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Deployed Marine double-billed for iPod, but kept receipts

Jun. 30, 2011 - 02:42PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 30, 2011 - 02:42PM  |  
Marine Lance Cpl. Jesse Young
Marine Lance Cpl. Jesse Young ()
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When Marine Lance Cpl. Jesse Young returned May 3 from a deployment to Afghanistan, he was looking forward to some down time.

Instead, he was immediately hounded by collection agencies for a debt he didn't owe.

Young was pressured into paying an extra $540 for an iPod he had already paid for at a Target store in Jacksonville, N.C., on Aug. 24, a few days before he deployed.

"The collection agencies were constantly calling me, every day," Young said. "They told me to pay it off and dispute it later."

The 22-year-old Marine paid $804 for that iPod, though Target has refunded the additional amount. But what worried Young most were the dents in his credit reports.

Thankfully, the Marine did everything right: He kept all of his receipts, and he stuck to his guns. But it took more than six weeks to resolve the matter, even with the help of an attorney.

On June 16, more than three weeks after his military attorney sent a letter to Target, the company finally relented.

"A letter will be sent to the Marine. We do apologize for any issues that our guest experienced in this case, which was only aggravated through the time he was out of the country," said Target spokesman Antoine LaFromboise.

The problem began when unaware Young paid twice for the iPod after he accepted a clerk's offer at the electronics counter to apply for a new Target credit card, making him eligible for a 10 percent discount. Young didn't realize the iPod was charged to the new credit card and proceeded through the checkout lane at the front of the storeto pay for it using cash via his debit card. He had both receipts but never looked closely enough to realize that the new credit card had been charged.

Young never received a bill because his mail was forwarded to his parents' house in Clinton, Conn. while he was deployed. His mother, Louise Young, said she opened the bills and wrote to Target, including a letter from his battalion commander certifying his deployment.

When the lance corporal returned, he had all his receipts, but they were stashed in his baggage aboard the dock landing ship Carter Hall, delaying the resolution.

When he retrieved the receipts and called Target, an employee told him Target would refund the amount he paid to the collection agency if he brought in his receipts. But that wouldn't fix his credit reports.

Someone in his chain of command advised him to go to legal assistance.

"He had tried to resolve it, but was so frustrated," said Young's attorney, Marine Capt. Katherine Hegg. She said she, too, became frustrated with numerous fruitless phone calls. One person even hung up on her, she said. She "sent his documentation to five different addresses" because she couldn't get a clear answer.

Young said he was never told that the iPod charge would be applied to the new credit card. He saved the receipts, he said, because his mother had always stressed the importance of doing so, especially for large purchases.

We can all learn from this Marine, who in addition to saving receipts also quickly enlisted the help of a military attorney.

Hegg said troops and families should remember that attorneys can intervene.

"You have the right to dispute a debt before you pay it," she said.

Young may be 22, but he's thinking about the future, which is why he pushed for Target to remove the negative credit reports.

"The biggest thing is getting my credit fixed," he said. "That's long term."

But the experience has soured him on the idea of opening a store credit card again.

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