Forcing a refund via MasterCard rather then shop.
August 14, 2011 2:22 AM   Subscribe

I bought a pair of glasses and the lenses have been very poorly fitted, if the opticians give me hassle, is it possible to get MasterCard to force them to refund me?

I just bought a fantastic pair of prescription half-rimmed glasses, but over the course of the evening the 'fishing-line' banding keeps slipping and the lenses then come loose. Upon further inspection, it looks like either the lenses were cut badly, because there isn't a ridge at the edges for the fishing line to catch, or they are just the wrong lens for the frame.

After a quick search about this particular optician, it seems they have some bad reviews for customer service. So I expect some friction when I go back tomorrow to ask for a fix or refund. Unfortunately because I'm actually on holiday, if they can't fix it by end of day Monday, it'll have to be a refund.

My current plan is to take some careful photos of the glasses showing the problems, contacting MasterCard to see if they'll reverse the charges if the opticians refuse a fix/refund. Then visiting the opticians and show them the problem, and if they do refuse to help, leave the glasses with them (even if that means leaving them on a counter and walking out) and beginning the chargeback procedure.

I think that's fair, but I've never disputed or asked for a reversal before, so do you think that is something that my bank/MasterCard will go along with, or am I looking at a big headache?

Also, can anyone suggest a great opticians in manhattan NYC?
posted by Static Vagabond to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've done this a few times - once with a hotel that double-charged, and was going out of business so there was no one to even pick up the phone to try to straighten it out, and another time with a doctor's office that had me pay up front, and then double billed through my insurance.

The phrase you're looking for is "chargeback". It would be through whichever bank issued you the MasterCard. Not MasterCard (unless you got the card directly through them).

Chargeback procedure usually works like this:

1. You call the 800 number on the back, and when you tell the person you're interested in a chargeback, they'll point you to some form you have to fill out.

2. The very first question on the forms is "what have you done to resolve the dispute with the merchant?" So be sure when you go in to try to get a fix or refund, you get phone numbers for a corporate office you can follow up with to try for the refund if it's not resolved by the end of your holiday, etc. By the time you're filling out the forms, you'll want to look like a totally reasonable person who's been *blatantly* ripped off by a company that shouldn't be in business.

Based on your post, it sounds like you're visiting from abroad? My advice above is for US-based card issuers, so if your card wasn't issued in the US, it may not be relevant at all.
posted by colin_l at 2:53 AM on August 14, 2011

Best answer: If you google Mastercard Chargeback USA you'll get a link to a .pdf of the Mastercard chargeback rules (it's 83MB). At 3.5 is a section about Cardholder Disputed Chargebacks and one of the reasons for return is defective goods. But in order to get Mastercard to do this you have to show:

The cardholder contacted or attempted to contact the card acceptor to resolve the dispute. The cardholder must specify how he attempted to contact the merchant and the result of that contact. For example, "I called the hotel twice and was told the manager would call me back and he never did," or "I called to find out what the additional charge was for and the clerk did not speak English." A form or letter claiming that the cardholder attempted to contact the merchant without explaining the merchant’s response is not sufficient to validate the chargeback and in arbitration will be considered invalid.

What then happens is that, if Mastercard accepts the chargeback, it'll take the money back from the merchant and return it to you. The merchant can then dispute the chargeback and Mastercard may ask you for more information. It may help your dispute if you can find a friendly optician to write you a brief report explaining what the defect is in the glasses.

If the merchant's challenge to the chargeback is successful, the money will be debited from your account again. So that's why it's really important (a) to document everything carefully and (b) follow the chargeback rules. There is a time limit - 120 or 180 days from the date of the transaction, I can't remember from memory exactly - within which you have to initiate the chargeback process.

I'd suggest you initially write a registered letter to the merchant, follow it up with email (referring to the registered letter) or phone call, keeping a note of the dates and times, and a copy of your phone bill showing how many times you called the number. Mastercard will screw you on a technicality if it can, so it's important to comply with the process.

Assuming this was a credit, not a debit card, you have chargeback rights in the State of New York. These are different from the Mastercard rules and may offer you additional protection.
posted by essexjan at 3:00 AM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had a bad experience with some new glasses last year that turned out to be a great experience, so I'm sharing it in case it helps you.

My glasses were from LensCrafters, and after they tried five times to get my prescription correct (their mistakes included making the wrong prescription, scratching the lenses, chipping the lenses, and altogether getting things wrong), I went to their website and told them my story.

The regional manager called the next day, sent a manager from another store a 170 mile round-trip to my town, gave me my choice of any frames in the store, and refunded all my money.

From this I learned, among other things, that LensCrafters, Pearle, Sears, and Sunglasses Hut are all owned by Luxotica, so if you got your glasses from any of them, go to corporate and they should take care of you.

Sorry this does not address the chargeback issue, but I thought this might be helpful, just in case.
posted by 4ster at 5:23 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I disputed a big job with a professional print shop, I included examples of the deficiency and also a letter from another printing house professional evaluating the work and explaining exactly why it went wrong.

Be nice upon first approach to the optometrist. Keep your glasses whether they get fixed right or not!!!

If the glasses can't or won't be fixed, you will still need the glasses to be evaluated by another professional in person so they can write that chargeback letter.

Charge backs are easy (but time consuming) as long as you truly have been wronged in a transaction.
posted by jbenben at 5:32 AM on August 14, 2011

Would you consider having the same guy try to fix them for you free of charge instead?

If you don't trust the guy's work by now, that's understandable. It just strikes me that this may be a bit more of an agreeable request to make of him, if you explain exactly what's wrong and give him a chance to fix that. It just feels more like "I have a problem, but I want to work with you to get that fixed" and asking immeditately for a refund feels more like "I have a problem and you're going to pay for it."

Granted, you may not trust the guy to do that, and he also may say you have to pay for the labor or something; then escalate it to asking your credit card for a chargeback.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on August 14, 2011

You're jumping to conclusions.

The first thing you need to do is ask them to fix the problem. Mastercard isn't going to allow for a chargeback if you don't give the optometrist an opportunity to fix the problem. So you go back and inform them that the lens keeps popping out of the string groove. Don't accuse them of cutting the lenses wrong. It's possible that they didn't cut or assemble the lenses at all, but rather outsourced the work. (I worked as one of those outsourcers once, it's common.)

Give them a chance to fix it. If they say they can but it will take some time, you're going to have to choose between letting them fix your glasses and mailing them back to you, or declining their fix and being out the money, because Mastercard will not give you the chargeback if the optician's office offers to fix the problem and you decline.

I've been on the merchant end of those disputes before, specifically in optical, and contrary to popular belief, they're really set up in favor of the merchant. All we have to say is, "We offered to fix them at no cost, but the customer declined. We tried to give him what he paid for." Sometimes that's enough, sometimes the customer pushed the issue, and that's when we'd fax over the sign-in sheet. Once for a really expensive order involving custom frames and specially tinted unusual lenses we had to actually send over the security camera footage of the customer interacting with our optometrist in front-of-house. The customer got bupkus.

Moral of the story: If you go back to the optometrist and ask them to fix your glasses, and they refuse, you can confidently request a chargeback. Just write down everything. If you can, even get the receptionist to sign something saying they declined to fix the problem. But if they offer to fix them, you're out of luck, whether you take them up on it or not.
posted by juniperesque at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You need to tell (not ask) the doctor to fix the glasses as they were sold to you in a non-working state that you have recently discovered. Be nice. If they give you any gruff or tell you that you will need to pay for the fix, you should calmly tell them that you "did not get the glasses you paid for." You will not pay any more, and you will call your credit card company to issue a "chargeback.' Hearing this word will be the key, and they will either immediately fix the problem for free because you know your rights as a cardholder, or will tell you you need to pay for the work in which case you should walk out the door.

Chargebacks hurt merchants. If they're a merchant who knows anything they will want to fix the issue rather than fight with the credit card company over who is right. A merchant with enough chargebacks gets higher fees for their credit card machines, even more chargebacks and they can't take cards anymore.

If you do walk out the door, you need to call the number on the back of your card and tell them you want to issue a "chargeback." The process isn't that hard. The charge will immediately be taken off your account while they look into it. Sixty or so days later, you'll get a letter in the mail saying one of two things: We finalized the chargeback, keep the glasses, you don't have to pay for them -or- we found in favor of the doctor, sorry you have to pay for them, no hard feelings, no fees, nothing to worry about, but you didn't get your money back.
posted by pwb503 at 9:57 AM on August 14, 2011

You seem to have all the chargeback questions covered. If you want the lenses remade, they may want you to try a different index - some higher index lenses can be so thin that there's no space for the filament groove.

On the good optician front: check out online glasses retailers. I have had success with 39 dollar glasses, Goggles4u, Optical 4 Less, and EyeBuyDirect (I'm wearing my EyeBuyDirect pair right now - just $29 delivered and I love 'em). Check out prevoous questions on Ask, or the GlassyEyes blog for retailer info and coupons.

If you do go local, try a smaller optician. Be aware that Luxxotica pretty much has a monopoly on brick-and-mortar chain stores in the USA so there may not actually be much of a difference in the frames and prices on offer.
posted by subbes at 6:49 PM on August 15, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all, it all ended up well-- they were closed on Sunday, but I turned up early on Monday to explain the problem and let them know my strict time restraints, and they agreed to rush a fix for me.

When I appeared to pick them up, the store manager was there and was very apologetic-- it looks like they gave me new lenses, which fit perfectly now, so I think it may have been slightly the incorrect shape before, the filament groove is definitely different.

Thanks for all your help, it really put my mind at ease knowing the various avenues open to me.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:16 AM on August 19, 2011

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