As with all Air Miles collectors, I was shocked and worried. They expire after five years? Uh oh. Starting when?
Turns out that it starts after this year. December 31st. Which is a blatant bait-and-switch, but by the time the courts get that figured out another five or six years will go by. That’s when the class action lawsuit gets rolling and finally wins. And then factor in a couple more years for Air Miles to make good (and the company may just decide that filing for bankruptcy is easier than doing that).
This is an obvious indicator that Air Miles is in financial trouble. And I use the term “financial trouble” loosely here, meaning that the company could either be losing money or the millionaire bigwigs aren’t making enough to finance their 10th home. One of those.
Besides taking away your strategy of saving up Air Miles for 10 or 12 years (so you can get something really, really nice), Air Miles is up to some pretty shading stuff. Their website is tough to navigate, but there is also speculation that they are hiding some of their rewards from people who could redeem them. I thought, when I was trying to find something to order (because I felt pressured to, but more on that later), that the rewards offered were pretty shitty. The selection was horrible – far worse than in prior years. But with the speculation above, it all makes sense.
Back in May or June, I went to the website and requested an Expiry Statement. I had (only) just then heard about the points expiring at that time. I’ve been a collector for over 22 years and this news was alarming. Anyway, I waited a couple of days for this report to arrive in my inbox and when it did not, I spent several minutes going through my junk mail. Still nothing. I went back and requested it a second time.
Two months passed, it was a busy summer, but then I was reminded again of Air Miles. So I went back in and requested another Expiry Statement. A month went by and I realized that I again didn’t get one. I requested another one, this time double-checking my account to ensure that the right email address was there and everything was in order. It was. And my email account doesn’t block or filter junk at the server, because I don’t use hotmail or any big email account – I have my own server and domain name. Last week I ordered another Expiry Statement. The next day I tried to contact them. After weeding my way through their “help” (term used loosely) section, inundated with FAQ’s and other useless obstacles, I clicked their live chat and was told I was third in queue. Thirty minutes later I had to get back to the kids, so I had to give up waiting.
The next day I tried again, with a similar result. Except this time I also called their phone number. I waited 20 minutes this time, with no result. On November 30th I requested yet another Expiry Statement and it hasn’t come as I write this the next day.
A month ago I redeemed 5000+ Air Miles for a snow blower. It was the best of a bad selection of rewards. But I would have rather just left my Air Miles in there. I’d like to stockpile a big amount and get something (or some things) nice at my own leisure. But I felt tremendous pressure to redeem. Maybe I would lose 3000 Air Miles on January 1st? Or maybe I wouldn’t lose any at all – I had been three years since I last got something (Espresso Machine) so maybe that burned off the older Air Miles. But the point is – I didn’t know. And had no way of knowing. Trying to get an Expiry Statement is apparently as difficult as stealing documents from the CIA.
This morning I got a notice from Air Miles informing me that the snow blower has shipped. I replied to that notice and explained my difficulty in getting a hold of someone and getting an Expiry Statement. I was so happy to finally have an email address for someone I could actually talk to over there! But no, I got an automated email back that provided me with a link to their fantastic Help section!
This whole thing is a disgusting moneygrab that is probably illegal – but by the time we (and the courts) get it all figured out, most of us will have moved on. Which I think was the point. I spoke to my Dad about this the other day and he said that he tried to get a statement about expiring points as well. Didn’t get one, so he’s pretty much shrugged his shoulders. He’s done with Air Miles and doesn’t care that he loses them all for nothing. Air Miles is relying on this very attitude. If two million users just shrug and give up their Air Miles, and move onto other loyalty programs, then Air Miles makes millions of dollars in the short term. All those miles unredeemed!
When I began this post I had the Chat window open and I was “number 4 in line”. Here I am 40 minutes later…and I’m “number 4 in line”. There’s probably no line at all, and that’s just an automated statement. Is anyone even working in customer service?
Update: 70 minutes waiting now. I’m still “number 4 in line”.
Transcript of my Online Chat. The wait time turned out to be 100 minutes:
|Welcome. You are number 4 in line. A specialist will be with you shortly.|
|Christina has joined the chat session.|
|Christina: Hi Darryl! My name is Christina, how can I help you today?|
|DARRYLD: I have requested an Expiry Statement on 8 different occasions dating back to May. I have not received one as of yet.|
|DARRYLD: I have checked and re-checked the email address in my account.|
|Christina: I am so sorry it hasn’t yet arrived. I am just going to pull up your Account to see if I can figure out what is happening.|
|DARRYLD: Anyway, the pressure I felt from having air miles expire, and having no way of knowing how many will be taken from me, caused me to rush a redemption request.|
|Christina: Have you checked your junk mail folder to see if it is there?|
|DARRYLD: All eight times, yes. But the email is under my own domain email@example.com – my own server, and nothing gets filtered.|
|Christina: Do you have another email address I can try sending it to?|
|DARRYLD: I’ve tried the live chat and phone before, but gave up waiting. Today I waited 100 minutes and finally got someone. I feel like Air Miles is trying to keep the information from me 😉|
|DARRYLD: dobber@***.com is another email address|
|Christina: No I promise you we are not trying to keep it from you. You should be getting it right away.|
|Christina: I am going to send it there and see if you get it.|
|Christina: I have just sent it to your other email address.|
|Christina: Can you check to see if it has arrived?|
|DARRYLD: nothing yet|
|Christina: Can you just see if it has gone to a junk folder there? I have sent it to both.|
|DARRYLD: I’m in the junk folder|
|DARRYLD: The inbox will tell me if something new arrives, so I’m staring at the junk folder.|
|Christina: What about an email on a major domain like a gmail or a hotmail?|
|DARRYLD: No. And those domains block emails at their own discretion – I know this because my website sends out a newsletter to subscribers that sometimes gets blocked. Not junk mailed – completely disallowed. I know that my server doesn’t do that. I get all the other Air Miles emails – newsletters, notifications, etc.|
|Christina: I just know because those ones have been successful previously for myself.|
|DARRYLD: got it now|
|DARRYLD: to my dobber@*** address|
|Christina: Perfect! You really had me stumped 🙂|
|Christina: I am glad it was received. Did you have any other questions for me today?|
|DARRYLD: Any thoughts on why the wait was 100 minutes? Seems extreme, even in a busy season|
|Christina: We never usually have had waits in chat this long. It is due to the expiry approaching. We have more Specialists being added and do hope that will help reduce some of the long wait times.|
|Christina: I am so sorry for the inconvenience and will be posting 25 MILES to your Account. I really do appreciate your patience Darryl.|
|DARRYLD: Thank you|
|Christina: You are very welcome.|
|Christina: Thank you so much for chatting with me today.|
|Christina: Take care and enjoy the rest of your day today!|
I feel like I went easy on her, and I did. But she can’t be blamed for what her manager’s manager’s manager decided to do.
As for expiration – I have zero Air Miles expiring between now and next September. I wonder what it would be had I not redeemed for that snow blower?
Update: All for nothing! Take a look at this. Air Miles has decided to cancel the expiration policy altogether. They smartened up, but was it too late?
And now I have to decide if I actually do want that snow blower (hey, it was bought under duress!)