Bank of America is about to wrap its evil tentacles around the financial institution where I store my five dimes and four nickels. This is not unlike the phenomenon that occurs in hospitals around July. Bascially, things can go wrong. July is when freshly minted doctors, newly hatched from diagnosing tumors in rats, become certified as medical geniuses who can mess with real people. That means they now have permission to make life and death decisions about your health and charge you large sums of money. Coincidentally, and this may just be rumor, the hospital mortality rate in July suddenly rises across the country.
Same thing when one company takes over another. There is bound to be collateral damage during the shakedown cruise. Since I'm dealing with a lame duck bank right now I've been wondering when it would start.
Recently I ran out of checks. I also wanted to change my address to my post office box. And use my initials instead of my full name. So I made the extra effort to go to the bank with my requests, along with the little form provided in your checks when you're getting down to the nub.
I talked to a very nice woman who made sure I filled out everything properly. Then I received two follow up calls from two different people to make sure my order was exactly as I asked. The one thing the bank people all had in common was a foreign accent. Russian, Bosnian, Chinese, Latin American, Somalian, take your pick. Not that foreign accents can't be charming, but dealing with people who speak English as their second language does not bode well for good communication in financial transactions.
About two weeks ago I got a phone call from a different person with a foreign accent, "Please call Ms. So and So at your lame duck bank, we have 'something' for you." Even though I didn't remember the name of the woman, my branch is small, so I figured someone could tell me what that 'something' was. I was on pins and needles. I gave my name and I was told that there was nothing there for me. "But I was told there was 'something'." No there isn't. "So why did you call me then?" The person (did I mention her foreign accent?) had no idea.
Yesterday, many days later, I called again, because my checks still hadn't arrived at my PO Box. I was told by another person with a foreign accent that the checks had not only been at the bank since early in the month but they had already called to tell me. "Yes, but when I called back somebody said there wasn't anything there for me. Besides, why didn't you call me again?"
Naturally, when I made a special trip to come in to get the checks, they were not what I ordered anyway. The color was wrong. What is it about GREEN that you didn't understand? The size was wrong. I want the EXACT SAME SIZE I had before. Apparently the bank had changed check making companies. They could have suggested that I come in and completely re-do my order. But no, they thought they knew best.
However, the incorrect checks were nothing compared to what happened when I went to get some temporary checks to tide me over.
The lady in line next to me was ranting and raving. After leaving the bank she discovered she'd been shortchanged by the teller. A teller who had a foreign accent by the way. For some reason her story was believable enough that the teller gave her the money she claimed she didn't receive. I'd never seen that before. In the past, only an act of God could move a bank to acknowledge that you even existed, once you'd left the premises. Step away from the window and you're SOL.
That got me thinking about banks making mistakes. In the old days when people could do math with a pencil and paper, banks never seemed to screw up. With computers came errors. Little ones at first. A bank I formerly used had made a one penny mistake in my favor. That was when balancing my account each month was my religion. I was so proud of myself I couldn't wait to tell them. They couldn't have been less impressed. Then I noticed that their mistakes became a matter of policy. It was as if they were daring you to catch them siphoning off your pennies and nickels. I finally switched banks when I got charged twice for the same ATM withdrawal. Now I hear that's business as usual.
The only people who've ever shortchanged me work as cashiers in the parking facility at O'Hare airport, a job description where you might expect "mistakes" to take place. I have since learned not to pay with a one hundred dollar bill. Even though the cash register tells them how much change to give me, they can't seem to count it out right. Hmmm.
But the lady next to me who got shortchanged by the bank wasn't the only one with a problem. The guy behind her had had his money deposited into the wrong account. He got home, checked his receipt and came running back. Next to his meltdown, the shortchanged lady was quite serene. Screwed up checks, shortchanged customers, money deposited into the wrong account. Foreign accents. Uh-oh, is that brown stuff I see about to hit the fan?
Or am I just not adjusting very well to the exponential speed of change?
Meanwhile, how do I know that the six hundred incorrect checks have been destroyed?