficient funds in your account when the time comes, and how much of a hit your credit rating will take. I recommend calling them and getting it sorted out.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:49 AM on December 25, 2004

Why on earth do you think anonymous's credit rating would be hit?
posted by grouse at 1:33 PM on December 25, 2004

It's their problem, not yours. Let them deal with it; they almost certainly will at some point in the nearish future. The worst reasonable thing that might happen is that some other piece of more attentive software passes it on to a collection agency, at which point you pay. No biggie, and not hard to explain if you're trying to get a mortgage in the next year.

I wouldn't call them to deal with it. Given how inefficient their billing/payments system has proven to be, this might well result in you paying now, and then being charged again at the end of the quarter anyway, and then you'd have to sort out the mess *again* with the same morons who caused the problem.

You owe them payment, and you're obviously willing to pay. You do not owe them your labor to make sure they get paid; that's you working for the company, doing a company worker's job, for free.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:34 PM on December 25, 2004

I mean this in all seriousness, make sure you didn't charge it to any of your other cards before proceeding with anything. On Amazon, for example, they sometimes save your credit card numbers. So if it's a vender like that, see if they have any other cards that you may have used saved under your name.
posted by Arch Stanton at 2:42 PM on December 25, 2004

Uhhh, just leave it be.

But don't be surprised if at some later date the bill materializes. Pay it when they send it. Keep all documentation related to your purchase and their lack of invoicing you. You may need it should their billing system get funky and decide to charge you interest / report you to creditors.

If they don't bill you, don't feel bad. Companies that don't need money don't ask for it.
posted by shepd at 3:31 PM on December 25, 2004

ROU_Xenophobe has it hit on the head.

They will take care of it. It's your obligation to pay when they do. Calling will definitely make it likely you get double-billed and spend a lot more time on this than it's worth.

If a few months go by with no charge, go donate the cost of the purchase to some worthy cause. Corporations are amoral by their very definition, so why not put it towards a humanitarian cause?

Fair warning- This advice may not be legally sound, and I hold a grudge against corporations in general.
posted by Saydur at 4:31 PM on December 25, 2004

Haven't you people ever played Monopoly? Bank error in your favour!
posted by reklaw at 6:30 PM on December 25, 2004

I once had a charge appear on my CC 13 months after the purchase. (I hadn't noticed it hadn't appared in the first place.) I called the company to see what it was and they explained it was an error on their part and they wouldn't hold me to it. I let it go thru.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:50 PM on December 25, 2004

Hmm. Well, I once went back into a store because the cashier under-rung me by half (about $50) because of the way she had to key in the sale items, and they charged me. I wasn't going to go back in, but then I figured that the cashier (who I think was new) would probably get in trouble if the error was caught, and she might have done it a bunch of times before. I did it more to let her know of her mistake rather than to pay back the company.

But, in this case, it was an online purchase at a major online vendor, so it was probably some freak computer glitch. If it happened to them on a fairly regular basis, it would have (hopefully) been resolved by now. If it was a one-time thing, they may never notice.

I can tell you this (I work in accounting): when a credit card is processed, the vendor gets an approval or denial from your credit card company and a hold for that amount is placed on your card. The card is not actually charged until the vendor settles (usually once a day, depending on their procedures). That's why sometimes a charge will be dated the day after the actual transaction on your bill. Anyway, those approvals that the vendor gets at the time of the sale are only good for a short about of time. I think it depends on each credit card processor, but it's probably only a few days to a week, at most. So, if it hasn't been put on your credit card yet, they haven't charged you. If they realize the mistake, they may charge you again, but it's not legal, so technically, you can dispute it, saying that you never made a charge on that date. I'm not saying you should do this, but I can tell you that a lot of people do try to do that (my company settles every 3 days, which is within the time frame for my credit card processor, but people try to get around it all the time.)

If you feel guilty about it (which it seems that you do, what with the asking about it and posting anonymously and all), you should do SOMETHING with the money. If you don't give it back to the company, I think the charity idea is a decent suggestion. Or, if you do want to give it back to the company, send them a check with a letter outlining their error and a copy of your purchase, letting them know because you want them to be aware of their mistake, and you hope it doesn't hapen again because you like thier company, bla bla bla. Send it to their customer service department (rather than their billing department), and you might get a "thank you" gift certificate or coupon or something out of it. Not saying you should expect something in return for being honest, but if it will make you feel better about having to pay, by all means, go for it. That's why Customer Service departments are there.

And, what Arch Stanton said. It's happened to me a couple times.

on preview: You Should See The Other Guy...yeah, legally, they couldn't hold you to it (see above). But good on ya for letting it go through.
posted by AlisonM at 6:56 PM on December 25, 2004


Touche'. I personally like your user name, but do you really want to go forever on MeFi identifying yourself as a n00b?
posted by Doohickie at 7:46 PM on December 25, 2004

Haven't you people ever played Monopoly? Bank error in your favour!

For those interested in similar issues, see also this question on what to do about a double deposit of a paycheck.
posted by WestCoaster at 8:52 PM on December 25, 2004

Doohickie: Heh, on the HeavenGames forums I've been "The_Eternal_Newbie" for years now, and it's still true ;)
posted by abcde at 10:03 PM on December 25, 2004

Well, in that case, ffdn, if you like that "tattoo", more power to ya!
posted by Doohickie at 1:54 PM on December 26, 2004

Once, I had a terrible experience with a beauty website, where they charged me, and then did not send my order, and it took forever to e-mail and call to get their attention. They refunded my money, and told me to order again. But I guess they weren't very organized, because they sent both (identifical) orders, only charging me for the second one. Did I call them to fix that problem? Hell no. Their problem, not mine, especially since they proved to me how unorganized they were.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

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