Tuesday, January 08, 2008

High Finance ~ Trading Banks

I wasn't a happy camper, not at all. Thanks to the bank's "policies" I was flat out without funds. They wined and dined me and all of the other members of the Chamber of Commerce at a big Grand Opening party and convinced me that it would be a good place to bank. My old bank had moved their closest office several miles away and this was closer. Some of the requirements for opening the account didn't seem too onerous, things like maintaining a CD of at least $100 in addition to the checking account. Hell I'd save a hundred bucks in gas alone within six months. Another was direct deposit of my Social Security check. I could live with that. Evening hours plus Saturday and Sunday, even letting me choose between going into the lobby or using the drive-through. And lastly, I had to have a debit card. I'd never had a debit card before. I didn't want a debit card. "Oh, but you NEED a debit card to activate your account" I was told.

I've never lost a credit card in my life. Sometimes I actually suspect that when the bank officer went to the cash machine to "swipe" the card to activate the account the card was in fact "swiped". I don't remember if I ever got it back.

A few days later they were nice enough to call and tell me that several checks I'd written would be bounced if I didn't come up with some cash fast. A LOT of cash. Somebody had treated themselves to a gourmet dinner with wine, and a shopping spree at the odd combination of the Home Depot and Macys someplace in the mid-west.

Hell, when I make a purchase well over $500 I often get asked for a picture ID, or at least they check the signature against the one on the card. Not in these cases! No way.

My Social Security check had just been direct deposited, I had maybe $20 in my pocket, and these idiots said that it would take ten days to "investigate" before they could release the funds. A day later, when I took this shot, they'd called to tell me that they'd made a mistake. Since my account was less than three months old it would take TWENTY days. I kind of went ballistic, then did an imitation of a couple of the homeless guys I see at Starbucks, going up and down the lines of customers waiting their turn at the teller. "Hey Mister, I haven't had a thing to eat all day. The bank refuses to give me MY money. Could you please spare me a five or a ten? I'm hungry."

The bank of course, tried to maintain a modicum of decorum by threatening to call the police. I offered my cell phone to one of the bank officials with a "Here, it's programmed to the non-emergency number. Just push send." I got a really strange look as a number of customers were busting a gut laughing. "Go ahead, call them. Just wait until the Herald runs the story. I can't wait to see the judge laughing his ass off when we get to court in the morning."

I left with some cash from my account, with the promise that I'd be able to continue cashing checks. None of my checks really ended up bouncing. All the overdraft charges were reversed. My account is still there. In retrospect it was kind of a fun experience. Today another Social Security should have been credited to my account. I'll confirm that tomorrow when I cash a check.

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