08/25/2014 12:58 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

Anti-Business Practices At Visa

As consumers we take some comfort in knowing that by using a credit card to pay for products and services, should something go wrong, we can always ask the company to reverse the charges. Typically, the credit card company will investigate the dispute and come down on one side or the other. Case closed. But what happens when certain guidelines are written by some well-meaning executive named Mr. Not That Smart? Or Miss Didn't Think It Through? In one case, Visa's approach seems to be "the customer is always right," regardless of the facts.

In light of a recent experience involving a product shipped from my company to a customer who claimed she never received it, I called Visa and spoke with a manager, who explained their policy to me in this way:

When a package is delivered to a customer, the shipper is responsible for obtaining the cardholder's signature as the ultimate and only acceptable proof that the package was delivered. Proof of delivery by the carrier is not enough. Even if a neighbor signed for the package, and even if a delivery agent from US postal Service or Fed Ex were to state that they personally delivered the package, the shipper is still liable if the package is lost or stolen after delivery.

This rule applies even if the shipper clearly states on its website that it is not responsible for packages that are lost or stolen after delivery by the carrier. This rule also applies even if the shipper makes it clear that customers should choose the "signature at delivery" option (for an extra charge) if there is any risk of the package disappearing from their property (the customer declined that option).

According to Visa, the only way for a shipper to protect itself is to require signatures for all packages--even though most customers choose regular US Postal Service, for which no signature option is available.

I can tell you that if any business owner were to require that all customers be home to sign for packages before agreeing to sell to them, they would have no customers! It's a nonsensical policy with no basis in reality. I contacted Visa corporate headquarters to try to get the name of the person responsible for putting this policy in place (stop laughing!), and to give them an opportunity to respond. But I only got as far as their PR department. A representative emailed me back, saying, "We are investigating the specifics of our chargeback rule, and will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for your understanding and patience." That was nine days ago. Zero communication since then.

I'm visualizing a bunch of "decision makers" frantically trying to figure out why they ever came up with this crazy rule. Whatever happened to common sense? Obviously stuff happens and packages occasionally disappear. And in certain cases, some people--to be nice, we'll call them "the disingenuous"--just don't want to pay for merchandise. They like "free" better. As far as Visa is concerned, businesses can get taken to the cleaners all day long as long as their customers are happy. But businesses pay Visa a percentage of their sales. Aren't we customers too?

I guess I must be on a bad roll because my last post was about the anti-business practices at the California Labor Commissioner's office. Maybe the third time will be the charm, and I'll write about how the IRS finally saw the light and reimbursed me for a penalty I've been fighting with them about. Honestly, I know I'm right!