Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Overdraft Sack

Turn on the TV these days and it’s likely you’ll hear a story about a poor soul who was forced out of their house by their bank. At first blush, I think “wow – those people really screwed-up!”

But after what Bank of America did to me, I find it totally believable how a bank can turn rogue and actually inflict pain and suffering on the very customers they are there to safeguard. In fact, it’s a ScrewFest™ amounting to 38+ billion dollars, according to a recent CNN Money article.

Flashback 1997

Like most first-time homeowners, I was house poor. While my loan was slam-dunk approved for my 1950s charmer, I found it really easy to hand over my paycheck to my local home improvement center for all the odds and ends needed to spruce-up my home. Bushes. Tools. Paint. You name it, the house ate it up.

One thing I was – and still am – protective of is my credit rating. I don’t know why, but in this rat race world, I want to optimize my loan rates since winning the LOTTO® is unlikely at this point in life. So I set-up overdraft protection at my local Bank of America in the event something ever went wrong.

Any boy, did it!

Christmastime Crunch

Sleigh bells rang. I scurried out the door to head to my birthing grounds for the holidays with the nuclear fam. It would be a week-long trip and I had just scored a $750 expense check reimbursement that I needed to deposit. I was running behind schedule, so I decided I would deposit the check at my destination down south since Bank of America had locations pretty much everywhere.

I landed on Christmas Eve and needed to do some last minute frustration shopping.

Pushy people abound.

Mall zombies. A sea of bouncing bobbleheads. Why, the "holiday spirit" was so thick, Emily Post was undoubtedly rolling in her grave. I made my way through it all and got home in time to place my wrapped treasures under the artificial tree.

Two days later and after visions of sugarplums had vaporized, I realized during the holiday hustle I hadn’t deposited my expense check, so I two-wheeled it to the bank drive-thru.

Five days later I returned home to Dallas. As I pulled into my driveway, I was blanketed with a really errie feeling I’ll never forget… sticking out the top of my mailbox like a middle finger were little white envelopes. I could see they were all alike. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 of them, in total. And what were the letters saying to me? "Yoo-Hoo!... Hey, loser! Get ready to be screwed!"

As fast as I dropped my suitcase on the floor, I was tearing open the envelopes. The letters were overdraft notices from Bank of America. Too much holiday gift-giving, apparently. My eyes scanned the letters and there played out for me were recognizable dollar amounts from my holiday shopping hustle. Some as small as $3 for a cup of coffee from "Fourbucks" (yeah, coffee was about 3 bucks back then.) And each and every transaction had an additional $30 charge conveniently and instantly applied.

“This must be a mistake,” I said out loud, as I shook my head back and forth in disbelief. I had a headache brewing. And the pain was just beginning.

Earth, Wind & Fire

The next day, I bolted to the bank and asked for the banking center manager. I presented the facts and said that while I understood I had accidentally dipped past my account balance, it was only by a bit – roughly $200 – but the bank had charged my account real-time, so the fire had spread to over $1,100! I said I would totally pay for my overdraft charges, but was there anything they could do to work with me? Payment plan? One free NSF rebate with the purchase of a loan? Anything?

And what did I hear? “This happens to all of us.”

"Really?," I said? $1,100?

A grown man can indeed be broken and I tried to hold back the tears of fright as I wondered how I would make my next mortgage payment. $1,100 to me was (and still is) a lot of money and not only was my paycheck swiped up by BoA to promptly pay themselves [ evil laugh ], my savings – and my overdraft protection – evaporated, too.

I told the manager I couldn’t understand why BoA was “putting fire out with gas.” I couldn't understand how my account wasn’t flagged or turned off if I was out of money, but therein lies the nasty nugget – Bank of America wasn’t stupid... or helpful. Most predators aren’t.

Bank of America took me for every hard-earned penny I had. And then some. And they weren’t even remorseful about it. No phone call to see how I was – or even if the charges were legit. No “Hey, dumb ass – did you learn something at your expense?” So that very day I swore “Skank of America” was dead to me. I would never bank with the evil doers ever again.

And I haven’t.

Even though this experience was one of the scariest life events I encountered, some good came out of it. My dear cousin swooped in on angel wings and saved the show – she mailed me a check without hesitation to get me back on my feet.

And I did.

Thank God I still owned my feet! I used them to run from Skank of America faster than Julia did in Sleeping with the Enemy.

That Was Then. This Is Now.

13 years later, and I’m never going back.

"F" you, Bank of America. Pa Ingalls would be ashamed of how your employees so soundly sleep at night based on what you do during the day (screwing well-intending worker bees).

And "F" you, heartless Hillside branch banking center manager. Your mom should stuff your mouth with the bags of pennies you yearn for then beat you with a 5 gauge wire hanger for being a cold, soul-less zombie.

“It happens to all of us.”

Flash Forward 2010:

In a recent New York Times article, Skank of America is finally caving in on their ludicrous NSF shenanigans. The change will go into effect for new customers in June and later in August for existing customers... serving as a great example of another dumb company who values new customer relationships more than existing ones.

It’s all in how they roll their dough, folks!

Rolled Like Dough Twice?

Absolutely! I am the World's *Genuine* Consumer Victim, after all. Read about my former Credit Union who promptly tried to ruin my twice-in-a-lifetime trip to glorious Italy!