I love my bank. I love the fact that I have ATMs all over the world. I enjoy that my mortgage, checking, savings and even my daughter’s account are all manageable within their easy-to-use online portal. I love the fact that I know my branch manager and favorite tellers by name. I love Bank of America.
However, like any close friend, they’ve done things that have disappointed me in the past: check-clearing paths that haven’t crossed in my favor and little fees charged for just moving my money around between accounts online. Luckily, the complaint department has now bestowed upon me some sort of exemption from future transaction fees. I guess the squeaky wheel finally got the grease.
There are two recent instances, though, where my neighborly bank may have pushed our financial relationship a little too far. The first was the federal bailout. While I’m glad the bank that’s digested my life savings didn’t go belly-up, I am still a little confused as to why my taxes were used to bail out an institution thought to be in a business model that can’t lose (especially on a global scale). I guess that’s where the greed of lending $300,000 mortgages to $40,000-a-year middle-management slackers comes into play.
Speaking of greed, without so much as a “thank you” for saving their business from ruin just two years ago, Bank of America recently proposed charging the very customers who stuck by them during those trying times $5 a month just for the convenience of using their debit card. Wow. Really!?!
As a marketing and public-relations professional from way back, I am still scratching my head over the sheer ignorance of such a proposition. First of all, as a BOA customer, I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to my teller inform me of all the great banking business their ATMs are capable of transacting as I’m pushed out the door to the one in the foyer. They’re trying to reduce manpower and encourage anytime banking, I’m told.
Secondly, don’t the BOA yahoos in Charlotte read the newspapers? There’s a bunch of people currently camped out on New York’s Wall Street (and Main Streets everywhere) protesting the lack of gratefulness these and other fat cats have yet to express from the taxpayer bailout as they still refuse to grant us loans. Seems they’re scared to lose whatever principal might’ve generated a measly 4 percent return. That should have been the number-one stipulation of the federal bailout—come up off your wallets and we’ll save your ass.
Last week, BOA finally caved. “We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” said David Darnell, Bank of America’s co-chief operating officer. “Our customers’ voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”
What a crock. He’s no more listened to his customers over the past few weeks than I’ve listened to Barry Manilow—ever. All he had to do was flip on the evening news. Hell, all he had to do was hang out in the lobby branch of their corporate headquarters for 15 minutes and ask everyone in the ATM line what they thought of the proposition. Charge me money to withdrawal my money from my bank? I’d ask him the closest place to buy Mason jars.
No, what he and other banks were listening to was the competition first and foremost. When J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo nationally, and SunTrust, First Tennessee and others regionally, decided not to charge the fee, BOA followed suit. And why did everyone back down?
Because, according to CNN, the Occupy Wall Street protesters had been calling for consumers to celebrate “Dump Your Bank Day” last week. I believe they were encouraging low-fee credit unions and community banks as alternatives. Meanwhile, CNN also reported the National Foundation for Credit Counseling conducted a poll that showed 62 percent of consumers would leave their bank if it began charging a debit-card fee. I guess those were the “customers” BOA was listening to.
Back here at home, I still enjoy the friendly relationship I share with my favorite Bank of America branch. I like the fact they can help along financial transactions or forgive some fees based on that relationship, without checking my balance first. And I like the online banking and the “fee-free” ATM capabilities.
I really have no idea what exactly Occupy Wall Street is protesting or hopes to achieve. But I do know if all they do is strongly encourage finance executives to sincerely recognize that “our customer’s voices are important to us”, then at least the camping trip was worthwhile.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are just that. Everything expressed is loosely based on fact, and crap he hears people talking about. Take what you just read with a grain of salt, but pepper it in your thoughts.