Wells Fargo: 50 Ways to Leave Your Customer
Honestly – we feel jilted. After my wife and I and our respective businesses spent years trying to cultivate a relationship with you, Wells Fargo, you took a page from Paul Simon’s song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and left us. Yeah, “Hop on the bus, Gus,” “Make a new plan, Stan,” “Don’t need to be coy, Roy,” and all the other 47. Now you didn’t tell us to go elsewhere. You just made it plain that we were unwanted – our long-time “Preferred Customer” (private banking) status and multiple accounts, some with high average balances, plus a sizeable mortgage notwithstanding. Heck, we even tried to give you all our retirement savings, but after your “retirement planner” couldn’t find time to develop a plan in three months, we did “cheat.” We committed an act of customer infidelity and went elsewhere.
Now, ’cause this is a blog, I’m going to skip the first 49 ways you left us, and you used them all. Other than to merely mention the time you accepted a large, multi-check business deposit at your drive-up window; issued a deposit receipt from your transaction system, indicating that you’d already linked these checks to our account; then proceeded to not only “lose” the deposited checks, but tell us you wouldn’t credit the deposit until an internal review taking up to 10 business days, plus us producing copies of our clients’ cancelled checks. Despite the fact that even a transaction system run by East Elephant’s Breath Savings & Loan would spot the error immediately when your drive-in teller couldn’t balance out at end of shift. Oh, could we ever feel the customer love!
Yeah, and the timing of these events was so special, too. We discovered you’d “lost” the checks only after you bounced a series of checks written against our “Preferred Customer,” fee-laden, sub-molecular interest-bearing rate checking account, where we keep on deposit only enough to cover checks we write. And our “Preferred Customer” private banker supposedly watching over our “Preferred Customer” accounts? She must have been out to lunch that week.
But don’t get me started…
Nor will I go on and on about your incredible creativity in inventing new fees that pop up like gophers in Minnesota lawns. Nope. Nor will I eat up space describing how your online banking system repeatedly disproves the old adage that “when the bank’s balance and yours don’t agree, trust the bank.” Gonna skip all that stuff so I can focus on the 50th “way” you left us – the one where you told us our relationship was over, done, kaput, divorce-time.
Slap number 50 came when we realized how determined you were to “play the float” with our money. Because my firm consults in the retail financial services space, we’re very familiar with a Federal Reserve Bank edict, “Reg CC,” issued to end miscreant banks’ unreasonable “extension” of check clearing time, which allowed them to earn interest on customers’ money by withholding it from customer accounts for as long as possible. Under Reg CC, barring very special circumstances the maximum time a bank is allowed to clear a local check of $5,000 or more is five days – to which a bank may add a maximum of six days for an out-of-town check. Smaller checks, of course, must be cleared faster than that. And this regulation is still so generous to you, Wells Fargo, because actual check clearing time is way less – typically taking two to three days max for any size check, even out of town checks.
So what’s the damage to us? A few bucks interest here and there? Not hardly. Anyone who’s ever run a small business that issues relatively large invoices – where these invoices are often paid late, causing subcontractor payments to be similarly delayed – knows that long check hold times screw up cash flow to a fare-thee-well. That’s why if you’re a bank that wants to cozy up to small business customers – consultants and contractors in particular – you make funds available as soon as you receive them from the fed. Which most of your competitors do, even those not particularly customer-aligned. However, you, Wells Fargo, automatically hold funds for your own use for the legal maximum, “Preferred Customer” or not. And you know what? Your practices leave execs from other banks I’ve talked to slack-jawed in amazement at your arrogance.
But you went even further. When you’re intent on dancing just within the letter of the law, it’s hard not to slip. Which you did in a most egregious manner. First, your staff gave us conflicting versions of your check-hold strategy – redrawing the $5,000 line down to $3,000, and even further down to “any large check.” We suspect that the real threshold is whatever your customers wouldn’t object to – at least vocally. Although, how many lovers leave without ever saying why? But the endgame for us was when you placed your “automatic hold” on a check to my wife’s business for less than half the $5,000 legal threshold. Worse yet, this wasn’t any check. Not only was this check drawn on a Wells Fargo checking account, but it was drawn on your very own, Wells Fargo, bill-paying service that collects the cash the very moment your bill-payment customer makes a bill-payment request. Even if it’s a “Preferred Customer” request. So you had the cash in your pocket long before we even received the check. But you decided to keep it there as long as possible. Hey, now we could really feel the love!
Let’s make that abuse. And you know what? We’re just not the types to put up with abusive relationships. Even abusive “Preferred Customer” relationships. So, Wells Fargo, we’re sorry you assumed that banking relationships are so entangling that you can behave any way you please and hold us under your spell – or in your case, your stagecoach wheels. But you had to know we wouldn’t stay – right? Or are you totally out to lunch?
Some customer-unfriendly cynics might say I just don’t get capitalism. That I’m naïve and innocent to think you would do anything else with our money (obviously you think it’s yours). But that misses the whole point. The very point you miss. This whole CRM/CEM/whatever-the-hell-we-want-to-call-it movement started not because some doo-dad filled software hit the market. It started because a whole lotta customers, including some of your customers, realized that they, not sellers, hold the balance of power. So we started standing up for ourselves saying, nay yelling, “We’re not going to take it any more.”
This whole saga, including our reaction to it, is all about change. What was permissible seller behavior 10 years ago, even 5 years ago in some sectors, means walking away from your own customers today. We’re no longer following you down that Pied Piper path. The days when customers would dance to your tune are fast fading. Companies like you that want only one-way relationships, and abusive ones at that, are telling us goodbye – whether your behavior is legal, or compliant, or not.
Well, sayonara to you too, Wells Fargo. The last of our accounts will be transferred by week’s end. And may your future be filled with the customers you deserve – “swingers” who will leave you in a wink for a lower rate, or a bigger “free gift.”