STICKIN’ IT TO THE MAN

It’s a strange thing when seeing a business go under overnight becomes an everyday occurrence.  Or when families across the country reside in their homes one week only to be gone the next, taking the essentials and leaving behind a foreclosure sign in their front yard.  It’s even more strange when you stop remembering what it was like before everyone became so desperate, before the news mentioned the dire state of the economy and virtually everyone knew first hand exactly what they were talking about. 

While politics may be all wrapped up in deciding the problems and finding the solutions to this horrid state of lack we find ourselves in, I think we all have the ability to reclaim our control over our own financial situations.  My attempt to do just that has included a recent brawl at my local bank when a cheery-eyed teller informed me that they offered no such thing as overdraft protection and a $36 charge per $3.00 transaction was normal, even if there was AMPLE money in a savings account that they were SUPPOSE to have connected to said overdrawn account.  Controlling my urge to pummel her, I bluffed and said that I would then be switching my accounts to another bank.  Thus the groveling ensued, followed by a fee retraction by the manager, and a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to follow through on my threat.

Banks, my friends, deserve to be shaken up a little bit.  Somewhere along the way we all agreed to give up our power, to roll over and accept the outrageous fees, the insane interest rates, and the utter lack of benefits we receive by GIVING THEM BUSINESS.  So when a friend received a letter from US Bank (no shame in name dropping here) stating that their interest rate for a line of credit would be raised due to recent negative marks on their credit report, I agreed to write a response.  Keep in mind, this friend had never been late paying on this line of credit, and the recent negative marks had been because, like HALF THE NATION, their income had dropped nearly 70% in the past year.  Strange, I would think that if you saw someone drowning in a pool you might say, hmmm…looks like you need some help- would you like me to drain some of that water for you?  Not, hmmm…looks like you need some help- I’ll have to add some more water to ENSURE THAT YOUR DROWNING IS SUCCESSFUL

So without further ado, here is my response to US Bank….

 To whom it may concern:

Please refer to attached letter.

First and foremost I extend my deepest gratitude that the great people of US Bank are being meticulous about following the state of my financial affairs.  It is so good to see that banks such as this one take the time to check up on those of us on “main street” when wall street is still reeling from the recent bank bailout.  Speaking of which, I am so glad that US Bank received the financial help it needed with the billions the government doled out last year ($6.6 billion to your bank alone, I believe).

However, with these generous handouts that your bank has recently accepted, I was a bit puzzled to read that you will not be extending this help in my direction but instead ensuring my own financial demise with an increase in the interest rate for my line of credit from 7.5% to 10.75%.  While your concerns about negative marks on my credit report may give you ample reason within your regulations to do so, it may also be prudent for you to refer back to my payment record with your bank in particular- I would be surprised if you found it to be anything but spotless.

In speaking with other creditors who have been sympathetic to my situation (one that I no doubt share with millions of other Americans), I have remembered that there are companies that are interested in helping instead of hindering my financial well being.  They have agreed to do everything from allowing me to delay my payments to keeping my interest rate intact.  Strange, most of these companies haven’t been on the receiving end of such generosity as yours has, but I digress.

While my “cash flow problem” may not have shown up on the evening news like yours, I would assume that we both know the far reaching effects that this issue can have.  So in seeing that you received the assistance that you needed perhaps you can tell me where I can find a similar hand out?  Please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions. 

 Sincerely,

Your Loyal Customer

P.S. I will be sure to tell others to avoid banking with you in order to save you the time and energy it takes  to provide top-notch personalized customer service.  Consider this my gift to you.

Will this warrant some sort of brilliantly compassionate response on the bank’s part?  I’m not holding my breath.  But I’ll certainly keep you updated…

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14 responses

  1. I was recently shopping for CD accounts, and I was horrified at the low interest rates! It’s awful how banks are screwing the people they should be helping. People who are helping them. I hope your letter makes a difference.

  2. That letter is brilliant!

    I’ve been very lucky with the bank that I am with (TD Canada). They are constantly offering to review my fees to ensure I have the best accounts for my needs, their financial advice is readily available and always suitable, and with great service and amazing hours – they make banking enjoyable.

    And that officially makes me a nerd.

    • Thank you!

      That is awesome. I have been with the same bank for awhile and never had any problems with it. And then I realized that I didn’t have any problems because I had successfully flown under their radar being the tight penny pincher that I am. The minute I had a hiccup they weren’t quite as accomodating as I thought they would be. This seems to be how most of the banking industry is.

  3. I think this incredible true, and “here-here” for saying it! I am so incredibly smitten with your blog. I look forward to when you write again. You truly are brilliant. I can see a very bright future in your midst. Hoping to be there reading along with the rest of the online world. Words are your magic….I hope to be a fraction of a writer you are.

    Ever grateful,
    Alexis

  4. Great letter, thanks CofaP
    As a person who in a previous life spent a cajilliion dollars on returned check fees, let me just say that I have spent face time with the blank stares of tellers whose only advantage is that the power of the institute has their backs. The fact that a sheet filled with many numbers turns my usually astute brain to mush is a concept lost on those who deal with said items daily. They have no empathy for those of us who enjoy words far more than facts disuguised as figures. Also, the fact that I lacked a serious income at the time was another strike against me.
    Anyway, after banging my head against the sneeze-guard glass between the teller and I, and realizing the deck was stacked against me (if I may mix poker and baseball metaphores), I took my money to a Credit Union. Best financial move I ever made.

  5. Did the charges on your account accrue from purchases on a check card? If so, I’d demand that the bank simply refuse charges if the money is not in the account. You have to opt in for this, but their counting on the fees from people to over spending on their check cards, it’s how they make money now.

    I suggest listening to this interview Bob Sullivan on Fresh Air. Sullivan is a consumer reporter and focuses on all the hidden fees and other strategies that banks, cell phone co’s, credit card co’s, and cable companies use to fleece their customers. It’s maddening.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122212229

    There’s another good Frontline program on PBS on credit cards and their shady dealings.

    The first stimulus payment made to banks by President Bush in 2008 (TARP) was intended to loosen up credit by having banks put that money back on the street in the form of loans to small businesses and individuals. Unfortunately, there were no firm stipulations placed on that package and many banks used that money for other purposes. I know that US Bank used its money to buy at least one other bank, possibly two.

    As for saving, I keep my money with the ING Direct web bank. It’s still FDIC insured, and although interest rates are very low, their’s are still higher than brick and mortar banks.

    • I honestly didn’t even know that I could have my bank deny charges if I didn’t have money in the account. Funny that they don’t let you know that from the beginning!

      As for your savings, I think that’s an awesome idea. Are you able to make transfers though?

  6. They, of course, want you to go over your limit so they can charge you for it as a valuable service to you. Listen to the Fresh Air interview, he talks about it. It’s certainly in their power to deny charges, so I can’t see why you can’t demand it.

    With ING Direct, you can make transfers back and forth. You link it to an existing checking account. It does take a couple of days to transfer money back in to your checking acct, but you simply need to plan ahead. In 4 or 5 years, I’ve never had a problem, and before the interest rates came down, a couple of years ago, we were getting like 4 and 5% interest. The web interface is very clean and easy to use.

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