Further dicking around on the American Express website netted this banner:
The shimmering golden shower behind the phrase "including those already purchased" was enough for me to call up and see just WTF was the deal at that place. After entering my card number and security code to the automated cyborg, my balance was spit back at me. $38, yeah I know. Thanks. Pressing zero a few times got me to a human, who, as you could guess, asked me to give him my card number and security code. Again.
I told him that I activated my card today and discovered that my balance was much lower than the amount stated on the card. Then I told him that I saw on the website that cards are apparently not subject to fees or lost value any more, including ones already purchased.
He, Carlos, explained that my card was purchased in April 2008. To me, that seems to fit the criteria--it was purchased and already purchased--so I would think these fees would be waived, but it's not the case, apparently. My monthly fees were charged according to the original rules--12 months of no fees, then 6 months of $2 fees from April 2009 until October 2009 when they came up with the New American Express Gift Card no fee promotion. Cards are not reimbursed retroactively.
You may be saying to yourself, "Retroactive? But RoBeast Rollie's gift card wasn't actually activated until today!" Excellent question, you!
Turns out that there is no such thing as activating a gift card. They are "automatically activated upon purchase" and the 12 month waiving of charges followed by monthly fees begins immediately. That sticker on the card that says "To activate your Card, please call 1-888-233-8637" in big purple letters is a figment of your imagination. The automated voice that answers with "Thank you for calling American Express Gift Card Activation Line" is just joking. If you follow the prompts and enter your card information, and the voice says "Your gift card from American Express is active and ready for use. Please remove the activation sticker now. No further action is needed," then I don't know what you're smoking because that didn't happen, dude.
So, my fees will not reimbursed because of American Express' activation scam. And those sons of bitches covered their own tracks too. In that activation call you just imagined in the last paragraph they say "Your gift card from American Express is active and ready for use." They purposely don't say "Your gift card is now activated" because, to them, it's already active. You don't know that, because, to you, the ambiguous verb tense of "active" feels like it applies to the present. And technically, it does because it's active in that's it's actively incurring monthly fees. Motherfuckers.
And I didn't realize this until I called The Activation Line back so I could get exact quotes for this blog entry, but I really did imagine entering my Gift Card information. You see, they only technically ask you to enter the last 5 numbers of the card. Of course this means that you can enter virtually ANY FUCKING NUMBER and it will give you the same "Your American Express gift card is active" line. 69317, 64825, 45876, 66669, 90210... it doesn't matter because any card they've ever issued is already activated and your pressing of numbers and pound keys just sells the fucking illusion! And you're too busy feeling joy over the gift you just got to stop and realize that you are actually being taken advantage of.
It's amazing that they even go through the charade of the activation. I told Carlos that I was confused as to why the cards would even be shipped with the sticker on them and he mumbled his way through a non-explanation and then actually asked me why I was confused. Why? WHY, CARLOS? I guess I'm confused as to why anyone would work for such a deceptive company. To their credit (pun not intended), they have discontinued this practice of monthly fees, but how long did this bullshit go on for and how much did they steal from people? I guarantee this only stopped when they got called on it. Maybe I'm really more sad than confused. Sad that lots of people probably lost lots of money. Sad that giant corporations will actually go to the length of setting up official sounding phone lines for the sole purpose of deceiving people. Sad that any business can put "America" in their company name and then turn around and FUCK AMERICANS EVERY DAY.
Well... that's my $38.02. Thanks for listening.