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Amex created the Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) in late 2016.
The RAT has been on the hunt to close down deals and offers that have been been more generous than Amex may have intended.
First up were headline items like not granting card sign-up bonuses for people who applied using offers or invitation codes for which they were not explicitly targeted.
RAT then got busy with efforts around category bonuses, card statement credit benefits, and lately, Amex Offers applied to multiple card accounts per person.
RAT is tracking down gaps between the way Amex wrote terms and the way Amex systems processed terms.
Last night, Amex sent emails to certain business card users who registered multiple of their card accounts for a 10% off Staples offer in June. Amex is hitting these people with new charges to correct the ‘error’.
The RAT actions I am aware of are generally heavy-handed efforts to enforce terms as written in fine print, even if Amex systems did not function that way.
Without weighing in on the right and wrong of it (and I am not qualified to comment on the legal aspects), RAT could use better bedside manner.
Those of us with corporate work experience see the inevitable progression:
- An opportunity or problem is identified
- Executives create a team to work on the new initiative
- The new team scores some early wins
- The new team uses the early wins to extract a bigger budget, more resources, more headcount
- The bulked up team moves through the initial scope
- Seeing diminishing returns ahead, the team expands its scope to perpetuate its existence
- The team now exists because it exists, even if the original need is long since gone
- Only when a new executive team comes in with an urge to restructure to show that they are doing managing are questions asked why the team exists at all
- The team is disbanded, team members re-purpose themselves as just the experts needed for the next hot button initiative (sometimes the team cannot be killed)
- Someone notices customers started defecting somewhere around Step 3.
The smart way to create the RAT team would have have been to give them a limited-time mandate with defined objectives and a clear termination to the effort.
By such and such date, transition to skeleton crew doing routine monitoring. Not send the message to the organization that ‘looking for trouble’ and is the customer management priority.
Instead, I think we’ll see RAT around for a long time. Eventually, they’ll be firing customers that Amex didn’t want to fire.