Friday, April 26, 2013

Bank of America The Death of Customer Service

Nowhere is the death of customer service more evident than at Bank of America.

The French have owned the prize for their hubris waiters and rude service personnel since the end of World War II, but that cherished ranking is about to give way to the BofA employee.

Case in point:

My parents have been customers of Bank of America since the days when it was called NCNB, translation 4 decades, 40 years.

I've been a customer of Bank America in the past, with a home loan, couple of auto loans, checking accounts, credit cards and more.

I fit the demographic for their ideal customer, for income, net worth, savings, business and social circles. My credit rating is unblemished, and other than that I understand the inverse relation to price and yield better than their investment professionals, I'm a guy they should want to keep happy.

But, I most look like a criminal.

Never mind that have a Federal ID that gives me unescorted access to some of the most secure aviation and shipping facilities in the country or that I have more licenses, certifications and clearances than most members of the secret service.

Perhaps it was my blue blazer, white button down pin point Oxford shirt or regent stripe tie?

I must look the part of the prototypical scam artist, and I thank Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump for that.

My request was simple cash a check my father gave me nearly a month ago. His name, and my mother's name, the address where they have lived at since 1973 all appropriately displayed on the face of the check. The check made payable to me and my name of course matches my North Carolina driver's license as well as matches their last name.

So I wheel into the drive up lane at the local BofA branch, the same one Ive been using since the early 90's. After waiting behind another customer for an eternity it is my chance to drive up to the window.

The teller neither smiles or says hello, frankly I've learned not to expect the over the top politeness of Chick Fil A at Bank of America, but on this visit all I get is an audible grunt.

I placed the endorsed check and my drivers license in the drawer pulling my hand out of the way just in time as it snaps shut.

The woman behind the bullet proof glass never looks up. She just stares at the check and flips it over and over again, as if it written in some foreign language or carries an embedded secret code.

I am intrigued by her diligent examination and the amount of time that it is taking her, so I grab my cell phone and take her photo as she tells me that the drive through is for customers only and I need to come inside to be finger printed.

The blank stare continues, she never once cracks a smile. I suddenly feel that I have been transported to Soviet Russian, the woman in grey a stern "babushka" demanding my papers as a menacing KGB officer nearby glances my way.

Inside one of the bank's assistants to the assistant assistant managers greets me at the door. Polite at least but just as unhelpful, as he escorts me to the "teller line", at this point a second teller apparently the same cloned version of the first yet with a different name also proceeds to review my documents, photograph me and request my thumb print.

The assistant assistant provides me with a well rehearsed and repeated explanation; it is for our customer's protection.

Well treat me poorly, make me jump through hoops but don't lie to me, if it was for your customer's protection you wouldn't cash the check until you call my parents on the phone and asked "is it ok we give your son $50.00 from your account?"

To Bank of America the idea of who is a customer has been lost in a sea of corporate manuals, emails and memos. When your forget who the customer is you eventually fail.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to Banktown, baby. Hugh McColl's vision is finally taking root. I understand it's a pain to change banks, but is there any option?
I did notice Wells tellers being almost too freindly in my past visit for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Dude, who uses a teller line anymore? Get the app and deposit checks with your smartphone.

Anonymous said...

First, I'd argue that the title for worst customer service is a toss up between them and Time Warner Cable.
Second, I have never nor would I ever do business with BoA. Several years ago they began calling my parents, who don't bank with them, to the point of being harrasing - about their neighbors. There was apparently a dispute over some charges so the neighbors told them to kick rocks and took their business elsewhere. When the neighbors quit responding to them, the bank rep went online and found neighbors and began calling to have them tell the neighbors to call. My mother, after having recieved several of these calls, unloaded on the guy. She demanded to know how he'd gotten her info, and told him that calling and disclosing personal information of customers was unprofessional and she didn't appreciate it and not to call again. She was promptly cussed out and hung up on. Just one of many things I've heard that keeps me from being a BoA customer.

Anonymous said...

I opened a Bank of America account for while I was in the military and overseas (Vietnam). I heard too many stories and problems about BoA even back then; when I returned to the US I closed the account. I was and am almost surprised that BoA survived, let alone prospered all these years.

I do my banking at credit unions. Much nicer places.

Anonymous said...

Can't go wrong with the credit union. Far superior service.....

Anonymous said...

@Anon 11:00AM. That call was probably from a collection agent not BofA. No way the bak would call neighbors.

Anonymous said...

11:21 I'm a member of a Credit Union but the reality is they have their shortcomings. They can't compete on the convenience factors we've all come to love with the major banks i.e., ATM locations and online services.

Anonymous said...

Yes. But there is a price to be paid for those conveniences. If you are a customer of one of the big banks you already know that though...

Anonymous said...

Bank of America is a NIGHTMARE. Trying to get them to correct the simplest thing is not worth the effort.

I had a high interest mortgage and family health issues that caused an income reduction and unexpected expenses, so I filed for a loan mod. While I was in a trial mod, BOA filed for foreclosure. Once the mod became permanent, they kept my house in foreclosure for 8 additional months. They just started posting all of my payments in an unapplied account, while they added a $313 per month fee to the account charges.

The last time the case went to the clerk, BOA was still trying to foreclose. Fortunately the clerk said NO, this loan has been current for 8 months. I am dismissing the case. BOA could not show cause to appeal, so they had to correct the accounting and restore the loan.

Recently, I had a roof claim. The first check was just over 2K and we were told the bank would endorse the check at the local branch to get the job started. They didn't. They took the check and caused the roof to be delayed. I called Monday morning and they said that they were going to contact the roofers that day to discuss disbursement of that check (the first check does not even cover materials).Of course it is Friday and no one has heard from BOA.

Now I see that Sandy victims are really suffering at the hands of BOA because they are also taking their checks and sitting on them (there were also Katrina victims that they forced into foreclosure by sitting on their property claims checks).

Anonymous said...

Jeff A. Taylor said...

The drones you encountered probably REALLY believe the improv theater they walked you thru has something to do with "security" and "protection." But the truth is quite simple -- and unrelated.

BAC extracts a fee from you parents for their draft deposit account, unless their holdings are substantial enough to quality for "free" services, in which case some other sort of cross-subsidy is at work.

BAC does not, however, collect fees from those who show up in person to negotiate the redemption of one of their demand drafts. And in BAC's world, EVERY transition must generate revenue to the maximum extent possible. You turning up in the teller line was a big free rider problem -- you were using BAC to turn their systems into cash. And that is non-starter.

What to do? Well, they could -- and believe me -- WOULD prefer to charge you some amount for the transaction -- but how? Short you the $50 by a buck? That cannot work, as then they would be in violation of their fiduciary responsibility to your parents to damn well give $50 to whomever they designate to receive $50.

Next best thing? Impose NON-MONETARY costs on you so you will find alternatives to showing up for a fee-less transaction.

My suggestion is to routinely show up to cash checks from your parents in varying nominal amounts and make increasing bizarre demands in how you receive the cash. All $1s. All coins. Ten $2 bills and the balance in unrolled pennies. Just drive them bananas.

Anonymous said...

Silly, Customer Service died a long time ago. Nine-out-of-ten customers now days thank the cashier for helping them and taking the money.

There was also a time when sweet young college gals were the tellers -maybe they just grew up to be your Helga. Bless her heart, only BoA would hire such a face! I mean if I'm going to be told NO, I'd rather hear it from a Helena than a Helga!

Anonymous said...

I recently had a friend who hit a rough patch and I made a deposit to their BofA checking acct to help them out. I went in and filled out the deposit form with the info my friend provided and to my surprise, the net deposit was $10 short. They charge a fee (on some accounts at least)for coming in the bank to use a teller! I have never heard of anything so assinine. I thought BB&T was bad. Glad I'm a credit union member.

Anonymous said...

2:06 :Call back and ask to be sure you have the proper spelling of the name and title of the person(s) you are dealing with. Let them know you want it correct for contacting the national reps/VP's so you can get your home repaired. I don't get how they are allowed to hold your funds at all, but whatever the relationship, you should be able to have disbursement for repair.
You'll probably get a response. You can usually do an internet search to get the regional or national VP's contact information. Good luck.

Anonymous said...


Thank you. Unfortunately, I was speaking with Jessica York, Customer advocate in the Office of the CEO and President.

Friday afternoon, I called back and spoke to property claims and that person said yes, we deposited that check(in BOA's account), but we are waiting for a W-9 from the roofer(so they can file a 1099 for a BOA payout that was not even their money to begin with). I asked if they had contacted the roofer to ask them for the w-9 because I am sure they could have faxed it to them immediately. She said no, we cannot contact the roofer, (so I explained the conversation I had with Jessica York, on Monday and reminded them that I filled out a mortgage affidavit for the roofer which allows them to contact the roofer) I then told her that no one contacted me about this either. Her response... you have to have "THE LETTER" and I said "WHAT LETTER? Is this something the roofer is supposed to do or something from BOA or what are you talking about?". She said from BOA. I asked if BOA sent it to me, because BOA did not give it to me when I came into the branch to get the check endorsed, and I had not received it in the mail either. She said no, but you can go to the branch and I can fax it to the branch (impossible at that time)I cannot email it, but I could mail it out today. It has information about what we need, and the process that will answer your questions.

I never could get a straight answer as to if the W-9 was all that was pending or if there was something else.

Long story short, this had to be one of the most ridiculous, vague, and evasive conversation I have ever had. It was like a game, where I am supposed to guess what they want, and if I hit on the right answer, they might tell me a little more. Clearly the strategy is to keep any property claims funds in their account as long as possible. Property claims checks must be generating interest for them or something.

I think the roofers are concerned about being able to get the final payment out of BOA once the job is completed, and I have to say, I am worried about that too.

Last week I called Fannie Mae (backs the loan) about the problem and they said to call them back on Monday if the check had not been returned by then, and they would help. I suppose I can also file a complaint with the OCC, fed reserve, NCAG, and possibly the department of insurance, but that is a lot of work and sad that it would be necessary.

I can understand that they might want to make sure the contractor is legit, verify the signed contract (they have it)or check the work (not started because they are sitting on the payment to start work), but that is not what is happening here. Anyway...There is my BOA frustration.

Anonymous said...

BofA is not your bank, and you are not their customer. Just deposit the check at your bank and it will clear your account overnight. No muss, no fuss.

Did you really need the $50 from your parents right away?

Cedar Posts said...

3:02 you are so right, I could have just deposited they check at my bank.

But I needed cash and seemed like a simple solution.

Now I have the luxury of an ATM Card, and a bank account, but what about Sanchez Domingo who I pay by check?

He doesn't have a bank account, he carries a crazy amount of cash around because of that.

Bank fees eat up whatever savings he manages to have at the end of the week. So he takes what he needs, hides it a box in the back of his truck and sends the rest to his mother in Honduras.

Western Union by the way takes nearly a 15% fee. The wire fee and the clip on the exchange rate as well.

Still it is better than keeping funds at Bank of America.

In fact if you think about it in the simple I pay him he pays McDonald's via plastic for a Big Mac the bank really does quite well. And who really pays?

We all do.

Anonymous said...

hey, man, you may not want to post this hard-working guy's name and tell everyone he keeps large amounts of cash on his person and in his truck.

Anonymous said...

sanchez wants to be considered an American, he should get a bank account, pay taxes, and suck it up like everyone else. I have worked off duty at banks for years. If you aren't an account holder, they don't serve you. Who cares how Sanchez cashes his checks. He is making a business decision like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

3:02 here: So Bank of America should provide services to non customers for free? Somebody has to pay for the building, staff and expenses. The reason check cashing outlets charge a fee to Sanchez is they have expenses and risks in cashing checks; so does BofA, they just bury this cost in their other fees.

There is no something for nothing, even for guys in blue blazers.

Anonymous said...

No one asked BofA to provide a service to noncustomers. The customer who wrote the check and needs BofA to cash it to whomever they write it to, is an account holder. Cashing that check is a service to the Bofa account holder. Period.

The poor BofA customer will eventually end up having to write the BofA fee into any payment made with a BofA check if BofA is going to create an expense to cash checks drawn on BofA accounts.

If people refused to accept checks written on BofA accounts, that would solve the problem, and probably take care of Bank of America in the process. lol.

Jeff A. Taylor said...

Wow, only in CLT, a town brainwashed by banksters and their hot checks for decades, would you get multiple people defending BAC.

Here's what you guys do not grasp: Anyone holding a BAC demand draft is a customer of the bank. Period. The "account holder" fiction was created to make it easier to glom fees onto routine negotiations of drafts and accounts. The special class of "account holder" makes it seem like non-account holders are trying to get something for nothing from the bank. They are not. They are simply utilizing the demand draft BAC account holders have PAID FOR to settle accounts.

Remember, the account holder deposited his or her money with BAC, it does not come from the moon. In its simplest form, a demand draft is just an IOU. You show up with the IOU and the banker walks back to the vault and counts out some gold. It is the banker's IOU from HIS bank so there is no possibility of fraud in that regard. That is where the whole tradition of cashing checks drawn on accounts held at your bank started.

It was Hugh McColl's evil genius to jump start the process of taking deposits hostage and imposing fees on every interaction with those balances. Meanwhile, you loan out those deposits to government-favored debtors (sub-prime borrowers eg) with government guarantees and realize arbitrage profits, plus a few points of kickback from the Fed. It is a nice racket.

Fingerprinting troublesome customers is just a sick bonus.

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