I sit here this morning, a little shocked at myself and a lot ashamed.
We have a “relationship” account with a national bank chain. When we opened it, we were told the rules. There are always rules, no? We were advised to open several linked accounts (checking, savings, money market, the usual). If we did, we would earn the right to all the wonders of “relationship banking.” One of these would be no service charge if we maintained a minimum balance across all the accounts, and we would even be paid interest on the balance. Woo hoo!
Long story short, they did, we apparently didn’t, and it turns out they have charged us a $50 service charge every month for a year. This is not an account we use for day-to-day business, so we didn’t catch on to this until recently. Yeah, I know. Our bad. Being good environmental citizens, we opted for no paper statements. They are unnecessary, really, especially since there are seldom any transactions in any of these accounts. Every month, they post an online statement (with no e-mail notification), and the onus is on us to go look at it. We have, verifying that the balance is above the minimum requirement, but never seeing the $50 charge (which was buried a screen or two deeper on the website) until we printed out a statement recently for a home refinance.
Service charge? Surely, a mistake, I thought, and off to the local bricks-and-mortar version of the bank I go. A pleasant young lady tells me, no, not a mistake, but I should talk to her branch manager. I do, and the branch manager, a slightly older young lady (hey, from my perspective, most women fall into that category) says, no, no mistake, but I might want to call customer service. I do, and the customer service lady of an indeterminate age tells me that not only is there no mistake, I am either stupid, careless, or I am trying to defraud the bank, who is totally blameless in all this. OK, she didn’t say that exactly, but everything in her voice implied it.
Seems we “misunderstood.” Maybe I’ll be kind and say we were “misinformed.” Wait, no, the hell I will. Because we are not stupid. We were lied to. The truth? That minimum balance is required on the money market account alone. Having the other accounts waives the fee if the money market account maintains a minimum balance. Otherwise they impose the service charge no matter what the balance. After all, they are paying interest. The last interest payment was $.75 (yes, that decimal is in the right place. Seventy-five cents!).
I got nowhere with the customer service rep. So I asked to speak to her manager. And here is where the shame comes in.
The manager called this morning. When I heard his voice, my first reaction was thank goodness, someone who knows what he is talking about; now I’ll get some place. I am ashamed of myself (she says, hanging her head). That response was solely because the voice was male. I give myself a little credit because I did catch myself thinking it. But still. Bad, bad, bad.
As it turns out, he was as unhelpful as the other bank representatives. Even worse, actually, because his whole approach oozed testosterone and arrogance. As I listened to him give me the party line slowly in words any third grader could understand, I could hear him thinking “it’s no wonder you can’t understand, honey; you’re just a woman.”
Bottom line? We close the account, taking our money elsewhere. We swear never to do business with that bank again. We charge the $600 they have essentially stolen from us to the Should-Have-Known-Better account. I report this whole incident to the Massachusetts State Banking Commission (I do, because I am much more vindictive than my husband). And I write to the Boston Globe, sharing my tale of woe with as many people as possible, hopefully with all 378,949 of their subscribers.
And then I slap myself upside the head in a little feminist consciousness-raising exercise.