Category: "Bank of America"

Another Communication Gem with BoA

I would like to share a "secure" email exchange I recently had with BoA customer support as I think it is humorous. It relates to the fact they closed my savings account without my knowledge or consent. I just logged in one day and found that my account was gone. I thought this was some sort of an error or display issue, so I sent them an email. I am not enclosing all of the initial ones, only the most recent ones. Basically they informed me that due to zero balance and no account activity, they closed my account. They maintained they mailed me a letter a month before closing the account. I confirmed they have my correct postal address on file. I never received any letter from them about this.

The issue is of course not a big one, as far as my Savings Account is concerned. I cannot care less if I have that account or not, I don't even remember why and when I opened it, I most certainly have not been using it (if I have to save money, I can transfer to other accounts with higher yield than BoA savings). The fact they would just close it without my consent is another matter. It is not that I am a lost, deadbeat, inactive loser-user, who cannot be found or barely uses his accounts. I also have 2 credit card accounts with ample activity, plus my main checking account is also linked, with at least $25k cash flow monthly, including direct deposit, etc. I would think I deserve a bit more attention and respect than unilaterally intruding my finances and closing accounts for me, WITHOUT making sure I know and am OK with that or offering/discussing an alternative.

But even more bothersome or interesting (depending on your point of view), which ultimately is why I decided to write, their response to this fiasco is highly typical. Instead of owning up to it, offering to reopen the account, or at least apologizing, they go out and insult my intelligence with heavy and deep BS.

The moral of the story is two-fold. First, even though banks may be offering email customer service it isn't worth very much. I have posted some of these emails on other matters in the past and 90% of the time their agents are either do not get it what your problem is or they do not want to get it. One way or another, you are no better off, after wasting time emailing. They are probably disincentivized escalating matters as that could negatively affect their performance measures or bonus, whatever. They try to "solve" the problem, but without the experience, intelligence, or authority that would be needed to help.

Second, if it is true they mailed something and for some reason it was lost and wasn't delivered (if you would like to give them the benefit of the doubt), then they have an insufficient system in place for a number of reasons. First, I have fully digital banking, for years I have not received any statements or anything, I manage everything on-line and all notifications and correspondence comes by email. Why on earth would they then send a snail mail over this relatively important matter? Also, it would seem to me that closing an account would warrant some confirmation; some proof that they actually reached me. Keeping the account alive until I get back and confirm that is OK probably is more costly to them by 15 cents than just closing it and worry later about the possibility the customer never got the note. That is the customer's problem, not the bank's. Which likely what happened here. They saved 15 cents up front, but then my many emails, even if handled by a barely literate $5/hour worker some distant part of the world, probably created more than 15 cents in cost, so it may just be another example of trying to cut costs mindlessly in the short term eventually ends up costing more. I am not a business analyst therefore it is also possible that I am only one in 10 customers causing a stir (and thus extra cost in the back end) and overall it still makes sense to them to save the 15 up front...

"Subj: RE: Other Online Banking Features

Dear Zoltan Mari,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 2/22/2012 regarding the closed account. We will be happy to assist you.

We apologize for the inconvenience in resolving this matter via email. You are a valued customer, and we would like the opportunity to retain your relationship with Bank of America.

Please be informed that we are unable to assist you regarding your closed account. To assist you better please contact us on 1.800.432.1000. We are available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Local Time.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by email. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.

Sincerely,

Aayan Kites
Bank of America

-----Original Message-----
Hi,

I did not know that policy. I really wish you notified me before you are closing any of my accounts without my permission or even notification. That actually is rather drastic and I am baffled. I don't really need that savings account, so it is not a big deal, I only used it occasionally, but the fact you would even do such a thing, not even letting me know (please allow me to not eat the BS that you sent anything, I check my snail mail every day, I did not get any letter, plus you obviously have my phone number and email address, so it is bizarre to propose you cannot reach me). Anyway, it is a bit of an insult to my intelligence what you are saying (that you mailed anything), I am sorry. You did not mail anything as I would have received it if you had. Besides, if you wanted to reach me you could have. What happened is you closed my account without my consent or knowledge and you should acknowledge it like a man, rather than coming up with BS stories like you mailed !
me about it. Please.
ZM

---------Reply Separator---------

Dear Zoltan Mari,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 02/18/12 regarding the closure of your account. We are committed to provide you with the best banking experience possible and we will be happy to assist you.

We understand that you are concerned with the closure of your account.

Please be advised that accounts in a zero balance are closed after three months of inactivity.

When the account is inactive for two consecutive months, a letter is sent to your home address indicating that a deposit must be made in order to avoid closure.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause. We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. Thank you for choosing Bank of America.

Sincerely,

Alejandro Cabezas
Bank of America "

BoA's Handling Another Dropped Ball! Educational (Typical?) of Advanced Corporate Customer Care Habits...

Wow. This is very interesting! I'll try to be brief, even though right now I'm rather dazzled by this.

Here is the story, straight and simple. On 12/20/11, around midnight, I went to an ATM near my house, to deposit a check. I did that and that's all I wanted to do. The machine was unusually slow processing every step, which was a bit concerning (after taking the check it was showing a blank screen for very long seconds), but eventually the deposit did go through. When I asked for the card to be returned, it made an apparent attempt to eject it, but the card stopped at a point just short of sticking out, inside the slot. The screen instructed me to take the card, but there was no edge of it to grab.

I quickly looked for any make-shift forceps, like small pieces of wood, to try to get it out, which I almost managed to do, but I got timed out: the card was pulled completely back into the machine and it announced that the card was taken and blocked and that I should call customer service. Which I did immediately, only to learn that they had no service after hours. OK.

I called the next day, on the 21st, to report this and ask for a new card. I spoke to a rep, who seemed to understand the situation. I also explained that within a day I'd be going on vacation abroad. She said the mailing of the card was to take 7-10 days, which obviously meant I would not get it before my trip. She also said I could get a temporary card in the meantime, by walking into a branch. SHE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY confirmed that a replacement card was being mailed to me ASAP (irrespective of whether or not I decided to go to a branch for a temporary card).

I decided to not get a temporary card because I actually had enough cash on me to get through my travels. I then returned to the US, thinking my card would have arrived by now. In the mail, I found some checks that I needed to deposit, but what I did NOT have in the mail was the replacement ATM card! Even though it wasn't technically 10 business days since I made the request, I find those estimates typically way overstated, so I suspected something was wrong and I called BoA.

The guy I got on the phone informed me that he saw record that on 12/21/11 the card was blocked due to being left in an ATM, but that there was no record of a replacement card ever being mailed or requested (!). I got pretty agitated hearing this and requested to speak to the supervisor, who soon joined the call. She introduced herself as Andrea Anooshian. Both she and the entry tier rep consistently called me "Mr. Mari", despite the fact I introduced myself as Dr. Mari, but this was just a very small issue.

She confirmed that there was no record of a replacement card mailed or requested. Here comes the interesting part. She said there is no way to find out what was said during my 12/21/11 call, essentially questioning my claim that I did request one (and that I was told one was being mailed). I asked her if it made ANY sense to her that no such request would be made. In other words, would the assumption be that the customer reports a lost or stolen ATM card, which then gets blocked, and that's the end of story? The customer declares himself ATM card free and no longer in need of one. Does that make sense? I asked her.

Her response was just as sensible, which is to repeat it over and over that all she can tell me was what she saw in the system, which is that there was a report of a lost card and it was blocked, without a new/replacement card being mailed. She repeated what the first rep on 12/21/11 said, which is that I can go to a branch and ask for a temporary card. I explained that I cannot, because I am working from early AM to late PM on business days, being a doctor so I cannot just walk to a branch at a chosen time during normal business hours.

I made a specific request to have the FedEx $20 charge waived. I explained that this whole story is a string of BoA's dropped balls while I only did everything by the book with no mistake whatsoever on my part: (1) the dysfunctional ATM that failed to return the card; and (2) the incompetent rep who failed to have a new card mailed. These errors caused significant frustration and inconvenience. I also pointed out that I pass some $20k a month in various transactions through my multiple BoA accounts and that I have been a customer for some 11 years. I asked if all this was worth BoA to through in a $20 one-time consolation.

The answer was repeated and unwavering no. Andrea left no doubt over her conviction this issue and my frustration was not worth $20.

I actually don't really care about the amount, this is a story about principle. Andrea is absolutely confident in handling the issue this way because she knows I will get no better service with another bank. She is certain that the convenience of online banking among other perks will be a force strong enough to making it unnecessary for BoA to concede in this dispute in which they clearly were morally obligated to expedite the shipment of the replacement card at no extra charge.

I wish I could just say here that she is wrong. But I can't. (Not yet anyway.) At this time, out of the 4 or so banks I currently have checking BoA is offering the most comfortable and convenient banking between a really strong Android app, bill paying system, etc. However, the way they treated me suffice to say I have zero loyalty and should the smallest reasonably compatible alternative emerge, I will get rid of all my BoA accounts.

And that day, I think (hope) is not too far. Online banking is already pretty good (I also have an e*Trade account that has some of the functionality at least as good, but I can't just walk into a branch, which at this point may still be a small issue). For example, I enjoy the fact that BoA ATMs are so ubiquitous and I can just find an ATM everywhere (at work, near home, etc), which I mostly use for depositing checks. Paypal (where I have an account too) already allows scanning checks (with some limitations, such as a very long takeover, maximum amount) using my Android phone and other banks are starting to offer this as well. I trust close is the day when I can finally wave goodbye (or badbye that is) to BoA and never look back.

I still don't have a working checking/ATM card... Anyone surprised?

I thought I give you an update :) As stated in the subject line, I still don't have my card. Well, there is a bit more into the update. Here goes it...

As described in detail in the earlier posts, I was hoping to receive the card before I was going out of the country on 7/10/09. Well, it did not get here, but when I got back from Hungary on 7/19/09 I found a couple of door tags by FedEx. "Great" I thought "now I missed that one." And so it was. I called FedEx (a little bit of frustration there by their "automated" tracking option, which is designed to make customer annoyance automatic while not at all helpful in tracking anything) and eventually learned that the package (presumably with my new ATM card) was returned to the sender.

However, while wading through my mail, I found a regular mailed envelop from BoA, which had a brand new ATM card! Wow! That is something I definitely did not expect! A pleasant surprise! I almost began to feel bad about all the public posts I am slamming them in, while a wave of warmth flooded my heart. I called and activated the new card without a problem. I, for a moment, deluded myself in the belief I again had a working ATM card and the saga ended.

Well, you probably suspect what that indicates. Yes. Whenever you think it is over, you are in for a brutal surprise for your stupidity to think something actually worked out in your favor and to your convenience, especially when such positive outcome develops unexpectedly.

The only reason I called BoA at this point was actually NOT that I suspected something was wrong (things appeared to be panning out right, which should always suggest there is something wrong). I guess I am still too naive. No. I was in fact calling them to verify that the returned FedEx shipment actually WAS theirs (to make sure I did not miss something else, as I sporadically order things from the internet, especially eBay, not necessarily remembering each and therefore not specifically expecting the delivery).

Eventually I did get through to customer support and spoke to a live person. He kindly confirmed that the FedEx shipment WAS theirs and identified my activation of the new card. But then he became apologetic, which made no sense on the surface, given all signs indicated I just managed to end a nearly month-long ordeal after my ATM card got "confiscated".

Well, he was apologetic because he informed me that the new card I just activated was also blocked, due to "security concerns". I guess I must be on some criminal watch list. I only want to have a regular check card, which I can use to deposit checks and occasionally withdraw cash. That's all. I don't do crazy stuff. I don't use it extensively. I don't engage in questionable practices and push the envelop to give reason for security concerns. I am just an orderly guy with very orderly and average usage habits, why do I have to raise all these red flags, leading to card confiscation, blocking, etc?

I guess we will never know. They wouldn't say. I still don't know why my card was confiscated in the first place. BTW they never actually formally apologized for it, other than the agent on the phone when I first reported it. Of course that is easy to do, but means relatively little in light of the aggravation this whole ordeal ended up causing.

In any case, I will just go on, subjected to whatever they please to subject me to and accept this as something I have no control over.

The agent also said I could go to a branch and get help there. Well, that is not possible today. I am doing intraoperative monitoring all day, possibly to very late night. Tomorrow I have other commitments and so on. I found that the regular mail option is really the best for me and I told the guy. He was not very happy with this and informed me that it will take nearly 2 weeks for me to get it that way. I told him that is a penalty I would happily take, when I look at the big picture (where suffering has been in a lot bigger scale than just waiting 2 weeks for a card, which actually does work and ends a "beautiful" saga).

So there we are right now, awaiting the card. I definitely update you on how this evolves...

An Independence Day "Present" from BofA

Link: http://www.zneuro.net/Files/BofA_04_Jul_2009.MP3

When Giannini established Bank of America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_america) and gave this grand and pathos provoking name (although he already had a pattern of such big naming habits, i.e. Bank of Italy, then Bank of America and Italy), defining his banks's independence financially, he might have associated this major achievement with an even grander and greater connection of America and Independence.

He must have had a grand vision for the Bank then. I hope he would be disturbed to know what BofA hands out in today's America, as "Independence Day present", to its custmers. Well, I have to say that just one petty customer's issue of being denied access to his paltry money certainly does not measure up in significance to either establishment of the biggest bank in the US or the celebration of independence of one of the greatest countries in the world. However, I felt this experience still "counts" in my micro-environment and may be applicable to many more little people like me. Because both the bank (however big) and the entire country is related to everyday people and such way we are grand. That is how I just could not help making these grandiose associations, also out of lack of better options, and decided to summarize my experience today...

This morning, on July 4th, 2009, I was depositing a check at an ATM near my office. It accepted/deposited the check, but then it refused to return my ATM card. A message appeared on the screen saying that for security reasons the card could not be returned and that I should address this issue with customer service.

Not having the ATM card, I did not have their phone number or my card number, so I called another number (for one of my credit cards with BofA), where I spoke to a rep who gave me the number for the checking customer service (800-432-1000) and also transferred me. When he transferred, an automated voice told me that they were shut down for the holiday and I should please call back Monday. There was no mention of a fraud report back-door at that time. I hung up.

I called the number (800-432-1000) back (follow link for the recorded conversation) at which time with a minor lie (i.e. I had to go for the "fraud" option as if my card was stolen; well it wasn't exactly stolen, but since the ATM machine retained it against my will I made it qualify for a steal, knowing that was my only option to speak to a live person). At this time I was told that there was nothing that could be done. It was acknowledged I had cash in my checking account and I had no way of accessing it, but I was told I should just use my checkbook in case I am so determined to spend my money over the holiday weekend. Although I appreciate the "choose to save" campaign, this was not the right moment for it, especially when somebody else "chooses" for me against my will, forcing me to "save".

I am leaving for Hungary in a few days and as crazy as my schedule is during the last few days I have before my trip, I simply cannot waste an hour (which is how long it took me to wait in line last week when I visited a branch for another issue that I may address in a separate blog) to have a temporary check card. Thus in effect this also means I will be without access to my checking account (and cash) through ATMs until at least late July when I return from Hungary.

Again, I am no expert of customer service management and strategy. But to me taking somebody's card away (and with it, his/her access to their checking account) appears to be such a major intrusion that I would have extreme caution and measures in effect, infallible, to make sure such a thing would not happen inadvertently or for the wrong reason.

If there is a security issue so severe that taking away one's ATM card is deemed warranted, if any respect to customers was of even the slightest priority, I would spare no time and energy invested in ensuring that the customer is contacted, even it has to be a long distance call (they have my home number, as they often leave unwanted marketing messages about their other products I never wanted or ever would want; they have my email, where I get all my statements, etc; and they also have my cell phone #). Clearly, marketing contact somehow does make it across, but not when such a major security issue (presumably) emerges which makes their system take my card away. If the customer cannot be contacted, I would take the risk of some security issue related losses than causing such a major disruption to the customer's life.

If however, for the slightest security warning or concern, the bank has working policies to shut down the account (which happens often with my credit card accounts, every time due to a presumed security concern later found not valid or existing) or take away the ATM card, it may mean that they have no respect for their customers and their priorities are aligned very strongly skewed toward protecting their own bottom line and sacrificing anything they can on their customers' end.

For example, if a severe security concern emerges, they probably can instantaneously and automatically (based on some algorithm built in their management software) shut down an account or have the ATM card retained at close to zero cost to them, i.e. they lose nothing. With that of course their customers would be left with extreme inconvenience and frustration, which is not of much interest to them if it essentially carries no real cost/financial risk (a screaming and yelling customer is not really threatening the bottom line, especially they shut down customer service for the holiday). On the other hand, reaching the customer by telephone clearly means extra costs (up to tens of dollars, depending on how hard it is to reach them), not even mentioning the scenario when there is a valid security concern and they decide to err on the side of preventing their customers' loss of access versus losing real money to fraudsters, recovery of which is of course being truly expensive. In other words, they go with the least costly option (an automatic computer-managed zero-cost shut-down of an account or retention of bank card) at the expense of customer frustration that costs less, on the long run.

Of course, I don't know what exactly happened in this particular case (as the representative seemed to suggest that some error at the actual ATM machine's level might have been the cause). But if ATMs are so unreliable and faulty, I am even more concerned about how a company manages their customer-based retail-level business operations.

I know I always come across as cynical and assume that for-profit-companies care only about their profit/bottom-line and since that is the sole thing that drives them, as a result, aberrations like this will necessary occur. And since that business strategy is driven by what is less costly, there is not much one can change. Well, here is my 2 cents. If pissing off customers to the extreme (i.e. by egregious examples like shutting off their account for no good reason or taking their bank card away) proves to be actually more costly to them in the long run, they could decide to revise their policies. Granted, the extra costs would be pushed onto us, but in the same time I rather pay a penny more in whatever fees they are to build this in (security fee?), but I take it any time if that small fee will mean they will reach me to alert me regarding a problem before I am left out in the total cold without options, totally screwed. In any case, from our end, I think we should just have to find ways of increasing their cost-perception of the otherwise easy-appearing option of automatic account shut-downs and access denials.

I am not sure what the best ways are to do that, but public debate, discussion and brainstorming seem to represent a good option to get started...

On this day of Independence, I feel actually not very independent of practices and habits of American companies. I am actually rather dependent on them. They can just stop my access to my own cash in a glimpse and tell me I should just suck it up. Wow. Pretty strong sentiment there. So who is independent here? How are we independent of really? Does that make us independent?

However, I don't want to feel terrorized and let thrown into total desperation over this issue or for feel lack of independence. I think our spirits are still independent, no matter what, which is exactly why we can start doing something about these issues. E.g. I helped relieve my frustration by writing about this particular issue. I know BofA or any other bank won't change just because of this blog or even if we all reported our horror stories. I still feel independent and part of that spirit pushes me to not let it go and at least document it, allow others to share their comments and experiences. It is an uphill battle, of course, with close to zero chance of changing anything no matter what we do. But if we just sit and do nothing, or do as they say we agree to "suck it up", our chances of having a different experience next time or changing anything at all will certainly be zero.