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calendar   Friday - August 01, 2008

I hate banks

I get a ton of junk mail. So do you. Most of the ads go right into the recycle bin. Letters that arrive with only a return address and no company name I don’t even bother to open. Guaranteed to be crap. Straight into the bins. Who has time to read through all this mess? I swear, the stupidest thing the Post Office ever did was come up with Bulk Mailing discount rates. But complaining about the Post Office is Peiper’s job, and he may have it with my blessings.

I do almost all of my banking and bill paying online. When I have a job that allows it, I’ll always sign up for direct deposit. It’s just so much easier. But there can be problems with banks, and when that happens ... good luck finding a real human being at the other end of the phone line. But I’ve kept this account forever. The bank I got it from is long gone. They were swallowed up by another bank, who was devoured by another bank, who was bought up by the bank I didn’t want to use because they had a lousy customer service reputation, and then that bank was bought up by the current bank. I think my money is in Hong Kong. I’m not sure. My bank doesn’t even have a name any more, just some initials. Whatever. Welcome to the 21st Century.

So I was scrolling through my bank account online the other month when I noticed that they were charging me $1 service fee for having a credit card with them. What? I have thinned my credit cards down to the bare minimum these days, and I know darn well that I have no such card. So it was dig throuhg the website to find the Contact Us telephone number, then I began my journey through Voice Menu Hell. Press 1 for English. Press 2 for personal banking. Press 1 for checking ... and on and on. Somehow I managed to find that magic combination of key presses that got me to a human being. Of course I got the recorded “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes” messages, followed by another recording “All of our customer service people are currently assisting other customers. Please stand by” followed by some awful canned music usually used to get confessions from Al Qaeda terrorists in Gitmo. Finally the phone rings, and a person answers. “dabba dabba ubba dabba la? Sir?” Naturally the call center is in India. Grrr. So I patiently explained that I didn’t have this card, never requested this card, and had never used the card, so why were they charging me a buck? She ( I think ) credited me my dollar and said the problem was taken care of. Gosh, swell. And it only took me 45 minutes.

Next month the statement has another $1 charge for the same thing. Oh hell no, I’m not going through that process again. So I sat down at the computer and wrote, printed, and mailed them an actual letter. So I spent more time, and probably 50¢ to solve a $1 problem. Or so I thought.

Two weeks later there is a message on my answering machine. It’s the bank. Please call us back. I did. They had gone home for the weekend. So I called them back Monday and actually got a human to talk to. I explained the whole situation over again. “But sir, everyone at our bank has one of these cards. Our records show you were sent one.” Lady, no credit card ever arrived in an envelope from your bank. “No, it wouldn’t. For security purposes we send them in plain envelopes with just a PO Box return address.” You mean like every other piece of junk mail? Then I must have thrown it out. “Ok, then I’ll put down that you destroyed it, because if I mark that it was lost there’s a whole other process you have to go through”. Whatever. Why did you send me a credit card anyway, since I never applied for one? “Well, it’s not really a credit card even though it says MasterCard on it. It’s a debit card.” A debit card? What’s that? I already have an ATM card. Why do I need another card? “Well I see in your records that you use your ATM card at a number of stores, and each time you do you pay a 25¢ service fee. With the debit card there is no service fee. Just swipe the card and press the button marked Credit Card. And instead of paying a quarter each time, it’s only $1 per month.” So this debit card isn’t a credit card, it’s a direct account access card, just like my ATM card, but when I use it I pretend it’s a credit card? And the money comes straight out of my account, only without the transaction fee? “That’s right sir, we’ll have another one delivered to you in a few days. And I’ll waive the $1 fee.” What, forever, or just for this month? “Oh, forever. There will be no monthly fee for you. I can do that.” Well, great. Thanks.

The card arrived yesterday. I’ve spent the last week getting a callous on my thumb opening every piece of junk mail making sure it wasn’t the magic envelope. So I have the card. Can I run right out and use it? Heck no. First I have to call in to some number to activate it. I call, and I get this pimply voice. I was expecting a machine; it’s usually a 5 second process. You have to call from your home phone, they read the incoming phone number, and they know it’s me, and it’s done. No, this time I get young Mr. Acne. I have to read off the card number, provide my name and address and last 4 digits of my SSN. Ok fine. Are we done? “Not yet sir.” And then he tries to sell me a bunch of crap. Credit card protection, identity protection, white wall tires, magazine subscriptions ... whatever. Grrr. So I say no to all of them, and my card is activated. Whoo hoo! Now I can go shopping and save myself a quarter.

Not quite.

I get to the store, buy my stuff, and swipe the brand new card. “Please enter your PIN number” reads the card swiper. My what? There was no PIN number on any of the papers that came with the card. I know, because I read them all. Twice. So I put in my PIN from my ATM card ... same bank account, same essential card function, maybe it’s the same number, right? Wrong. The cashier gives me the dead eye when the transaction gets rejected, and I have to go and use my ATM again. Son of a bleach. So back home I go, twenty five cents poorer, and try and call the bank again.

Well, one of the most annoying things about voice menu systems is that they are always being changed. This time there’s a new menu, and I have to play Button, Button, Who Has The Button all over again ... and it doesn’t seem that any of the options has a human being at the other end. I even tried the extended silence thing, the pressing 0 thing, and the pressing several buttons at once thing. No good. Finally I tried the “To report your card Lost or Stolen” key press, and eventually got hold of a human being again. “dabba dabba ubba laba da? Sir?” Awww shit.

Look Benji, I just want to get a PIN for this card you guys sent me. It’s already authorized, but it didn’t come with a PIN. “umbalal dumba ladda bah, I transfer you” and it’s back to Gitmo for some more torture music. The phone rings. It answers. I hear the same old voice menu in the background. But Benji is riding the call with me! Boop-deep-deep-bah-bip! he enters some secret code, and the phone rings again. And I get “All of our customer service people are busy helping other customers. Please stay on the line” .... and I’m back getting ear torture again. But not for too long. Ring. Ring. “Hello? This is ----, how may I help you?” Horry Clap, a genuine American! So I explain things once again. “When did you get the card?” It came in the mail yesterday and I authorized it today. “PIN numbers are sent in a separate envelope for security purposes. You should receive it in 3 to 5 business days.” But it didn’t say that anywhere in the papers that came with the card. All it said was Dial This Number To Change Your PIN. “3 to 5 business days sir. And if you don’t have it in a week please call us back. Thank you have a nice day.”

So now I have to go back to opening all the junk mail again. Great.



I had a bunch of checks to put in the bank. Instead, I walked down the street to the nearest local no-name bank and opened a new checking account. I dealt with a nice young woman who spoke perfect English even though she is from the Middle East somewhere. Very pretty too. She filled out all the paperwork for me; all I had to do was sign my name once. Processed it all right there on the spot, even gave me my new debit card with my name on it. Which also works as an ATM card. And the first box of checks will arrive in under a week and they’re free. And that branch office is open 7 days a week, stop by any time. Here, have one of our pens. Here’s my card, here’s our web page address, and please come see me if there’s anything I can ever help you with. Thank you for your business!

Maybe I just hate that other bank. This one seems Ok. Of course, they’re in the process of being bought out by another bank right now. That’s how it goes. I figure I can get 3 to 5 good years out of them until they’re owned by my old bank. Then I’ll have to start the whole thing over again. Press 1 for Aggravation.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/01/2008 at 02:31 PM   
Filed Under: • Big Business •  
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