Today is April Fool’s Day, but what I am about to share with you has nothing do to with getting fooled — it is all too real and too corporate to rake any fun.  When American Express recently announced their Serve payment service for exchanging money, I was happy to sign up, just as I had done with Square last November.  I gave AMEX my banking information, a credit card and other personal identifying information.  After confirming two deposits in my bank account, I decided to take the next test step and transfer $10 from my bank account to my Serve account.  Oh, the woe that is me!

A day after I initiated that bank transfer into my American Express Serve account, I received an odd email from AMEX telling me the transfer failed:

Here’s the text of that email:

Hello David Boles,

The money transfer you initiated on 3/31/2011 from your [redacted] Bank account to your Serve account in the amount of $10.00 was unsuccessful. The transaction details are listed below. We recommend that you print this receipt for your records.

Transaction Details
From Account: [redacted] Bank
Amount: $10.00
Date Initiated: 3/31/2011

That email didn’t tell me much and it made no sense.  I’d already confirmed my account.  The Serve test deposits worked.

I logged into my bank account and saw that $10 had, indeed, been removed from my account:

I then tried to visit the Serve website and, for some reason, the Google Chrome web browser HATES  Over the last few days, 100% of the time I try to visit the Serve website, Google Chrome blocks me just like this:

I was finally able to log into my Serve account by finding an old login URL and pasting that web address into the Google Chrome Omnibar.

Once inside Serve, I saw that I had $10 pending in my account, but it wasn’t available yet.  There were no messages from AMEX to me, so I wrote to customer service to get an explanation on the mishandled transaction.

I waited 24 hours for American Express to reply to my inquiry, and when they did not, I picked up the telephone this morning and spoke to a woman named “Sheree” — who sounded nice, but who provided me duplicitous and dishonest customer support — and here’s a redacted version of our conversation:

ME:  I’m calling about an email I received from Serve telling me my $10 transfer did not go through.

SERVE: Let me put you on hold and check.

[five minute wait…]

SERVE: (Continuing) There’s a two to three day waiting period for bank transfers.  Your money is showing as pending and it will be available in three days or so.

ME: I’m not calling about the hold delay.  I’m calling about the email I received from Serve telling me the transfer failed. [reading the email to her over the phone]  I checked with my bank and the money is gone.  How do I get that money back if the transfer failed?

SERVE: [uncomfortable pause] We had a computer glitch that falsely told our customers that their bank transfers didn’t go through.  Your money should be available in two or three days.

ME:  Why didn’t American Express send a follow-up email notification?  Why leave us hanging with that Fail email?

SERVE:  I didn’t find out about it until yesterday afternoon.

ME:  So, what happened between yesterday afternoon and this morning?  How long does it take American Express to send out an email correction about an error they made?

SERVE:  I’m sorry sir, I don’t know.

ME:  I’m disappointed.  Is this is how American Express treats their customers?  I thought you guys were in the money business?  Now I have less faith in you than I do in PayPal or Square.

American Express totally dropped the ball and they were unapologetic in the direct light of their own confession that the problem was on their end.  AMEX is supposed to be a premier company with a strong foundation in customer service.  Serve is an EPIC FAIL and I have no easy way to get my $10 back, because if I cancel my account now, that money will disappear into the ether — and if I try to buy something in the future with that $10 — I have no faith that Serve won’t mess that up, too.

You’ve been warned.  Beware of American Express and Serve.


    1. Yup! Serve is AMEX’s foray — folly, really — into the personal payment systems like PayPal and Square and Google Checkout and the new Visa card thing. I have zero confidence in Serve now and I thought they were positioned to immediately become the kingmaker.

      I can send and receive up to $10,000 on my PayPal account. The Serve limit is something like $2,500 — so Serve is purely a personal amusement and not a method for any sort of serious business transactions.

  1. For what it’s worth, Serve is actually the rebranded Revolution Money, which Amex bought over last year. In all likelihood, they’re still a separate unit from the “main” Amex businesses–so it’s not surprising that the usual high quality Amex customer service didn’t carry over to this new service.

    1. What’s confusing for customers is that the AMEX brand is all over the Serve site. That leads one to believe, falsely, I guess — that Serve has the same standards of service, reliability and safety as other AMEX branded products.

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