Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Saga of Ken Lewis' Awful Retail BofA: The End

Beginning about a month ago, I wrote two posts concerning my appalling treatment at the hand of Ken Lewis' Bank of America, here and here.

Now I can write the end of that sad story of Ken Lewis' hapless, gigantic money center bank.

Having had no acceptable follow-up from any BofA employee in the wake of their unexplained loss of sensitive customer data and related issuance of new debit/ATM cards, I had proceeded to open a new account with the new branch of an old, small local commercial bank.

When I balanced my BofA account this week, there was a new $12 'monthly account maintenance fee.' That did it.

It had been my intention to retain the BofA account, in case there was a reason to switch back. But when I saw them engaging in high-handed, extraneous fee-charging, I knew I had to act fast.

The next day, I wrote a check for the bulk of the balance of my account and deposited the check in my new account at the other bank. Then I visited the local BofA branch in Summit to close my personal account there.

Upon finally catching the eye of one of the platform officers, as his loud guffaws on an obviously personal phone call filled the cavernous old 1930s, echo-chamber style marble building, I announced in a loud voice that I had come to close my account.

Amidst some discussion of account numbers, drivers license IDs, etc., he informed me that I'd have to wait until all outstanding checks had cleared. I replied that, since his bank was now charging me monthly maintenance fees, I had absolutely no intention of allowing that to happen.

He must process my request now and close the account. With a defiant look, he said he couldn't, because he didn't know how much was left in the account. I told him I had just drained most of the funds into my new account at the other bank, and he then triumphantly claimed that now he'd have to wait for that to clear, unless I happened to know the amount of the check.

"Of course I know the amount. It's $382," I calmly replied.

With a scowl, the junior bank officer turned to his screen and typed in some figures, announcing a final, cleared balance, adding,

"Of course, that's not precise. The actual number might be slightly different."

"It had better be precise," I said, "I've been a VP at Chase, so I think I know that one of the basic, core functions of a bank is to know exactly what a customer's balance is."

More scowling from the bank employee, who heatedly said,

"I don't need your attitude!"

"Would you like to call your branch manager over here now?" I coolly replied.

"That's your choice," he said.

"No, it's yours," I responded, "but I think your manager would be surprised to hear you, in his presence, repeat your statement that your bank can't give me an exact accounting of my balance in the account at your branch."

More frowns and huffy breaths. Then the officer announced a final balance, had me sign a withdrawal, and disappeared for a few minutes to retrieve my cash.

When he returned, he handed me the envelope, printed an account closing confirmation document, and wished me well.

Memo to Ken Lewis, CEO of BofA:


Nowhere in this process did your junior bank exec in the Springfield Avenue branch of your super-giant-sized bank ever ask me why I was closing my account. Or what, if anything, he or his manager, or anyone at BofA, could do to retain my business.

Instead, your young platform officer, having been forced to end his jocular personal call to attend to my business, merely performed the account closing as efficiently as possible, even dispensing some free attitude of his own to a departing customer.

A departing customer with a brain and mouth, Ken. Who has friends in the community, Ken.

Truth is, in the weeks since my first post, I helped two other members of my fitness club decide to close their BofA accounts, too.

How easy it would have been, Ken, for your bank to have flagged my account, so that if/when I came to close it, I would have been immediately sent to the branch manager's office to discuss how your bank might retain my account and business.

That might have caused me to think your employees and, by extension, you, actually cared about my business. But you don't. And they don't.

And it shows. It showed from the first ham-handed form letter from "Gordon Rains" announcing you had probably compromised some of my personal financial information, so you needed to send me a new ATM card.

No wonder why your bank is in such trouble Ken.

Best of luck sorting out this mess. Everyone knew you were overmatched when you tried investment banking. The Countrywide debacle isn't looking so good, either, lately. All those bribes Angelo allegedly gave to his Fannie Mae and Democratic Senate friends in the form of sweetheart jumbo mortgage loans.

At least we all thought you and your crew knew how to run a simple, basic retail bank branch business.

Well, we were all wrong.

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