Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Break-ups are Not Hard

Dear Wells Fargo,

Look, I gave you a chance. But you just were not meeting my needs, so I think it's best that we part ways.

First, you wanted to start charging me a fee to use my own debit card. Fortunately, you thought better of that move real quick. But then you decided to charge a fee for all checking accounts. (Even student accounts. I've seen your fliers, I know what you were doing! That's just low.) "Oh, you're fine!" you told me. "The fee gets waived if you have a high enough balance or if you're direct depositing enough money every month!" This did not reassure me, considering you decided to begin this program just as I finished school and started looking for jobs. Meaning my direct deposit would be stopping, and there was a chance I might actually deplete my account below the threshold. (As an aside, I can pretty easily see why it's so difficult for poor people to work their way out of being poor. If your employer requires you to be paid direct deposit, and you're not making enough for the fees to be waived, you're not only having to worry about stretching your paycheck to cover rent and food and transportation and everything else, you have to worry about paying rent for your money, too!) And, y'know, it's kind of the principle of the thing. I'm allowing you to use my money to make money, and you're charging me for that privilege. I call shenanigans. And this doesn't even take into account the treatment I got at the branch when you were first informing people of this fee. (Short-ish version: I get a call and set up an appointment with a guy at the Clemson branch because they have something important to discuss with me. I go in on the day of the appointment and the person I'm supposed to see is, apparently, not available. I watch the teller calling workers at the bank, trying to figure out what to do with me. Eventually a banker is able to see me, and tells me about the new fee, and tries to convince me to upgrade my account or open a credit card or do something that allows Wells Fargo to take even more of my money. But it's not really leaving a good impression to treat your customers like they don't matter, which is the message I get when you forget an appointment that you yourself requested.)

I'm fortunate enough to be able to join a credit union, so I began making plans to shift my banking.

And then your customer service got even worse.

My debit card was set to expire at the end of August. I called just before the end of July and found out that a replacement had been sent to South Carolina -  just before I moved away. Alright. I'll accept the blame there. I probably should have informed you of my change of address earlier. But then I was informed that, for the card sent to South Carolina (which ended up who knows where) to be cancelled and a replacement issued, the current card (the one I was still using, the one that expired in August) would be cancelled. In what world does this make sense? Is it really that difficult to tell your computer system, "Don't activate the inactive card, and issue a new card to the correct address, but keep the currently active card."? I didn't want that happening, so I went into a branch. Where they gave me a temporary debit card and ordered a new card to be sent to me in the next week or two. Supposedly.

After about two weeks, with no new debit card arriving, I called you again. Turns out, when I went into the branch, they didn't actually order a new card for me, and they didn't cancel the card that got sent to South Carolina. So at this point, there's a debit card with my name on it floating around who-knows-where, ready to be activated. What. The. Hell. But this time, that card actually got cancelled, and a new one actually was sent to me. (Minor flaw: apparently the temporary card I was issued got cancelled or disconnected from my account or something at that point, because I couldn't use it, even though I specifically asked whether it would still work and was told it would be fine.)

So, finally, after all this hassle, I'm at the point where I can close my accounts. First, I had to empty the account, so I wrote myself a check for the balance and put it in my credit union account. Honestly, I would have expected some sort of alert to come from you about that transaction, because I wouldn't consider completely emptying an account "normal" activity. So that doesn't make me very confident in your ability to protect my money. Then I closed my accounts. (Online! It was super convenient, so props to you for that.) My savings account closed the same day; awesome. You told me my checking account would close within two days, to allow any pending transactions to be completed, and a message would be sent to me when it actually closed. Two days later, I received an email that an important message regarding my request was in my online banking message inbox. The online banking that I can no longer access because I closed all my accounts. Seriously? You're sending me messages that I can't read? That is the most supremely unhelpful thing ever. In order to confirm that my account had truly closed, I decided to go to a branch instead of calling. The teller noted that I could have called the 800 number, but I feel a better use of my time was the five minutes I stood in line at the physical bank, as opposed to the 10-20 minutes I would have spent trying to reach a live person on the phone. (Also, they require you to put in your account number when you call, which makes sense for them looking up active accounts, but is not at all useful for people who don't currently have accounts.)

Basically, your customer service these last few months? Awful. And I really won't miss you at all. My credit union not only doesn't charge me fees for using my debit card or having a checking or savings account, they actually pay me interest on my accounts.

Farewell, Wells Fargo. I hope you don't treat all of your customers with the same level of service I received.