Banking Locally

imgresI’m funny. Sometimes really funny. I sent this letter back in October after feeling at the end of the rope regarding my local bank here on Cape Cod, where I now reside. I will tell you about the response in another blog, but I just want you to ask yourself at the end of reading it if you think I’m a mean girl … or so clever you can’t believe it and want to call on me to write your letters of complaints for a fee. When you hear the response later this month, well… let’s see what you think. I have changed the names to make sure they don’t close my account and throw my money on the front lawn.

Mr. Pres Banks
President
Bank Who Shall Remain Nameless
25 Bank Ray Hollow
Bank Haven, MA 02601

Dear Mr. Banks,

I write to tell a tale of a woman returning to the Cape – to her roots – and her desire, her true desire, to be a part of a smaller community than New York City and Los Angeles where she has spent the last forty years as a business personage. It might have a happy ending; one never knows. I’m a Hinckley. My grandfather, John Hinckley owned John Hinckley & Sons Lumber, and I spent many a happy summer wandering the beaches, playing mini golf, and staring at the Kennedy kids from boats on the water. Fun.

I stopped coming during my high school years and only returned two years ago to assist my mother as she succumbed to cancer. As soon as I drove over the bridge, I felt like I’d like to run my business from the Cape – travel when necessary, but move the mother ship of Blue Shoe Strategy to Cape Cod.

Blue Shoe does strategic marketing – specializing in social media – for clients including Bank of America, Albania, and small start-ups, to name a few. We are really fun. We are really good at what we do, and as I approach my later years (I’m sixty), I like the start-ups better than the larger companies. I thought it was a great move to begin the transition to less stress, and I am so happy I did.

I arrived, settled into a house on on a meandering old road, and said to myself, “Self, if you are going to live a smaller life, then you need local purveyors.” I’m nothing if not thorough. I pulled into the XX branch of the The Bank Who Shall Remain Nameless and opened up personal and business accounts. I also kept my accounts at Chase open, where I have banked for the last zillion years. Aside from being thorough, I also hedge my bets. “Let’s see what this local banking is like,” I thought. “I can’t wait to have people say hello to me from the window drive through. Just think, I might be able to call in and have a personal banker to speak to. This is going to be awesome!”

Not so much. I would like to move my major banking to you, but here are some of the reasons why I can’t.

Let’s start with Bank Transfers.

Imagine my surprise when I sent my Blue Shoe wire transfer to your fax number at my branch and was called and told I had to come in to make the transfer. “Come in? Why, that’s not possible. I’m in Chicago. It’s three days before the election. I need you to transfer these funds to one of my vendors. Today.” Alas. It was never going to happen.

So, I sent the same fax to the Chase account and did the wire transfers from there.

I went to the bank yesterday to do a transfer in person, which is what led me to write you this desperate letter. We are doing something for the East Hampton Film Festival this weekend and I needed to wire money for a house that we rented over the Internet. The owner emailed me where to transfer the money. This is the same email he sends to everyone renting his house – as in tens of people a year.

Christine,

Please sign and return the attached Rental Agreement.

Please also need a copy of an ID (driver’s license or passport).

Here is the wire transfer information. Since the rental starts in less than a week please send the full amount:

Bank Name: JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Bank Account Number: XXX00XX215XX
Recipient: Thomas ShelXXXX
ABA/ Routing Number: 0210JJJ0XX
Swift Code: CHASUS33

We’ll meet you in person to deliver the keys.

Let me know your travel plans in terms of when you expect to arrive on Thursday. We can be flexible with check-out time on Monday.

Thomas ShelXXX
(917) 514-XXXX

I brought in the information to the fabulous MXXX, who is apparently the only person at my branch who can do a transfer in the bank – the tellers can’t, so there was an additional wait because that MXXX is a busy guy. I finally get into his office, and he starts to type in a form. Seems like a long form, but maybe it was because I’d waited almost an half an hour before he could see me. I will add that everyone else was not busy.

“What is his home address?” MXXX queried, asking for the address of the man who was renting me the house.
“His home address? I have no idea. I never met the man. I don’t know where he lives.”
“I can’t do the transfer without his home address and his branch address.”
“Well, I need this transfer done this morning, and I don’t have either. I have never needed this much information for a transfer for any other bank. Why would the guy want to give me his home address? He’s never met me. I’m a bit unstable and wouldn’t give myself my home address.” (I think I’m very funny. My local banker peeps do not.)

Lucky for us, Mr. ShelXXX answered his phone and was able to give me the information – and was willing to give it to me. We’ve already discussed that it is not something I would have done.

“Did you bring any checks?” MXXX asked next.
“No, why would I bring a check? It’s a transfer?”
Out comes a check form for a check for the transfer. Mindboggling.

“The fee is $22.”
“Don’t you deduct it from the account?”
“No, but I can do another bank check.”
I pulled out $22 and handed it to him. Seriously, he should have waived the fee. Really should have waived the fee.

Last night I did a remote phone consultation for McKinsey in New York. I received an immediate email afterward with a form for me to fill out to get a wire transfer for the consulting fee. They certainly didn’t ask for your local bank address, nor my home address. The routing number and account number were just fine.

This is 2013. Transactions take place at the speed of light. Having to come to the bank to do a transfer puts you in the dark ages of banking. And, the amount of information you require is not in line with today’s usage of transfers. It doesn’t work for individuals like me who would so very, very much like to do business with you.

Let’s move on to the Debit Card.

I use the debit card for my Blue Shoe account for some online software we use at Blue Shoe. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I received a call from your peeps a few weeks ago.

“Ms. Merser, I am calling to say we turned down a charge to your BSS account three days ago, and I wanted to check on it.”
“Why did you turn it down? It’s our Fresh Books Software (our billing service)?”
“Because they are located in Canada, so we thought it might be a fraudulent charge.”

Seriously? Because they are located in Canada? Did I miss something? Is Canada a hostile nation now? Did they attack us and I didn’t know?

I was exasperated. It wasn’t the first time this has happened.

“Look, I get that you guys are this side of conservative, but you should have called me THEN. I can’t have my purveyors thinking Blue Shoe doesn’t have any money. This is not ok. How do we fix this?”

And, so it went with a lot of back and forth and no resolution that you will stop turning away my legitimate charges for no reasonable reason.

And, last but not least. Window Teller Service.

I was on a conference call in August, mostly listening to a bunch of people who love repeating each other. Hmmmm. Perfect time to go cash a check for $5,000 that I need for an event that weekend where we needed to do some cash payouts.

I drove to the window, cell phone on mute, half listening to my group of pontificators (I’m sure you are thinking that this letter is right there in the top hit parade of pontification, and I get that, I really do, but it’s making me feel better.)

I handed her a check for $5,000. My driver’s license. A note that I wanted X number of $100’s… etc. She looked paralyzed. As in frozen.

“You have to come in to do this.”
“I can’t… I am on a call.” I hold up my cell phone and smile at her. “There is no one behind me, but I can pull away and drive up in a few minutes if you need a few more minutes.”
“No, you have to come in!” She’s turning blue and I do not wish to be responsible for her breakdown, so I drive away.

She knows me. I drive up to the window to make deposits a lot. Why did I have to come in? I had no baseball hat on? My license plates were on the car. There was nothing I provided when I came back a few hours later – at great inconvenience – that I didn’t provide when I drove up.

Ok, I’m done. Promise.

And, let’s end on the positive.

I love your pens. Not kidding. You have the best pens in the world. I was told yesterday they are on back order. I asked for one because I thought it would make me feel better after the trauma of the bank transfer lasting longer than Gone with the Wind. It’s ok, but you should know, when you have them, they are way cool. I have brought them to other clients and said they need to find the same one. I’m totally serious.

I love your people. Nice. Calm. Efficient – as long as I follow the outdated protocols to the tee. Protocols that must be updated if you are to be able to lure someone like me to want to use you. They are your greatest asset and isn’t that always the case?

The fabulous busy MXXX said you like input. He did. You now have mine. There is no need to send a nice response back. I am not sending this for a response, and I would probably find it disingenuous. I write you in hopes that maybe; just maybe, you will change some procedures so people like me can bank with fabulous people like you.

Sincerely,

Christine Merser
Managing Partner
Blue Shoe Strategy

Ok, tell the truth. It’s real. It’s true, and it’s cleverly presented with no bitterness, right? More to follow Freesia Laners.

3 comments to Banking Locally

  • Paula

    “I love your pens.”

    Isn’t that the crux of it? If they have great pens (write well, click to start), I am a fan, no matter what else goes on.

    But really, this is awful. Did you get an answer? I think, if this guy were Japanese, he’d commit hara-kiri at this point.

    • Christine

      Well, I know you must end on a positive and I was trying to be clever… And, the last straw post writing the letter is that they couldn’t get any more of the fabulous pens and have changed to a pen that is not special at all. In the end, I am closing my account there.

  • Bree

    Very funny from a “New York, L.A.” perspective… I love your humor. However, having banked in a small town before I can’t wait to read the sequel. I’m not so sure Mr. Banks will find it as funny, but it’s possible. Let’s hope he has a sense of humor and is business minded enough to take all of it into consideration. Otherwise you will just be labeled as the unstable woman who hoards nice pens! :)

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