When I was a wee and bonnie lassie who occasionally spoke in a Scottish accent, I had a bank account with Wells Fargo. Actually, my parents did, and when they wanted to teach me about having a bank account, they opened me an account there as well. What I understood about banks initially, since I didn’t have a checking account or an ATM card, was that once the money went in, it never came out again. Unless Mom took me. Which meant no spontaneous toy purchases without her say-so. It was a good deal for Mom.
I got my own checking account when I was eighteen. Here’s how I decided to pick my bank:
Washington Mutual allowed me to withdraw funds, for free, from their ATMs, from my Wells Fargo account.
I thought, how cool. How awesome. A bank that isn’t all about profits. A bank that wants me to get my money when I need it no matter if my particular branch has a handy location. This is a bank that totally gets me, that will take care of me and my need for gum paid by ATM card. Well played, Washington Mutual, thought my eighteen-year-old self, and I signed up on the spot.
It’s six years later and the honeymoon is most definitely over.
First of all, now they do charge you for withdrawing money from their ATMs if you have another bank account. So much for the good Samaritan act there. I am told, every single time I want to contest a charge, that I must go to the branch where I originally opened my account. What is the point of having a national bank if you have to go to a local branch every time you want something other than a deposit? Here was the final straw:
I overdrew my account with a large check. That’s fine. I approve of that. I would rather pay an overdraft fee than bounce a check. But then a few other minor purchases went through. A $4.00 latte. A $11.24 grocery purchase. From weeks ago. Both of those incurred fees too. The fee has gone up every few months from when I initially opened my account. It’s now at a whopping $33 per overdraft. That’s a hundred bucks, folks. For one overdraft (that, incidentally, overdrew by about ten bucks.)
Now, in the past, I’ve been able to talk to banks about situations like these, show them that I remedied my overdraft, and talk them out of the two fees that were for previously-made purchases, with the logic that, had they gone through a day earlier, there would have been no problem. Usually, just asking nicely will get you there.
I remember going to Wells Fargo almost in tears about this when I was about fourteen. The bank manager blinked at me, barely even listened to my explanation, and fixed it all right up. He actually took all the fees off, even the one I legitimately deserved. And patted me on the head and sent me about my way. I think he may actually have offered me a hard candy or something. Maybe I’m romanticizing. But I have never romanticized a single moment with WaMu.
This was, quote for quote, the response I received from the phone representative:
“We no longer provide that courtesy.”
Courtesy was the perfect word. I loved it, even while I thought about strangling her with my shoelace. Not ‘we don’t provide that service.’ It was, ‘we don’t provide that courtesy.’ WaMu has officially embraced its discourteousness. What the chick on the phone was telling me was this:
“We here at Washington Mutual are not interested in being helpful to you. At all. We are, in fact, discourteous jackwads. We intend to put that on our business cards. Where it used to say ‘we’re all about making things better for our customers,’ it will now say, ‘We are all about being discourteous dipweeds.'”
See, I love courtesy. I think people who hold the door for me are tiny saints in human form. I love it when the waiter unfolds my napkin, I get positively giddy when the bartender comps my drink. When the grocery clerk tells me not to worry about the penny on my purchase of $5.01, I nearly swoon. I would be so grateful for the courtesy of reversing two little overdraft fees that I would continue allowing them to overdraft me, and reap the benefits, for bloody years to come. But instead, I’m going back to Wells Fargo. Because Mom knows best.
Well played, Wells Fargo of my youth. I’m coming home.
In a related note, my kung fu studio in New York automatically charged me for the next three months of class, even though I’d told them I wasn’t coming back. She told me I hadn’t signed a form. I was bewildered. It was Christmas Eve. I didn’t have any money. She remembered that I had said I was leaving, that I had asked what I needed to do, and she’d never given me this form. She remembered me leaving, wanting to leave, asking for the right forms, but she just kept saying, “It’s not our policy to refund.”
For fuck’s sake, these are BUDDHISTS we’re talking about. Aren’t Buddhists supposed to be compassionate? Where’s my goddamned compassion?
The final note: customers who believe in your inherent goodness will never leave you, even if they have been occasionally shafted by you. If you apologize, and fix it, you will have a loyal customer forever. Knock off ten bucks from the tab, give ’em a free fifteen minutes of your time. You can charge whatever you want. Nobody wants to deal with Bureaucracy Nazi. No one.