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Problem Solved: Delta Auto Protect giving me refund runaround

Q: I’m looking for some help with a Delta Auto Protect refund. I purchased policies for each of my parents’ vehicles. When one of them had to have service done,
Christopher Elliott 
Delta wouldn’t return the service department’s phone calls.
After a week of no answers and my stepmom’s vehicle sitting idle, not getting repair authorization, I called and canceled both of the policies.
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We signed the cancellation agreements, and here we are two months later, still waiting for our refunds.
I call every single week. A Delta representative says checks were mailed a few weeks ago, but we haven’t received them. Every time we call, Delta tells us something new. Now they’re claiming the financial department approved the refunds to go back to my credit card. Conversations with representatives go in circles, and there seems to be no management level to speak with.
I’d like my parents to receive $3,100 they were promised and rightfully owed as stated in their policy documents. Can you help me?
Jaime Ludwig, North Branch, Michigan
A: You should be able to get a refund for your policies. Delta says that although it’s “certain” you’ll love your Delta Auto Protect extended service agreement, it is “more than happy” to offer a prorated refund less a $25 processing fee. All plans may be canceled within 30 days from signup for a full refund, according to its terms.
Your case raises an age-old question: Why does it take seconds to take the money from your credit card but weeks, months and sometimes even years to return it? I’ve asked businesses and have consulted experts on business processes, and here’s the best explanation I’ve heard: It’s not intentional.
Businesses have a strong incentive to pull the money from your account quickly, so they’ve developed systems that can do so. Whether you’re paying with a credit card, debit card or even a check, a company can access that money quickly, thanks to robust payment systems.
But they don’t have the same motivation to return your money. There’s no reason to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a system that promptly refunds a purchase. In fact, most companies have systems designed to slow the process — accounts payable departments that ensure they don’t accidentally refund something they shouldn’t.
To be fair, there are some businesses that give as good as they take. Try returning anything to Costco, and you’ll know what I mean. A quick scan and the money’s back in your account. What if everyone did that? I’d probably be standing in the unemployment line.
Still, I think everyone can agree that waiting many months for a refund is unacceptable. It’s not clear what caused the delay from Delta. I can only guess that the systems it has in place to ensure its payable accounts are paid worked a little too well. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of key Delta Auto Protect customer service executives on my consumer-advocacy site.
I contacted Delta on your behalf, and you received a prompt $3,100 refund.
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Christopher Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). You can get real-time answers to any consumer question on his forum, elliott.org/forum, or by emailing him at chris@elliott.org.

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