“Everyone Else is Doing It” Is NO Justification for Gouging Your Customers
Donna (not her real name) smiled. I could feel my neck muscles tighten. We were sitting in relative privacy in my bank branch’s conference room. Not real privacy, it’s all glass, so the tellers I’ve known for years could see me gesticulate.
I was doing a lot of that.
I’d just gotten my most recent business banking statement. I’m a micro business right now, and I had chosen this institution because I’ve had a personal account here since 1979. Almost thirty years. Not many of us keep accounts that long. That’s loyalty. Companies used to reward loyalty. They sure yap a lot about so-called “loyalty programs.”
I might have bounced a check three times in three decades, usually because of some stupid math error on my part, or a deposit that landed a day late and I was out of town. Almost a perfect record. The bank always forgave the fees because I’ve been so consistently responsible. And loyal.
When I slammed the door on Wells Fargo for all the indignities they had heaped on their unsuspecting customers and marched my business account over to this bank, there were no fees. I have a tiny business, it will likely stay a small business because I’m 65 and have no interest in creating an empire.
There were no balance requirements. No dings if you dropped below a certain point.
There are now. And I was mad.
Let me back up. I spent some (brief) time as a bank vice president in tobacco country a few years back. I had taken a training and OD job at this small bank for a bunch of reasons, but it was my first time in the money business. I dove into it like I do all assignments, spending a lot of time with the tellers and customer service reps who dealt with customers on the front line. I got to know customers, culture and the community.
Boy did I learn a lot.
At that time, there was a huge sea change going on at that institution. Suddenly, all the long-time farmers, who had grown up with this bank, were getting dinged and donged and damaged with a slew of fees. Tellers and customer service managers were being told they had to sell at least five products to every new customer (sound familiar?), and they were not to spend time with blue hairs any more. For some of those blue hairs, a trip to the bank branch was their social hour. Now the bank only wanted their money. Get the hell out and go home.
The customer service managers were appalled. They’d grown up with these people. Served them for years. Knew all their kids. Their grandkids. Now they were being told to sell, sell, sell, without any concern for the impact on those with limited income. More so, on the deep family relationships that had not only established the bank, but had ensured its success.
These were their neighbors. And for good reason these good (mostly women) folks refused to toe the line.
People dumped the bank in droves. Good employees left. Not long after I got there the bank got sold, having neatly gutted itself by damaging its customer relationships. Most folks found credit unions. Southerners believe in deep family. I’m a Southerner by birth. This is my territory.
This was STUPID.
Anyone making more than about $25k a year (except the execs of course) got shitcanned. I moved to Washington State where I had land. Never heard what happened to the rest of the folks in that small town. The bank was the biggest employer.
Not any more.
Here in Colorado, this particular bank liked positioning itself as a “bank of the people.”
They had hired a local football star to be their spokesperson. There was a genuine- at the time- commitment to the community.
Then they grew. And grew. And grew. Eileen, the receptionist at my original branch, finally retired. Folks like her remembered me, my father and many others by name. As the original staff retired, new folks came on board with a different vision. That is always the way of it.
So when the founder left, that created a vacuum. As with all things, the vacuum got filled with people who had a very different notion of the future of this bank. (Please see Southwest Airlines. Disney. I’m an original Disney World Cast member; we used to always as “What would Walt do?” Answer now? Who gives a rat’s ass, since Mickey Mouse has turned into a rat against its own employees.)
Interestingly, when I Googled their mission statement, nothing showed up. However I did get a story about a brand-new slogan: Banking for Good.
Um, let me re-word that: BANKING FOR THE GOOD OF THE OWNERS AT THE COST OF THE CLIENTS.
I really despise corporate bullshit that is little more than window dressing for bend over and assume the position.
Hence the fees. Here’s one way to look at them: https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/eliminating-fees/your-neighborhood-branch-is-making-1-million-a-year-in-hidden-fees/. No wonder they got imposed. We get dinged and donged and damaged just for the privilege of having our money in a branch.
Everybody else is doing it.
Here’s another article that underscores that nearly forty percent of a bank’s income is off your back and mine: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/21/the-crazy-growth-of-bank-fees.html.
The sad thing is that Donna, in her heart, is no more a fan of those fees and the redirection of this bank than any of the tellers and customer service folks at the bank in North Carolina. She hates them and the message they send to people like me. She confided this to me after spouting the corporate bullshit for a while.
I liked her a lot better for her honesty.
The saddest thing is that people like Donna don’t influence policy. She gets stuck implementing them and watching customers walk. I am already researching other options. Online banks, credit unions, USAA since I’m a veteran. I am not in the business of keeping a big fat bank wallowing in money that they gouge out of my limited income. If I want to get involved with my community I will do it on my own time and in my own way. I refuse to subsidize a bank. A BANK. You want to get involved, ladies and gentlemen, do it with your OWN goddamned funds. Not mine.
Wanna switch? Here’s a suggestion:https://couplemoney.com/banking/tired-of-your-big-bank-make-the-jump/.
Suffer from inertia? Still addicted to the corner branch for convenience (for which you pay out the nose?) Get on line. Do your research. Take your money back. Stop handing over your hard-won income to people who do not give a shit about you, but only want to gouge your wallet.
If you have any doubts about this please read https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/business/wells-fargo-pay-executives-accounts-scandal.html. They are hardly alone. At every single level, big bank and small banks that are getting bigger, are getting away with financial murder of the American people.
While I appreciate that people like Donna, who do care and are jammed between the proverbial rock and a hard place, that’s not my problem. She chooses to continue to work at FirstBank of Colorado. I’m glad she waived my fee, but that doesn’t reinstate the hundreds I have paid out over the years in ATM fees because I travel. Screw that. I’m on a limited income. That money pays for food and gas. The pennies I scrape together during the course of the year to be able to take a trip are much reduced by these fees. Others far less fortunate than I am are less able to accommodate those losses. Most banks could care less. You’re not profitable. Screw you.
Take a walk. Retrieve your funds. Move them into accounts where you aren’t slammed unjustified fees. Do it NOW. And retrieve a little piece of mind. Besides, the tellers and the folks at those very nice desks don’t really have much time for you anyway unless you’re opening up new accounts to meet their sales goals.