My Shameful Preconceived Notion

I sit here this morning, a little shocked at myself and a lot ashamed.

The back-story:

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.”

Gah.

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.

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10 Responses to My Shameful Preconceived Notion

  1. souldipper says:

    May I not live long enough to be faced with a charge for entering the premises. And being fined because my Bank passport will expire in five minutes and I’m still trying to get my tele-porting walker past the people writing up the 5 ton Manuals which we are all supposed to have memorized by the time we sign the signature card.

    Does it sound like you hit a button?

  2. JeffScape says:

    Hah! When I was going to Sea World a while back, I remembered I had to pay a bill, so I went to the bill’s mobile website and I submitted a payment. At which point I realized I submitted from the wrong account. I call the company the bill was going to and they noted it, but since it was so close to the due date, they weren’t sure they could stop the transaction.

    So I called the bank it was coming from. They presented me with two options: 1) Take a $35 hit for a bounced check, or 2) take a $34 hit to stop the payment. Problem is, even if I DID want to pick either of those options (rest assured, the thought never crossed my mind), they bank would only accept payment from one of their accounts (say, what? My money in my other banks isn’t good at that bank, apparently)… and since it was a bank I no longer lived near a branch of, there WASN’T ANY money in those accounts.

    Anyway, I did manage to take care of the issue without incurring any fees, but I was pissed so I tried to close my accounts. They said I had to physically go to the branch I opened my account in. Except… not only do I no longer live anywhere near one of this bank’s branches (the nearest one is three rather large Western states away), but I opened my accounts online.

    Needless to say, there’s a bank in the southeast I have two accounts with. Balance on each? $0.00.

    Kiss my ass!

    • PattiKen says:

      Yeah, huh? We all chuckle over those oxymoronic phrases peppering the vernacular. You know, such things as military intelligence and jumbo shrimp. I looks like customer service has joined the ranks. Banks, at least, seem to be interested in service to themselves above all.

  3. Nara Malone says:

    Thinking I have some bank statements I should look at. Thanks for the heads up.

    • PattiKen says:

      I’m thinking that would be a wise move, Nara.

      The bank I spoke of in the post (which is Citizen’s Bank, if anyone is interested) seems to be heavily invested in the “gotcha.” When I pointed out some of their own published contradictions, the answer was always “Yes, but you are the one who signed the contract when you opened the account.”

      That would be the contract we didn’t get a copy of…

  4. JamieDedes says:

    Two thumbs down on banks these days …
    Unpleasant.

    • PattiKen says:

      I’m with you. With interest rates being what they are, I’m thinking the “under the mattress” account sounds better and better.

      • Jamie Dedes says:

        Unless you live around here. A gasline blew in San Bruno, CA a couple of weeks ago. We’re still dealing with the unpleasant aftermath. Couldn’t see the flames and didn’t get smoke from where I live. My son and his wife saw all. 50 homes burned to the ground. Metal and glass melted. It was that hot. Lots of injuries. Amazingly small number of deaths all things considered. Of course, when that happens, money under the matress is the least of the problems.

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