Mervyns -- no customers and no customer service charge

The Consumerist complained yesterday that the now-defunct department store Mervyns was charging $15 for customer service.

It could be true. Certainly Mervyn's venture-capital ownership, Cerberus Capital Management and Sun Capital Partners, aren't above making money from the frustrated. But in this case, they are mostly innocent.

Mervyns bit the dust in October, after first filing for Chapter 11 in July. In most of its 175 former locations, liquidation sales have already been held and there's nothing but a vacant storefront. If you call the Mervyns headquarters in Hayward, Calif., you'll get a voicemail system that goes in circles. No employees, no customers and no customer service.

GE Money Bank is handling Mervyns' credit card collections. That's where the $15 comes in. Credit card holders are still being dunned and they can pay in the usual way by mailing a check or by signing onto their accounts online and making a payment -- free.

Or they can pick up the phone and call toll-free (1-800-480-5014). That's where it gets tricky. If they choose option 1, it will send them to an automated voice that will take their payment without charge. But if they choose to hold for a customer service rep and ask that live person to handle the matter through a "check by phone," then there is a $15 charge. This sort of system isn't unique to Mervyns, but it is an annoying gimme that anybody but the brain dead ought to be able to avoid paying.
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