JCPenney REALLY Wants Mentally Handicapped Woman To Have Credit Card

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A Houston family has a bone to pick with JCPenney. Seems a 5th Ward woman with the mental age of a four-year-old was somehow issued a JCPenney charge card. Family members, including the woman’s legal guardian, have been trying to get the account closed, with no luck.

As they've written the company:

[The woman] is profoundly physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped. She is not capable of making financial or legal decisions … Quite frankly, [she] will agree to anything on the phone, and have no memory of it a few minutes later. This is why the bulk of the charges on her Penny's card are for insurance policies that she has no need for and a "discount travel" plan sold to a mentally retarded woman who never travels more than a few blocks from home by an unscrupulous phone rep.

Penney’s credit reps reportedly insist on talking with the woman, and no one else. Several letters and phone calls to the company haven’t helped.

We got in touch with JCPenney’s customer service and were directed to GE Credit Corporation, the company that handles all of JCPenney’s credit cards. We sent off an e-mail to GE and got a quick response from Retail Consumer Finance Communications representative Dori Abel.

Ms. Abel offered to intervene in the situation and put the family together with customer service representative that would resolve the issue.

So what’s GE’s policy about issuing credit cards to the mentally challenged?

“A lot of the new accounts are taken at the store and a store associate is not in the position, nor should they be put in the position to judge mental capacity. That could be considered discrimination,” Ms. Abel tells Hair Balls. “There’s no scale to be used in that regard. If someone applies for a credit card, if they are credit worthy, they are issued a card.”

She assures us that so long as the aunt in this case has legal guardianship, she should have no problem in settling the account. Whether “settling the account” means dismissing the charges or setting up a payment plan, Ms. Abel couldn’t tell us. “That will depend on the charges.” (Which we figure means, “We’ll dismiss the travel insurance charges, but if she bought a big screen TV, she’s paying for it.”)

The family has been given Ms. Abel’s contact information, along with instructions to let us know the outcome. So, while we’re not usually in the consumer-rights business, it seems we were able to push this situation a little further toward resolution. (Marvin Zindler would be so proud.)

Olivia Flores Alvarez

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