HSBC Refunds $35 Fee, Not To Correct Their Mistake, But Because You Have A Deadly Brain Tumor

Brian, who is suffering from an inoperable malignant brain tumor which may kill him in a matter of months, writes he’s having with troubles with his Orchard Bank (aka HSBC Bank Card Services) credit card:

I made an electronic payment online with my one of my bank’s check card. Turns out this was the wrong one, and I immediately canceled the payment (as there’s a very easy to find and large button allowing you to do this immediately as well), and resubmitted it through the correct bank. So, to sum up, the payment was made, about two weeks before it was due. I figured all was cool and I was being a good customer for paying more than the minimum balance, way ahead of the due date, online, so there wouldn’t be any “problems” with a check or the postal service. Then I look on my statement and I’ve been charged a $35 Returned Payment Fee.

WTF?! was the first thought that went through my mind. Since I was close to my limit, they didn’t even count my payment and assessed this fee, putting me over my (meager) limit. I sent an email to Customer Service explaining everything and had planned to call, but the cancer medication I take had other plans and I spent all day in bed in the worst pain imaginable. (Sorry to whine or to fish for support here…)

Their first email back read:

We are writing to you in response to your inquiry regarding your Account ending in **** issued by HSBC Bank Nevada N.A. Unfortunately, we are unable to comply with your request to remove the returned check fee from your account. According to your Cardmember Agreement and Disclosure Statement, you agree to pay a fee each time a check is returned unsatisfied by your financial institution for any reason.

Unfortunately I paid this neither with a check and it wasn’t returned by MY bank – I voluntarily canceled the transaction and used a VISA Check Card. Says nothing about a $35 fee in the Cardholder Agreement about that.

That was Monday morning, when I placed my WONDERFUL call to Customer Service who blamed everything on me. I sent a second email back, a little bit of a tear jerker, and I got something that might have gotten a little lost in translation….

“We are sorry to hear about your difficult situation. As a courtesy, the return payment fee in the amount of $35.00 has been credited to your account. The fee reversal will appear on one of your next two billing statements.”

In full disclosure, my “difficult situation” is that I’m dying from the presence of a malignant brain tumor, which is inoperable, and while I might be lucky enough to see the next two billing statements, I probably won’t see my 26th birthday in December. Yeah, I guess that’s the outsourcing way of handling a difficult situation. They even spelled my name wrong. Talk about adding insult to injury. But I may get lucky and endless rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, with gamma knife treatment will get rid of it (don’t flame me here, I’m not a neurosurgeon, and I’ve kind of stopped listening for a while now, so I don’t know the exact methods).

Anyway, I plan to give one more call to HSBC Customer Service, then I’m going to sleep for the night. I’ve dealt with Sprint, Chase and Apple (with bodily in injury as you can recall) and come out on top. If I can muster the strength to get this with HSBC (and my ongoing clusterfuck with BofA), I’m taking a well-deserved vacation…or something. Please feel free to post this struggle I’ve had with HSBC – no wonder you released a study ranking them the lowest, um, ranked credit card company. All of this, on top of my supposed “girlfriend” dumping me for another girl today has made it one of those days where I’m ready to give up. But I see everyone else getting screwed over and I’m going to try to gather the energy to fight two more battles. New Orleanians, especially those who work tirelessly for non-profits are fighters, and don’t like seeing the little man screwed. Today, that’s me.

Much, much NOLA love,

Wow, first off, we are really sorry about your medical condition. That is tragic tragic but we hope that maybe your some treatment combined with your fierce pluck will beat it back. We’re equally amazed that your plight was able to crack through HSBC’s steely shell and guilt them into refunding the fee they should have never assessed in the first place. We have to wonder that without you having brain cancer if you would have ever been able to get your money back. When a bank says “we’re doing it as a courtesy,” that means they’re doing it to keep you as a customer, and not because they’re admitting any error.

And in a related story, Lyods TSB of London was found to have a secret manual instructing customer service reps on the art of denying refunds for overcharges unless the customers were “very ill” – or dying.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. KenSPT says:

    Wow, I’m really sorry to hear about that Brian, that sucks and you’re probably braver than I’d ever be.

    That being said, if I had months to live, I’m fairly confident paying my HSBC credit card bill, or any of my bills, would be my last priority.

    You, my friend, are a better man than I.

  2. ecwis says:

    I don’t see what HSBC did wrong in the end. They refunded your fee. You shouldn’t expect sufficient apologies from CSRs. She apologized for the “difficult situation” though which could mean the erroneous charge…

    Go NOLA

  3. rhombopteryx says:


    If you’re living so that the last check you ever write bounces, how much more sweet poetic justice would it be for that check to go to some @#$%$%%$ financial company to pay their stupid overdraft or ‘out of network’ ATM fees?

  4. mgy says:

    The comments here stir up memories of one of my favorite “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy-

    “I hope that after I die, people will say of me: ‘That guy sure owed me a lot of money.'”

  5. B says:

    Dammit, Consumerist, how am I supposed to blame the victim when the victim has an inoperable brain tumor? This article is totally unfair.

  6. 6809er says:

    Brian, I can only imagine what you’re going through. My brain tumor was only the size of a golf ball, and was able to be treated with medication. Still, given the horrendous headaches and partial blindness it caused me before treatment, I know the very last thing on my mind would have been fighting with a bank or credit card company. You are a braver man than I am.

  7. @KenSPT: Word.

  8. tomok97 says:

    Maybe I’m a dick, but if I had two months to live I sure wouldn’t be paying any of my credit card bills.

  9. Kat@Work says:

    Brian – I don’t mean to sound rude here, but WTF are you doing spending your last days ‘effing around with all these companies?!

    Go and enjoy the rest of your life! Go travel or do whatever it is you have ever wanted to do! Life experiences are worth more than $35…

  10. bohemian says:

    I really hate how companies use this “as a courtesy” BS to get out of taking any responsibility or ever admitting they were wrong.

    I have gotten two “courtesy refunds” in the last week. One from our mail order pharmacy that sent me 1/3 of the meds they charged us for but still wanted me to pay for the whole thing. Then the cable company that wanted me to pay $10 to shut off HBO.

  11. evilinkblot says:

    Much NOLA love Brian

  12. RobinB says:

    Sorry to hear this, Brian! I agree with the others–go out and do something you’ve always wanted to!

  13. mgy says:

    @bohemian: You bring up a really good point. They act like they’re doing us a favor. Like they’re going really far out of their way to do their jobs. I hate that condescending attitude. Everytime they do anything for you, it’s always “We’ll do it this time, just because we’re the best company on the planet…BUUUUUUT…” and then enter in something about how its all my fault and how I should kiss their feet for going SO FAR OUT OF THEIR WAY to hit a key on the keyboard.

  14. ManPurse says:

    I might be wrong about this but I thought when a person dies, their spouse is still responsible for remaining debts. So perhaps our good man Brian is just tying up loose ends for the benefit of his surviving family?

  15. Buran says:

    NOLA = ?

  16. B says:

    @ManPurse: You are correct, when a person dies, their heirs are responsible for their debts.

  17. Hanke says:

    This will sound VERY bad and uncaring, but forgive me.

    Assuming you’re terminal, I suggest the following:
    Make sure you have no joint accounts.
    Spend every dime you have.
    Max out the cards.
    Leave no tangible assests.

    When the inevitable happens, you have scored your revenge on them. They cannot collect from your survivors if you leave no estate.

  18. MaliBoo Radley says:


    New Orleans, Louisiana

  19. LikeYourFace says:

    @mgy: Lolz.
    @ManPurse: No.
    1. It’s his estate, not heirs, that pay the bills: []
    2. His gf just broke up with him. Indicating that he’s probably not married. RTF article.

  20. smirky says:

    @B: IANAL but the estate is responsible for the debt. If the estate is valued less than the estate, the heirs do not have the financial responsibility to cover any remaining debt. If married, the spouse is still responsible for any joint debt and any individual debt would have to be settled from the deceased ‘portion’ of any joint assets.

    I could be wrong though.

    @Buran: New Orleans, Louisiana

  21. Kat@Work says:

    @ManPurse: He said his “girlfriend” just dumped him.

  22. deVious says:

    @B: The estate is responsible and the heirs only possibly for as much as they inherit from the estate. Thus if your son is your heir at law, and you have $5,000 in debt, but you die with no assets, your creditors can’t go after your son for the money.

  23. smirky says:

    Damn computer lag!!!

  24. Wormfather says:

    Good luck man, sorry the banks are trying to screw you at a time like this but let it go, relax and go enjoy life.

    “No day but today.”

  25. modenastradale says:

    @B: No, that’s not quite right. Creditors can make a claim against the *estate*, and in that process they get priority over regular beneficiaries. But if there’s no estate to divide up, or if the assets are locked away in a sufficiently clever trust structure, the creditors are screwed. A bank can’t demand payment from someone with whom it has never contracted.

  26. Translation: sign up for every credit card you can and max them all out.

  27. mgy says:

    @Hanke: Well, he better hope he doesn’t survive if he goes that route.

  28. LikeYourFace says:

    @Canadian Impostor: That’s my plan. Goin’ to Vegas, baby. High roller!

  29. Starsmore says:

    “All of this, on top of my supposed “girlfriend” dumping me for another girl today”

    Dude, guilt trip her to let you watch. And take pictures. What’s she gonna do, kill ya? ;)

  30. emjsea says:

    Can I watch you and your boyfriend go at it. Dude?

  31. gina227 says:

    Orchard Bank is totally random about reversing fees. It really just depends on who happens to get your e-mail or call and how many times you’re willing to bug them to get it fixed. I’ve asked for a fee reversal in an e-mail, been turned down with your standard form response, and then called and spoke to someone who immediately refunded me. They pretty much ALWAYS refuse the first time you ask, especially by e-mail. If you keep on annoying them, you can usually get someone to help you, unless you’re a habitual offender.

  32. chilled says:

    If I ever went terminal,like Brian,I think I would try crack just so I’d know what all these people have thrown their life away for!!My luck the doc would come back and say he mixed up my charts with someone else..then I’d be hooked on crack!!

  33. BStu says:

    Why am I not surprised that even here, the “blame the consumer” crowd are out to shame a dying man for not dying in the proper manner?

  34. dweebster says:

    I guess what this proves is that you gotta have half a brain to bank with HSBC??

  35. Kat@Work says:

    @BStu: No one is trying to shame anyone – we’re just saying F the banks and go live!

  36. Frank Grimes says:

    @Kat@Work: When my mom was dying of cancer 2 years ago she had two major worries, what would happen to my dad and how would he ever figure out all the bills. It’s easy to say WTF but there are many things in Brian’s life that he can’t control anymore but this is one of them. Maybe Brian wants to fight this knowing that his family may have a huge stinking pile of poo waiting for them when they handle his estate if he doesn’t.

    I know my mom just wanted to live as normally as possible and if this meant getting on the phone and dealing with another bureaucrat she would, and did even when she was very ill.

    Good luck Brian and we are all pulling for you.

  37. jmuskratt says:

    Nola love back acha and ya momenem.

    And as for summoning the energy . . . the best lesson I’ve learned (or rather, am still learning) from Katrina, is to just let shit go. Yeah, I could sue multiple evil contractors and former landlords for fucking me and my wife over, but why? It’s just money. Saying “fuck it,” and forgetting about those piece-of-shit fuckwads isn’t worth a few grand?

    Best of luck man. Go ride the streetcar. It’s a nice day.

  38. Nighthawke says:

    EECB those meatheads and let them have it. In closing it, tell’em you believe in reincarnation, and hope to come back as a seagull so you can shit all over his expensive sports car.

    They do need to get a heart.

  39. humphrmi says:

    Heirs aren’t responsible for the debts of their dearly departed. When you pass, (and Brian, I sincerely hope you find the strength and have the luck to pull through this), your estate becomes an entity. That entity has a value, the sum of all your assets and debts. If you have an executor, it’s that person’s job to liquidate your estate. If you have a will, the estate is split up amongst the heirs according to your wishes. If you have neither, your estate is liquidated by the court. Once the court liquidates your assets, if you owe more than you own, your creditors eat it. Death is the ultimate bankruptcy.

  40. BStu says:

    @Kat@Work: My point exactly.

    And yet you want to spend your own limited time on this Earth telling some guy how he should die. F the consumers and go live “Blame the Consumer” crowd! Take your own advise, please.

    Brian, do whatever you please, and I hope you find a way to pull through.

  41. ManPurse says:

    @LikeYourFace: Oops my mistake. I should have finished the article. But I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. Why do you have to be one – “RTF article”

    I know the internet is anonymous and allows us to jump on anyone who makes a error, but I am still a human being and I doubt you’d say that to my face.

  42. paperson says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for sharing your HSBC horror story.

    As I’ve been stating on each and every horrible HSBC story, please help the rest of us by giving any specific names, telephone numbers, email addresses, to help the rest of us with horrible HSBC stories to actually take some action for any sort of carpetbombing.

    And I say all this now being happily dealing with HSBC no more. I ate the $100 fraudulent charge for some peace and quiet, because all the people I talked with at HSBC for over six months were not helpful one bit.

  43. Kat@Work says:

    @BStu: I’m sorry – I thought the point of ‘comments’ was to share your point of view… why are YOU spending your time telling me what to do if you think I shouldn’t be doing that to Brian?! You’re spending some of your own precious, limited time here too… way to pick a fight when we’re on the same side buddy.

  44. ManPurse says:

    @Kat@Work: Thanks. I’m a dork. I missed that.

  45. Kat@Work says:

    @ManPurse: NP. See? People CAN be civil! :) BTW – love your pancake bunny. :D

  46. CumaeanSibyl says:

    To sum up what everyone else has been saying, SPEND ALL THEIR MONEY ON HOOKERS AND BLOW.

  47. AD8BC says:

    May God bless you Brian.

    My family and I will keep you in our prayers.

    I do hope that modern medicine can be made to help you live, and live a productive and happy life, my friend.

  48. am84 says:

    God Bless, Brian!

  49. BStu says:

    @Kat@Work: Wow. Way to be obtuse.

    All I was doing was applying the standards you held Brian to, to yourself. You’re the one who made the “go out and live” argument while making your own complaint. I find it illuminating that when its directed at you, you find this outrageous. Not try to remember that I was only echoing you and that its your own standards of living that you find so outrageous. ‘kay?

  50. f3rg says:

    Sorry, but if I was dying in the next couple months (who knows, I guess anything is possible, but anyway…) the last thing I’d be worried about is a $35 fee. In fact, I wouldn’t pay any of my bills, and if I somehow survived, I’d blame it all on the medication.

  51. Nakko says:


  52. WNW says:

    I used to work at a fee-based technical support call center. It sucked. People do not like it when you ask for their credit card numbers and I didn’t like doing it. To help balance it out (in my mind at least, karma maybe?) I gave anyone who mentioned they had cancer free support. If they mentioned cancer I told them it was my personal policy not to charge for support. I would then fudge the record keeping info that the supervisors looked at and made sure the call went over 30 minutes so QA wouldn’t listen to it. I really hate cancer.

  53. HOP says:

    i hope it all comes out alright for you brian….

  54. Oracle989 says:

    @dweebster: poor taste man, poor taste…

  55. dualityshift says:

    People, and I use that term quite loosely…

    Hats off to Brian. He’s got months, perhaps weeks to live, yet he’s living as much of a normal life as you or I. It’s an honourable choice, to say the least. Let’s let him have that, shall we?

    I know there’s a lot of you who want to see Brian go crazy and reck up a whole lot of debt and live it large. It would seem Brian doesn’t want that. Isn’t is about what he wants, rather than what you want? When you’re dying of an inoperable disease, feel free to buy and crash lexus cars everyday. Have your hookers and blow, try crack, finance mortgages and take the life insurance, do it all. Just don’t pester someone else to live out your fantasies.

    @ Brian:
    Go ahead and kick HSBC in the ass if you want dude. The way I see it, if you escalate this as a discrimination case, you could see some media attention, other than Consumerist.

    Or don’t. Just do what you want.

  56. LikeYourFace says:

    @ManPurse: Dude, I totally would.

  57. dweebster says:

    @Oracle989: THANK YOU :)

  58. cothebadger says:

    Hey Brian! Thanks for the heads up.

    As an employee of a neurology/neurosurgery ICU, I’m pulling for you hardcore. I’ve seen some amazing things that a lot of people would call miracles. That and I know what a drag it is listening to brain surgeons talk.

    Good luck!

  59. vermontwriter says:

    My thoughts and prayers to Brian.

    I wanted to say that I got rid of my HSBC card. My husband is union and we had a great interest rate on his card, but I made a payment by mail ten days before it was due. The due date came and went and they claim they hadn’t received it so they slapped on the $39 late fee. I had proof it had been mailed on time and was told by the guy at their 800 number that the payment is not considered received until they have processed the payment. In this case, my payment had ended up on someone’s desk who came down with the flu and therefore wasn’t at work to process it. They wouldn’t refund the late charge telling me that they really prefer online payments and that mailed payments should be sent three weeks ahead of time. Not only that, but I submitted a second payment just to be safe in case the check was lost. As soon as they had that payment in hand and processed, they suddenly “found” the missing payment and went ahead and processed that one too.

  60. wring says:

    *big hug* for you, Brian.

  61. mzs says:

    @Kat@Work: I guess you have never know a person that is dealing with cancer. It simply is too painful to want to do anything, plus all the drugs and chemo make you feel even worse. You might be able to get a few DVDs in 20 minutes at a time.

  62. unfuckwithable says:

    Hey, this is the Brian who fought HSBC and won. Thanks for the love (and NOLA love!!), I appreciate it. Yeah it’s hard to deal with the meds and the chemo and radio therapy make life totally suck. Then you add in things like this and well, life gets to sucking. But the specialists says I should be fine after a little surgery and some more chemo. Anyway, I relentlessly called them over and over, threatened to mention it with the state AG at lunch (which I actually was having) and basically just telling them over and over again that they were wrong, stupid and rude. As for the girlfriend thing, well I guess I can sleep with her (much hotter) roommate now! Totally serious.

    Thanks guys!

  63. @jmuskratt: the streetcars are overrated. a nice afternoon down at the fly with a Slim Shady daiquiri. no, actually i’m seriously going to go sleep with that girl’s roommate. priorities, man…

  64. freedom69 says:

    Iam happy that you got a return on the fee. However compltely irrate that you had to tell your personal situation to someone in order to get t done. I could understand if this is something that you do all the time, but shame on them to have no courtesy for the customer.

  65. bobdude121 says:

    I feel for your unfortunate health situation. Companies like HSBC and the many other A-Hole corps. we deal with daily just take away from so many of the pleasures of our lives. Too many of us say, screw it, it’s not worth my time to fight this ’cause I got better things to do suchas enjoying my precious life, family, etc. In your case, that’s what you should be doing. As for everyone else, we need more people to stand up for themselves to stop big corporations from walking all over us. They do it every day and get away with it 90% of the time unchecked because we don’t want to take the time. You have really given us an example of how, even in your last months on this planet, you still give a damn. Thank you, and please enjoy the rest of your days as much as possible.

    As for me and HSBC, I would rate them as the #1 worst in customer service out of all. About 4 years ago, I had one of their credit cards, and was within the first 3 months dissatisfied with their customer service. I cancelled them, wanting never to deal with them ever again. However, recently I applied for one of those “rapid refund” income tax refund loans from H & R Block and wouldn’t you know it, HSBC funds it. What a nightmare which I will describe in more detail in a different post.