Uno Chicago Grill Charges You $200 When You're Not Even There

Lauren was shocked to find five charges for a total of $200 on her account from a pizza place she hadn’t been to in months. They were all levied from one Uno Chicago Grill during a day she wasn’t even in town. What she found out about why they happened in the first place was even more disturbing, and annoying.

Lauren writes:

Today while checking my bank account statement online, I noticed several (5) suspicious charges on my account. They were all for UNO’s Chicago Grill (the Braintree, Massachusetts location) and they were all dated July 11, 2008. I haven’t been there in months, so I was confused, to say the least. Not to mention, on July 11, I was on Martha’s Vineyard. I was there for most of the week preceding these transactions. My card has never left my possession….

I called my bank immediately. As usual, they were very helpful and froze my card. They told me the steps I would need to take to go about recovering my money. I don’t carry cash, so having my debit card frozen is a bit of a pain. My car is low on gas and since we just arrived home from vacation yesterday, there is nothing to eat in the house. Since I’m a single mom with three kids, getting to the bank before it closed was a priority for me.

After hanging up with the bank, I called the UNO’s in question because I wanted to know how this could happen. If I’ve always had possession of the card, it would be illegal for them to punch in the number with no card. When someone answered the phone, I asked to speak to a manager. “Is this about charges to your credit card,” the wait-staff who answered the phone asked me. I replied that it was. “Okay,” said the voice on the phone, “Do you want to know what happened?”

Of course I do.

This individual explained to me that there’d been a “really big computer problem” and that cards were charged. I said I hadn’t been in their establishment in months. “Yeah,” he said, “Yeah it sucks.”

I’m out almost $200 and I am told “yeah it sucks” ? And I was assured that they’d probably “do something”. I hung up, mostly because I had to get back to the training I was in and didn’t have time to sit on the phone getting no answers.

On my way home, I called again and asked to speak to a manager. Moments later a manager named Spencer took the call. He explained to me that there was a computer “glitch” at the bank that processes their credit cards which had gone back as far as November 2007 and made new charges to credit cards. I asked how could this happen? And why were they holding on to my credit card information months after I’d been there? Spencer had no information regarding this. Nor did he care that I couldn’t put gas in my car or buy food for my kids that night. He did tell me that he knew this was “really inconvenient”.

I think I’m more inclined to say “really illegal” and it’s far beyond inconvenient.

I went to my bank and they helped me through the paperwork. I wrote a statement saying that I did not actually make these transactions and that I was, in fact, on Martha’s Vineyard when it occurred. While I waited at the bank, I texted several friends about the situation, since we’d often go out to UNO’s after work for drinks and a bite to eat. Of those I texted, I’ve heard back from five. They’ve all suffered a similar fate. And none of them knew it had happened since they don’t obsessively view their transaction logs online.

I intend to make a lot of noise about this issue. While it’s not the end of the world and I will most likely see my money back eventually, being out that much when you’re a single mom with three kids is no small issue. Add to that that I’ve lost the use of my debit card for the next two weeks until the new one arrives and I’ve got quite a bit of inconvenience coming my way.

That is a big pain in the butt and UNO’s blase response doesn’t help matters either. This story shows one of the drawbacks of using your debit card: it’s your actual money. If unauthorized charges go on your credit card, then only the credit card company is out and they have to deal with it. With a debit card, you are out the real money until the situation gets resolved. For these reasons and more, these days I hardly ever use my debit card except to get cash out of the ATM.