Friday, September 7, 2018

Reader Alert - Rant

                                                                 

Reader Alert - Rant - if you don't like that kind of thing, you might want to click off now.


Someone on another blog told me they admired me because I didn't have pity parties for myself but that isn't strictly true. Sometimes, I feel sorry for myself and that is the case right now.

I have had my checking account at First Merchant's Bank since long before they were First Merchant's. I never was one of their most affluent customers but for the most part, I think I was solid and played by the rules.

That all changed when I got sick and had to retire. My new financial strategy turned out to be of the "borrow off Peter to pay Paul" variety. That became even more so when I got Salmonella and thought I might be dying. I was so sick I couldn't summon the energy to care about anything.

I overdrew my checking account and that turns out to be a vicious cycle. When your social security check comes in, the bank takes their overdraft fees first which leaves you even less money to pay your bills. It is rather like borrowing from one of the check-cashing places. You borrow, have to pay them back, aren't left with enough to pay your bills and have to borrow again at extremely high interest rates. (I've never actually gotten money from one of them).

I never whined or complained about any of this. I usually just take my lumps when I deserve them. I certainly understand that banks can't allow customers to be overdrawn every month and that there is a price to pay for that. They have their rules after all.

But then my cousin sent me $1,000 to get my finances caught up. It was to get current with the bank and pay some things I needed to pay. I was so grateful and relieved - back in the black!

The clerk took my check, entered it in their system, then came back and told me they've have to put a seven working day hold on it because my account was overdrawn although much of the money was to go to become NOT overdrawn.

First, there is no such thing as a 7 working day hold because no matter when you deposit, you will run into a weekend which makes it 9 days. In my case, with the Labor Day holiday, it turned out to be 13 days.

"You're telling me in this era of modern day electronic communications, when Amazon can tell me if my payment went through in 30 seconds, it takes you 13 days to process a check? What, are you still using the Pony Express?"

She shrugged and said, "those are our rules?"

I asked, "and will you be charging me overdraft fees for every day that you have my check on hold?"

She shrugged. "Those are our rules."

I waited. By the time, my check was deposited, I still had $329 left out of my $1,000 but I was current with the bank.

I went down to First Merchants and asked to speak to a manager but none were available. I spoke to the same clerk that had taken my check. She said she was the "Acting Manager" when no managers were there.

"Do you have any authority?"

"I'm the Acting Manager. I'm sure I can help you."

"And you want to do this right here at the counter instead of taking me into a private room?" (The bank was pretty busy). She shrugged.

"Okay, then," I said and launched into my story (which, of course she already knew) but the rest of the curious customers didn't. I didn't bother to keep my voice down.

"I think if you put an asterisk beside my check, you should have also put a hold on overdraft fees and then forgive them when the check clears."

She shrugged, "those are our rules."

"And in my opinion, your rules are simply a scam to get undeserved money out of your customers."

She shrugged and said, "I'll talk to my manager when she gets back and someone will respond.

(This wasn't the whole conversation but you get the gist.)

Nothing I could do at that point except leave.

A couple of hours later, the manager called.

"I'm calling to inform you there is nothing we can do to rescind your overdraft fees," she said shortly, "is there anything else I can do to help you"

"Anything else? You haven't done anything to help me yet."

My cousin was also furious from his end of this transaction. He called his bank.  His check cleared his bank on August 23. First Merchant's didn't credit my account until September 4 while the fees continued to add up.

I think it is legalized thievery and it stinks.

So, there - I feel sorry for myself. If you read this, you can decide for yourself if I'm a whiner or if I have a valid point.