Bank on Them to Do You Dirt

bill collectorNow my personal story:

I missed making the March payment on a Wells Fargo credit card. I accept responsibility for that.

My simple system for handling most bills involves writing the due dates on the outside of the envelopes in which they arrive, and placing them in a basket on my desk in the order they must be paid. With perhaps three exceptions in my entire adult life – the others because of disputes over the charges – my bills always have been paid on time.

But somehow I missed the March bill on that credit card. My first thought was that the bill never arrived, but given that Wells Fargo, like all other major institutions, is infallible in all things, I gave up on that idea. More likely, I mistakenly shredded the bill along with some of the numerous credit card offers my wife and I receive every month. (How I’d like to bill those banks for all the time I spend doing that, not to mention to cost of the quality shredder I bought when two cheaper ones gave out, one after the other.)

OK. My bad.

But I didn’t realize I hadn’t paid the bill. Ideally, one should post a list of regular bills and their normal due dates, and check the list regularly, so that one is aware of the fact if a bill should not show up at an appropriate time.

Know anyone who does that?

I became aware of the error when I received a nasty and threatening letter from Wells Fargo. The bill, at that point, was about 24 days over due. The letter was sent when the bill was just 20 or 21 days over due.

Our home mortgage is held by Wells Fargo, purchased by that bank from another company some years ago. Mortgage payments are up to date and always have been.

We have had that credit card for a couple of years now, and payments before the one in March, were made on time.

The bill was less than a month overdue. And here is a letter from the bank, over the signature of Larry Tewell, senior vice president for card services, ordering me to “send the past due amount immediately to avoid further collection action on your account.”

I mailed a check for notably more than the required amount the day that I received the letter. (It has since been cashed by Wells Fargo.)

Ah, but that was just the first shot from the bank.

Two days after the arrival of the letter, I got a telephone call from an exceedingly rude, harsh-voiced woman who demanded I make payment right then, over the phone. I told her I’d sent a check two days earlier, but that was not satisfactory, she said. “You must make a payment right now, during this telephone call.”

Again, I started to tell her that a check had been mailed two days earlier, but she continued to talk over me, demanding immediate payment again and again. In fact, she raised her voice and talked over me, constantly. At one point I said: “Ma’am, please stop talking for a minute and listen to me,” (Note, I did not say, “Shut up,” as I wanted to do.) But she continued to say the same things repeatedly, at a level barely below a shout, refusing to allow me to say anything. Obviously it was what she had been trained to do.

After several minutes of abuse, I hung up.

The woman on the telephone said several times that the bank would inform credit reporting agencies of our delinquency, and would damage our credit rating. I have no doubt it will do that.

I have not yet decided how I will deal with that, but my anger is such I’m willing to expend both time and money to protect our credit rating and, if I can, put some hurt on the bank. Various regulators, members of Congress and state legislators will see or hear my story. I am fortunate in where I live; at least two of the politicians are of that rare type who actually care about the welfare of their constituents.

Yes, failure to make payment was ultimately my responsibility. I would not fight a reasonable financial penalty for that mistake. But the penalty won’t be reasonable, and damage to my credit standing could do me serious harm.

In a sense, I am shocked that a bank, even one of the giants such as Wells Fargo, will so abuse a long-time customer with a solid history of credit worthiness.

jim fullerBut I am not really surprised. Wells Fargo is one of the big outfits, impersonal and utterly contemptuous of everyone who is not them, with a history in recent years of doing terrible things to people for the sake of profit. Just like all the other big banks. Officers who were in charge when the worst things happened make more millions now than they did in 2007.

Words such as “service” are simply advertising words, without real meaning. The standards that people of my generation accepted as the norm – providing service and and returning value for money, courteous treatment of customers, especially long-time customers, and, in fact, common decency – no longer apply. Given that there is virtually no competition, and that governments at all levels now exist primarily to serve money and power, the individual has no effective way to resist, and exists only to be milked.

This is Corporate America, Tea Party America.

Jim Fuller

Things We’re Not Supposed to Say

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