All Business, Good & Bad

Sometimes, an awful consumer experience. Let's call them out. Okay, mostly. But sometimes awards. Yes? All the accounts are truthful. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. Email me with your stories and I'll include them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wachovia Bank - Bad Business, July 2005

This is looking like I'm bad at keeping books. Well, I can be, but have been much better about it since meeting my wife.

I wrote a check in March 2005 that I lost track of because it was not cashed until June 21, 2005. It, of course, hit the same day as our mortgage check, but I had deposited a freelance check for about $250 that same day. Unfortunately, the cashed check was a little more than that, and thinking I had several hundred dollars, did some shopping. All out, at the end of two days I had over $300 of overdraft fees.

I spoke with Wachovia when my card was denied and found out about the check. It was my mistake, but the only thing they could do was refund $60 as a courtesy. Could something be done to limit my card, give a denial if the funds weren't there? No. I was advised not to use my card because purchases under $10 or so might make it through. HOW? But that's how it works. I was advised to open a credit card for overdraft protection (again, fees going to Wachovia, of course). I began feeling like I was Wachovia's piggy bank. Multiple calls and time spent with supervisors confirmed that the $60 courtesy was pretty much a hard and fast rule without bank error.

I was frustrated, but was able to pull it together and see what I could do. The customer service rep told me that I would have 28 days to repay the negative balance in my account.

Fine. But as if the helplessness that banks can make you feel was not enough, on Friday, July 5th, Wachovia pulled $359 from my wife's account to zero out my balance. WHAT???

After speaking to a CSR and a Supervisor and bank personnel and a branch manager, I found that this is basic Wachovia practice. Because our accounts were linked, they reserved the right to "normalize" an account by any means necessary. Never mind that someone told me I had 28 days. (The Supervisor "made a note" for the manager of the employee. Think I'll hear back about that?) Never mind that Wachovia was going to get their money.

An unnamed employee of Wachovia even admitted "That's shady."

And after speaking to over half a dozen employees at Wachovia, this was the first I had ever heard of a process that was open to us: I could have initiated a setup wherin my account was an overdraft protector for my wife and vice versa. Why had they not mentioned this before? Again, the credit card interest fees. And because I had not done this (not that I had known), Wachovia was unable to pull funds from her account to cover an overdraft of about $40 that resulted in $330 going into their pocket.

Let me put it this way: Wachovia was not at liberty to pull money from my wife's account to cover an overdraft that resulted in a large profit in their favor because I had not expressed direct, written permission. However, when they were looking to collect on those fees, they had implied permission, by me simply opening an account, that they could pull that money from my wife's account without permission from or even notification of either of us. This is the most unethical business practice I have personally encountered to date.

Caveat Emptor: Banks are raising fees and changing procedures. You will be informed, but in a tiny pamphlet that looks unimportant in 5-point font. The little guy is their piggy bank, and we can't change the laws without big money for big lawyers against a big corporation who runs on our mistakes. That, or a huge public outcry. (Remember the car lease release on what's due at signing?) And who's got the money for a lawyer?

Email Wachovia and let them know that their practices are wrong.

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