Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't make me use my writing

I think the following story is blog-worthy. It's not like the sixty dollars story which was popular, judging from my google stats, but it's a good story with a little takeaway message at the end so keep reading.

The other day, I made a sizable deposit at (I'll call it Joe bank).  It was a funds transfer, meant for Sam's tuition.

Did I make the deposit at the counter? Of course not. I never do that. That's what ATMs are for.

Before I made the deposit did I endorse it? Of course not. I never do that and have never had a problem.

La la la. Out came the little summary of my transaction:  7 day hold.

First I said a very bad word. Then I parked the car. Then I went in to see someone about having the hold lifted.

I explained my situation to a teller at the counter. Soon, I was ushered into one of the little perimeter offices behind the glass, where well-dressed twenty-three-year-old bankers oscillate between texting their friends about the weekend and handling the business of a person who looks as if they are about to have a tantrum.

Given my twenty year history of good banking behavior across several accounts, and knowing that banks are well within their discretionary rights to lift a hold when they damn well feel like it (7 day holds were necessary when banks across the land were tiny and funds had to travel back and forth by horse and buggy. Now, banks - the tall and the small - can verify electronically, and overnight, that  Mary bank can pay Joe bank without any risk whatsoever to Joe bank. I checked.)

In the little office, my well-dressed, twenty-three year old (heretofore known as WDTTYO) banker asked me pertinent questions while he clickety-clacked on his keyboard and brought up the history of me. With an apologetic smile, he told me the bank could essentially do nothing.

"Retrieve the physical check," I suggested. (They can do this. I checked).
"Gosh, I wish I could, but it's gone by now. But here's what you can do. After we image it tomorrow or the next day, you can call me and I'll give you the bank information and then you can call someone at the bank and tell them the situation and then you can ask them to produce a statement, on letterhead, to verify that the funds  are in place, and then they can send that to me, and then we'll make a decision about the hold after that and then you can stay in touch with me about that decision."
Because I don't know the secret bank handshake, I suggested that he do all of those things after the check was imaged.
"Gosh, I would love to do that for you," he said, "But they won't talk to us. It's your check."
"How long will this take?"
"Well, it's a process. It takes a few days."
"How long is a few days?"
"It could take up to a week."

7 days.

"Please don't make me point out that we've been solid banking customers for twenty years and hold several accounts here. There's got to be a way to release the hold sooner than that," I said.
"OH, believe me," he said meaningfully, "I sure do want to keep your business." He slid his card across the desk. "Call me tomorrow."

I called my WDTTYO banker the next day to ask if the check had been imaged. He put me on hold for a few minutes, came back, and said, "Gosh it sure hasn't."

I'm not the kickass type.  I'm usually nice and reasonable and I play fair. If I can do more to help someone, I do. I'm rarely mistreated or disrespected or on the receiving end of lazy business judgment. But I sense it when someone refuses to do more because they just don't feel like it.  When I checked into it, I was assured that "banks absolutely talk to each other all the time." Banks eat lunch together and go for manis and pedis. They're friends who have a lot in common.

Here's something my father taught me back when funds transfers were verified by horse and buggy:

Don't ask for anything until you're ready to walk, then ask for everything.

So, I asked for the manager's name and email address. Then I lined up a new account with a nicer bank (I'll call her Alice bank). Then I wrote a letter to the manager of Joe bank. I explained my situation and described the bank's limp sock of a response.  I told the manager about the decision I would have to make now concerning future deposits. I asked for guidance.

"If I can expect service like this from Joe bank in the future, I will move everything to Alice bank where I have already had better service in similar situations. I sure do hope you can help me decide."

Long story short - this could have been longer - I got a call the next day and the ship was righted. Instantly.

And I don't even think my WDTTYO banker will be in that much trouble, because I went out of my way to describe how polite he was. I did not report that  while his smile was saying gosh this and gosh that,what his eyes were saying was "Please get the hell out of here so I can make plans with my buddies for the weekend." I kept that to myself.

Writing is my weapon  tool of choice. Yours may be the ability to think on your feet and verbally full-nelson someone who is being unfair. Or maybe you're twenty-three and adorable and can charm someone else into doing something your way. Whatever. Don't let your power depend on whether or not someone else does their job. Make your power depend on knowing what you deserve, polite but unwavering determination to get it, and having an adequately stocked arsenal toolkit that you're not afraid to use.


  1. I would like to say, "That's my girl," but I think your father gave you that gene.

  2. Your tininess knows no bounds. I loved this post.

  3. Just doing my part to making banking a little easier for everyone.